"We shall now proceed to show what men may experience and not be under the work of the spirit of grace. He may feel all that weight of guilt which the law of God charges upon him; and yet not be a subject of the spirits operation, for the law is the ministration of condemnation and death."
This is not what modern Hardshells preach about conviction of sin. Elder Thompson believed that men may "feel all that weight of guilt which the law of God charges upon him" and "yet not be" a subject of the new birth! Will modern Hardshells say "amen" to what he writes here? Will they still endorse him? He did not see conviction of sin as a sign or evidence, in itself, that a person had been born again or, as Trott said, yet "made spiritual." What Thompson has just said is almost proof enough that he must have shared his cohorts views on these matters. But, if the above does not prove it, surely what he says next will be sufficient to do so.
Notice too that in the above citation that Thompson uses the word "feel." He speaks of a lost sinner, one who has not been "born again," as "feeling" their guilt and the pricks of the law. I guess he did not go by that modern Hardshell "logic" that says that the "dead" cannot "feel" anything!
He wrote further:
"When the law was given, the people of Israel were awfully alarmed, with the terriffic sight, the mountain covered with fire and smoke, the shafts of death flying, so that if so much as a beast touched the mountain it was stoned, or thrust through with a dart, and the people were sore affraid, yet not under the work of the spirit, for they could unite in making a golden calf to worship. Men may experience very severe and bitter sensations under the sentence of the law, and mourn with aching and heavy hearts, under the ministration of condemnation and death, and all be like the mourning of the murderer that is condemned to be hanged for his crime; he mourns for the miseries that he is exposed to, and not for the heinous nature of his crime; this sort of mourning has self-love for its parent, the thundering of the law has affrighted it; the fears of hell terrify it; and the thoughts of death and judgment fill it with dismay; so when Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment, Felix trembled. This sort of conviction leads men to act like Esau, who has sold his birth right; but when he saw that he was cut off thereby, he sought for a place of repentance in Isaac, but found none though he sought it carefully with tears; so men under this kind of conviction set about to seek for some place of repentance in God, by which the law of condemnation may be repealed, and its sentence revoked, and if they can imagine that they have prevailed on God to love them, and revoke the sentence of the law, upon conditions of what they have done, and what they now promise faithfully to do, they may conclude that they are christians, and upon their faithfully performing those conditions, all will be well with them; and thus they may have as much zeal for God as Israel had and no more according to knowledge than was theirs; in a word, if the fears of hell bears the greatest weight on the mind, we do not believe it to be the work of the spirit, or if our comforts are conditional, and depend on any thing done by us, or any of our faithful performances in future life, we do not believe it to be the work of the spirit; neither have we any right to believe, any thing to be the work of the spirit, but that which teacheth in the truth, and as we cannot pretend to show all the impressions that men may pass through, and not be under the work of the spirit; we shall in the third place proceed to speak of the impressions of those who are under the work of the spirit positively." (Simple Truth: Chapter 6)
If a preacher in today's "Primitive Baptist Church" preached this same message today, he would be viewed and labeled as an "heretic" and one who had left the view of the first founders of the "Primitive Baptist Church." Clearly Thompson spoke for a large segment of the "anti-mission," "old school," "hardshell," or "primitive" Baptists, as did Beebe and Trott. One might ask today's Hardshells - "what leading minister opposed the view of Beebe, Trott, and Thompson?" Also - "when did the three stage view of the new birth cease to be the standard and accepted view?"
Today's Hardshells will want to make old gospel rejecting Felix a regenerated and born again child of God because he trembled at the preaching of the gospel! But, James said that the "demons believe and tremble"! (James 2: 19) Today's Hardshells will want to make the old damned false prophet, Baalim, a regenerated and born again child of God because he expressed a desire to be saved, saying - "Oh let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his"!
Today's Hardshells will want to say that Esau was a regenerated and born again child of God because he "sought repentance"! Today's Hardshells will want to make old Judas a regenerated and born again child of God because he felt sorrow for crucifying Christ! They show how unlike they are to not only the first Baptists, of the 17th and 18th centuries, but also how unlike they are to their own revered founding fathers!
Notice that Thompson also implies that he does not believe that those who "go about to establish their own righteousness" (Romans 10) are regenerated and born again children of God, yet this is the predominant neo-Hardshell view on the matter! Today's Hardshells say that those described as "going about to establish their own righteousness" and who have a "zeal of God," are regenerated and born again children of God, yet Thompson did not hold that view! Today's Hardshell views have degenerated, a fact that I will show at the proper time in chapters titled "Evolution in Doctrine." Perhaps I should rather say, devolution, however.
Notice that Thompson does not see conviction of sin as a "work of the Spirit" in the new birth, but a work of the law, one that precedes the work of the Spirit, although it may not always be that men convicted by the law are all brought to faith in Christ, the work of the Spirit in the new birth.
When he said the above things, in chapter six of "Simple Truth," he begins chapter seven by saying:
"In the sixth discourse we have shewed what the work of the spirit is, and what are the evidences of it; and now we have collected the leading ideas of each discourse, and shall shew their concord in the system of our salvation by grace."
Then he writes further on this topic in chapter eight (citations below). Recall also what I already cited from Thompson in chapter 50 "Law to Grace?" wherein I showed that he believed, like his father, that the Christian new birth experience was a complete going from law (Mt. Sinai and conviction of sin) to Christ (Mt. Zion and freedom from sin in the guilt ridden conscience).
"Wherein Sarah and her son were a figures of the gospel and those under it, first she was a figure of the gospel in her name Sarah, which signifies lady, princess, princess of the multitude; and this name was given to her because the blessing of God was upon her, and nations of people should of her, to denote that the gospel was to go amongst all nations, with the blessing of God attending it, and bring forth children in different nations, who are to be born again of an incorruptable seed by the word of God, which by the gospel is preached unto you."– Again, Sarah was Abraham’s companion and ruler in his house, to shew that the gospel was a companion of God, and a rule in his house, whose house ye are. – Again, Sarah lived in Abraham’s affections, long before she brought forth any children; so the gospel is the good will of God towards his people; which lived in his affections long before it was manifest in bringing forth children to him. – Again there was a set time for Sarah to bring forth Isaac, so there was a set time for the gospel dispensation to take place. Sarah brought forth a promised seed, to denote that the gospel brings forth a seed of promise, or the heirs according to promise. - Again, Sarah's son was born after Agar's to denote that the gospel dispensation should be after the law, and as Sarah was a figure of the gospel, or its dispensation, so her son was a figure of those under it; or the spiritual seed of Abraham, first in his name Isaac, which signifies laughter, and may denote the joy and gladness experienced by all those born under the ministration of the gospel. Isaac was not born after the flesh, but after the spirit, to denote that those born under the gospel, are born not of the flesh but of the spirit. Isaac was Abraham’s heir to denote that those born under the influence of the gospel, are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Isaac was born by promise, to denote that those born under the gospel, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. And as Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael, so it is now: but as then Agar and her son were cast out, and Ishmael could not be hear with Isaac; so the glory of the law disappears, and those under it are cast out, when the superior glory of the gospel breaks forth amongst the Gentiles, and brings forth its heaven born children; and so we see that these things are an allegory, for these are the two covenants."
