Chapter 3 – The Great Awakening
Another very significant event in the history of our churches was the Great Awakening (1720-1760). A gradual awareness that many souls scattered throughout the American frontier were experiencing a sense of their lost and horrid sinfulness, turning to Christ for their only hope of salvation, and constituting congregations desiring the administration of baptism, spread from village to village, town to town, city to city, until the whole American frontier was seemingly a blazed in an Holy Spirit revival.
It would be unscholarly if we did not point out that many of these “Separate” congregations baptized themselves, and some only baptized by immersion those who were added to them. They were not Anabaptists. They did not rebaptize others already baptized.
In 1762, numbering only those churches in associations, messengers came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and “New England.” The total reported membership had grown to 5,970. This was fifty-one years before the rise of the Modern Missionary Movement in the United States. Before the rise of the so-called “Missionary” endeavors, itinerate preachers had filled the frontier. By 1790, twelve years before the formation of the New School’s Baptist Board of Foreign and Domestic Missions, there were now over 748 churches in associations, plus unnumbered independents scattered over the frontier, and over 60,970 Baptists in “associated capacity.”
It is off our subject a bit, but a quote from the 1803 Minute of the Philadelphia Association is of interest. The Clerk signing this was none other than the New Divinity usurper of the Association, William Staughton.
“In treating further on this subject (Work of The Holy Spirit) we shall show, 1st, That the children of the Lord only, are made partakers of the Holy Spirit in His operations on their hearts. And 2ndly, What is effected by the Holy Spirit in such. Many well-meaning persons have certainly handled this subject very injudiciously: and we are convinced, if they would but for a moment consider, they must see into what difficulties they are involved; and that if they have a system of doctrine at all, they must systematically become Arminians, [Which they certainly did! –Ed.] as it is impossible to hold the precious doctrines of grace upon such ground. It is not uncommon for many, from whom we might have expected better things, after treating upon some of the sublime doctrines of the gospel, in applying their subject and addressing impenitent and unrenewed sinners, to tell them God’s most holy Spirit has been striving with them from their infancy up, and that hitherto His attempts have been unsuccessful. If such doctrine is according to godliness, brethren, you will discover that the sinner, and not the Spirit of God, is omnipotent; and that from henceforth, instead of saying confidently, that the “dead shall hear His voice and live,” (John 5:25), we must always add, “provided men will condescend to let the Holy Spirit work,” since then, and not till then, shall they be quickened or made alive. Such doctrine is evidently in direct opposition to the Scriptures of truth; for the sinner, prior to regeneration, is always represented as passive, and therefore is declared to be dead, (Eph. 2:1), and is said to “be born;” to “be begotten.” As the creature begotten, cannot be said to be active prior to his existence, or be the instrument of its own existence, these expressions fully show, that it does not depend upon the favorable reception the divine Spirit meets with, that the work of grace is effected in the soul.”
(Minute, 1803, written by William White, signed by Samuel Jones Moderator; and William Staughton, Clerk.)
With the effects of the Great Awakening, over 250 churches in New England alone came out of Presbyterian, Congregational, and Episcopal institutions, conformed to the New Testament pattern and began baptizing by immersion of believers only, and becoming congregational in church form. Hence, they were “Baptists.”
However, having not been baptized by “Baptists,” [although some were] they were called Separate Baptists. The Six Principle Baptists, and Particular Baptists of the original baptized churches of Christ became known as Regular Baptists to distinguish the two groups from each other. The independent Particular Baptists most often kept their distinct name as before, whereas the “associated” churches, led by the Philadelphia Association in the North and Kehukee Association in the South began to call themselves Regular Baptists for a brief period. And as noted before, these two groups merged into the United Baptist Churches of Christ in Virginian and later (1806) in Kentucky.
We reemphasize the point here: the “names” are not Biblical, nor necessary, per se. They only identify parties under particular conditions, as the above clearly demonstrates. New conditions, as errors increase, will also have ramifications upon what churches are called publicly. But we must note, that if one drives up to most of the baptized churches of Christ of the predestinarian and old school faith and order, they will find no church “Sign” anywhere in sight!
In fact, the local community may not ever know the church has a “name.” They will most likely be known by other euphuisms, as “They are “Hardshells;” or, “Hypers,” “A family church,” etc.
Churches in Virginia and the Carolinas were most often of the General Baptist (Freewill) persuasion. Desiring fellowship with other “baptized churches of Christ,” they invited the Philadelphia Association to send ministers among them. This resulted in the reconstitution of these General (freewill) Baptists, and the formation of associations in the Southern seaboard and Piedmont, and these reconstituted and associated churches adopted the London Confession of Faith of 1689.
So far, so good! But they also fell into the trap set by the Philadelphia to organize independent churches into a National Baptist Church. With their conversion, the corresponding orders were established. That is, the associations, united together by electing or appointing delegates (sometimes called “messengers”) to each association in a chain of correspondence with other associations, etc., binding them together as one state or national organization. To get control of these independent churches, the associations portentously denied by their written Constitution that they “would lord it over the churches, nor infringe upon their liberties,” but did, however, in fact do that very thing.
The instrument of their power grabbing was this phrase: “but (the association) shall be an advisory council only.” They left unsaid what would happen if a local church should feel it necessary to refuse their advice!
By the time they found out, the associations had ardent enforcers already planted in each church, known as “delegates” or “messengers.” Later, with the rise of the Modern Missionary organization, some associations established an office called “the Director of Missions,” or “Doms” who enforced the rule of the collected associations, or corresponding order, within his association. This tyranny remains to this day in such churches that are not vigilant, and independent minded.
Throughout history, there have always been Anabaptists who were separate and apart from Rome, State religions and organized institutional religious entities. Millions throughout the ages have been put to death for their peaceful opposition and refusal to join into union with the corrupt parties, and have been considered “counter-churches” to established religions. The first Crusade in 1208 was against the Albigenses and Waldenses, and by the cruel instrument of the Inquisition, thousands were slaughtered in Europe.
If the reader is interested in this aspect of history, we recommend John Fox’s Book of Martyrs and especially the Catholic Encyclopedia, which may be found in college libraries. Just look in the footnotes of each century under “heretics,” and the Roman religious institution proudly boast of how many they killed in that century! Mosheim’s History of the Church does the same.
The Particular Baptists in America were clearly “Predestinarians.”
At first, they were independent of each other, but communicated together frequently, and accepted each other in mutual faith and respect. They were decidedly of the “old school,” or “old order,” having no auxiliaries to the church, no instruments of entertainment except the preaching of the gospel and the feast of charity. Those observing a feast of charity most often washed feet following the Lord’s Supper. (See:Ordinances of a Gospel Church)
Singing was, in earliest times, none at all; then the singing of metered Psalms were introduced; and later “lined” singing prevailed until the Sacred Harp and Christian Harmony’s singing of musical notes, a cupella, gave rise to metered tunes whereby lyrics could be sung. No church with instrumental music, choirs, special vocalists, Sunday Schools, missions, etc., is considered “Old School.” (As one of our hymns reads, “They never were cloyed in hymning the Lamb” # 206).
The rationale is simple: it is difficult enough to keep the “flesh” out of our devotions as it is.
Stirring it up in “God’s” name is counterproductive to our better enjoyment of His blessed Spirit. It can be, in practice, “taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”