BAPTIST PRINCIPLES RESET
BAPTIST PRINCIPLES RESET
Baptist Principles Are Worth to the World.
A. E. DICKENSON, D. D., EDITOR OF THE RELIGIOUS HERALD, RICHMOND, VA.
The subject chosen is by no means
trivial. It is worthy of the candid and prayerful study of all Christians of
every name and denomination. It is as much every other person's duty to
ascertain what is true about these matters as it is yours and mine.
I shall not put forward
unwarranted and exaggerated claims for the Baptists, nor underestimate what
other Christian people have done. In speaking of what Baptists have done, and of
what their principles are worth, I hope not to use a word to which any of
God's dear children not of this fold can rightly take exception. May great
grace rest upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, here and
everywhere, now and evermore!
In the very beginning, I must
frankly confess that Baptists have accomplished for the human family
scarcely a tithe of what they might have done and ought to have done. We are
summoned to the profoundest humiliation in reviewing the failures and follies
which have almost everywhere and always marred the force and beauty of our
principles. Many a time have these blunders brought us into disrepute among
great masses of good people. You know that the worst enemies to any good cause
are those who profess to be its champions, and yet, in their teaching and
living, misrepresent its spirit and aims.
Whenever the Spirit of Christ departs from a Baptist church, whenever such a church turns from its God-given mission, it dies
—dies surely, dies completely, and often dies speedily. The bones of such a church soon become as "exceeding dry" as were those of which Ezekiel had a vision "in the open valley." No amount of excited breath expended in Baptist brag and brazen boastings, no fierce indictments of other Christian denominations, no iron bands of organization
—nothing can keep
alive a Baptist church which turns its eyes from its high and holy mission and
fees them upon low and groveling aims and purposes. Such a church soon wastes
away and gives up the ghost, and the sooner it does this the better.
CARICATURING OUR VIEWS
Whenever Baptists give their chief and almost exclusive attention to emphasizing the points of difference between them and others, they place their denomination at a frightful disadvantage. Multitudes, who might be won to our faith but for this distorted view, because of it are driven into organized and unrelenting opposition to us, and they in turn make thousands more our enemies, who might as well have been our friends. While this unwise advocacy of our views
—this caricature of them, I might better say
—has often damaged us immensely in the eyes of other good people and the world at large, such so-called Baptist champions have often not stopped there, but have turned their guns upon their own citadel. Not content with the ruin inflicted upon their own denomination by their unwise methods in attacking others, they have too often found additional vent for their pugnacious impulses in keeping up a lively fight at home within their own lines. There is nothing such Baptists like so well as hot water
—the hotter, the better for
them. If necessary, to make things lively, they will invent new tests of Baptist
orthodoxy, of which our Baptist fathers never so much as dreamed. Anything is to
their liking, if it serves to foster and foment dissensions and distract and
destroy feeble churches, which, but for some unworthy leadership, might soon
become great and glorious exponents of the true Baptist faith.
Had Baptists been as loyal to the
command to go into all the world and disciple all nations as they have been to
keeping the ordinances as they were delivered, long before this all Christendom
might have accepted the truth as we hold it, and the kingdoms of this world
might have been brought into loving subjection to Him whose we are and whom we
In other particulars, also, we
have often, in antagonizing unscriptural views and practices, gone too far in
the opposite direction. If others have had too much machinery, often we have had
too little. Their cast-iron polity, their wheels within wheels, should not have
deterred us from having all the wheels we really need that are in keeping with
the necessities laid upon us for doing our work and in line with Scripture
teaching. In exalting our New Testament doctrine of church independency, putting
the supreme power and authority in the local church, where they belong, it is
not necessary that we let our great resources run to waste. That doctrine does
not hinder, but rather calls for such combination and concentration of these
little Christian republics as may be for the good of each and all.