If one recalls chapter 52, titled "The Beebe-Trott Model," I cited at length from both Beebe and Trott. The above writing by Thompson could easily have been inserted there for the above writing conincides perfectly with their writings.
The first Hardshells believed that there was no such thing as a full and complete "birth" of the Spirit without a "mother." I have already endorsed that as a scriptural view and have spoken of how rediculous is the modern Hardshell view of a birth without a mother, without the church and bride saying "come," without the church being an instrument. The first Hardshells would have also agreed with me that it is not scriptural.
There are lots of prophecies in the Old Testament about "Zion bringing forth children." This is interpreted by Baptists historically as fulfilled when sinners are converted to Christ by the gospel. Thus, the bride, the mother, Zion, the church, is involved in this "birth." Yet, God, the Holy Spirit, sires and begets the seed, but the mother is involved too. Thus, Sarah's bringing forth or delivering or birthing Isaac was an allegory and illustration on the new birth by the gospel. They apparently did not accept the "logic" that says human instruments cannot be involved in the new birth. They may have argued that only God can "sire" (beget, implant, or regenerate), but it was the church, through the preaching of the gospel, that those who were sired came to full birth.
Thompson writes further:
"The gospel is called a covenant for the very same reason that the law is so called, for as the law was a constitution for the natural seed of Abraham their national state under the former dispensation, so the gospel is a constitution for the spiritual seed of Abraham under the present dispensation; and each of those covenants can be traced back to Abraham and no further under the name covenant."
"But the new covenant was ministered at mount Calvary or Mount Zion; and falls with gentle strains and soothing accents of love and mercy on the ears of its subjects, proclaiming peace to them that are afar off and to them that are nigh; while the spiritual seed of Abraham allured with its grace and glory, and drawn by loving kindness, with gladened hearts and heavenly prospects, repair to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God; to the heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven; and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
"But it can never either comfort or encourage the truly awakened sinner, that is made acquainted with his own impotency and vileness, and sees that he can do nothing, and knows that he is without strength. We may preach to such a one that salvation is suspended on certain conditions, but the awakened sinner, from sore and painful experience knows, full well that he cannot fulfill the smallest condition, and as long as an if you do so and so, is preached to, and believed by such a one, so long his chains hang about his neck. But when all hopes of salvation are lost, upon any condition to be performed by the creature, great or small, he is constrained to cry, God be merciful to me a sinner, should you tell this man he can believe, and that believing is a condition of his acceptance, he knows better, for he has done his best, and spent all he had, and has got nothing better, but rather grew worse. Here he is taught to know, that he is as helpless as ever any predestinarian preached him to be, and that if his salvation is depending on one single if to be performed by him, he is gone forever. Every condition ministers condemnation and death to him...Now the man is convinced of his lost estate..."
"Now Christ is the end of the law for righteousness; the very thing that fulfils every condition of the old covenant; and when it (the old covenant) shall turn to him the veil shall be taken away, and the end of the glory of the old covenant, shall be clearly seen; and we shall all both Jews and Gentiles look into the new covenant or gospel and the veil is taken away and we see the end of the old one, which has vanished away, and the unspeakable glory of the new, beaming in the face of Christ its mediator. We behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord. Thus the new covenant like a glass, reveals the glorious face of its ever living mediator, with eternal life for his sheep, the bread of life for the hungary, the water of life for the thirsty, rest for the weary and heavy laden, a garment of righteousness for the naked, and grace, sovereign, absolute, unconditional, grace for the unworthy. From his lips teems forth the soothing promise, without an if for the disconsolate mourner; and while those blessings are diffusing from his fullness and mourners beholding with joy and gladness, the smiles of his unveiled countenance, his soul is fired with love and filled with peace, while he sees the scepter presented, filled with pardons for rebels, and hears the approbating voice of God, saying; touch and live; while the blood of the new covenant presents his justification, faith lays hold of it and gives evidence to it; and hope anchors the soul both sure and stedfast into that within the veil. Then the fiery Sinai’s thundering and smoke no more affright, conditions no longer discourage the soul, nor can ever the ministers of the old conditional covenant, with all their sophistry and conning craftiness whereby they lay in wait to deceive, make them satisfied to take the galling yoke of the old covenant on their necks again. For they experience, in the new covenant the rest remaining for the people of God; and those that have ceased from their own works have entered into that rest, and all their duties, have become their choicest privileges, and not conditons of their salvation."
There is no believer in gospel means who has much problem with what Thompson here writes. I suspect, however, that today's Hardshells will have all kinds of difficulty with it. Note that Thompson says that the "glass" or "mirror" that a sinner looks into, is the gospel! Notice too that the text, from which he quotes, says that it is by looking into this gospel mirror that men are convicted of sin and come to faith in Christ! It is by looking into the gospel that men are "changed into the image" of Christ, gloriously changed!
"Suppose a man is on the verge of a precipice, and a lake of liquid fire beneath him; but he believes that he can by an exertion of his own, at his pleasure get away, or fulfil such conditions, as will secure his escape: he may stand and look down for his amusement, and feel quite unconcerned about his situation; and if fifty passengers should tell him expressing great concern for his welfare, that he was in eminent danger of falling down the precipice and of perishing in the flames beneath, but still strengthening him in his own opinion, he could come away whenever he was ready: the man would stay there until he had satisfied his curiosity all their warnings notwithstanding.
But should one solitary passenger inform him that he was exposed to unspeakable danger, and that he could do nothing, much or little to get away from the precipice; and should the man be convinced of the fact now declared, how suddenly would his fears be alarmed and his conduct changed; how ardently would he call for help from every quarter; where any prospect should appear: and if no help was afforded, or no deliverer found, with what an aching heart and broken spirit would he bewail and lament his almost hopeless situation. And so we see in experience, the more we are convinced of our helpless condition, the more we are constrained to cry “Lord save or I perish.”" ("A Sermon on the two Covenants designed as an appendix to the foregoing work" - Simple Truth: "The Two Covenants")
Thus, modern Hardshells err greatly on this matter of the Christian experience, and of the new testament significance of being born again, regenerated, and converted. This is, as I have said, is no light matter. It effects everything. Today's Hardshells are being called upon, more than their forefathers, to "counsel," as pastors and parents, those who show no signs of conviction or of knowing God. Pastors must deal with sinners when sinners come to them for counsel. Most of the time the sinner's need for counsel stems from the fact that they are suffering from the consequences of their sins and of their not believing in Christ and their not repenting of their sins.
Apparently, from the above writing, Thompson did not oppose warning sinners about their eternal danger. We know that his son Grigg did not oppose calling upon the lost to come to Christ (see former chapters on "Addresses to the Lost").What do those who are now involved, as Primitive Baptists, in learning how to "counsel" as pastors (as is now the case with those associated with Elder Lasserre Bradley, Jr., and those identified with what is called "The Liberal Movement," but more on this in later chapters) say to those unregenerate sinners who come to them for advice on how to straighten out their lives?
