Why Baptist And Not Methodist
By R. A. Venable, D. D.
Pastor First Baptist Church
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called’, and whom he called] them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified - Rom. 8:29-30.
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me and him that cometh to me will in no wise cast out.--John 6:37.
The differences and distinctions between the Baptists and the Methodists are sufficiently numerous and radical to make it necessary and possible for one to tell why he is the one and not the other. The object of this paper is to give some reasons why I am a Baptist and not a Methodist. The differences between these respective organizations are both Ecclesiastical and Doctrinal.
1. The constituency of the organisation. The Methodists hold that not only penitent believers are to compose the church but those who have a desire to be saved, a willingness to be saved, are likewise entitled to membership. That this is their position is so generally understood as to make it unnecessary to quote any special authority as proof. Unconverted persons are urged to join the church as a means of grace, a means of conversion.
I am a Baptist and not a Methodist because I believe the New Testament teaches that a scriptural church is composed exclusively of regenerate persons, or what in effect is the same, penitent believers. This is manifest from two considerations: (a) The first duty required by Jesus and the apostles was repentance and faith. The exercise of these is the beginning of that new relation and life which marks the distinction between the Christian and the non-christian, the saved and the lost, the spiritually dead and spiritually alive. These are attendant upon regeneration by the Spirit and are its first fruits. So Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born from above, born of the Spirit. But he likewise said that God gave his Son, that whosoever believed in him should have everlasting life. The penitent believer is therefore ”born from above,” ”born of God,” ”born of the Spirit,” and is saved. This new birth and its accompanying expressions of faith and repentance are indispensable to admission into the kingdom of God and to salvation. Jesus taught his disciples that they were in the kingdom and in a state of salvation. Whatever organization he left as a church, was composed of these renewed and penitent believers. The preaching of the apostles after his ascension required repentance and faith as one of the indispensable conditions to membership and fellowship with the one hundred and twenty whom Jesus left as his representatives and church in inchoate form.
(b) Again, the Epistles show that the New Testament churches were composed of those who had been renewed in their minds, raised up with Christ, passed from death unto life. The church at Rome was composed of the called of Jesus Christ - those who were dead to sin and alive to Christ and in Christ. The church at Corinth are the sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints. The churches of Galatia began in the Spirit, being called in the grace of Christ. The church of Ephesus ”heard the word of the truth of the gospel and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise;” once aliens and now brought nigh by the blood of Christ; they are of the household of God. The same characteristics attached to the church at Philippi, at Colosse, and Thessalonica; likewise of those Peter addressed, and all the rest. The Baptists are loyal to God’s word in this respect. They admit none to membership in a church except those who claim to be penitently trusting Jesus Christ for salvation, and who give credible evidence of renewal by the Holy Spirit. But the Methodists admit any who express a desire to be saved. Repentance and faith are not made conditions to church membership. I am not and can not be a Methodist, since I can not willfully disregard the plain teaching of the New Testament in a matter so vital.
2. The Ordinance of Baptism. Baptism, according to New Testament teaching, is the immersion of a penitent believer in the name of the Holy Trinity, (a) That baptism was by immersion is manifest. It is shown (1) by the meaning of the word Baptiso, expressive of the act commanded. (2) The accounts of its observance as recorded in the New Testament. (3) The symbolism of the ordinance. (4) The testimony of competent authorities of all denominations. The question as to the mode of New Testament baptism is now almost entirely relegated from the realm of debate. (6) That all who were members of the Apostolic churches were baptised believers is too clear to admit of denial. Baptism was the divinely prescribed method of confessing Christ. It was the first response of the renewed soul to the authority of the ascended Lord.
(1) Peter required baptism on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:38, ”And Peter said unto them, repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins.” Verse 41, ”They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousands souls.” (2) Philip baptized the eunuch. Acts 8:36-38, ”And the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? .... and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” (3) Cornelius was baptized. Acts 10:48, ”And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”’ Paul was baptized. Acts 9:18, ”And he received his sight forthwith, and he arose, and was baptized.” (4) The Philippian jailer was baptized. Acts 16:33, ”And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately.” (5) The members of the churches in Rome and Colosse and Corinth were baptized believers. Rom. 6:3, ”Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death.” Col. 2:12, ”Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” I Cor. 12:13, ”For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body.”
Since baptism is immersion and nothing else in the New Testament I could not be a Methodist. They sprinkle and pour for baptism, thus substituting a meaningless form for the sacred rite which our Lord commanded to be observed for all time. I could not be loyal to God’s Word and lend myself to an organization which prides itself in a constant violation of Scriptural teaching.
(c) But since immersion only is New Testament baptism, and since only penitent believers are Scriptural subjects for baptism, infant baptism is unwarranted by the word of God and fraught with evil.
That there is Scriptural precept or example for infant baptism no one has ever been able to show, and that there is prima facie evidence against it is as plain as the noonday’s sun. (1) There is no mention of the baptism of infants. (2) There is not one single passage from which the practice can be securely inferred. (3) The requirements of repentance and faith as conditions to baptism forever preclude the baptism of infants. (4) The sanctity of individualism as taught in the New Testament, making the individual soul responsible to his Lord, makes infant baptism an impossible thing. The writer was christened a Methodist in infancy, by a Methodist preacher. When he grew almost to young manhood he made a profession of faith in Christ, wished to be baptized, not only as a personal duty, but as a joyous privilege, but he was informed by the Methodist pastor he had been baptized in infancy and that he would not repeat the act. The writer then and there felt his parents had usurped a personal right and privilege; that he was forced to accept what had been done by proxy for him, which he and he alone had the right to do, or was under obligation to do. The sacredness of his personal relation to his Saviour and Master had been tampered with. He was forced to break either with the Methodist church and disregard the christening which his parents had effected for him, or he must stultify his own conscience, and throw to the winds his convictions as to duty in a matter of such vital importance. He broke with the Methodists. I am a Baptist and not a Methodist, therefore, because I believe the Methodist’s views and practice of the sacred rite of baptism, both as to the subjects and mode, are utterly without Scriptural warrant, contravening the precepts, example and Spirit of New Testament teaching.
3. The Church Polity, (1) That the churches of New Testament times had some uniform polity must appear reasonable to all. Since the form of church government is so intimately related to the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, as history has proved, it is hardly conceivable that Christ would have left his followers without some form of government by which to regulate their affairs in a corporate capacity.
That form of church polity which would best emphasize the absolute and exclusive rulership of Jesus Christ over each individual believer, as responsible to him, would be the only consistent one, since Jesus Christ would not authorize a form of church government which would forbid the individual believer’s being individually loyal to his king.
(2) The New Testament teaching and church organization and life in apostolic times shows that the churches were autonomous. Each church controlled its own affairs. Every member was on equality with every other. Each was animated by the Spirit and united to Christ and responsible to the Master. The Holy Spirit creates and operates the church by renewing each individual member, and the mind of the Spirit is made known through each individual composing the organization, and not through a ministerial or priestly episcopal class, who are set up to govern the church of churches. That the apostolic churches were autonomous, or self-governing, is made to appear from several considerations, (a) They received members into their fellowship. (b) They excluded members from their fellowship. The disciples had the power to receive or reject Paul; at Rome they were commanded to receive him that is weak in faith. The Corinthian church was censured for retaining the incestuous young man, and was charged with the responsibility of his expulsion, afterwards of his restoration. The Thessalonian church was instructed to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly. The action of a local church was final in dealing with an offending brother, (c) The churches elected their own deacons, pastors, agents, missionaries and messengers to advisory bodies. There is not the slightest indication in the New Testament that there was a ruling class in the apostolic churches, whose function and duty it was to regulate the affairs of the church. The ruling function belonged to the body as a whole. The Holy Spirit created no autocracy in the person of certain individuals, but a democracy, pure and simple. The Methodists deny that there was any uniformity in the government of the New Testament churches, or that any form of government therein practiced is of any binding force. They insist that conditions must determine the form of government, and not New Testament precedent or practice.
One of their standard writers has recently stated the Methodist position on the subject as follows:
”Theories are often maintained on the presumption of a divinely ordered polity; but there is no such polity; consequently such discussions are groundless. The question of chief importance is the adaptation of the polity to the attainment of the spiritual ends for which the church is constituted. This should always be the determining principle. The principle means that the construction of the polity is left to the discretion of the church” (Miley’s Theol., Vol. 2:416). The Methodists have the Episcopal form of polity, with exceptions of course, and they seek to apply this everywhere. Dissimilarities in conditions are not regarded by them in their practice. Believing as I do that the New Testament polity is binding, I could not be a Methodist. I can not separate the New Testament church polity from pure Christianity.
4. Church Officers. These autonomous or self-governing churches of apostolic times had only two orders of officers, the pastor and the deacons. There are two passages which show that bishop, elder and pastor are one and the same officer. Acts 20:17-28, ”And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders (Presbuterous) of the church, and when they were come to him he said to them (ver. 28), take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock, in which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops, to feed (shepherd, to be pastor of) the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.”
Verse 17 represents these men as elders (presbuteroi), but in verse 28 they are called bishops (episcopoi). They are exhorted by Paul to shepherd (act the pastor over) the church.
I Peter 5:1, 2, ”The elders (presbuterous) among you I exhort, who am a fellow elder (sum-preshuteros) and a witness of the sufferings of Christ tend (shepherd, serve as pastor) the flock of God which is among you, exercising (acting as bishops, episcopountes) the oversight, etc.
