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What is a Primitive Baptist
Elder James Bibler
[date unknown – possibly mid 60’s early 70’s]
The triumphant church of Jesus Christ includes everyone who has felt the love of God in his heart. This heart-felt love of God does not depend upon religious affiliation. The church triumphant includes all of God's sincere praying people everywhere. God is their Heavenly Father, He places love in their hearts. He hears their cry in the night and answers their daily prayer. Heaven is certain to be their home.
Then there is the local, visible church of Jesus Christ. Search the New Testament, learn well the ideals, the doctrine and practice of the New Testament church. Then compare them with the Primitive Baptist church and see if this church is not nearer the standard of Christ and the apostles than any other church. We, the members of the Primitive Baptist church, believe our church is the visible church of Jesus Christ.
Always a Primitive Baptist is a true believer in salvation by the grace of the sovereign God. This glorious doctrine of salvation by grace embraces vastly more people than any other doctrine. The doctrine of sovereign grace embraces all of God's children everywhere regardless of their geographical location, their place in history or their local religious affiliations.
Hospitality always characterizes the Church of Jesus Christ and is one necessary qualification of any ordained elder. (Protestants from various branches, some Roman Catholics, Negroes, Indians, Jews and Hindus have expressed their appreciation of Primitive Baptist Hospitality.)
The local militant Church of Jesus Christ has been known by different names down through the ages such as, the First Puritans, Novationists, Paternines, Lollards, Menonites, Waldensees, French Huguenots, Albigenses, Anabaptists and other names. The following essential doctrines and practices always identify the True Church of Jesus Christ:
1. Belief in God and the authority of the Holy Scriptures;
2. Believers' Baptism ("bring forth fruits meet for repentance"), "Profession of your faith."
3. The Priesthood of the Believer, "Every man a priest," the "Royal Priesthood," the spiritual offering of each praying person. "Each man may worship God according to his own conscience." This is much better than worshiping God according to the dictates of those without a conscience.
4. Separation of Church and State ("Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's,") neither looking to Washington, D. C. for a "hand-out" nor to Rome for instruction. This is always in contrast to the worldly church which continually covets the tax payer's money. The unholy union of Church and State is always the enemy of religious freedom and has caused the persecution of millions. James Madison warned against the first small encroachment. How truly he spoke, because he was a personal witness to Baptist ministers imprisoned in the Colony of Virginia for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These often persecuted people were first called Baptists in the 17th Century. Today they are known as Primitive, or Old School Baptists, to distinguish them from the various other churches who call themselves Baptists. Perhaps they are better known as "Hard Shells," a name given them by their enemies. However, Mr. Sam Rayburn, who was a Primitive Baptist, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated publicly that he was a "Hard Shell Baptist." The true Primitive Baptists are not Protestants, as they did not separate from Catholicism, but Catholicism separated from them.
The Church was perfect as it came from the hands of Jesus; consequently, any change in perfection makes imperfection. Churches that have departed from the original New Testament pattern have no legal claim on true church succession, regardless of what name they may be called. Each individual church governs its internal affairs subject to Christ alone, its King and Law Giver.
Sometimes the church is large in number, for instance, in the New Testament we read of 3,000 being added to the church in one day. Other times it is referred to as "little flock." The church has always "contended for the faith once delivered to the Saints," caring more to be right before God than to be popular with men. For this they have endured much bitter opposition and persecution from both Catholic and Protestant who influenced the State against the Baptists. The true Church is always persecuted but never persecuting. It has sometimes been driven to worship in dens and caves of the earth, but never for one moment did this church cease to exist.
Dr. John Clarke, with eleven others, constituted the first Primitive Baptist Church in America at Newport, Rhode Island in 1638. Dr. Clarke was a Baptist minister and a doctor from London, 'being driven to America by persecution. "Regarding the mode of worship, the Primitive Baptists wish to be guided by the word of God. We believe it is our duty to meet often together and to communicate our thoughts together especially in the things which pertain to the advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom. (Mal. 3:16; I Cor. 10:31; Matt. 6:33; Heb. 10:25.) These things we shall endeavor to do."
The order of worship of the Primitive Baptists remains plain: simply singing, prayer and preaching. They engage in congregational singing with no choirs and no musical instruments because there is no New Testament authority for them. The sincere prayer of every true Primitive Baptist is to do no more, and certainly no less, than the New Testament authorizes.
The Primitive Baptists oppose Sunday Schools, aids, societies and all other auxiliaries for this reason: there is no New Testament authority. Primitive Baptists believe in teaching their children Bible truths. "We believe it is an incumbent duty on the heads of families to maintain the worship of God in their homes." (Eph. 6:4; Acts 20: 20; Jer. 10:25.) Children need to be taken to church to hear the pure gospel as they were for eighteen hundred years before Sunday Schools were added to the churches. It is an historical fact that the influence of the church and gospel preaching, together with learning the scriptures at home, has a much better influence upon the children than has the modern Sunday School. Is this not a challenge to every Christian father? Let him and each member of the family read aloud from the Bible. (How sad that some parents do not love their children enough to take them to church.)
The church is ''in the world, 'but not of the world." It is a house of worship and not for merchandise or entertainment and all sales, bazaars, shows, plays, parties, etc. are not authorized by the word of God.
The Primitive Baptist ministers are called "Elders," a New Testament word. (It is interesting to note: that the Strict Baptists of England refer to their ministers only as "Mr.") The title "Reverend" belongs only to God, never to man. Their ministers do not attend theological schools, for no school can prepare a man to preach. Paul said the Gospel he preached was not of man, neither was he taught it of man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Primitive Baptist ministers do not preach for salaries ("The hireling fleeth.") However, they receive some financial help in the way of free will offerings. The church usually contributes through the deacon.
Primitive Baptists do not believe baptism saves anyone eternally; Jesus is the only Saviour. "We consider that believers' baptism is to be performed by immersion, and is a gospel, not a church, ordinance. It should be administered only to those who give a "satisfactory relation of their faith in Christ, as preparatory to entering into the Church, and as a prerequisite to our Communion." (Acts 2:41-42.) Those baptized then receive the full fellowship of the Church. Baptism is administered by an ordained Elder, as is the Lord's Supper, to those who have been properly baptized. They receive the unleavened bread and the grape wine which are the emblems of the broken body and shed blood of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
It is of primary importance to note that Primitive Baptists always baptize those coming to them from other religious orders and denominations. In this, they keep company with the Anabaptists, meaning re-baptizers, first baptizing all who were accepted for membership, regardless of previous membership in other orders. Neither do Primitive Baptists allow the sprinkling of infants; "Infant Baptism" is not a doctrine of the New Testament. Baptize only those who come bringing "fruits meet for repentance," hence, believers baptism by immersion prevails. Jesus never commanded anyone to be sprinkled.
The Primitive Baptists believe in missionary work as directed by God, but are opposed to modern systems and missionary boards. Jesus said, "Go (not send) into all the world and preach the gospel." The power of the evangelist in the planting of churches is dynamic, urgent, and needs to be practiced and encouraged. Evangelists were active, not only in the planting of the New Testament Churches, 'but also in the Colonies of America. For instance, once Elder John Leland was approached with this question, "Why are you digging that hole?" Elder Leland replied, "I'm a Baptist preacher and I am digging a Baptistry." The citizen replied, "There are no Baptists around here." Then Elder Leland with vigorous faith answered, "There will be when I get the hole dug." King George, the third, had said, "Thou shalt not preach," but these pioneer evangelists knew their calling was of God.
Thirty-seven years ago I had the privilege of being in the home of Elder Lee Hanks in Atlanta, Georgia. During his evangelical work twenty-six new churches were planted. He did this by visiting in areas, winning little children and their parents, where no Primitive Baptist Church had existed. Jesus said, "Go into the highways and hedges and lovingly compel them to come in."