Do they just preach the law to them as the way for them to find deliverance from their sins? Sad to say, that is exactly what they admit they preach to such! They do not preach the gospel to these as the best cure for their torn up lives? I am sure it is the most uncomfortable thing for modern Hardshells, like Bradley, to give "counsel" to such sinners! This will be shown further in the rest of this chapter as I examine a correspondence between a sinner and Elder Gilbert Beebe. We will see what kind of "counsel" he was able to give to her. But, before that, let me cite from a great Baptist apologist on this matter of conviction of sin.
"A careless admission that men are sinners is often made by persons who give themselves little concern about religion; and even acrimonious complaints may be freely vented by them against the iniquities of others. But such is the stupefying effect of human depravity, that men have very little complaint to make against themselves; and their condition, as sinners against God, awakens very little uneasiness. Occasionally conscience may be aroused, and produce alarm; but, through the deceitfulness of sin, its rebukes and warnings become unheeded, and men are again lulled to sleep in carnal security. Until this fatal slumber is broken, and a thorough, deep-rooted conviction of sin seizes the mind, and allows the man no quiet, his spiritual state exhibits no favorable indications.
Conviction of sin has sometimes produced very disquieting effects in the minds of heathen men, destitute of the true knowledge of God. Costly sacrifices and painful austerities have been resorted to for the purpose of appeasing their offended deities. Nature teaches men their danger, but cannot show them the way of escape. In these circumstances, how welcome is the light which the Bible throws on our path! It gives a far clearer discovery of our danger, and, at the same time, opens before us the door of hope."
"When the light of truth has produced in us a thorough conviction of sin, we read the Bible with new eyes, and we discover in it the handwriting of him who said, "I the Lord search the heart." "
"...when such views of sin are presented, in the light of God's word, our souls are filled with anguish, and in the depth of sorrow and self-condemnation we adopt the publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
"The word of God, which pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, often gives pain by its probing, but their tendency is salutary."
"Genuine Christian experience commences with conviction of sin; but, blessed be God, it does not end here. The knowledge of our depravity, condemnation, and helplessness, would fill us with despair, were it not that salvation, precisely adapted to our necessities, has been provided by the mercy of God, and revealed in the gospel of his Son. The very truth, which would otherwise fill us with anguish and despair, prepares for the joyful acceptance of salvation by Christ. He who rejects this truth does not feel the need of Christ; and, therefore, does not come to him for life. They that be whole need not a physician." (http://www.founders.org/library/dagg_vol1/bk4c.html)
I cite these words for the same reason I have cited men like Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. Their cogent writings and teachings from scripture, on the subject on conviction of sin and its relationship to the Christian experience of the new birth, are much needed reading by today's deviant Primitive Baptists.
Elder Gilbert Beebe originally published an article in the "Signs of the Times" titled "Personal Correspondence" (Sept. 1867). It seems to have been re-published later under the title of "Spiritual Depression and Assurance." I put it here in this chapter because I believe that the sinner he was attempting to counsel needed to be told what she must do to be saved, while Beebe wants to keep assuring her that she is already saved! She did not feel nor believe she had been saved, yet Beebe insists that she has been saved! This is the difficulty that Hardshells have put themselves in when they say that they cannot preach the gospel to sinners nor command them to believe and repent. This will become obvious as one examines closely the writing of the sinner and the counsel given to her by Elder Beebe. I think too that it is not much different from what today's Hardshells will say to similar sinners. I will cite the entire correspondence first, highlighting the parts I think are pertinent for elaboration, and then close with my own examination of this "counselling session."
The Counselling Session
Writes Elder Beebe:
"The following correspondence was not written for publication; nor have we asked or obtained the consent of our correspondent to expose it in our columns; but as the entire subject matter of her letter, and our reply, is of common interest to all the tried, trembling, doubting lambs of the flock, in the hope that its perusal will be useful to others, we take the liberty to present it to our readers. As we suppress her signature and her place of date, we think the writer will not charge us with a breach of trust. Having had some previous correspondence and personal acquaintance with the writer, we fully believe she is a subject of grace, and an heir of glory, notwithstanding all her doubts and fears."
Dear Elder Beebe:-Many times I have thought I would never again write to any one on the subject of religion, then I feel how very ungrateful it is in me to repay your kindness in this way. But which is the worse crime, write and perhaps deceive those whom you have the least desire to deceive, or be silent and let them conclude you know not what the feeling of gratitude is? I often thank (sic) , dear Elder Beebe, that I have deceived you, though I do not think it has been my intention to do so. I think the animal feelings can become excited when there is really no change of heart. I have felt for the last few weeks indifferent to everything; my heart, as it were, has lost its feeling; there is a hopelessness connected with the future, and I often feel that it matters but little whether I live or die. I think of all states of the mind, this is the most to be deplored. In reading the other evening I came to this passage: "So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19)."
What has this reference to? Does it refer to any members of the church of God? If so, what rest is meant? It cannot be their final rest, for the Bible says, "they rest from their labors and their works do follow them." And we know that all the saints will attain that rest; none will fall short of it.
I often desire rest, feeling weary and heavy laden. Christ says, "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Now if I could feel that the weariness that I feel is the weariness spoken of by the Savior, then this promise would be very precious; but every thing to me is uncertain. I cannot allow myself to hope, for fear I may at last find myself doomed to hell. You think it is because I look for perfection in myself that I do not find that consolation in the gospel that the subjects of grace receive. I do not think I look for perfection in myself; I know there is no good in me; though I think if I were a Christian I would be different from what I am. Still, what right have I to look to Christ; I have no claim there? From the hour of my birth to the present time I have sinned against him. My heart sickens at the thought of my hopeless condition. I often feel that if I could exchange places with any one in the world, there would be some hope. You will ask why there is not as much hope for me as for others? I know not; God is so far off he never hears my cry; beside he knows what a wicked deceitful heart I have, and he knows I am unworthy of any notice. I try to give up thinking of the future, but I cannot. I endeavor to find pleasure in my old pursuits, but I have lost my relish for them. I used to take great pleasure in politics; was well posted on all the issues of the day. Now I cannot endure the subject; I feel but little interest in the welfare of the county, I know God will rule it for his own glory; he undoubtedly has a people here, and when they are gathered home, the balance will soon be disposed of. I used to think the acquisition of knowledge was the great object of life, but that also has lost its charm. I visited a lecture at Rome the other day but found my interest in such had passed away. When I think of these things I feel there has been a change, but Oh! What right have I to hope this is the change I desire? You will think I am a strange being; but do not, if it is any trouble, write me any more. I fully appreciate your kindness and would gladly repay you if I could, but all that my friends can say to me cannot relieve me of troubles, it is there to remain till God lifts the burden, and I fear that may never be. You say in your letter that you hope I may be an obedient child. O! how willingly I would follow in the footsteps of the blessed Savior did I feel that I dare claim him as mine. If I knew one drop of his precious blood was shed for me, I would rejoice all the days of my life; but you will not ask me to follow in the footsteps of the flock when I feel to have no place there. I would rather remain without always, and have a little enjoyment lingering around the fold, than to enter in and know I were a wolf in sheep's clothing. I have the greatest fear of being a hypocrite. I feel it would be a great pleasure to me if no one knew any thing about my feelings, then I think I would not deceive any one, but as it is, so many have spoken to me on the subject that if I am deceived, my deception has been extensive.