Bishop and elder were synonymous with pastor-bishop emphasizing the function of the office, elder that of the dignity. The pastor was to tend, shepherd the flock, and feed it. He was a minister of the word. The deacon was a helper of the pastor, subordinate to the pastor, and with him is charged with the spiritual welfare of the flock. Every duty incumbent upon the pastor is equally binding upon the deacon, save that of teaching the word officially. The Methodists disregard the New Testament precedent and practice, and have three orders of ministers, ranking one above the other, the bishop, the elder, and the pastor. The New Testament knows no such gradation. In apostolic times the ministers were on equality. I could not be a Methodist in the face of such a flagrant disregard of the New Testament teaching and practice. Besides, the Methodists clothe these three orders of the ministry with an authority over the churches which the apostles themselves did not presume to exercise. They utterly disregard the sovereignty of the local churches and invest all government in the bishop, elder, and pastor. This I believe to be a pestilential error, one to which I could not be a party nor lend my influence. The Baptists hold to one order of the ministry of the Word. These are leaders of the churches and not lords over them. I am therefore a Baptist.
Since the Methodists are unscriptural in their views of the constituency of a church, and unscriptural as to the subjects of baptism, and unscriptural in the form of baptism, and unscriptural in their teaching and practice as to the New Testament church officers, I can not possibly ally myself with them, nor encourage them in the theory and practice of error.
There are doctrinal differences between the Methodists and Baptists which would forbid my being a Methodist. The Methodists are essentially Arminian and I believe unscriptural in their doctrinal system. The Baptists are Pauline, i. e., Paul was the first expounder of these doctrines which the Baptists generally hold. When these doctrines had well nigh been lost sight of, they were reproduced and restated by Calvin, with a clearness and systematic arrangement which bind them in an inseparable union with his name. Baptists are generally known as Calvinists. This in spite of the fact that few of them are willing to adopt Calvin’s views on all the points involved in the system wrought out by him. The Methodists are Arminian though they can hardly be said to hold the system of doctrine formulated by Arminius. Mr. Wesley modified the system in some important respects. Methodists are governed by Mr. Wesley’s statements of the doctrines. His image and subscription is stamped upon the currency which makes up the volume of their thought and gives confidence in its value and permanency, on the part of his followers. Wesleyanism is Methodism, doctrinally considered.
1. I can not agree with my Methodist brethren in respect to the effect of Christ’s death. They hold that Christ’s death brought all men into a state of justification, freeing them from all guilt or liability to punishment, which came to them in consequence of Adam’s sin. That all liability to punishment now must be the result of personal transgression is a fundamental doctrine with them. This I believe to be contrary to the teaching of God’s word.
2. Again I can not agree with them in respect to what they hold as ”gracious ability;” that in consequence of the death of Christ man’s inability to cooperate with God has been removed and that men, all men, now have the ability to believe without further divine interposition. This I believe to be unscriptural and dangerous in the extreme.
3. I can not agree with them as to the doctrine of election and predestination. They hold that God’s election unto salvation was based upon his foreknowledge; that God foreknew that some would believe and as many as he knew would believe he elected to salvation. The sovereign will of God had nothing to do in deciding his electing grace. This I believe to be contrary both to reason and revelation.
4. I can not agree with them as to the order of salvation as practically realized in the individual soul, (a) They hold that because of a gracious ability the unrenewed man believes in Christ, in consequence of which he is justified as a reward of his faith. God does not inspire the faith, but he rewards it with justification. (b) The next step in the saving process is the regeneration of the heart, or the impartation of a holy disposition. This view I believe to be a destructive error and hence without Scriptural warrant. I could not accept it as the truth of God.
5. I can not agree with them in their doctrine of perfection. They hold that it is possible for one to reach a state of perfection here. This doctrine Mr. Wesley seeks to justify on the ground that the Christian lives under an economy which takes no account of the little faults and foibles, peccadillos, and moral delinquencies such as are incident to men. His theory is that men may touch the skies, not by growing heaven high, but by bringing the stars down to them. This I believe to be unscriptural and erroneous.
6. Again I can not agree with my Methodist brethren as to the doctrine of final apostacy. They hold that it is not only possible for a believer to apostatize and be finally lost, but that this possibility is often realized. As a consequence they hold that one may be in a saved condition to-day, and in a lost condition to-morrow, and in a saved condition again the next day. I can not agree with them in all this. I could not therefore be a Methodist.
There are other important doctrines about which I am as remote from agreement with my Methodist friends as are the poles apart. But these must go without mention in this paper. I may be allowed to express my regret that my Methodist brethren are in my judgment so far away from the Bible teaching in doctrine and organization. I was reared among them, in the bosom of a Methodist family. All my early associations and attachments were with them. Once a member of the Methodist church, and first licensed to preach by these people, I would be disloyal to much that is sacred and uplifting if I did not love them.