committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

CHAPTER I.

Effects of the Mission Enterprise-Revivals-Extension of the Denomination-Statistical Table-Societies-Diversity and Adaptation of Talent-?Baptist Agency now Employed-Rev. C. H. Spurgeon-Baptist Union-Peculiarities of the Present Period-Duties of Baptists.

 

The history of the century through which we are now passing must be told much more briefly than that of any period that has preceded it. The names of living men do not properly belong to history; and even of those who are recently gone, it is not possible to speak with that degree of impartiality which historical composition demands. A few brief pages must, therefore, complete our narrative.

The formation of the Baptist Missionary Society was an era in the history of our denomination. Enlarged views took the place of the selfish and narrow-minded notions which had so long prevailed. When the nature and extent of Christian obligation in reference to the diffusion of the Gospel were understood, and corresponding action resulted, a healthy religious condition was soon expe?rienced. The new vigor demanded scope. Other enterprises besides foreign missions were undertaken, and they were carried on with persevering ardor, characteristic of the altered state of feeling.

Domestic missions engaged the attention of the British churches in England as early as 1797, and have been ever since prosecuted with judicious activity. On the North American Continent extensive itinerancies were the ordinary modes of home effort. The rapidly increasing population could be evangelized in no other way. These exertions are now directed by the Home Missionary Society, or by the respective State conventions.

In 1813 the Baptist churches of the United States were awakened to a sense of their indebtedness to the world by the gracious interposition which brought Judson and Rice among them. Then their missionary career commenced. It has been prosperous in an unexampled degree.

The astonishing revival of religion which occurred throughout the Union at the beginning of this century was an educational process, tending to prepare the servants of God for the adoption of a widely aggressive policy. Sanctified talent was developed eager for employment in the Lord's cause. The spirit of consecration rested powerfully on the churches. Dr. Carey's terse admonitions, "Expect great things, attempt great things," became the watchwords of the large-hearted. Holy activity was the fruit; increased power was evolved, to be expended on new exertions; and the old promise was fulfilled, "I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing" (Gen. 12:2).

And now, let us look around and abroad, and exclaim, "What hath God wrought!"

At the close of the "Quiet Period," the number of Baptist churches in Great Britain and Ireland somewhat exceeded 400, containing probably about 20,000 members. There are now upwards of 2,400 churches, and the number of members is estimated at 280,000. Besides this, our principles have taken root in the Colonies and dependencies of the Empire, and are spreading rapidly. Baptist churches have been planted in the West Indian Islands, in Australia, in Van Diemen's Land, in Africa, in various parts of India, and plenteously in British North America, where, seventy years ago, there were but two churches of our denomination in existence.

On the Continent of Europe, the labours of our beloved brother Oncken and his energetic coadjutors have been remarkably blessed. Churches of the primitive faith and order exist in Hanover, in Prussia, in several of the German States, in France, in Switzerland, in Denmark, and in Sweden.

But it is in the United States that the most marvelous progress has been witnessed. Several causes have contributed to this. One is the immense tide of emigration annually conveying to that country many tens of thousands from all parts of Europe, Great Britain, and Ireland, and among them numerous Baptists. Another is the congeniality of the mode of government and the state of society with the freedom of Baptist principles. The adaptation of the Baptist ministry, generally, to the condition and habits of the people, is not to be overlooked. These, however, are but secondary considerations, although due weight must be allowed them. Doubtless Baptist churches have shared largely in those outpourings of the Spirit which have peculiarly distinguished Christian effort in that part of the world, and which, it may be believed, are ever specially connected with plain faithful preaching and scrupulous adherence to the laws of the "King of Kings." In the year 1790 there were, in the United States, 872 churches, containing 64,975 members. There are now of Regular Baptists, leaving out the Freewill, the Anti-mission, Six Principle, and Seventh-day Baptists, the "Church of God," the Disciples (or Campbellites), the Tunkers, and the Mennonites, 13,355 churches, with 1,109,926 members.

Gathering up the statistics into one sum, the following table exhibits an approximation to the present strength of the denomination:-

 

 

Churches

Members

United States 

13,355

1,109,926

Great Britain and Ireland 

2,400

280,000

British North America 

567

41,000

West Indies 

205

36,000

Burma, Assam, and Siam 

375

17,000

Continent of Europe 

292

23,494

India 

70

3,000

 

------------

------------

Total

17,264

1,510

 

It is an approximation only China, Africa and Australasia are left out of the account, the returns not being sufficiently clear and full to warrant a definite statement. With the exception of the United States, Europe, and British North America, all the items in the foregoing list are estimates founded on official reports. We believe that they are below the actual amounts; but it was better to err on that side, if entire accuracy could not be attained.

There is another view of the subject. This is the age of societies. Designs which would be otherwise impracticable can be carried into effect by combination of effort and division of labour. We have joined other professing Christians in founding and sustaining institutions of general utility, and have borne our full share of the burdens of philanthropy. But there are some departments of Christian enterprise in which we must be content to labour alone. Among our own benevolent organizations are the following:?-

A.D.
1797. English Baptist Home Missionary Society.
1814. Baptist Irish Society.
1816. Baptist Highland Mission. Society for Aged or Infirm Baptist Ministers.
1824. Baptist Building Fund. American Baptist Publication Society.
1832. American Baptist Home Missionary Society.
1838. American and Foreign Bible Society.
1840. Bible Translation Society.
1841. Baptist Tract Society.
1845. Southern Baptist Convention (Home Missions and Bible).
1850. American Bible Union.
1853. American Baptist Historical Society.

In the Foreign Mission Department we have:-

1792. Baptist Missionary Society.
1814. American Baptist Missionary Union (formerly the " Baptist General Convention ").
1816. General Baptist Missionary Society.
1843. American Baptist Free Mission Society.
1845. Southern Baptist Convention (Foreign Missions).

In supporting these institutions, we are enabled, by the blessing of God, to expend about ?150,000 annually. The income of the Baptist Missionary Society alone has been reported during the past year at no less a sum than that of ?39,339; while the income of the Irish and Home Mission (included since 1854 in one Society) is reported, for the year ending March, 1870, at ?7,233 16s. 3d.

It is needless to say that all this expenditure is additional to that required for sustaining extensive educational operations, and defraying all the expenses connected with public worship and the maintenance of the Christian Ministry.

Of the character of the agencies by which the great work entrusted to us has been hitherto accomplished, it is not possible to speak, except briefly.

It has been often remarked that when God is about to execute some great purpose, He prepares beforehand the appropriate agency; and providential interferences of a surprising kind, in order to bring about the appointed issue, have been not unfrequently noticed. Let us think, for a moment, of the men God has given us for the work of the last threescore years. Think of the immortal three at Serampore-Carey, Marshman, and Ward. Think of other missionaries, admirably qualified for the positions they were called to occupy-Adoniram Judson, with his incomparable wives, and George Boardman, in Burma; Comstock, in Arracan; Chamberlain and Yates, in India; Coultart, Knibb, and Burchell, in Jamaica; with many more whose names are familiar to the friends of Missions. Think of the writers by whose powerful pens our principles have been explained and defended. Think of the men of eloquence and the men of counsel, who have swayed and guided public opinion, preserved from discouragement, or prevented mistakes. Think of the men of wealth, whose hearts were moved by the grace of God to "devise liberal things," and whose examples have so stimulated others that the treasury of Christian benevolence has seemed to be, like the widow's "barrel of meal" and "cruse of oil," inexhaustible. "All this cometh forth from the Lord of Hosts, which is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working" (Isa. 28:29).

There is yet another fact which must not be lost sight of. We refer to the intellectual machinery now in operation for the benefit of mankind under Baptist superintendence, or as the result of Baptist labor. Our brethren have taken the palm among translators. Their versions of the Scriptures will be read by the nations of the East from generation to generation. The swarming multitudes of India are mainly indebted to Carey and Yates for the Word of God, and even Brahmins receive that Word in their own venerated Sanskrit from Baptist hands. The natives of Burma, Assam, and Siam, owe to Judson and his associates their acquaintance with the Divine oracles. In those Eastern countries, too, and wherever else our Missionaries have planted the heavenly standard, the education of the young has been regarded as a matter of primary importance. By the institutions they have established, or assisted in establishing, a foundation has been laid on which the temple of knowledge will be reared in coming times.

In England, with the exception of theological institutions-which each denomination must necessarily found for itself-Baptists avail themselves of those facilities for the acquisition of learning and sciences which are abundantly provided for all classes of the community. But in the United States they have manifested, at the same time, enlightened patriotism and denominational zeal. Colleges and seminaries of the first order, amply endowed and well furnished with instructors, supply the wants of their own families, and offer inducements to others to participate in the advantages. By this means a salutary influence is exerted on the community at large. The following are the educational statistics of the denomination in Great Britain:-

 

Colleges

Presidents

Founded

Bristol College

Rev. F. W. Gotch, LL.D.

1770

Rawdon College

Rev. S. G. Green, B.A.

1804

Pontypool College, Wales

Rev. Thos. Thomas, D.D.

1807

Regent?s Park College

Rev. Joseph Angus, D.D.

1810

Haverfordwest College

Rev. Thos. Davies, D.D.

1839

Chilwell College

Rev. W. Underwood, M.A.

1797

Glasgow

Rev, Jas. Paterson, D.D.

1856

North Wales

Rev. Hugh Jones, M.A.

1862

Pastors? College

Rev. C. H. Spurgeon.

1861

Chamber Hall, Bury

Rev. H. Dowson

1866

 

While giving the above statement; it is impossible to avoid referring to the influence that has been exerted on the denomination by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon. Though still among living men (long may his life be spared!) he has rendered such invaluable service to the Baptist cause, that no Baptist history could possibly be complete which did not include his name. With unprecedented popularity and power as a preacher, endowed with inexhaustible enthusiasm and untiring activity, possessed especially by an earnest anxiety for souls and a passionate devotion to the Saviour, his great powers have been ever at the service of the churches, with results that every year seems to enlarge. Perhaps his most abiding influence will be exerted in connection with the Pastors' College which is named on previous page. There nearly one hundred students are being trained for the ministry of the Word; and from amongst them there are going out, in considerable numbers every year, pastors of churches, some of whom occupy, not unworthily, some of the most prominent positions in the land. Of course all these are marked, more or less, with the special characteristics of him whom they learn so much to admire and reverence; so that in them Mr. Spurgeon may be said to be continually reproducing himself. The Baptist body is certainly a different thing now, from what it was when, some sixteen years since, the youth from Cambridgeshire made his first appearance in the pulpit of New Park-street Chapel.

It would be improper not to mention, in reciting the influences which have tended recently to enlarge and strengthen the denomination, the increased vigor that has been put of late years into the operations of the Baptist Union. The churches will ever be indebted to the venerable John Howard Hinton (clarum et memorabile nomen) for his labours for many years; but it is to the zeal and perseverance of the junior Secretary, the Rev. J. H. Millard, that the Union is indebted for much of its new and more vigorous life. Its Autumnal Meetings have, especially, been "seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." Again and again have the brethren gone from them and said, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" If the denomination is more consolidated and united than it ever was before, the Baptist Union and its officers deserve much of the praise which will never be ungenerously or inconsiderately withheld.

Of late years the denomination has been much more attentive to its literature than it ever was before. The Baptist periodicals published in Great Britain are-The Freeman, weekly, edited by the Rev. Dr. Angus, and other gentlemen; The Baptist Magazine, monthly, established in 1809, and now edited by the Rev. W. G. Lewis; The General Baptist Magazine, edited by the Rev. J. Clifford, M.A.; The Sword and the Trowel, monthly, edited by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon; The Gospel Herald and Voice of Truth, The Church, The Baptist Messenger, The Missionary Herald, The Juvenile Missionary Herald, and The German Baptist Reporter,-all monthly. There are also eight Welsh periodicals, for the use of the Baptists of the Principality. The Baptist periodicals issued in the United States are too numerous to be even named. Some of them circulate by hundreds of thousands.

God has assigned us an honorable position. It remains that we prove ourselves worthy of it.

"The principles of the Reformation of the sixteenth cen?tury, are undergoing expansion. Men are busily engaged in examining the foundations, and tracing all things to their origin. The claims of prescription and custom are disallowed. In religion, the stand taken by the old Reformers is fully recognized: nothing is to be admitted which cannot be sustained "by Scripture and necessary reason." With such views, inquirers conduct their investigations fearlessly, and push them on in every direction. Abandoning the traditionary, they ask for a system of, truth and practice which will abide the test of searching criticism. They desire to clear away all rubbish, and to find "the old paths."

We profess to be walking in them, and to carry out the Reformation to its legitimate issues. It is not unreasonable to suppose that, as independent inquiry proceeds, scrutinizing all forms of religious profession, our sentiments and practices will be extensively embraced, as presenting the nearest resemblance to primitive Christianity. The observance of infant-baptism is dying away among our P?obaptist brethren. We may fairly infer that large accessions to our ranks will follow.

What, then, are the duties especially incumbent on us under such circumstances ? To this question, it may be briefly replied-that, if we would maintain our position, we must, in the first place, cultivate with growing earnestness intelligent and warm-hearted piety; we must adopt measures for the exposition and diffusion of our sentiments on those points in which we differ from other religious persuasions; we must extend our Christian influence by home-missionary efforts, conducted on a liberal scale; we must foster rising talent, and give to all the Lord's servants opportunities of being employed in His cause, according to their respective gifts; we must cherish an enthusiastic zeal for education; we must effectually engage the sympathies of the young; we must be ever ready to promote social improvements and to forward philanthropic designs; and we must exemplify, in the whole, unbroken union, devotedness to the Saviour, and believing reliance on Divine aid.