Is it possible for one to feel any spiritual enjoyment who have never had a full and complete Savior presented to their view?
Is it possible for any one to receive a change of heart who is not aware of such change?
Does the Christian ever feel sure of his acceptance in Christ?
I would like to ask many more questions but fear I may weary you. When I used to read the many experiences in the "Signs of the Times," I thought how strange it was the writers did not know it was the Lord dealing with them. I felt if I should ever become troubled I would immediately know the cause. How very wise we are in our own estimation. Trouble has since overtaken me and I find my worldly wisdom of no avail.
Last fall when my mind first became interested in my future welfare, I thought if I only could become well enough acquainted with some of the ministers to tell them how I felt, they could tell if my feelings were those of a Christian. I have had that pleasure; have become acquainted with some I have the greatest confidence in; have talked freely with them; they have all spoken words of encouragement, and yet, dear Elder Beebe, I have no more hope than I had before I was acquainted with them. I feel that it is possible in my case that they are deceived. I would be willing to receive their judgments in regard to others, but myself I cannot. My desire to attend the association was gratified; I heard what should have comforted any one, except they be so deep in sin that their case is hopeless. You see I have been gratified in many things, but have not found that consolation I was seeking. Dear Elder Beebe, for the last four or five years I have been unable to listen with any degree of patience to an Arminian sermon. I felt in my heart that what they preached was false. I would try not to listen to it, yet my mind would be keenly alive to every word; again when I would have an opportunity to hear the gospel, my mind perhaps would wander so I would not hear a dozen words. Now why was this, if my dislike for the doctrine of salvation by works had arisen from a love for the truth, would not I have appreciated the truth when I heard it? Is it not all prejudice from first to last? I have been taught to believe that salvation is of grace. I have learned the letter and know nothing of the Spirit. I cannot remember the time when I could not detect the difference between a gospel sermon and one that was not. I never hated the gospel; I may not have loved it, but I never hated. If I had, and had been made to love it, then I would know what I am. When no more than nine years of age, I have heard sermons that impressed me deeply. At about this time I heard you preach from the text: "Christ, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness," etc. The sermon troubled me a great deal, but I have lived twenty years since then, and still without hope and without God in the world. If you think this worthy of an answer, I should be very glad to hear from you. But do not allow me to weary your patience. My ideas are very disconnected, but I am not able to write a nicely connected letter.
Believe me as ever your unworthy friend.
"Reply:-My esteemed, tried, tempted, tempest-tossed friend; your letter of the 17th inst. is received, describing, to my judgment, a quickened, living child of God; but in a state of severe trial occasioned by doubts and unbelief. If you have never passed from death unto life, how shall we account for this state of things? You "think the animal feelings can become excited, when there is really no change of heart." And so do I. Our physical powers and nervous system are subject to excitements; such as are common to all our race: but it is equally true that when the cause of such agitation is removed the excitement ceases, and the mind settles back to its former tranquility. But such is not your case. Your love for the society of the saints, and for the doctrine which gives God all the glory of the eternal salvation of his people is not an effect resulting from excitement of animal passions. No excitement can change our nature so as to make us love that which our carnal nature always hates. It cannot make us love God, his cause, his people, his truth, or his ordinances. The children of Israel had no less right to declare that the golden calf which they had made was the god that brought them out of Egypt than you have to ascribe the change which has been wrought in you to animal excitement. With them it was idolatry. God's glory he will not give to another, nor his praise to graven images.
There have been times when you have felt a comfortable assurance that you were born again; and at such times you were disposed to seek the society of the children of God, and follow and obey your Lord and Master. But because you are not permitted to feel the same assurance at all times, you cast aside all that God has done for you, and almost deny that he has done anything for you. Is this right? Would you really choose rather to walk by sight than to live by faith? If not, why appeal from faith to sense; and insist on having some evidence that can be demonstrated to your reasoning powers? Do you think if an angel were sent down from heaven, and with your eyes you could see him, and with your ears could hear him say you were a child of God and an heir of glory, that that would satisfy you? If all that were done, your confidence would not result from faith, but sight. "For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" God's people must live by faith and not walk by sight. The passage in Hebrews 3, to which you refer, is full of instruction for you. The children of Israel were typical of the people of God. They could not enter into rest because of unbelief. The land of Canaan was a type of gospel rest; but they disbelieved the promise of God, and came short of that rest; and their carcasses fell in the wilderness. It is even so with the spiritual children of God; it is only so far as our faith triumphs over our fears and unbelief that we can enter into and enjoy that Sabbath of rest wherein we cease from all our own works-from thinking our own thoughts, and from speaking our own words. You cannot deny that whenever you have been enabled to believe that you were a subject of grace, you have felt at rest. You could rest in the promises which God has spoken, in the oaths which he has sworn, and in the sweet consolations this hope has afforded you. And you continued to rest securely, and sweetly, until your unbelief arose to dispute your faith and confidence in God. But as soon as you began to doubt, you became disquieted and restless. How is it possible for a child to rest in the Redeemer when he does not believe in him as his Redeemer?
All our faith is the fruit of the Spirit which is born of God. And all our doubts are from our carnal minds which are not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be. In every heaven-born child, both of these opposite and conflicting natures exist. The flesh warring against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. But remember, they cannot possibly both be found in any one that is not born of the Spirit. Hence the very conflicts in your mind which you regard as witnesses against you, are positive evidence that you are born again. Your fleshly powers resist the evidences of your heavenly birth, and it is not possible it should be otherwise; for your natural mind cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, nor know them, for they are only spiritually discerned. But you, like a fretful child, cherish and nurse your doubts, fears, and unbelief, and refuse to be comforted by the testimony which the word presents to your faith. And why? Only because your natural mind cannot perceive them.
"Could you and I be entirely divested of the selfishness of our carnal nature, and raised above it, we should have no trouble, toil or labor about our own personal interest in Jesus; all that we should leave in better, safer hands than ours and we should gaze with joy and admiration on what faith presents to our minds-of the uncreated glory of our adorable God and Savior. There would be rest. All our care he bids us cast on him: he assumes it all; he careth for us. Why then, if we can trust him, should we care for ourselves? Who is it that feeds the ravens, clothes in beauty the lilies, and protects the sparrows? Can we by taking thought add to our stature one cubit, or make a hair black or white? "Then doubting child, forbid your fears, For all he has, and is, are yours." That hopelessness in regard to the future which settles heavily upon your mind, of which you speak, is but the natural consequence of unbelief; cherished unbelief. Faith reviving in your heart will say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, [not in thyself, nor in thy frames and feelings] for I shall yet praise him; who is the health of my countenance and my God."
"If yours is not the uneasiness spoken of by the Savior, of what kind does he speak, and to what class does your weariness belong? Is yours a kind that can find relief any where else but in Jesus? Why allow your unbelief and the tempter to criticize, pervert, and cast from you the blessed words on which God's children feed and thrive?
You cannot allow yourself to hope for fear that at last you will find yourself doomed to hell! Poor child! What have you to do with hell; or hell to do with you? If Jesus had not redeemed you from hell, you would never have been sensible of your lost estate; you never would have been weary and heavy laden; you would never have hungered and thirsted after righteousness; you never would have lost your relish for sin; you never would have loved the company of the saints or desired to be one; you never would have seen a beauty in the holy ordinances of the gospel, nor seen the kingdom of God. The fear of hell could never make you love holiness or desire companionship with the children of the living God. Nothing but the love of God himself shed abroad in your heart could make you love God, his word, his people or his ordinances.
You say, you do not look for perfection in yourself; but think if you were a Christian you would be different from what you are. Just so would say every Christian on earth. Ask any of them; even Paul has told you that, to will was present with him, but how to perform that which is good he found not. He could not do the things that he would. And you ask, "What right have I to look to Christ?" The best possible right; for he has commanded you to do so. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, for I am God, and there is none else (Isaiah 45:22)." It takes a God to save a sinner; you are a sinner, and as there is no other God, it is vain to look to any other source for salvation. He says, I am God, and beside me there is no Savior. This constitutes your right; and the very fact that you have no claim on God proves that you are the very sinner that he has thus called: f or Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And yet another unmistakable mark you have that you are the very sinner Jesus came to save is that you are the chief of sinners, sickened at heart in view of your vileness, and so much worse than anybody else, that you often feel that if you could exchange places with anyone in the world, there would then be some hope in your case. Do you not believe it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the very chief of sinners?
What right have you to say that God is so far off, he does not hear your cry? You no doubt feel that you are far off from God; because he is so holy, and you feel so vile; but it is God that works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. And if he did not know how wicked and deceitful a heart you have, and that of yourself you are utterly unworthy of his notice, your case would be hopeless indeed; for if he knew not our malady how would he know how to cure? Who but God has caused you to see and feel and acknowledge how vile and sinful you are? Who but God has sent a famine upon all the vanities on earth in which you once delighted? Who but God has given you a longing desire to be a Christian? Do you ascribe the work to any other than the God that made you? You say, He undoubtedly has a people here, and when they are gathered home, the balance will soon be disposed of. This you do not doubt, of this you are fully satisfied; and so am I. But what evidence have you that this is true, more than you have that you are one of that very people: for without an exception they all have the very same experience in every essential particular that you relate? How much easier it is for us to be satisfied with the experience of others, than with our own. You are compelled to admit that in your own case there has been a change. The things you once loved now you hate; your views, and taste, and desires, and hopes, and fears are none of them such as you once had; and yet you ask, what right have you to hope that this is the change that you desire? Precisely the same that any other quickened one has to hope: and my impression is that in spite of yourself you are obliged to hope, and do hope; but the trouble is, like all others who have this hope, you find it opposed by the darkness and unbelief of your own unrenewed nature; by doubts and fears that you will have to battle with as long as you remain here in the flesh. Truly the words of all your friends are powerless unless God by his Spirit shall apply them with comfort to your heart.
I would by no means urge any one to profess faith in the Lord Jesus who does not possess such faith, nor to be baptized who has never felt a sincere love to the people of God; but we hold that it is not possible that one can truly love the brethren who has not passed from death unto life, or that any can love the brethren who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ: and his command is, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." He does not say, If ye feel worthy, if ye have no doubts and fears, or if ye know that one drop of his precious blood was shed especially for you; but simply, if ye love me, for if you love him, it is positive proof that he first loved you, and gave himself for you, and that not merely one drop, but all the rich fountain of his blood was shed for the remission of your sins.
If you were a hypocrite, you would be trying to deceive. A fear of deceiving and being deceived is a mark of sincerity and truth. And certainly no hypocrite or wolf in sheep's clothing could find any enjoyment in lingering around the fold of Christ, except for the purpose of devouring the flock. You cannot conceal your love for the people of God, and desire to be numbered with them, for your speech, looks, and actions all betray you.
To your questions, I answer, It is not possible that one can feel a particle of spiritual enjoyment, who is not born of God. For, as before quoted, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." That measure of spiritual enjoyment is an earnest of an incorruptible inheritance of glory; and we may add, in the words of the poet,
"Yes, I to the end shall endure As sure as the earnest is given; More happy, but not more secure Are the glorified spirits in heaven."
Is it possible, you ask, for any one to receive a change of heart, who is not aware of such a change? There are evidences given to all who have passed from death unto life, such as I have already enumerated; but there are thousands who like yourself are distrustful of such evidences as the Scriptures warrant them to rely upon; such as a love of the brethren, desire after holiness, a disrelish for carnal enjoyments in which they have once delighted: and the seeing a beauty in the ordinances of the church of God. Some are very suddenly ushered into the light and liberty of the gospel, and can tell the day and hour, the place and circumstances when their deliverance came; but others who may be numbered by thousands, have been led in such a manner as never to be able to tell when they ceased to hate, and when they began to love the Savior, and his people. But the fact that they do love Christ and desire to honor and obey him, are equally as reliable and scriptural evidences that they are born of God, as though an angel came down from heaven and declared it.
Again you ask, "Does a Christian ever feel sure of his acceptance in Christ?" Yes. There are times when Christians enjoy the faith of assurance; but as a general thing, those precious seasons are few and far between. Whenever they confer with flesh and blood, doubts arise, fears prevail, and unbelief is master of the field; until faith revives and looks within the vail; then it puts our doubts to flight, and again we enter into rest.
Again, your case is not unlike all the children of God in being keenly sensitive when you hear the truth of God blasphemed by Arminians; and often sluggish and inattentive while sitting under the preaching of the gospel. The rantings of Arminians are understood and repelled by our knowledge of the truth; but the preaching of the gospel must be sent home by the Spirit before it can animate and feed us. Prejudice never taught any one to know that salvation is of grace; nor can the letter of that doctrine be so acquired as to qualify one to detect error, unless the error be so gross as to be apparent to our natural judgment. You may not be conscious of a time when you ever hated the gospel, but you certainly came into the world with a hatred to it. Your change of heart may have been as early, or even before you were nine years of age; and your being troubled in hearing me preach at that early period may have been in consequence of the word being sent home with divine power to your quickened heart.
In conclusion, let me say, it cannot be right for us to cherish the unbelief and infidelity of our carnal reason, and reject the evidences which God has warranted us to rely upon. Nor are we justifiable if we love God and his people, and his truth, and see a beauty in the ordinances which he has enjoined on all who love him, to tempt God by saying, unless he shall give us greater evidences than he has given to others, or such as will be tangible to our mental powers, we will not obey his precepts. Thomas said, "Except I see the prints of the nails," etc., I will not believe that Christ is risen. Was that commendable in Thomas? Is the like commendable in us?
Here I must leave the subject for the present; for the conversation I have had with you, and the evidences received, I cannot doubt that you are a subject of saving grace; and although the tempter may strive to make you think that it is wise and prudent in you to cast away or under rate the evidence you have of your acceptance with God, to demand more, or a different kind of testimony, I will only remind you that you will find that the way of the transgressor is hard. Deeply solicitous for your spiritual welfare, I am your sincere friend and kindred in Christ. (SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION AND ASSURANCE - Gilbert Beebe)
Let us assemble various remarks from the testimony of the poor sinner who wrote to Elder Beebe and then discuss whether such statements be evidence of a new birth experience or not. Then, we shall look critically at the advice and counsel given to her by Elder Beebe and see if it was right and helpful to her. Then finally I want to address the sister's questions.
