Today as I write this I must say that I have a better view of Baptist history than I once did. In fact, if I’m being honest I would have to say that at one time I had NO view of Baptist history. I did not study it, but merely accepted what I was told as a young member within the Primitive Baptist church. Instead of being encouraged to study the history of this order I chose to join, I was immediately introduced to the idea of church succession, a convenient way to make sweeping generalizations about the past. The beliefs and practices could be “traced back to Jerusalem”, so I was told, going through many of the dark age groups (e.g. Anabaptists, Lollards, Donatists, Waldenses, etc.).
What’s that old saying again? If I only knew then what I know now.
It is one of my great fears that I am not by myself, and that many others have had the veil of Landmarkism pulled down over their eyes, both obscuring their understanding of Baptist history and discouraging any attempt to honestly research it. The following are some things I was never told.
I was never told that the split at Black Rock in 1832 regarded ONLY missionary methods, and not theology.
I was never told that there was another division in 1891, probably more significant in that did involve theology (i.e. Means vs. Anti-Means, Perseverance vs. Preservation).
I was never told that there was such a work called The Old Baptist Test by Elder John Watson.
I was never told that there was such a work called A Concise History of the Ketocton Association by Elder William Fristoe.
I was never told there was an evangelical work called The Primitive Preacher by Elder Gregg Thompson, in which he called on men to repent and believe in Christ.
I was never told that the first generation anti-missionaries were “Means” Baptists or a sort, holding to a three-stage process of coming to be saved.
I was never told that the Kehukee Association Articles of Faith stated that all the elect would be “converted” and that they would “persevere”.
I was never told that the Kehukee Association were “absoluters”, condoning Elder Gilbert Beebe’s periodical The Signs of the Times.
I was never told that absolute predestination was the original position and that conditionalism was the new.
I was never told that there was anyone other than “Fullerites” who believed in gospel means towards the end of the 18th century.
I was never told that Elder John Leland prayed for the salvation of the lost.
I was never told that conditional time salvation was a new doctrine, having developed towards the end of the 19th century.
I was never told that the Philadelphia and London Confession of Faith were the recognized beliefs of the founding fathers of the denomination.
I was never told that the Fulton confession of Faith had a chapter entitled “The Perseverance of the Saints”.
I was never told that the question of "Who are the Primitive Baptists?" was a matter of debate.
Without a doubt, I was at fault for not doing the research for myself. Nevertheless, it’s only fair that these facts be told the church members, and especially newly-ordained elders. One of the ways this can be accomplished is through their publications. Unfortunately, I am convinced that such information is being intentionally withheld from the people. I still have quite a few works in which sweeping claims are made for church succession, but the above facts are scarcely, if ever, mentioned. I do wish to give credit to the Absoluter faction, however, who I have found to be very vocal in presenting history, and more accurate in their presentation of the facts.