Jul 25, 2010

Beebe vs. Howell & Peck

In the 1830's a debate was carried on, a war of words, between the leaders of the "anti mission movement" and those Baptist leaders who supported organized missions, theological and Sunday schools, revival meetings, and other such things. Elder Gilbert Beebe was viewed as the chief leader of the Hardshell, Old School, or Primitive Baptists and Dr. R. B. C. Howell was a vocal leader of Baptists who supported missions and education, with others, like J. M. Peck. The following is an interesting exchange of words between Beebe and Howell, which was published in each side's periodicals. First, we will cite Beebe's response to Howell's writing entitled "ANTIQUITY OF NEW SCHOOLISM," wherein he sought to prove that missions and education had a long tradition among Baptists of the prior centuries and that the Old Schoolers or Hardshells were uttering falsehoods when they claimed that such things were new inventions among the Baptists.

Beebe wrote (emphasis mine - SG):

"THIS is truly a singular head for an article, but the subject to which we have to advert is perhaps no less singular.

John M. Peck, now associated with J. L. Waller, R. B. C. Howell & Co., in conducting the Banner and Pioneer, of Kentucky, has poured forth nearly three columns of foaming wrath upon the Old School Baptists in their Fourth of July number. He charges us with forgery in appropriating to ourselves the name “Old School,” and attempts a justification of the charge by alleging that the Philadelphia Association, the Old English Baptists, and some Welsh Baptists, have in some instances so far turned aside from the divine rule as to practice some of those things which we, as bible Baptists, denounce; and having from history found men in the Baptist connection, in England, Wales and America, from 1654 extending to 1801, capable of projecting and practicing such innovations on Baptist doctrine and order, claims the appellation of “Old School” as belonging to the practices which they advocate."

Howell and Peck had the historical facts to prove that the Baptists of the preceding centuries practiced and supported cooperative mission work, theological schools, and bible classes. This being proved, the Hardshells were shown to be false in their claims that 1) such things were new among Baptists, and 2) they were most like the primitive Baptists. You will see how Beebe responded, which is no different than all the rest of the Hardshell brotherhood, when confronted with the historical facts. Does Beebe respond with counter historical evidence? Does he deny the evidence presented by Howell?

Beebe continued:

"Having, as he appears to suppose, stripped off our covering and shown that we are not twenty years old, (and so the appellation cannot belong to us,) his benevolent soul (moved perhaps with compassion) has dealt out to us a volley of epithets; but as all of them, strung together, would make rather an inconvenient jingle, perhaps he only intends we shall wear them one at a time. Henceforth all who take John M. Peck as their oracle are to recognize us as the hyper-Calvinistic, Antinomian, Excrescence of a Party, a most unpleasant and cumbrous excrescence, Monstrosity, Snake Species, New Cohort, New Test Party, a mere fragment of a party, a few scattered fragments, a clan, not twenty years old, misnamed Old School Baptists, of the Lawrence, Beebe, Trott and Dudley stripe, Lickingites, base metal, deceptive, counterfeit, &c. How forcible are right words! And with what ample profusion has this learned and polite New School editor lavished on us those flattering titles! Well, we care but little what they call us. Our divine Master was called hard names; and for want of arguments the enemies of the cross have often resorted to a similar course. We only wish it recollected that the Old School Baptists (and particularly our paper) are charged with scurrility, and with using harsh expressions. Suppose we copy some of the above gentle, soft and charitable terms from this organ of New Schoolism."

Notice that Beebe does not attempt to meet the evidence or argument of Howell! He only asserts that Howell and Peck were making false charges, but offers no rebuttal with hard historical facts. Anyone who reads the first Hardshell periodicals of the period will see that Peck and Howell "hit the nail on the head" in their descriptions of the Hardshell character and mindset. On Howell's calling the Hardshells "New Test Men," see my posting here. It was an easy task for Howell and Peck to unmask the pretensions and claims of Beebe and his Hardshell brethren. It would be an easy task today to meet any Hardshell in debate on who is truly "primitive" or "old school," who truly represented the Baptists who endorsed the London and Philadelphia confessions.

