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Written by R. Anna Phillips   

 

CHAPTER X—SUNDAY SCHOOLS

That pet institution of the church--their best-loved household god--that handy system for bringing up children, as I was told, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, I was favorable to Sunday-schools--had charge of the ladies’ Bible class in one when married. And had thought surely none but the ultra-illiberal could oppose them. Still I had been deceived about other matters; and felt constrained to apply the same test to these. The word of God which said “Observe all things whatsoever ‘I have commanded,” as strongly implied observe nothing I have not commanded. This “whatsoever” includes all things--Sunday-schools must be observed or not. Anything of so much importance as to be worth the contention they caused and the tenacity with which so many cling to them, surely should have a plain command of Christ. But no, I found no such command; no authority whatever for them from the Bible. I found them another auxiliary or helper to the church; indeed the greatest and strongest of all her helpers, and the best beloved of all. Was it a solid part or a fungus growth? If solid, why so entirely ignored by Christ and the apostles? If fungus, by what law a supplement or helper or supporter of the church? Their only rule of faith and practice answered nothing--not ever by an inference.

But as to relative position to the church--the principle upon which based, I was told, was as that of a nursery to the orchard. A nursery is wherein the seeds are sown and grown to plants old and strong enough to be transferred and hand-planted in the orchard. Then a Sunday-school is a system wherein a child is trained in religion--nurtured in the admonition of the Lord till strong enough in the principles of doctrine to be transplanted in the church; and the Sabbath-school pupil thus becomes a member of the church. But has Jesus ever said a child of his should be manifested thus? Has he not told of the one way, and said that if any come in by any other he would not own them. Does transplanting agree with the soil of the garden? Trees, however young or old, in being transplanted carry along their same original root and nature and sap, or life, and hence ]bring forth the same fruit. And thus we have the same root and branch, nature and life, foliage and fruit in ‘the orchard as in the nursery--in the church as in the world or school: the only difference is not in nature but in age; and as to the tree transplanted, it has more scope for expansion. Now grafting is quite a different thing, and upon a different principle. But in transplanting• each tree is separate from and independent of another; each one is self-sustaining and hears fruit after its kind. And if the “first-fruit be holy the lump is holy;” or if the root is holy so are the branches, and vice versa.

Following up this figure, it would seem the soil of the nursery should be well fertilized and cultivated requiring many husbandmen to keep in order. An unequal soil will produce unequal trees; some may be overgrown, and some stunted; and so many sorts of roots and sizes of trees may show great disparity in size as well as in quantity in fruit; while some may be too weak and sickly to bear fruit at all.

But Jesus speaking to his disciples ignores so many roots, trees and husbandmen in his vineyard: in his church he says “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it. Abide in me and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and in you bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing.” This is very different from that other orchard; there every one stood in himself alone; and there were as many kinds of fruits, natures, and lives, as roots transplanted. And as said, each one separate and independent. But here in Christ’s church, to bear fruit--to live they must abide in him, wherein, as a stock, the Husbandman has grafted them. So Jesus continues “if a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch anti is withered; and men gathered them and cast them into the fire.” John 15. It would never do to transplant here for as out of this vine, they would be cast forth and burned. There is but one vine here; one nature, sap, and fruit: this one vine or stock bears all the branches no self sustaining trees here. Christ stands relatively to his members as a vine to its branches. It is impossible for a branch to be made partaker of the sap or life of a vine without being in vital union with that vine; but ;grafted into it and abiding thus the sap of the vine flows out and becomes the sap of the branch, and thus either is in the other making one body, life, and fruit. It is the Father the one Husbandman that bruises this precious vine [Christ] that wild branches [sinners] may be grafted in it. And he alone sets or grafts them in; and by the vital union and oneness they become “partakers of his divine nature.” And thus poor dead sinners receive “eternal life through Jesus Christ,” just as the branch receives the sap or life-principle springing up from the root. One may plant and another water but God alone gives the increase.

Also, in grafting, the old root as a first principle of life is left behind: but in transplanting the whole tree root and branch is brought in. A church supplied by a Sunday-school may flourish in their own soil, but it would not do for them to bring trees root or branch to the garden of God; for it is “enclosed” and its life a “fountain sealed” to such; there is no rooting of trees there: there is but one root or vine that enters that soil, and he who lives there must receive life through that vine. For God’s one gift of eternal life is through Jesus Christ. Still people want to plant and re-plant and transplant, in order to which they must have the root and the soil ;-- yes , with such a flourishing Sunday-school they must do something in the Lord’s vineyard, and to transplant in the ground. But says Jesus “every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” Mat. 15: 13.

Then it would seem he has no need of Sunday-schools to prepare and plant trees; and perchance, all this training expended on these little trees and plants may be “love’s labor lost.” We know that the object and purpose of a nursery culminates in this transfer. The word of God never destroys or condemns the works of God: but these transplanted “shall be rooted up.”

But then I heard a state superintendent of these schools say in convention that the Sunday-schools converted or caused conversion to more souls than did the churches! that the churches would actually die out but for the Sunday-school recruits. Then this, too, is a soul-saying institution; and can reach where the weaker more inefficient arms of the church cannot (?); indeed, the Sunday-school, he said, was the last, best and timely ebbing of life to her, (I know a church whose life is hid with Christ in God; and no danger of her dying while they live). What surprises me is the Missionaries, from the above, seem to claim this life and that as mostly transferred through Sunday-schools; and by their strong urgent appeals for money--more money to keep up the Sunday-schools, it would seem that this medium of life to the church was in danger of being cut off, in which case the church would die out: yet, seriously, I do not suppose they really thought this--they wanted money. Do their articles read correctly--Scripture “only rule of faith and practice?”

The base then of Sunday-schools is money: this same agent in connection with the above, said--and who knows better? --that those schools would go down without money, and the church without these; “in short, that it was of no use to evade or hide the fact, the church rested on the Sunday-schools; and the Sunday-schools on money:” I thought of a church built on a rock, and in consideration of the importance thus assumed by Sunday-schools and in face of this threatened danger, he urged the convention to largely increase his salary.

Ah, yes! but this was a transplanted vineyard and the Sunday-school was the nursery !--pay the husband man and have the plants flourish and thrive, and at the proper age and season transplant them and nurture them till they take root anew--not new root --and the church will live.

But, says some one, we never proposed to transplant them without a change of heart as born of God: but by training them in the Sunday-school to make them morally better and thus placing them more certainly in the way of salvation. Then you should not call this system of schools a nursery unless you mean the literal figure to apply. And as to their training and instruction placing one “more certainly in the way of salvation,” is to say that eternal salvation is conditional and thereby frustrate the covenant of grace your articles of faith claim. This is all right and consistent for Methodists--but for Baptists pretending to believe in this covenant or the doctrine of election and salvation by grace “without deeds of law,” to talk of placing in the way of salvation by the merit of training or otherwise, is surprising and contradictory: for this places salvation hinges it, I might say on good training. If God is more apt to convert the soul of one for the merit of Sunday-school training, than that of one who never attended one: why, the school and its work is recognized as merit; and ail merit, however trifling is incongruous to grace: otherwise “grace is no more grace.”
And, by the same parity of reasoning, a Paul would have been found in the way of salvation before a Mary Magdalene. Do you remember in what way Paul was found? And all the Pharisees, especially those masters and scribes so perfect in the Scriptural: knowledge and all legal observances would have been in the way for Jesus to Call, before; those ignorant unlearned persons whom he did call and whose very illiteracy proved they had no religious training. And the good young man Who had great knowledge and’ possessions in that he had observed all legal and moral obligations “from his youth up;” yet Jesus turned him away; and went to a blind man and healed him. And the poor “prodigal son” with worse than empty hands, the father saw when a great way off and ran and met him and kissed in welcome. While to others who came boasting of the many wonderful works done in his name, he said “Depart; I never knew you.” It was not the righteous that Jesus came to call, but sinners. And if these were not in the way, so to speak, when the covenant of redemption was sealed; they can never be brought there.

