Jun 22, 2011

Elder Hosea Preslar on Means


I bought a book over 40 years ago when I was visiting the Cincinnati Primitive Baptist church by Elder Hosea Preslar titled "Thoughts On Divine Providence." I have recently re-read this book and found some interesting remarks by this Elder as it relates to who are the real Old Baptists.

According to Elder Preslar, he was born in Anson county, North Carolina in 1814 (page 2). This is the county adjoining the county in which I now reside. He was a member of Lawyer's Spring Primitive Baptist church, near Peachland, a church still in existence and one which I have visited and preached in when I was a Hardshell and a member in the Bear Creek Association in the late 1970's. He mentions how Lawyer's Spring was a member church in that association.

Elder Preslar lived during the time when the Hardshells separated themselves from the main body of Baptists during the 1830's and 1840's because of the promotion of mission, bible, and tract societies, and of seminaries. In this book Elder Preslar spoke against these things and those who promoted them, and like a typical Hardshell, decried their existence and usefulness, even declaring non-fellowship for all Baptist who supported such things.

However, he was not like today's Hardshells, for he taught that God used means in the regeneration of sinners, and believed in giving gospel invitations to those dead in sins, and in the perseverence of all the born again. This will be evident from the citations I will shortly give from his book.

It appears that Elder Preslar wrote his book during the Civil War, when he was living in the Nashville, Tennessee area, and had become a close friend with Elder John M. Watson. He mentions Elder Watson's book "The Old Baptist Test" and heartedly endorsed it. It has been shown, in previous postings on Elder Watson, how Watson believed that regeneration was accomplished by means of the application of gospel truth to the heart and mind, and how he believed that faith in Christ was an essential element of the new birth.

It would be interesting to observe the reaction of Elder Joe Helms, present pastor of Lawyer's Spring church, at the citations I will give from Elder Preslar. Elder Helms and the present day elders of the Bear Creek Association reject the idea that God uses gospel truth to effect the new birth, yet their forefathers believed it. Who then are the real Old Baptists?

Elder Preslar wrote:

"The gospel of the grace of God is food to the children of God, and they all hear it and recognize it, as it is (the truth)." (Page 60)

No modern "Primitive Baptist" would confess such to be the truth of the bible! They do not believe that "all" of God's elect will believe the gospel.

"...the other is the child of God, that was begotten by the word of truth; James 1: 14; I Cor. 4: 15; I John 5: 1." (Page 112)

"This is the new man begotten by the word of truth; yea, begotten of God; I John 5: 18." (page 185)

Obviously Elder Preslar, like Elder Watson, and a large number of Hardshells, in the 1830-1860 period, believed that God's elect were born again by the gospel being applied to their hearts, and thus represented the historic faith of the Baptists who endorsed the London and Philadelphia Confessions of Faith, while those today who call themselves "Primitive Baptists" reject the teaching of Watson and Preslar, and of the old confessions and are therefore not what they profess to be.

Elder Preslar, in combating the errors of Daniel Parker, a founder of the Hardshell denomination, and his "Two Seed" faction, writes:

"And as to their views of the use and design of the gospel being for nothing but for the edification of the Church, and believers being the only subjects of gospel address, I believe it not." (Page 186)

He says that the gospel "is moreover to be for a witness unto all nations; Matt. 24: 14; and for the awakening of sinners, who are dead in trespasses and in sin." (page 187)

He goes further (same page), saying:

"But some object (the "ultraist" Hardshells - SG) to these ideas and say all this is the work of the spirit of God; and the gospel has nothing to do with it. Ah, a gospel without a spirit! Well, God save me from a gospel that has not His spirit. God says His word is quick and powerful, and He says by Peter, This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you; I Peter 1: 25. And as to the subjects of Gospel address, it is to every creature the disciples were commanded to preach the gospel; and Paul said, Whom we preach warning every man, and teaching every man, in all wisdom, etc.; Col. 1: 28. So we see that their idea on that point is false as the balance, and we will now give their last, but not least error a passing notice."

