Introduction and Rationale
The premise and chief questions of this paper emerge from my experience as a Southern Baptist Christian raised in a Landmarkist, Sandy Creek tradition but educated and exposed to other liturgical traditions, including the Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. In my tradition, evangelism and revivals were a regular part of church life. Every service concluded with an appeal to "let Jesus have his way in your heart" by "coming forward" to "accept" him as Savior. Every Christian was expected to "share the faith" with the "lost." And every spring and fall, "revival" meetings were scheduled with a special emphasis on "winning the lost." "Getting people saved" seems to have been the be-all and end-all of this tradition.
As with most young persons these days, my college years might have been labeled "years of rebellion," but in my case in a rather peculiar way. My rebellion came in the form of experiencing other worship traditions, notably the Episcopal and the Roman Catholic. In my initial experiences in the Episcopal church, I was sure these people were "dead Christians" at best, since there was no invitation and they did not seem very interested in singing or preaching about accepting Christ as personal Savior. But the longer I stayed, and the more I worshiped with them (three years, overall), I found myself drawn closer to God than ever before in the power and form and words of their liturgy. As another evangelistic friend of mine said, "Their preaching may not be very scriptural or evangelistic, but the service is full of scripture and the whole gospel." After experiencing scripture and gospel in this way, and then returning to the church I was raised in, I felt that somehow, overall, these unevangelistic Episcopalians were far advanced spiritually over us Southern Baptists.
When my wife and I came to Louisville in 1986, then, we came looking for a church that would have that same fullness of worship we had experienced in college. We settled on Deer Park Baptist Church, one of the "Charleston tradition" churches founded by Walnut Street Baptist Church in the early 1900s. In church history that semester, I learned about these two traditions, Sandy Creek and Charleston, and began to understand why Deer Park was attrac- tive to us.
About the same time, however, I became rather disturbed by the accusations being hurled at "high church" congre- gations like ours by members of the fundamentalist faction within our denomination. They were saying that we were not evangelistic, that we did not care about the lost, and that wherever "high church" liturgy crept in, "liberalism" and a decline in baptismal rates soon followed. And they were able to back their claim with statistics, including our church's statistics.
In my two and one-half years as church member and volunteer staff member at Deer Park, it has indeed been apparent that we are not as evangelistic as the church and the tradition in which I was raised, or at least not evangelis- tic in the same way. But I had to question seriously whether our "high church" worship were the true culprit in this. My experience of continued, deepening
spiritual growth in college and at Deer Park seemed to militate against such a connection as a necessary one. There must, I thought, be some other answer.
This paper is the product of my search for some other answer. Its approach has been suggested to me in part by my participation in a seminar with Dr. E. Glenn Hinson on "Classics of Christian Devotion" and the seminar paper we were required to write describing our own understanding of Christian spirituality based on the readings of the course material. A central insight I developed in that paper was that spirituality is not entirely an individual matter, but, if what Paul says about the church as the body of Christ is true, must be understood also, and perhaps primarily, in terms of the encounter with God as a community at worship. Dr. Hinson has made this point concrete for Baptists as heirs of the Puritan tradition. For the Puritans, he wrote, "Worship became virtually synonymous with spirituality." (1) And spirituality, we might add, is the underlying and informing impulse of the life and deeds of the church as body of Christ.
My approach in this paper, then, is to examine the liturgies of Charleston tradition Baptists from 1696-1856 (the founding of First Baptist Church in Charleston to the period before the Civil War) and discern the spirituality or spir- itual priorities this reveals, and then compare this with their evangelistic practices and discern the spirituality these reveal during the same period. The result will be to find points of contact and points of conflict between the Charles- ton traditions of worship and evangelism which, if my basic thesis about spirituality is correct, may give us some clues for ways Charleston tradition Baptists may rethink their evangelism within their own tradition.
Problems and Questions
It would be irresponsible scholarship not to acknowledge the serious problems and questions my study entails. First, and perhaps most seriously, we must decide whether the "Charleston tradition" in any sort of "pure" or "ideal" form has continued to exist relatively unadulterated by the Sandy Creek tradition. This problem is thornier than many have wanted to admit. To argue that "if it looks liturgical, it must be Charleston" does not do justice to the many churches of other traditions which have "gone liturgical" over the years for a variety of cultural and theological rea- sons. (2) The relative lack of church growth in the Charleston association before the arrival of the Separates in the region in the late 1750s (only four churches established as of 1751, the founding of the Charleston Association) and the rapid growth thereafter (to 27 in 1784 and 154 in 1812), a pattern repeated by Separates in North Carolina and Virginia as well, may suggest serious inroads by the Separates into the Charleston tradition. (3) This is further sup- ported by the fact that Richard Furman, either seventh or eighth pastor of the Charleston church (1787-1825), was himself converted under the preaching of the Separate Baptist preacher Joseph Reese, who was in turn ordained by the Oliver Hart, Charleston's previous pastor, and began to preach revivals on the Separate model. (4) Perhaps the strong- est evidence for the continuance of the Charleston tradition is the suspicion that attended all the pre-Revolution talks about uniting Separates and Regulars, (5) and a continued tone of suspicion of revivalism generally which is evident in the denominational papers published between 1846 and 1866 from Charleston.