Beebe continued:

"As to the instances adduced by Mr. Peck, in which professed Baptists of by-gone days have turned aside from the good old way, they only show, if true, that there was then, as there is now, corruption in the nominal kingdom of the Redeemer; but the imperfections of those of former times can no more justify us in departing from the laws of Christ than the present corruptions of New Schoolism can justify those of generations to come in following their pernicious ways."

Notice that Beebe does not disprove the claims of Howell and Peck about the Baptists of former centuries supporting the things denounced by the Hardshells. His only rebuttal is to claim that those former Baptists were apostates. But, he cannot deny that the "New Schoolers" were truly primitive and original in continuing the long Baptist tradition of supporting missions and education. This is typical of Hardshells. When I have confronted my dad (a Hardshell preacher) with these facts, he retorts - "I'm only interested in what the Bible says." Yet, in spite of the falsity of their claims, they still claim to be the true original Baptists in opposing missions and education. They are willing to tell untaught men that they are the true original Baptists, but when a learned historian confronts them with the historical evidence that overthrows their false claims, they run from the historical debate to the scriptural debate. But, they cannot find support in scripture either.

Beebe continued:

"Who the legitimate successors of the Philadelphia Association, of the English Baptists, or of the Welsh Baptists are, is not the question with us; but the grand point is, Who are followers of the Lamb? Who are walking in the footsteps of the primitive church? Who are teaching for doctrines the commandments of men?"

Again, this is a case of running from the historical debate, yet their name arrogantly affirms that they are the true primitive Baptists, the ones who held to the practices of their forefathers! Notice that Beebe and the Hardshells assert that the Baptists who wrote the London and Philadelphia confessions are apostates and yet they claim to be their successors! The "legs of the lame are not equal."

Beebe continued:

"These references to the history of Baptists of a few centuries past have been often met and refuted."

That is a falsehood! If Beebe truly had evidence to support his contention, he would have offered it in his rebuttal. Does he not say that the former Baptists who supported missions and ministerial education were apostates? Not followers of the Lamb?

Beebe continues:

"We have often informed the New School that anything short of the apostolic age is too late to have weight with us. The foibles of professed Baptists three hundred years ago are entitled to no more consideration with us than those of yesterday. But as Mr. Peck says all genuine Old School Baptists were missionary Baptists, from their own mouths we will judge them. Let us sum up the testimony and strike the balance."

Notice how Beebe says that the Baptists of former days, who had supported missions and ministerial education were creating "foibles" and were made by those who were not really Baptists, being only "professed" Baptists. Why didn't Beebe simply cite historical evidence to show how Baptists of prior centuries protested against missions and ministerial education? Where can he find evidence of the existence of his brethren prior to the 19th century?

Beebe continued:

"The Philadelphia Association, just seventy years ago, approved the establishment of Rhode Island College (now Brown University); directed collections to be made to it in all the churches; and all the ministers pledged themselves to promote the object. In 1767 this venerable association sat in legislation over the churches, and supplied them with laws. concerning family prayer. In 1670 collections were made for certain students of Rhode Island College. In 1754, and subsequently, sent out missionaries under pay, viz: Gano, Miller and Van Horn. In 1775 seventeen shillings were contributed for Rhode Island College. In 1778 more money was collected for preaching the gospel in destitute places. Further testimony from this deponent, Mr. Peck thinks unnecessary; he will, we presume, now suffer us to cross-question his witness.

Question. By what divine authority or New Testament rule did the Philadelphia Association engage in these anti-christian practices?

Answer. This deponent saith not."

Notice again how Beebe does not dispute the historical evidence submitted by Howell and Peck. All he can do is to say that his forefathers were engaged in anti-christian practices! He really proves how he and his Hardshell brethren are not the real "Old" Baptists but a new sect of Baptists, espousing doctrines that no Baptist espoused prior to the 19th century. But, Howell, Peck, and other Baptists not only demonstrated that Baptist history was against the claims of the Hardshells but the Bible as well. The reason why the Old Baptists supported missions and education is because they saw it supported in scripture.

Beebe continues:

"Q. Did the Philadelphia Association ever organize missionary, Tract, Education, Sabbath School, Temperance, or even Bible Societies, by selling membership, directorship, and other high sounding titles, to professors and non-professors) and by electing presidents, treasurers, agents, &c., until within the last twenty-five years?

A. They did not."

Beebe is raising a "red herring" in his rebuttal. It was not necessary for Howell and Peck to show that the organizational makeup of prior entities for the promotion of missions and education were exactly the same as those in the 19th century. It was enough to show that the Baptists who endorsed the confessions all supported missional and educational methods, either by individual churches or by groups of churches.

Beebe continues:

"If the present race of New School Baptists are the regular successors of the Old English and Welsh Baptists, and of those of the Philadelphia Association of 1707, why have they, within a few years past, discarded the Old Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith, which was originally adopted by the Old English Baptists?"

Beebe here charges the Baptists who continue the tradition of supporting missions and education with discarding the old confessions. But, this charge is not correct. Some Baptist churches did begin to place less emphasis on the old confessions as a means of determining church fellowship, like the Separate Baptists, but this was not universal among Missionary Baptists. Interestingly, it is today's "Primitive Baptists" who do not accept the oldest confessions!

Beebe continued:

"Will John M. Peck have the assurance to tell us that the present Philadelphia Association has not discarded the old published a new and improved edition - an altered edition, more congenial with the doctrines of the new order? We think he will not."

It is not possible to comment on this retort by Beebe as it is not known what he is referring to. Is Beebe trying to say that the old confessions are "more congenial" with Hardshellism?

Beebe continued:

"In looking over the April number of the Baptist Record, (so called) we are greeted with a copy of the speechifying of some of the great men of New Schoolism, at their spring anniversaries in Philadelphia; of which, as they will serve to help us out in showing the antiquity of New Schoolism, we will notice a few specimens.

Baron Stowe, of Boston, offered a resolution in favor of the Tract Society; and during his remarks in support of his motion, it is said adverted with peculiar feeling to the origin of the society; the honored names of Davis, Knowles, Staughton and Reynolds, who were engaged in it. They were all there then. But fifteen years have passed away, and all these are gone! Only the brother who first spoke and himself were now here of all its founders! Having assisted in rocking the cradle of the society, (how appropriate the idea to lull the little new comer,) in its infancy, he felt a very strong desire to see and to aid it now in assuming the manly attitude of mature years.”

Beebe thinks he has a proof that shows the Mission and Education Baptists are new because a particular tract society was only fifteen years old! Poor debater and apologist! Can he show that the Baptists of former centuries were opposed to printing and distributing tracts on bible topics?

Beebe continues:

"New School institutions, like mushrooms, are soon matured; hence J. M. Peck may plead for the antiquity of Tract Societies as fifteen years of age. The American and Foreign Bible Society held her second anniversary also in Philadelphia last April; so we may venture to put down her age at about two years and three months. A very reverend set of digniare now engaged in rocking its cradle; but, poor thing, it must either be very weakly, greedy or ill-natured, for with all their rocking, it continues to cry, like the horsleech’s daughters. As for the old American Bible Society, which the New School Baptists have helped into being, and which they assisted to rock for several years, they have at length found out that it is an Ishmael; so they have weaned it and sent it forth into the wilderness."

With this kind of logic one can prove the Hardshells began in 1832! They had no periodicals or organs of protest prior to 1827 and so this proves them to be new, using his own brand of "logic." No societies = No Missionary Baptists ----> No Hardshell periodicals = No Hardshell Baptists.

Beebe continues:

"The same paper from which we have collected the above items, being a kind of family record of New Schoolism, has put down the age of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society at twenty-five years. Mr. J. M. Peck, as we have noticed, very sneeringly asserts that the self-styled Old School Baptists (as he calls us) are not of lawful age, not twenty-one years of age. What will he say of this ancient institution at the very advanced age of twenty-five years, when he reads the following extract which we make from the report of its board of cradle-rockers, viz: “The time is not come to restrict our operations. The work is only begun; the laborers are few. From almost every mission the cry is help, and helpers are waiting to be sent. Let the advance be made. Let fervent unceasing prayer ascend to God, and prayer lead to effort,” (i. e., cradle rocking,) “earnest, united effort, that the treasury of the Lord may be full.”

