Denominational Idolatry

golden calf

Early Southern Baptist C. D. Mallary gives a timeless warning against what he called “denominational idolatry.” In 1859 he delivered a sermon on the topic before the Georgia Baptist Convention. I found a little dusty book containing the text tucked away in the NOBTS library. The circulation clerk almost did not let me check out the book. She said that a book of this age ought to be locked up in the rare books room. I know that material has a habit of disappearing in there, never to be seen again; so I’m glad she finally relented and allowed me to use the copy to create an electronic edition.

Mallary introduced his treatment of 1 John 5:21 “Little children keep yourselves from idols.”

OUR text consists of three parts – a precious epithet, an important command, and an emphatic prayer. We have the precious epithet in two words Little children; the important command in four words Keep yourselves from idols; and what we may regard as substantially an emphatic prayer in one word – Amen. Let us dwell somewhat on these three particulars.

He then takes each of these phrases and applies them to the danger of denominational idolatry. For example he exhorts his hearers to follow Christ’s admonition to be like little children:

The Saviour would have us learn from these instructions, that the humble, teachable, guileless, confiding spirit, which we naturally expect to see in little children, should ever characterize his disciples. Pride, and arrogance, and vaulting ambition, may find favor with the foolish aspirants for earthly glory; but the special nobility of Christ’s kingdom are the meek and lowly in heart. As little children should we receive the doctrines and laws of Christ; as little children should we bow to the corrections of Divine Providence; as little children should we meekly seek the gracious guidance, and confide in the faithful promises, of our Heavenly Father. With a gentle, guileless spirit, should we reprove the errors of our brethren. Nothing would do more to heal our present disorders, as a denomination, than a deep, experimental appreciation of the doctrine couched in these two precious words LITTLE CHILDREN.

You can read the full text I’ve placed online here: Denominational Idolatry Reproved.

A couple of months ago I posted the Cathcart Baptist Encyclopedia biographical entry for Charles Dutton Mallary. You can also read C. D. Mallary’s Sermon on the Doctrine of Election from 1843.



Thanks for posting Mallary’s sermon. I stumbled across it several years ago and thought it was very applicable to us today. Thanks for making it accessible.


Thanks for posting this. I love reading your site. You always have a good word to share.

I did want to ask about the very first of the full text of the sermon. It has the verse at the top as “1 John v. 21.” Is there supposed to be a reference to the chapter in there somewhere? Thanks


You are welcome. Thanks.

The “V.” is supposed to be a Roman numeral 5. That’s how it was in the printed text. Perhaps I should change it for clarity’s sake.

Don’t change it on my part! 🙂 I like the authenticity of using the Roman numeral, but a short “Editor’s Note” would be helpful.

Thanks again for what you do.