"But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." – Acts xxviii. 22.
As a specimen of the manner in which the apostolic Baptists are spoken of by all the harlot daughters, of her who sat upon the scarlet colored beast, (Rev. xvii. 3,) we present our readers with the following choice scrap from the puritanic columns of the New York Observer, by that paper credited to "Correspondence of New York Examiner:"
HARD-SHELL BAPTISTS IN GEORGIA. – In ecclesiastical matters the Baptists predominate. You will find their churches everywhere. There are, however, not a few irregular churches which call themselves Baptists, that are a disgrace and a reproach. The antimission element in them is strong, and their predestination ideas are awful. They practice feet washing which is an ordinance with them. Their church buildings are generally erected in the woods, and most commonly are without windows or doors. Their preachers are of the "wang-doodle" sort, and play on the "harp of a thousand strings." We call them "Hard-Shells." – Correspondence N. Y. Examiner.
The above squib having encountered the scrutiny of the Examiner and the observation of the official Observer, must express the sentiments and feelings of the popular religionists of our day towards the church of God which he has purchased with his own blood. It is seldom that we notice the ravings of these fanatics, but now while they are exulting in their late revival, their world-wide union, their unbounded love and charity, their "Evangelical Alliances," it may be worth our while to "show up" from their own journals, that while they with trumpet tongue proclaim their union and fellowship for almost everything else, their ranking venom remains unabated towards those who preach and practice only what is authorized by the King of Zion, and was preached and practiced by the apostles and primitive church of the Most High God.
Their extensive vocabulary of slurring epithets has been hard run to find sufficiently reproachful invectives by which to express the excessive hatred they feel toward that sect against which they can all unite in pouring out their most malignant contempt.
Should the reader inquire what there is in this hated sect that so excites all other religious sects as to draw down their united and consolidated maledictions, the answer may be found in the extract which we have copied from their papers. Let us attend for a moment to their complaints.
First. Our shells are too hard. The precise meaning of our learned and pious assailants by these terms, may require the aid of one of their theological dictionaries to define; but as our soul has not come into their secret, and as we have no access to their lexicons, we will only give what seems to us to be most probably intended. There is no other sect in Christendom against whom all other sects in all ages subsequently to the setting up of the kingdom of our Redeemer, have been so constantly at war, have fought so hard, and have so unitedly concentrated all their efforts and with so little success as against them. Doctor Mosheim in his Ecclesiastical History, was honored among them with a passing notice, as a sect against which all other religious sects had concentrated all their powers, but had failed to exterminate them; and their origin, the Doctor says, is lost in the remote depths of antiquity. Is it strange then that they should complain of our invincible shells? They have found it hard to "kick against the pricks." God has appointed salvation for walls and bulwarks. The gates of hell cannot prevail against this sect, for the God of Jeshurun rides upon the heavens in her help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is her refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, and her enemies shall, by the decree of God, be found liars unto her, and she shall tread on their high places. Empires have arisen and fallen, thrones have sprung up and crumbled back to dust, ages have rolled on, generations have passed, and yet
"Bullwarks of mighty grace defend
The city where we dwell;
Her walls of strong salvation made,
Defy the assaults of hell."
We are not surprised then that in their stupid ignorance of Zion's impregnable battlements, her enemies should call her hard shelled. Their battering-rams can make no breach in her walls, nor can all their fawning, flattering seductions cause her to yield. Not one of her stakes shall ever be removed, nor shall one of her cords ever be broken.
"From age to age she has defied
The utmost rage of earth and hell."
But another complaint is that they are not a few. This is probably what troubles them more than the invincibility of their shells. All the Arminian workmongers have been long and confidently predicting and praying for their utter extinction, we could now refer to scores of predictions in which they have prophesied that in a few years all of them would be gone. One of their champions in this country predicted more than twenty-five years ago, in his public preaching, that he would live to preach the funeral sermon of the last one of them. But the poor infatuated man did not know how very short that sermon would have to be, even if he should live so long; for quicker than the lightning's flash the earth shall pass away when the last of that sect shall be called home to his mansion in the skies. "Now a few." Ah, that is the trouble! We have not numbered Israel, but from the statistics of our enemies a few years ago they reported upwards of twenty thousand of our order in Georgia, and we believe at this time there is nearer fifty thousand than twenty thousand of our order in that State, who have now bowed their knees to the missionary Baal, and nearly as man in several other of our southern and south-western States. This is truly appalling to our enemies. "Terrible as an army with banners."
"Irregular churches!" Wherein are they irregular? Because their shells are hard, and their enemies cannot soften them; or is it because they do not, cannot, will not, be reckoned with the nations? Irregular because they will not unite in the schemes of modern priestcraft, because they continue steadfast in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, because they contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints? Irregular because they stand aloof from and have no fellowship for the numerous voluntary religions, unscriptural associations or societies for evangelizing the heathen and converting the world, making war against the Arminian mother and her whole brood of institutions?