Is this the best retort Beebe and his Hardshell brethren can make? Prior to Benjamin Keach the Baptist churches did not generally sing in their worshipful gatherings. Does this prove that singing in worship is an error?

Beebe continues:

"We might go on and give, from documents by them furnished to our hand, the birth, age and insatiable appetites of the Sunday School, Education (for the ministry) and Temperance Societies, and every other institution belonging to New Schoolism, and we should find that the most aged among them all has not yet numbered forty years; and the fullest fed among them have never been satisfied, nor is there the least prospect they ever will be. Their revenue now, we believe, exceeds the expense of our national government. So much for the antiquity of New Schoolism among the Baptists. The most ancient horn by which they are distinguished from the church of Christ is not yet thirty years old; yet they claim to be the Old School, and denounce the disciples of Christ as a “New Test Party,” to which epithet we would not object if they would not abbreviate it; we claim to be a “New Testament Party,” and the only test of fellowship we admit is that of the New Testament." (ALEXANDRIA, D. C., August 15, 1839. Elder Gilbert Beebe Editorials Volume 1 Pages 516 – 521)


Again, this is poor rebuttal. Howell and Peck gave all kinds of historical evidence to show that Baptists of prior centuries, those who wrote and endorsed the London and Philadelphia confessions, supporting missions and theological and Sunday schools. What does it matter that a particular organ or means of doing this work is new?

Beebe, in another writing, responds to another article entitled "ANTIQUITY OF THE OLD SCHOOL," and responds by saying:

"In the “Recorder and Watchman” we find an article over the anonymous signature “Faith and Works,” copied into that sink of corruption edited by Mr. Waller, advertising the Old School Baptists as impostors, and calling on the Baptist denomination to beware of them as such!

The writer defines an impostor to be one who practices a cheat or imposture upon a people or community, and adds that the impostors he alludes to call themselves Old School Baptists. He says moreover, “If he establishes the fact that they (meaning the Old School) are of a New School, and not the Old School order, he proves them cheats or impostors.” Well, be it so, we will on the part of the Old School Baptists pledge ourselves, as far as we are concerned, that we will yield the ground, if this or any other writer will prove that we are not of the Old School order, and as he has unhesitatingly and unreservedly charged us with imposition, we hold him bound to prove his assertion, or he must be considered a vile calumniator, a slanderer, and a fit companion for such as Wailer, Sands, Meredith, and the whole clan of our persecutors. Now for his proof, the first item of which is palpably false, viz: “They assume the title of Old School because they oppose Bible, Education. Missionary and Sunday School Societies.” All who are acquainted with the sentiments of Old School Baptists know that they oppose these institutions because they are Old School Baptists, and as such feel themselves bound, by their allegiance to King Jesus, to reject from their religious order, all that is invented by men and unsupported by any direct warrant from his royal throne. So it is not their opposition to these inventions that constitutes them Old School Baptists; hence if the writer has proved anything by this part of his testimony, it is that he has mistaken or wilfully misrepresented the ground of our claim to antiquity. “If these objects, therefore,” says this anonymous writer, “were taught and practiced by the Old School Baptists, such pretenders are to all intents guilty of a gross trick, palpable imposture, which should be exposed.” To this proposition also we cordially consent; let him prove that in the Old School of Christ, these humanly invented institutions had a place, in the primitive age of the church, and we will be content to pass for impostors. But hear him! He proceeds to his proof thus: “They must claim their seniority from the English or Welsh Baptists, or from the Waldenses of Piedmont.” What a consummate scholar! He appears to have read something in the history of the church as far back as the days of the English and Welsh Baptists, and of the Waldenses of Piedmont, and forsooth he concludes he has got to the end of the row, into the remote depths of antiquity. Poor, infatuated, stupid soul, when he has finished his study of Ivimy’s history, if he will read a few volumes of church history, indicted by divine inspiration, and written by such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude and James, he may learn that he has greatly erred, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God."

