1. As to what constitutes a Church - According to the Kehukee fathers, "a church of Christ is a congregation of men and women, publicly professing faith in Christ Jesus, and being regularly baptized by immersion, who have covenanted together, given themselves up to one another in the Lord, to be governed by His word, and to be guided by a regular and proper discipline, agreeable to the Holy Scriptures."
"The customary way in which the Baptist Churches in the Kehukee Association receive members into church fellowship is for the person who desires admission into the church to attend at church conferences, and when conference sits, to come into the church (meeting house) and signify his intention to the minister, or some of the members; and the church then sitting, the party who applies shall relate his experience, setting forth how the Lord awakened him, and brought him to a sense of his lost state by nature; how he had seen the insufficiency of his own works to save him; and how the Lord had revealed to him the way of life and salvation through Jesus Christ; and the reasons he has to believe that he is interested in this glorious plan; and the evidences that he has become a new creature. If any doubt remains, the minister, or any of the members present, ask such questions as are necessary relative thereto; and satisfaction being obtained, then the minister usually asks the church respecting the life and conversation of the candidate (or applicant). And if there be general satisfaction, the minister and members give him the right hand of fellowship (as a regular candidate for baptism). Then a time is appointed for his baptism; and being assembled at the side of some convenient water, after singing and prayer, the minister takes the candidate by the hand and leads him into the water; and at the same time having hold of the hands of the party to be baptized in one of his, and the other hand holding by a handkerchief tied fast round his head, shall dip him directly backwards, all under water, expressing these words, or some similar thereto: ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the authority of our office, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ After the solemnity is performed, they both, coming up out of the water, join the congregation in singing (some suitable hymn). At the water the newly baptized person is met by the brethren, who sometimes salute him thus, ‘You are welcome to the cross, dear brother.’"
"As to the number sufficient to constitute a church, we do not know (that) the Scriptures point out. Some suppose it is necessary there should be thirteen, because James and the twelve Apostles were present at the first celebration of the Supper. Others descend to seven; Tertullian to three. Our Lord says, ‘Where two or three are gathered together, in my name, I will be in the midst of them;’ and we read of churches being in some houses or families, as was the case with Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. Xvi.5; I Cor. Xvi.19). Also that of Philemon (verse 2); the church in thy house. Yet notwithstanding we are left at any uncertainty to know how many were in these families; nor can we suppose that any particular number is intended by our Lord. We judge that where there are a sufficient number to carry on church discipline, with suitable church officers, it is sufficient to constitute a church."
A church, with its Clerk, and some one of its members to act as Moderator, is considered competent for the transaction of business and the exercise of discipline, and such should meet together regularly at stated times, whether they have a minister or not; but in case of baptism an ordained minister must be present to perform the work; and in case of communion there must be one or more Elders to officiate at the table, and one or more Deacons to pass round the elements to the communicants.
Baptist Churches in America usually, in country places, meet together monthly and embrace two days in their devotional exercises, viz., Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday they have preaching and conference, connected with singing and prayer; on Sunday they have singing, praying and preaching. If any are to be baptized, that is done in the morning before preaching; and if there is to be communion, that is attended to after preaching. Their communion seasons are quarterly, as a general rule.
In cities and large towns, if there be any churches therein, their meetings are held weekly for preaching on Sunday, and on other days for business - usually about the middle of some week in the month. The time to commence meeting in the country is usually 11:00 A.M., and in the cities about 10:00 A.M. In cities and large towns they usually have, in addition, afternoon or evening services. But genuine Baptist Churches are seldom found in cities, and, when found in such localities, are apt to be in a sickly condition. The forms and fashions, the parades and shows of city life, are very uncongenial to the staid habits and to the faith and practice of old-fashioned Baptists.
2. As to Articles of Faith - These are not held to be essential to the existence of a church, but of much importance to its order and stability. The churches composing the Kehukee Association, as well as all others in America, perhaps, of like precious faith, have articles enrolled, which are occasionally read for the instruction and benefit of the members in their church meetings.
Primitive Baptists stand by their Articles; they read them, they believe them to be true, and they preach the doctrine contained in them; and hope that themselves and their successors will continue to do so even to the end of the world. And this they do with great pleasure, though well aware that such a course is disapproved by nearly all other professed Christians in America. While some denominations have creeds more or less orthodox, yet it is lamentably true that they are almost universally disregarded by the ministers and members of nearly all of the religious sects and societies in the land. Evidently the tendency for the last hundred years, especially in the United States, has been to leave the ancient landmark of salvation by grace and move in the direction of salvation by works. Human efforts, human means, human passions and human zeal are greatly relied on for the conversion of the world by vast multitudes of professors, who almost entirely ignore the wisdom, power, goodness and mercy of God in the salvation of men. In this awful day of degeneracy, Baptists should adhere the more steadfastly to the Apostles’ doctrine, which induces to fellowship in Christ, to communion and prayers; in order that the distinction between the church and world might appear greater than ever before, if possible.
3. As to Education - Kehukee Baptists and those of like faith throughout the United States, we feel assured, are in favor of human learning and to the utmost of their ability are not behind other people in patronizing the schools of the country. They are not opposed to education in the least degree, but are charged with such opposition by their enemies, simply because they are opposed to Theological Seminaries as a means to make ministers of the gospel. They believe when a man is called of God to preach the gospel, that God qualifies him by His Spirit for that work immediately, and that the man thus called should go at once, without the circumlocution of a collegiate course of training. The world is made up of learned and unlearned men; and if the Almighty has a use for a learned one He calls him to the work, or of an unlearned one, He calls him. Paul and Peter are alike useful in the spiritual kingdom as ministers of our Lord Jesus Christ, and both may feed the sheep of his pasture, and preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. Paul was learned in human sciences, Peter was not. But it is preposterous to suppose that God only calls a man to go to a Theological School, and leaves the matter entirely with that school to teach him how to preach, and then assign him his field of labor. Such a thought is dishonoring to God, and such a course would usurp His authority, rob Him of His glory, and make Him subservient to the wisdom of men.
All persons "born again" are conducted into the school of Christ, where they are taught spiritually, and whether ministers or private members, they receive their instruction there. God there reveals Himself to them, reveals His Son to them and in them, and the Holy Ghost takes the things of Jesus and shows the same to them. "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." - Isaiah liv.13. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heave." - Matt. Xvi.17. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." - 1 Cor. ii.9, 10.
4. As to Itinerancy - Ministers of the gospel belonging to the Kehukee Association have from the beginning been a traveling and preaching people. Those ordained among them almost invariably have charge of one or more churches, and yet often leave home and go preaching among the churches of their own Association and those of other Associations, sometimes in their own State and sometimes in States very remote; just as they feel moved by the Holy Ghost to move in various directions in obedience to the great command of their Lord and Master, "Go ye."
In thus traveling and preaching they are not restricted to Christian congregations or to Baptist meeting-houses, but preach wherever there is opportunity, at private residences, groves, or elsewhere. And this appears to be the habit of ministers belonging to all other Associations in the land of the same faith and order.
Many are constantly going in some direction or another, through love to God and love to men. They go as the servants of God, believing He will provide for them and their families while in His service. They therefore go in faith; not as hirelings of men, with a promise of earthly reward, but as those sent of God, upon whom a woe is laid if they preach not the gospel. They are not afraid to trust in God, but are willing to leave the event with Him, and be submissive to His righteous and holy will in all things.
And when clothed with this authority, they speak as those having authority, and not as the scribes or hirelings of men, who seek to please the people and gain human applause.
God’s ministers in all ages have been a traveling people. They constitute an order of His own creation, whose mission shall be useful to men and honorable to Him. This body of men, as an ecclesiastical power on earth, is not left to chance or the caprices or shrewdness of men for its organization or perpetuity. God Almighty is the author and supporter of it, and it shall accomplish that which He designs, though the Heavens fall. Neither men nor devils can successfully impede or push forward their work. It is of Divine authority, and rises superior to all finite control. Their work is not to raise the dead or create a world, but it is to preach Christ and Him crucified, which though it may be unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, yet to them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. - 1 Cor. I.23,24.
