Oct 28, 2006

Chapter 36 - Pray For Salvation Of Your Children?

I believe it is inconsistent for the Hardshells, in their "anti-means" views about regeneration, to pray for the salvation of their unregenerate children. They do not believe that the gospel and word of God, the truth, are "means" in the new birth, arguing that no human means of any kind are used. But, that would exclude the prayers of humans too, would it not? You would expect it to be against the creed and practice of the Hardshells to pray for the salvation of the lost, for then their prayers, by their "logic," would become "means," human means, and that can never be, at least for neoHardshells. Yet, what do we find in many cases? We find Hardshells praying for the salvation of their children! We find the old Hardshells, like Grigg Thompson, calling upon his concerned mothers and fathers to pray to God to regenerate their children. Why do this if you do not believe in such "means"?

Elder John Watson

"It was through Him that an affectionate and believing mother hoped and prayed that the lost might be found; that the brand might be plucked from the fire. That prayer--as elsewhere stated in this work was heard and answered by Him who had in mercy prompted it. The prayer was the gift of grace--Rom. 4:15; enabling a distressed mother to trust in God for the salvation of her son under all the adverse circumstances of his case." (Old Baptist Test, page 31)

Watson believed in both the means of gospel preaching and the means of prayer in the salvation of the elect. He believed that the prayers of his mother for his salvation were "means" in his regeneration and conversion.

Notice these words from Elder Grigg Thompson, from the close of some of his sermons.

"It is a creation, and a creation work is above the power of the creature. No power but that power which gave being to the world can give being to this new creature. It is not born of the flesh, or of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God; John, i, 13. Human means, or instrumentalities, with all the ordinances and service of the church must forever fail, and can not, in whole or in part, produce this new creature."

And further:

"This doctrine drives despair from the mind of the Christian in regard to his unregenerated children and friends, and emboldens him to carry them to the throne of mercy in his prayers, knowing that where means and instrumentalities must forever fail, God can perform the work."

"Consistency Thou Art A Jewel!"

Surely the average Christian can see the great inconsistency in these views. This "leading light" in Hardshellism, this "founding father," believed that salvation and regeneration were, in one instance, performed without any human means, such as the preaching of the gospel by God sent men, but he, in another instance, believes that God moves upon mothers and fathers to pray for the salvation and regeneration of their children! Why can one be a "means" and the other not? I ask all Hardshells to come forward and tell us how they stand on this issue. Do you pray for the regeneration and salvation of your lost children? I try to remember my days as a Hardshell. Did I pray for the salvation of my unregenerate friends and family?

I believe I did do so, but 1) I did not see the inconsistency in it as I do now, and 2) I did not pray with the "fervent spirit" of a soul winner who believed in human means (under the direction of the Holy Spirit).

Thompson said further, in his sermon endings:

"You may see no encouraging indications in your children or friends toward God, or spiritual things; nay, possibly they are haters of God, and persecutors of his children, they deride and hold in scorn the humble disciple of Christ. This, indeed, is sad, and very sad, but remember that the work of grace is from above; God can new create them, and command the light to shine in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the Lord can breathe upon the dry bones and make them live; it can subdue the proud and stubborn heart, and make it willingly yield itself to God, and delight in the things it now hates. Thy heart may now be sad, tears of grief may stream from thy eyes, as you realize their sad condition, and your inability to change their hearts, or snatch them from their awful fate. But God can make thee rejoice; oh, he can turn all thy sad groanings into sweetest songs over thy most hopeless friend or child. As the father of the prodigal, thou mayest yet say, "This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry;" Luke, xv, 24.

Dear brother or sister, these difficulties are with men, and not with God. He can speak, and the dead live; he works the regeneration, quickening, conversion, and faith in the sinner by the same power which raised up Christ from the dead, and will subdue all things unto himself. Let the truth drive despair from your heart, and cause you with boldness to come to a throne of grace in their behalf."

(From "The Primitive Preacher," section titled "A New Creature")

Here is what is inconsistent and unacceptable in the above words of Thompson.

First, notice that Thompson defines "regeneration" as an experience that gives sinners "...the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." How is this anything akin to the modern Hardshell definition of "regeneration"? The modern Pb will say there is no "knowledge" of Christ or gospel truth implanted in the mind in "regeneration"! They will all now say that the sinner learns nothing in "regeneration" for it is all on the "unconscious level." Does Thompson's definition of "regeneration" apply to the "regenerated infant" or to the "regenerated idiot," or to the "regenerated heathen"? No, it does not.

He says, "Human means, or instrumentalities, with all the ordinances and service of the church must forever fail, and can not, in whole or in part, produce this new creature." Is prayer not a "human means"?

He said again, in a sermon ending:

"I see a sister weeping; I know her, and can understand the meaning of those tears that flow so freely from her eyes; her heart is burdened; she feels that her sorrows are more than she can bear. I can look into the face of the daughter, for whom those tears are flowing, floating upon the stream of time to the ocean of eternal destruction and misery, thoughtless and unconcerned. For you those tears are shed; for you those prayers are rising up to the throne of mercy. 0, blessed Jesus! was thy sympathizing heart moved with compassion at the tears of bereaved sisters at the grave of a dead brother, and wilt thou not hear the cries of these thy saints, whose hearts are broken with grief, as they look upon their beloved ones dead in sin, and realize in their hearts that thou alone canst give life to the dead, and break the fetters that bind their captive souls, and set the prisoners free? Thou canst save; thy word is spirit, and it is life. My dear brother, you tremble like a leaf shaken by the wind. I know thy feelings, I can read thy heart; for I, too, have shed the tear of sorrow, and drank the bitter dregs you are now drinking. 0, how sad it is to feel and know that our words can not reach or move the hearts of those we love!" ("Abiding In Christ")

I can testify that I have not heard a single modern Hardshell pray for the lost in this manner. They manifest no such prayers for the unregenerate in their church meetings. Again, it must perplex one to read how Thompson
can believe in such prayers to be divine means to regenerate the lost, but not the preaching of the gospel!

He again preached to his hearers, saying:

"Our tears and prayers can never wash your sin and guilt away; none but Jesus can save from sin, cleanse the guilty sinner, and save him from sinking down into the pit of endless woe! and all I can do is to close this feeble address with the humble prayer, God be merciful to sinners." (Ibid)

Again, all this is the height of inconsistency. If the prayers of the saints are means in regeneration, then so are their words, when they are the words of Christ, which, whether spoken by himself, as in his earthly ministry, or by his servants today, they are indeed "spirit and life."

Oct 27, 2006

Chapter 35 - Parable of The Sower & Seed

Elder Grigg Thompson

"But the objector to our views will say, "Jesus has taught us in the parable of the sower and the seed, that we should sow the seed broadcast, and it, falling into the human heart, brings forth a crop of holy fruits, such as faith, love, and obedience to the laws of Christ, and is the means of re-begetting, or regenerating the soul." But we answer that the seed has no power to prepare or fertilize the soil. If it fall on stony ground, or among thorns and thistles, it can not prepare the ground for its reception, and will perish because it can not prepare and fertilize the soil. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God must give the increase, or prepare and fertilize the soil that the seed may grow and bring forth fruit, as lie did the heart of Lydia that she should hear and obey the words of his servant. No sensible husbandman sows his seed in unprepared ground, expecting the seed to prepare the ground and bring him a crop. We are not the husbandman, and can not prepare the human heart for the reception of the word; but it is our duty to sow the seed broadcast, for we know not what heart the Lord has prepared for its reception. We are to sow the seed in the morning, and to withhold not in the evening, for we know not which is to prosper, or whether both alike is to be good. We are not of that people who were never called to preach to sinners. The command we have received from our King is, "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." But we are nowhere commanded to prepare their hearts to receive it, but he that can prepare their hearts has promised to be with us always. With this promise, we go sowing the seed, and leaving the event with him who can prepare the heart for its reception, and fertilize it so that a crop can be produced, to his honor and glory."
(From "The Primitive Preacher," chapter on "The New Birth")