There is an anti-mission element, too, which disturbs the enemy. But can the Examiner or the Observer tell us of any mission element of the apostolic church in the days of the apostles, that is not retained in that church which they denounce as hard shell, irregular, a disgrace, and a reproach? We know of none. In what respect are they a disgrace and a reproach? Are they immoral in their walk and deportment? Will the Examiner or Observer dare charge them with licentiousness, or that they are behind any other sect on earth for honesty, sobriety, Bible benevolence, and a strict conformity to the laws and institutions which Christ has given to his church? We have traveled in Georgia, and have there been told by disinterested citizens who disliked their doctrine, that there were none in that state whose credit stood so fair as that of the church which these papers would stigmatize as hard shells, irregular, &c.
"The anti-mission element in them is strong." So strong that all the carnal reasoning, flattery or frowning of the missionary stock-jobbers cannot overcome it; so strong when considered in connection with their "awful predestination ideas," that it is impossible to make them believe that the eternal destiny of untold millions of the human family hangs on the amount of dollars and dimes collected by the mission societies and mission agency of modern antichrist. If their predestination ideas could be shaken, and these hard shelled Baptists made to believe the doctrines of free will, free agency and human power; that salvation is of him that willeth and of him that runneth, and not of God who sheweth mercy; and that the new birth is of blood and of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, and not of the will of God, then perhaps their shells might be softened, and become sufficiently mellow to allow them to turn away from the truth, and be turned unto fables.
"They practice feet washing." O horrible! Who would have thought it? In this nineteenth century, in which the fashionable religion of the world swaggers forth in golden slippers, that a sect could be found so antiquated in their faith and order as to believe the Bible doctrine of predestination, and even obey the precept and follow the example of the Son of God, in washing the saint's feet. But cannot these Georgia Baptist be enlightened on those subjects? Are their shells so adamantine that they cannot feel the force of the argument that predestination belonged to a former age, and that none but the poor, despised followers of the Nazarene, who do not count their own lives dear unto them, and who have no aspirations for the applause of the religious world, think of paying the least respect to the words of him who, when he had washed his disciples' feet, said, If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet?
And still another grievous fault is found in them: "Their church buildings are generally erected in the woods, and most commonly are without windows or doors." If these old "hard shells" had a little more ambition for show, would they not erect their church buildings with windows and doors, with towering domes and cloud-piercing spires, in the cities, villages and public places, so that they might stand at the corners of the street to pray where they might be seen of men?
In Georgia the meetings are generally very large; we have seen several thousand persons present at their stated monthly meetings, and for the benefit of shade for horses and mules, also for the accommodation of the immense congregations, who frequently are compelled to leave the house and resort to a preaching-stand in the grove, they have found the woods preferable to other localities for their meetings. But one thing the correspondent of the Examiner omitted to mention, which is the well known fact, that all other religious professors also usually erect their houses in the woods, and they, too, are many of them without windows or doors. Windows and doors are of but little utility in that warm climate where, if they had them, it would afford more comfort to the audience to have them open. We hope, under all the considerations, that the Old Hard Shell Baptists have not committed an unpardonable sin in erecting their meeting houses in the woods, or in failing to make them more costly and splendid. So far as we could learn, their houses were generally paid for honestly, and without so much begging, conniving and swindling as has characterized some of those who ridicule them.
Last, but not least, their preachers are not generally manufactured to order at theological schools; hence they are to be ridiculed as of "the wang-doodle sort." By the very classic term "wang-doodle" we presume is meant that the preachers of the Old Baptist order are not graduates from charity schools of divinity, but generally, like those in the primitive church, called and qualified by the great Head of the church, from the fishing boats, from the farm or work-shop, whose speech and whose preaching is not in the wisdom of this world which cometh to naught, that the faith of their hearers should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. "Wang-doodle," as their preaching may be in the uncircumcised ears of will-worshipers, God has chosen them to bring to naught the wisdom of this world. Their preaching of Christ crucified is foolishness to them that perish; a stumbling-block to the Jew, and "wang-doodle" or foolishness to the Greek; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, it is Christ, the power and wisdom of God.
"They play on the 'harp of a thousand strings.'" There may be more truth in this assertion than our revilers intended. If by the harp, the gospel of the grace of God be intended, God has made his ministers skillful musicians to touch the strings of that heavenly harp in a manner that has frequently awakened the liveliest sensations of joy in the hearts of all who know the joyful sound. The gospel of God our Savior has many strings, but they are all in the most perfect harmony, no discordant sounds, no jargon like that produced by the Babel-builders. In Revelations we are told that they who have the seal of God, have harps in their hands, and sing a new song which none but the sealed of God can learn, and the them of their song is, "Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."
We have perhaps occupied too much time and space in noticing this little squib, but it is worthy of special observation that there is nothing charged in it upon the Old Order of Baptists but what will equally apply to the church of God in her primitive order, excepting, perhaps, the adjective "wang-doodle," and the place and manner of building their meeting houses. The churches of the saints were by the Jews and Pagans regarded as irregular Baptist churches. They stood aloof from and had no fellowship with the mission operations of the Jews who compassed sea and land to make proselytes. The predestination ideas of the apostles of the Lamb were considered awful by their adversaries. They washed the saints' feet, and their preachers were of the sort which are now classified by their opponents, "wang-doodle," and they played on the same harp with its numerous strings, which still fills the kingdom of Christ with the most heavenly melody.
September 1, 1858
Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 130 - 137