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Written by W.M. Mitchell   
The Gospel Messenger--September 1882 

 

An esteemed brother in Georgia requests that we publish in the Gospel Messenger an extract from the minutes of the Mercer Missionary Baptist Association of 1871, on the subject of Sunday Schools. 

The report of the Committee on Sunday Schools was adopted by the Association at Valdosta, Ga., November 4th, 1871, and appears in the minutes as follows: 

“Your Committee on Sunday Schools would respectfully submit—That in reviewing the subject, they report with great pleasure the manifest and increasing interest felt in the cause by leading men of our church; that they find an improved literature prepared expressly for Sunday Schools, and that this literature is fast supplanting the cheap trash prepared for the sake of gain, and at the sacrifice of mind and morals; that our Sunday Schools are visited by weekly and monthly periodicals freighted with the precious seed of the gospel, to be planted by the superintendent and teacher in the mind of the tender and of the young. That, in the opinion of your Committee, the Sunday School is the cause of humanity, the cause of the church, and the cause of God. It takes the tender heart and allies it to virtue; channels the fountain from bitter to sweet water; removes the seed of sin; fortifies the mind against temptation to evil. It prepares manhood for a career of usefulness. It builds up for the church a warm-hearted advocate, a zealous membership, and a supporting pillar. Your Committee would further report, in sorrow, that out of nineteen churches in this Association, only six have Sunday Schools.” 

The above report is no mere squib of an irresponsible individual writer, but it is an official and denominational document, sent forth to the world by a respectable and intelligent body of Missionary Baptists. It is, therefore, entitled to respect and consideration as a denominational sentiment, and full credit should be given them for their candid and honest confession in the following particulars. 

First—They confess that a literature “prepared for gain” had been thrust into the hands of unsuspecting children, even though such literature sacrificed the mind and morals of such children. 

Second—They confess that the Sunday School allies the heart to virtue, changes the fountain of corruption by removing the seed of sin, and thereby building up for the church a warm-hearted advocate and zealous membership. 

Third—That in their improved literature, Sunday Schools are visited by weekly and monthly periodicals freighted with the seed of the gospel, and that this seed is planted by Sunday School teachers in the tender mind of the young. 

Fourth—They confess, with sorrow, that thirteen of their churches out of nineteen had no such gospel seed among them. 

Now, beloved reader, you will see that the points as presented in the above four items are no exaggeration, but they are a candid statement of facts drawn from the Sunday School report of a respectable and intelligent body of Missionary Baptists. But it matters not as to the high pretensions of this or any other human society for removing the seed of sin, or planting the precious seed of the gospel, without any reference to the merits of Christ, or to the life giving power of the Spirit of God,—all such pretensions are nothing short of blasphemy and gross idolatry. 

We do not question the candor nor sincerity of most of those who support these modern institutions. Their minds have been molded for them into that channel before they were sufficiently developed to investigate for themselves. Thus they have been made by their parents and teachers to pass through the fire, and have been offered in sacrifice to this modern Molech of idolatry. Whenever the youthful mind is taught by parents, teachers and preachers, that a knowledge of the sciences and philosophy of the world, is the “seed the gospel,” and that this seed can he planted in their minds by human teachers so as to change the corrupt fountain of the heart, remove the seed of sin, and build up for the church a zealous membership, no marvel if such children, when they be men and women, should be honestly devoted to their early training. 

The modern Sunday School is a society of a professed religious character,—but as it is not at all recognized in the Scriptures as of divine authority, there are no rules given therein for its government, nor respecting to qualifications nor character of its, members. But yet it is claimed for it that it is a kind of helping society to the church and builds up for it a zealous membership. But we are here reminded that it is written: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”—Psalm 127:1. 

In carefully examining the word of the Lord as to the manner, and by whom the church or God is built up, we do not find the least hint that such human societies as Sunday Schools were ever employed, either directly or indirectly, for this purpose. The God of heaven and earth claim all the glory in this matter to himself, and declares he will not give his “glory to another, nor his praise to a graven image.” His inspired apostle says of the church at Corinth:  “Ye are God’s building.”—l Cor. 3:9. And if the church, collectively, is God’s building, then certainly it is true of each individual member, whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, wise or ignorant. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” and God hath “set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.”—l Cor. 12. And Christ affirms, that “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”—Mat. 14:18. 

From the above cited texts we see that the church and its membership is built up—not by an improved literature, or science of the world—but by the Spirit and power of God. The hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Zerubbabel, “hath laid the foundations of this house and his hands will also finish it;” and his saints “shall rejoice when they see the plummet in his hand,” knowing that when “righteousness is laid to the plummet,” all these m institutions are cut off; with every thing else that pampers the pride or flatters the vanity of proud and sinful man, and God alone is exalted. 

In this wonderful document respecting Sunday Schools there is not one word said about even the letter of the Bible being taught; but to the contrary, great pleasure is expressed in having an “improved literature, prepared expressly for Sunday Schools.” Here is a virtual acknowledgement that nothing in the Scripture of truth is suitable for the design of these schools, and therefore a theology and science of the world which is adapted to the depraved and vitiated taste of the carnal mind, must be obtained. 

