The Simplicity of Early Baptist Worship


The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies posted a few examples of the refreshingly simple format for worship used by our Particular Baptist forefathers: The Simplicity of Early Baptist Worship:

Order of Worship

  1. A Brother reads a Psalm
  2. Time spent in Prayer
  3. Read some portion of Holy Scripture
  4. Preaching
  5. Prayer
  6. Psalm singing

An example from Hanserd Knollys was given thus:

Order of Worship

  1. Prayer
  2. Scripture reading with exposition and interpretation
  3. Preaching
  4. Baptism
  5. The Lord’s table
  6. Singing

It is interesting to note that in both examples, worship is begun with Scripture and prayer and closed with Psalm singing. Scripture reading and exposition were given in addition to preaching. Scripture exposition, as far as I understand it, was didactic. The sermon was exhortatory. When I read Matthew Henry’s biography I discovered that he also gave a Scriptural exposition early in the service and a sermon in the middle.

Oldest Baptist Order of Worship

According to a paper I found on the internet, “The Baptist History and Heritage Society contains what is believed to be the oldest record of a Baptist worship service from 1609.”:

The order of the worshippe and government of
oure church is we begynne wth A prayer, after
reade some one or tow chapters of the Bible
gyve the sence thereof, and conferr vpon the
same, that done we lay aside oure bookes, and
after a solemne prayer made by the speaker, he
propoundeth some text owt of the Scripture,
and prophecieth owt of the same, by the space
of one hower, or thre Quarters of an hower.

The essential elements recorded here are:

  1. Prayer
  2. Scripture Reading and Exposition
  3. Prayer
  4. Preaching

18th Century American Order of Worship

That same paper cited an example of 18th Century American Southern Baptist worship as constructed by Baptist historian who have studied period writing:

  1. Short Prayer
  2. Scripture Reading
  3. Long Prayer
  4. Hymn
  5. Preaching
  6. Prayer
  7. Hymn
  8. Lord’s Supper
  9. Offering
  10. Benediction

Here we see that hymns have replaced Psalm singing and given greater emphasis, but the essential format remains nearly the same – prayer, Scripture, prayer, preaching, ordinances, singing.

Conclusion

For over 350 years (~1609-1960s), the essential format of Baptist worship remained consistent: prayers, Psalms, Scripture exposition, preaching and ordinances.

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