A second major problem with the study is the nature of the source materials or the lack thereof. First, the Charles- ton church records are woefully incomplete, in part because of a cyclone which destroyed all the church's records from 1713-1753. (6) Further, as Donald Hustad pointed out in his recent article on the Charleston and Sandy Creek traditions in Review and Expositor (April, 1988), the tricentennial history of the Charleston church contains virtually no information about its worship. (7) William Loyd Allen found much the same thing in his 1984 study of Baptist spirituality. (8) Consequently, I have needed to rely on other early Baptist documents, including sermons, manuals of church order, and denominational newspapers published in Charleston, not all of which necessarily represent the Charleston tradition per se, but which, I think, are likely to be close to that tradition. Also, when I found the denomina- tional newspapers, they were in such quantity (about ten volumes of four-column, tiny print, each volume averaging around a thousand pages or so) that I could not examine them all, nor even many of them. What I have done, then, is to draw a random sampling from the 1840s and 1850s, hoping this would be representative and that, for better or worse, since they were published in Charleston, often by members of the Charleston church, they would reflect the prevailing views of that church. (A thorough examination of these sources might make for an excellent Ph.D. disserta- tion for another scholar.)
With these reservations and problems in mind, then, let us begin our study.
Charleston Tradition Liturgies One of the earliest records we have of Baptist worship in America comes from the church covenant of Boston Baptist Church, a document written largely as an apologetic to the courts in Massachusetts who were holding the church's pastor prisoner at the time. Among the key elements of the worship they described, though in no particular order, were lay prophesying, Lord's Daymeetings for "the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers," (Acts 2:42) and admitting, dismissing, and disciplining members. An afternoon service at the church consisted of lay prophesying, preaching, and prayer. Lay prophesying, the practice of every member bringing a scrip- ture and teaching or exhorting the fellowship from it, was particularly important to these early Baptists, and may well have been one of the chief reasons for their imprisonment. It was this church that ordained William Screven in 1682 and sent him to Kittery, Maine. Screven moved with a large number of his congregation to Charleston, South Carolina and became the pastor of First Baptist Church there in 1696. (9)
The most complete description of early Baptist liturgy comes from Morgan Edwards, pastor of First Baptist Church, Philadelphia, and noted early Baptist historian. While Edwards was not a member of First Baptist, Charleston, he had intimate knowledge of its history and workings through his meetings with Oliver Hart, pastor from 1749-1784 and his membership on a committee for formulating church discipline in the Charleston Association in 1772. (10) While he and Hart apparently disagreed on some particulars (such as the number of ordinances and the number of officers, Edwards having more), it is probably safe to say that on the whole, Edwards' description of Baptist worship in his 1768 publication, The Customs of the Primitive Churches, a kind of minister's manual for the Philadelphia Association, would
closely approximate the practices in Charleston as well. Donald Hustad, in his aforementioned article, cites Edwards for this purpose.
Edwards outlines three services in some detail: regular Sunday worship, the Lord's supper, and baptism. The litur- gy he recommends for regular Sunday worship is as follows:
Short Prayer by the minister
Reading of Scripture
A third prayer
Lord's Supper (on Sunday evening)
Collection for the poor
Edwards is careful to state that the particular order of the service is not important, but that according to I Timothy 2:1,I Corinthians 14:16, and I Corinthians 14:40 it must begin with prayer, end with a benediction, and be "decently ordered." (11)
For Edwards, decent order was assured when the proper officers were attending to the proper tasks. The minister should preach, the clerk should lead the singing and the Amens at prayers, and the deacons should help with the administration of the elements of the Lord's supper. (12) It will be noted that "lay prophesying" so prominent in the earlier Boston tradition, is absent here, replaced by a new emphasis on order in public worship and the primacy of the Scriptures read, sung, and proclaimed.
The Lord's supper, according to Edwards, is to be celebrated "every Lord's day evening," "for the remembrance [sic] of Christ's death" in a "serious and examinatory" manner according to the following order, which he bases on the gospel accounts of the last supper:
"A suitable exordium" (call to self-examination in the light of the meaning of the Supper)
Taking the Bread
Blessing it and giving thanks (a lengthy prayer is listed)
Giving it to the people (while "uttering the words of distribution," apparently "Take, eat, this is my body, etc.")
Repeating the process for the wine, including a second prayer of thanksgiving
Collection for needy Christians
Contrary to his earlier unconcern for the order or particular contents of regular worship, here Edwards is adamant that every part of the Lord's Supper celebration is significant, and that nothing is to be omitted or added to the biblical reports of the event. He also advocates the practice of the "love feast" as a fellowship meal with a footwashing cere- mony as a kind of home Eucharist, a way of strengthening the ties of fellowship and love and communing joyfully with the risen Christ. (13)
Baptism, as Edwards describes it, is a dramatic and joyous event punctuated by the words and images of the Scrip- tures. It is to be held, where feasible, by a body of water with the congregation gathering around as witnesses. The ceremony begins with a theological preface describing the meaning of baptism, and continues with a prayer by the minister for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the person being baptized and for the presence of Christ in commun- ion with his people. The pastor then utters "words of introduction," scriptures which speak of persons going into a river to be baptized, as he and the candidates for baptism move together into the water. Each person is baptized once (Edwards did not object to trine immersion, but did not see any necessity for it either) in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After the baptism, time is given for the community to rejoice and welcome the newly baptized. A prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands is said over each of the baptized, and the ordained of the church lay hands on them, praying that the Holy Spirit may preserve them. The right hand of fellowship is offered with the kiss of charity by all the church members to the newly baptized, the formal moment of reception into the church. The service concludes with a hymn declaring the death of the old life and the beginning of new life in Christ. (14)
The next description of early Charleston Baptist worship comes from a description of the typical associational meeting before 1824. The author of this description is Oliver Hart, perhaps a son or grandson of the Oliver Hart who had been pastor of the Charleston Church from 1749-1784. In his article in The Southern Baptist in November, 1856, he describes the Saturday and Sunday sessions of these meetings as given "entirely to acts of devotion," including the solemn celebration of the Lord's Supper in the Sunday evening session. James A. Rogers, Furman's biographer, con- firms Hart's description and gives some more details pertaining to an 1802 meeting of the Charleston association. (15) Two sermons were delivered on Saturday, and three on Sunday, with the evening service being the Lord's Supper, probably along the lines Edwards has described. (16)
We get another glimpse of Charleston Church worship from the diary of Eliza Yoer Tupper, cited by Rogers. She noted in her entry on December 9, 1818, the day after she had been baptized by Furman and the date of the delivery of her first son, that the pulpit was high, that Furman wore "a black gown and white bands," that he would preface the singing by saying, "Let us sing" and then "line out" the tune for the congregation and choir. She also noted that there was no Sunday School at the church, but rather the "Baptist Catechesis," and that the children would regularly be tested on their knowledge of the catechesis in time set aside for them in worship services. (17)
Rogers also gives us two other items of note about Charleston worship. In a letter from Richard Furman to Oliver Hart, when Hart was considering returning to Charleston in some ministerial capacity, Furman reminds the elder statesman that the church required three services on Sunday (each having a sermon, it appears), and a midweek lecture (it's not clear what this was). (18) Doug Adams, in his survey of early free church worship in America, noted that the typical Puritan pattern in New England called for two services on Sunday, a morning and an afternoon service, with the former following fairly closely the pattern Edwards has outlined (except for time given specifically for lay ques- tioning and exhorting after the sermon), and the latter focusing primarily on church business (admitting members, baptizing, dismissing, and, of course, a sermon and music). (19)
The other kind of service to notice in the period of Furman's pastorate is the quarterly weekday prayer services he started in the early 1790s as "Quarterly Concerts of Prayer for World Missions." By 1795, the whole association had adopted this pattern, and after 1810 the Charleston church moved to monthly services for this purpose. (20) While we know nothing about the liturgy or format of these services, the fact that they were held is itself significant, suggesting something about the growing concern and dedication to missions in this period not only by key individuals, but also by churches as gathered communities of prayer and concern.
James P. Boyce, raised in First Baptist Charleston, has left for us a description of the services he attended at Brown University on its February fast day in 1846. The morning service was structured as follows: Prayer by Francis Wayland, President
Sermon: "The Necessity of Religion in College"
Sermon: "The Importance of Cultivating Our
Spiritual Natures as well as Improving
Our Intellectual Faculties" Though no hymns or prayers are mentioned other than these, we
are probably safe to assume there were some. The afternoon
service, according to Boyce, consisted of a sermon by Wayland directed at the unconverted. Boyce also mentioned in passing that he had asked the Charleston church to pray for revival at Brown, and that they had replied they were already doing so at their daily morning prayer services (8 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday). (21)
A final glimpse at Charleston tradition liturgy for the period we are covering comes from an 1846 article in Caroli- na Baptist, a denominational weekly printed in Charleston, by William Bullein Johnson, first president of the Southern Baptist Convention and spiritual son of Richard Furman. In the second part of the fourth of his series "Lectures on the Government and Order of the Churches of Christ," Johnson described what the Scriptures required a worship service to include and how a service might be ordered properly to incorporate these elements.
The required elements included:
Penitence and restoration
Breaking of bread
The exercise of spiritual gifts
Contributions for the needy
The order he suggested was also to apply to the constituting meeting of a new church:
Presiding officer reads from the statute book (not clear exactly what this is; a church covenant or constitution, perhaps?)
Presiding officer announces hymn
Prayer by presiding officer or a brother
Admission and Dismission of members
Dealing with delinquent and penitent members
Sharing of spiritual gifts
Gathering the contributions for the needy
This is admittedly a rather strange order, especially as it appears that preaching takes place when the congregation has already been dismissed! This was probably an oversight on Johnson's part. I think we may fairly safely place preach- ing among the activities comprehended by "spiritual gifts." Johnson further noted in his article that this was the form of worship his church followed every Sunday morning. The Lord's Supper and offertory were done monthly, but Johnson had no objections to their weekly practice and seemed to recommend that. He also described the church's afternoon session as a Sunday School whose major aim was "teaching the Negroes." (22)
The Spirituality of the Liturgies
Without question, we must begin by acknowledging the great diversity of liturgies within the tradition which is assumed to spring from Charleston. Within this context of diversity our most fruitful and most honest approach will be to discern a number of spiritual emphases or priorities which seem to be persistent within the whole of the tradition. In my analysis, I have classified seven emphases which seem to be foundational to the tradition. I hope and expect that others analyzing the data I have presented will find other and different emphases to refine or challenge the analysis I have made.
From the 1768 volume by Morgan Edwards to the 1846 lecture series by William Bullein Johnson, a major theme within the Charleston tradition seems to have been, "If it's in the Bible, do it!" To this might be added the injunction, "If it's described in the Bible, do it the way the Bible describes it." This was applied not only to worship, but to every area of church life. As Oliver Hart wrote in a sermon before the Philadelphia Association in 1783, "ministers are to adhere strictly to the pattern exhibited in the word of God." (23) The Bible was hence placed above personal experi- ence and became the criterion for evaluating the validity of that experience. This was not done in a wooden or abstract fashion, however, as would be true of later fundamentalist developments, but within the context of a community matrix of faith and deed. The community-based experiences of baptism and the admission and dismission of members point to this.
And more than mere guide, the Bible seems also to have been the source of the language and thoughts of Charles- ton tradition Christians. Any perfunctory reading of the literature of this period will reveal this. From public docu- ments such as sermons, to private documents such as diaries and letters, biblical language provided the chief meta- phors in which the thinking of these people moved. As William Loyd Allen argued in his dissertation, the Bible for these early Baptists was an "instrument" or "means of grace" which informed even their subconscious thoughts. (24)
This may seem redundant after the previous comments about the biblicism of early Charleston tradition Baptists. But by word-centered I move from an "informing" influence or priority in Baptist worship to an explicit priority, expressed by the liturgies themselves. It is no accident that the sermon and the reading of Scripture in these liturgies has such a prominent role, either as centerpiece or as grand finale. It is also no accident, probably, that in general when persons describe or report a worship service they had attended, they usually describe the sermon that was preached (a custom shared by free-church evangelical Christians of many traditions, of course). Oliver Hart described preaching as "the most important service that ever attended the attention of a man." (25) The high pulpit at Charleston noted in Eliza Tupper's diary is a visible sign of the prominence of proclamation.
As we have seen, frequent proclamation, whether in the form of a formal sermon or as lay prophesying, was the expected norm. But the reading of the Bible in worship was not neglected, either, or at least the expectation was that scripture would be read. An article appeared in an October 1856 issue of The Southern Baptist entitled "Hints on Reading Scripture from the Pulpit," the clear implication of which was that scripture was (still) normally read in the worship service. (26) A response to this article appeared in a December issue of the same publication from a former subscriber who was complaining that for his church the aforementioned article was irrelevant since only the half-verse text the preacher expounded was read from the pulpit. (27) Though an argument may be made either way, it would appear that the editors of The Southern Baptist in printing this letter were holding the practice of not reading scripture up to scorn.
As is evident from our survey of the liturgies, the Charleston tradition Baptists cannot be accused of "tacking" the
observance of the ordinances to the end of an otherwise unrelated service. Instead, these formed a vital part of their church life, whether in the local church or at the associational level. Oliver Hart described the importance of the ordinances poetically in an 1791 sermon delivered to the Philadelphia association. He
first compared them to the windows of a church building:
. . . and being exceedingly lucid, [they]
let in the most refulgent rays, emitted from
the glorious Sun of righteousness; to the great
comfort and inexpressible joy, of all who are
so happy as to dwell in this house, which often
causes them to say, "It is good to be here." (28)
Later in the same sermon, Hart described the ordinances again
under a different metaphor, the "galleries" of the church
THE KING IS HELD IN HIS GALLERIES. . . Here is
his abode--- here he delights to dwell, and hold
fellowship with his saints. Yes. Here Christ and
his people walk together; here he discloses the
secrets of his heart to them. . . and here . . .
they see the king in his beauty (29)
In his address on "Gospel Ordinances" in the same sermon, he
describes the nature and function of baptism and the supper in
more detail. Baptism, he says, is "a communion in the sufferings
and a participation of the resurrection of our Lord." (30) Of
the Supper he says, at greater length:
[It is] the sacrament of education, or, nourishment
in the New Testament Church, wherein. . . the dreadful sufferings of Christ are represented to believers . . .
that believers have fellowship with Christ in the
benefits of his death & sufferings; or, that they
participate in the blessings purchased thereby. . . .
[I]t is of so much importance, that there cannot be
an orderly gospel church without it. (31)
It is significant to note that in this sermon only Christ himself and ministers of the church are also described using two metaphors, and that the latter can be said to be included in two metaphors only allusively. The implication of this is rather clear: the ordinances are at least on a par in importance for the life of the church to the ministers and Christ himself, because, like the ministers, and in ways the ministers cannot do, they communicate Christ directly to the waiting congregation.
The complaint of the later Oliver Hart, cited above, that association meetings had become only secular-style busi- ness meetings and the Lord's Supper was no longer being celebrated there shows a possible shift by 1856 away from the spirituality of the churches of the earlier Hart and Richard Furman.
