Delivered at the First Baptist Church
Baton Rouge, La.
On Sunday, November 3, 1918
Some months ago, I attended services at one of the churches in this city where an Evangelist was conducting a series of meetings and listened to a discourse on the doctrines of his denomination.
As I came out of the church that night, one of our own prominent members said to me in a jocular vein, ”Aren’t you ashamed now that you are a Baptist?” I said, ”Oh, no, not at all.” I then determined that at some future day I would undertake to tell our own people ”Why I Am A Baptist” because many of our church members are not informed as to the doctrines and teachings of our church. I sincerely hope that this discourse may enlighten the minds and consciences of our Baptist folk and they may realize that it is un-necessary to ever apologize to anyone for being a member of the great Baptist hosts that are helping conquer this world for our Lord Jesus Christ.
I would select the following passages of Scripture as appropriate for this address.
1. ”Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1st. Peter, 3rd chapter, 15th verse.
2. ”Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. ” Epistle of Jude, 3rd verse.
3. The last words of our Saviour, ”Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matthew, 28th chapter, verse 20.
I wish to preface my remarks by saying that in the discussion which shall follow, we have the very kindest Christian fellowship for those who may belong to other denominations, nor do we for one moment hold that they are not good people and firm believers in the atonement and divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Nor do we say they will not be saved and we most cordially fellowship them in all good works looking for that blessed day when ”Swords shall be beaten into plow shares and spears into pruning hooks, when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in the tops of the mountains, which shall mark the advent of the Blessed Emanuel, the Prince of Peace.” Yes, we shall love them all along the journey of life, but when they ask us to lay aside our firm belief and conviction of the truth as revealed by the word of God and accept man-made interpretations, legends and traditions, we are compelled to lovingly part company and stay by ”The Book,” even though we may be called a ”peculiar people and a bigotted sect.”
I shall endeavor to present some of the reasons for the faith which was once delivered to the saints as we see it, touch briefly upon the debt the world owes to the Baptists and conclude with the mission of our church in the present age, and may God give me wisdom to speak aright and understanding where-withal to challenge and hold your attention,
If you ask the average member of our church why he is a Baptist, he will doubtless say because he believes in immersion or communion by church members only or a converted membership, etc. None of these strike the bed-rock foundation on which the Baptist church has erected a spiritual temple in the hearts and consciences of millions of men and women not only in this age but in the centuries gone. It is true, we sing that grand old hymn, ”On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand,” but that refers to the fundamentals of Christianity - Christ the chief corner-stone. However, the foundation our church and its teachings rests upon is the ”Word of God.” That and that alone we take as the ”rule and guide for our faith and practice.”
The Master said, ”Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, for they are they that testify of me.” We accept no man-made creed for our guidance. We demand a ”Thus saith the Lord” for church ordinances and reject as spurious all deviation from the plain teachings of the Bible itself. ”Holy Bible, book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine.” We believe it was written by men inspired of God, for that special work, Second Timothy, third chapter, verses 16-17; Revelation, 22nd. chapter, verses 18 and 19. What God hath written should be a plain command to us and neither we nor any other man or body of men possess the right or power to change its teachings for convenience or any other purpose. Let us keep this thought uppermost in our mind all the time and the reason for the existence of our church will become more and more apparent.
That is why we believe in the open Bible for one arid all and abhor the doctrine of keeping its precious truths churlishly locked up from the masses to be doled out to them according to the idea of some special church dignitary or authority. ’’Search the Scriptures” is the command of the Saviour and this applies to everybody. For this reason, we have no such thing as ”Confirmation” in our church by which method the child is taught to become proficient in some special catechism or man-made creed so that head religion is made to supplant heart religion as taught by the Great Teacher in his discourse with Nicodemus as recorded in the third chapter of the Gospel of John.
We believe in the Sunday School and in its objects and purposes fully, but the study and knowledge of God’s word itself should be the keystone of the arch that holds us together. An enlightened church membership in God’s Truth itself and not in man-made creeds or dogmas is the foundation stone upon which our church securely rests. May it ever be so.
Keeping this thought uppermost in our mind, it is not very difficult to understand the raison d’etre for the Baptist church. Let us trace its doctrines step by step.
First, we believe in a converted membership. The definition of a church according to our conception of God’s Word is ”A congregation of duly authorized baptized believers or disciples of Jesus Christ.” The New Testament precludes all idea of a State Church and abhors any union of Church and State. This is strong Baptist doctrine. ”Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God, the things that are God’s, ”is the divine command. Absolute freedom of conscience and religious belief has always been the Baptist position on this subject. All churches are individual units in the Kingdom and are subservient to no other ecclesiastical body or hierarchy.
Paul addressed his epistles and spoke of the ”Churches of Galatia,” the ”Churches of Macedonia, the Church of Ephesus. The Church of Corinth,” etc., each one being a separate and distinct organization controlling its own affairs.