There are a number of interesting remarks made here by Elder Thompson. Two of them will be taken up in forthcoming chapters. He mentions how he is going to preach the gospel "to sinners," unregenerate sinners. I will enlarge upon this in future chapters dealing with "Addresses To The Lost," and in the chapter dealing with "Evolution In Hardshell Doctrine." He mentions too the "Great Commission" as being one that gives him his authority for so preaching, and I will deal with this too in the chapters dealing with the "Great Commission." For now I wish only to deal with his remarks against the "gospel means" position, wherein he says that the "heart must first be regenerated, or have life, before it can receive the seed of the word of God."

I can endorse most of what Elder Thompson wrote above. No believer in gospel means believes that the word of God is required in all the "preparatory work" of God on the heart prior to one's "hearing" the word of God. There are many "providential means," as the Old Baptists spoke about, whereby the person was "prepared" for the preaching of the gospel. We do not deny that much "preparatory work" is done in the heart, mind, and life of a sinner, before he hears the saving gospel, before the seed finds depth of lodging in the soil of the heart, but we do deny that the heart of the sinner is yet regenerate, is yet fully renewed. We deny that a heart, without seed, is a "habitation of the Spirit of God." Until that "seed" has been sown in that prepared heart, there will be no "life" or "fruit."

How far will Thompson carry this analogy? Does the entrance of the "seed of God" in I Peter 1:23 not "begat" life? Certainly all Hardshells will admit this. They will deny that the "seed," in that passage, is planted by the means of gospel preaching, but they will not deny that the "seed" in that passage is the "seed of God" himself, metaphorically speaking, and that its entrance into the heart makes the soil good! So, Thompson's "logic" would not apply to the "seed of God."

If seed, of any kind, cannot possibly, in any sense, "prepare" or otherwise change the nature of the soil, then what of the passage in I Peter 1:23? Does the seed of God, that "incorruptible seed," entering the heart, beget life? Does the entrance of that "incorruptible seed" not change the soil (heart) and prepare it? Thompson's "logic" clearly does not apply in this case, does it?

Let me ask the Hardshells some questions along these lines, relative to the parable of the sower and the seed.

1. "Is there "life" in the soil without seed or water?"
2. "Is there any "fruit" from or in soil that is without "seed" or "water"?
3. "If there can be no "fruit" nor "life" in soil that is without "seed" and "water," then how can such soils (hearts) be said to be "alive"?
4. "Why would God prepare hearts for seed and yet have no one sent to sow seed in them?" How can he make the heart change from a desert wilderness to a delightful garden without both cultivating and seeding the soil?
5. "Since faith and repentance are immediate "fruits" of regeneration, how can "fruit" come from soil that is without water and without seed?"

There can be no fruit, no faith and repentance, in soil that has not had seed planted. To speak of "regenerated infants" and "regenerated heathen" having a "sub-conscious faith," a "seed faith," counters all the argumentation put forth by Thompson above, for the fruit of faith implies some kind of seed being planted.

Many Hardshells believe that all four of these different types of soils represent four different kinds of regenerated people! Cayce believed this, arguing that since one of the soils (one that was not good), corresponded to one who had "believed," even though it was only "for awhile," therefore they could not be said to have been unregenerate. Though the "belief" was temporary, Cayce and other Hardshells will argue that this proves that not only the good soil heart, but shallow ground hearts too, represent born again children of God! After all, some of them will argue, they all, in some way, "received" the seed!

