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Written by J.H. Purifoy   

ZION'S ADVOCATE - January 1891

DEAR BROTHER WILTSHIRE :--I have at last reached home from a long tour of preaching, of which I desire to speak through the ADVOCATE, and the Primitive Baptist, for the benefit of the readers of those periodicals, as they circulate mostly among the brethren among whom I preached, and I do this the more willingly because many brethren have requested to see an account of my tour. The tour was so extensive that I can only give an outline of it, and this, perhaps, will be of greater interest to the general reader than a minute account of it in detail. I left home on the 14th of May, and reached home again on the 4th day of December, preaching nearly every day during that time, a period of seven months lacking ten days, except one week lost from sickness. I traveled about five thousand miles, the most of which was done by private conveyance. Visited over one hundred churches, some of which are destitute of pastors, and get no preaching only as they are visited by local and traveling preachers. I try always to make it a point in having tours made up for me to have appointments especially at destitute churches in reach of the line of the tour, and in this way I am enabled to reach them. But sometimes such appointments have been called in by the brethren for lack of conveyance to reach them, as the destitution is so great in some places that the destitute ones are not able even to furnish conveyance to those who are dependent on the brethren for conveyance. It does not look right that their poverty should thus cut them off from preaching, but so I find it. They must come to the preaching or the preaching must go to them if they get to hear it, and there are many precious old brethren and sisters who are not able to go far from their homes to hear preaching, so if the preaching does not go to them they are compelled to do without it. If the strong ones among us would only obey the command to "bear the infirmities of the weak," such would not be the case, and the waste places in Zion would be specially looked after. As the matter now stands it looks like burying people before they are dead, and how we shudder at the bare thought of being buried alive literally!

My tour embraced the States of Virginia, Maryland, a part of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and a part of Alabama, and I was at four Associations, viz.: the Ketocton of Virginia, Little River and Obion of Kentucky, and the Bethel of Tennessee. I think I would be safe in saying that I have seen and shaken hands on this tour with about three thousand Old School or Primitive Baptists. People who think and who say that the Old Baptists are nearly extinct and will all soon be gone simply expose and advertise their stupid ignorance about them, which reminds me of what the Apostle John said about the people of God in his day, how ignorant the people of the world were concerning them, for, said he, "the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." That is the way it is now, it seems to me.

At one church in Virginia, a destitute church for years past, I have baptized nine on this and former tours. In that number is one entire household, a father and seven motherless daughters, the youngest of which is about thirteen years old. I found some churches on the increase and manifesting a good deal of life and activity. Some were at a standstill, and others on the decline.

At one church in Kentucky a member was received who had been under conviction several years, and while I was preaching on the evidences of regeneration his burden left him, and before the burden of doubts and fears came upon him, an opportunity being given, he offered himself for membership, and told a beautiful and touching experience. He told how he was drawn out in love to God and his people the moment his burden was gone from him, and how beautiful and lovely the brethren and sisters all looked to him, and how he was made all at once to love, everybody, and especially one man who had for some time been his enemy, and whom he had thought he could never love nor forgive, and how he would love to see that man to make friends with him, and forgive him, but after receiving another member, and attending to other church matters in conference, and the question was asked where the baptizing would take place the next day, the brother said, "hold on, for I do not feel as I did while ago, a change has come over my feelings, and I am afraid I am deceived in this matter, and that I have deceived the church; put off baptism in my case till I see more into this thing, for I do not wish to deceive anybody." The burden of doubts and fears had come upon him, as it does upon all true believers in Christ, who are made manifest as such in regeneration, and so it was explained to the brother, which was satisfactory to him, and he and two others were baptized the next day. In some places I found the churches in peace, but in other places there was confusion, discord, and strife. In Virginia, the churches of the Ketocton and Ebenezer Associations have had great trouble and division from an Arminian element among them which holds to the doctrine that God uses the preaching of the gospel as the means of quickening the sinner dead in trespasses and sin, and that none are quickened where the gospel is not preached. They tried also to bring Sunday-schoolism and alien immersion into the churches, and a few of the churches have gone with that element, but the main body of both associations of churches stand firm, and have declared non-fellowship for such things.

In Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, I found some friction among the brethren in some localities resulting from fatalism, but that element is too weak yet to give serious trouble, but it seems to be on the increase, and many are deceived by it because the fatalist calls it predestination, and all true Old School Baptists love the predestination of God as taught in the Bible. I find the fatalist and the Arminians precisely alike in one thing, and that is they do not like to be called by their real names. The strangest form of humanity I meet with is an Arminian fatalist, and he too calls it predestination, and believes in universal predestination, universal atonement, and universal redemption, and conditional salvation. The fatalist teaches that Satan and wicked men are doing the will of God in their wickedness, that they are compelled to do as they do, because God made them that way and for that very purpose. If the wicked, therefore, are doing the will of God in their wickedness, and the righteous are doing the will of God in their righteousness, both alike will be saved, for Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven." And who is it that does the will of God ? It is he in whom God works both to will and to do of his good pleasure, for the Apostle Paul said, "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Fatalism then is universal salvation in disguise, of both men and devils. Fatalism and Arminianism are both alike destructive to the peace of God's people, and are to be regarded and avoided as deadly foes to the peace, prosperity, and fellowship of Zion. Fatalism dishonors God, charges him with all the sin and cruelty in the world, takes away the accountability of man, and sows discord among the people of God, and there is but one end for it, and that is division where it is triumphant.

On the other hand, election, predestination, and everlasting preservation of the saints, unite and promote the fellowship of God's people. Predestination comes from the Greek word Proarizo, which means to mark out before hand, to mark out a thing before hand. God marked out before hand in his own mind everything that he would do, and everything he would suffer his creatures to do. This is predestination, and predestination is based on foreknowledge. The word foreknowledge comes from the Greek word Prognosis, and means a perceiving before hand. Fatalism bases foreknowledge on predestination, and teaches that God cannot know anything except that which he has predestinated, and therefore knows all things because he has predestinated all things, or decreed all things just as we see them now as they come to pass; for instance, the time and place where the murderer slays his victim could not have been foreseen by the Lord unless he had decreed it all; that he is not wise enough to know the result beforehand of all voluntary action on the part of his creatures, that would be chance says the fatalist, hence God's foreknowledge as taught in the Bible is ignored and denied by the fatalist. Now God's foreknowledge is so unerringly perfect that he knows beforehand every track the fly makes by its own instinct, and the crooked path of the serpent made by its own instincts, as surely and as perfectly as if they had been forced there by the direct power of God applied to them; so with the natural thoughts and voluntary actions of men as accountable beings.--Every event, not brought about by the exercise of his own almighty power, but by the voluntary, unrestrained choice and will of the creature, is just as well known to God in his foreknowledge, as every act that is brought to pass by his power; and every event in the world will transpire precisely as it was foreseen of him before the world began, because in the ancients of eternity he saw and understood the cause and circumstances that would unerringly bring to pass every foreseen event. God has always, in his perfect wisdom, known every thought, every word, and every act of mine, and that of all his creatures during their entire existence in the world. He knows how every man, when tempted, is "drawn away by his own lust and enticed,'' and how it will end, as well as every act of those in whom he works both to will and do of his good pleasure. Therefore, "Whom he did foreknow (in his love and choice eternal to save) he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son," &c. Whom he foreknew in this way he marked out beforehand to be saved and conformed to the image of his Son. God unerringly knew in eternity that the wicked heart of Judas, under the influence of Satan, would prompt and cause him to betray Christ at the very time he did it, and no decree and no exercise of the divine power were needed to cause him to do the wicked act of betrayal. The deliverance of Christ into the hands of wicked men to be slain was predestinated, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. See here how predestination was based on the foreknowledge of God, the perfect and unerring knowledge of the fact that when given up to them that of their own free will and choice, prompted by their own wicked natures, they would surely put him to death.--See Acts 2, 23; 4, 26-28. So too in the ease of Joseph, whose brethren needed no decree of God to make them do as they did; their own wicked hearts led them to their wicked conduct, which God clearly foresaw and foreknew, and in his great goodness and power over-ruled, and, in this way, he causes the wrath of man to praise him. God predestinated that Joseph should go to Egypt, and go exactly in the manner he did go, this is the predestination of it, and his foreknowledge of the voluntary, wicked treatment of Joseph by his brethren was the basis of said predestination. They meant evil by their wicked conduct, but God overturned their wickedness to the honor and glory of his own great name and the good of his people. God's predestination embraces the central and final overthrow of wickedness, but never to cause wickedness. He punishes the disobedience of his people by bringing evil upon them, and overthrows cities and nations with evils, sore destroying evils, for their wickedness, and in this way creates (not created) evil. Let us prayerfully distinguish between predestination and fatalism. The issue is upon us, and will and must be met. Let us meet it in the love and fear of God and all will be well.

I find the brethren generally well rooted and grounded in doctrine, sound and unflinching, and unwavering in the faith once delivered to the saints, salvation by grace alone, but deficient in practical duties, especially in seeing after the temporal necessities of their pastors and of their helpless poor.

The pastor struggles hard to support his family with the labor of his own hands, and at the some time be away from home about half his time serving churches that give him little or nothing to make his time good. The result is there is considerable restlessness among the pastors, and many not being able to pursue this course and support their families, are breaking up and moving away, leaving the churches without pastors. And they are not moving to be of greater use to the churches, but to find a place where they hope to be more successful in making a support for their families. This seems to be now the greatest drawback to the welfare of our churches. The long neglect of God's people in this particular is extremely hurtful to them, and they are suffering more from that one thing now than from any one thing else, and pastors themselves are, perhaps, as much to blame, if not more, than the brethren are. Any duty long neglected will at length seem to be no duty at all. For instance, in the South the churches generally practice feet washing as a duty, and as much a duty as the observance of the Lord’s Supper, and they would no more neglect it than they would the Supper, while the churches North do not practice it at all, because they have never been taught and trained that feet washing was a command of Christ, to be observed in the ]literal act of feet washing as a church act like the Supper. One brother North said to me that our feet washing in the South is a new thing that the Old Baptists South have gotten up. God has burdened the preacher with the spiritual welfare of the church, and in turn has burdened the church with the temporal welfare of the preacher, and placed a woe over both, and the woe is "he that will not work neither let him eat." So the church that will not work to relieve their pastor's temporal necessities,, will soon become pastorless, and with their spiritual food cut off from them they fall into decay and finally perish as an organization. The church that neglects her pastor is like the man who never pays his laborers. He may prosper awhile at it, but after awhile his way of doing is found out and then he can get no more laborers for love nor money. To attempt to live on unpaid labor will never prosper in anything, and the cry of the unpaid laborer goes up to God. God has so arranged things that the temporal welfare of his people depends on their obedience in the discharge of duty. They are blessed in duty, not out of duty. God promises his people that their barns shall be filled with plenty if they will honor him with their substance, but if they withhold more than is meet that it tendeth to poverty. To honor the Lord with our substance is to help the poor and the needy and the gospel ministry in their temporal necessities. This subject has more deeply concerned me the last six years than ever before, and I have been the closest observer in regard to it, because a necessity has been laid upon me to sacrifice and give up home, business, a lucrative business, and give my whole time to traveling and preaching, and depend almost entirely on the voluntary contributions of brethren and friends for support and the payment of debts that were upon me when I was thus compelled to give up all to preach, and it has caused me the greatest anxiety at times and driven me almost to despair, especially when my temporal necessities were disregarded and neglected; and when, too, attempts have been made to turn the brethren against all traveling preachers as "money hunters," or "gleaners," or "self-appointed preachers to travel," &c. Whether any are such the Lord only knows, but if any are money hunters indeed, and expect to make money in that way among the Primitive Baptists, they display no judgment, and less sense, and their avaricious appetites will soon satisfy them that they are in the wrong place to make money. Those who know me best would never charge me with preaching for money, after giving up a business worth three thousand dollars a year to me, in order to do what I have been doing for the last six years of almost constant travel and preaching. Could I stop, and see after the support of my family, as my first and highest duty in life, as many others seem to be doing, and which my fleshly nature craves to do, I would travel and preach no more, but there is a duty pressed upon me that outweighs all that and a burden that I cannot throw off, and that is the peace and welfare of Zion, and I feel compelled to go on under that burden, impressed too with the feeling and belief that the only way that I can expect for the Lord to bless me temporally or spiritually, is to do my duty fully in this particular, and when I am cordially received and helped on my way after a godly sort I feel to thank God and take courage, but when it is otherwise I get into deep distress, and would quit if I could, or dared do so. I find the brethren generally more willing to do their duty in every way than they appear some times to be, especially when duty is clearly presented to them. The church not only needs doctrinal preaching, but it needs a great deal of experimental and practical preaching, too.

Observation and experience convince me that such variety is necessary to the growth and prosperity of the church. This is a great and important matter, calling for great energy, perseverance, and a determination on the part of the ministry and brethren to sacrifice time and means for its accomplishment. The matter is not, when rightly considered, how much time and means can I spare in the service of God, but how much of a sacrifice can each make for the peace and welfare of Zion and her good generally. How many are willing to be offered, like Paul, as a sacrifice upon the service and altar of the faith of God's people. Living sacrifices, not dead ones, in the service of our God, is the great need now among the people of God. As an instance of the tireless energy and determination we all ought to have in active exercise, I feel to hope Elder N. B. Jones, of Green Co., Ala., will excuse the mention of his name in this connection. In order to meet appointments in his region from where my tour ended in Mississippi, it became necessary for some one to travel by private conveyance a distance of about seventy miles from 3 o'clock in the evening till 12 o'clock next day, and to do that it was necessary to travel all night. Brethren said it cannot be done, or rather than do that let the appointments be given up. But brother Jones said no. I'll bring him here in time to meet the appointments, and he did. He traveled all night, and was with me at my last appointment in Mississippi, nearly seventy miles from where he started the evening before at 3 o'clock.

J. H. PURIFOY.

463 NANCE ST.,

SELMA, ALA., Dec. 12, 1890.

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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.