Associations and conventions may be held to advise and plan for the extension of the kingdom, but none such have any ecclesiastical power or jurisdiction over a single other church. The Scriptures do not point out a single instance where such authority was either claimed or exercised.
When the church at Antioch sent to Jerusalem for advice concerning certain Jewish rites which some contended were to be observed by the Gentiles, they received back only advice and an opinion as to the requirements of the ceremonial law. Not only that, but the great Apostle Peter writing from Babylon to the Elders or pastors (saying he also was an Elder) urged that they Should not be lords over God’s heritage, but an example to the flock. 1st. Peter, 5th chapter, 1st and 2nd verses.
Now, if the foregoing is a correct description of a church, it necessarily follows that membership therein must be proceeded by certain important qualifications. To join any lodge the candidate must possess certain prerequisites. To become a citizen of America one must have certain qualifications, which the law has prescribed for citizenship. What are these qualifications for church membership? Let us go to ”The Book” for there can be no other authority to determine the question.
We believe the first essential is repentance of Godly sorrow for sin, and second, faith, or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, That is the Baptist position. This excludes infants of course from church membership. Where is this doctrine of repentance, and faith taught in the Bible? The New Testament is full of it. See Mark 1st. eh., 15th. ”Repent ye and believe the Gospel;” 1st. John, chapter 5, verse 1; Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8; Acts, chapter 16, verses 30-31; Acts, chapter 2, verses 37-38; Romans, 10th. chapter verses 9-11; Mark 16th. chapter, verse 16; Matthew 3rd. chapter, verse 2; John 3rd. chapter, 16-17-18.
These passages with many others clearly show that faith in Christ is recognized as an essential principle. While faith may possess no merit within itself, yet it brings the soul into vital contact with the blood of atonement which does possess infinite merit. It unites us to Christ and brings us all the blessings of the ”New Covenant.”
Faith in Christ is an essential qualification of Church membership. No unbeliever has any more shadow of claim to citizenship in the Kingdom of Christ than an unnaturalized alien has to citizenship in America. Coexistent with this saving faith comes regeneration by which we become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Faith and regeneration being a prerequisite to church membership are likewise a prerequisite to baptism, the door of admission to the church. Hence, the Baptist church discards all idea of baptismal regeneration. We are not baptized in order to save us, but because we are already saved through the merits of the atoning blood of Jesus applied to our hearts. The first born of the children of Israel was safe from death the very minute the blood was sprinkled on the lintel and door post on the night of the Passover and it was not necessary for him to pass through the Red Sea for salvation, but only for separation from Egypt, the type of the world. ”Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”
When His atoning blood is applied to our hearts through faith, we are saved already and baptism only marks the door of separation from the world. This is the Baptist belief supported by the Scriptures. We do not attach as much importance to the act of baptism as many other religious denominations who believe baptism is essential to salvation and that our sins are literally washed away. That is why infant baptism is practiced by some churches who fear the infant might be lost should it die without having been baptized. We believe no such dogma. Infants are saved by the atoning blood of Jesus and water can have no efficacy in the plan of salvation. The thief on the cross never saw baptism yet we are assured on the word of the Saviour that he was with Him in Paradise. See Luke 23rd. chapter, verses 42-43.
While our church does not believe in baptismal regeneration or salvation by baptism, yet there is no church that stands more closely by the teachings of the Book than the Baptist church on this subject. We believe in baptism because the Lord commanded it and made it the essential door to admission into his visible church on earth. We also believe it should be done just as the Lord said it should be and that he himself gave us the great example in order to fulfill all righteousness. See Matthew 3rd. chapter, 15th. verse.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus said ”One Lord, one faith and one baptism.” Eph. 4th. chapter verse 5. Some people make it in effect read ”One Lord, one faith and three baptisms.” Such is not the scriptural injunction. It is because our church objects to changing the plain teaching of the Book that we have been called in times past in derision ”Anabaptists” or ”Rebaptizers” because we refused to accept baptism applied in infancy as valid or efficacious to church membership. An observance of this ordinance is the duty of believers, it being their first public act of obedience to Christ. There is an actual, a real remission of sin when we believe in Christ. There is a declarative, formal, symbolic remission in baptism.
Now, if baptism is the door of admission to the church, we are led naturally to consider the subject ”What is baptism as taught by the word of God?” The Evangelist whom I knew challenged anyone to show where the word ”immerse” was used for baptism. He knew that to use such a word would be tautological. I could with just as much unction challenge him to show anywhere in the Scriptures where the word sprinkle or pour was used for baptize. It is not there. The facts are that the Greek word, ”Baptizo” means to dip, to plunge, to submerge or to immerse. See Liddell and Scots Greek Lexicon and the works of any reliable lexicographer whether pedo-baptist or not. They all agree. The truth is the Greek word was simply anglicized and ”baptize” was made to read ”baptize” without being translated at all. No Greek word can have three different meanings. The Greek word ”Rantizo” means to sprinkle and the word ”Ekkeon” means to pour or wash and neither of these two latter Greek words were ever used in connection with the Christian ordinance of baptism. Never. The Bible will show this statement to be literally true. The Greek Catholic church to-day practices nothing but immersion, because they know what the Greek word ”Baptizo” in its purity means, as well as the symbolism of the ordinance itself.