Beebe belies the claims of his brethren by rejecting the historical proofs that show that the Baptists who preceded the Hardshells were ardent supporters of missions and education, by various means. He no longer wants to say he and his brethren are "primitive" because they are like the Baptists of the 17th or 18th centuries, but because they are like the apostles! Notice how he runs from the historical criterion.

Next, he thinks that because one cannot find a bible, mission, or temperance society mentioned specifically in the bible, that they cannot therefore be supported! What logic! Can he find his Hardshell "associations" mentioned specfically in the good old book? Can he find his church periodicals? Can he find his hymn book? Of course, the great Baptists who fought the Hardshells, did not run from debating these things from scripture, just as they did not relative to church history.

Beebe continued:

"We must claim our seniority from the English or ‘Welsh Baptists or the Waldenses, must we? Has any Old School Baptist ever set up such a claim? Never. We do claim, however, that even these, with, some few discrepancies, which the New Order are hard run to dig up in justification of their course of hostility to the gospel, were Old School Baptists; but we are far, very far from claiming them as the originators of our faith and order."

What a dodge is this! We claim them but we don't claim them! We call ourselves "primitive" Baptists, but we claim no direct connection with those who endorsed the old confessions! Who ever argued that the Baptists who endorsed the old confessions were the "originators" of the "faith and order" of the apostles? The question is - were the Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries, who wrote and endorsed the old confessions, followers of the apostolic faith? Notice also how Beebe concedes that the "New School" Baptists, who supported missions and education, like their forefathers, did rightfully claim that they were more kin to their forefathers, while the Hardshells reject the faith and practice of their Baptist forefathers prior to the rise of the Hardshells. "Few discrepancies"? Is it not rather the case that history shows a continuous widespread support for missions and ministerial education among Baptists prior to the Hardshells?

Beebe continued:

"We could no sooner take them as our guides than we could any other set of men, any farther than they followed Christ, and in our use of the distinctive appellation, we have, as we have frequently published, not the remotest allusion to any school of men, we reject alike every system of scholastic divinity, and profess to be pupils in the school of Christ, who as a teacher, teaches as never man taught; we call this the Old School, because it is the original gospel school, and in it the same divine lessons are taught now which were taught eighteen hundred years ago. And although, to our mortification, we confess that we are but dull scholars in this blessed school, yet it is our mercy to be found among those despised ones, who renouncing every other kind of religious teaching, are taught of God, come to Christ, learn of him, for he is meek and lowly, and here alone we find rest to our souls. It is the privilege of all Regular Old School Baptists to set where Mary sat, at the feet of Jesus, where they may receive his gracious words and divine instruction. It is our peculiar glory to wait on him; not like the New School, to plan, contrive, chalk out and dictate, and then call on the Lord to lay aside his plan and wisdom and adopt ours, or to come on in our rear, and succeed our undertakings, and follow with his blessing our efforts, &c. "Tis his to command, and ours to obey.”

Beebe wants people to know that the name "Old School" or "Primitive" does not affirm that they are kin to the Baptists who endorsed the old confessions, the Baptists of the 17th and 18th century! Being Landmarkers, however, where is his historical chain or linkage to the apostles? Who can believe that they only meant to affirm apostolicity by giving themselves the name of "Primitive" or "Old School" Baptists?

Beebe continues:

"But this mighty champion of New Schoolism, by dint of study, has found that some English Baptists, in 1686, set up an abomination in Israel (if their historian does not belie them) called the Baptist Bristol Education Society, and one Edward Ferrel was silly enough, even as long ago as 1686, to bequeath his large estate to sustain this idol, and that a swarm of young men have been instructed, &c. From this beginning Mr. Faith and Works, (as the writer has been silly enough to nickname himself,) has in attempting to prove that the school to which we belong did not exist anterior to that date, has succeeded in proving the origin, rise and progress of the New School Baptist anti-christian beast. From this small beginning, this little harmless looking horn, the Bristol Divinity School, and the estate of E. Ferrel, this inlet of corruption in faith and practice found its way among the Baptists, has gathered force and impetus, as it has dashed its headlong way for centuries, and has now become a mighty flood; but agreeably to the divine assurance given in the book of God, the Spirit of the Lord has now set up a standard against it."