In imitation or mockery of this Divine arrangement, many people are engaged in the work of choosing men for ministers of the gospel, educating them for that work, begging money to give them an outfit, and then sending them to preach wherever they think proper, either within the bounds of their own country or in foreign lands. The object of sending them to preach is, according to their own testimony, to save souls from hell. Their preaching is to bring dead sinners to life, and then teach them how to cherish and maintain that life which the preacher has given them. The quickening of the Holy Spirit and the redemption that is in Christ Jesus are almost entirely ignored.
It is a question whether any good has inured to the human race by the multiplication and sending forth of these men-made missionaries, from the origin of the system to the present time. If a man is not in possession of the gospel himself, how is it possible for him to preach it to others? If a man does not preach the gospel at home, is it reasonable to suppose he will preach it abroad? If he does not preach it among civilized people, will he do it among Pagans or the uncivilized? It is a well-settled matter, in the minds of good judges of gospel preaching, that nearly all these men-made preachers do not preach the gospel at all anywhere, but endeavor to substitute another gospel, so called, for the gospel of Christ.
The Philadelphia Baptist Association is the oldest, most honored and authoritative "Missionary" Baptist Association in America. The Minutes of that Association from 1707 to 1807 have been published in one volume. In the Circular Letter adopted by that Association in 1806 (p. 429 of the Minutes), it is frankly admitted that "in modern missions Papal Rome has led the way, the Society of Jesuits, formed in 1540 (1534), being the first missionary society." Thus it is certain that Protestants copied their "modern missions," not from the inspired Apostles of the first century, but from the Roman Catholic Jesuits of the sixteenth century. Now Protestants are universally agreed in denouncing the idolatrous corruptions and heathenish abominations of Roman Catholic Jesuits of the sixteenth Century. Now Protestants are universally agreed in denouncing the idolatrous corruptions and heathenish abominations of Roman Catholic "Missions"; but volumes of evidence have been published in demonstration of similar, if not altogether so horrible, corruptions and abominations practiced by Protestant "Missionaries" among the heathens of the nineteenth century. In India, Africa, the West Indies, the Sandwich Island, Tahiti, etc., such enormities as the following have been perpetrated in this century by Protestant "Missionaries": - The gathering of congregations by the police with whips and rattans; the "missionaries" using the poor heathens as mules or oxen to draw to draw the families of the ""missionaries" to their religious meetings (or even on pleasure excursions), whipping them if they travel too slowly, and hitching the heathens out of doors, like beasts of burden, while the "missionaries" go into the house to preach their pretended "gospel;" the willful deceiving of the ignorant heathens into an external profession of Christianity after they learn to answer a few questions in the "Catechism," and selling them, for money, monthly tickets as passports to Heaven, and the "missionaries" thus realizing large revenues, besides the amounts paid them by their employers at home; willfully false reports of success sent by the "missionaries" to their employers for the purpose of retaining and increasing their pecuniary incomes; capturing and confining the heathens in order to "convert" them; and the great increase of vice and crime, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness and licentiousness among the heathens after the introduction of this spurious Christianity into their midst. In proof of these statements, see the abundant testimony of competent witnesses (including government officers and ministers of the gospel, published in Griffin’s "History of the Primitive Baptists of Mississippi," Elder Jesse Cox’s "Exposition of Revelation," and the past volumes of the "Signs of the Times," the "Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Monitor," the "New York Sun," the "Baptist Register," etc. We would now ask the candid reader, Are not the above-mentioned Protestant "Missionary" abominations nearly equal to the Roman Catholic sale of indulgences to sin, and of priestly pardons, in the early part of the sixteenth century? Who can for a moment suppose that God is the author of such iniquities? Behold the corrupt fruit of a corrupt tree - the Roman Catholic and the Protestant departure from the perfect apostolic model of preaching the gospel exhibited in the New Testament!
Says Griffin, in his "History of the Mississippi Primitive Baptists:" "If the reader can see any authority in the New Testament for begging money in the name of the Lord, to send the gospel to the heathen, his perception is much keener than ours. Indeed, the very reverse is taught as a duty. ‘For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.’ The only object set forth in the collecting of these contributions was to supply the necessity of the saints; but the ‘missionaries’ have reversed the rule, and beg money for the heathen. Paul calls it ministering to the saints; but the ‘missionaries’ minister to the heathen. Paul instructed the churches for each member to lay by him in store upon the first day of the week; but the ‘missionary’ rule is to contribute money every Sunday. Paul encouraged the collection of contributions for a specific purpose, but the ‘missionaries’ for every purpose which their vain and fruitful imaginations can invent and call benevolent. Paul’s object was to minister to the saints in carnal things, but the object of the ‘missionaries’ is to minister to the heathen in spiritual things. The apostolic purpose was to save the saints from starving, but the ‘missionary’ purpose is to save the heathen from perdition. The Apostle calls the contribution carnal things, but the ‘missionaries’ call it the power of Christ. ‘For a moment,’ say they, ‘think of the power which the mighty Savior can call into action in this manner.’
"For the purpose of accumulating the power here alluded to, many plans are put in operation. One is to send out begging agents, and give them a certain per cent, on all they can obtain. Another is to have ‘missionary’ sermons preached on stated occasions, when the most skillful sophist is selected to play upon the sympathies of the people and obtain money under false pretenses. On these occasions it is usual the speaker to represent the heathen as crying for help to save them from perdition. But we have given ample testimony to show that, instead of this, they cry, as an oppressed people, against the tyranny of the anti-Christian crusaders.
"We might here with propriety say that there is not one instance, by precept or example, to be found in the New Testament, of taking up a contribution for sending the gospel from one country to another. But on the contrary, it is positively forbid. The only rule laid down by Christ or His Apostles (the first rule of Christ on the subject) for this purpose is: ‘Provide neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purse, now scrip for your journey, etc. But into whatsoever city ye enter and they receive you not, go your way out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you.’
"But the ‘missionaries,’ though they profess to know God, yet in works they deny Him. They set at naught the rules and regulations laid down by the King of Zion, and practice plans invented by their own evil imaginations. Instead of contributing to the necessities of the poor, as the Lord has commanded, they would beg them from them their last cent, and then brag behind the curtain of their success, thus glorying in their own shame. This they do under pretense of enforcing Christian duty; and though they have no Scripture authority for such conduct, yet they are enabled to lead ‘silly women’ astray and consequently the men, through the influence of a pious conclave associated together in one common cause. They make merchandise of the people, under false pretenses, by first corrupting public opinion on the subject, and then bringing it to bear upon them, thus forcing them to give merely to avoid censure. And this is all done in the name of the Lord; and that too for the avowed purpose of saving the heathen from perdition.
"But it would be easy to prove, by a fair mode of reasoning, that though they may have an outside accumulating faith on the subject, yet they have not an internal conscientious faith. The manner and purposes for which they spend money is alone ample proof on this subject. The disbursing of ‘missionary’ funds among the officers and agents has become a source of loud complaint by those who support the cause. The following from the ‘Boston Investigator’ will somewhat illustrate the views and objects of the ‘missionary’ leaders who live in the large cities and control the funds:
" ‘We never had any doubt but what there were some who supported religion from the best motives; but we believe that many support it with about the same object in view that the multitude had when they followed Jesus, namely, ‘for the loaves and fishes.’ This making a trade of religion is a shocking evil. We find tract societies established, charitable institutions set on foot, new plans devised to meliorate our condition, new buildings erected, new laws devised, new improvements suggested, and when we follow them up and see them organized, we shall find the pious, humane and totally disinterested projectors filling the lucrative places of presidents, scribes, agents, clerks, printers, etc., - a son here, a brother there, and religion is made to answer the purpose of private gain, under the specious pretext of public good. As an instance in point, the ‘Missionary House’ in this city pays four secretaries a salary of six thousand dollars yearly; and out of more than ten thousand dollars raised the last year by the Foreign Evangelical Society, not less than six thousand were expended in agencies, etc. This is the principle upon which religious teachers, as a class, conduct their performances. They labor for money just as much as a mechanic who builds a house or a ship. The only difference is, the ‘missionaries’ are not half as honest as the mechanic, inasmuch as they pretend not to work for money, which in fact amounts to a system of cheating, or as they say in law, ‘obtaining goods under false pretenses.’