Let us take the plain teaching of the Word of God on this most important subject. An old negro preacher was once asked why so many negroes were Baptists and readily responded, ”Well, you see Massa, the darkeys ain’t got sense enough to ’splain away the Scriptures.” That statement contains several grains of truth for it certainly takes a good deal of explaining and twisting to make the Bible mean anything else but that burying the body in water is Christian baptism. Christ himself first gave us the great example for us to follow. Read Matthew 3rd. chapter, verses 15-16-17. Mark 1st. chapter, verses 9-10-11. John the Baptist also baptized in Enon because there was much water there. Why did he need much water? Certainly not to sprinkle or pour. See John 3rd. chapter, 23rd. verse. There is another point that I would make here and that is that immersion as baptism is accepted throughout the religious world. If you have been immersed on a profession of faith into the fellowship of a Baptist church that baptism is accepted as current coin of pure gold on this question by every Evangelical church in Christendom. Furthermore, I challenge you to produce a single person who has been immersed that ever became dissatisfied with his baptism or whose conscience troubled him for not having obeyed the Lord. On the other hand, I have seen a number of people who received the ordinance by affusion who became thoroughly dissatisfied and demanded a better way. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience. See 1st/ Peter, 3rd. chapter, 21st. verse.
The account of the baptism of the Eunuch by Phillip is set forth in language too plain to be misunderstood. Read Acts 8th. chapter, verses 35-39. Baptism as administered in our church is a solemn and meaningful performance. Let us observe what is its lesson or symbolism. Does it teach anything? The Scriptures are very explicit on this subject. Read Romans 6th. chapter, verses 3-5; Coll. 2nd. chapter, verse 12; 3rd. chapter, 1st. verse. Can’t you see the whole picture of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection as typified by this most beautiful ordinance performed in the Baptist way? The new convert is now dead to sin, he is buried with Christ in baptism and arises to walk in newness of life. How much plainer could the truth be made? Does sprinkling or pouring teach any of these sublime truths?
We believe baptism is in the nature of a positive ordinance and calls for a precise observance and that immersion was the only act known to the Saviour and his apostles and hence the only one obligatory upon us. We rely upon the meaning of the enacting word, the examples of baptism given in the New Testament, to the figurative reference to baptism therein contained and to the symbolism of the ordinance itself. They tell us that it makes no difference as to form but we answer, Nay. Honest and loving loyalty to our Saviour makes us endeavor to follow in his steps to the watery grave of scriptural baptism, so that when we are called to give an account of our stewardship we can truthfully say that ”we have observed all things as He has commanded us.”
We now come to the only other ordinance of the church established by the Master and that is ”The Lord’s Supper.” There is no doctrine of the Baptist church more misunderstood by the membership of other churches and sometimes our own than the position of the Baptists on Communion. Our position is logical and strictly scriptural. The Lord himself instituted this ordinance for his own chosen people on the night he was betrayed and even Judas Iscariot did not partake thereof. Let us read the account of its institution. Matthew 26th. chapter, verses 26-30; Mark 14h. chapter, verses 22-25; Luke 22nd. chapter, verses 19-20; John 13th. chapter, verses 29-30.
This was on the night of the Passover which was always eaten by separate families to commemorate that solemn night of escape in Egypt. Jesus had his own spiritual family-the chosen eleven, with him for the observance of this solemn ordinance after the Passover supper had been eaten by the entire twelve. There was no transubstantiation of the elements, because Jesus was still with them in the flesh and besides, he never taught his church members any such doctrine. The bread and wine simply typified his body and blood and are to be so taken in remembrance of him.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth gives us the design and purpose of the ordinance. See 1st. Corinthians, 11th. chapter, verses 23-30; also verses 33-34. It is done solely in remembrance of Jesus and shows his death till he comes. A memorial and a prophecy. This ordinance and baptism largely serve a similar purposes, viz., photographing the vicarious atonement of Jesus by his death on Calvary for each one of us. The early church observed it as strictly a church ordinance and none but those who were disciples or members of the church were permitted to partake. 1st. Corinthians, fifth. chapter, verse 11. See Acts 2nd. chapter, verses 41-42. The purpose of the ordinance is not to ”show fellowship or hospitality. It should be taken in a most solemn manner and unleavened bread always be used if the true symbolism is to be made manifest.
