Vol.XIX No.V Pg.4
July 1982

19Th Century Worship

Robert F. Turner

In Millennial Harbinger, (Sept. 1830 (Vol. 1, No. 9), in "Journal of A Traveler" we find a description of an early American restoration worship service. It reminds us of descriptions of 2nd. and 3rd. century services, found in "Ante-Nicene Fathers." It should be noted that neither can substitute for the information about worship given in the New Testament, but we thought you might enjoy this.


"Lord's Day June 27th. (1830, rft) Was introduced to Father J.B. who, for many years, had been a Methodist preacher, and who, about a year since, obeyed the gospel. Attended worship with the disciples is M. Their meeting-house is a plain, one story brick building, 52 by 42 feet, furnished with seats. The males on one side, and the females on the other. While the assembly were coming in, several hymns were sung. At length Bishop R. arose — read John 15 ch. and prayed.

Another hymn was sung — Bishop R. then, after making some introductory remarks, names for his subject, Obedience. He exhibited Jesus as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings — considered the gospel as addressed to all without exception, who hear it; and enforced its exhortations with the promise of life and salvation. His discourse was one hour and three quarters in length; at the close of which he said: "If there be any here present who wish to obey the gospel, they will come forward while we are singing a hymn."

Two sisters came forward — one a married lady, the other about 14 years of age. After a short prayer, Bishop R. said: "We will now repair immediately to the water." At the water, on the candidates presenting themselves, he addressed them thus: "Do you believe with all your heart, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?" They answered, "I do." Then taking each by the hand, they went down both into the water, when, saying, — "By the authority of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, I immerse you into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" — he immersed them.

On returning to the meeting-house, about one hundred disciples sat down to the table of the Lord, (which is their weekly practice) and commemorated his dying love. Traveler (the writer, rft) joined with them. During this exercise they sang several hymns and spiritual songs. None seemed sad — none wore other than a cheerful countenance — never before, as now, was the exhortation of the Apostle so much impressed upon my mind: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice. "


Respecting an "invitation" hymn, "Hazard of the Die", by James Wilburn (p. 14-15), reports a Sept. 1827 service — "When the invitation hymn was sung (for the first time among these people), he came forward and confessed his faith in Christ." Wilburn gives as sources for this material Autobiography of Samuel Rogers; Standard Publ., Cincinnati, 1880; and an article in Restoration Quarterly, V.5, N.1 (1961) by Thomas H. Olbricht. May I remind you secular history makes a thing neither right nor wrong.