Then to patronize Sunday-schools Was to endorse their foundation which was as “other foundations” forbidden by the word of God; even as it was to patronize any of their religious systems with other foundation than Christ,. But I found among them not many very consciences as to the word of God in regulating their practices, yet susceptible and sensitive enough if I attacked their traditional ideas or systems enthroned in “popular opinions,” religiously: and for which I have ever found a fanatical zeal innate and ever-abiding, and never-ceasing effort-principle of the human heart building to religion. And according to which, the church bringing the most co-laboring effort systems received the first honor; even as the individual member who laid the greatest treasure at the feet of any god was adjudged highest ill the scale of Christianity. And vice versa.

And of all these enthroned in high places the Sunday-school was the darling god drawing the most willing devotees and most lavish offerings. They could endure speaking against other institutions eyes the church; but condemn Sunday-schools and you revived the Ephesian cry as for Diana: And they had all my human nature on their side: I, in a sense, stood alone save for lingering echo of that voice--”If ye love me keep my commandments.”

When I would weigh popular sentiment and see the hazard of many objects of fleshly desire in the balance, I would falter and stagger and try to stand still, in that, if I could not be for them, not to be against them. But God knew I could not; and that I acted from consciences convictions of truth. Standing still to one side effected the other, that I believed was Jesus’ side. He said “he that is not for me, is against me;”--no compromise or middle ground here to stand still on--also, “he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad:” “If ye love me keep my Commandments;” “and this is love that ye walk after his commandments:”--”If any come unto you and bring not this doctrine receive him not into your house [or heart, by silent submission, evasion or otherwise], neither bid him God speed :”--”If you deny me before the face of men, I will deny you before the face of my Father.” As a weary foot-sore stranger in a strange land. wandering lost in the wilderness of confusion I did need and crave the divine hand.

I looked back at the ancient saints who endured so much--at Jesus and the apostles as persecuted and cast out as evil--at the bonds and afflictions that awaited then in every city, and counted them happy as enduring seeing him who is invisible. The apostles could be scourged, imprisoned, their property confiscated and all without legal redress--all this they endured cheerfully; and Jesus resisted temptation unto blood, and here I faltered at popular opinion. I would see Jesus as never faltering, never looking back--never smiling or enjoying this world, never murmuring, but as smitten with reproach enduring unto death, and my soul was pierced within me at my denial of him. Then craving to breathe a fuller freer life with him I prayed for that strong living faith to follow him--to overcome the world, and honor him alone.

And whenever I condemned the Missionary Baptists in any feature, the Primitive Baptists were just so sure to press upon me in contrast as if claiming--yea, demanding my approval and acceptance. I was told, however, they believed not in, nor practiced any good works, not even to send their children to Sunday-school or teach them the Bible. I knew this was false for I had known them to send their children to Sunday-school, set up by the neighbors to teach the letter of the Bible; but not to those belonging to “the Union” and based upon the principle of a nursery to the church: for in so doing they must subscribe to this unscriptural principle or base. But why do not all do so? Because they prefer to teach them as God has commanded, and like the only Bible examples we have--at home as parents. The command to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord was especially to parents; and in the same sense in which it is said “train a child in the way he should go” and “spare the rod and spoil the child.” This was to parents and for a home government and training. And I know the Primitive Baptists receive and obey it as such: and that their own daily walk and conversation in the fear, and according to the admonition of the Lord, is the best school system they know, or any can know; and certainly the one, and only one, commanded by the Lord.

And in this school--that is as good for. Monday as for Sunday--example is a better teacher than precept; but both together with lessons stamped by the inherent power of parental love and authority make the best moral training school in the world. According to the Missionary system there is much more precept than example. I have noted very particularly between these two kinds of schools, and their mode and manner of teaching. The Bible never said a Sunday, but a day--an every day--school. And it never said to, or for a system, but to, and for, parents to teach it. The Primitive Baptists teach this daily school, observing Monday as closely as Sunday: and they teach all, Old and young, bond and free; indeed they are themselves epistles--living, active epistles—“known and read of all men” coming in contact.