Elder C. H. Cayce

"We do not wish to set our views up as a standard...On this parable of the sower we do not agree with many of our brethren. They may be right and we wrong. This makes us fearful of expressing our views...We are aware that many of our brethren hold the position that the hearers denominated as the "wayside," the "stony places," and the "thorns" were all unregenerated, and that the hearers called the "dry ground," and these only, were children of God. We know that there is a preparation of heart that is necessary in order that the preaching of the gospel be of spiritual benefit to anyone." (Editorials, Vol. I, page 132)

And again:

"But we do not think these represent three classes of unregenerate and the good ground, and that only, represents the regenerate. This would give us three classes of unregenerate and only one class of children of God. All God's children, according to this view, would be a fruit-bearing class. It is true they all have that faith that God gives, which is called a fruit of the Spirit, but they do not all bear fruit in the sense of this parable, for the fruit bearing here, we think, is in rendering obedience to the Saviour. Notice the Master's explanation of the parable. Verses 18 and 19, "Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside." Many of the Lord's dear children hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand it. They get many precious crumbs, perhaps, from the experimental truths the servant of the Lord proclaims, but when the minister begins to apply these same truths in a doctrinal way they cannot understand it, and the wicked one catcheth away that which was sown in their hearts. Many of God's dear children, too, are not in the way, but are by the way--hence way side hearers. "These received seed by the way side." Mark the expression, the statement of the Saviour, "they received seed." Then remember Paul says "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." Thses received seed." (Pages 132, 133)

Well, he goes on in his writing to show how, in his view, each of the various hearers were all "born again children of God," arguing that they all had "received" the word.

But, before I overthrew these views, let me cite one more leading Hardshell "apologist" on the parable.

Elder Lemuel Potter

"On the parable of the seed he claimed (Elder Pence whom he was debating on the question of gospel means) that the life-germ was in the seed and not in the ground in which it was sown, and that it was often the case that the gospel came to men in word only, and that in such cases the seed did not contain the life-germ in it. That this was the case where the seed fell by the wayside. He argued that the result of sowing the seed depended upon the condition of the seed sown instead of the ground in which it was sown. He also added that the result of sowing depended in a measure on the sinner giving the gospel a favorable hearing, which I claimed is as rank Arminianism as I ever heard a man utter: "Depends entirely on the action of the sinner at last."" (An Account of Elder Potter's Affirmative Arguments and Elder Pence's Reply)

And again:

"I further argued that in the case of the parable of the sower, Matthew 13, where some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air caught them away, others into stony places, and, because they had not much earth, they sprang up, and when the sun was up, because they had no root, they withered away, and that others fell among thorns, and the thorns sprung up and choked them, - that this seed was the gospel preached, and if it was the intention of the Lord to change the condition of the ground by sowing the seed in it, it was a complete failure; because in all three of the cases mentioned, the seed left the ground in the very same condition in which it found it. "Other fell into good ground," which ground, of course, was good before the seed fell into it, so the seed could not have made that ground good."


I have noticed how both Campbellites and Hardshells, cousins that they are, both err greatly on this parable. I asked my dad the other day about the evolution in Hardshell views on this parable. I told him that the first Hardshells, like Thompson, believed that only the good ground hearers were the children of God. That is the really Old Baptist position, one you will find advocated by 17th and 18th century Baptist writers. Dad assured me that today's Hardshell all agree that all four of the soils represented children of God. I told him that such a view was new, that the first Hardshells did not take this view. He did not want to acknowledge this, but it is a fact nonetheless.

I just had another debate with a Campbellite preacher and the parable of the sower and the seed was discussed. I took the view that only the good ground hearers were regenerated children of God. My Campbellite opponent argued that at least one of the other three was a child of God, the shallow ground hearers, because they "received the word with joy," and "believed for a while."

Obviously, however, the word "but" shows that only one of the four hearers had an "honest and good heart." "But he that received seed on good ground...out of an honest and good heart..." The other hearers did not have honest and good hearts. How then could they be regenerated? Especially when men, like Thompson, argue that this good heart is regeneration? Did the other hearers have good and honest hearts? No! How many soils were good? All? No! Only one had a good and honest heart and received the word unto salvation.

"Lest They Should Believe And Be Saved"

"Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." (Luke 8: 12)

They had "received" the word, but it was sown on the heart, not in the heart, and they did not believe nor were they "saved" who "received seed" in this manner.

