Customs of Primitive Churches, Morgan Edwards; No. 1

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by rlvaughn, Jun 16, 2016.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Thanks to Chris Hanna, I recently obtained an e-copy of Customs of Primitive Churches by Morgan Edwards (Philadelphia, PA: 1768). Edwards (1722-1795) was for many years clerk of the Philadelphia Baptist Association,and compiler of Materials Towards a History of the Baptists in the United States. Customs of Primitive Churches is a fairly rare and hard-to-find book, though several libraries have it in microform. The information in Edwards's "Advertisement" suggests why it is hard to find -- that it was printed in limited quantity. I intend to try to post some excerpts from the book for your historical enjoyment and elucidation. Following below is the "Advertisement" on page 2 and the "Contents" on page 110. It seems that it was intended as a sort of church manual.

    The book can be hard to read and decipher at times. I am using brackets
    [ ] to set off words of which I am unsure. Also trying for the most part to retain original spelling, but with correction of some typos.

    Advertisement

    THE publisher of the following piece knows that a thing of the kind requires much care and a multitude of counsellers in order to render it useful and unexceptionable. He means no more by the publication than humbly to engage his brethren to join him in a design of serving the churches this way, and to offer his mite towards the accomplishment of that design; therefore he intends to print but a few copies, and to let none go out of his hands but to the ministers of the philadelphia association, and some others; with an earnest request that each of them will consider the plan; mend it; or propose a better; correct what is wrong; retrench superfluities; supply defects, particularly texts more apposite to the propositions than some of those cited; and after all meet in a body to compare their thoughts together, and contrive the best method to put them forth, as was the case with regard to our Confession of faith in the year 1689. (page 2)

    Contents (Page 110)

    Of the word church
    Of the distinctions of a church
    Of the definition of a church
    Of the constitution of a church
    Of the officers of a church
    Of a minister
    Of his qualifications
    Of his election
    Of his ordination
    Of his instalment
    Of elders
    Of eldresses
    Of deacons
    Of deaconesses
    Of a clerk
    Of missionaries
    Of the right of church officers to pay
    Of church censures
    Of rebuke
    Of suspension
    Of excommunication
    Of admission to the church
    Out of the world
    Out of another church
    Of restoration of the suspended
    Of the excommunicated
    Of the ordinances of the church
    Of baptism
    Of the Lords Supper
    Of laying on of hands
    Of the right hand of fellowship
    Of the love feast
    Of washing feet
    Of the kiss of charity
    Of anointing the sick
    Of collecting for the saints
    Of fasts
    Of feasts or thanksgivings
    Of devoting children to God
    Of burying the dead
    Of marriage
    Of public worship
    Of the sabbath
    Of a church judicature
    Of decissions by suffrage
    Of the subjection of women
    Of the business of a church
    Of the duties of church members to their ministers
    Of their behaviour towards one another
    Of their behaviour towards their church
    Of their duties as men, women &c
    Of their duties towards the world
    Of the duties of a church towards itself and other churches
    Of an association

    After the customs book contents page, there are 6 pages of information about the churches of the Philadelphia Baptist Association.
     
    #1 rlvaughn, Jun 16, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
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  2. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Nevertheless, I don't know its printing history and it could have been reprinted several times. Considering that it was first issued in 1768 and the Revolution came on soon may mean it didn't get reprinted. Plus, Edwards was not a supporter of the Revolution like most of the Baptists of his day. To my understanding this was not because he supported the British victory, but that he feared the Baptists in America might fare worse, freedom-wise, under a Protestant government run by Congregationalist and such like, than under the Church of England.
     
  3. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
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    Brother Robert I understood the outline that you posted but two of them had me scratching my head saying surely this does not imply an office... What is meant by of eldresses and deaconesses?... To me this would mean the wives of Elders and Deacons?... Is this the right interpretation?... I know in our church there were no eldresses and desconesses... Brother Glen
     
  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Brother Glen, yes, Morgan Edwards considered those to be offices. I will start another thread on what Edwards said about deaconesses -- since it is shorter and quicker to type than what he said about eldresses. Edwards believed the office of eldresses "hath foundation in scripture and antiquity." It consisted of such things as praying, teaching and presiding in separate assemblies for the women, and assisting in the baptism of women "that all may be done orderly". On the other hand, concerning subjection of women he wrote "The Scripture forbids women to speak, ask questions, dispute, rule, and vote in the church. Yet they may make their minds known by means of a brother, and ought to have just regard paid thereto." So he was not talking about women preaching and pastoring churches.

    I don't know whether many Regular Baptists in the Philadelphia Association agreed with Edwards on these two offices. My impression is that the majority would not have. (But that is just an impression). Many of the Separate Baptists recognized both offices. In Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptist Tradition, Josh Powell mentions eldresses and deaconesses in the Sandy Creek Church.
     
  5. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
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    I can understand Brother Edwards. He had only immigrated from Wales in 1761. I don't think he understood the dynamics of the established churches in the American colonies. While, there were the New England Congregationalists. The Church of England was the established church on the Southern Colonies. Thus, the First Amendment grew out from the desire of the various factions not to come under the dominance of another. Which played right into the hands of the Baptists and Quakers.
     
  6. rsr

    rsr
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    I think you would find "eldresses" much more infrequently than deacons or deaconesses. R.B.C. Howell and J.R. Graves — decidedly antagonistic on many matters of ecclesiology — both defended the office of deaconess. B.H. Carroll's church in Waco had deaconesses, though he opposed their ordination.
     

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