“Devoted to Religion, Morality, Literature and General Intelligence.” Thus reads the tagline of North Carolina Baptists’ newspaper, the Biblical Recorder. In the spirit of that mission, and during a time when many Baptist churches of the South are struggling to keep the door’s open as the war rages on and on, this week’s edition of the paper offers sage advice to churches, under the catchy title of “Eternal Signs of a Living Church.”
Sign 1st. A neat, spacious, and comfortable house of worship, over which there hangs no debt; and if in a village or city, located in the most pleasant and convenient part of the place.
Sign 2d. Preaching every Sabbath, or twice a month at least. Prayer meeting every week and a Pastor so well supported that the sight of the Sheriff is no terror to him.
Sign 3d. A regular and flourishing Sabbath School, the Superintendent of which is not the Pastor. At which school may be found the majority of the members of the church especially single persons and parents.
Sign 5th. On church meeting days the members all try to be present. One is not absent just at that time to sell his produce, or another at a public gathering, where his business is to see and be seen.
Sign 6th. Rainy days do not make empty pews; for the church expect the Pastor to be there and they can go if he can.
Sign 7th. Idlers, Tattlers, Distillers, Rumsellers, Topers, Backbiters, Brawlers, Anti-Missionaries, Croaker and covetous persons find no comfort in such a church, and are compelled to leave in order to find congenial spirits.
Sign 8th. The members of this church take a Religious Newspaper and have family worship. They also educate their children; contribute to Home and Foreign Missions; are not found among the list of speculators and extortioners of the preset day–but administering to the wants of the needy, the widow and the orphan.
Reader do you belong to a living church, and are you a lively member of that church? If you are, the promise of being a member triumphant is yours.
Readers are left wondering as to the fourth sign, which is either omitted, or the numbering incorrect. Makers of alcohol and drunkards (“topers”) certainly make a church ineligible as pleasing to God (but consumption of alcohol in and of itself is fine; Baptist churches typically serve real wine for communion). And not even grumblers (croakers) are to be found in faithful congregations.
So does a congregation exist which meets all of these criteria? One is left to wonder.
Source: Biblical Recorder, June 18, 1862 (link)