Now, if this is the Lord’s table and not ours, and it is a church ordinance, then none but church members should be allowed to partake. That carries us right back to the very fundamental proposition of who is a church member, that has come through the door into the church, for there is but one door and not three. The Baptists simply say we love all Christian people, we recognize their good works, but never having complied with God’s holy ordinance of baptism and not having come through the door, we cannot invite them to partake of this church observance with us. Our doctrine is one of close baptism and not close communion.
Some churches who proclaim very loud their open communion views do not permit some of their own members to partake. They baptize infants into the church and never baptize them anymore and yet, they do not let them participate in this solemn church ordinance. Our church is more consistent, as we allow all members of the same faith to participate, because we know they have believed and followed the example of our Lord and been buried with him in baptism. We do not even permit those who join our own church on a profession of faith to partake of the Lord’s Supper before baptism, for though they may be saved by faith, yet they are not members of His visible church until they have passed through the door-baptism. As this is strictly a church ordinance, only church members are entitled to partake. Is not this position logical, reasonable and scriptural? We think so.
Let no one think that we are willfully perverse or that we care nothing for the opinion or good-will of others. We believe the very basic principle of our organic church life is unfaltering obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that this is the truest and worthiest thing we can do, the wisest and the best, the safest and most effective way to serve him and to serve the world. Jesus said, ”In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men,” and again he asks, ”Why call ye me Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say.” Baptists believe this truth and stick to it. The Lord’s table in Baptist churches is open to all the world. But there is only one way to it. Repent, believe and be baptized and preserve an orderly walk and you will find no bars across your way.
I have already referred to the fact that the Baptist church rejects the doctrine of infant baptism and for many reasons.
This doctrine is no where taught in the Bible and I challenge the production of a single passage to prove it. Three classes of Scripture are generally mentioned to substantiate it. 1st. Where baptism is mentioned but no children. As Lydia and her household, the Phillipian jailer and his household. The very reading itself negatives all idea of infants for it speaks of them believing and rejoicing of which emotions infants are incapable of exercising. See Acts 16th. chapter, verses 13-16 and 30-34. Also verse 40. The second Scripture is where the Saviour blessed little children. This is where children are mentioned specifically but no baptism, for the Saviour never baptized anyone. Not only that, but the disciples complained at the mothers for bringing the children, which they certainly would not have done had it been for the purpose of baptism. See Luke 18th. chapter, verses 15-17. The third Scripture is that which refers to neither children or baptism or any ordinance when it speaks of the Children of Israel being baptized unto Moses in the cloud and the Sea. See 1 Cor. 10th. chapter 1-2 verses.
But we oppose infant baptism not only because it is unscriptural but a very pernicious doctrine as can be shown. We contend that baptism is the door of admission to the church and that none but believers are qualified to receive the same and this of course excludes unconscious infants. We believe in personal salvation or trust in Jesus and no godfathers or godmothers to make promises for us. None such can be found in the Bible. We discard the idea of baptismal regeneration or salvation which would render absolutely nugatory the atonement and destroy all efficacy in the saving blood of Jesus. It is the blood that saves and not the water, which is only the outward symbol of the washing away of sin and besides the infant has no sin anyway.
Infant baptism is a relic of the old doctrine of the Roman church that baptism saves and that it is essential to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, which it clearly is not. If baptism regenerates, then unbelieving children would become converted church members and yet we know that many an unregenerate child becomes an unregenerate man and this doctrine would cause a Christian church to be full of unchristian men.
Now, if baptism of the infant is not to save it, which it does not, then for what purpose is the act committed? Surely not to show its faith, for it can have none. This practice helps to undermine the spirituality of the church for it leaves the child under the impression that he has already been either saved by baptism or is a member of the church and needs no conversion or turning away from his sinful ways. There is where this doctrine is pernicious in its effect on both the church and the individual. A church is not a nursery for infants, nor an infirmary for the ungodly, nor a refuge for the unbelieving and the indifferent. It is a recruiting station for the soldiers of the Cross everyone of whom is commanded ”to fight the good fight of faith.”
The preservation of God’s children to the end and their deliverance from perdition is one of the important doctrines held by the Baptists in common with the Presbyterians and some other churches. We believe that the New Testament teaches that the truly regenerated child of God cannot be lost. Any other teaching would make the salvation of man depend on his own act or conduct and not the saving blood of Jesus.
We believe that one who is once born of water and the spirit cannot be unborn, and his joint heirship with Christ taken away. We admit that they sometimes do wrong and grieve the Father’s heart and he punishes them therefor, but he will not leave them nor forsake them. See Hebrews 12th. chapter, verse 12. The good old baptist hymn says:
”The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to its foes;
That soul though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
Any other teaching minimizes the saving power of Jesus and magnifies the works of the devil, for if the devil can take you after once you are saved and he does not do so, then you are saved by the grace of the devil and not by the grace of God. Salvation is not of works lest any man should boast, but faith and works, go hand in hand and the teaching of Paul and James are entirely harmonious. No, the devil has not the power to take one of God’s children though as in the case of Job he may be permitted to afflict and persecute. Read Romans, 8th. chapter, verses 35-38; Phill. 1st. chapter, verse 5; Jude, verses 24-25; 1st. John, chapter 4, verse 4; Hebrews, 13th, chapter, verses 5-6; John 17th. chapter, verse 12; Eph. 2nd. chapter, verses 8-9.
Some contend that this licenses us to sin. God forbid. Read Romans chapter 5, verse 21 and chapter 6, verses 1-2, and 15-16. If a child is born of God it does not want to sin or disobey the Heavenly Father anymore than an earthly child really desires to disobey and grieve its parents, whom it loves, although they sometimes do so. When one constantly desires to grieve the Father’s heart, he may have reasons to doubt whether he is truly his child and an heir of promise. This is the Baptist position clearly sanctioned by the teachings of God’s Word. Read the passages above referred to and many others of similar import.
Of course, there are many other doctrines of the Baptist church which I have not the time nor you the patience to hear discussed. Some of these are difficult to understand and should more properly be discussed by a theological scholar than an ordinary layman.
The Apostle Peter said that many of the epistles of his beloved brother Paul contained ’’ Some things that were hard to understand. 2nd. Peter, 3rd chapter, verse 16. This is true and sometimes it is better to accept certain truth’s as taught in the Bible and not undertake some long metaphysical discussion thereof that might lead us into a maze of mysticism. In this connection, I refer especially to the doctrine of election and free grace and yet we know both are taught in the Bible. Read, on the doctrine of election and predestination, Romans 9th. chapter; 2nd. Thess. chapter 2, verse 13; 1st. Thess. 1st. chapter, verse 4; Romans, chapter 8, verses 29-30. This doctrine glorifies and magnifies God’s sovereign goodness and thereby promotes humility, prayer, love and trust. It makes us realize that the grace of God is the foundation of Christian assurance and that ”we are kept by the power of God ready to be revealed at the last time.”
At the same time, we likewise believe the words of our Saviour when he said ”Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Also, ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if he will but open, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.” The parable of the Great Supper given by our Lord says, ”Come for all things are now ready.” Luke, chapter 14, verse 17. The great commission itself conveys the same thought of free grace to all who may believe. Also see John 3rd. chapter, verses 16-17-18. The last words of the New Testament read, ”The Spirit and the Bride say. come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation, 22nd. chapter, verses 16-17. The doctrine of Justification by faith and Sanctification of the Spirit are likewise accepted as the solemn teaching of God’s Word. Read Acts, chapter 13, verse 39; Romans, chapter 5, verces 1-2-9-19; Thes. chapter 5, verse 3.
The New Testament only recognizes two classes of officers in the church. First, the Pastor, Elder, or Bishop, and second Deacons. Of course, a church may have trustees to attend to secular business and may appoint committees to discharge certain designated functions, but none of these are scriptural officers. Read Paul’s letter to Timothy, 1st. Timothy, 3rd. chapter, verses 1-13. He describes no officer except bishop and deacon. 1st. Peter, chapter 5 and verse 1. Peter calls himself also an elder. Paul in addressing his letter to the church at Phillippi says, ”With the Bishop and Deacons.” When Paul sent from Miletus to Ephesus he called for the elders or overseers and the same Greek word is used here as in Phillipians- where it is translated Bishop. See Acts 20th. chapter, verses 17-28, showing that the three names were synonymous or coterminous and were so used and understood by the early church. The office of Deacon was created very early and you will observe that they were selected by the membership of the church itself. See Acts 6th. chapter, verses 3-5. Many of the offices you see in church of the present day were unknown in Apostolic times.
This naturally leads us to consider the correct form of church government supported by the scriptures. We find no authority for any State church or any supreme head of the church except Jesus Christ. The declaration of the faith of Peter in the divinity of the Saviour is the rock on which Christ’s church was built. See Matthew chapter 16, verse 16. Peter was pastor or bishop of the church of Babylon for some years. The apostle Paul withstood him to the face on his Judaising teaching. When Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet, the Apostle said, ”Stand up, I myself am also a man.” See Acts, 10th chapter, verses 23-25. You will look in vain in the New Testament for any evidence of lordship being exercised by one preacher over another.
There are three forms of church government, viz: Episcopacy, Presbyterianism and Congregational. We do not believe the Bible authorizes the first two, but that the government of the church is lodged in the entire membership and that each church is separate and independent, or in other words, a pure democracy. What says the Bible. We have already seen that the first deacons were selected by the church membership and not appointed even by the Apostles.