It would be easy to enlarge on each of these topics. We will confine ourselves, however, to the most important-personal piety.

Baptists should be a preeminently religious people. Our profession and practice are peculiar. We deem it our special mission to plead for personal obedience to the will of the Lord. For this we have always contended. We reject hereditary membership, holding that men are not born Christian, but that they become Christians when they are born again, and that, until then, they have no right to Christian ordinances, because they cannot enjoy Christian blessings. We deny sacramental power, maintaining that the soul is renewed and sanctified, not by any outward act performed upon us or by us, but by the truth of the Gospel and the grace of the Holy Spirit. We gather from the teachings of the Apostles that a man should be a Christian before he avows himself to be one; and, in full accordance, as we believe, with the instructions of the New Testament, we admit none to our fellowship without a profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Their baptism is at the same time a declaration of their sole reliance on the Saviour, and a symbol of their union with Him in His death and His resurrection-a spiritual, vital union. Our churches, so constituted, profess to be societies of believers, congregations of saints.

Membership in Baptist churches, therefore, implies piety. The object of our union is to nurture godliness in each other, and to diffuse it abroad to the greatest extent pos?sible. Abjuring all attempts at mere outward attraction, our efforts tend exclusively to the advancement of personal religion. We invite men to the faith and holiness of the primitive churches. Our desire is first to call them to God, and then to train them for heaven by a course of spiritual education. All this cannot be accomplished but by a truly spiritual community, nor can such efforts be long sustained unless there be a continued spiritual progress. Orthodoxy is necessary, and order is necessary; but neither orthodoxy nor order will insure prosperity without a living likeness to Christ. How earnestly should we aspire after that blessing! How diligently should we labour to obtain it, and in increasing measure! With what ardor should we adopt all scriptural means to promote communion with the Redeemer, and to enkindle sympathy and love among His servants! The extent and saving efficacy of our influence must depend on the amount of our spiritual attainments. There are sects which can prosper without those attainments, because of the worldliness that is inherent in their constitutions, and the connection of church privileges with natural descent; but the Baptist denomination depends altogether for suc?cess and enlargement on the prevalence of true godliness among its members. Our churches will be fit asylums for those who shall escape from the perils of cold and torpid formality, only as they shall exemplify the "work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope," by which the early followers of the Lord were distinguished. If these be wanting, or notably deficient, inquirers will go where there is more power, though the form and order may be less agreeable to the apostolic pattern, and our "future" will be darkened by clouds of disgrace and failure.

With what eagerness, then, should we engage in all endeavors by which earnest religion maybe promoted among us! How closely should we cling to evangelical truth, watching against all tendency to lower the standard, or to substitute the elegant essay for Biblical teaching and fervent appeal! How carefully should the spirit of the Gospel be cherished! How diligently should all opportunities for fur?thering mutual progress in piety be improved! How nume?rous and well sustained should be the efforts of benevolence and zeal, thus establishing the connection between Chris?tian activity and spiritual-mindedness, and "proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God!" And with what vigilant observance should the laws of discipline be honored, so that, the purity of the churches being maintained, their members may be "epistles of Christ, known and read of all men!" If by these methods a vigorous and fruitful godliness become characteristic of our denomination, the force of the attraction will be felt by all around us; union with our churches will be regarded as not merely a duty, but a privilege; and thousands will say, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." Men will perceive that our profession of adherence to primitive simplicity and purity is warranted by fact-that our devotedness to the Saviour's cause is not impulsive, but habitual-and that in joining our ranks they will not only obey the dictates of scriptural conscientious?ness, but also secure a large measure of Christian enjoy?ment, and a fuller unfolding of the Christian life.

"There is a future for the Baptists," and it is our duty to prepare for it. Thousands of souls, just looking out of obscurity, and "feeling after God," ask our guidance in the search for truth and life. Freedom, outraged and down-trodden by earthly tyrants, calls upon us to assert the rights of conscience, and its entire immunity from human control; and, while it beckons us to the holy war, reminds us that it is our glory (a glory in which most Protestant communities have no share) to wield the sword of the Spirit with hands that have never been reddened by a brother's blood. Our martyrs-burnt, beheaded, strangled, or drowned, in every European country, at the era of the Reformation, and as yet unknown to fame, although their Christian heroism was right noble-expect that, in the diffusion and defense of the truths for which they suffered, we will display a zeal befitting our privileged lot. A great work is before us, both at home and abroad, demanding ardent love, enterprising boldness, and indomitable per?severance.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved