Monday, April 27, 2009

Church Steeples

Quoting from Old Landmarkism: What Is it? by J. R. Graves, pp. 116-117, "And if they be invited to the funeral of any pedobaptist [infant baptizer], they will go to the house and accompany the corpse with the rest of the people to the door; but there they retreat--they call it the Steeple House....They did not visit their Steeple Houses, because they did not believe God was worshipped in them, but His holy name and service profaned by the priests, by their senseless and popish forms and ceremonies; for Christ had said, 'In vain do they worship me who teach for doctrines the commandments of men.' Baptists of that day thought they would be regarded as countenancing, in some sense, the priests of the church of England should they attend their administrations. And if we will only consider the influence of acts closely, we shall be forced to conclude that they acted consistently."
1. This was a day in 1587 when true Baptists separated themselves from false worship
2. True Baptists at that time did not have steeples on their houses of worship
3. They were Landmarkers in the sense they considered carefully the results of their actions before doing anything that would give others the idea they approved of false religion in any way
4. Landmarkers today should practice consistently - it is not enough to preach the truth and then practice like a Protestant congregation.


  1. Bro. ArchBishop,
    As you probably know I was raise a Methodist before I was saved and Scripturally baptized by Central MBC in Fayetteville, AR.

    Since then I have purposely avoided being in any place of worship (if at all possible) other then sound Baptist Church buildings etc. This is because of what you wrote about in your acticle about "Church Steeples." I don't want anyone to think that I condone ecumenism or false so-called Christianity.

    However, there have been a very few times, over the years, when I felt compelled to attend weddings or funerals that were held in some of those so-called churches. This was done out of respect for the people involved.

    As to steeples themselves, I don't really think we need them. Of The 4 churches I have pastored, as I remember only the present one has a steeple. Back in 2003 we had a hail storm and had to have the shingles replaced. I tried to get the church to do away with steeple, buuttt some thought it was necessary, for what I am not sure. The only thing our steeple does is cause leaks and the need of painting in a very precarious and dangerous place. This is an un-necessary risk and cost to the Lord's Assembly.

    You wrote:
    "1. This was a day in 1587 when true Baptists separated themselves from false worship." (I agree with you and I say we should still practice this.)

    You wrote:
    "2. True Baptists at that time did not have steeples on their houses of worship." (I say we still don't need them.)

    You wrote:
    "3. They were Landmarkers in the sense they considered carefully the results of their actions before doing anything that would give others the idea they approved of false religion in any way." (As with you, I still think we should do this.)

    You wrote:
    "4. Landmarkers today should practice consistently - it is not enough to preach the truth and then practice like a Protestant congregation." Bro. I agree.

    Thank you for this post.

    Gillette, WY

  2. In an article in The Baptist Monitor (August 08 issue, I think) about the Sweet Gum Grove Museum near TBI, the history editor wrote, "It is sad to say, but at the beginning of the 1900's more Baptist churches had a set of 'dinner on the grounds' tables than those that had a steeple on their roof."

    I thought that was a curious statement. I don't know anything sad about a church having dinner on the grounds tables, and I don't find anything awe-inspiring about steeples. In fact, I think it was a good thing that the 1900s Baptists were more interested in fellowshipping with each other than spending money on a steeple. Seems like a waste of time and money to me.

  3. It seems like a lot of Baptists want to act like/look like Episcopalians. Why is this? Why want the formalism and ritualism of a synagogue of Satan? Do Baptists need fancy choirs, fancy musical instruments, fancy robes to impress God? I think not.

  4. Jokers55, how about filling in your profile? Landmark Missionary Baptists have no problem with a choir or musical instruments. God is impressed with spiritual worship according to truth.

  5. Maybe Landmark Baptists should have a problem with choirs. They are not part of New Testament worship, aren't mentioned in any meeting of believers in the New Testament and are really just for entertainment, imo.

    I was raised in the Episcopal church, went to Episcopal schools and was confirmed at age 12 into that group.When I finally learned what the Gopel was about at age 20, I was very angry that the truth had been kept from me by the Episcopal church.Personally, I see the choirs such as they had as an unscriptural thing that need not be in a Baptist church. I would imagine that was the feeling of those Baptists coming out of the Anglican church in England in the 1500s.