Those who received seed on shallow ground, though they believed for a short time and brought forth some kind of fruit, yet they are clearly not children of God, for they do not have good and honest hearts.

It is also clear that none of the good ground hearers fell away. Only the other type soil hearers "fell away." What did John say about the matter?

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (I John 2:19)

Those who "fall away" then show that they were never truly saved to begin with.

The parable of the sower and the seed does not prove, as the Hardshells imagine, that men are born again before they hear or receive the gospel and they have departed from the faith of the Baptists on this parable.

Here is what Hardshell patriarch Elder J. R. Respass wrote about this parable.

"Brother B.B. Stallings, of Humbolt, Tenn., writes us that some people in his section use this parable to teach the doctrine of "falling from grace;" but to our mind it teaches the opposite doctrine, or rather the absolute necessity of grace in the salvation of sinners. The Jews were well acquainted with sowing wheat and barley. They knew from experience that it was necessary to have the ground broken by the plowshare to raise it; and that, therefore, the Saviour was telling the truth when he taught them that grain sown by the way or road-side would be unfruitful, because men would walk on and tread it down, and the fowls would devour it; and that seed sown on stony, hard and unbroken land would yield nothing; because, though it sprang up quickly, it could take no root, and that when the hot sun necessary to its maturity should shine upon it, that it would be scorched, and soon wither away. They knew, also, that seed sown among thorns, in a briar patch, for instance, would make nothing, because the thorns would choke it. All these things they knew from natural experience as farmers or husbandmen. They knew that the land must be enclosed or fenced, cleared of thorns, bushes and briars, and be broken up before the seed was sown; enclosed from the fowls and the tread of men; cleared of thorns and briars that would choke it; and broken up so as to absorb and retain moisture, and the roots have depth of earth to strike down into the moisture when the hot sun poured down upon it. But, like people now, they did not perceive the truth when applied spiritually. No sensible Jewish farmer would have undertaken to make a crop of wheat otherwise than as taught by the Saviour in this parable. Nor would he have undertaken to break his land until the first or "former rain" was sent by the Lord upon it; because the land, especially in that country, by the dry, hot summer sun grew, like the sinner's heart, very hard, so that it could not be broken until softened by the first rain. But land softened by the rain, broken by the plow, enclosed from the fowls and cleared of thorns, and sown, will be unharmed by the fowls, the feet of men, the cares of the world or the heat of the sun, and will yield thirty, sixty and one hundred fold. Any thing short of this thorough preparation will be fruitless. So in the way-side, stony and thorny ground hearers the Saviour shows the lack of grace, rather than the falling from it. And another thing perhaps he taught, and that is, that the fault was not in the seed sown, or the word preached, but in the sinner's heart. "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life."--John v. There were many of these kind or hearers in the Saviour's day as well as in this; and doubtless the Saviour spoke the parable for the comfort of his people then and his people now; that they should not be discouraged when they should see many, who had received the word with a temporary joy, turn back for love of the world, its honors or riches, or to escape persecution; that they should know that such professors had not received the word in a contrite and broken heart, and hence they neither understood it nor kept it. He asked his true disciples when many so-called disciples went back and walked no more with him on account of his hard and unpopular doctrine, "Will ye also go away?" but they answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."--John vi. Thus the hot sun of trials and persecution that withered up the shallow letter hearers, only caused his good-ground hearers to take deeper root in Christ, making them feel more and more the necessity of Christ in their salvation; and thus they brought forth an hundred fold, whilst the others brought nothing to perfection. This briefly, Brother Stallings, is our understanding of Christ's teaching in the parable of the sower."

I think he doubtless reflected the view of his fathers, of the truly Old Baptists, for he himself was a fairly old man when he penned the above commentary. He says that three of the four kinds of hearers were lost and without the grace of salvation. He also believed that all the good ground hearers would persevere and bring forth fruit and grow. Again, that is the Old Baptist position. (The Sower -- Matt. XIII - Written by John R. Respess in the GOSPEL MESSENGER, Butler, Ga., May 1885)