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Written by Sylvester Hassell   

The Gospel Messenger—July 1895

MY TWO MONTHS’ TOUR IN GEORGIA

I have always been a great lover of home, and have preferred to read the travels of others rather than travel myself. And, in his great and most unmerited mercy, the Lord has, blessed. me with a delightful home—the dear home of my childhood and youth and early manhood—the home consecrated by the prolonged residence and godly example of my devout, venerated, and beloved father and step-mother, and by tens of thousands of their humble, loving, and fervent prayers around the family-altar, the home where thirty-two years ago, as I reverently hope, my gracious and Divine Savior appeared in His dying agonies upon the cross to my eyes anointed with His Spirit, and spoke eternal peace to my sin-burdened soul. And, since the death of my last dear companion six years ago, and the severe bodily affliction that came upon me five years ago, I have been still more loath to leave the comforts of home and the company of kind relatives and friends and of my four little motherless children. And it is a pain to me to part with the daily privilege of consulting my instructive library, and of visiting the poor and afflicted members of my own church and people pf my native town. Were it not, therefore, for the solemn impressions made, I believe, by the Lord upon my mind, and the urgent invitations of dear brethren for me to visit them on preaching tours, I would never again turn my back for months upon all that is most dear to me by nature, and subject myself, in the frail and uncertain condition of my health, to the severe labors, privations, exposure, and hardships of many kinds, by day and by night, incident to constant travel, in all states of the weather and roads, mostly by private conveyance, and to attempt to preach once or twice every day. As for clearing money above railroad expenses by traveling and preaching among Primitive Baptists, I do not know of any other business in which an educated, industrious man could make less money; and, as for the insinuation of covetousness, my past life ought to be sufficient to prove the injustice of such a suspicion. On my preaching tours, I do not even solicit a subscription for the MESSENGER; and I dislike to hear one word said about paying my expenses.

In accordance with the requests of both ministering and private brethren, I left home Feb. 1st (returning April 8th), and tried to preach sixty-three times, mostly in Southern Georgia. My labors were in Bulloch, Lowndes, Echols, (Hamilton Co., Fla.) Thomas, Berrien; Colquitt., Worth, Irwin, Wilcox, Dooly, Houston, Monroe, Taylor, and Wilkinson Counties, Georgia. I met with Elders M F. Stubbs, A. W. Patterson, J. L. Smith, A. V. Simms, Wm. Tomlinson, Lucius Register, Chas. W. Stallings, Isam Weatherington, D. Johns, Aaron Parish, H. H. Barwick, I. P. Porter, Ansell Incker, W. W. Williams, P. G. McDonald, Richard Hall, P. M. Taylor, W. E. Pittman, W. C. Cleveland, T. J. Head, W. W. Childs, S. T. Bentley, Isaiah Grant, J. T. Reynolds, J. G. Murray, and Bennett Stewart. My preaching appointments were mostly in Primitive Baptist meeting houses, but also in private houses. school houses, and New School Baptist meeting houses.

I encountered a great deal of severe weather, storms, snow, and sleet, and had to travel over very rough roads and deep waters. I suffered much at times with cold, and with nervousness and sleeplessness, and with pains in my heart and bowels; but was blessed of the Lord to obtain relief by the occasional use of the Oxydonor, (I have used no medicine for more than three years). Southern Georgia is a region of pine forests and wire grass, lumber, turpentine, cattle and sheep. The land is very cheap, having risen in value in the last few years to two or three dollars an acre. The people are generally poor, and live mostly in log houses, and produce rice, corn, syrup, sweet potatoes, and meat (some making light brown sugar out of their syrup), and they are beginning to grow peaches, pears, and long-staple cotton (which is worth three or four times as much as the short-staple cotton). Scarcely any of the meeting-houses have stoves; and some have no glass windows. One meeting-house in Bulloch County has an organ, left there for sale by an agent, and used in the meetings.

