Jan 26, 2009

Howell on Anti-missionaries



"The following questions have been proposed to me, by a distinguished and beloved brother, residing in a distant part of the United States, and I have been requested to answer theui in the pages of the Memorial.

" 1. Would not the statistics of the last quarter of a century show, that in Tennessee many churches and associations, which in the earlier portion of this period, were missionary in their feelings and tendencies, and partially so in their action, have since gone over to the other side? Why is this?"

" 2. Anti-mission Baptists in Tennessee now bear a larger proportion to mission Baptists, than in the other states. Why is this ?"

"3. Anti-mission Baptists have been annually diminishing elsewhere, for some time; here they seem to increase, or, at least, to maintain their relative numbers. Why is this ?"

The task here assigned me is rather a difficult one, but I shall address myself, without any formality, to its performance. To the first question I give an affirmative reply. The original churches in Tennessee were all missionary in their feelings and tendencies, and partially so in their action, and they continued to maintain this attitude until about a quarter of a century ago. Their sympathies appear to have been peculiarly elicited by the condition of the Indians, by whom, on all sides, they were surrounded. They were, as will be seen by the minutes of their associations, in the habit of sending ministers to preach to them, and to sustain the service they contributed freely. At length, our venerable brother McCoy commenced his labors among the tribes of the northwest, and, from this state unsolicited donations were, for several years, sent to his support. To this fact Mr. McCoy himself, if I mistake not, refers in his History of Indian Affairs.

When our lamented brother Rice returned from India, beset out, as is well known, without delay, on a visit to all the American churches, to induce them, if possible, to sustain Judson and his associates in Bur- mah. In the prosecution of this design, he traversed this state, probably more than once. He was received with enthusiasm everywhere, by the churches and the associations. Considerable sums were collected by him for the mission. He also formed a State Foreign Mission Society, many of the proceedings of which are now in my possession. Several leading associations, some of them now the most uncompromising enemies of all benevolent effort, became auxiliary to the Board of the Triennial Convention. Such was the spirit that prevailed...until they were turned aside in the manner which I will presently state, continued to act vigorously, and to contribute liberally. These facts are fully sustained by the minutes of the associations, and society ; their correspondence with Rev. Dr. Staughlon (Staughton - SG), which, I presume, is on file in the office of the Home Secretary of the Boston Board of Foreign Missions, and the published journals of Mr. Rice.

A quarter of a century ago, therefore, the feelings, and tendencies, and action of the Tennessee churches were missionary, and they would have continued so, had the interests of truth been properly superintended, and any tolerable resistance been offered to the evil influences which were brought to bear upon them, and which proved so disastrously successful in their overthrow. Many churches and associations, "then missionary," have since gone over to the other side. The causes that produced this revolution, I will now attempt to designate and illustrate.

About that time the noted Daniel Parker began to attract attention. He was, as is well known, the author of the "Two Seed Doctrine," as it is usually called and then, and for some time after, resided in Middle Tennessee ; from whence he removed to Illinois, and finally to Texas, where, last autumn, he paid the debt of nature. Several circumstances combined to give him and his doctrine extraordinary influence. Our Methodist brethren had, from the first settlemen of the country, been very numerous and strong. Here the Cumberland denomination arose, and it swept over the land like a whirlwind. Both these classes of christians were ultra-arminian, and they and the Baptists were perpetually at war. It is not surprising, that in these circumstances, the Baptists became insensibly ultra-predestinarian. Of this doctrine Parker was the champion, and therefore the general favorite. In his person, dress and manners, he was plain, approximating to vulgarity. This also added to his popularity. And, withal, he was a man of astonishing ability, and untiring industry. It may be supposed that the repugnancy of his system would have destroyed his influence, but this was not the case for ingeniously did he interweave it with Baptist doctrines, as then understood and reached, which was a kind of antinominism, that it required much discriminatoon to separate them, and make them appear in contrast, with satisfactory distinctness. His views met with a spirited resistance from a few men, such as McCon- ico, Whitsitt, and Wiseman; but the prevailing feeling was, that if he erred, it was n the safe side—in favor of the divine sovereignty, and in opposition to arminianism.