4. Time giving
A mere summary of the number of services taking place at First Baptist Charleston reveals a tremendous dedication of time to the endeavor of corporate worship of God. Furman, we will recall, noted that there were three services on Sunday and a midweek lecture. By 1810, as we have seen, to these were added a monthly prayer service for missions, and by 1846 a regular daily morning prayer service was taking place. During the average week, then, between twelve and fifteen hours were dedicated to the worship of God. If the church were in a "protracted meeting" in any given week, not an uncommon practice after the second Great Awakening, that number could double.
Hart lists time among the ten signs "that the service of this house is set in order." (32) The particular theme of his exposition is the importance and meaning of the Sabbath for Christians. Even as God had ceased from God's work on the seventh day, so also "Christ ceased from his work when he rose from the grave. . . by resting from his suffering work." (33)
Three articles in the December 2, 1856 edition of The Southern Baptist also address this issue. The first recom- mends daily family worship services morning and evening. A second, called "Go Punctually to Church," argues that since the whole day is for God and for spiritual service, there is no excuse for failing to arrive at church on time. A third, the minutes of the Savannah River Baptist Association, records three worship services on Sunday, a pattern fairly typical, it would seem from my readings, throughout this period. (34) The first article may be understood either as encouragement for a current practice or as disparagement for the lack of this practice among the readership. The second probably indicates that churches were having problems with members arriving late and disturbing the worship, something which itself may point to either a breakdown in an understanding of community consideration or to a possible lack of interest in the worship services. Thus, it may be possible to see, though not unambiguously, a reduc- tion in the importance of community time by this later period.
5. Devoted to God and to one another
While Scripture reading, preaching, and the ordinances were the central acts of Charleston tradition worship, they were not, except perhaps in the associational meeting setting, the only ones. Singing, praying, and covenanting were also significant in their worship life and life together as a community. Hart listed "Singing the praises of God, with united voices" and "Social and publick prayer" among his ten signs for the rightly ordered church. He described the singing in glowing terms: "No part of divine service so much resembles heaven as this." (35) Since the church is called in the Bible a "house of prayer," Hart reasoned, a large portion of the service should be devoted to prayer.(36) The act of covenanting, for these early Baptists, was not merely a pledge of fellowship and mutual submission, but also, as Hart also states, an act of worship. Here, he says, "they give themselves up to the Lord, and to one another, by the will of God." (37) It is possibly because of this understanding of spirituality that William Bullein Johnson was so eager to include acts of admission and dismission, as well as rites of excommunication and reconciliation, in the regular Sunday liturgy, items reserved nowadays for the monthly business session.
That Charleston tradition Baptists believed in evangelism may not be evident from the liturgies themselves. There are here no signs of an invitation, for example, unless the admission of members in Johnson's liturgy might be under- stood to include this.
In part this may be the lingering influence of the tradition Morgan Edwards recorded. According to Edwards, evangelism was the function of the "evangelist," a temporary officer duly ordained to this task from the ranks of those already ordained as "teacher" or "minister." The role of the evangelist was "to itinerate on the special errands of the churches," primarily, it would seem, as a form of pulpit supply for churches without pastors, of which there were many, though also to preside over the constitution of new churches. (38) In this sense the function of evangelism may have been divorced to some degree from the laity, though they would have had at least the role of witnesses at the ordination of the evangelists.
But Oliver Hart in the two sermons he presented before the Philadelphia Association in 1783 and 1791 presented another view. In 1783 he was addressing lay and clergy alike when he encouraged them all to be active in worship and evangelism. That "It is a good work," he writes, "will appear if we consider it as the means of glorifying God--- promoting virtue and piety in the world, and saving souls from death." (39) Concerning
preaching, Hart said in 1791 that its aim was "to save sinners."
It is in this context that he called preaching "the most important service that ever attended the attention of man."(40)
Hence, evangelism was an important priority in the liturgical spirituality of this early period. A fuller treatment of this element of their spirituality, though, will be given in the next section of this paper.
Walter Shurden is not the first person to label the Charleston tradition as one characterized by order. The Charles- tonians themselves do this all over the place! The chief objection the Charleston, or Regular Baptists regularly cited against proposals to unite with the Separates was the noisiness, irregularity, and overall disorder of their worship. (41) Edwards' volume is meticulous about the proper order of procedures for nearly everything, as we have seen in his approach to baptism, ordination of evangelists, and the Lord's Supper. It is no accident that the title of Hart's 1791 sermon is "A Gospel Church Portrayed and Her Orderly Service Pointed Out" and that the first two points in his exposition of church order focus on the "proper structure", the "proper officers", and "the proper ordination of deacons and ministers." (42) What all of this means for Charleston tradition Baptists is that a concern for order, for proper form and structure, is likely to predominate in all of their activities, as we have seen it does in worship.