I was received and treated with great kindness; and many dear brethren and sisters, some very poor and some very afflicted, assured me that they believed the Lord had sent me to strengthen and comfort them. A dear sister who has been an invalid the most of her life and has long been confined to her bed, said that, by my discourse at her home she felt repaid for all her sufferings; and a dear, poor, and afflicted ministering brother said that, while listening to me, he felt glad that he was poor. Such assurance from the dear tried children of God are more precious to me than all the riches, honors, and pleasures of the world.

Of the eighteen thousand Primitive Baptists said, in the United States Census of 1890, to be in Georgia (which is more than there are in any other State), I believe, from what I have seen and heard, that the great majority are sound in doctrine and orderly in practice.

But, during the last thirty years, departures, in doctrine or practice, or affection, from the main body of our brethren in Georgia have been made by the Towalagians, Coonites, Battleites, Youngites, Sykesites, Wilsonites, and Hallites. The particular causes of these fleshy seditious (Gal.v, 20; i Cor iii, 3; James iv, 1.) have been Secret Societies, Two-Seedism, Arminianism, political ambition, ministerial jealousy, and personal envy. The entire membership of these “slabs off,” as they are called, is probably less than two thousand; and I was informed that the largest proportion of these are sound in the doctrine of salvation by grace.

I found that a few of our best brethren in Georgia have an opinion that Judas Iscariot was a child of God and is now in Heaven. This, (if course, is no matter of doctrine or order, but a peculiar interpretation of certain Scriptures. The following Scriptures prove to my mind, as they have to the minds of nearly all God’s people, that Judas, though chosen and gifted as an Apostle and probably a preacher of the truth (as was the inspired, but covetous and devilish Balaam) and a worker of miracles, was not a subject of regenerating grace, and is now in Hell:—John vi. 70, 71; Mark xiv. 21; John xvii. 12; Matt. xxvii. 3-5; Acts i. 18-25; ii. Cor. vii. 10; i. Cor. xiii; Matt. vii. 22-23; i. John iii. 15; Rev. xxii. 15. The general language of Christ to His Apostles in Matt. x. 16-20, and in reference to His people in John. vi. 39 is shown, by John vi. 70-71, xvii. 12, Mark xiv. 21, and Acts i. 25, not to apply to Judas, in the sense of his regeneration and eternal salvation.