The Testimony of the Sinner
Her conscience witnessed to her that she had undergone "no change of heart." She was in a state wherein she says she "felt...indifferent to everything" and that her "heart, as it were, has lost its feeling" and that "hopelessness" was "connected with the future."
She said further - "I often feel that it matters but little whether I live or die" and that "this is the most deplorable state of mind." And - "I cannot enter into rest because of unbelief?" And - "I often desire rest, feeling weary and heavy laden."
She further describes her state as being one in which "everything to me is uncertain," and saying - "I cannot allow myself to hope, for fear I may at last find myself doomed to hell." And - "My heart sickens at the thought of my hopeless condition," and - "God is so far off he never hears my cry."
She asks, with seeming humility, "what right have I to look to Christ?" She then says - "When I think of these things I feel there has been a change," but then says - "all that my friends can say to me cannot relieve me of troubles," showing that she has not been changed.
She says - "till God lifts the burden and I fear that may never be" and then, "I would rather remain without always, and have a little enjoyment lingering around the fold, than to enter in." "I have the greatest fear of being a hypocrite," she said.
It is unbelievable that Elder Beebe would conclude that this woman had experienced conversion, the new birth, or had been brought to Christ in saving faith and repentance. All her testimony, all her inner convictions, in her conscience, is telling her she is not yet saved, and she knows that she is not yet unburdened of her sin and guilt, not yet a believer in Jesus, not yet having come to Christ from her state of being burdened and heavy ladened. Elder Beebe tells her this is the voice of the Devil, the voice of her fleshly and carnal nature, and yet, I firmly believe, she was hearing the voice of God in her conscience. So, it is obvious, that giving Christian counsel to sinners is no light matter!
If she was hearing the voice of Satan and of her carnal flesh, as Beebe believed, where was the voice of God in all her testimony? Suppose she is not yet regenerated or born again; would the advice of Beebe then not be the worst of advice? Is it good advice to give unregenerate sinners a false impression that they are already saved?
It is clearly seen, in the advice that Beebe gives to this enquiring sinner, that Beebe is trying to convince her that she is born again when she does not herself believe it. No one, other than Hardshells, will take this approach with such seekers. Rather, all sound gospel ministers would present to those seekers and doubters the gospel they need to bring them to the salvation experience and to the full assurance of faith. But, seeing that Beebe and the Hardshells have concluded that they have no spiritual advice for the unrenewed sinner, they must assume any to be renewed who seek spiritual counsel from them! If they view themselves as not being the means the Holy Spirit will use to renew minds and to regenerate hearts, then they will not attempt to speak to that end with the authority of Christ.
So, despite all the "evidence" given, to my mind, of her unrenewed state of mind, of her state of unbelief and willful rebellion to heed the call of Christ to come to him, yet Beebe's first sentence in his reply was:
"...your letter...is received, describing, to my judgment, a quickened, living child of God; but in a state of severe trial occasioned by doubts and unbelief. If you have never passed from death unto life, how shall we account for this state of things?"
What did this woman say, in her testimony, that would lead anyone, especially our first Baptist forefathers, to conclude that this woman had an experience of grace and had come to saving faith and repentance? I listed numerous statements of hers, from her own conscience, that would lead anyone to think she did not yet know the Lord in a saving relationship. But, Beebe sees all kinds of "evidence" in her testimony to conclude that she has experienced the new birth! What are those "evidences," the ones that disprove her inner testimony of conscience?
He says to her:
"Your love for the society of the saints, and for the doctrine which gives God all the glory of the eternal salvation of his people..."
This "argument" has been used a million times through the years, by the "ultraist" Hardshell in order to "prove" that anyone who has any joy in going to church, or anyone who gets any delight in being in the gathering of the saints, is thereby given undeniable "proof" of his "regeneration" and "new birth."
The above so-called evidence of "regeneration" can easily be proven to be an unscriptural "measuring stick" to use in judging whether one has truly experienced the new birth. Let us recall the "parable of the sower and the seed," dealt with in earlier chapters of this book, as a case in point. Those who received seed by the "wayside," and who "believed for a while" (and without, as I have shown, a good and honest heart), were those who initially "received with joy" the gospel message (seed). Yet, these did not last long, but quickly "fell away." All the Old Baptists, except today's Hardshells, viewed these individuals as hypocrites who never experienced regeneration, who never had a good and honest heart, and were therefore eternally lost.
Besides, there are lots of examples in the Bible where wicked unregenerate men have had some kind of enjoyment hanging around the Lord's people. I am sure that Judas not only believed "for a while," but rejoiced also temporarily, as do all wayside ground hearers of the gospel. Recall too how I dealt with this when discussing the addresses and preaching of Christ to the unregenerate in the gospel of John. He told unregenerate dead sinners, regarding the gospel preaching of John the Baptist, "you were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (preaching).
Beebe next gives another reason for being convinced of her regeneration; it is the fact that she also "loves the doctrine." How does he know that? Not from anything in her letter! If she loved it so much, why was she refusing to obey it and make it the rule in her life? She said she did not want to "enter" the church, just to hang around them! If she truly loved the doctrine, why has she not "entered into rest"? Do not all those who love and obey the doctrine "enter into rest"?
And again Beebe says to her:
"There have been times when you have felt a comfortable assurance that you were born again..."
And again, along this same line, he says:
"You cannot deny that whenever you have been enabled to believe that you were a subject of grace, you have felt at rest."
"How is it possible for a child to rest in the Redeemer when he does not believe in him as his Redeemer?"
By Beebe's reasoning, every sinner who has ever felt "peaceful" or "restful" about life after death, and who has no great worry about the judgment day, "proves" by this that they are "born again"! What Beebe overlooks, in this woman's testimony of her convictions, is the fact that she says she has no rest, or at least, very little!
Questions naturally arises, at least in the minds of those not in the Hardshell cult, such as - "why does he not just tell her how to have peace and rest?" and, "why does he not tell her to go from being burdened, and heavily ladened, to Jesus Christ?" and, "Why does he not deal with her unbelief and stubborness? with her false humility?" "Why does he simply not say 'believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved'?"
This woman has admitedly been under much preaching of the Hardshells, who existed in her and in Beebe's day, for several years, even long enough to know the difference between them and the "Arminians." What good or bad came of it? What is the fruit of their preaching to her for many years? of their counsel to her about the state of her soul and what she must do to be saved?
Well, for one, it is quite obvious that this woman has heard several sermons on Matthew 11: 28-30 about the invitation of Christ, "come unto me all you who labor and are heavy ladened, and I will give you rest," and has heard the interpretation on it that taught that those thus described are already, while in that condition, already blessed! They preached this to her and yet excluded telling her that she must needs come to Christ, from that state, and be renewed, find rest and the lifting of the burden that lies heavily on her conscience.
She confessed - "Now if I could feel that the weariness that I feel is the weariness spoken of by the Savior, then this promise would be very precious."
This woman needed to be told that she needed to come to Christ and would remain without rest till she came to Christ and lay her burdens down at his feet! So, this is one harm done to her soul; such preaching and such an interpretation of the passage was keeping her from coming to Christ for rest!