Evangelism in the Charleston Tradition
We must again begin with a problem, or, perhaps, a complaint. The entry on evangelism in The Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists begins its chronicle of the history of evangelism among Southern Baptists with the first Great Awakening and the rise of the Separate Baptists. Not a word is said about Charleston tradition Baptists in the entire article, leaving the overall impression that they were not doing evangelism at
all. (43) William Lumpkin, in Baptist Foundations in the South uses the statistics about church growth in the Charles- ton Association cited earlier as a club and concludes that the Charleston tradition Baptists never could have won the South. (44) Lumpkin has overlooked an important factor in his analysis, however. As Rogers points out in his biogra- phy on Furman, South Carolina, especially the Charleston area, was predominantly Anglican during the first seventy- five years of the Baptist life there and the rise in the number of Baptists and churches corresponded with the rise in population, mostly of "New Light" immigrants from New England. (45-F6-15) Part of my aim in this section, then, is to provide a balance to the apparent pro-Separatist bias in Baptist historiography. I hope that in doing so I do not perpetrate as strong a bias in the other direction.
It would appear from Lumpkin's account that the early evangelistic approach of the Charleston Baptists was much in line with the model Morgan Edwards had outlined. The main strategy would have been to send ministers from the church to work with churches in the area without pastors or to try to "Calvinize" the General Baptist congregations in the surrounding areas. (46)
Oliver Hart, as we have noted, at least advocated another approach, encouraging not only pastors but also church members to be active in sharing the gospel "to save sinners." (47) But, as William Loyd Allen has pointed out, con- version took place always in the ultimate context of the community of faith since admission to membership required "corporate guidance" in the public worship. (48)
A notable transition in the history of Charleston tradition evangelism, and also a notable increase of available information, occurs during the pastorate of Richard Furman. As we noted earlier, Furman was converted in 1771 from Anglicanism under the preaching of Joseph Reese, a Separate Baptist, and within a few weeks began to join Reese's evangelistic work as an exhorter at his meetings and to travel about the South Carolina countryside preaching and founding churches. (49) Furman continued in this preaching work even after he became pastor of the Separate Baptist congregation at High Hills in 1774, where he remained as pastor until 1787, except for a hiatus during the American Revolution. It was in that year that Furman finally accepted the call from Charleston to become its pastor after the resignation of Oliver Hart in 1784. (50)
That Furman was "in" the Separates but not fully "of" them when it came to evangelism may be demonstrated by his assessment of a preaching mission he was involved in in Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1788. For him the signs of God's work among the people there was "the 'solemnity' attending administration of the ordinances, and 'a new place of worship in tolerable good order'" (51)
By the late 1790s Furman was a leading voice advocating prayer for revival in the Charleston Association, a time also associated with major outbreaks of yellow fever in Charleston and environs. (52) One might well conclude from this that if there were any significant "revivals" in Charleston in the recent past, their results were short lived. It is also instructive to note that Furman's assessment of the reasons for decline had nothing to do with a lack of concern for the unconverted, but rather included the problem of unqualified ministers, laity who were no longer trying to be respected by their friends and colleagues, and poor business procedures in the churches leading to a poor financial state. (53) In short the problem was not with the lack of religion, per se, but with the improper ordering of religious life.
When revival did arrive in South Carolina in 1802, it came in a form with which Furman was not entirely comfort- able, the camp meeting. The program of the camp meeting he attended may be outlined as follows:
Friday afternoon: Sermon
Friday dusk : Exhorters or ministers would come to
exhort at each tent
Friday evening : Sermons until midnight
Saturday morning: Planning session for the next two
days-- set up two stands, with two
sermons per stand on Saturday, three
on Sunday (with communion), and two
again on Monday (54)
His overall assessment of the services was guardedly positive. He applauded the preaching and exhorting, as well as the apparent positive effect that such a production had on encouraging religion among people, but was rather disturbed by the excesses of emotion and physical reactions which were manifested, including the jerks, and what would be described in modern terms as "slaying in the spirit." (55) The 1803 circular letter of the Charleston Association, while mildly endorsing the revivals, also expressed concern "whether these effects are produced by the Spirit of God, or merely by enthusiasm." (56)
James P. Boyce, as we noted earlier, grew up in the church at Charleston hearing the preaching of Basil Manly, Sr. His conversion in 1846, under the influence of Francis Wayland at Brown University, led him to become deeply desirous for a revival at Brown generally. In a letter of 1847 t0 H. A. Tupper, he notes:
Not a single man . . . seems to have been converted
under excitement. . . we are determined, with the
aid of God's Spirit, to continue this work during
the next term, and not to rest until not a soul
can be found here who has not felt and known the
pardoning grace of God. . . . Never have I felt
until this revival, what a blessed privilege it
is to save a soul. (57) Both the lack of "conversion under excitement" and the earnest zeal Boyce manifests here are significant, and very much in keeping with the tradition of Hart and Furman, Manly's predecessors at Charleston. As we also noted in our previous discussion of Boyce, the church at Charleston was praying as a community daily for the revival at Brown and for Boyce's part in it.