Beebe cannot rebut the proof that the Baptists had theological schools back in the 1600s, so all he can do is indict the true primitive Baptists by calling them abominable idolaters! He admits that those who support missions and ministerial education are in line with the Baptists of former years! One wonders why they call themselves primitive Baptists. Then he boasts that his Hardshell brethren were raised up, finally, to set things right!

Beebe continues:

"But shall we ask this valiant historian, this learned novice, what was the state and condition of the church of Christ prior to the setting up of these abominations among the Baptists? Could he! would he! dare he tell us? The truth is they were then precisely what the Old School Baptists are now, “a poor and afflicted people which trust in the name of the Lord.” They did not trust in E. Ferrel’s large estate, nor this Bristol minister-making machine, before the first gave his bequest, or the other was erected. They had no confidence in the flesh."

We might ask Beebe and his brethren, after the same manner, "where were the "antis" in the days of Bristol college"? Where were the protestors? Does he not admit that these things existed for centuries without any Hardshell existing to protest? All Beebe can do is assert that he and his brethren are the ancient church, without any historical proof, just as his twin brother, the Campbellites!

Beebe continued:

"Go back then, Mr. F. and W., with your researches into the ancient history of the church, as far as the third of Matthew, and from thence trace down the channel of time the history of the people of God. Read it not in ostentatious bequests, in the erection of Theological Seminaries, or the formation of unscriptural Mission Boards, but read in characters of blood, the rise and progress, the persecutions, afflictions and the deliverance of the people of God, placed by grace in the Old School of Christ. You may find them, with some few interruptions, steadfastly adhering to the doctrine of the apostles, and conforming to the laws of Christ."

Again, when Beebe can't meet the historical argument and proof, he simply claims that they are like the apostolic church. He shows that he cannot prove his "primitive" status by appeal to history. Yet, in spite of this admission, his followers continue to affirm that they are most like the Baptists of the old confessions! Notice the arrogance of Beebe and his brethren!

Beebe continues:

"Should you be at any loss to recognize them, remember the infallible mark by which they shall be known. Such as will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. The Old School, of whom we write, and among whom we desire to be numbered, were persecuted by the Jews, Scribes, Pharisees and priests, then by the Pagans, afterwards by the Papists, subsequently by Protestants, and now by the New School Baptists, but thanks be to God who giveth them the victory, they are the same people, one in the Lord their Savior, who will bring them one and all up out of great tribulation, having their robes made white in the blood of the Lamb."

What a twist! What a self deception! Because Howell, Peck, and other Baptist historians overthrow the pretensions and claims of those who boast of being "primitive" Baptists, and show how they are against scripture that supports missions and theological training, therefore they are "persecutors" of the "Old School"! Their false doctrines and practices being overthrown proves the "Old School" are the true church of Christ! The Mormons were persecuted in this manner also, so does that prove they are the true church of Christ?

Beebe continued:

"We once saw when a boy a bird called, where we were raised, a woodpecker, dash his bill against the trunk of a very large tree, and immediately flew round the tree, apparently to see if he had not forced a hole through its diameter. We were reminded of the circumstance when we read the conclusion of our hero’s silly attack, for in his conclusion he apprehends that some of the readers of the Watchman may conclude that be should not have exposed the Old School Baptists so far; but should they not be satisfied with this hint, he threatens to give them another or two in a future number. O, spare us, Mr. Mule, (for we suppose by your significant anonymous title you must be something of a mongrel,) spare us the trouble of sifting out your trifling trash, for the game will but too poorly pay for the amunition." (ALEXANDRIA, D. C., August 25, 1838. Elder Gilbert Beebe, Editorials Volume 1, Pages 441–446)


Notice how Beebe cannot rebut the evidence against him but can only hurl epithets against Howell and Peck. Does this not speak volumns?

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