Question: "Who are the Primitive Baptists and what do they believe?"
Answer: Generally speaking, those groups which identify themselves as Primitive Baptists would certainly fit within the ranks of orthodox Christianity. The name refers to their desire to adhere to the original teachings and methods of the early church, rather than the newer traditions that have accumulated over the years. These brethren have also been called “Particular Baptists” and “Old School Baptists,” though “Primitive” has become the preferred name in most cases.
The Primitive Baptists first became an identifiable group after meetings in Black Rock, Maryland, in 1832, in which they addressed concerns with extra-biblical groups like tract societies, Sunday schools, cooperative missions programs, and theological schools. While they were not opposed to witnessing and scriptural instruction, they took issue with the manner in which those things were done. After the Black Rock meeting, the Primitive Baptists separated from all association with such ministries.
Another connotation of the name “Primitive” is the idea of simplicity. Rather than getting caught up in programs and fads, the Primitive Baptists hold simple meetings that include preaching, praying, and singing. They do not use instruments in their services, believing them to be additions to the biblical pattern (Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15). Instead of graded Sunday schools, they have instructional times for the whole assembly, believing that children will learn from and with their parents far more effectively. Regarding doctrine, Primitive Baptists teach the total depravity of man, the total sufficiency of Christ's substitutionary death, and the effectual call of God to repentance by the elect.
While the practices and teachings of the Primitive Baptists may seem more old-fashioned and stricter than typical evangelical conservatives’, the two groups hold many things in common and should be considered brothers and sisters in Christ. Regardless of our own traditions and beliefs, we would do well to follow the Primitive Baptists’ example, which is like that of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “received the word with all readiness of mind, searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”