WHO ARE THE OLD SCHOOL OR PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS?

“Let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” Isa. 4:1.

The mocking Ishmaelites who first applied to us the name of “Old School Baptists,” by way of reproach charging us with being centuries behind the progressive age in which we live, have more recently discovered some charm in the title which they would now gladly recall and append to “the number of their own name.” Although they have for the last forty years boasted of progression in their doctrine and order, and claimed to be very far in advance of what the church of Christ had ever been, they have recently fallen mightily in love with the idea of antiquity.

A friend has sent us two numbers of a paper published in Memphis, Ten., by J.R. Graves, who has himself “boxed the compass” of modern Theology, in which is given a rehash of an article written by John M. Peck, in his paper called the “Banner and Pioneer,” twenty or thirty years ago, and which was promptly met and refuted in the “Signs of the Times,” at about the same time. By items unfairly and untruthfully garbled from history, which had been ingeniously manufactured for the purpose, he charges upon the original Philadelphia Association, and upon the Welsh and English Baptists of a still earlier date, some innovations upon the apostolic faith and order, as shown by the inspired testimony of the New Testament, and then exultingly shouts, with an air of triumph, that inasmuch as they have copied and greatly enlarged upon these pretended innovations of the Baptists of from one to two hundred years ago, they are entitled to the cognomen, Old School, or Primitive Baptists, and that the Anti-Mission Baptists have stolen the name from them. Whether the title belongs legitimately to them or to us, the charge of stealing it comes with a bad grace from them, who first applied it to us, and for years upbraided us as old fogies, hundreds of years behind the times.

It will be observed, that in their attempt to establish their right to the name, they do not go back more than from two to three hundred years. Now suppose they could prove by the most unquestionable history that all their modern humanly devised institutions, from their great National Missionary Societies, to their Strawberry Festivals, had been patronized and practiced religiously in the church, as a means of salvation, for five hundred, or even a thousand years, would that prove them to be the true apostolic church? As well may the Papists, by laboring to prove a lineal descent from the apostles, claim that with all their abominations they are the genuine Catholic Church of Christ which was set up at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

But Mr. Peck, with all his labored researches, has utterly failed to show that the Baptists in America, or in any other country, ever heard of a Missionary Society, a Sabbath School Union, a Tract Society, or any other of their numerous brood of unscriptural organizations, until the present century. And he has very wisely failed even to make an attempt to show that any such institutions were known in the days of the apostles. Imagine how such a record would read:

And it came to pass, when Paul came to Jerusalem, he called together the apostles and faithful brethren, and invited the learned rabbies, and the wealthy men of Israel, and also of the Gentiles who had wealth and influence; and when the multitude were gathered together, the apostle beckoned with his hand, and lifted up his voice; and said, Men and brethren, I perceive that the laws and institutions enacted by our King are not sufficient for the salvation of men, and I propose the organization of sundry great national Societies; for our Lord has said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Whereupon the suggestion pleased the multitude, and Rev. Simon Magus, after an eloquent appeal, moved the organization of a National Missionary Society, into which every one who would give money should be members, and those who would give more money should be Directors, Life Members, Life Directors, Presidents, or Vice Presidents, &c., for he verily believed that the gifts of the Holy Ghost could be procured for money. The Rev. Simon Peter urged the necessity of such an institution, as eminently calculated to save thousands of souls, and ultimately to convert the whole world, and moved that a Board of Directors should be appointed, of which the Rev. Mr. Paul should be President, Rev. Dr. Luke Secretary, and the very Rev. Judas Iscarot Treasurer, and farther, that an Executive Committee should be authorized to collect funds, provide for manufacturing an ample supply of missionaries, colporteurs, Tract peddlers, Sabbath School teachers and superintendents, and that the machine be immediately put in motion, and throughout all time those who would give the most money should have all the highest offices, &c.

We might greatly extend the burlesque, but we pause to enquire of every candid reader, Which party does the picture resemble - the Missionary, or Anti-Missionary Baptists? We are by no means tenactious for the name Old School; if it properly belongs to the Missionary party, we will cheerfully yield it to them. When we accepted it at the convention held at Black Rock, Md., in 1832, we published to the world that it was not chosen by us, and would only be accepted as a distinguishing cognomen, provided that it should not be construed to allude to any system of scholastic divinity, but to mean that we claim to be pupils in the school of Christ Jesus our Lord.

For the antiquity of the order to which we profess to belong, we cannot stop short of the church as organized at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. And by the distinctive name Primitive Baptists, which title we greatly prefer, to that of Old School, we profess exact conformity to the doctrine, faith and order of the church in her primitive state. If Mr. Peck, or now that he is dead, Mr. Graves, who in his last dodge assumes the position formerly occupied by his “illustrious predecessor,” will show us that the apostles and apostolic church patronized, or enjoined upon the church of Christ to practice any or all of the institutions which now distinguish the Missionary, from those called Anti-Missionary Baptists, we will hold ourselves bound to embrace them. With a consciousness of our short comings, we aim to adhere strictly to the order of the primitive church, and to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers, and trust alone in God to add unto his church such as shall be saved.

We do not dispute that disorders and unwarrantable innovations have from time to time marked and marred the history of the true church, both before and since the days of the apostles, but we hold it to be unwise, unsafe and forbidden, that we should copy or practice any innovation, or follow even the holy apostles any farther than they followed Christ. Nay, if Paul himself, or an angel from heaven, should teach any other doctrine than that which was taught by divine inspiration to the primitive disciples, we are forbidden to receive it.

The apostles were commanded to teach baptized believers to observe all things whatsoever Christ had commanded them. No more, no less. No doctrine or institutions which may have been sanctioned even in the church of God, for which no precept or example can be found in the laws and institutions given by Christ, through his inspired apostles to the church, can be received or countenanced by the saints, without disloyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the King and Head over all things to his church.

If our adversaries would dispute our right to the appellations, Old School, or Primitive Baptists, let them show by New Testament scriptures where Christ commanded, or the apostles taught, or the primitive church practiced any of the doctrines or institutions which today distinguish the Missionary Baptists, {so called} from those who are called Old School, or Primitive Baptists! If our Lord Jesus Christ has commanded or authorized the forming of Missionary Societies, Missionary Boards, or any machinery for manufacturing missionaries, or ministers, or Sabbath Schools, or Tract, or any other Societies, as appendages to his church, let our accusers point to us the chapter and the verse, or place where such authority is recorded in the scriptures. Until they can do this, none of their railing and abuse can move us from a steadfast adherence to the divine rule.

The claim of the modern Missionary Baptists to the title of Primitive Baptists, reminds us of the sailor’s jack knife, which he said had had seven new blades, and four new handles, but was the same identical knife still. We know of no particular in which they differ from us, in which they do not differ also from the apostolic church.

In conclusion, we will say for the information of all who wish to know what position we occupy, that we hold that the laws, ordinances, teachings and instructions, given us in the New Testament, are full, perfect and complete, and that all that is not there enjoined upon the saints, is forbidden; and if any man add to the words written in the New Testament, God shall add to him the plagues that are therein written. And if any shall diminish from that divine rule, he shall be expelled from all the privileges of the church of God.

We patronize no institutions, however plausible or popular, that was not enjoined by Christ and his apostles, and practiced in the primitive church; nor do we oppose any society, doctrine or ordinance, that was approved by Christ, and practiced by the apostles and New Testament saints.

Middletown, N.Y.
July 15, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe