As brother Stipp has felt it his duty to defend the practice of shaking of hands, we make room for his communication on the subject, although we had hoped that the subject had been sufficiently ventilated for all necessary purposes. We had said all that we desired to say in regard to it: and brother Vamneter, as will be seen by a note from him in this paper, has declined to pursue the subject any further. We presumed the brethren generally would form their own judgment, and act accordingly. If in our remarks we implied a charge of idolatry on those who have indulged in the practice, we must have done so inadvertently, and will retract to that extent. We do not believe that those who have favored the practice have done so with any evil design; nor have we ever thought to make the matter a test of fellowship.
We would not now perpetuate the agitation on the subject, but to meet such appeals as brother Stipp has made directly to us; and to correct any misapprehensions any may entertain of our views or feelings on this, and on other subjects. Although we did not design to be understood that our only objection to shaking of hands in time of religious devotion was that it was not taught, or enjoined by the Scriptures, we do think that every thing should be avoided in our religious devotions which has neither precept nor example in the divine rule. But we gave other reasons for our objections, as will be seen by a re-perusal of what we wrote.
If we are indulging in any unscriptural religious practice, we are inexcusable, and we should be ready and willing to give it up; and if we know our own heart, we are. But we are yet to be convinced that the preaching of the gospel at any time or place where a door is opened for that purpose, and an assembly is convened and willing to give an orderly attendance, though at a funeral, a wedding, or at any other public gathering, provided that in doing so, we are not otherwise transgressing some divine rule. If brother Stipp is under the impression that we are in the habit of performing popish mummeries, saying mass for the dead, or pretending to pray souls out of purgatory, or that we are giving countenance to the notion that we are doing any thing for the purpose of changing the state and condition of the dead, or that we avail ourself of the time when relatives feel tender, to excite their passions, or any thing of the kind, he is greatly mistaken. If we have not mistaken the command of the Holy Ghost by Paul to Timothy, to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season,” etc., we have found in it authority to preach the word on all occasions when and where an audience are desirous to hear and willing to listen. And we are inclined to believe that preaching at all times and places is either in season or out of season. We have often publicly protested that our only object in preaching at funerals is to preach the gospel, that we can do nothing to change the state of the dead. If, however, it can be shown that preaching at such times and places is unauthorized by the precepts of Christ, on being convinced we will certainly desist. But should it be fully proved and admitted that we have transcended all gospel authority, we cannot perceive that such a decision would justify any other wrong or unscriptural practice.
Brother Stipp thinks we have encouraged the practice of publishing the verses on the subject of giving and taking “the parting hand,” etc. Without attempting any justification of our own wrongs, which we confess are by far too many, we will remind brother Stipp that we have not designedly raised any objection to brethren and sisters shaking hands on meeting and on parting. Indeed, it is the common practice with the Old School Baptists in the East as well as in the West, and none have perhaps indulged in the practice more heartily than ourself. It is not the taking and parting hand that we object to; for when parting or meeting such greetings seem to us very appropriate. What we understand brother Williams to object to was the interruption of public devotion; as when in preaching a brother expresses a sentiment that is approved, for those who are pleased to offer him their hand to shake.
While, however, we feel partial to the hymn on taking the parting hand as suitable when closing our social meetings, we cannot say so much for the last couplet, copied from our Hymn Book, viz.:
“To meet you in glory I give you my hand,
Our Savior to praise in a pure social band.”
We do not know of any connection between our hands and the prospect of meeting our kindred in glory. If it is intended to express a pledge or a vow, it is presumptuous and wicked; but if it is only designed to express the giving the hand of Christian fellowship to such as we hope to meet in glory, the sentiment is correct.
On the subject of kissing, with the kiss of charity, we take rather a different view from that we understand brother Stipp to express. Where the apostle commands the saints to greet one another with a holy kiss of charity, we can defend no right to change the kiss for any other form of greeting. We object to receiving baptism as a substitute for circumcision, or sprinkling for baptism, or the first day for the seventh. Brother Stipp has judged us prematurely in his conclusion that we have not conformed to this apostolic injunction. If indeed we have failed, it has been from a lack of that holy unimpassioned fervor of charity which is required; for we have complied with the outward form. It is a common practice among our Scotch brethren in Canada, and when in their company we have conformed to the practice; also in other places, and among other brethren who are very dear to us. But we should think it disorderly and out of place to interrupt a minister while preaching, either to shake his hand or to kiss him.
We have now said about all we have to say on this subject. We have no desire to force our own peculiar views on our brethren. We will only admonish them in the words of sacred inspiration, to “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
May 15, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 196 – 198