Chapter Two - Personal Experiences
I was eight years old in 1963
and had been exposed to much Christian influence. From 1963-1972
I was primarily under the religious influence of my maternal grandfather (Clyde Rickles
) and of my mother. They often witnessed to us children, read and talked the Bible, though they weren't regular church-goers. But during those years, and chiefly between 1970-1972
, I began to seek the Lord. I was beginning to ponder my destiny and to see that I was a lost sinner. I attended several Missionary Baptist
churches, including the old Lindenwald Baptist Church
I even "went forward"
there at around the age of 13
. But the church was so far away, and not having transportation, I didn't get to return to be baptized
At around the age of 16
I went forward again in a Missionary Baptist Church
nearer our home, Mom and grandpa also attending. I received "assurance of salvation"
about this time. It was also about this time that Dad started showing a greater interest in talking to me about God and the Bible.
I was awaiting baptism
at the local Missionary Baptist Church
, but through his influence I began to see the "doctrines of grace."
This caused me to wait further before being baptized by the Missionaries
I remember Dad taking me on a trip to Middlesboro, Kentucky
to special services
at the local Hardshell
church in which they were "dedicating"
a new building. During this four-day meeting I was also impressed in many ways with the Hardshells
.My "First Impressions" of "Hardshells"
I remember that the building to be dedicated was a small rectangular brick building with a basement. Hardshell
meeting-houses are generally very small and simple. There are no special "choir sections," "Sunday School"
rooms, or a "Pastor's study."
Just one large room with a slightly elevated "stand"
where the pulpit was located. In this building, like many Hardshell
meeting-houses, there were two main rows of pews or benches, facing the stand and pulpit, with one main aisle in the middle.
There was the common "amen corner"
pews at right angles to the "stand."
In many cases, the preachers and deacons sat in one of those "amen corners"
while the older females and widows sat in the other.
Though Dad spoke several times during the four-day meeting (protracted
?), there were other preachers who also preached. I think the church met for three sessions per day on both Friday and Saturday, then once on Sunday morning. It was a common practice at such meetings to preach two or three preachers at each session. One certainly heard a variety of "preaching styles."
I remember also that the building was filled to overflowing (having about 150 people). This was not due to the fact that the church was large, but because it was in the heart of the "bounds of the Powell's Valley Association"
of churches, and also a member of that Association. Many of the Hardshells
from the other churches in the area were in attendance. A non-Hardshell
visitor might have initially thought that this church had "busted the seams"
in growth! But this is the case in many Hardshell
churches at such meetings. Many of them have "traditionally"
only met "once a month,"
and in areas where two-or-more Hardshell
churches exist, members attend each other's churches. This often gives the impression of being a larger church than it really is. You often hear Hardshells
talk of their "off-Sundays,"
meaning the Sundays that their own particular church doesn't meet. On these Sundays, Hardshells
either don't go at all or attend another Hardshell
In many areas where there are, say, four churches, with each meeting on a different Sunday, generally the people go from church-to-church, sometimes to hear the same preacher or preachers. This troubled me when I was Hardshell
, as I'm sure it did others. From all appearances, they seemed to be "one"
church meeting in four buildings and wearing four names. I know that in one case, at least, it became an "entangled mess."
two churches at the same time in the early 80's
near Wilmington, N.C
. called "Grassy"
and "Haws Run" Primitive Baptist
churches, and I was a member and assistant pastor
at Bethel Primitive Baptist Church
near Shallote, N.C.
When I first started serving these churches, I would preach at one "church"
on one Sunday a month and then at the other church and its building on a different Sunday. But it was basically the same body of people.
I, of course, began to ask each of the group of members "which church"
they were members of, and many could not tell. They would try to recall which building they were in at the time they "joined the church,"
but could not. To them, they had simply joined that group of people. Seeing this, I tried to get the group to sell one building and choose a single name. I was making some progress before I left, but the "tradition"
was too deeply imbedded.
But let's get back to my first meeting in a Hardshell
church and of my "first impressions"
in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Let me say one other thing about the "stand,"
or pulpit area, in this and most Hardshell
churches. Most of the "stands"
have chairs in them, behind the pulpit, for visiting preachers. It is the usual custom for pastors to "invite into the stand"
the preaching brethren who are present for the given occasion. Those chairs are for them. There's generally a small table with two chairs on either side, just in front of the "stand"
and pulpit. This is used for flowers, placing and collecting money, the Lord's Supper, and for the moderator and clerk to use at the monthly or quarterly "business meetings."
