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Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
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This reformation in the rapidity of its growth is without parallel in the history of Protestant parties. Those acquainted with its history need not be told that a large number of its members were at first drawn from the Baptists. It is indeed a matter of wonder that a Presbyterian minister, but a short time identified with the Baptists, should exert such an influence over them as to induce a great multitude _of_ churches and church members to resolve that when he was driven out of the Baptist Church they also would share his fortune, and accept loss of reputation and exclusion from their former brotherhood for the sake of the principles they had learned from him.

Now, when we reflect that this embraced not only young men, but old men--men already arrived at that period of life at which it is most difficult to change our habits of thinking and acting, it becomes a question of profoundest interest; were these men able to make a change so radical as to plant themselves completely on reformation principles, and to abandon everything in their old Baptist order incompatible therewith?

When we remember that this movement embraced gray-haired Baptist ministers, who all their lifetime had been accustomed to lead and not to follow, we curiously inquire, Did they do this, or did they locate themselves on a sort of half-way ground which was a compromise between reformation principles and old Baptistism?

Let us briefly notice wherein they changed, and wherein they did not change.

1. They laid aside the name Baptist and took the name Christian.

2. They built upon the Bible alone, instead of the Philadelphia Confession of faith.

3. They taught that the church began at Pentecost, rather than with the preaching of John the Baptist.

4. They baptized men into a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, that he is the Messiah, rather than into a Christian experience, made up of voices in the air, marvelous and strange sights, trances and rapturous feelings.

5. They taught that in conversion and sanctification, the Holy Spirit operates through the truth.

Thus far the change was radical, but here a large minority paused and brought with them into the reformation their old Baptist Church usages. The Baptists in the Great West and South are known as "Missionary Baptists," and "Old Baptists," or "Hardshell Baptists." Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice, who had been sent to Burmah by a Congregational Missionary Society, made known to the Baptists that they themselves had become Baptists, and had been repudiated by their own society, and asked for help. The Missionary Baptists are by far the most enterprising in all that pertains to the spread of Christianity. They are the most numerous, most wealthy, best educated, and most liberal. In translating the Bible into all languages, in carrying it into all lands, and in sending the gospel to all nations, they have made some amends for that unrelenting bitterness which they have shown toward our brethren from the first day till now. We shall glance at what has hitherto been their order by making certain extracts from the _Central Baptist_, published in the year 1870. The reader must bear in mind that we are writing of those old days:

In Arkansas there are but four Missionary Baptist Churches that sustain a regular pastor, or sustain preaching more than once a month. In North Alabama, two; in the whole of Alabama, twelve; in Missouri, twenty-seven. Missouri has six hundred white churches, with a membership of fifty thousand, which have preaching once a month. Once a month preaching by secularized ministry! Is it any wonder that the cause does not go forward faster? Not more than two dozen out of seven hundred churches in Missouri have service every Sunday.

 

Let us pause a moment over this picture of Southern and Western Baptist Churches, drawn by themselves. In Arkansas but four churches had at this time preaching every Lord's day; in Alabama, twelve, and in Missouri twenty-four out of seven hundred! Well may the writer ask, "Is it any wonder that the cause does not go forward faster?"

But if this was the order of the Missionary Baptists in the year 1870, what must have been the order of the Old Baptists seventy years before, when "Raccoon" John Smith was groping his way out of darkness into the light of the gospel, all unconscious of his utter blindness, that the reading of the Scriptures would conduce, either directly or indirectly, to his regeneration or sanctification.

The people known as "Hardshell" Baptists do not wish to be called by that name. They wish to be known as Old Baptists, or United Baptists, for they allege that they are the lineal descendants of the United Baptists, and that the Missionary Baptists have apostatized, and gone away after strange gods. The Old Baptists had long been declaiming against college-bred preachers and a hireling ministry. They had certain pet theories concerning man's inability and God's sovereignty concerning a certain special, supernatural, immediate and efficacious work of grace on the heart of the sinners. They said, "If God wants a missionary, he can send him, and maintain him, too. He needs no human help in the conversion of sinners, whether at home or abroad. We can find no Scripture for Sunday-schools, Bible classes, prayer-meetings, weekly meetings, hireling preachers, missionaries or missionary societies." So they kept to their monthly meetings and monthly preaching.

They have no schools of learning, few educated men, no well-educated men, no missionaries, no contributions for missionary purposes, no weekly meetings, no weekly preaching, no weekly breaking of the loaf, no Sunday-schools, no Bible classes, no prayer-meetings. But they have monthly preaching, by a man who is reputed a pastor over four churches, and who, in the nature of things, can not reside in three of the four churches over which he professes to preside. He obtains but meager pecuniary reward for his preaching. He therefore provides for his own sustenance and that of his family by the labor of his own hands. For this reason he must needs go to his appointments on Saturday, and return on Monday morning, and is therefore comparatively a stranger to the greater part of his four several flocks. He can not know their daily life. A few preachers among the old Baptists preeminently godly, self-sacrificing, and devoted to the Lord's cause, have left their families to suffer poverty and want, and have spent their lives in looking after the stray lambs of the flock; but this is not the general rule. This Baptist bishop has no authority whatever in any matter of discipline, his function being that of a moderator in a Saturday business monthly meeting. The sitting in judgment on the alleged acts of disorderly members belongs to the whole church, men and women, boys and girls.

We are now prepared to take the measure of the means of spiritual culture enjoyed by this people. It is just one sermon a month; or, if they are peculiarly favored, it is three sermons a month. The children are left at home. They run wild like so many young apes, and wander along the streams or through the forests; or, if they are brought by their parents to the meeting, there is nothing especially for them.

It will be well for us to ponder well the inevitable consumption and slow decay that is surely wearing out these Old Baptist churches. Like the house of Saul, they are growing weaker and weaker. What a contrast between their condition now and seventy years ago. Then the United Baptists were the most powerful religious body in the great West. Then Jacob Creath and Jeremiah Vardeman could, if they had been so disposed, have elected the Governor of Kentucky. Then the Baptists were strong in the affections of the people, and strong in the memory of those men who had, through incredible toil, obloquy, poverty and loss of goods, planted the Baptist cause in the American wilderness. Alexander Campbell, with his eminent gifts of eloquence and learning, was welcomed among the Baptists almost as an angel from heaven. But his well-meant efforts to work a reformation in the Baptist churches were despised, and he was thrust out as a heathen man and publican.

What treasures untold reside in the Lord's house, the Lord's day, the Lord's book, and the ordinances of the Lord? It is the glory of Christianity. Now let the members of a Christian Church fail to meet at the Lord's house for Christian worship on the Lord's day, and to what snares and temptations do they not subject themselves and their children? What temptations to idleness and to wasting the Lord's day in visiting and gossiping, or in drowsy lethargy!

The sanctification of the Lord's day by meeting in honor of the resurrection of the Saviour, and especially with a reference to the celebration of the Lord's supper, is essential to the edification, spirituality, holiness, usefulness and happiness of the Christian community. It is not designed to throw into the shade any other duties of the Christian Church while contending for those above stated; but because no society save the Disciples of Christ so regard, observe and celebrate the Lord's day. We endeavor to arrest the attention of our fellow professors to the great design of it and of the coming together of the members of Christ's family on that day. When assembled for this chief purpose, the reading of the Scriptures, teaching, exhortation, prayer, praise, contributions for the poor, and discipline when called for, are all in order and necessary to the growth of the Christian Church in all the graces of the Spirit, and in all the fruits of holiness.--ALEX. CAMPBELL, in _Millennial Harbinger,_ Vol. I., p. 534, New Series.

 

And what an audacious wrong and unutterable blunder would it be for God's chosen people to adopt an order that should defraud themselves, their children, their neighbors and their neighbor's children of such a glorious privilege.

If we could imagine two communities, one of which should, with their children and their children's children, diligently devote the Lord's day to purposes of moral, religious and intellectual improvement, while the other community should waste the day in idle and frivolous dissipation, what unmeasured progress would ultimately be made by one beyond that made by the other. And to which of these two classes will that favored people belong to whom will be awarded the high privilege of introducing among jarring sects and parties the true millennial church?

And do not these considerations go far to explain the contrast that is everywhere seen to exist between Protestant and Catholic countries? Among Protestants the day is a day to be sanctified to purposes of religious worship, among Catholics it is a holiday.

The peculiarity of our position creates an invincible necessity that we shall make the largest possible provision for the moral, intellectual and religious training and development of our people. This provision is largely found in keeping the ordinances of the Lord's house and the Lord's day. We have made a vow, and that vow is recorded in heaven, that we will meet together every first day of the week to break bread. To do otherwise--to show a good-natured imbecility of purpose--to drift helplessly along in the usages of the Old Baptists, conscious in our own hearts that this is not the ancient order of things, and having sternly demanded conformity to the apostolic order, at whatever sacrifice of peace, now to suffer our own brethren to travel on in the old ruts, rather than hazard the pain and trouble that will be the price of reform, would be a folly so inexcusable, a shame so unutterable, that the very stones might well cry out against us.

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