" ‘Society requires reform, there is no doubt, but it cannot be effected by these money-making, pious schemers. It must be done by precept and example, by justice, generosity, mild persuasions, disinterested benevolence, unmitigated love and kindness, and not got up under the shape of contributions for ‘missionaries,’ tract societies, etc.
" ‘These sums, which could be converted to objects of charity, to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, are taken from those who cannot afford to spare them, to constitute a fund which is to be expended under the superintendence of certain men. The annual amount raised for such purposes in this country is immense, and we are feeling the force of it, not in substantial and wholesome reforms, but in the meddling interference with private concerns - invading the sanctity of domestic retirement, and attempting to hold public opinion and public will in a thraldom almost as oppressive as the Inquisition itself. We are told that this is all for real goodness and sincere piety; and he who objects to it is no friend of benevolence and true religion. Let us beware of fanaticism, of bigotry and intolerance; they are the curses of human society, and always assume some plausible shape to deceive and beguile. Men do not always practice as they preach; and when we see profit introduced under the panoply of spiritual guides, we can see no grounds for believing that a system of religion which thus encourages hypocrisy is of any utility in promoting human happiness.’"
In order to show a specimen of the pride, worldly-mindedness and inconsistency of ‘missionaries,’ our author (Griffin) further says:
"Again we quote the ‘Portland Boat,’ published in the State of Maine:
" ‘The pews in Calvary Church, New York, were lately sold at auction for forty thousand dollars; and it is said that the society, in addition to a salary of five thousand dollars per year, has given its rector fifteen thousand dollars, furnished a pastorage house, and insured his life to the amount of ten thousand dollars!
" ‘This church is rightly named; it was at Mount Calvary that the body of Christ was crucified; and, at this New York Calvary, this mountain of pride and sin, He is ‘crucified afresh and put to an open shame.’ Just think of Christ, with a little band of fishermen, going up and down the world doing good, without where to lay His head, preaching from fishing boats, among the poor, the sick and the afflicted, gathering grain and rubbing it out of the chaff with His hands to appease His hunger; eating with the poor; tarrying at night with those most despised of the world; without popularity, despised, hated, reviled, persecuted; without salary, asking none, yet continuing to do good, even to His enemies; and in His last breath asking forgiveness for those who nailed Him to the tree. Just think of Him and His humble course, through poverty and abuse, and then think of the ‘Right Rev. Dr.’ H—, of New York, the professed disciple of the lowly Master, in his forty thousand dollar church, with a present of fifteen thousand dollars in his pocket, and a yearly salary of five thousand more! With his life insured in the amount of ten thousand dollars. Verily, if this be the religion of Jesus, it has wonderfully changed, since first preached on the mountains and by the seaside, eighteen hundred years ago.
" ‘A forty thousand-dollar church built with money gained by cheating, lying, grinding the faces of the poor, robbing the widows and the fatherless! A fifteen thousand dollar present, and a five thousand dollar salary, the money gained by the same means! Now who is there in this broad land that does not know that such a religion must be a curse and nothing else but a curse to all concerned? Who has not sense enough to see that this is as directly opposite to the religion of Jesus as darkness is to light? and yet, my friend, whether you believe it or not, this church is no worse at heart than nearly all other churches in the land; but give them the means, and small is the number of such as would not wander just as far from the truth, and be just as ready to crucify Christ afresh, and put Him to open shame. Is it surprising that there are infidels in the world, and that the number increases, while the professed followers of the meek and lowly Jesus manifest such monstrous hypocrisy?’ "
To this Griffin adds the following remarks: "Is it possible that these people, who make such a lavish expenditure of money for such purposes, do, in the sincerity of their hearts, believe that that money could have been instrumental in saving souls from perdition? If so, do they not act grossly, yea, fiendishly inconsistent with their faith? Yet saving the heathen from perdition is the theme of all these ‘missionary’ denominations, and begging money as a power to accomplish this end! Yea, they would beg the last dime from the poor and needy, who, according to the letter and spirit of the gospel, should be objects of their charity. And when thus blasphemously obtained in the name of the Lord, for unwarranted purposes, it is huddled together in large sums, to be disposed of by certain men in our large cities." - Griffin’s "History of the Primitive Baptists in Mississippi" (pp. 59-67)
Kehukee Baptists and those of like faith, we think, all over the world, believe that modern "missionism’ is humanly devised and entirely unauthorized by the Scriptures; and not a word of authority for such a movement can be found in the Bible; and that the colossal fabric - foundation, superstructure and cap-stone - thus raised by "Mystery Babylon" and her "Daughters," is in violation of God’s command, derogatory to His wisdom, power, mercy and truth, and has resulted in the demoralization of nations and immense woes to the human race.
5. As to Secret Societies - Kehukee Baptists have, from the early periods of their existence as a body, objected to their members uniting with secret orders of men; not that they opposed or waged any war against secret societies, whether civil, religious or political, but because they thought it unbecoming in a Baptist to turn his back upon his brethren and hide himself away in the cloisters of a secret society, where the eyes of his brethren could not rest upon him, so as to judge of his actions, pledges or communings, whether right or wrong. They think a Baptist should be "open-faced," and desire to see and be seen by his brethren at all times.
6. As to Temperance or Moral Societies - Kehukee Baptists believe that the church of God is the best Temperance or Moral Reform Society in the world. And therefore if a member of the church attaches himself to one of these, he lowers the standard of his morality, and casts a reflection upon the wisdom and goodness of God in not making His church superior to any combination of men.
7. As to Sabbath Schools - These were unknown to the church for about 1,800 years of its existence. And when first started by Robert Raikes, of England, they were considered unobjectionable, and genuine Baptists in America sanctioned them at first, but so soon as they were made an engine of priestcraft, with which to manufacture members of churches, so called, belonging to various denominations of professed Christians, the true church withdrew her encouragement and would have nothing more to do with the invention. These schools, though so recently established, are reckoned now by all false churches to be indispensable to their growth and prosperity.
8. As to Persecution - Kehukee Baptists believe that the true church of Christ never persecutes, but is always persecuted. If persecution is seen emanating from any body of men towards their fellow-creatures, we may take it for granted that that body of men is not the church of Christ. It is absurd to suppose that sheep persecute the wolf, or the dove the hawk. God’s people are prefigured by sheep and doves.
Abel never killed Cain, but Cain has always been killing Abel since the first murder on earth was committed. The patriarchs and prophets were persecuted - many of them even unto death. Christ was persecuted and finally crucified. John the Baptist was shut up in prison and finally beheaded. The Apostles were persecuted; whipped, stone, imprisoned and slain, many of them for their witnessing to the truth. The early Christians of the first three centuries were persecuted and slain by tens of thousands by Jews and Gentiles. After the ascension of Constantine the Great to the imperial throne of Rome, the church in a short time was persecuted until the Lutheran Reformation, then by both Catholics and Protestants, first in the Old World and then in the New, until the present day, there having been no complete cessation of it during the whole course of the Christian dispensation for 1,885 years.
Genuine Baptists, from the days of the Apostles, as has been already shown, have ever been opposed to persecution; opposed to a union of Church and State; opposed to the jurisdiction of the magistrate in ecclesiastical matters. They have ever been in favor of soul liberty, and have the honor of founding the first Colony or State in the world that imparted this blessing to all its citizens.
That religious liberty which is so freely enjoyed by all religious denominations in the United States at this day, may be said to be the out-growth from that root of religious liberty found embedded in the soil of Baptist principles in all ages.
9. As to Feet-Washing - This appears to be an open question among Baptists, some approving and others disapproving the literal observance as a church ordinance or rite, and all getting along harmoniously together.
We had nothing of it in the Acts of the Apostles or among the churches in ancient time, but of late it has assumed importance, and has been more or less observed within the bounds of the Kehukee Association for the last hundred years.
Some of the Kehukee churches have never observed it at all; others have occasionally observed it upon motion of some one in Conference, and attended to it during some week day at the meeting-house, or at some private house at night, and this at long intervals. Others observe it annually, and connect it with communion or the Lord’s Supper; while others repeat it quarterly, and in every instance connect it with communion, which almost invariably occurs on Sunday, after the preaching service are ended.
