Baptist History Homepage

Memoirs of Elder J. N. Hall

Chapter III

For Such A Time As This

      All history tells us now that events cluster about individuals. From the opening chapter of "The Life and Epistles of Paul," by Conybeare and Howson, we have the following significant paragraph:
"The life of a great man, in a great period of the world's history, is a subject to command the attention of every thoughtful mind. Alex­ander on his Eastern Expedition, spreading the civilization of Greece over the Asiatic and Afri­can shores of the Mediterranean Sea — Julius Caesar contending against the Gauls and subdu­ing the barbarism of Western Europe to the order and discipline of Roman government — Charle­magne compressing the atoms of the Feudal world and reviving for a time the image of imper­ial unity — Columbus sailing westward over the Atlantic to discover a new world which might receive the arts and religion of the old — Napoleon in his rapid campaigns, shattering the ancient system of European states, and leaving a chasm between our present and the past — these are the colossal figures of history which stamped with the impress of their personal greatness the cen­turies in which they lived."

[p. 30]
      The history of the world, both religious and secular, clusters largely around conspicuous indi­viduals. These individuals have always been the exponents and champions of some special princi­ples, or systems of principles. No one would think of writing a history of Rome and leaye out Csesar and Cicero. The Bible history shines with a galaxy of great individuals, whose lives embody the times in which they lived and wrought. To know the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David, is to know the conditions round about them that gave color to their characters, and who also gave cast to the circumstances and environments among which they moved and lived.

      About the Christ gathered and surged the multitudes who showed forth the needs and condi­tions of that day. Blot out the Apostles as indi­viduals and the thrilling history of their times would dwindle into naught but the heavy tramp of a burdened generation, like the preceding. But these men "that turned the world upside down" filled that and succeeding ages with a new and heavenly thrill, and sublime interest.

      Glorying in tribulations was a new interpre­tation of life, of which mortal had never before dreamed. The heroism of being accursed for another's sake threw a new light into life's varigated and rasping interests that astonished the angels.

      What is known as modem Christianity must be judged by the lives of its Judsons, its Caries, its Spurgeons, its Fullers, its Wesleys, its Calvins, and its Luthers. These men all, still live in the

[p. 31]
ecclesiasticisms they formed, or with which they were identified. To know Wesley is to know the Methodism of his construction. So with all the Protestant,reformers. So, too, with the Baptists. The spirit of their martyrs, ministers and missionaries still lives in the bosom and lives of the people. To know Daniel Parker is to understand his times and his people. About him cluster all the elements of anti-Missionism that were crystalized by him into Hardshellism. Eliminate Daniel Parker and his kind and Hardshellism becomes an enigma.

      This backward glance gives an idea of the value of individuals that first get our attention and then arouse our interest in the times and con­ditions in which they live.

      The conditions of special importance among Baptists in these regions are those creating a relentless contest between the spirit of missions and that of anti-missions. In the early part of the last century this was supposed to have been fought out to a finish. The ultra Calvinistic or fatalistic doctrines of Parker and Taylor and others prevailed to a large degree, and their dead­ening influences were deeply felt. The fatalistic interpretations of the London creed disputed the progress of the gospel. But a man arose who was endowed by both nature and grace, for the superb work of preaching and defending the truth. That man was Elder Rubin Ross. One cannot read "The Life and Times of Rubin Ross" and not be impressed with both the man and the times in which he lived and labored. He was a

[p. 32]
lasting breakwater in the trend and flow of anti-Missionism, and the narrow and fatal doctrines out of which it grew. He boldly stood up and preached the glorious gospel of redeeming love to all men, the glad tidings of great joy to all people. The fierce opposition that he met with from that gospel of doom that, instead of bringing nope and joy, brought awful forebodings of destruction by election, did not deter the preacher of the gospel, but lent beauty and attractiveness to his hopeful message of light and life. But Rubin Ross died. Did his works die with him? Far from it. Oth­ers were in readiness to take up and carry it on. As the son of Rubin Ross, J. S. Wilson and others dropped toward the horison of life, there arose the stars of J. M. Pendleton and J. R. Graves. These were made famous mostly by precipitating the "Landmark" controversy, and the continual exaltation of the doctrines of grace and the church of Christ. Pendleton's "Christian Doc­trines" and Graves' "Seven Dispensations" are compendiums of their life work, and standard delineations of the teachings of Scripture.