At this meeting in Middlesboro
, I did enjoy most of the preaching. It was, as I remember, mostly on the glories of Christ
and of the "old church."
They also spoke much about the "doctrines of grace,"
with an occasional reference to the "Arminians"
This particular church was in the coal mining area of eastern Kentucky
. They were emotional
and almost "pentecostal"
in their "shouting"
About half of the preachers spoke very fast or else "sang"
out their sermons in some rhythm
. You often heard the usual "uh"
I was impressed, however, with how the people enjoyed the service. They sang loudly and with rather good harmony. The songs were simple, old-time Christian tunes.
I remember being a little disturbed when one "lay preacher"
began to talk and cry wildly while walking around the building and shaking hands with everyone. He did this while the scheduled preacher was in the stand preaching. This walking lay-preacher was later "ordained"
as an "Elder"
and began "serving the churches."
was believed to be an "evidence"
of his "call to preach."
A few short months after this first visit to a Hardshell
church, I went on another trip with Dad to visit other Hardshell
churches. That was in August of 1972
. Dad had a ten-day trip arranged. On the second week-end he was to be at the annual session of the Sequachie Valley - Blue Ridge Association
, then meeting at Tickanetly
Church in Elijay, Georgia
On the Monday through Friday following this association, Dad was scheduled to have a "debate"
with Thomas Thrasher
, of the so-called "Church of Christ,"
with whom I have since also had two debates. The debate was held at the Campbellite
meeting-house in Decatur, Alabama
and the proposition was, "The scriptures teach that the church of which I am a member is scriptural in origin, doctrine and practice." Elder S.T. Tolley
acted as Moderator for Dad. This was the first time I had met brother Tolley
and we became close friends.Joining the Hardshells
It was actually through this debate
that I came to the decision to "join the church."
I had already been saved
. Now I was ready to be baptized
and become a member of the church. It was through this debate that I came to believe the "doctrines of grace"
and to repudiate Arminianism
We left the debate that Thursday night in order to attend the annual session of the Powell's Valley Association
, then being held in the Middlesboro, Kentucky
area. Our church in Middletown, Ohio
was a recent new addition to the Association; it had churches in four states. I united with the Hardshells
at that Associational meeting, being voted upon by the few members of the Middletown Church
who were present. I was baptized by my father the next day in a creek in the foothills of the Smokies, near the Cumberland Gap
.Licensed to Preach
During this trip I was introduced to "associations."
Of these, I will have some more to say later in this book. Over the next two years I studied the Bible exhaustively, and I began to be schooled in the Hardshell
faith under the direct tutorship of my father.
I also began to travel extensively among the Hardshells
, visiting their associations, the leading churches, and becoming acquainted with their beliefs, customs and practices.
I had been "licensed to preach"
by the Middletown Church
just shortly after being baptized. This enabled me to preach anywhere among the "Primitive Baptists."
During those first two years among the Hardshell
, I preached and visited over a wide area of the country.
I also became well acquainted with Elder Lasserre Bradley
of the "Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church."
I preached at this church several times during my time with the Hardshells
, and whatever comments I might make about that church and Elder Bradley
come from this first-hand experience.
In fact, it was at this church, shortly after my baptism into the "Old Church,"
that Dad bought me my copies of "Cayce's Editorials,"
from Elder Bradley
and the Cincinnati Church
.Claud CayceElder Claud Cayce
was, during his time (1890 to around 1945), the leading spokesman for Hardshell
doctrine and practice. He edited the famed Hardshell
periodical, “THE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST,”
started by his father, Elder S.F. Cayce
He is reported to have had nearly three-hundred debates with Campbellites
and others, and was considered the ablest defender of Hardshell doctrine
in modern times. He has had a tremendous impact on Hardshell
doctrine and practice. He probably was the primary cause of the Hardshell’s
imbibing the doctrine known as "Time Salvation."
But more on that later.Cayce
became a recognized "authority"
. Today, a quote from Cayce
is of immense authoritative value. In fact, when I moved to North Carolina in 1976
, and became a member of one of the churches in the Bear Creek Association
, I met the association's "pope,"
the aged C.M. Mills
He spoke very highly of "Brother Cayce"
and advised me and all young preachers to study his "editorial writings"
along side of the Bible. It is ironic that the oldest Baptist Association of America
, the Philadelphia Baptist Association
, recommended all their young preachers to study John Gill’s commentaries
and Body of Divinity
. Now, however, Gill
has been replaced by Cayce
himself obtained many of his "views"
doctrine and practice from this veritable "patriarch
." Elder Cayce
was one of those who helped to "chop-up"
the Old London Confession of Faith
while at the Fulton Convention
(which brother Ross
has discussed in his articles and I will deal with later in this book).
In studying Cayce's Editorials
, I recall how troubled I was at some of the views which Cayce
had advocated. I particularly remember how he "spiritualized"
many plain passages of scripture. For instance, he believed that the story of "The rich man and Lazarus"
) was not teaching what happens at death
, i.e., about heaven and hell
, but taught rather that the Jews were cut-off from the "church kingdom"
and the Gentiles grafted in.
I also remember visiting the old home place, in Arkansas
, of the Cayce
, also a Hardshell
preacher, still lived in the old home. Dad and I were there in the late 70's
on a preaching trip. I remember going into the building where the Cayces
published their famed periodical, “The Primitive Baptist,”
and admiring the enormous library of books that this family had collected over the years. Truly impressive.My Father and His Ministry
Dad, in my opinion, has been one of the top "Elders"
within the Hardshell
denomination for the past 25-30 years. He is one of their most theologically-trained. He attended a Baptist Bible college
, prior to becoming a Hardshell
, for about two years. He also has one of the largest personal libraries of all their preachers and has been one of the most laborious in his private studies (Cayce
, an exception, of course). He has been about the only Hardshell
of the last 50 years to engage others, chiefly among the Campbellites,
to defend Hardshell
Doctrine. He certainly is well-read in Hardshell
history (although, sadly, not as much as he should be).
For several years my father was the leading writer
, among the "contributing editors,"
of one of the leading Hardshell
periodicals of the past thirty years, namely “THE CHRISTIAN BAPTIST,”
edited by Dad's and my friend, Elder S. T. Tolley,
of Atwood, Tennessee
. I too wrote numerous articles for this paper when I was with the Hardshells
I myself have been "ordained" twice
by the Hardshells
, once in August
of 1974 in Middletown, Ohio
and the other time in June of 1979 in Shalotte, North Carolina
It was in the fall of 1972
, within weeks of my baptism, that I began to be called upon, by my Dad, to "introduce the services,"
as the Hardshells
are accustomed to say. This was at the Middletown church
. It was a small church with about 30-40 regular attendants, but it was very warm and lively. Both the singing (which was "acapella"
) and the preaching were very "spirited."
But more of that later.
Let me first get back to Dad and his influence on me and of his standing among the Hardshells
. I also want to address the question of how both Dad and myself (and later three brothers and one sister) all became Hardshell
Baptists. I will also relate some of my personal experiences while among the Hardshell
Dad and Mom had been married only a few years when Dad was "saved"
at a service of the Lindenwald Baptist Church
of Hamilton, Ohio
. This church was a Missionary Baptist
church, of which my maternal grandparents were members. Mom and Dad already had two children and I was on the way. They lived with my grandparents and it was through their encouragement that Dad and Mom attended the Lindenwald church
. Grandmother (Eva Rickles
) died that year (shortly after seeing Dad "saved"
) and six months before I was born.
Dad had just ended his "stint"
in the Korean War
and had been a typical teenage, depraved sinner, as he himself would testify. And indeed Dad had been "saved,"
or at least his entire life had been drastically changed. His commitment to Christ and the Christian faith was fervent and his zeal was very great.
So, when I was just an infant, Dad quit his job and he and Mom sold their house, packed everything and left with 3 kids to go to Springfield, Missouri
so that Dad could attend the Baptist Bible College
, which is under the Baptist Bible Fellowship
After conversion, Dad had felt an almost immediate "call to preach,"
and so, with reluctance from Mom (God rest her soul), but with money and prayer support from the Lindenwald church
, they took off. Mom and Dad both attended the college but Mom soon had to drop-out (because of the birth of my younger sister, Judy, in June of 1957
), a decision she said that she later regretted. She immensely enjoyed the fellowship there.
Near the end of Dad's 2nd year at the college, he came to be a believer in the "doctrines of grace."
The college was basically "Arminian,"
however. But through his own studies of the scriptures and sovereign grace literature, Dad came to be an adamant "Calvinist."
His outspokenness on these things in class soon caused problems. He felt that he could no longer stay in fellowship with them and so, he and Mom and the four kids all returned to Hamilton, Ohio
Dad, as brother Bob Ross
knows firsthand, came to Ashland, Kentucky
to search-out a fellowship of "Sovereign Grace"
or "Calvinistic" Baptists
. After visiting with the brethren of Calvary Baptist Church
, Dad and Mom were both "re-baptized"
(they had been baptized previously into the Lindenwald church
The Ashland church
and I assume that they had a strong influence on his embracing basic "Landmarkism."
I know that in these days, and for a few years following, Dad was an ardent believer in the leading tenets of Calvary Church's
fellowship, namely, "Landmarkism," "Calvinist doctrine," "Premillennialism," "Absolute Predestination," "Means" and "Missions,"
From what I've read and seen of his writings and debates of that period, he was a very sound teacher (except for his Landmarkism
). I remember, even at a tender age of 5 or 6, meeting brother Ross
while Dad and the family were visiting him, brother John Gilpin
and the Calvary Church
During those early days of fellowship with Calvary Baptist
and her circle of churches of like fellowship, Dad labored (under "authority"
from the Calvary Church
) in the Hamilton
area to begin a domestic mission with the intention of forming a church. I remember those days.
We met first in our house and later in a small building on Walnut Street
. The church was called "The New Testament Baptist Church."
We had Sunday School
at first, until Dad "came to see their evil"
(his words). The church had a piano
and even at that young age I can remember my Mom teaching in the Sunday School
and the church, singing "At the cross, At the cross, where I first saw the light . . . It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the way."
Vividly, I can also hear the church singing, "Leaning on the everlasting arms,"
and "Alas, and did my Saviour bleed,"
etc.Dad Joins the Hardshells
Actually, it was when Dad began to preach against Sunday Schools
that he began to have trouble with Calvary Baptist's
fellowship and lost a few members of his church. I personally think that Dad felt alone and isolated at this time. He began to look around and, as he says, to "study the scriptures more closely."
He told me that he first attended a Hardshell
church in Carlisle, Ohio
on a Sunday afternoon at a church called "Tapscott."
They only met once a month, and in the afternoon. Dad said that there were only about 6-8 people there and that they were all old. Dad said he was somewhat scared to go because he had heard so many "bad things about them"
by his former fellowship. But he was "impressed"
with their "simplicity"
and of the "humility"
of the preacher and people.
The preacher had no written "notes,"
was rather old, and not well-educated. But, as Dad would say, he "spoke from his heart"
and "with tears."
He said he was also "impressed"
with how they "ended their services"
; the preacher gave no long, drawn-out "invitations,"
but simply stopped preaching and started singing. At this point, the congregation also started singing as they all left their seats to go in a line to "shake hands with," "kiss"
the preacher. This is a common and much promoted "tradition"
in the Hardshell
Dad had become "attracted,"
but it was, in my opinion, a "fatal attraction"
in many ways. Dad has said he felt, while at that service, that he had "gone back in time"
and was "sitting in one of the original apostolic churches."
He began to think that he had "found the Church"
at last. This church became, in his view, "Canaan's land."
church was the "True Church"
and "Kingdom of God."
After experiencing this great attraction for the Hardshells
, but still having some "serious doctrinal issues"
separating him from them, he began to visit other Hardshell
churches and preachers to discuss those "issues,"
chiefly with Elders Bradley
. He was already an "Anti-Sunday Schooler,"
and it seems to me that the Hardshells
were able to use this as an advantage in getting him to "oppose"
other such "inventions"
for the same reasons that he opposed Sunday Schools
, things such as "musical instruments," "choirs," "salaried ministry," "women teachers," "revival meetings," "seminaries," "missions,"
Dad had embraced the idea, like the Hardshells
, that anything pertaining to the church's doctrine, work or practice must have been originated by the apostolic churches
and that any "new"
work, doctrine or practice of later origin was "evil," "man-made"
With the Hardshells
, anything in those areas which is post-apostolic is to be anathematized. Patternism
, a deadly cancer, has been a major error in both the Hardshells
and the Campbellites
. Brother Ross
has written against the dangers of Patternism
and more will be said on that later in this book.
Dad later took the unusual view, even for the Hardshells
, that the Apostle John's "sin unto death"
was "marital adultery."
was not physical death
, but permanent loss of membership
in the Hardshell
Church and, of course, its "blessings
, the Lord's Supper
Not all Hardshells
share this view, but it is the "mainstream"
position and is, with most, a "test of fellowship."
have occurred over this issue, particularly when one "sister church"
takes in another church's "excluded"
adulterers or retains one in their fellowship.
One of their leading preachers in Alabama
, former Governor Guy Hunt
, and one who has been in my home, reportedly believes that if you ever
had "premarital sex,"
then you also could never
become a member of the church
or be baptized
The issue of "perseverance"
also became an issue for Dad to re-address and he also did some "reforming"
on this issue. He continued to believe in "preservation"
and "eternal security,"
but not "perseverance,"
at least not as held by the brethren of the Old Baptist Confessions
. But more on that later.
After all this "changing,"
or as Dad would say, "coming to more light,"
he decided to "join the Primitive Baptists."
He had already been teaching these "new things"
to his small church. The church got smaller still. Finally, those few who were left, all voted to "join"
. Being Landmarkers,
the Hardshells "re-baptized"
the whole church (Dad's third time).
(Mom did not join because she and Dad had divorced prior to his uniting with the Hardshells
. I and the other kids lived with Mom and my step-father, with Dad visiting us regularly)
Really, Dad was not only isolated and alone religiously just prior to joining the Hardshells
, but also socially and domestically. Mom continued, till she died, to be an "Absoluter"
and a "Calvinistic Missionary Baptist,"
and was definitely not a "Landmarker."
I was not at that time under Dad's Hardshell
influence; that was around 1963 and 1964. Dad became a Hardshell
Let me now tell some of my experiences relative to my Bible and Hardshell history
studies. I began to collect the current Hardshell
literature, subscribing to most of their periodicals, and reading the "debates"
of the Hardshell
fathers, i.e., Cayce, Daily, Thompson, Dalton, Paine, Holder
I also received my copy of the famed “HASSELL'S HISTORY,”
and I also read numerous other writings of men such as Newman, Redford, Hanks, Potter, Craig, Oliphant
, etc. Particularly did I study the things that these Hardshells
had to say about the "Great Division"
between the so-called Old School (Hardshell)
and the New School
or as Hardshells
would say, the "Softshells"
The question naturally arises as to how I could accept the view that the Hardshells
were the "true," "Old," “Original,”
or "Primitive" Baptists
. Briefly stated, I was in error in accepting the statements of Hardshell "Historians"
without diligently checking out their claims
Today I realize that those Hardshell “histories”
are fraught with serious "deceptions."
Actually, these so-called histories
are a very good example of what is called “revisionist histories.”
Those Hardshell “revisions”
are serious errors in "interpretation"
of those events and times by Hardshells
with "faulty vision"
and an evil agenda. Much of what they write in regard to their history is bunk
, perhaps wishful thinking
. Very few of them have been honest
historians. The few honest ones have sometimes left the Hardshells
to associate with those truly Old Baptists
who accept the Old Confessions
(like the Kirklands
, but more on that later).
I remember discussing with Dad, during those early years in the Hardshells
, about the so-called "split"
between the "Old"
and "New Schoolers."
I remember asking Dad about the so-called "Sovereign Grace Baptists."
I affirmed that they were not "Arminian"
and believers in grace just as the Hardshells
. In the "split,"
where did these folks go? Was there a "third party"
to the famed old "split?"
Dad responded by saying that there was indeed some groups who were aligned with neither (such Baptists as J.R. Graves
would later be identified with) the Hardshells
nor the "modern mission movement"
and that these were the grand-parents of the modern Sovereign Grace Baptists
(or Independent Baptists
I also asked him about the London and Philadelphia Confessions
. I asked whether these "Sovereign Gracers"
weren't more like the "Old Baptists"
of the Confessions
, rather than the Hardshells
, especially since they believed in "gospel means"
as did the signers of the old Confessions
. His response was that “the Confessions were not totally sound”
and did not express the position of all the Baptists of the time
This, however, I have found to be false
, for no "Old Baptist" prior to 1800 and the days of Gilbert Beebe held to Hardshell belief on the new birth.
So, basically, I left this issue somewhat unsettled
in my mind until I could research it more at a later time.Hardshellism and the Bible
Now let me relate some of my other early experiences in reconciling Hardshell
views with the Bible itself. I did not find it difficult to find what is called "Calvinism"
in the scriptures. So, with this much, I was content with what the Hardshells
The problems that arose in my mind, however, during those early stages of Bible study, concerned their views on "Spirit Alone" regeneration
, without "gospel means.”
I also, as a young pastor and teacher in the church, and constant reader of God’s word, often felt guilty
about not being able to call upon those who heard me to “repent”
or to “believe,”
or “trust Christ,”
to “be saved”
or “born again.”
In fact, fear kept me from doing what I felt burdened to do. I would be branded an “Arminian”
and would be shunned
and spoken against
, have doors shut
Other issues also aroused suspicion in my mind at that time, such as "marriage and divorce," "Church Government," "Landmarkism," "Eschatology," "Sunday Schools," "Musical Instruments,"
I remember calling Dad on the telephone regularly with "questions about a certain verse"
which, it seemed
to me, taught contrary
to Hardshellism's "anti-means"
doctrine. For instance, I remember asking Dad about II Thess. 1:7-9
and the fact that Paul said that "those who do not know God and obey the gospel would be lost eternally."
and attempt to "harmonize"
the verse with Hardshellism
did not satisfy me. His idea was that the text did not
affirm that all
the gospel would be eternally lost (which in my mind it obviously did). His idea was that there were basically four groups in the scriptures relative to this verse. They are:
(1) Those who know not God
and obey not
(2) Those who know not God
(3) Those who know God
and obey not
(4) Those who know God
To Dad, Paul was affirming the eternal damnation of group #1 and not of group #3, as the Missionaries
taught. But the question in my mind was, is there a group representing #3?
, there are folks who truly know God
BUT do not know Christ or the gospel and do not obey the gospel.
This, however, I later came to see was a great falsehood
All the "sheep"
him). Those who do not "obey"
are ignorant of God
and eternally lost.
Needless to say, there were many other phone calls to Dad in order to get the Hardshell "explanation"
of those scripture passages that seemed
to contradict Hardshellism
. I will have more to say on these when I examine more closely Hardshell
positions on regeneration
and other pertinent doctrines."Popery"
In those early years in the Hardshell
church, I soon had my first confrontation with Hardshell "popery,"
especially in their beloved "Associations."
Dad, while a contributing editor
of THE CHRISTIAN BAPTIST
periodical, wrote an article on "Satan"
and it was published on the front page of the paper. In this article Dad took the Baptist
and historic Christian position
that Satan was once in heaven as an angel of God
until he "sinned and was cast out."
That position was rejected
of the Hardshells
and became a "test of fellowship"
After the article was published, the "peace and fellowship"
of the churches in the Powell's Valley Association
were greatly "disturbed"
. Soon, one church after another in that Association
took up measures
to "withdraw fellowship"
and "declare against"
Dad and our church in Middletown
Finally, amidst the turmoil, one of the churches, under the influence of "pope" John Robbins
, "called for a council of sister churches"
to settle the matter
. A council
was held with the Oak Ridge, Tennessee church
. In this council
I saw first-hand the ignorance, tradition
and "kangaroo court" tactics
of these Hardshells
. It was typical
of the "power struggles"
that occur in cults
and heretical sects.
that was drawn-up and agreed upon demanded
that Dad and the Middletown Church vow
to "never preach in any way, publicly or privately, the view that Satan was once in heaven and fell from it."
If he and the church did not agree to this, then they would be "dis-fellowshipped"
by the other churches in the Association
Of course, Dad and the church could not in good conscience
do this and subsequently were "excluded"
by other churches. This caused confusion and division in other areas as well as in the Powell's Valley Association.
Most of the churches among the Hardshells
, for one reason or another, refused to side with Dad on the issue
. Most agreed that his views were "heretical."
Others did not side with Dad, such as Elder Tolley
, not so much because of his views, for he shared them, as did some other Hardshells
, but because the Middletown Church
had "taken in excluded members"
of the other churches of the Powell's Valley Association
who sided with him.
In any case, Dad and the Middletown Church
found themselves somewhat isolated
from the Hardshells
at large. If Dad preached at a certain church after that, the Powell's Valley Association
that church, "call them on the carpet,"
In most Hardshell
associations, there is either a direct
or indirect correspondence
with other associations in America, so the "controversy"
, proverbially speaking, "spread like wild fire."My "Ordination"
During those days of endless controversy,
I also experienced many "closed doors"
to go and preach. It was during this time of a "break in fellowship"
that I was first called to be "ordained"
to the "full work of the gospel ministry"
by the Middletown Church
. Letters were sent out to the sister churches in the area to come to the Middletown church
and assist in forming a "presbytery"
me. Several local "Elders"
attended in spite of the "threat of retaliation"
by the Powell's Valley Association
and her "correspondents"
at this my first ordination
were Dad, Boggs, Trautner, Bolender, Jones
, together with various deacons from the churches in the area. Later the Minutes of this "ordination service"
were published in “THE CHRISTIAN BAPTIST.”
All these Elders
were recognized as leaders
in the Hardshell
This ordination took place in August of 1974.
Over the next eighteen months or so I continued to travel and preach where I could. Many churches and preacher brethren did not agree with the act of the Powell's Valley Association
in making this issue a "test of fellowship"
and so tried to "side-step"
the issue. But the Powell's Valley
brethren, under the leadership of "pope" Robbins,
continued to put the "pressure"
on those who were using and "recognizing"
Dad, the Middletown Church
, and me.
Dad continued to affirm that the "real issue"
was not the "origin of Satan,"
but rather the "ignorance"
of the Hardshells
in general and the "ambitions"
of "pope" Robbins
in particular, who, Dad thought (and I agree), felt "threatened"
by Dad's position in the Association.
From my study of Hardshell history
within the associational framework, and from personal experience, this "butting of heads"
among preachers, seeking the "moderatorship"
of the association, is a common occurrence.
It is a fact that most associations
have one great leader who "rules the roost."
There are "pecking orders"
in nearly all groups, and the Hardshells
are no different. In the larger and leading associations, this one "great leader"
controls several associations far and near, due to the "direct correspondence"
with other associations. It is my honest observation that there is much "jockeying for position"
in most Hardshell
associations. While these associations often give lip-service
to the idea that associations have “no authority over the churches,"
they nevertheless exercise practical authority and sway over them
No wonder that Hardshell
, Elder W. J. Berry,
could write (in 1958
) and say that "there are now not more than nine men whose dictates control all the principle groups of Primitive Baptists throughout the United States."
(From the "Old Faith Contender"
When I moved to North Carolina in 1976
(to be married to a girl who was the daughter of Elder Newell Helms
, who then and now, in 2008
, continues to be a leader among the Hardshells
in this area of North Carolina
, namely, in the "Bear Creek Association"
) I found that Elder C. M. Mills
(referred to earlier) was probably one of those "nine men"
that brother Berry
spoke about. The Bear Creek Association
was in "direct correspondence"
with Powell's Valley
and so my move to North Carolina "ran me smack into"
the controversy over the "devil doctrine"
and the "orderly standing"
of the Middletown Church
.My Second "Ordination"
Shortly after my move to North Carolian
, in the spring of 1976
, I met with Elder C. M. Mills
at his home in Charlotte. Elder Newell Helms
was also there, as was "pope" John Robbins
and his cohort, Ray Wells
, the "official" Powell's Valley Association "clerk;"
the latter two had driven 300 miles from Tennessee
to "help out"
with "my situation."Elders Mills
believed that my "ordination"
was "invalid," and "illegal"
and not "recognizable"
because it was done by the Middletown Church
while in "disorder,"
having been officially "declared against"
by the Powell's Valley Association.