Mr. Parker set in motion the means that overthrew missions in Tennessee, and to which he was induced by the following considerations.—He was ambitious to be a writer, and sought, as the medium of his communications with the public, the columns of the Columbian Star, then published in Washington City. His essays, setting forth his own peculiar opinions, were rejected by that paper, and his doctrines ridiculed as equally immodest and preposterous. This was too much for a man of his unbounded pride and self-confidence tamely to endure. The offence given him was unpardonable. The conductors of the Star he knew to be associated in the conduct of the missionary enterprise, and of ministerial education. From that hour he conceived the most implacable hatred against the men, and all their pursuits. Seldom did he preach a sermon in which he did not give them a thorough dressing. He also commenced the publication of a series of pamphlets, which he continued for a year or two, giving expositions of his doctrine. In these, as well as his sermons, he appeals successfully to the sympathies of his Tennessee brethren. His own, with other pamphlets and books, such as those by Joshua Lawrence, of N. Carolina, and James Osborne, of Baltimore, were constantly carried and sold by him and his associates, until the land was deluged with them, in all its length and breadth. Religious newspapers, tracts, and books,' (except their own) were denounced as unscriptural, and designed to supersede the bible; ministerial education was reviled as consisting of the manufacture of graceless and lazy young men into preachers, and therefore supremely abominable; and missions were worse than all, since they were nothing less than a combination of their pretended managers, not to preach the gospel to the heathen, which they could not do, because they did not themselves know the gospel, but to get the people's money, with which they were represented as purchasing immense estates, and living like princes. All this was believed by a surprising number of people. Why should they not believe it ? They knew human nature to be very depraved ; they possessed little general information, and they were assumed of its truth by ministers, in whose veracity they had the fullest confidence.

Meantime, no agent, or other friend of missions, visited the state, who might have corrected these false impressions, and set all these matters, and missions particularly, in their proper light. No Baptist paper existed in the south, and none was taken, except, perhaps, by one in a thousand of our brethren. Moreover, some of the prime friends of missions became converts to Mr. Alexander Campbell's system, and joined him. Thus missions became beyond measure odious. The current of prejudice had gradually swollen, until now no one dared to resist it. Not a man ventured to open his mouth in favor of any benevolent enterprise or action. The missionary societies were dissolved, and the associations rescinded all their resolutions, by which they were in any way connected with these measures, and, in this respect, the stillness of death rested upon the whole people! Subsequently, and until the present time, this state of things has been kept up, wherever it was possible, by the same means, and by industriously circulating, in addition, such papers as the Old Baptist Banner, of Tennessee, the Primitive Baptist of North Carolina, and the Signs of the Times, of New York.

Thus we have, with less brevity than we desired, seen that the Tennessee churches and associations were originally missionary, and why so many of them are now found in opposition to missions."

"On the other hand, bold, unscrupulous, and embittered leaders everywhere appeared, and placed themselves at the head of the opposition. Effective measures were without delay adopted, to arrest the progress of benevolent action. All the old prejudices of the masses were appealed to, and easily revived. New ones were created, and the hostility was warmer than before."

Correctness of theological principle, as well as resistance to selfish schemes, was also pleaded as a reason for opposition. God, it was maintained, would surely save his people, in his own time and way,—not one of the elect would ever be lost. The churches were reminded of these teachings of their own faith; this movement could, at best, be nothing less than an impudent interference with the purposes of God, therefore, no orthodox Baptist could be either a missionary or a friend of missions. The whole was denounced as a scheme of arminianism, as to doctrine, and prompted only by a desire for money, and the hope of fame, on the part of its advocates. The churches and associations throughout the state hastened to take this heresy in hand, before it had time to diffuse itself abroad. The missionary party, if the weaker, was unceremoniously expelled, or, if the stronger, the anti-missionary party withdrew and organized themselves anew. In every instance in which it could be done, resolutions of non-fellowship were passed against all missionaries, and all who favored them; their houses of worship were carefully closed against them; and the people were zealously warned against the blandishments, and seductive arts of these recreants from orthodoxy and religion. (this is further evidence that they are a 'cult' - SG)

I could wish, if I had room, to speak more at large. I seriously fear that our missionary brethren but too fully concur with our anti-missionary brethren, in supposing that the bible doctrine of predestination and election, and the work of missions, are really inconsistent with each other; for, while the latter repudiate missions for this reason, among others, the former seem strongly inclined to explain away the doctrine, lest it should prove a stumbling block to the zeal and activity of the people. On doctrinal, as well as practical subjects, the Baptists of Tennessee need much instruction."
(The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Record, Vol. IV., NEW-YORK, NOVEMBER, 1845)

See here

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