      Pendleton died, and brought the ever-recur­ring question: "Who will take his place?" Graves lived on, and inch by inch sank to rest: his clarion voice ringing out almost from the other side. As year by year this hero of the faith drifted heavenward, the people asked: "And who will take his place?" There was soon a dis­covery that God is no more short of men than he is "slack concerning his promises." He was answering the question. A plain, unassuming

[p. 33]
young man was rising into public notice; he was without scholastic advantages, or college pres­tige; but J. R. Graves himself discovered his suc­cessor and is said to have remarked on hearing him the first time. That is a rising young man. If he lives he will be heard from in the future." That young man was Elder J. N. Hall.

      Since the days of John the Baptist, and of him who said he came not to bring peace but a sword, there has been going on a fierce conflict between the principles and doctrines of truth, as given from God, and other principles and doc­trines. Each age has had its special phases and methods of strife. Since the birth of Protestant­ism the attacks on the church and its doctrines have been from three general sources: Catholicism, the ancient enemy that many centuries ago assumed the name of Christianity to hide the deformities of a paganized Judaism, still has con­tinued its assaults, but the birth of Protestantism, which was only a modified form of Romanism, engaged the attention of the "Mother church" to the extent that Baptists had an opportunity to grow, as never since the days of the Apostles. This manifest move of the church of Christ soon brought the enmity and opposition of the reformed papacy — Protestantism. The old enemy, liberalism, or infidelity, in its different phases, was aroused to fresh efforts by this for­ward move of "the truth as it is in Jesus."

      But there arose in the wake of Calvinistic theology, a sentiment of fatalism. This took advantage of the old fundamental doctrines of

[p. 34]
election and salvation by grace, and distorted these into a system of iron doom. This proved to be the greatest internal enemy that had yet appeared among Baptists. It is remarkable that this asserted itself just at a time when conditions became more favorable for the wider propaga­tion of the gospel. This fatalistic doctrine grew as the opportunities and spirit of gospel propaga­tion asserted itself, and when a determination to carry the gospel into the heathen world was announced, this idea became clearly defined in its active opposition to such evangelistic enterprise. It first clearly defined itself in England when William Carey proposed to carry the light of truth into the regions of benighted India. The funda­mental basis of this opposition lay in two ideas: (1) That Christ made atonement for only a por­tion — a certain and definite number of the human race, and (2) that all for whom he died would be saved, by election, and without any conditions, contingencies, agencies, means of instrumentalities on the human side. The conclusion was inev­itable, that the preaching of the gospel as a mes­sage of salvation, was not only unnecessary, but an insult to the Almighty who would save the elect by unconditional decree.

      The fiercest conflicts between the dominant genius of Christianity and this ism occurred in this country of special Baptist liberty. The acute stage was produced by the announcement of the conversion of Adoriiram Judson to Baptist views, and anuappeal to American Baptists for his sup­port. Among American Baptists, and especially

[p. 35]
in the regions with which this volume deals, this anti-Baptistic, or anti-Christian, or anti-Missionism became relentless, as the spirit of missions grew in the churches, until at last the necessity came for either the active co-operation in this great missionary work or a positive and active opposition to it. At this point Hardshellism dis­covered its opportunity for a plausible excuse for planting itself forever against the real progress of the gospel. This is now known as the "Black Rock Memorial." Here is anti-Missionism veiled in a just and righteous protest against the growth of another spirit and method that must bring its troubles further on. "The Black Rock" and sim­ilar documents recite opposition to "the soci­eties," and disavow opposition to missions as such. This brought decisive division. Had the principles of the "Black Rock Memorial" been adhered to and practiced, there never would have been any Hardshell or Anti-Mission Baptists, — but there would have been many Gospel Mission Baptists. But the real genius that was veiled in that just protest displayed itself in its true colors in the teachings and works of a class of men, of whom Daniel Parker was the most perfect repre­sentative and exponent, and by these men, this new Baptist Protestantism: was crystallized into historic and contemporary Hardshellism. Under these heads have been arrayed every form of heresy and every form of infidelity.

