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The Conflict of Missions and Anti-Missions
By Victor I. Masters, 1915
      1. An instinctive story. The story of the warfare of missions and anti-missions among Baptists is a human document of intensely fascinating interest. Throughout it has been a conflict of sure-enough people, not of the artificial people who trouble first the brain of the novelist and next that of his reader. It has been a fight between good people, the Lord's people. Earnest exponents of missions may look askance at some of the anti-mission champions. The sensitive may even feel hurt at the lurid statements of some of the spokesmen for religious do-nothingism. But one's sense of humor should save him. However well we may be satisfied that the often shrewd anti-mission protagonist is dishonest or willfully ignorant, we should remember that the people who follow him are neither dishonest nor willfully ignorant, nor is he always so. They are good people, but ignorant about the things of the Kingdom. They are not necessarily ignorant about other things, but disobedient to the Scripture which requires us to be simple concerning the things of the flesh and wise concerning the things of the Spirit. They are not more ignorant about the things of the Kingdom than many of us would be if we had not enjoyed better opportunities.
      2. The most serious fact about anti-missions. The most serious fact about the work of the anti-mission guerrillas of to-day is not that they should speak things which are untrue in order to prejudice untaught Baptists. The serious point is that we, who believe in missions and who to some extent support missions, have not caught a vision of the obligation which rests upon us so to instruct our untaught brother that he shall not stumble in the way when some one presents to him a preachment which is at once in consonance with prejudice and covetousness and against the doctrine of cooperative missionary endeavor. This failure shows an anti-missionary spirit among the supporters of missions, who have had opportunities to know which Hardshell brethren have not had. If we so leave the bars of missionary safety down as to invite any stray opponent of progress to come in and trample down the tender crop, what right have we to expect that some wayward champion shall not walk in? Of course he will. Let no hands of dismay and astonishment be held up; rather let there be bending of knees before God in humble confession that we have not loved our brother who has not enjoyed the opportunities we have enjoyed, sufficiently to use as a means of helping him those organizations which he foolishly fears, "teaching him to observe all things whatsoever" our Lord has commanded. God forgive us if in our none-too-warm devotion to missions, we have not had the heart to love our less fortunate brother to the point of helping him—which is missions!

      3. The years of the warfare. The battle of

missions against anti-missions was fought and the victory won by the missionary forces in the period between 1816 and, let us say, 1845, because it gives us a fine milestone in the setting up then of the Southern Baptist Convention, though the active conflict ended a few years earlier. The day was won by the minority, because God was on the side of the minority, on the side of co-operation and of faith in one's brethren, on the side of love for men to the point of sending the gospel to them, on the side of fellowship in service. The anti-mission champion, especially in the earlier days of the contest, did not know he was setting himself against all these things, but he was. He was usually a real Christian, but he was ignorant of what were God's great purposes for his people. When the Southern Baptist Convention was organized, in 1845, there was in effect set up for our spiritual body throughout Dixieland a stone of witness between this people and God, that they would follow him in all the ways of service and world-winning into which he should lead them. Already the battle had been won in detail by the Baptist regiments in each of the older States. It was they who bore the brunt of the conflict. But they came down to Augusta, Georgia, in 1845, and unitedly proclaimed a day of Baptists for the Kingdom and of the Kingdom for Baptists. Let us observantly go down into the aforetime valleys where was waged the warfare of the mighty over missions and anti-missions, education and anti-education, and organization and anti-organization.
In the conflict these three objects regularly fared together.

      4. Causes of the battle. The occasion of the lining up of pro- and anti-mission parties in the South was the new emphasis which came to be given particularly to Foreign Missions, through the conversion of Judson to Baptist views and the subsequent activities in the South of the Triennial Convention's agents to arouse interest in Foreign Missions, first among whom was Luther Rice. The causes of the opposition lay deeper. Chief among these were, extreme jealousy for democracy, and hyper-Calvinism. In addition to this, the provincialism of the people and the fact that the leading exponents of the new ideas were from the outside, or of the more distinguished local men, who often had little intimate association with the rank and file of the people, did much to stiffen the opposition.

      5. The "aristocracy." It is inevitable that new ideas shall excite opposition among the masses of the people until they shall see those ideas embodied and set forth by their own known and trusted leaders, rather than by a celebrated stranger, whom they know only through the big address which he made on some signal occasion at one of their assemblies. As a matter of fact, such opposition attends the promulgation of new ideas among our churches even today, when the means of knowledge are many times greater. With the disadvantage of having strangers as its principal sponsors, the Foreign Mission propaganda had also that of being to the people an exceedingly far-off thing, almost

an abstraction. There were almost no religious papers and almost no mail facilities, a considerable portion of the church members could not read or write. It would have been a remarkable thing if opposition had not developed. It is gratifying that the new and larger idea was received in so many places into good sail, which brought forth fruitfully. It was not really strange that men who rejoiced in salvation and in seeing others saved and were even zealous in spreading the good news, should find themselves in doubt about the new move to evangelize heathen nations, of which many of them had never even heard. They were so busy trying to supply the abounding local needs, that this blessed preoccupation in part insulated them from the perception of other needs. In order to do justice to these early Baptists we must put ourselves in their places. If we do this, we will not feel like criticising [sic] them, though we may find it difficult to extend a like charity to some of the rabid men who during a later period became leaders of the anti-mission idea.

      6. Jealousy for democracy. Perhaps the idea which more nearly obsessed our Baptist fathers than anything else was Democracy. Baptists are today jealous of democracy and none too much so. But we have learned much which our fathers did not and could not know about how democracy may co-operate through organizations and yet safeguard itself. Those early Baptists had no demonstration that there may be preservation of democracy and at the same time an increase of fraternity and efficiency in cooperative organization. But they had

had never-to-be-forgotten experiences of how secular and ecclesiastical organizations may become oppressive and iniquitous. Therefore their jealousy. We honor them for it. It is quite proper to admonish a Baptist church now which shies at so simple a matter as joining a District Association, lest that body should interfere with its autonomy, but it was not a smiling matter one hundred years ago. True, the Associations had not been found guilty, but neither had they yet to the satisfaction of those pioneer individualists proven their innocence.

      7. Associations and democracy. For the first century after the Charleston Association was formed, perhaps there was no one idea which was more often elucidated in connection with the formation of Baptist Associations than that they did not in any way interfere with the autonomy of the local churches. Not only so; the idea was everywhere nailed down through resolutions or in the organic law. One of the first acts of the Charleston Assosciation at its first meeting was to assert the independency of the churches and to announce the restrictions of its own powers to counsel and advice. Virginia Baptist churches were perhaps even more scrupulous than others on this point and Semple shows how jealousy lest the Associations should go beyond their advisory and fraternal functions, led to repeated disavowals on the part of those bodies. This same zeal for democracy made many of the Associations hesitate at a later date to join the State Convention or General Association. In Kentucky it defeated the first State organization. In Alabama

it kept the infant State body in anxiety and weakness to such an extent that, after ten years, at the 1833 meeting, it had only four delegates. In Tennessee and Maryland it retarded the general organization, and in North and South Carolina and Virginia for a period it limited the popularity and power of the State body.

      8. Democracy and missions. These pioneer preachers of the South had done an itinerant missionary work never surpassed in history. The churches had gradually come to participate in their work and to support the workers. Even the principle of co-operative organization for missions through various Associations was in effective operation, notwithstanding an extreme concern for church independence. This was fine progress. Then came Judson. This resulted in an appeal throughout the South for the Associations to join in the co-operative support of missions in India. It was like telling a man who has just learned to spell "baker" that he must at once begin to spell only words of length of "incomprehensibility." It was strong doctrine. We admire the faith of those early preachers in their hearty advocacy, but we may be pardoned if we question the tact and statesmanship some of them showed before the conflict was over. In Kentucky, for instance, instead of patient dealing with a constituency which was really taking hold of evangelism, of which Foreign Missions is only an extension, with more rapidity than any other in the South, some of the enthusiasts formed Mission Societies

which were independent of the churches. This appears to have been the first thing which started the anti-mission revulsion in Kentucky.

      9. Good men feared centralization. As good and great a preacher as John Leland, himself for years a missionary of holy fervor and unsparing labors in Virginia, and a man of undoubted wisdom, looked with disfavor upon the proposed organizations for Foreign Missions, lest they should result in a fatal centralization. He declined to itinerate under the support of a Baptist Missionary Society in Massachusetts, and in 1826 wrote a friend: "What the new order of missionary friends and exertions will do, I cannot say; whether there is goodness enough in men to be pampered without growing indolent and haughty, is a question. But the captive Israelites who lived on pulse were fresher, fatter, and ten times better in counsel than the vulgar bred priests in the realm of Babylon who lived on a royal portion of meat and wine." There were few nobler frontier missionaries than John Taylor of Kentucky. He had preached the gospel from house to house, county to county, and State to State, and yet the new Mission Societies frightened John Taylor. Dr. Spencer quotes him as saying: "I consider these great men are verging close on an aristocracy, with an object to sap the foundation of Baptist republican government." Down in Alabama, Rev. "Club Ax" Davis, whose nick-name was made by himself, was a missionary itinerant who never spared himself or the frontier sinner and through whom many souls were brought to Christ. But he was at the same time

uncompromising in his opposition to co-operative missionary effort. There were such men in every State. It is unfortunate that we have not preserved the records of more of them. They are not to be confounded with men who at a later time became anti-mission champions, when they thought it a good political move to do so.

      10. Hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism led some Baptists to their early opposition to missions. The Methodists were everywhere preaching salvation by works. The tendency was to drive Baptists far toward the other extreme of predestination. Not a few of the fathers considered it an interference with the divine prerogative to do so unheard of a thing as to send the gospel to heathen nations. Small wonder. So did the big English preacher who sought to squelch William Carey. The Saluda Association was meeting at Flat Rock Church, Anderson County, South Carolina, in 1836. The church letters and "Letters of Correspondence" with other Associations were at last disposed of, as were also the various and sundry questions of doctrine and polity, sent up from the churches for early Associations to try their teeth on. Came Sunday morning, the first of August, the great day of the feast, with its large throng scattered down through the grove, across the "big road" and on the big rock, to the branch where under the dense forest canopy a cool spring bubbled up to slake the pioneer Baptist thirst. At the stand Rev. Sanford Vandiver preached the "charity sermon." In it he appealed for money to help publish Judson's translation of the

Burmese Bible. While he was speaking with eloquence and inspiration, a tall, gangling anti-missionary preacher was seen to leave his seat up on the stand with the dozen or more other preachers, put on his hat, gather up and toss across his arm his saddle-bags and start high-stepping toward the forest-side, within which his horse was tethered. In the outskirts of the listening throng a brother hailed him: "Why, Brother Blank, what in the world is the matter?" "Matter!" replied the stalwart man of God. "Just listen at Sanford; preaching salvation to the Gentiles. I'll never again listen to any such a preacher." The writer was born in Saluda Association, within a few miles of Flat Rock Church, which he often attended in his childhood. The churches of Saluda Association now give more to missions than those of any other Association in South Carolina!

      11. When fighting was "Good." Fighting is always an evidence of human sin and infirmity. But there come times when good men ought to and must fight. Of the Baptists at this period Dr. B. F. Riley says: "Their boldly aggressive spirit arose, first, from mistaking the spirit of resistance which Virginia Baptists had shown toward the State Church. They held on to the ginger without the spirit, and applied the ginger everywhere. Second, they felt that they were right, and where aggravated by constant attacks from other religious protagonists, especially Methodists, who had as much of the disputatious spirit of pioneer conditions as the Baptists had." Beginning before the end of the second

decade of the eighteenth century and smouldering into an open flame in some places by 1825 and in others during the next ten to fifteen years, the mission and anti-mission parties had a conflict which was not without much bitterness and prejudice. The prejudice was mainly among the anti-missionaries and the bitterness almost entirely so. But it should be said that the advocates of missions were not perfect before the Lord in all the things which they did. They were right on the great issue of missions and they often showed a commendable moderation in dealing with opponents who were glaringly deficient in moderation. But from the vantage of the present it seems that if they had had more of patience and long-suffering, more appreciation of the limitations and lack of instruction which led the anti-missionaries into their errors, they could have won many of them who were driven into open opposition. If they were lacking here, they were hardly more so than we are now. But they should not have been surprised that so large a body of men and women, with their restricted and contracted ideas, and whose lives were almost entirely pioneer and local, could not be brought, over night, to go further forward in missionary work than the whole body had advanced within fifty years, though it had made marvelous progress within that time.

      12. The "club-ax" anti-missionaries. In general the methods of the anti-missionary preachers would justify giving their class the cognomen which Davis of Alabama had given himself. When most of these men advanced to the fray, it was with utter

abandon and with wild-cat catch-as-catch-can methods. In a day of individualism and wildwoods oratory, these doughty champions were in their glory. On their side they had the advantage of the general ignorance about missions and the natural prejudices of the people. With a shrewdness worthy of a better cause, they caricatured their antagonists. Dr. B. F. Riley, who in History of Baptists in the South and elsewhere has given us the best extant story of the conflict, quotes one of these champions as follows: "Do not," vociferated he to his audience, "do not forget the enemy [the missionaries]; bear them in mind; the howling, destructive wolves, the ravenous dogs and the filthy, and their numerous whelps. The wolfish smell is enough to alarm, to create suspicion, and to ascertain. The dogs' teeth are noted, and the wolves for their peculiar and distinct howl," etc., etc., etc., etc. Such a fellow can go on as long as any one remains to hear him bellow.

      13. Alexander Campbell. Baptists in the South had received great aid from George Whitefield, who was a Methodist. They now received great injury from Alexander Campbell, who had been a Presbyterian, but who left them to make a new cult of his own. He entered into the Baptist situation about 1823. If Mr. Campbell had organized his cult with the specific purpose of catching the backward

Baptists of that day, he could scarcely have done it better. They believed in Bible baptism as an act of obedience. Mr. Campbell went further; baptism was essential to salvation. They had a penchant for contention over Scripture teaching; Mr. Campbell more so. They were jealous for democracy; Mr. Campbell became more jealous, showing how mission Societies, Boards, etc., would enslave both them and their children. They held the Bible to be the only rule of faith; Mr. Campbell conjured up new and spectacular ways to convince them that he was really the only original, full-length believer in this teaching. The great untaught majority of them did not believe in missions; they were right, averred Mr. Campbell. He believed in "Bible missions," but not "Society missions." The money was used, he declared, to pamper indulgent and lazy preachers. He bethought himself that he would have to find an answer to the implications of the Bible record of Paul's mission work. So he said Paul had the gift of performing miracles, and there was no record in the Bible of mission work without the power of miracles. We have not the power of miracles, so good-bye missions.

      14. The Setback which followed. We are not here concerned about the astonishing fact that quite a large and respected religious body in America had its origin from such contentions as are indicated in the preceding paragraph. But these contentions, maintained with astuteness, were one of the strongest deterrents to the growth of missions among Southern Baptists. Kentucky Baptists were torn and lacerated by Campbell's false views. Anti-mission

views spread like fire before wind. It was years, and only after sloughing off the most extreme anti-mission wing, before Kentucky Baptists again moved forward in their constructive program. The Campbellism infection also wrought sad havoc in Tennessee and Alabama. In lesser degree it gave a setback to mission progress in all the other Southern States.

      15. Missions Won. After about 1840 the anti-mission agitation was no longer able to do any great harm to the Baptists organizations, which had turned their faces toward service. Many of the men who had formerly opposed organized co-operation to save men, were led to see the error of their way. The leadership of the anti-mission forces was henceforth to be only of good men who were sadly deficient in knowledge, and of a few unscrupulous men who were not ignorant. The day of intercommunication and co-operation was gradually encroaching on the preserves of localism and individualism. The country was moving forward and the Baptists were well up with the vanguard, demonstrating that a religious democracy can develop in efficiency, notwithstanding all the ignorance and suspicion which it has to enlighten or overcome.

      16. A plea for our belated brethren. There are perhaps in 1915, 200,000 Baptists in the South who, under the names of Primitive, Hardshell, or Free Will Baptists, are frankly opposed to missions. Besides these there are hundreds of churches counted in our Southern Baptist Convention statistics, which are really anti-missionary in belief! The question is here raised if we have not

an obligation to these belated brethren, to win them to larger and truer views. We can win them, if we will show that we love them and desire to help them. Practically there is not enough difference between us and them to justify us in complacency. They say they do not believe in missions, and consistently give nothing to missions. We say we do believe in missions, but, after all these years of training, we are in the Southern Convention averaging about sixty cents per member for all kinds of missions. The practical difference between us and the Hardshell brother is only a difference of five cents per month per member! Of immeasurable worth are our vast organizations and our churches committed in principle and doctrine to missions, but the smallness of our actual average individual gifts may well make us modest. There is something about the little anti-mission church in the mountain cove or out in the piney woods that ought particularly to draw our love and helpfulness. They and we hold many precious beliefs together and we do not differ so much as we ought on the chief points in which we do differ.

      17. How he won them. Anti-mission churches have often been won by men who have had the tact and the consecrated good sense to go about it. Dr. T. M. Bailey, veteran ex-State Secretary, now of Greenville, South Carolina, won many such churches in his secretarial service in Alabama and South Carolina, and so have other State Secretaries. Two years ago, while he was on a trip through the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, Dr. Albert

E. Brown, Superintendent of Mountain Mission Schools of the Home Mission Board, found that a Hardshell Baptist church was holding a series of services in a school house. Superintendent Brown decided to attend the meeting. Preaching was in progress when he entered the room. He took a seat near the rear of the building. At once he discovered that his presence had aroused much interest among the worshippers. They thought he was a Presbyterian missionary. The preacher exhorted long and earnestly. When he finished, he called upon the senior pastor to "follow," in the old-time way. The old preacher proceeded to improve the occasion by making certain adroit doctrinal swipes for the edification of the supposed Presbyterian preacher. After finishing his exhortation, the old man led the service toward its close by saying: "If all minds are clear, we will be dismissed." Whereupon Dr. Brown arose and said: "Brother, all minds are not clear, and if you have no objection I would like to make a statement." The elder replied: "I don't know as I have any objections." Brother Brown walked to the platform, told them his name, and where he lived, and continued: "Brethren, I am a Baptist and you are Baptists. You are therefore my folks. We may not see alike on all matters, nevertheless, being a Baptist, I am your brother. Moreover, I am a mountaineer and you are mountaineers and that makes us still closer kin." Then he proceeded to tell them that he was building schools for mountain boys and girls. Their surprise was great and they were pleased. The old
pastor asked Dr. Brown to preach for them that afternoon and he consented.

      18. "He got it out of the Book." That afternoon Dr. Brown preached on missions, Sunday-schools, education, and pastoral support, doing it with tact and without exciting needless antagonism. Then the senior pastor said: "Brother, there will be a big crowd here tomorrow. Can't you preach for us again?" So on Sunday morning Dr. Brown preached again on missions, Sunday-schools, education, and pastoral support. When he was through he called on the old Hardshell pastor to conclude the services, which he did in the following address: "Brethren, Bro. Brown is a Baptist, as you all can see, though not our kind of a Baptist. He has proved to us out of the Book [for Dr. Brown had given them chapter and verse for every contention] everything that he has said today, and we can't git around it, for he got it out of the Book, and, brethren, I endorse it." Another brother arose and said: "We will meet here next Sunday morning and establish a Sunday-school." One tactful approach by a man who understood and loved the people put that church and community on the upward path and transformed the church from a Hardshell to a Missionary Baptist church. Throughout the South are hundreds of opportunities to render a like service, opportunities which Baptists cannot afford to neglect, but are neglecting.


Test questions on chapter 6.

1. Give a reason why the story of the conflict of missions

and anti-missions is interesting. Were the early anti-mission Baptists willfully ignorant?
2. Name the most serious fact about anti-missions. If we leave the people untaught, should we be surprised when some wayward champion misleads them? In what spirit should we approach this question?
3. When was the warfare at its strongest? What did Baptists in effect announce when they set up the Southern Convention.
4. Give the occasions and the causes of the anti-mission conflict.
5. How did the masses of the people view the distinguished spokesman of Foreign Missions? Tell of the small opportunities the people had to be informed of missionary needs.
6. Describe the early Baptist jealousy for local church autonomy.
7. Did zeal for church autonomy retard the formation of District Associations? What idea was incorporated in the constitutions of all Baptist co-operative organizations? Did jealousy for the independence of the churches retard the organization of State bodies? Give the experience of different States.
8. Describe the effect of the agitation for Foreign Missions which followed Judson's going to India. What tactical mistake did Kentucky make?
9. Tell of the fear of centralization as expressed by John Leland, John Taylor, and "Club-Ax" Davis.
10. Show how hyper-Calvinism worked against missions. Tell of the result of Sanford Vandiver preaching on missions at Saluda Association in 1836.
11. Quote Dr. B. F. Riley on reasons for the fire of the conflict. When did it come to be an open flame? Tell why patience becomes the Baptist advocates of missions.
12. Give an instance of the wild utterances of the anti-mission defenders.
13. Carefully describe the shrewd way in which Alexander Campbell did great harm to untaught Baptists.
14. What was the result of the Campbell onslaught?
15. Tell when and how missions won the day.
16. Tell of anti-mission Baptists now in the South. What is the practical difference in giving between them and Missionary Baptists? What of the difference in principles?
17. Can the Hardshell Baptists be won to progress and missions? Tell of Superintendent Brown's visit to a Hardshell church in the Highlands.
18. Tell of the Hardshell pastor's surrender when shown that the Bible teaches missions. Have we an obligation to teach our Hardshell brethren?

[Victor I. Masters, Baptist Missions in the South, 1915, chapter 6, pp. 111-129. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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