But it may be thought by some that the sentiment set forth in this report was not carefully weighed by this particular Association, and that other Sunday School friends would not endorse the sentiment. This, however, is a mistaken conclusion. Similar sentiments are set forth by other sects, in nearly all their speeches and writings upon this subject. In 1866, a series of we written articles were published in the "Recorder" (Opelika, Alabama), under the heading of “SUNDAY SCHOOLS--THEIR TENDENCY AND RESULTS.” The distinguished writer, in speaking of the society, says: “It furnishes instruction in letters, but it looks to scholastic attainment only as a means to an end.” And then, to show the end or design of these scholastic attainments, he uses this very emphatic language: “Mark—to make Christians is the grand object, the object from which the attention is never turned. In a certain school in this county, the rule is that the scholars are all converted in due time.” And then he goes on to tell us something of the means by which these school conversions are brought about. He says: “Much labor has been bestowed on text books. Beginning with infant manuals, they go on to neatly bound volumes that attract by the charm of mechanical finish tile attention of the youthful mind. Filled with moral tales, biography, history, and thrilling descriptions of scenes and incidents in every department of human life, they furnish a rich and inexhaustible mine of information. Within the last quarter of a century unhoped for improvement has been made in Sunday School literature.” 

From the above extracts, and numerous others that could be given, it will be seen that Christians are to be made by Sunday School literature, a knowledge of letters, scholastic attainments, neatly bound books to charm the unsuspecting child, just as a sugar coating would be put over some poisonous drug to “attract by the charm of mechanical finish.” Here is a clear admission that there is nothing contained in the Bible—the pure word of God—that is adapted to the use of a modern Sunday School. If the Bible is at all adapted for such an institution, or if it authorizes or recognizes it, why speak of improvements—unhoped for improvements— in the last twenty-five years in Sunday School literature? Have they been favored with any new revelation from God? Can uninspired men improve upon divine inspiration? Sunday School literature may be improved upon, because it is a science of the world; but the Scriptures, being given by inspiration of God, “thoroughly furnish the man of God unto all good works.” What more does the man of God want, or need, than to be thoroughly furnished into all good works? But the religious man of the world wants literature, and what he calls moral tales, fables, charts, pictures, and costly bound books, that will charm and decoy children into the net of these unscriptural institutions. But unscriptural though it may be, the Sunday School is by far the most popular institution claiming to be moral, benevolent or religious, that has ever been gotten up by any religious sect in modern times. Every sect of professed Christians—including Universalists and Roman Catholics—have their Sunday Schools to teach children their peculiar sectarian creed, or are in favor of them, except Primitive Baptists. It is extremely popular, but its popularity is not a proper test of its correctness. Popular opinion in religious matters, as a rule, has always been wrong. Christ says of his disciples: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my sake.” 

The popularity of this hatred did not make it right, any more than the popular endorsement of Sunday Schools makes them right. The Bible is the standard by which to test right and wrong—truth and error—no matter what popular opinion might say upon the subject. Under the influence of popular opinion, the standard of morals and reverence for the worship of God is greatly lowered at this time in our country. When professed Christians assemble for public worship, there is a lack of reverence clearly manifested. The occasion is often treated with lightness even by those who have had all the advantages of Sunday School training,—as much, if not more than by those who have had no such advantages. The truth is, that formal prayers and religious services have been so blended with worldly amusements, parties, festivals and revelries, that many young persons, under this kind of training, seem to think that there is no more respect due to religious meetings than to a picnic or other carnal festival. 

In concluding our remarks upon this subject, we wish to say that Primitive Baptists are by no means opposed to the teachings of the Bible in any particular. Whatever it sanctions and enjoins on parents to children, is right, and the responsibility of its observance rests upon them. The Lord in his word, recognizes the relation of parents and children, and has given infallible rules by which that sacred relation is to be maintained so as to secure the best results to both. He has ordained that parents shall be responsible for the raising and moral training of their own children. However incompetent parents may feel to discharge the duties of this obligation, they can not free themselves from it without sinning against God, nor transfer the responsibility over to an irresponsible society—such as a modern Sunday School—which is nowhere recognized in the Bible. 

It is the duty of parents and guardians to whom the Lord in his word has committed the raising and moral training of children, to teach them according to that which is enjoined upon them in the Scriptures, to be honest, truthful, just, modest, chaste, sober, industrious, of good behavior at home or abroad, and to obey their “parents in the Lord.” And who are parents in the Lord, except such as are made so by a relation which the Lord has established and which neither men nor angels have any right to dissolve or annul? 

The first command with God’s promise to children is, to “Honor thy father and thy mother.” And the promise is to such children that it may be well with them, and that they may live long upon the earth.—Eph. 6:2. But there is no promise in the Bible that it shall be well with children who give that honor and obedience to an irresponsible Sunday School society which should be rendered to their parents. Let parents see that they do not sin against God by seeking to transfer the responsibility that is upon them.—M.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.