      In the South, during the last century, this fa­talism, with the encroachments of Protestantism, been the principal enemies of the Baptist

[p. 36]
faith; one disputing our claims to Scriptural aind Apostolic origin, doctrine and polity, and the otmer disputing that as well as our efforts to propagate the gospel of salvation and peace among all men. Hardshellism became largely a negative force and system, that corresponded with its negative doctrines. The only positive feature has been its positive opposition to the doctrine and work of missions, otherwise it is noted mainly for doing nothing.

      Protestantism, having failed to crush the Baptist faith by open outright war, has, during the last fifty years, been striving to insinuate the principles and methods that it received from Romanism into our denominational life, polity and work. It has sought to despoil our claims to be THE CHURCH by reducing us to a level with "one of the churches." The methods used to accomplish this have been that of "affiliation," mainly, thereby leveling down the wall of partition placed by Christ between his church and all institutions of men. In this way foreign methtods have been brought into our denominational life that have become widespread and potent. But God has never left his cause without soldiers to defend the faith and dispute the progress of error and do battle for the truth.

      In the battles with Hardshellism in this sec­tion loom up Ross and Tandy, and Bourne and Wilson. Then come Pendleton and Graves and others contending against both Hardshellism and Protestantism, the latter presenting itself in one wing of the opposing army under the euphonious

[p. 37]
name of reformation, having emblazoned on its escutcheon the pretentious title of "The Christian Church;" its real name is Campbellism.

     Pendleton and Graves appeared almost simultaneously, as it were, to meet the double opposition of Campbellism and Protestantism. Standing in the closing conflicts of a defeated Hardshellism, they hoisted afresh the ancient Baptist ensign and in the face of a brazen simper­ing. Protestantism that had largely gained sym­pathy among Baptist preachers these brave heroes of the faith began looking about for the old Landmarks, that many seemed to be disposed to remove. Discovering these they drew again the Baptist lines straight by the Landmarks. This aroused the men who had been swerved by the spirit of Protestant affiliation, but it ended in apparent victory with Southern Baptists, and gave a stability and aggressiveness to the Bap­tist cause in the South which mark fifty years of Baptist progress unmatched by anything since the days of the Apostles.

      The Graves and Pendleton literature tell of the stern, nature of the Landmark conflict and the indomitable faith and prowess that we delight to honor. But the spirit of Protestant affiliation had sufficiently impressed its ideas and methods upon the life, and had taken root sufficiently deep to again put forth its leaves and bear its fruits after the passing of these two soldiers. The Landmark idea had been made so great and its principles so potent that affiliationism itself adopted the name and scorns the old Landmark

[p. 38]
faith as a new upstart theory among Baptists. But all must be judged by their teachings and practices. Affiliation and Landmarkism cannot both be practiced, because the practice of either is the rejection of the other. This is sufficient to give any one a true and infallible rule to judge among Baptists. It is no new thing at this day to find Baptist preachers loudly claiming to be Landmark Baptists, and then proceed to invite Protestant and Campbellite preachers into their pulpits. Such men either presume on the ignor­ance of the people, or else they are careless of the truth.

      When Pendleton and Graves were called away, they left the battle going, and the forces against them still being Protestantism, Campbellism and Hardshellism. In the tri-cornered conflict comes up, with almost startling sudden­ness the titanic figure of John Newton Hall. It fell to his lot to combat all these forces. Hard­shellism kept comparatively quiet during his life but came stalking forth upon his death. Campbellism, Conventionism (or Affiliationism) and Hardshellism rejoiced at his departure. They felt thai a common foe had been removed.