The other negative fruit of this Hardshell preaching and counselling was that the woman was encouraged to "look inward" to her "feelings" for her assurance of salvation, something I have already dealt with in this series, citing words from men like Spurgeon, on this very point.
What Beebe said to this woman is not a 32nd cousin to what Spurgeon and the Old Baptists would have said to her. They would have told her that she would remain lost and without rest, without hope and purpose for the future, without assurance of salvation, till she "got right out of herself" and "quit looking within" and start looking to Christ and Calvary, and to what he commands and invites her to do!
This has become common practice in the Hardshell church as it has evolved through the years. Hardshells look for "feelings" as "evidences" of the new birth, for human virtues and human goodness as "evidences," instead of looking to Christ and simply trusting him. Many Hardshells trust their feelings rather than take God at his word, which says, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Did this woman take God at his word? No. If not, then she was an unbeliever, was she not? If she did believe in Christ, and believe in his promise, then she would not have expressed hereself as she did. Historically too, many Hardshells have trusted in their dreams and visions for evidences of regeneration, but more on that in later chapters.
And again Beebe counsels the poor sinner, saying:
"...the very conflicts in your mind which you regard as witnesses against you, are positive evidence that you are born again."
"Your fleshly powers resist the evidences of your heavenly birth..."
No, no! All wrong! Damning advice to an "awakened sinner"! "Shepherds of no value" are these Hardshell "counsellors" to sinners! They cause these seeking sinners to mistake the voice of the Spirit for the voice of the tempter, who is ready to steal away the seed of the truth once it is sown.
This woman has an inner witness that is telling her she is lost and Beebe wants to rebuke it! If it is the Spirit of God who is convicting her of her lost condition and of her need of coming to Christ for rest, then Beebe, and the Hardshells, are in effect, blaspheming the Holy Ghost! What Beebe calls "fleshly powers" are, in my mind, the Spirit of God testifying to her conscience! Again, all this is no light matter!
Beebe tries to settle her mind about her standing with God by telling her that her concerns about her soul are "positive evidences" and that she is saved and thus she is worrying over nothing!
If I am right, and it was the Holy Spirit who was witnessing to the awakened conscience of this woman, then Beebe is wrong to say that the convictions were lies from an evil spirit! Blasphemy it is and a "damnable heresy" that keeps souls from Christ.
And again he says to her:
"That hopelessness in regard to the future which settles heavily upon your mind, of which you speak, is but the natural consequence of unbelief; cherished unbelief."
Well, that is finally the best word he has thus far given to this poor sinner! Why does he not see that this word from his mouth contradicts what he has said relative to her salvation? Is it characteristic of those who are born again to "cherish their unbelief"? I trow not, as Spurgeon would say.
Is "hopelessness" about "the future" a sure evidence that one is born again? Do you know how close this is to Universalism? Is it not against what I have cited from our Baptist forefathers on this point, from men like John Bunyan?
And again he gives her this wonderful scriptural direction:
"If yours is not the uneasiness spoken of by the Savior, of what kind does he speak, and to what class does your weariness belong?"
This certainly calls for comment. Again, it goes back to the passage in Matthew 11: 28-30. But notice how these Hardshells view the text, in its relation to sinners, and how they use the text in dealing with them. First, Beebe gives this woman the impression that just to feel weary and heavy ladened from the service of sin is reason to rejoice! Any sinner knows this is a bunch of nonsense.
Jesus does not speak those words, however, to offer any comfort to those who are loaded down with guilt and with the burden of sin and who yet remain in that condition. For, it is obvious that Jesus calls them from that condition. Yet, if that condition were the blessed state of regeneration, why would he be calling them from it? No, Jesus offers no comfort to those who do not come to him.
All men are wearied over sin! All man's groans and sighs over the consequences of sin are part of this weariness that is natural to every sinner! All men are carrying the load of their guilt till it is removed by the pardon given in the gospel. Spurgeon and all our Baptist forefathers saw the description in Matthew 28 as a description of the unconverted sinner, describing his awful lost condition, not a blessed station!
If they believe that this is a description of regenerated people, rather than unregenerated sinners, then it is no wonder that they desire to always feel this same kind of feeling! Dreadful consequences does bad doctrine have!
And again he writes to her, saying:
"If Jesus had not redeemed you from hell, you would never have been sensible of your lost estate..."
Now, that is dangerous doctrine and preaching! It really gives me encouragement for writing this book! To preach this message to sinners will serve to keep them from salvation! Hardshellism must be guarded against! There are many arguments against his unscriptural and unBaptistic "counsel" to this poor sinner. The past several chapters have completely overthrown such a view of things and yet there are many more scriptures that could be cited that also show it to be utterly false.
The Poor Sinner's Three Questions
"Is it possible for one to feel any spiritual enjoyment who have never had a full and complete Savior presented to their view?"
Well, he could have cited her the scriptures I have cited, and rather than saying, no, he should have said yes. I have already addressed this also but again, he is giving her soul harming advice.
"Is it possible for any one to receive a change of heart who is not aware of such change?"
Well, we know what modern Hardshells have come to say about that. There is no immediate evidence! It is all sub-conscious, produces no activity and gives no new thoughts or ideas, etc. Why does he not mention faith and repentance as the chief evidences? Is this not very revealing? He tells her there will be evidences there, but he does not avow that a person will always know that he is born again.
"Does the Christian ever feel sure of his acceptance in Christ?"
Well, he doesn not want to admit that this is the case. The closest he can come to avowing the possbility of such certainty, for the Christian, is to say that he has, in his more exalted moments (which are few and far between), such certainty, but otherwise, most of the time, he is in the kind of turmoil of mind that this woman described herself as experiencing. To them, to have great doubts about their new birth experience is evidence of having been born again! Oh, it is so devilish! They even rejoice in singing - "Tis a point I long to know, am I his, or am I not?"
The poor sinner wrote to Beebe:
"You think it is because I look for perfection in myself that I do not find that consolation in the gospel that the subjects of grace receive. I do not think I look for perfection in myself; I know there is no good in me; though I think if I were a Christian I would be different from what I am."
This is one more good thing he did say to her, but it again, contradicts most of the other things he has said. He has told her that she "cherished her unbelief" and now he is telling her that she is "looking" to herself, as I have said. The difference is, Beebe does not want to see this as evidence of her still lost condition; wanting rather to see the same thing as evidence of her saved condition. He ought to just have agreed with her from the start, that she was not saved, and gone from there! Notice too that she has confessed that she has received no comfort from the gospel! And yet, she gives full proof, to Beebe and the Hardshells, that she is born again? They cheapen the experience of the new birth when they describe it as they do!
Elder Beebe's Remarks Examined Further
"...you, like a fretful child, cherish and nurse your doubts, fears, and unbelief, and refuse to be comforted by the testimony which the word presents to your faith. And why? Only because your natural mind cannot perceive them."
He sounds like he is condemning her for her unbelief and refusal to trust Christ and his gospel. She refuses the comfort of the gospel and yet she is saved and born of the Spirit of Jesus! "Give ear O heaven!" She cherishes her doubts, fears, and unbelief, yet she is possessed of the Spirit! Her natural mind predominates in her thinking and yet she is born again!
Then Beebe writes:
"If Jesus had not redeemed you from hell, you would never have been sensible of your lost estate; you never would have been weary and heavy laden; you would never have hungered and thirsted after righteousness; you never would have lost your relish fo r sin; you never would have loved the company of the saints or desired to be one; you never would have seen a beauty in the holy ordinances of the gospel, nor seen the kingdom of God. The fear of hell could never make you love holiness or desire companionship with the children of the living God."
Here he itemizes the things that he thinks proves the regeneration of this poor sinner. The list includes most of the things I have already stated from other Hardshell sources on the same. Some of the evidences he cites were never really evidenced by this sinner's confession and testimony. Some of these "evidences" are such that wicked men, even demons, may possess. So, he really has done this poor sinner a disservice by not pointing her in the proper direction and by not giving her good sound gospel advice. Sinners may lose their "relish for sin," temporarily, and try to amend their ways, and yet never come to salvation. Even Beebe's cohorts, in his day, taught this truth.
He writes further to her:
"And you ask, "What right have I to look to Christ?" The best possible right; for he has commanded you to do so. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, for I am God, and there is none else (Isaiah 45:22).""
He again finally says another thing that is commendable (his 3rd). He finally pointed her to salvation by urging and pleading with her to look to Christ. Does he not see that she has confessed to not looking to him? What right then does he have to assure her of regeneration?
And then says:
"Truly the words of all your friends are powerless unless God by his Spirit shall apply them with comfort to your heart."
Well, that is an interesting confession! Why does he go against this very statement when writing diatribes against those who believe that God uses the means of communicated words of truth to regenerate souls and to bring them to Christ? And, apparently, one can be born again and yet not have the comforting words of the gospel spoken to his heart by the Holy Ghost!
Beebe then says:
"...your being troubled in hearing me preach at that early period may have been in consequence of the word being sent home with divine power to your quickened heart."
Another interesting and revealing confession! Why then did he oppose means in regeneration so much? There is the obvious caveat in his remarks, however. He says that she was already "quickened" and that is why she was troubled by his preaching! Bunk! Besides, why does he not preach the gospel to get her to his "third stage," to her "birth" or "delivery" from the womb of her conviction?
In closing out this long chapter, I want to mention two famous brothers in Virginia in the late 1800's and the early 1900's. Both at one time were Primitive Baptist Elders and both come from a long family tradition in the "Old School Baptist" faction in Virginia. Both became famous in their states, one becoming a medical doctor and the other a lawyer of great standing in the legal history of Virginia. I will have more to say about these two in future chapters, the Lord willing.
The first, Elder J. C. Hurst, as the following writing will show, wrote an article on "insanity" after hearing a Hardshell tell his religious experience. It was published in a medical journal. I have not yet been able to find this article but hope so in the future. It is odd that he later, after publishing this article, became a Hardshell Elder and debater. His brother, Elder Samuel N. Hurst, went a slightly different route. He became a Hardshell after becoming a lawyer. He then pastored the famous "Thornton Gap Primitive Baptist Church" (Pastored by men such as the old Elder Fristoe and then later, by the great Hardshell debater, Elder John R. Daily). He pastored this church for two years, and then left it, giving his reasons in writing. He then goes to the Missionary Baptists and later to the Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville, and then is later ordained by the Missionaries. I very much would love to locate this writing also.
Well, I say all this because I do not doubt, after reading all the experiences of the Hardshells, and reading such advice as given above by Elder Beebe, and knowing how much the Hardshells look deep within themselves and talk about their doubts and fears, that many of them do show the elements of insanity. But, more on this too in later chapters, perhaps in dealing with Elder Wilson Thompson.
Elder J. C. Hurst
"J.C. Hurst: Hurst, Elder J.C. [M.D.] of Roanoke, VA., and brother of Sam N. Hurst, was born September 12, 1864, in a rural district of Pulaski County, Va., and was the seventh child of Allen and Nancy Hurst. He was of a studious nature and acquired a fairly liberal education and at the age of nineteen began the study of medicine and graduated at the age of twenty-one with honor, receiving a gold medal for general proficiency out of a graduating class of several hundred, by the college faculty. He was appointed resident physician to Maternity Hospital, Baltimore, but declined to accept, preferring active outdoor practice. In his practice, in which he was very successful, he mingled with various denominations among which were some Old School Baptists, but he had no love for them, and disposed to ridicule their experimental religion. On one occasion he heard an Old School Baptist tell his experience. He noted down what he said and wrote a thesis on it as a form of insanity which was published in a medical journal. From the medical profession he received a number of private letters commending his article, which to him was well pleasing. But God had a work for him to do, and like Paul he was made to preach to the people he did not love, and contend for the experiences that he once published as a species of insanity. After deep conviction for sin and a seeking of rest under the law he was given a sweet hope in Jesus, went before Bethel Church one cold day in January, 1895, asked for a home, was received and baptized by Elder Isaac Webb. About one year after this he was ordained to the ministry by Elders Webb, Lester, Wilson, Hurst and Reid and baptized two into the fellowship of Bethel Church the same day. Elder Hurst, though practicing his profession to some extent all the time since his ordination has served Bethel, Pilgrim's Rest, Reid Island and the church at Roanoke, where in connection with his brother, Sam N. Hurst, services are held every Sunday. He is both a defender of the doctrine of his Lord and Master and a feeder of the sheep of His pasture, and his labors have been blessed to the comfort of many."
Elder Samuel N. Hurst
"In June, 1889, Rev. Mr. Hurst united with the Primitive or Old School Baptist church at Bethel, in the neighborhood of his birth, his parents and most of his relatives being of that faith. Moving to Luray, Virginia, in 1901, he was in 1903 ordained to the full work of the Gospel ministry. Elders T. S. Dalton, John R. Dailey and Reuben Strickler composing the presbytery. He continued practicing law, writing law books and preaching until May 1, 1909, when he withdrew from the Primitives, assigning his reasons in writing. On June 9, 1909, he and his wife united with the First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia, Dr. T. Clagett Skinner, pastor. On June 23rd his church called for a presbytery to ordain him, the same being composed of the pastors of the Baptist churches at Roanoke, Vinton and Salem, and two lay members from each church. The presbytery met June 25th and after a thorough examination as to moral, spiritual and educational qualifications, unanimously recommended his ordination. On June 30th, in the First Church, he was in due form ordained to the full work of the Gospel ministry, Rev. William F. Powell, of Calvary Church, preaching the ordination sermon; Rev. P. H. Chelf, of Belmont Church, delivering the charge; and Dr. T. Clagett Skinner, of the First Church, presenting the Bible and making the ordination prayer. At the conclusion of the ordination ceremonies, and as the first act of his new ministerial life, he administered the ordinance of baptism to his wife and companion in the ministry. Thence he went to the Southern Baptist Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky; completing his theological course there, he accepted a call from Salem Church, near Pembroke, Kentucky, which he served one year. He then accepted a call of the Baptist State Board of Virginia to be their missionary pastor at Galax and Fries, where he served one year. Resigning his field there, Mr. Hurst again returned to the law..."