by Elder Louis Holder
All the Baptist histories that I am familiar with, such as Hassel’s, Orchard’s, Armitage’s, even Carrolls’ little red booklet, “The Trail of Blood” all claim that the Baptists are the descendants of the original Christians. We do not claim an unbroken line of churches from the beginning to now because our ancestors were persecuted and our churches and records were burned. Our ancestors have been called by many different names in different times and places, Christians first (Acts 11:26), then Novationists, after the first major schism, then Donatists, Albigenses and Waldenses in France, Lollards in England, and so on for dozens of different names over the years. In this country, we were just Baptists until the early 1800’s when the division over the question “Is a belief in the gospel required for eternal salvation?” separated the Baptists into two different camps. One group was at first called “General Baptists” because they contended that Jesus’ atonement for sin applied to all humans, saved or lost. The other group were called “Particular Baptists” because they contended that Jesus atoned for the sins of the Elect only, and did not die in vain in any degree. This group soon took the name “Primitive”, meaning “Original” to differentiate themselves from the others. We claim to be today’s Novationists.
There are two questions we must ask ourselves before we proceed further:
#1 Were the early Christians really Christian in their practice and doctrine as received from the Apostles?
#2 This is a simple yes or no: Do men have the authority to add to, take away from, or change in any way the organization or teaching of the church as established by Jesus and the Apostles?
If you answer yes to this question, then there is no limit to what can be taught and practiced and called Christianity.
If your answer is no, we have adequate history now to tell us what the early church was like, a very simple service based on the pattern of synagogue services. (See the Article “The Early Church”)
Tithing: We had a neighbor once who had “got religion” and liked to talk about her newfound belief A LOT. One day as she was expounding on “the duty of tithing”, she asked me if I tithed 10% or more. I told her that Primitive Baptists did not believe in tithing. She rejoined, “Well you are sure going to Hell then.”
The purpose of tithing is clearly spelled out in Deut. 18: 1-8.
The early church believed that tithing was a Jewish practice, not enjoined upon Christians. The duty of tithing was finally established by the Catholics in Macon, France in 585 A.D. and made a legal obligation by Charlemagne shortly after.
Tertullian wrote in 197 A.D. (A Source Book For Ancient Church History by J.C. Ayer)
Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase money, as if our religion had its price. On the regular day in the month, or when one prefers, each one makes a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able; for no one is compelled, but gives voluntarily. These gifts are, as it were, piety’s deposit fund. For they are taken thence and spent, not on feasts and drinking-bouts, and thankless eating houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined to the house, likewise the shipwrecked, and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly for such work of love that many place a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another!
The simple truth is that tithing is not taught to the Christians anyplace in the Bible, all references of the subject are to the Jews and their obligation under the Mosaic law. We are not under the Mosaic law, therefore those injunctions do not apply to us. To read more, do a web search “Early views on tithing”, it’ll be interesting.
Instrumental Music: All Primitive Baptists that I know of sing” a cappella” in our church services. The Bible is absolutely devoid of any reference to the use of any of the musical instruments that were available in Apostolic days. Church history locates the first use of instrumental music in worship services, to the early 600’s in a Catholic church.
We had a lady visitor, who brought her Primitive Baptist mother to church sometimes, who told me one day that she would never join a church that did not use instrumental music. Well then, she would not have been a Christian for the first 600 years of the church, and then she would have had to be a Catholic. Do a web search on “The first use of instrumental music in church”, lots of references.
David Benedict, in his book “50 Years Among the Baptists”, wrote about the introduction of instruments thus:
Strong prejudices, however, for a time existed in the minds of many of our old members against the “big fiddle” as the bass viol was called, and indeed against all kinds of musical instruments, and church difficulties often arose on this account. But by degrees these prejudices subsided as the people became more and more interested in the performances of their singing choirs, (and the older members died off-L.H.) and their congregations were augmented by the new (L.H.) attractions in their religious worship……Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries,…
Feet Washing: The Primitive Baptists in the south, so far as I know, wash one another’s feet once or twice a year along with their observance of the Lord’s Supper. My studies tell me that many of the northern brethren do not do so and that this has never been a test of fellowship. Why do we do it?
The only place in the Bible that mentions this practice is John 13. In the 14th and 15th verses Jesus says:
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”
That’s good enough for me. I suppose the “ought” instead of a “must” is the loophole some use.
One of my work friends told me one day that he had to go to church that evening because they were observing “Maundy Thursday”. I had run across that term in my studies and knew that it is a Holy day for the observance of Jesus’ washing the Apostles’ feet. I said, “Do you guys wash feet?” He laughed at the ridiculous suggestion and said, “No we have a pancake supper.” The picture flashed into my mind of Jesus walking around the table with a plate full of pancakes and saying, “Here, Peter, have a pancake”. Oh well, different strokes for different folks.
Secret Societies: Some time after I joined the Primitive Baptists I was told that we did not join secret societies. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, nor study anything about it until years later. The one argument that meant the most to me is this. Most of these societies have what is called a “religious character”, that is, they require candidates to profess a belief in God (only), they offer prayers, and perhaps other religious activities. The problem is that other non-Christian faiths can join and prayers made in the name of Jesus are offensive to these other faiths, so in meeting houses where this mixture of faiths exists, Jesus is not mentioned in the prayers. Why should this bother me? Because Jesus said: And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14: 13-14)
I believe that when I pray I should ask that my requests be fulfilled in Jesus’ name and for his sake, because I belong to him. He is mine and I am his; I don’t feel that I should deny him in prayer in order to please non-believers.
Sunday School: The beginning of today’s modern Sunday school, considered a necessity by most churches, was in 1780, when a good man named Robert Raikes saw an evil condition that could be remedied by education. Many poor families, to avoid starvation, put their children to work in the factories owned by the wealthy. The children worked six days a week, and grew up as uneducated as their parents, thus perpetuating the next generation of child laborers. Raikes started a school in the home of a Mrs. Meredith to teach reading and then the catechism of the Church of England. There was opposition from various quarters, but by 1831, one and a quarter million children were being taught in Sunday schools in England. This movement is generally seen as the forerunner of the present public school system in Great Britain.
Sunday school is, without question, another man made addition to the church. For nearly 1800 years the church somehow struggled along without this “necessity”. If you wish to accuse Jesus and the Apostles of ineptitude for failing to establish this addition to the church, be my guest.