When Paul went up to the Jerusalem church for the purpose of consulting them about the Gentiles observing the Mosaic law, the question was settled by the church and the letter addressed to the church at Antioch said ”It pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church to send chosen men etc.” The letter also commenced by saying, ”The apostles and elders and brethren, etc.” This shows that the church settled the matter. See Acts 15th. chapter, verses 22-23.
Furthermore, it is certainly logical that if it is the duty of the individual church to exclude a disorderly member, surely the same authority that turns him out must take him in. Read 1st. Corinthians, 5th. chapter, verses 5 and 11. This letter was written by Paul to the church and not to the bishop or elder.
The Evangelist I heard speak said he would not belong to any church where the membership had to say whether he should be received or not and yet in his own church the preacher alone passes judgment and says whether the applicant has answered the necessary questions laid down in the prayer book satisfactorily and they sometimes take them on probation for six months. I would certainly much rather have the good fellowship of the entire membership by being accepted by them than to be forced on them by the preacher alone. Not that I believe any minister would do wrong in this matter, but the Bible does not delegate this authority to him. Such authority or power is vested in the visible church membership itself to receive the worthy and exclude or withdraw fellowship from the unworthy. In Romans, 15th. chapter, 1st. verse, Paul told the church ”Him that is weak in the faith, receive Ye.” Also read 2nd. Thess., 3rd. chapter, verse 6, where Paul tells the church to withdraw fellowship from every brother that walketh disorderly. The church likewise had the power to restore a penitent member. 2nd. Corinthians 2nd. chapter, verses 6-8. Christ said, ”If the brother will not heed, tell it to the church,” Matthew 18th. chapter, verse 17. The church likewise sent out missionaries. Acts 11th. chapter, verse 22, also 13th. chapter, verse 2. These Missionaries reported back to the church at Antioch, Acts 14th. chapter, verse 27. The churches selected messengers to carry their charities. 1st. Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 3; Phillipians, 2nd. chapter, verse 25 and chapter 4, verse 18; Acts, chapter 11, verse 30. All power was evidently lodged in the church and not the pastor. It was a pure democracy.
The teaching of the Bible is that each local church is separate and independent and exercises full ecclesiastical power and no power is given to another to lord it over God’s heritage. Nowhere in the Bible can you find one body of preachers exercising control over another. No where do you find authority for a presiding elder or bishop to select a preacher and place him in charge of a congregation whether it suits them or not. These are all subsequent creations of man and not found in God’s word. The worship of images and saints violates the second commandment both in letter and spirit. The Lord only should be worshipped is the Baptist doctrine and this teaching is strictly in harmony with the New Testament. The simplicity of our church worship is very much in accord with that of the early church whether it was in the synagogue or by the river-side or in the house of Aquilla and Priseilla. The preacher told the glad tidings of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary and his glorious resurrection on that beautiful Sunday morning which ever after became the Lord’s Day.
It is likewise this Christian Sabbath the Baptist church observes, because it commemorates the resurrection and was the day on which the early church met for worship. See Acts, chapter 20, verse 7.
Of course, the Baptist church believes in studying the Bible and maintaining the Sunday School for the education of the children as well as adults in God’s Holy Word. We believe in using every instrumentality for the edification of the Saints and the extension of the kingdom throughout the world, such as the denominational press, denominational schools, etc. We believe in obeying the Great commission and are therefore missionary to the core. We believe in an educated ministry, but we do not hold that a theological course or diploma is essential to enable one called of God to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ Jesus. These last views are not doctrinal and are generally held in common with most all evangelical churches.
The origin of nearly all present day churches can be traced with but little difficulty and the exact time of its beginning can be easily ascertained. We claim that the principles and doctrines of the Baptist church are coeval with the days of the apostles. In the early days there were no denominations. Paul simply addressed his letter to the church at Ephesus, Phillipi, Thessalonica, Colossae, etc. We believe these early churches practiced and taught the faith as we have it, and that all down the nineteen centuries there has been a faithful band that has tenaciously held to these precious truths and kept the faith once for all delivered unto the Saints. The innovations and changes have all been of man’s invention and never received the sanction of the Scriptures.
We do not claim that the name ”Baptist Church” can be so historically traced. The name was applied by its enemies, who called them Anabaptists because they refused to sanction infant baptism and rebaptized all who professed conversion or that came to them from other denominations.
Baptists have a history of which they need not be ashamed, a history extending back for many ages and the record of its martyrs who died for the faith has glorified it and given us of the present generation cause for rejoicing.
Christian martyrology has no bloodier and brighter page than that which has been illumined by the record of persecutions, for conscience sake of our Baptist forefathers. It is an equal honor to their record to state that while they endured these things for truth’s sake, yet they never persecuted others for conscience’s sake. We do no place so much value upon a name in written history, but we know that the principles and truths held by the Baptists of the present day were so held by the Apostles, were sanctioned by the bible and have been so tenaciously contended for all down the centuries.
Its doctrines which now flow full and free can be traced to their source in the age of John the Baptist. The springs that feed this mighty stream are the uncorrupted teachings of the Master and his chosen Apostles. The persecution and opposition of other professed fellow Christians were the rocks and crags that would have impeded its passage, but today it has grown to be a stream so broad and deep that nothing can check its onward journey to the great ocean of eternity. It flows, by every door singing ever and anon its paean of religious liberty, its songs of redemption through the blood of Jesus alone and its glad hosanna of obedience to the Word of God.
The actual written history of the Baptist church can easily be traced back to a period of time which antedates the Reformation, so that we are not of those commonly called Protestant churches, having existed prior to that time.
Zwingli, born in 1484, the great-Swiss reformer and co-laborer with Luther says, ”The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, for thirteen hundred years it has caused great disturbance in the Roman Church.”
Mosheim, the great church historian and a Lutheran, born in 1694, says, ”The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, is hid in the remote depths of antiquity and consequently extremely difficult to be ascertained.”
Dr. Dermont who prepared the history of the Reformed Dutch Church under orders of the King of Holland gives the following testimonial to our antiquity and orthodoxy. He says, ’’We have now seen that the Baptists who were formerly called Anabaptists and in later times Mennonites were the original Waldenses and have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account, the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has served since the Apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages.”
Cardinal Hossius, Chairman of the Council at Trent, says, ”If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and cheerfulness which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinions and persuasions of no sect can be truer or surer than those of the Anabaptists, since there have been none, for these twelve hundred years past that have been more grievously punished.”
Bishop Latimer declares that, ”The Baptists that were burnt in different parts of the kingdom went to death intrepidly and without any fear during the time of Henry VIII.”
This testimony from the foregoing, none of whom were Baptists, ought to satisfy the most skeptical. The proof is abundant that the doctrines for which our church stands have been contended for since the days of the Apostles. Sometimes they have been called Paternines, Paulicians, Donatists, Waldenses, Albigenses, Menonites, Catabaptists, Anabaptists, and other names at different periods of the world’s history. If Cardinal Hossius of the Catholic Church says they suffered persecution for twelve hundred years before his time he carries the church history back to the very earliest times.
Whenever any other denominational champion begins to talk about Roger Williams organizing the Baptist church, you tell them they only display their own ignorance of the facts of history, Roger Williams organized the first Baptist church in America at Providence, R. I. in 1639, but he only organized a local church and the Baptists had been in Wales and Holland and elsewhere in Europe for hundreds of years before that time. The persecution of them in England during the reign of Henry VIII antedated William’s church organization over a hundred years. There were other local Baptist churches organized in Philadelphia, in Virginia and South Carolina that had no connection with that established by Williams, but to him is due the credit for effecting the first organization of Baptists on American soil.
In America, as elsewhere in its early history, the church experienced much persecution and opposition. However, the clouds have finally passed away and the sunlight of God’s approving smile rests upon its labors, so that today it is fructifying and producing marvelous results. Long may it continue.
If ”the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church,” then no denomination in the world has planted more seed, nor is entitled to a richer harvest than the Baptists. I have already mentioned some of the persecutions received by them for ”contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
It is unnecessary to go into harrowing details but the religious history of the world is full of thousands of shining and illustrious examples of those who gave up their lives freely at the stake, by drowning, by hanging and numerous other diabolical methods of enforcing religious opinion.
This great persecution was occasioned largely on account of the Baptists’ refusal to accept infant baptism, they holding firmly to the opinion that this ordinance should only be administered to believers and then by immersion.
One great debt the world owes to the Baptists is for the religious liberty now generally enjoyed throughout Christendom.
Soul liberty and the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience without interference by any State Church or other ecclesiastical authority whatsoever has been the chief boon the Baptists have given to the world. The Baptists go further than simple toleration of religious belief by an established church, for they advocate perfect soul liberty and freedom of conscience in all religious matters. We of the present generation can scarcely conceive of the iniquities heaped upon our religious forefathers in the days gone by.
This persecution was not confined to any particular nation or church but all seemed determined to crush out the so-called Baptist heresy. Charles V. of France in 1529 issued a terrible edict that ”All Anabaptists male or female of mature age shall be put to death by fire or sword or otherwise according to the person without preceeding trial.” John Bunyan, a Baptist, spent twelve years in Bedford jail for preaching the gospel of the Son of God, and in that dark place of seclusion wrote a religious allegory (Pilgrim’s Progress) that has had the largest sale of any book ever published with the exception of the Bible. Truly his prison was liberty’s cradle and to him the entire world is due a debt of ’everlasting gratitude. Read Fox’s Book of Christian Martyrs for the thrilling story of heroic endurance under the wrongs of malevolent persecution.