      It is expedient here, and fair to all, that we "briefly define the species of Conventionism opposed by Dr. Hall. Here we set forth the principle of Conventionism rather than its multi­form expression. The real convention principles are papal, and have come through Protestantism, and by affiliation into the Baptist life. The prin­ciple as fully expressed, has the individual as the

[p. 39]
unit of organization, and money as the basis of representation. The convention is formed exactly like any other stock or trust company. Those paying $250 have a voting privilege, as a stock­holder having one share. These stockholders meet, elect a board of directors; this board elects a president, a vice-president, secretary and trea­surer. This board of directors selects a general manager called a corresponding secretary. This man manages the whole business of the con­cern. This secretary then appeals to the churches for money for this corporation to do business on. If the individual represented his own money, and the business was done on the stock thus paid in, the case would be somewhat different, but it is all money given by the churches. This board of directors elects its mis­sionaries, selects their fields, controls them while on their fields and' dismisses them at will. The church does nothing but furnish the money.

      Under this plan has grown up a system of combined religious, educational and benevolent enterprise entirely outside of and beyond the con­trol of the church and New Testament law. The convention being sovereign in itself, dictates the terms of membership, and no church action can affect it. Nothing but so many dollars can gain a seat in this body. Church Authority cannot seat a messenger without money, but the money will procure a seat without church authority. This is because the law of the convention is above that of the church which furnishes the money. This prin­ciple leaves nothing in the hands or the control

[p. 40]
of the church, either educational, philanthropic or evengelistic. These are all controlled by con­vention agencies, as are, indeed, the churches themselves.

      This conventionism is contrary to the demo­cratic principles taught and enjoined by New Testament law and believed and advocated by Baptists in all ages. Men always insist on putting the power in the hands of a despotism, or an oli­garchy, putting the authority and control in the hands of one man, or a few men. The New Testa­ment law puts the sovereignty into the hands of the people. One is the centralization of authority, the other the dissemination of authority. The liberties of the Baptists depend upon the sustain­ing of the latter law, which makes the church su­preme authority.

      The growth, strength and spirit of conven­tionism began some years ago to cause a restless­ness and feeling of apprehension and discontent among Baptists who still believed in the sover­eignty, liberty and efficiency of the churches, and who disbelieved in affiliation. Conspicuous among, and in the very thick of the fight, for the prerogatives of the church, there waved a Flag, with a mighty soldier grasping its staff with one hand and wielding the sword of• the Spirit with the other. This man was the hero of this volume, who had come to thq kingdom for such a time as this. That conventionism is the fruits of affiliation :s seen in the fact that highly developed conven­tion churches are affilistionists. Campbellites

[p. 41]
and pedoes, and Hardshells even, will be received into their pulpits, while Landmark Baptists are shut out. "Union meetings" are getting to be common with convention Baptists. The papal idea of conquest is also dominant among them.

      Dr. Hall did not object to conventions and boards as such. Conventions may be only the convening of messengers of an association of churches. Boards may be committees appointed by the churches to carry out the will of the churches. Any system that recognizes the sover­eignty of the churches had his approbation. He opposed that which shut the churches and their supreme authority out of the general bodies and made money the basis of representation, instead of church authority. He stood on the middle ground between radical conventionism, as seen in the Southern Baptist Convention, on the one hand, and the radical anti-conventionism as seen in extreme Gospel Missioners of non-organization type on the other hand, recognizing the good and true that he saw in each and opposing what he considered the wrong in both.

      The purity of our denominational literature was always a matter of special interest and effort on Dr. Hall's part. His war on the "Lydia's Ba­by" incident well commemorates this.

      As soon as Dr. Hall raised his Flag on the parapets of truth, and buckled on the armor, he was attacked from every quarter — convention, Hardshell, Campbellite, Protestant and infidel — being attacked even scurrilously by supposed friends. How well he fought and bore aloft the

[p. 42]
symbol of the rights of the church, and the main­tenance of her Christ-given liberties and doc­trines, the pages of this volume will set forth.

      "Sleep on, hero, the glories of thy conflict cast a halo round about thy resting."


Next Chapter

[W. B. Barker, Memoirs of Elder J. N. Hall, 1907, pp. 29-42. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. — jrd]

J. N. Hall Index
Baptist History Homepage 1