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Charles Price Jones

A veteran of many difficulties, Charles Price Jones founded the major black Holiness denomination.

The end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th found the Protestant church in America in upheaval. Liberal theology, denying the historical tenets of Christianity and, in some cases, going so far as to say "God is dead", had a foothold in most major denominations.

Denominations friendly to the new teaching united, leaving those who contended for historic Christianity in smaller groups. Two conservative movements grew out of this conflict. Conservative Baptists and Presbyterians largely identified themselves with the Fundamentalist movement, while Methodists were more likely to identify with the Holiness movement.

Into this conflict strode a humble, unassuming black Baptist preacher.

Born in 1865, Charles Price "C. P." Jones converted to Christianity at about age 20. By 1894 he was the successful pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama.

But deep in his soul he was not satisfied. He came to believe that he, his parishioners and his fellow-ministers were not "toting fair with Jesus."

As Jones studied the scripture, the hunger in his soul coalesced on the doctrine of second-blessing holiness or entire sanctification. This teaching basically states that after a person is converted, he ought to come to another crisis point in his spiritual experience. And at that point he is to yield every aspect of his life to God who will, by a work of His Spirit, enable the believer to live without known sin. This state of full harmony with the will of God is termed "entire sanctification", "perfection in love", or simply "holiness". John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, promoted the doctrine and it is at the core of Wesleyan Methodism. But most Methodists in Jones' day and now have backed away from it.

For Jones, coming to believe in this work of God's Spirit was not enough. He had to experience it, and after a time of prayer and fasting he did.

Jones continued preaching in Baptist churches, moving in 1895 to the Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, but he began promoting holiness doctrine. In 1897 he held a conference to promote it to the church people of the area. Many of his associates embraced it gladly, but there were always those who did not.

Like many other leaders of the emerging Holiness Movement, C.P. did not intend to start another denomination. He urged unity under the slogan, "Denominationalism is slavery". But the difference was too great and Mt. Helm Baptist chose a new name. Jones and C. H. Mason began calling their work the Church of God in Christ about 1899. By 1907, however, Mason was promoting speaking in tongues and Jones' group chose the name Church of Christ (Holiness).

The young movement faced opposition on many fronts. A few holdouts in the Mt. Helm church successfully sued for the church property when the majority of the congregation left the Baptist fold. And a mob burned down the church's new building, physically preventing firefighters from putting out the fire.

But the opposition never stopped C. P. from preaching and expanding the work. In the midst of some of the worst opposition, he also wrote gospel songs. "Jesus Only" was the most popular in his day and "I Would Not be Denied" can still be heard in Holiness churches, white as well as black.

He continued to actively lead in the church until he fell ill in 1943. He retired in 1944 and went home five years later to meet his "dear Master".

Free Indeed: Heroes of Black Christian History

Find a few of Charles Price Jones' hymns.
Belleview College offers this introduction to holiness theology.
The Fundamental Wesleyan Society offers this explanation of Second Blessing Holiness
The Fundamental Wesleyan Society includes more information on historic Methodism.

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