In the early history of America the same religious intolerance prevailed in many of the Colonies. Massachusetts and Virginia were conspicuous in upholding the Established Church and punishing the Baptists. Roger Williams enunciated what is generally accepted as the position of the Baptist church on their contention for freedom of conscience.
He said, ”In soul matters, I would have no weapons but soul weapons. The civil magistrates should restrain crime, but never control opinion; should punish guilt, but never violate inward freedom. This doctrine contains within itself an entire reformation of theological jurisprudence; it would blot from the statute book the felony of non-conformity and would quench the fires that persecution has so long kept burning; would give equal protection to every form of religious faith, and never suffer the force of the government to be employed against the dissenters’ meeting house, the Jewish Synagogue or the Roman Cathedral.’’ These tenets now generally accepted have been the contribution of the Baptists to the progress of the world.
I have not the time to cite the early persecutions in Virginia, but Taylor says, ”The Baptist preachers were fined, pelted, imprisoned and hunted with dogs.”
Thomas Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence had engraved upon his monument the statement that he was ”The author of the Statutes of Religious freedom in Virginia.” It has been reliably stated that Mr. Jefferson frequently attended a Baptist church of which Elder Tribble was pastor and on being asked for an opinion on our church polity said, ”I consider it the only form of pure democracy that now exists in the world and have concluded it will be the best form of government for the American Colonies.” The fundamental principles of our church government have been embodied in the Constitution of the United States. It is no small testimony to the fidelity of Baptists that they have perpetuated the New Testament form of church government and seen it adopted by the world’s greatest democracy.
The first amendment to our Constitution guaranteeing religious freedom was secured through the efforts of Baptists. They met in Richmond., Va., August 8, 1789 and petitioned General Washington to approve this amendment They obtained the kindly offices of Mr. Adams and a month later secured the adoption of this Amendment by the House of Representatives and which was subsequently ratified by the States. It is worthy of note that the Baptist denomination was the only religious one that urged the passage of this, amendment. The Baptists stood alone especially in Virginia in their heroic struggle for soul liberty. The Baptists also played a conspicuous part in the War of the Revolution and General Washington wrote them a letter complimenting the denomination for the noble part they had taken in the fight for freedom.
Patrick Henry’s great defense of three Baptist preachers charged with the crime of preaching the Gospel of the Son of God in Virginia is too familiar to need elucidation. His dramatic declaration for civil as well as soul liberty caused the Justice to order the immediate discharge of the prisoners.
In addition to this tenet of the Baptists the world owes them a great debt for the restoration of the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to every creature. They have likewise led all others in Bible translation and circulation. In addition to the preservation of the doctrine of a regenerated church membership and scriptural baptism, the world’s indebtedness to the Baptists would not be complete without mentioning the perpetuity of Christ’s Kingdom as verified in them. The Baptist doctrine is diametrically opposed to all others and yet it has been handed down through successive generations to this good day and will be continually proclaimed until the bridegroom in majesty and glory comes to receive his chosen Bride, the church.
The Baptist hosts of America have increased by leaps and bounds since religious freedom was planted in the fundamental law of this great government. The American Baptist Year Book for 1918 gives the following:
|Number of churches||53,133|
|White Membership (North)||1,246,695|
|White Membership (South)||3,002,548|
|Number of Schools||45,015|
|Officers and Teachers||332,495|
|CHURCH PROPERTY AND CONTRIBUTIONS:|
|Value of same||$186,506,726.00|
|Total Given for Missions in 1917||3,907,296.00|
|Church Expenses Paid in 1917||24,060,507.00|
The above list does not include the Junior Colleges nor Academies and Institutes, nor the Institutions conducted by the negroes.
|Value of Property||$2,693,661.00|
|Universities and Colleges||64|
|Value of Property||35,751,511.00|
|Number of Children in Same||56,640|
|Number of Hospitals and Sanitariums||43|
Our net increase in membership is averaging over 250,000 per annum and with a total of nearly seven million members we have no small army in America to do battle for the Lord.
The membership in the white Baptist churches of Louisiana is larger than the combined membership of all the other denominations in the State. (Excepting the Roman Catholics.)
The foregoing figures only embrace the United States of America.
Now, my brethren, with all this glorious history behind us, of which you and I are heirs, with the precious doctrines of God’s Word as our possession for the present, with a future as roseate as the everlasting promises of our Lord, who said He would be with us always even unto the end of the ages, what is our part in helping to perpetuate the Kingdom ?
Why should you and I be ashamed when we have such a heritage for the past, the companionship of such a mighty host for the present and the perpetuity of the Kingdom for the future? No, but rather let us thank God and take courage, ”Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our Faith.” The history and doctrines of our church stand to us as the pyramids of Egypt did to Napoleon and his soldiers urging them on to a mighty effort in behalf of their empire. Let ours be an incentive to us as Christian soldiers fighting the battle for Prince Emmanuel, King of the greatest empire in the history of the world.