The irregularity, we must confess, shows more difference among orthodox Baptists than all other practices or observances adhered to by them put together. Some are ready to conclude on the account of this diversity that they are not one people; that they are divided and cannot walk together. But this is a wrong conclusion; they are one people still, and do not allow the observance or non-observance of this rite to affect their fellowship with each other. The churches composing the Kehukee Association will perhaps represent, on this subject, all the churches in the United States, some engaging in the practice of feet-washing more or less, and others not at all. We conclude, therefore, if the discordant views on this subject have not broken fellowship among the dear children of God for the last hundred years, that they never will; and that the faithful in Christ Jesus will continue to press onward, hand in hand together, "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," through the remaining portion of the Christian dispensation. It would be deplorable and contrary to ancient usage among Baptists if any one or more should at any time hereafter, on either side of the question, set up a bar of communion between themselves and those who differ with them on this subject. Such a dogmatical or dictatorial spirit should not be encouraged or even tolerated in the household of faith. It would look selfish and out of place.
The argument in favor of the observance of feet-washing, either regularly or irregularly in church meeting, is about as follows, viz.; In the thirteenth chapter of John it is recorded that the Savior, in rising from supper, took a towel and girded Himself, poured water into a basin, washed the feet of His disciples and wiped them with the towel, and then said to them, "Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
Here is a command, it is urged, binding on the disciples and on all who should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ till the end of time. That it should be literally observed, too, as it was literally instituted. That its literal import cannot be dispensed with or construed away as being only figurative, no more than can Baptism and the Supper be dispensed with literally or be construed as merely figurative. And some on this side of the question also urge that, as the washing immediately followed the Supper, so it should now be attended to immediately after communion, either quarterly or annually. While some recognize it as a duty only, others hold it as an ordinance inseparably connected with the Supper, and that it should be held just as sacred.
Those on the other side of the question hold that the washing of the disciples’ feet by the Savior was intended to be restricted to them, or at farthest to the Jewish Christians in the East. They hold that it was a custom of long standing among the Jews to wash their own feet, or have some one else to do it for them when weary and resting in the day time, or before retiring at night. They either went barefooted or wore sandals in traveling, as a general thing, so that their feet were soiled and required washing. These argue that something beyond the literal washing was intended, because the Savior said to Peter on the occasion, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.’ They also instance the entire absence of anything of the kind in the Acts of the Apostles; and say that the allusion to it in First Timothy v. 10 clearly shows that the washing was of a domestic nature, and not in a church capacity: "If she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." These, it is urged are private and household duties and virtues, and do not refer to the ordinances or public proceedings in the church of Christ. They regard the act of washing the disciples’ feet as entirely figurative of that love, humility, burden-bearing and stooping to the necessities of each other, which should characterize the chosen people of God throughout the world until time should be no more.
A great deal more has been said on both sides of this question than is here noticed, but what is here repeated, it is thought, will suffice.
The [senior] author of this work has always, since his connection with the Baptists, supposed this to be an open question among them and has had the like feelings of regard and fellowship for those who did and those who did not literally observe the practice of feet-washing. He has a number of times, since his church membership (a period of more than fifty years), united with brethren in feet-washing, and has had some pleasant seasons on these occasions. He never made a move in that direction himself for a public feet-washing, but always sanctioned it when made by others, feeling at all times willing to wash a brother’s feet, either the meeting-house or in a private house, either by day or by night. He has united with brethren in this rite at a private house by night, where the brethren occupied one room and the sisters another. He has engaged in it, with the members of his own church and others, when occasionally they have agreed to enter into it; and he has united in the literal observance with some who adhere to the custom annually.
The discussion on the subject of feet-washing on both sides has been characterized by a true Christian spirit, worthy of great commendation; and has had the appearance of washing each other’s feet all the time, while the question was mooted in the Baptist periodicals. Such will likely be the condition of things even to the end.
It would be a sad day for the church, were the observance or non-observance of this rite ever to be set up as a bar to fellowship. So far from this to the present, it has been customary with the churches in the Kehukee Associations to excuse any or all who did not feel disposed to unite with them on such occasions.