“What! The Primitive Baptists teach a school? While in one sense they are the best people we have--they are honest, upright, the best of law-abiding citizens, provide things honest in the sight of all men, speak the truth, are kind to the poor, good neighbors, and will pay their debts, &c., but their religion is just simply abominable, originating in ignorance and superstition and culminating in selfishness and bigotry; why they preach infants to hell, and believe God reprobated a part of mankind to hell, and there they must go, no matter how good: and elected the rest to heaven, and here they will go, no matter how mean; and they oppose all good religious works, and are practical do-nothingers.” (I have heard such things said.) Well, with the exception of their religious beliefs and practices charged—which are all false as can be, theirs is a moral character of which they need not be ashamed, and one of which their accusers cannot boast. And are not all these good works especially commanded by Christ? Certainly they are. It is the every day walk and conversation that bears the blessed image, and manifests the life of Jesus in the mortal body, and not crossless habiliments of a Sunday religion. And these lessons in daily walk as parental examples indelibly stamps in the tender minds of children, so that not even time can erase them. Then indeed this is the purest and best of all schools the daily lifetime walk and precepts of devoted, God-fearing and serving parents. And this school, however condemned as such by the Pharisaical world, is the only school commanded by God for children. If you will notice you will see that every injunction relative to training and instructing children is directly demanded of parents: and they may not obey God, and delegate the work to another; indeed to do so would do violence to the “admonition” that gives this training to parents only. And this “nurture and admonition,” mind you, is the Lord’s and not man’s--not that I ever saw it in a catechism. A child must be trained in this. This nurture--tender, loving guidance of the Lord--and admonition--as that of a loving father to his child--as exemplified and taught in daily habitual walk of father and mother, has power to impress the hearts and minds of their children more deeply and lastingly than any other under heaven. Contrast this daily, mostly home-hidden school with the fashionable Sunday-school, and judge them as, trees known by their fruit.

Where children attend Sunday-school regularly-their parents give little or no attention to their religious or ethical training, but leave it to the school. But when Sunday morning comes, they are taught this is Sabbath--quite a different day from a weekday; and that today they must be good; implying that it does not matter much tomorrow. Yet here you see fashionable style predominant and the forms and conventionalities of fashionable religion and its services held inviolable; hence social classification, so apparent and exclusive that the rich, stylishly dressed child of the wealthy does not notice the poor, plainly dressed little one in her class; even right there and then, When professedly training them to walk with Jesus. For an hour or two they go on with the usual work more to keep up with the popular form than to please God; and which the children • regard as Sunday work. And there they hear, or receive tracts and read so much about the good results of Sunday-schools--of how this teacher and that saved so many souls: and how little children were made good by promptly attending, and were converted for it, till soon one concludes he is better--far more holy than one who does not attend; and that soon they have performed enough good works for eternal life for which they substitute the term religion; they read their little tracts, give their little money and say their little prayers; and by the time they are ten or twelve years old conclude they are ready for the transplanting they have heard about. And who is to blame if they enter without divine life? Have they not been taught that the Sunday-school was the nursery to the church? Have they not been taught that they were, as it were, young trees trained and cultivated in the nursery, with the ultimate and sole design of removal to the orchard or church-that for a time past they only wanted and awaited a little more strength and growth to be transplanted into the church?

Another outcome or fruit of Sunday-schools is that the children who have attended them most regular generally have the least reverence and respect for prayer, preaching or any religious service, and even for God and his word. Was this because the Sunday-school work was made a business, or assumed a business form till the whole system of divine revelation assumed that form and nature to them? Or was it because these sacred principles in practical form were presented to them so often during their Sunday-school service, and often by common and unclean hands, that they from this, or from familiarity, :became to them common? Who with the audacity of a Sunday-school scholar can take the name of the Lord in vain, or criticize prayer, or ridicule a sermon? And, generally speaking, if not, an active, loud-professing Christian worker in the church, who so far from seeking the kingdom of God? Reader, do you suppose the Lord sees a difference between these schools? Perhaps, just like he did between the Publican and the Pharisee, who prayed in the temple ? Does the world see a difference? Perhaps, just like it did between Jesus and the high priest teaching the kingdom of God. Yes, the poor Old Baptists ‘,make void the law of Moses,” and are a “stumbling-block to sinners,” and “a hindrance to Christianity.” The New Baptists give time and money to many wonderful works invented to hunt up sinners and advance the kingdom.