    These days we see a lot of churches with full orchestras. Seems to me it is just for entertainment or showing off or both.You don't really need it. I have been to a Baptist church where the piano playing reminded me of a saloon scene in an old western. Or, maybe more like a Jimmy Swaggart crusade.

    I have often found that if the piano player doesn't show up, the congregation can barely sing.IMHO we are better off without the instruments. The Church of Christ groups are wrong on many doctrines but they sing much better than most Baptist congregations.

  6. As a piano player, I have for 43 years played in worship. I can play saloon style, rag-time and a little like Swaggart's golden gospel piano, but I know how the piano should be played in worship. The reason COC sing better than most Baptist churches is most Baptists are not serious about their singing. Piano players like preachers and every other church member should be faithful. I have taught piano enough that usually in our church we have several that can play - so absence or tardiness just means you lost your chance to sit on the piano bench in that service. Our choir is not for entertainment, they sing spiritual songs as specials and assist the rest of the congregation in singing. A church without a choir usually doesn't have much singing. They had choirs in OT worship. They had musical instruments in OT worship, will have it in Heaven. The NT speaks of hymns (which is music with lyrics and musical accompaniment).

  7. "A church without a choir usually doesn't have much singing" may be true in a couple of churches you know, but the majority of churches I know without choirs do much more singing than those without. I don't know why, but I know I've sat through a Saturday of three hours of singing every month, no choir, a couple of specials, and a whole lot of people calling out numbers they wanted to sing.

    BTW, my current church has a choir, so this is not in reference to her.

  8. Arch Bishop,
    You have proved my point. Most worship practices in many churches today are not from the NT. This includes choirs and the use of musical instruments.They are derived from the OT, which we no longer live under or in heaven where we are yet to be. I know in the book of Revelation it speaks of harps and everyone has one. I would venture to guess everybody in most churches, Landmark or not,does not play a harp. If you are going to use the scene in heaven as a reason to do something I think there ought to be some consistent practice. I do not see where Jesus or the apostles used musical instruments or a choir. I do not see where any NT assembly employed them. I think Baptists in the 16th century didn't use them either.

  9. Brother Merritt, you wrote, "Landmark Missionary Baptists have no problem with a choir..."

    While this may be generally true, you paint with too broad a brush. The church I grew up in has never had a choir in her 135 year history. And this is true of a number of our rural churches. While they may not make it an issue between churches, some of these do not prefer and have no intention of having a choir. Of the churches I've pastored, none of them have had a choir. Further, I, if anyone chooses to count me a Landmark Missionary Baptist, can be counted among those "who have a problem with a choir". The command to sing is to the church (Eph. 5; Col. 3).

    Everyone's own personal experience is theirs, and true to their experience. My experience, like Bro. Snyder's, is that the majority of churches I know without choirs do much more singing than those with choirs.

    Beyond personal experience, the congregation ought to be the "choir", imo.

  10. The Baptists did not come out of the church of England. Their origin under diffrent names but same doctrines goes back to the church Jesus built.
    As far as the choir goes, the church Jesus built did not have Sinday School, either.
    I have led choirs for churches that did not have one - in small chuches, the church is the choir. At ABA and State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches of Arkansas messenger meetings there are choirs.

  11. Bro. Vaughn, Perhaps I did overstate. I can remember 2 country churches where the singing was the best I ever heard (no choir - not because they were against having a choir). I can see there are quite a few regional differences between churches.

  12. To also clarify: I don't believe any of the churches I mentioned made the choir a "test of fellowship" with sister churches. I believe they could be said to be against having a choir in their own church, but neutral toward its overall existence. I also would not make it a test of fellowship, but I am against it because I believe that the command to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in Colossians and Ephesians is directed to the whole church. Also the presence of a choir promotes (perhaps inadvertently) the idea of those who "can't sing" sitting out and leaving the worship up to those who "can".

    The fact that the church Jesus built did not have Sunday School is a better argument to check what we're doing with Sunday School than it is an argument to support choirs. It is commonly agreed that the modern Sunday School movement originated in England with Robert Raikes, an Anglican layman. It started as a school to teach boys in the slums. They met on Sunday because many of the boys worked in factories the other six days. Raikes wanted to give a religious, moral and literary education, as well as give them something to do to keep them out of trouble. Sunday schools came to be free schools operated by various religious and charitable groups, and eventually began to be adopted by churches. Landmark Missionary Baptists were slow to adopt them, some as recently as the 20th century.

    Corporate Bible study is biblical (Acts 17:11, et al.), but why have we added the trappings of an Anglican institution coupled with a secular education model -- graded classes?

    I think we all agree that the Baptists as a church whose faith and practice go back to the church Jesus built did not come out of the Church of England. But a number of prominent individuals among the Baptists in England did come out of the Anglican Church (Henry Jessey, Hanserd Knollys, Praise-God Barebone, John Spilsbury to name a few), and I would think they would have a keen sense of leaving Anglicanism behind.

    "The reason COC sing better than most Baptist churches is most Baptists are not serious about their singing." Amen. I definitely agree that many Baptists are not serious about their singing.

  13. Sinday school? Is that a Freudian slip? lol :)

    I have to agree with Mr. Vaughn. He nailed it.

    If Baptists are not serious about singing that seems like a very good reason not to have a choir!

  14. Bro. Vaughn, where is the information about the men you named coming out of the church of England? I would like to read more about it.

  15. Brother Merritt, here is something I can give as a quick starting place. Jim Duvall's Baptist History Homepage has a lot of good historical links.

    Hanserd Knollys - "But scruples and doubts agitated his mind. At length he reached the conviction that his position in the Church of England was not in accordance with the New Testament, and he renounced his ordination..."

    "Henry Jessey, A.M., was a native of Yorkshire, and the son of an Episcopal clergyman. Having been carefully prepared for University studies, he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, in the seventeenth year of his age, and continued there six years...In 1637, he became the pastor of an Independent church in London." (Jessey was a member of the Church of England, but may have never actually been a minister among them. I would need to look further into that.)

    Several more can be found in Cramp's British Baptist biographies, which I will edit for space considerations:
    "John Canne was another worthy champion of the truth. He was born about the year 1590, and for a short time ministered in the English Church."
    "Vavasor Powell...Having left the Established Church, and joined the Nonconformists, he engaged in ministerial labour with great zeal."
    "John Tombes, B.D. was an eminently learned man...About the year 1631, he obtained the living of Leominster, in Herefordshire, where he preached and laboured ten years. His zeal for 'a reformation in the [Anglican] Church, and the purging out of all human inventions in the worship of God,' exposed him to the fury of anti-reformers. ..But he had been studying the subject of baptism for several years. Doubts respecting the authority of infant-baptism troubled him while he held his lectureship at Oxford."
    "Henry Denne was a man of note. He was educated in the University of Cambridge, where he acquired a respectable standing. Having received ordination from the Bishop of St. David’s, about the year 1630, he was presented to the living of Pyrton, in Hertfordshire, which he held for ten years, greatly to the profit of the inhabitants, by whom he was justly esteemed as an instructive and faithful preacher...We cannot be surprised at hearing that soon after this he announced his change of sentiments. In the early part of 1643, he was baptized by Mr. Thomas Lamb, pastor of the church in Bell Alley, Coleman Street, London."
    "Francis Cornwell, A.M., was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Neal says that 'he was one of the most learned divines that espoused the cause of the Baptists.' This took place under singular circumstances. Mr. Cornwell was vicar of Marden, Kent, where he had refused to conform to certain ceremonies imposed by Archbishop Laud, and for his refusal was committed to Maidstone jail."

    I think John T. Christian discusses Spilsbury in some detail, and I didn't find anything handy on Praise-God Barebone. Al please notice, I am not asserting that the Baptists as a church came out of the Anglicans, but that certain Baptist ministers left the Anglican church for the Baptist church (some of whom were Anglican ministers before they became Baptist ministers). Also, I would not assert that all the history is accurate in all the details, but there is enough available to know that some Baptist preachers left the Anglican Church to become Baptists.

  16. Thanks for the references. I had not known about Cramp's book or Duvall's homepage. I tip my hat to you.

  17. Cramp was no Landmarker, but a decent historian. I learned of him years ago through Bro. J. W. Griffith, who recommended him highly as a historian.

    The Baptist History Homepage has many original historical documents and is a very useful resource. A direct link to the starting page is HERE

  18. On the list of out of print books able to be downloaded, one is Baptist Doctrines by Charles A. Jenkins, 1881 - I have it in my library.

  19. Arch Bishop,
    It looks like from your post about the ABA associations having choirs that your position is that if the ABA does it, it must be OK. Am I correct?

  20. I just mentioned choirs at messenger meetings to show it was a widely accepted practice. Your conclusino has gone beyond my statement. I don't believe the ABA is perfect, but it is the best available (nearest the Bible).

  21. I feel my question was valid.Your initial statement does seem to be in the realm of what I was asking about.If, as you said above, the church that Jesus built did not have Sunday school (in addition to not having choirs)then would you say the ABA has added things to churches that Jesus never authorized?

  22. I do not view Sunday School or choir as unauthorized. They do not have a history to the church Jesus built, but they do fit with the Scripture. Sunday School is one way a church may fulfill the third part of the Great commission. It is a good tool. Choirs in churches add to the music program of singing hyms or spiritual songs. Nothing in the Bible forbids these tools in worship. Do you use taped music? A PA system? Bathroom in the church? Drink at a water fountain? Do you have marker boards, etc, etc, etc. I think you just have an axe to grind with the ABA. Have you filled in your profile yet? If you won't, then I will treat your comments like anonymous letters - give them no regard whatsoever.

  23. Arch Bishop is a good nickname for you.

  24. Bro. Archbishop,

    I agree with you. If one does not care to fill in their profile why should their comments carry any weight?

    Brethren, I know Bro. Archbishop. and have known him for nigh on to 30 to 35 years. He is a sound man in the faith. He contends for the faith (Jude 3). The moniker Archbishop has nothing to do with him being one who would try to control others. It is a moniker really of respect given to him by those who know him and respect him as a brother who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, loves the Word of God, loves the true churches of the Lord Jesus, and loves the brethren. He has a heart for God and the people of God. (He knows that he is just sinner saved by the grace of God.) May God raise up more men like him.

    Joseph L. Looney 2,
    Gillette, WY.

  25. Brother Vaughn,

    Thanks for the history lessons.

    Gillette, WY

  26. If you leave off your cloak of invisibility, I'd like to know more about you. Joker is a good name for you, also. I feel there is a possibility you are someone I already know

  27. Arch Bishop, you do not know me.

    I find your position totally unsupportable by the Bible. You would probably not use the method you have employed to defend choirs for any other subject.

    I do love the reference to indoor plumbing as something to do with the church. I always look at the church as being people. A building is just a place to meet. The quality or lack therof matters not.

    As for the name Jokers, it is my password on my computer at work.

  28. Bro. Joker55,

    I as the blog owner have no problem with you posting with an alias. However, your comments, such as "Arch Bishop is a good nickname for you..." which suggests certain things that are untrue about Bro. Merritt's character crosses the line for comments on this blog. I will agree with Bro. Looney that he is a contender for the faith. Stick to issues and refrain from sarcasm.

    While I myself do not understand how steeples themselves show affinity with or approval of Protestantism no more than 10 a.m. Sunday services, I have a high respect for our forefathers who avoided "all appearances of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:23). However, I have a problem myself with attending even a funeral that is being officiated by a false preacher, voting in place of false worship (I have not yet), and especially when a funeral is held at a true Landmark Missionary Baptist church and it is officiated by a false preacher in God's pulpit.

  29. Bro. Melton, would you explain the meaning of "I have a problem myself in place of false worship"?


  30. The Arch Bishop name came from a friend who combined a term for my physical shape and the fact that I am a preacher (bishop). It was a joke we laughed about often.
    The church steeple quote from the book Old Landmarkism-What Is It? came because I had three questions about church steeples in recent months and I just found the quote again (I need a quote filing system). I thought it made a good point.
    The variety of opinions expressed help me to understand the way others think. It also helps me to be more careful in what I write. I appreciate young landmarker and looneytuneswy coming to my defense. Great friends are a real valuable relationship! I really didn't think things were getting that out of hand. IMO we were kind of defining our positions.

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