This real desire on the part of the Charleston Baptists for revival is also corroborated by an article appearing in the first issue of the Carolina Baptist, April 1, 1846. The article, entitled "Revival in Charleston," reports that a weekly Union prayer meeting, founded in 1844 by Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, had begun on March 20, 1846, to hold revival services, three per day. A meeting for inquirers was held daily at 6:30 a.m. A prayer meeting for the evening service was held at 4:30 p.m., and the evening services, with preaching and baptisms, as appropriate, were held at night. The article is careful to state that the services involved "plain, simple preaching" and "no machinations." At the conclusion of the service, believers would be asked to kneel in prayer while a hymn was sung, then non-believers would be asked to kneel in prayer where they were. As of March 29, the article stated, one hundred persons had come to the inquirer's meetings and twenty-seven had been baptized. (58)
That the Charleston revivals advertised "no machinations" is significant, both of the prevailing practice in revivals and of Charleston's negative view toward that practice. The "machinations" the Charlestonians wanted no part of were probably the products of Southern Baptist adaptations of the revival practices of Charles Grandison Finney. The typi- cal Finney evangelistic liturgy, as Donald Hustad has described it, would not have been objectionable to Charleston sensibilities at all, except for the last act, the lengthy invitation, complete with "anxious seat" or "mourner's bench." (59) Non-believers would be urged to "come forward" while the rest of the congregation would pray for them and a lay exhorter would urge them to convert. This would go on for some time until many persons had "prayed through". (60)
The Finney style revival, while not initially popular among Southern Baptists generally because of their Calvinist heritage, was beginning to win the day by the 1850s. (61) The rise of this approach to evangelism set off a kind of "article war" in The Southern Baptist in 1856. Two articles appeared on the front page of the September 9 issue, contrasting "genuine revivals" to "a spurious revival." In a genuine revival, "persons have been carefully taught by catechizing." There is no manipulation of emotions to make a commitment that requires the assent of mind as well as will or emotions. Instead, there is "great solemnity and silence" and "convictions of sin are deep and humbling." In the inner communion with God experienced in this event, the soul comes almost naturally to "desire to promote the glory of God and to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth." The aim of the spurious revival, by contrast, is to increase numbers and finances and to create excitement in an otherwise "dead" church. In this scheme, "a 'revivalist' is sent for and 'machinery' put in place," including the "anxious seats" and other high pressure tactics to produce immediate baptisms. The persons on the benches are asked, after seeing their friends going to be baptized, not whether they have committed their lives to Christ but whether they wouldn't "feel better" to "go with their friends to the baptismal wa- ters." (62)
The November 18 issue reprints an article from the Presbyterian entitled "Waiting for a Revival." In it the author tells non-believers not to wait for a revivalist or a revival meeting to come to town to make a profession of faith, and reminds believers that they do not need their "ministers . . .to rise in the pulpit, and, in a voice choked by sobs, pour forth strains of persuasive eloquence." Such persons, he says, do need a revival-- a revival of realistic expectations of their church's normal ministry and of satisfaction with the grace of God as it comes to them thereby. The aim of worship, after all, is not to excite the people, but to give glory to the God of their salvation. Revival may begin when such persons who "go after revivalists" are themselves revived in meaningful encounter with the living God. (63)
In the midst of these sharp criticisms of Finney-style revivalism, The Southern Baptist, true to its mission as a denominational paper, continued to print the reports of large numbers of conversions in Finney-style revivals all throughout the state.
The Spirituality of the Evangelism
We may perhaps most fruitfully explore the spirituality of Charleston tradition evangelism by dividing our discus- sion into
three historical periods: the pre-Hart years, the Hart-Furman years, the pre-Finney years and the post-Finney years (after 1855).
It seems that in the pre-Hart years, the fundamental issues for Charleston tradition Baptists in the South were sur- vival and Calvinism. This may be seen most clearly in their main evangelistic work, that of converting the General Baptists. That they were aiming their evangelism primarily at fellow Baptists is a strong indicator of the instinct for survival. That those Baptists were Arminians points to the centrality of the Charleston Baptists' Calvinist/Puritan heritage, one which desires above all else to give glory to God and to recognize God's ultimate sovereignty.
In the Hart-Furman years, coinciding with the two Great Awakenings in the South, the influx of immigrants, and the informal union in South Carolina between Regular (Charleston) and Separate Baptists, numerical survival no longer becomes an issue for Charleston Baptists. Especially for Furman, the question is not whether the preaching of revivals and camp meetings are acceptable practices, but rather in what way they are most acceptable. It is important to note that camp meetings as such were probably not held in Charleston. (64) Instead, it seems, the primary vehicle of evangelism for Baptists in Charleston remained preaching in the context of worship either in a covenanted community or aimed toward the formation of such communities. (65) Preaching itself, though, as we have seen, does seem to come more to the fore in this period.
In the pre-Finney period, in which I classify the report of the revival in Charleston in 1846 (though it is clearly set up in opposition to Finneyism, as we have already noted), Charleston Baptists were involved in what amounts to an adaptation of both camp-meeting and perhaps some Finney-style approaches. From the camp meeting they took the idea of interdenominational cooperation. From the Finney revivals, it seems, or perhaps merely as an extension of the pre-Finney protracted meetings, they adopted a form of "invitational," though no persons were asked to "come for- ward" at this time but were expected to come to the "inquirer's meetings" the following morning to discuss their spir- itual state. Invitations of this sort preserved the Calvinist heritage of divine and not human action initiating saving encounter. Such invitations also pointed to a recognition of conversion as a process which takes place and is verified through a period of time in a community of faith. The nature of that community of faith has itself shifted, however. A kind of parachurch organization has replaced the local church in its worship as the central focus for evangelism.