These were the principles and the spirit I came in contact with, and thus I investigated, reasoned and argued to myself. My carnal mind, with all its powers full armed, were arrayed with the Missionary and popular side; while the word of God, my secret soul, and the small still voice, armed for the other side. But worldly approval and popularity proved traitor to the other side and came to me testifying in favor of the church as never popular--”everywhere spoken evil against,” and like its author, ever bearing shame and reproach.

I knew the holding of my letter did not release me from the Missionaries. But to whom should I go? Who had the words of eternal life? I had searched all the so-called churches too closely not to know the Primitive Baptists by every external and internal evidence ruby faith and practice--came nearer the Bible test than any other. But their very mark of true identity were the things most obnoxious to. my carnal mind, and they were the very people I had looked down upon.

When I had made the investigation thus far, an looked at the Missionary Baptists as a church, an saw so many great, wise and rich men in it, and the preachers among these scrambling for the big places of self-aggrandizement and money, and the preaching for the most money, seeing poor church left without a pastor as too poor to come to their price and the gospel as they obtained and preached it, and observed their lording, glorying spirit: the all these systems invented for their purpose. An then read from Jesus to his church, “Ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the thing which are mighty, [just as I do] and base things, an things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, things which are not to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1Cor. 1:25, 29. I cried alas for the poor in dollars, if these be the ministers of the gospel! Alas for the poor in spirit, if this be the gospel! Alas for the Missionary Baptists--if revelation be true!

Now a few general remarks about religious institutions as a whole, and that stand in the sense of auxiliaries or helpers to the church, as if the church of Christ needed a supplement, or his law an amendment. The bare idea is dishonoring to Jesus the builder of one, and framer of the other; while actually to have annexed these auxiliaries to the church (?) I consider a terrible sin with a terrible penalty for God hath said, “If any man shall add unto these things, [works of Jesus] God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this [his] book.” Rev. 22:18. That Jesus said to his disciples “Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded”--which as implicitly says observe nothing else--proves these auxiliaries wrong; for I have shown you there is no command of Jesus for them; and that one of their own greatest, wisest men said “the best that could be said for them was the ends justified the means,” and then talked very doubtfully of these.

For the church of Christ is perfect, complete in itself; for Jesus said, “I will build my church;” Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.” This is the way this church groweth, and not by outside helping systems. “In whom [Christ] ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit.” Eph. 2:21, 22. A living natural body has all the vital functions “fitly framed” within, necessary to the growth and increase of that body; and no foreign body--whether as detached or appended--can supply or play these functions, or in any manner add to or help this growth. No more can these institutions add to, or help to increase the church or advance the kingdom of Christ. For this church is as a body--the body of Christ, from whom the whole body, fitly framed together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth according to the effectual Working in the measure of every part maketh increase of the body.” Eph. 4:16. Here you will notice the work making increase is effectual, not needing or admitting help.

The church is the sole depository of the law for execution; to which none is to add to, or take from. And to her he gave “the keys of the kingdom, as thus conferring on her all official authority.” Mat. 16:19.

And all for the internal regulations of the kingdom or church. This law of Christ looks to every relative position in life, and so covers the whole scope of practical duty of man: so that if a disciple, as unto the Lord, should obey what Jesus says to him; he has “done justly, loved mercy and walked humbly with his God,” and is “accepted of men.” Yet all of and in the kingdom. All spiritual gifts answering to the vital functions of the body--are “set in the church.” Acts 10:23. And they only of, and in, and for, the church--their “feet [indicative of walk or works] shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!”

Thus we see this church a “finished work” in every part and department--”complete, wanting nothing”--with neither schism nor lack. And not only complete, but also exclusive, as “a garden enclosed”--a city walled--a fountain sealed--and hence not only lacking nothing, but admitting nothing, not even the seductive hand of willing helpers. Then he does not recognize these religious institutions as auxiliaries.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2006 )
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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.