Jan 21, 2009

John Clark & Means

Did Elder John Clark believe in regeneration by the means of the gospel and word of God, or not? Personally, I believe statements either made or condoned by Elder Clark, prove that he did believe in means in regeneration. I also believe that Elders Pence, Burnam, Huff, and McIrntoff, who testified that Elder Clark believed as they did, in gospel means, were not lying but telling the truth. They knew Elder Clark and his writings well.

First, I want to cite some writings of Elder Clark, with some comments of my own, and then cite Elder Lemuel Potter on this issue, and then make concluding remarks.

Elder John Clark wrote:

"Under the quickening power and influence of the Holy Ghost, the Word preached comes to God's people in power, by which they live, hear, and believe with the heart unto righteousness. Now, when the Gospel is preached they know it. It is the voice of their Shepherd, the great Shepherd...For with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." [Rom. x., 6, 8, 10]"

("Does the Gospel Ever Produce Division Among the Saints of God" - Written by John Clark - ZION'S ADVOCATE - January, 1880)

Now, is this not clear? Does Elder Clark not explicitly affirm regeneration by means of the gospel?

From the Mt. Carmel Old School Baptist Church Trial, an Old School Baptist with the "means" faction testified:

"I was going to show you that old Brother Clarke who was the founder of Zion’s Advocate taught the same (regeneration by means of the word)..."

"In the first volume of Zion’s Advocate, I have copied an article from it."

“Commenting upon Romans 1:16, he says that the gospel ‘is a means made use of by God in quickening dead sinners, enlightening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, softening hard hearts, and making of enemies friends’ (Vol. VIII. p. 437) Same volume; page 339, upon Acts XXVI, 18, he says ‘Now, though this is all the work of the spirit, by whom only the eyes of the understanding are enlightened; yet this is ascribed to the apostle, not as the efficient cause, but as the instrument and means, through preaching of the gospel, which the spirit of God would, and did, make use of.’”

Again, does Elder Clark not here clearly affirm means in regeneration? Hear him further as he answers the objections of the "Hypers" and "Hardshells" in these words.

"But some object and say, Why preach repentance to dead sinners? They can neither hear, see nor understand. That is true; that they hear not, see not, understand not, so far as the preacher is concerned or is able to effect them; but why did the prophet call upon the dry bones to hear the word of the Lord? He answered, “And I prophesied as I was commanded.” That was authority then for all who feared God, and it is still the authority for all such. This objection, however, will lie against all the exhortations and admonitions to the saints as it does against addresses to the ungodly, for the Christian has no more power than the unbeliever. The difference between them is not in the power, but in the will; as it written: "To will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not.”"

The theory that we must preach to men according to the power they possess to obey is sublimated Arminianism, and yet; the advocates of it are very fraid of being called Arminians. Christians know, however, by the word of his grace, and by the revelation of that word in their hearts, when it comes in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, that Christ’s word is true which says, “Without me you can do nothing.” The Spirit takes the word of Christ and shows it to his people, and thus it is verified in the experience.

To preach to men upon the ground that they have power to do what is commanded, or to refuse to preach to them because they have not the power, shows that the confidence is in the flesh and not in God; that they depend upon the will of the flesh and not upon the power God, and that is the very essence, double refined, of Arminianism.

The minister of Christ does not preach to any class of men upon the consideration of their ability or inability. He has the sentence of death in himself, and therefore cannot trust in himself; and he has no confidence in the flesh of any other, but his confidence, his faith and hope, is in God, from whence alone are his expectations."

("What To Preach and How To Preach" Written by John Clark in Zion's Advocate--August 1875)

See here

These remarks by Elder Clark seem to be in harmony with words of similar import from Elder Watson, a contemporary of the same important period, from the 1830's - 1870's. They condemned the Hyperism of their brethren, their "ultra brethren."

Wrote Elder Potter:

"He undertook to show that Elder Clark was agreed with him on the subject of means. In this he gloriously failed, for I showed him from Zion's Advocate, that on the occasion of Elder Booten's ordination, Elder Clark was the moderator of the Presbytery, and that Elder Booten was interrogated on this very point, as to whether he believed in the Spirit's work in the regeneration of sinners, without, and independent of, all means and instrumentalities whatever. A correspondence between Elder J. B. Stephens, of Nashville, Tenn., and Elder Clark, concerning this matter, which was published in Zion's Advocate, shows that Elder Clark emphatically denied the use of any means or agencies outside of the divine Spirit in the regeneration of sinners. I am not prepared to give the date of the Advocate in which this correspondence occurred."

See here

Well, was Elder Potter right? Can we find the article by Elder Clark where he denied means? And, if we did find it, would it only show how Elder Clark, like Elders Dalton and Purifoy, and many other "Old Schoolers," changed their minds on this and thus spoke both ways on it at some point in their lives?

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