Jul 24, 2010

Christian on Hardshells

J.T. Christian on the Hardshells

John T. Christian (emphasis mine - SG) wrote:

"Contemporaneous with the formation of the Triennial Convention there began among some Baptists an aggressive campaign against missions, education, Sunday schools, and indeed almost everything that organization fostered. The history of the Baptists of that period would be incomplete which did not give an account of the anti-effort secession variously called anti-missions and hardshellism. One can hardly, in this day, understand the rancor of speech which prevailed for years in many of the churches, and most of the early associations.

This was largely true of all parties. For example, Rockwood Giddings, who was, at one time, President of Georgetown College, said of the editor of The Signs of the Times (Gilbert Beebe - SG), the anti-effort publication:
"His examination was published in the Signs of the Times; a paper which is read by but few respectable people, and still fewer who are capable of appreciating sound arguments, when they are presented to them. Indeed, Mr. Trott (Samuel Trott - SG), in that paper reminds me forcibly of a rather factious couplet which Mr. Wesley’s clerk is said to have read to the congregation, with the old-cast-off-wig of his master on his head—

‘Like an owl in ivy bush,
That fearsome thing I am’

I have therefore no disposition to enter the ‘bush’ with him; and shall for the present dismiss him and his writings with a few remarks"
(The Baptist Banner, January 9, 1838. IV. 2). This is rather a mild sample of things which were said.

Ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstandings were the fruitful source of many of these denominational dissensions. The following is a fair representation of many other letters written by William Hays, Weakley county, Tennessee, in 1838, and published in The Old Baptist Banner (Published from Nashville, Tenn., area and supported by Elder John Watson, and was an antogonist paper to the "Baptist Banner" - SG):

I am certainly glad of the alternative of your paper, as I think it will be of benefit to some of us Old School Baptists in the west, where the floodgates of iniquity and Arminianism are open; and the hideous roar of the lion of the tribe of serpents is heard; together with the missionary éclat which is so clearly adverse to the gospel and the church of God; and whose operations have been simultaneous since their model was set up at Mill Creek in this State. But modernism, in these days, especially in theology, has become most desirable with many, notwithstanding the opposition of such things so fully and clearly developed in the book of God, according to my understanding; as such, I am opposed to any, and all such errors, for the following reasons: Phantasm is not to be depended on in matters of indemnity, though preponderance of authority may, &c.

Christian mentions two of the leading periodicals of the "anti mission movement" in this citation, the "Signs of the Times" and the "Old Baptist Banner." He also mentions two of the leading writers of the Signs, Elder Gilbert Beebe (editor) and Elder Samuel Trott, who was a contributing editor. I plan to write some about these two elders in upcoming posts.

Christian continues:

"While there was great opposition to missions, which gradually augmented as time went on, there was, if possible, a more bitter opposition to education, and to the establishment of Baptist colleges. The expressed opposition to these benevolent enterprises, as they were designated, was a conviction that they were human institutions, inventions and schemes, and contrary to the simplicity of the instructions enunciated in the New Testament for the spread of the gospel. There were also, of course, lower considerations, such as that preachers would not receive their support if mission collections were pressed, and some dissatisfaction because some preachers failed to receive appointments which they desired. Others feared that educated men would take their places. The Holy Spirit instructed preachers what to say, and therefore human learning was unnecessary. So missions and mission societies, Sunday schools, colleges and education, paid ministers, and temperance societies were denounced as contrary to the Word of God and human liberty."

Notice that Christian does not mention any doctrinal differences. He does not mention the Hardshells as believing that men were saved apart from faith and apart from hearing the gospel. Those novelties would come later in the 19th century. The first Hardshells were opposed to mission methodologies.

Christian continues:

"The name by which they designated themselves was Primitive, or Old School, Baptists; and they claimed that all Baptists were originally of their contention, which certainly was not the fact. "They arrogate to themselves," says J. M. Peck who was a contemporary, "the name of Old School Baptists because they reprobate all these measures (missions, education and Sunday schools, etc.), and declare non-fellowship with all Baptists who have anything to do with missionary work or any of those forms of active benevolence, and with all who hold correspondence with or fellowship missionary Baptists. In this charitable act they cut themselves off from at least nineteen-twentieths of all our Baptists in the United States, unless we can admit that a mere fragment of a party can exclude a vast majority" (J. M. Peck, Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, July 4, 1839)."

J. M. Peck
was perhaps the leading opponent of the Hardshells, together with R. B. C. Howell. Peck debated Daniel Parker twice on the topic. I am still researching to find records of these debates.

Christian says:

"The Signs of the Times and The Primitive Baptist, were widely circulated and from every standpoint attacked the new institutions. Many of the charges preferred were unjust but they produced the desired results.

One of the leaders in this reaction was Samuel Trott. He "was for many years," says J. M. Peck, "in connection with the Regular Baptist denomination, first in New Jersey, and afterwards in Kentucky. Then he professed and acted with the denomination on missions, ministerial education, and other benevolent operations. He was always rather ultra in doctrine, verging toward Antinomian fatality, rather narrow in his views and tinged with a little bigotry. While in Kentucky he was connected with the Kentucky Missionary Society and, for a time, served as agent to collect funds. Whether his salary and expenses exceeded his collections; or his dogmatical-Calvinistic style of preaching dissatisfied the brethren, we never learned. They discontinued his agency. His preaching never proved very attractive, interesting, or useful anywhere. Some years since he migrated to Virginia. When the antinomian and anti-missionary party in that quarter, a few years ago, formed the Black Rock Convention, broke from the denomination, and sent forth their harmless anathemas against the whole Baptist phalanx, as missionary operators, Trott found himself amongst this little ‘sect.’ He had always found a peculiar itching to be a great man, and as greatness is comparative, and, doubtless, recollecting the adage, ‘better be the head of the dog than the tail of the lion,’ he is now nearly in the front rank" (The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, June 27, 1839. IV. 1) .

It was Daniel Parker, however, who was the originator of the system. "Daniel Parker, in the west, and Joshua Lawrence (of the Kehukee Association in NC and a supported of Beebe and the two major peridicals in the east, the "Signs of the Times" and "The Primitive Baptist" - SG) are in truth and fairness, the fathers and founders of this sect" (J. M. Peck, The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, July 4, 1839. IV. 1). "These two worthies—one in Texas and the other in North Carolina—are the two heads of the party." Parker was an enigma; and his system was a strange rehash of the old Gnostic philosophy."

("A History of the Baptists" Chapter Seven "The Anti-Effort Secession from the Baptists")

See here

Joshua Lawrence was a leader in the movement in the Kehukee Association of North Carolina. When I write about the leaders in the anti mission movement, I plan to detail the lives and work of these men. But, Christian gives a correct analysis of the movement. Other historians would demonstrate the same facts, as I will show in the future when I get back to writing chapters in my book on the Hardshell cult.

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