So, who are the real Old Baptists? Those who deny means or those who affirm them? Those who preach the gospel to the dead so that they might live, or those who decry it?


Mark A. Greene said...

Just one question. If the Lord has a people in every land, of every nation, kindred and tongue, what about people who have never had the benefit of "gospel truth"? I suppose it's just man's nature to want to have a high opinion of himself. It seems to me there are already "Baptists" who believe as you do. I think they go by names like Southern, Free-will, and others. Just because someone wrote a book in the 1800's, doesn't mean they are correct. I'd rather go by a book written much earlier.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Mark:

I suppose you are talking about Rev. 5: 9? That verse is looking at the redeemed family of God from the point when Jesus comes. Yes, the gospel was the means by which the people were "taken out" for salvation. So, you would affirm, as C. H. Cayce, that many pagan idolaters, antichrists, are God's people by regeneration?

Does the London Confession not say that all heathens who die without gospel revelation and faith, are lost? How can you claim to be "Primitive," then, on this point? Did not John Gill also teach that all who die without knowing Christ are lost? Your view is a novel view among Baptists, not advocated till the Hardshells arose on the scene in the early 19th century.

You are using human reasoning to affirm that people who worship false gods are born again, and have no scripture to support your view. John 3: 36 says that all unbelievers in Jesus are under God's wrath. That affirms the state of the pagans who know not Jesus.

Brother, I am an Old Baptist! More Old Baptist than you are! In fact, you and your brethren cannot find a confession or Baptist scholar, prior to the 19th century who taught your views, that many of God's born again children believe in other gods, are pagans.

I am not a "Free Will" Baptist either. Dr. Watson, in his Old Baptist Test, said that it was you "ultraist" and "modern innovators" who call anyone who believes in means an "Arminian."

But, as John Clark said, along with Watson, it is you guys who are the Arminians. Do you not teach that God's conversion of his people is by free will and works?

Hosea Preslar lived at the time of the division and is a good witness as to what the Old Baptists believed in his day. He was an elder in the Bear Creek Association, the one I used to belong to when I was with the PBs. Today's Bear Creek views are different than his, from their forefathers, and yet they claim to be original!



Mark A. Greene said...

First of all, I never said I was an Old Baptist. I may have grown up in the Church, but I never joined. I supposed I took what I was brought up with too literally. You shouldn't join a church to reform it. Too many things of the world have found their way amongst the Old Baptist. Divorced women are now allowed to remarry. Women speak during conferences. It amazes me the things that I have seen change in my short lifetime. I never thought I would see a Primitive Baptist church yard sale or even a cookbook. They even have baptismal pools. Gone are the days, in some Old Baptist churches, when a preacher like Elder Mills would break the ice on a pond to baptize a new member in living water. There are even churches who use individual communion cups because they are afraid of catching something from their brethren.

Anyway, on to your points. Why are you worried about the eternal salvation of other people? If Jesus needed man's help to save his people, he would have let Peter go with him and be nailed to the cross. When Jesus said the work is finished, I believe he meant what he said. He saved his people, and all of them will live in heaven and immortal glory with him. You say I use human reasoning, and that may be true, but I am human after all. I'm glad I don't have to depend on me, you, or some other human being for my salvation.

Why do you continue to quote the flawed works of men? I don't remember reading the London Confession in the Bible. Men have a tendency to stray from the truth. It's find to read the works of Old Baptist writers about the Bible and Bible truths, but I believe you should always be judging what they say against what the Bible has to say about the matter.

You know, when my dad was told his cancer was terminal, he didn't shed a tear, he didn't worry about himself and what he was facing. His worry was for my mother and the Church. He lay on his death bed worrying about how the Church was not standing for what it had stood for down through the ages. The Bible says there will be a remnant standing for the truth when Jesus returns, and that remnant is getting smaller all the time.

I'm not a Bible scholar, and I haven't read as many old books as you have. I just try to make it through life hoping and praying that I am one of the elect.