Primitive Baptists believe Jesus is the living Word. They believe the Bible is the written word, the inspired word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice. When the moral teaching of the Bible is truly lived by the members of the Church, the Church becomes God's blessing to the entire community. Yet most of the teachings of Jesus are addressed to His followers and the epistles are to direct the Church, and are not to the world in general. (The first few verses of each epistle will verify this.)
There is much misunderstanding throughout the religious world because of misapplication of the Bible. For instance, the popular text, "Behold I stand at the door 'and knock," is addressed to the lukewarm church and not to the alien sinner. (Rev. 3:20.) There are two phases of salvation spoken of throughout the Bible. One is eternal which is wholly by the grace of God. The other pertains to time, our life on earth.
Primitive Baptists believe in the Triune God, i.e., that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three, yet one, and equal in power. They are effectual in the eternal salvation of all of those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
The Primitive Baptist people differ from all others in their belief regarding eternal salvation. There can be no doubt that all people need salvation. The Bible refers to the dead in trespasses and sins; yet there are no degrees of death. None are willing or able to save themselves from this lost and ruined condition. Rather, in God's eternal love, He chose, elected, and predestinated the eternal salvation of multi-millions of persons. Only God knows the number and yet their particular names were recorded in Heaven before God created the world. "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world," (Eph. 1:4.)
Jesus came to earth, suffered and died for those chosen ones, and redeemed them from the awful curse of sin. The Holy Spirit calls, regenerates, and gives the New Birth, sometime during their life on earth. The Holy Spirit is always effectual, calling all of God's chosen people wherever they may be, regardless of whether they have heard the Gospel or read the Bible.
There is no text in the Bible that says that Christ came to offer salvation to anyone. It says, "He shall save His people," and He did just that. Primitive Baptists believe what Jesus said, "Ye must be born again," but that this spiritual birth cannot be brought about by all the combined efforts of men. Life must precede all feeling and action. Belief, faith, and good works are evidences of the spiritual birth and not the cause of it.
Another stumbling block to many who do not "rightly divide" the scriptures is the phrase "all men" or "the whole world." These expressions in the Bible should be taken mostly in a restricted sense as indicated by the subject under discussion and seldom do they mean the whole human race.
Before the Revolutionary War three-fourths of all denominations in America believed the doctrine of election and predestination. Primitive Baptists do not believe God sends anyone to everlasting punishment except for sin; that is where they go when left in the position in which they have placed themselves. Predestination and election show God's eternal love and the salvation of all the redeemed in Jesus Christ the Lord. One will have no trouble with this doctrine if he truly believes in the Sovereignty of God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. He says, "I win have mercy on whom I will have mercy," and "O man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
True Primitive Baptists believe there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust, and that the joys of the saved and the punishment of the wicked will be everlasting and both will be everlastingly conscious of it. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." (Matt. 25:46.)
Jesus will come again to gather the bodies of His "jewels" and change them to spiritual, immortal bodies which will be reunited with the soul and spirit and taken to that home He has prepared. In that home there will be no misunderstandings and disappointments, no tears, death, sorrow, crying or pain. What a glorious future for those who love Him! This is the Church Triumphant and all who love God are in this Church.
I am indebted to Hassell's history, the writings of Elder W. L. Johnson and forty-seven years of Primitive Baptist influence in preparing this manuscript. Likewise, the fellowship of the strict Baptists in England and the Primitive Baptists in our own country, their ministry, and their longsuffering and prayer have given considerable help for which I am grateful.
The following quotation of the English Baptists in 1644 A.D., taken from page 524 of Hassell's History, will help us answer the question, "What Is a Primitive Baptist?":
"Thus we desire to give unto Christ that which is His, and unto all lawful authority that which is their due; and to owe nothing to any man but love; to live quietly and peaceably, as it becometh saints, endeavoring in all things to keep a good conscience, and to do unto every man (of what judgment soever) as we would they should do unto us; that, as our practice is, so it may prove us to be a conscionable, quiet and harmless people (no ways dangerous or troublesome to human society), and to labor and work with our hands that we may not be chargeable to any, but to give to him that needeth, both friends and enemies, accounting it more excellent to give than to receive,"