Another strange and I think erroneous opinion that I found entertained by a few of our worthiest brethren in Georgia, is that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the unpardonable sin (Matt. xii. 3 1-32; Mark iii 28-30; Luke xii. 10) can be committed by none except the children of God! As I told some of these brethren, all the other Primitive Baptists among whom I had traveled, while not claiming to know what this terrible sin is, felt sure of this one thing about it, that a child of God could never commit it; for Jesus gives repentance and forgiveness of sins to his people, and His blood cleanses them from all sin,  and they have eternal life and can never perish (Acts v.31; 1. John i. 7-9; John x. 28-30.) When the child of God is under conviction, he sometimes fears that he has committed the unpardonable sin, but, as proved by his subsequent experience, this is a delusion of the Devil. The context in Matt. xii and Mark iii shows that Christ’s language in reference to the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was called forth by and addressed to the scribes and Pharisees who had ascribed His miracles to Satan, when they had the fullest and clearest natural evidence that the miracles of Christ were wrought by the infinite power and goodness of the Divine Spirit in Jesus (compare Acts vii; 5 1-53; Matt. xxiii.) In studying Primitive Baptist literature on this subject, I find that some of our wisest brethren, North and South, doubt whether this sin could be committed by any others except those who witnessed the miracles of Christ during His ministry on earth. Certainly not his humble, trembling, penitent people but only His scoffing, malignant; pertinacious enemies could or can commit this sin. Heb. vi. 4-6 and x. 26-31, as proved by these passages themselves and by the remainder of each of these chapters, and by n Pet. ii. 1, 20-22, and Matt. xii. 4345, refer, primarily, not to the gracious children of God, but to those who, in the apostolic age, were partakers or witnesses of miraculous gifts, and then fully and finally, deliberately, maliciously, stubbornly, and continuously apostatized from the profession of Christianity to-Judaism, whose legal sacrifices were fulfilled and virtually ended in the antitypical sacrifice of the Son of God (Dan. ix. 2.4-.-27; Heb. x. 1—18), and were literally abolished forever by the destruction of Jerusalem a few years after the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, the God of Israel and of providence thus tremendously emphasizing the argument of His inspired Apostle (see Matt. vii. 21-23; xiii. 20-21; i Cor. xiii. 1-2). And, if Heb vi. 4-6 and x. 26-31 are applicable to any since the apostolic age, they refer, as proved by Heb. vi. 9 and x. 39, not to heart disciples, true believers, the elect, redeemed, and regenerated people of God, but to head disciples, stony-ground, temporary believers, the merely nominal people of God (like the most of national Israel), never really cleansed by God’s grace any more than the nature of the sick dog and the washed sow is changed, who, after mental illumination and a brief profession of Christianity, renounce that profession, and walk no more with Christ even in name, but become his scoffing and implacable adversaries, who shall, at the judgment of the great day, he consigned to everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels (John vi. 66; Matt. xiii. 20-21; ii Pet. ii.1, 20-22; Matt. vii. 21-23; xxv. 41-46). God’s fatherly chastisements of His children for their spiritual good and referred to in Heb. xii. 1-3, and are nowhere called in the Scriptures a sacrifice for sin; the only real, efficacious, divinely-appointed and accepted sacrifice for sin mentioned in all the Scriptures is the atoning death of Christ; a single one of our sins, before or after regeneration, left unatoned for by the blood of Jesus would sink us into everlasting perdition. The child of God who has sinned, and who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, humbly, sincerely, and penitently confesses and, forsakes his sins, is for the alone sake of Christ freely forgiven of all manner of sin (Matt. xii. 31; Job xxxiii. 27-28; Pa. xxxii. 5; Prov. xxviii. 13; Eph. i. 7; Acts v. 31; I John i. 7-9).

I was sorry to be informed that one of the able ministers whom I met believes in the annihilation of the wicked. This doctrine is as strongly unscientific as it is strongly unscriptural. Science proves that nothing is annihilated; and the following Scriptures prove that the wicked will not be annihilated, but will suffer forever, both in soul and body:—Dan. xi. 2; John v. 28-29; Matt. x. 28; xxv. 41-46; Mark ix. 43-48; Luke xvi. 23-26; ii Thes. i. 7-10; Rev. xiv. 11; xix. 20; xx. 10-15; xxi. 8; xxii 11-15. Such, has always been the belief of the people of God.

I learned that a worthy brother, chosen to be a deacon by his church, refused for several months to be ordained, because he said he could not believe the Article of Faith of his church and Association, that “there are three persons in the Godhead;” but that, after having been long labored with in vain by several Elders, he was finally and feelingly convinced by the argument that the “person” of the Father is plainly referred to in Heb. i 3, and that the word “image” must refer to the “person” of the Son, and that, if the Father and Son are “persons,” the Holy Ghost must also be a “person.” The Greek word hypostasis rendered person in Heb. i 3 is perhaps better rendered subsistence (as in the London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chap. iii Sec. 3); it does not mean an entirely separate and distinct individual, but that personal distinction, in the one indivisible Godhead, which arises from the peculiar mode of existence of Father, Son, and Spirit, as set forth in the Scriptures (no more and no less), and which occasions a mutual love and concurrence in council, and the use of the personal, pronouns, I and He, and a distinct order of operation—the Three Divine Persons being co-eternal, consubstantial, and co-equal, having the same identical numerical essence and the same attributes and constituting the One Only Living and True God, as revealed in the Scriptures and by His Spirit in the hearts of His people, and as totally distinguished from all the false gods of man’s imagination and invention. The Three-Oneness of God is clearly shown in the baptism of Christ, and in the baptism of every believer in Christ, and in the apostolic benediction (Matt. iii 16— 17; xviii 19; 2 Cor. xiii 14.)

At one of my appointments in Hamilton county Fla., a ministering brother was silenced, and then, at his own request, excluded from the church, for preaching the absolute predestination of all things in such a way as to charge the real blame of sin upon God, declaring that we can not do differently from what we do, because we are predestinated to do so, and that it is perfectly useless to exhort or admonish the children of God to do any better than they do. In regard to God’s connection with sin, he denied all the force of the word meaning to permit used 14 times in the Scriptures (2Chron. xxxii 31; Ps. lxxxi 12; Mark i 34; v 13; Luke iv 41; viii 32; Acts ii .23; vii 2; xiii 18; xiv 16; Rom. i 24, 26, 28; ix 22) and uttered, the most diabolical blasphemy ‘that’ I ever heard fall from human lips, saying:— “If I should take that little child and carry it to the river-bank and leave it; and a rattle snake should come and bite and kill it, I of course could say, ‘I didn’t do it,’ ‘I didn’t do it’ but’’ then, ‘I did do it.” Thus he most blasphemously represented the eternally and Infinitely Holy God as vainly, trying to excuse Himself from the blame of sin in allowing His creatures to sin. The human being who takes the little child to the riverbank, in the above illustration, is indeed ‘a’ murderer; but the Holy Creator and judge of man is ‘perfectly righteous to’ make man ‘upright, in His own image, and put him under a holy law, and, if he wilfully and rebelliously violates that law, to inflict upon him the just penalty of his transgression. The Most Holy One that inhabiteth eternity is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all; he does not even tempt, much less compel, His creatures to sin; He is, to sin in every form and every being, a continuing fire; even His sinless Son, when representing His sinful people, was forsaken of His holy and loving Father, and delivered up to suffer the horrible death of the cross (Isa. lvii 15; Habak i 13; i John I 13-15; Heb xii 29; Matt. xxvii 46; Acts ii 23.)

I heard of a great many weak-minded and deluded Methodists and New School Baptists in Georgia claiming to have attained sinless perfection in the flesh, some of whom disgraced and injured themselves by vainly trying to fly and to walk on the water, and of one, while professing holiness, indulging in the grossest sin.

On the same train with myself one day in Georgia, the notorious infidel, R. G. Ingersoll, asked an. illiterate Primitive Baptist lf he had ever seen God, and the Baptist answered, “Yes, in my experience.” Ingersoll confessed that the Baptist had the advantage of him, as he himself had never had such an experience; but he added that he did not deny that there is a God, and said that there might be three or four of them, that he had never seen them. Our brother asked him If he believed he (Ingersoll) had any brains; he replied that he did, and, when asked if he had ever seen his brains, he had to answer, “No.” ‘‘A more appropriate and convincing question would have been whether the infidel believed he had a mind, and whether he had ever seen his mind. The reality of the invisible mind is as certain as the reality of the visible body and the reality of the invisible, omnipresent divine Spirit, is as certain as the reality of the visible and invisible works made and upheld by him. The one-ness of the universe proves the oneness of God; and, in the North American Review of August, 1881, Ingersoll admitted  that, if there is a God of Nature, he is the same as the God of the Bible.

On my tour I met with the admirable little book, “My Reason for Leaving the New School or Missionary Baptists,” by Elder John H. Fisher, of Collinsville, Texas; who mails it for 25 cents per copy, or $2.50 per dozen copies. It contains 127 pages, and is divided into 18 chapters, 9 of which treat of the unscriptural doctrines, and 9 of the unscriptural practices of the New School Baptists. Elder Fisher was pastor of four of their churches, with a salary of $800 per year, and a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Louisville, Ky. He had a great struggle of mind in leaving them and joining the, few, poor and despised Primitive Baptists. He writes ably and kindly of his former brethren. I would be glad if all the subjects of grace in all the denominations could read this little work.