It is difficult to characterize the spirituality of the evangelism of Charleston tradition Baptists in the post-Finney years (after 1855). But if we may see the frequency and vehemence voices of dissent in light of the ascendancy of Finneyism among Southern Baptists generally, we may well conclude that dissent triumphed over and characterized that spirituality especially. Often, when groups define themselves in terms of what they are not rather than what they are, as appears to be happening in this period to Charleston tradition Baptists, they become so focused on what they are not that they lose the creative impulse of what they are. Perhaps this factor contributed in part to the drastic decline in membership of First Baptist Charleston (in addition, of course, to the devastating impact of the Civil War, cyclones, and a damaging earthquake) and its inability to recover 1850 membership totals until 1940. (66)
Spirituality of Liturgy and Evangelism: A Comparative Analysis
For the sake of clarity and convenience, our comparative analysis here will be done according to the categories discussed under spirituality of liturgy.
Without much question, Charleston tradition Baptists were diligent about doing their evangelism in light of their understanding of the Scriptures. Of course, much the same could probably be said about many other Christian tradi- tions, including ones they opposed. The important thing to note is that the reasons these Charleston Baptists gave for their opposition to other groups, whether the disorderly worship of the Separates, the emotional excesses of the camp meetings, or the Arminianism of the Finney-style revivalists, were also biblically grounded.
If anything, the Charleston tradition may have become more word-centered as a result of its evangelistic practices. Preaching revivals, as we have noted, became far more common a practice among Charleston Baptists in the Hart- Furman period and can be said without much doubt to have continued into the pre-Finney period. Afterwards, as we have also noted, the evidence is somewhat ambiguous. It is not clear what role the reading of scripture had in Charles- ton tradition revivals, but there is no reason to suspect, especially since it did play an important role in Finney's reviv- als, that it would play any smaller role in theirs. (67)
A shift away from this principle may be seen through time corresponding with the shifting tides of evangelistic methodology. As we saw in the camp meeting Furman attended in May 1802, both baptism and the supper were cru- cial elements of the meetings. Such was also the case for associational meetings, though they were not explicitly evangelistic in outlook. In the pre-Finney era, however, there is at least no report of the Lord's Supper playing any role in revival meetings. What Hart had labeled indispensable to "an orderly gospel church" was no longer present, or at least not reported, in its evangelistic activities.
4. Time giving
Charleston tradition Baptists were at least as generous with their time for evangelistic meetings as for regular worship. The morning prayer meetings at First Baptist Charleston were very possibly established to pray for revival. The traditions of evangelism and liturgical spirituality seem consistent here.
5/6. Devoted to God and to one another/Evangelism
One would be hard pressed to say that a church and apparently a tradition as given to prayer together for revival as these Charleston Baptists were not devoted to God. But the pre-Finney period, as we have noted briefly above, does pose an important challenge to dedication to one another as covenanted community in evangelism. Evangelism in this model is now no longer the function of the covenanted community per se, and the location of conversion is now no longer such a community, but rather, as we have said, a parachurch organization. In a sense, then, this points to a possible tearing away of evangelism from the normal life of the community, a phenomenon, which, as William Loyd Allen has noted, surfaced in its extreme form in Finneyism. (68)
The principle of order in evangelism, as in worship and government, seems to have been, as we have shown, a major deciding factor in which forms of evangelism would be acceptable and which would not. Connected with a concern for order in evangelism seems to have been a hesitancy to try any forms of evangelism which could be associ- ated with disorder, or a tendency to modify those forms over a long period of time (1846 is a long way from 1802, and 1788 from 1770) and thereby make them orderly. Another way of looking at this is that Charleston tradition Baptists waited until potentially disorderly innovations became somewhat "mainstream" before they would use them them- selves. The "spirituality of dissent" characteristic of the post-Finney period may also be seen as a manifestation of this underlying spirituality of order, this time of theological order. In the process of elevating order as a determining prin- ciple in evangelism, however, the Charleston tradition may at times have been guilty of failing to do evangelism that would be effective in its own day.
I think that one result of this paper has been to show that
the connection of a "high church" liturgy per se with a drop in baptismal rates lacks historical foundation. On the contrary, there is much in the "high church" spirituality of the Charleston tradition which is conducive to producing very fruitful evangelism.
The task for Charleston tradition Southern Baptists today, who admittedly are at least not as openly evangelistic as their Sandy Creek and Texas sisters and brothers, is to try to abandon any "spirituality of dissent" which may have lingered from the 1850s or been stirred up by the fundamentalist controversy of recent decades and explore the depths of the spirituality of their own tradition which may provide clues for evangelistic methodology consistent with that tradition. Such a methodology would find ways to reclaim the power of the ordinances, both baptism and supper, and bring them into more harmonious balance with the ministries of proclamation. It would also work to renew the bonds of life together as covenanted community and seek to do evangelism in the context of this community toward the idea of incorporating non-believers into this community of faith. As such, it would stand in opposition to the rampant anthropocentric individualism not only of Finney-style revivalism, but also of modern culture. And as such, it would have to require that community members spend more time together in worship than they presently do, for it is here that they discover the Christ they seek to proclaim.