My argument, with some assistance from Mill's
protege and my father-in-law, Newell Helms
, was that it was conducted by sound brethren
, i.e. Trautner, Jones, Bolender,
I also argued that the reason for non-fellowship was invalid
. Never had a Baptist church made the "origin of Satan"
an issue effecting fellowship
, excepting that our forefathers rejected Daniel Parker's "Two-Seedism"
with its "eternal and uncreated Devil"
belief. However, seeing that Robbins
was himself a smaller "pope"
under the greater "pope" Mills
, and yet "close friends," Mills
was insistent on seeing me "re-ordained"
so that, as he said, this "cloud"
would not "hang over me"
and my ministry for the rest of my life.
Needless to say, I was in a "tight spot"
. I agreed with the Middletown Church
on this issue. But I had recently married and "settled down"
in North Carolina
and had to find a way to "get along"
with the brethren among whom I hoped to labor. I began to pray over the matter and to ask "counsel and advice"
from many "elders"
far and near.
I spoke with were primarily the following: Trautner, Bolender, Jones, Bradley, Tolley, Watts,
and some few others. All of the "elders"
in my former "presbytery"
were all sympathetic
and gave consent
if it would help me and "keep the peace,"
except for Dad and Boggs
, who were both of the Middletown Church
I remember talking in particular with Elder Bradley
. Why, I don't know, for he was one of the "cowardly"
preachers who, when invited to be in the first ordination, failed to come
. I suppose that it was because he was a recognized "leader"
among the Hardshells
and did not want to risk his "standing."
In any case, he advised
had himself been conversant with "pope" Mills
when he first came to "spy-out"
the "Old Church." Bradley
certainly didn't want to "butt heads"
The Cincinnati Church
was an "independent"
church, i.e. not in an association
. Though not in an association
, they were still somewhat amenable to associational "politics."
So I agreed to be "re-ordained."
This meant my "exclusion"
from the Middletown Church
and caused "hurt feelings"
with Dad. I united with Bethel Primitive Baptist Church
in the Bear Creek Association
of North Carolina
and later was "re-ordained"
by them. The "cloud"
did somewhat disappear, but only to be followed by other ones. I filled regular "appointments"
at this church for some time and also preached regularly by invitation in several of the churches of that Association.
Over the next few years (1976-1982
), the churches in the Bear Creek, Powell's Valley,
and a few others, began to magnify the issue of the "origin of Satan."
In nearly every "ordination service,"
whether of preachers or deacons, "presbyters"
would ask the candidate his views on the subject. Several "elders,"
, took issue with this practice. They were opposed to making this issue a "test of fellowship."
I stood up in one "ordination service"
and objected to this type of query
. But I was ignored and viewed as a "trouble-maker."
In fact, I myself had been asked at Bethel Church
, during my ordination service
, whether Satan "fell from Heaven."
My answer was Luke 10:18
- "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
ordained with this answer, to my surprise. I was also asked whether the "story of the rich man and Lazarus" taught that the rich man went to a "literal hell."
I said that he went to "Hades."
Again, this satisfied the brethren.
One visiting "elder"
from West Virginia
, Norvel Mann
, later confessed to me his shock and disgust at the line of questioning
. It was obvious to him that the so-called presbytery
was doing everything they could to find a reason not
me. Due to the influence of Cayce
, the belief that Luke 16 taught what happens at death to the saved and lost was regarded as "heresy."
Looking back on these times makes me thankful to be out of such a tyrannical cult.
It wasn't until I began to pastor two non-associational churches
in eastern North Carolina
in the early 80's
that I received some relief from this "tyranny."
I pastored there until leaving with a letter of dismissal in good standing around 1983
In the few years following this, I came to see the errors
of the Hardshells
as to their "Articles of Faith."
When I saw the truth of "means,"
I immediately contacted the Sovereign Grace Baptists
here and there, including brother Ross
, and thus began a new search for fellowship.
Today, I feel liberated from the "shackles"
of Hardshell heresy
. My experiences among them and my acquaintance with their teachings make me desirous of "exposing"
their unscriptural ways and beliefs for the benefit of others whom they might lead astray.