The ninth Chapter of Eld. Fisher’s book speaks of the “affiliation (of New School Baptists) with nearly all kinds of secret institutions of men,” which he shows to be plainly condemned by such Scriptures as Matt. x 26-27; vi 24; Eph. v 11-13; Luke xiv 33; Col. ii 20-23; 2 Cor. vi 14-18; Judg ii 1-2; and Rev. xviii 4. The Masonic, claimed to be the most ancient of these Secret Societies, is explained (in its purposes, ceremonies, signs, degrees, and awful oaths, with an authenticated account of the abduction and murder of the author in the mouth of Niagara River, in 1826) in Captain William Morgan’s Freemasonry Exposed‘(sold by L. Fitzgerald, 18 Ann St., New York, for 25 cents.) Modern Speculative Freemasonry, as critical scholars. know, while having some vague analogies with the secret heathen rites of ancient Greece and Egypt, can not be traced back, by authentic history, to Solomon, or Moses, or Adam on the first day of his creation, as some credulous Masons believe, but finds its true historical precursors in the Building Corporations of the Middle Ages, and itself actually originated in London, June, 24th 1717 (see the Ninth Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. ix, page 749.) The Masonic traditional additions to the Scriptures (see Rev. xxii 18) are as mythical and incredible as those of Roman Catholicism. The Church of Christ is the only Divine Society on earth, and it needs none of the additions or pretended improvements of me-n. ‘The anti-Christianity (i John ii 18; iv 3) of Secret Societies is proved by their ignoring the name and salvation of Jesus Christ. A Youngite Baptist told me that he had been a Mason 30 years, and that it had never done him, and he was satisfied never would do him, 25 cents worth of good. One of the most intelligent Masons in the United States, Mr. E. J. Hale, of N. C. and then of N. Y. wrote a few years ago, in the Raleigh Observer that he had long since ceased to attend Masonic Lodges, because he found that his time could be more profitably employed. Masonry is substituted for Christianity in the usual obituary declarations that deceased members have all gone to the Lodge Above.

I met, on my trip, with perhaps the youngest Primtive Baptist in the world, sister Ada Moran, of Okapilco, Brooks county Ga. She is eleven years old, and was baptized last October, after telling a satisfactory and touching experience reaching back two years. And the most remarkable family, in some respects, that I ever visited, is that of brother Wm. W. Williams, of Ty Ty, Worth county Ga.; he and his wife are living, and have 13 children, of whom 10 are at home, 5 boys and 5 girls; five are Primitive Baptists, and four others have a hope, and all are excellent singers and performers, carrying all the different parts in music, and seem to be able to sing every hymn in the note books, and make their commodious home seem a heavenly place. This dear brother is himself about to build a good meeting-house near his home.

I was glad to learn that one of our most able and esteemed ministers in Georgia had been faithful a n d bold enough to teach and train his four churches to obey the Apostle Paul’s injunction, in I Cor. ix, to furnish their pastor a temporal support, and that two others of our worthiest elders there are following in the same scriptural line.

I attended a Union Meeting of the Echeconnee Association with Mount Carmel Church, near Culloden, Monroe county Ga., the last three days of March; and it was a union indeed—a time of blessed and wonderful peace and love and joy—a most interesting, tender, and melting time, not only the speakers but hundreds of the eager and attentive hearers seeming to be blessed with the outpouring of the Divine Spirit.

Eld. W. C. Cleveland took me 18 miles in his buggy from the Union Meeting, Monday, April 1st, to Butler, Ga., where, when I left home Feby. 1st, I hoped to meet dear brother Respess on the first of April—my first idea of making this trip having been suggested by him to me when I was last with him at his home in Feb. 1894; but the freed and purified spirit of the humble, self-sacrificing, and afflicted servant of Christ had, on Feb. 4th ascended, I believe, into the immediate, holy, and blissful presence of God; and it was a most mournful pleasure to me to visit and try to speak words of comfort to his sorely-bereaved family and church Patriarchs, prophets, apostles, ministers, and members pass away; but the Divine Head of the Church ever lives, and will never leave nor forsake His people, but will be with them, in His gracious and saving presence, to the end of life, the end of time, and the never-ending ages of eternity. S. HASSELL

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.