Jan 27, 2009

Howell Refutes Hardshellism III

"In relation to Foreign Missions"

"Why, asks an objector (Hardshell and Hyper Calvinist - SG), trouble yourself so much about the heathen? Is not God able to save his people without your interference? If he have a people among the heathen, he will save them in his own way, and time. I have no idea all the heathen will be lost. In language like this, not a few of your associates are accustomed to express themselves.

In reply, I observe, that we believe as firmly, perhaps, in the doctrine of divine sovereignty as any of our brethren who oppose the "preaching of the Gospel to every creature." We, I know, have been charged with holding the contrary; but I must believe, that those who do so are themselves aware that the imputation is a slander. The Apostles advocated the doctrine of divine sovereignty, and yet, as we have fully proved, they sent missionaries "to the heathen." (Gal. 2: 9.) Why should they have troubled themselves about this matter? Was not God equally able then, as now, to save his people without means, out of all nations? If he did not choose that religion should spread without instrumentality, nor to save men without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, in those days, will he do so now? Has God, in relation to his manner of saving sinners, changed?

But God is sovereign, and will save his own people in his own way—True, my brother; most true. But because God is sovereign, will save whom he pleases, and have all the glory of the salvation of the heathen and all others who ever reach the mansions on high, must we rebel, and refuse to preach, to them! May we cease to care for the souls of men, because without the blessing of God all our labor will be in vain? The Bible teaches no such doctrine. It is equally repugnant to the letter of the Gospel and the spirit of the religion of Christ.

The man who so bitterly opposes sending them the Gospel, has no idea that, for want of it, all the heathen will be lost.

The thought, it is true, is full of horror. The heathen make up more than half the teeming population of our globe. That they are all lost—lost forever, is an appalling reflection; and the sensitive heart, in its contemplation, shrinks back amazed! But why will not all the heathen be lost? I want this question answered.

The heathen will not all be lost, says the opposer of missions, because they are utterly ignorant on the whole subject of the Gospel. The name of Christ they never heard.

Not a ray of light from the throne of God has ever penetrated their mind. And shall they be condemned, it is asked, for not believing or obeying the Gospel, of the very existence of which they never had the slightest intimation! No, no; I will not believe it.

Very well—the argument is specious. Let us look at it, and reason upon it, for a moment. The argument of the opposcrs of Foreign Missions assumes that all those who are perfectly ignorant ol Christ, and the whole subject of religion, will, because of this perfect ignorance, be saved. Am I right? Certainly. But if, at any time, these perfectly ignorant persons should hear the Gospel, and then do not repent and believe before they die, they will certainly be lost. Is not this also true? It follows of course, that if the whole world had been left in the same perfect ignorance, the whole world, for the same reason, would certainly have been saved. All who are lost, therefore, are damned because, after hearing the Gospel, they do not repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If all this be true, and if the premises be admitted it cannot bo questioned, the conclusion is irresistible that the Gospel has been the occasion, not to say the positive cause, of the damnation of hundreds of millions of souls who, could they only have been kept in perfect ignorance of it, would certainly have been saved. The Gospel, therefore, is the greatest curse (I speak it with reverence) with which the world ever was visited! It is a greater curse than even sin itself; for if this newly discovered anti-missionary doctrine be true, sin would not condemn the soul, if it could only be kept in perfect ignorance of the Gospel.-

I have a question in casuistry to propose to these good brethren, and I will do so through yon, if you please. True, Christ commands us to preach the Gospel to every creature in the whole world. However, if we fail to obey this command it will not (will it?) prevent our salvation; and every man we enlighten of the heathen world, if he does not then repent and believe, before he dies, will be damned; and if we let them remain in perfect ignorance they will all be saved; now had we not better disobey Christ, who seems not to have known any thing of this new and better plan, so lately discovered, and thus save ourselves, and not a part of the heathen world, but the whole of it, not by enlightening but by keeping them in perfect ignorance. Certainly the most benevolent plan. Let us not give them the Gospel. This curses the nations. The most benevolent thing we can do is to burn our Bibles immediately; stop all our ministers forthwith; extinguish the light of the Gospel; and banish, as soon as possible, every vestige of the knowledge of Christ from the face of the earth! This " reductio ad absurdum" is the legitimate conclusion from the premises; and you will forgive me if I express my full conviction that this is the result to which anti-missionary doctrine, were it heeded, would always inevitably conduct us.

This, however, is a small absurdity, in comparison with some others involved in the doctrine I am now controverting. Take, if you please, another.

Some are saved by the knowledge of God. This we all believe. And some are saved by the ignorance of God.— This anti-missionaries pretend to believe. Well, then, ignorance and knowledge,in their results, are equally desirable and beneficial, because they both alike secure the salvation of the soul!! (Letter # 6 to Hardshell Dr. Watson)

Paul was quoted (Rom. 10: 18:) "Have they not heard? Yes, verily their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world." And (Col. 1: '23:) "The hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven." "This objection is common with you all, perhaps throughout the Slate.

In reply, I ask whether it is true that the extensive spread of the Gospel, in apostolic times, described in the passages quoted, did really fulfil the command contained in the apostolic commission, to preach the Gospel to every creature? If you sustain yourselves in this assumption, you will soon find that you have proved vastly too much. By our success in the proof of this, you will destroy fundamental doctrine held by us all, in common with all other evangelical denominations—the divine call to the ministry. I say nothing in reply to the inquiry whether the commission does not require that the Gospel be preached in all the world to every creature, in every successive period, and is not therefore, incapable of fullilment while consecutive ages of men continue to live. I briefly call your attention to the fact, that if the apostolic commission has been long since fulfilled, its claims are satisfied and like a cancelled bond, is of course no longer obligatory! There is not now, therefore any such thing as a call to the ministry, because there is no commission under which for ministers, if such a class of men could legitimately exist, to act! Still, however, all of you preach, and profess to be called of God to the work. How is this! Your doctrine on missions is in conflict with your doctrine in relation to the ministry. By taking the ground that the commission is fulfilled, you proved, as 1 said, vastly too much, and consequently nothing at all. Now I wish you to remember that when an intelligent congregation hears a man. preach, who, to avoid obedience to them, finds it necessary to represent the most prominent commands of the New Testament as old abrogated obligations, they set him down, and with good reason, either for an infidel or a heretic. Do you admit that ministers are called of God to the work, and act legitimately under the commission? If so you are obliged to reject the doctrine of your party..."

"...our doings are unauthorised in scripture? This has been repeated a thousand times, and denunciations sent forth in all their bitterness, from the pulpit and the press, in innumerable circulars and resolutions of Associations andChurches, acrimonious pamphlets, and little newspaper sheets, north and south. In all this, brother Watson, I am sorry to know you have been, and are personally active. Sometimes you write them, generally you circulate them, and always when called upon in Associations and Churches, you vote for them! And yet you profess to be liberal, and to Foreign Missions even friendly! These missiles have for the most part, recoiled upon the heads of those by whom they were sent forth, and produced that "distress among the Churches," which you have so often set down to our account, as a most grievious offence. Yes, my brother, your party have produced the whole of the "distress" yourselves. We can truly say:—" We have wronged no man, we have defrauded no man, we have corrupted no man." I am willing that the whole question shall be tried by the spirit which animates the two parties. Is not the spirit of your party wormwood? Is this the spirit of Christ? We read of a star which is called wormwood, but it shall fall.. No, brother Watson, the Churches never were disturbed by us. Who are going about continually, persuading the Churches to divide; urging them to exclude their members; advocating prescriptive resolutions; calling upon Associations, as you all did lately upon the Concord, to break up and form under new constitutions, such as you dictate to bind the souls of men, and which are not Baptist? Who are doing all this and much more? Are the friends of the Convention so engaged? No sir. We are conservatives. You are the men who are thus cutting up and dividing the body of Christ.— Every body knows this to be true. Who then are disturbing the Churches. Nathan said unto David - "Thou art the man." This I will not say of you in all its extent, because some others are even more active than you are, hut you assume a position by their side, "parnobilefratrum."

It is often objected to us that these missionary operations lead to Arminianism—indeed, some assert that all missionaries are Arminians. This, I am told, is your own favorite objection, and which you never fail to urge when opportunity permits.

Of this objection I can very readily dispose...the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, (I suppose you have it,)...On the contrary, many of your own party do not receive it, because they say it is hyper-Calvinistic. The Philadelphia Association, however, as I proved to you in a former letter, and you cannot dispute the fact, by whom that confession was adopted, is now, and has been from the beginning, a missionary body. How does this fact accord with your allegation? Does it not crush it at once?

The confession was first drawn up—it was, at all events, adopted during the seventeenth century, I do not remember the exact date- by the "Baptist Churches in and about London," I have before proved to you that those Churches were, at that time, actively engaged in missionary labors." Facts are stubborn things." We could recite many more to our purpose, but time and room forbid, and besides it is unnecessary. Will any one ever again presume to assert that missionary operations lead to Aminianism? The facts prove the contrary to be true. With the same propriety you might plead that missionary operations lead to Mohamedanism or Mormonism. The idea is absurd. Missionary operations are obedience to the commands of God. Can It be that the doctrines of the Bible stand opposed to obedience to its commandments! Is the word of revelation inconsistent with itself? It certainly is, if your doctrine of anti-missionism be true. But no, my brother, the error is in your construction of it, not in God's holy word.

I will, in my next letter, notice two or three more of your objections. For the present adieu."
(Letter 8)

See here

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