If others have sought too
exclusively the patronage of the more influential classes, have we not too often
satisfied ourselves with evangelizing the neglected masses, while overlooking
others, whose wealth, learning, and position we might have brought into active
cooperation with us in the defense and diffusion of our denominational views? If
knowledge is power in other directions, is it any less so here? Had we been
wiser, we might more diligently and generously have fostered institutions of
learning and have led others instead of being led by them, in this and in many
more great Christian movements. Because of these and many more Baptist blunders
(which, with becoming humility, let us all now confess and deplore), Baptist
principles have not had a fair chance in the world. The victories they have
gained have been won largely in spite of their advocates.
It is not the fault of the
Baptist idea that it has not been worth a thousand times more to the world. It
is not the fault of good seed that they fail to produce a good harvest when they
are not properly planted and wisely cultivated. A medicine may be ever so good,
but it may fail of producing the desired effects, when diluted or improperly
administered. McCormick's best reapers fail to gather the waving harvests, if
those in charge do not know how to use them. Baptist principles are not
responsible for Baptist follies. As we become wiser and learn better how to
wield this old Jerusalem blade, we shall secure results which will fill us with
wonder anal rejoicing. We shall then probably accomplish as much in a year as we
now do in a century.
Even now we see, here and there,
how mightily the wise use of our resources tells. Often you will and one single
Baptist accomplishing as much as dozens of his brethren, all told, equally
gifted in many respects with himself. Such an one may chance to go into a
community where there are no Baptists, and where the tide is all against them,
and yet, in a year or two, by a wise and loving presentation of our views, he
will capture almost the entire population. Under his leadership, men, women, and
children, with all they have, in head and heart and purse, turn joyfully to the
Baptists. Indeed, there is nothing under heaven which unprejudiced people take
to so readily and hold to so firmly as to Baptist principles, when they are
rightly put before them in the voice and life. The chief, if not the only
reason, why Baptist principles have not long ago gained a thousand-fold stronger
hold upon Christendom is to be found in Baptist blunders. Not Pedobaptist logic,
but Baptist living, has kept us in the background.
With these preliminary remarks, I
come now to consider
WHAT BAPTIST PRINCIPLES ARE WORTH
TO THE WORLD.
And, first, it may be well to
indicate what are Baptist principles. Baptists hold to certain views and
practices which are distinctive and peculiar, and are held by no others on
earth. They regard these as immensely important worth living for and worth dying
for. And hence, when it is proposed in the name of Christian union to merge all
denominations into one general organization, it seems to us but idle talk. Such
a union may suit those who have nothing in particular to stand for; but it does
not commend itself to us, who have great doctrines which can be maintained only
by our continued separate existence. None desire more than we that all God's
people may be really and truly one in faith and practice. We pray daily for the
coming of the time when all who love Christ shall be one, even as he and the
Father are one. But, starting out with the principle that the New Testament is
our ultimate and only authority as to church order and church action, the
question of church organization is settled for us for all time. The inspired
Epistles emphasize the importance of holding firmly to gospel order, leaving
nothing to the caprice and ever-changing whims of poor, fickle mortals.
The inspired volume does not
contain a line which indicates that anything will do for baptism; that if you
think a thing is right, it is right to you. You search the Book of God in vain
to find that baptism means this, that, or the other thing, or nothing, just as
one may choose to have it. You will find no line there which so much as remotely
intimates that this ordinance is for any but penitent believers. Nor will you
find anything there which could give the faintest idea that the supper was ever
to come before baptism. The India-rubber system of our Pedobaptist brethren has
millions of advocates in this world, but no whisper is heard in its behalf in
the Book of God.
That those who can so readily set aside inspired command and example should keep up their own separate ecclesiastical organizations, is something we do not understand. Surely nothing less than the demands of conscience, enlightened and guided by the Word of God, can justify the continued separation of Christian denominations. If it is a mere question of church government, for example, between two ecclesiastical bodies, neither of which tries to fund a scriptural basis for its polity, then such bodies ought to coalesce, and as soon as possible. Unity is desirable
form as well as unity of spirit; and hence every denomination of Christians is
perpetually challenged for the reason of its existence. If it has no distinctive
principles, it has no right to live, nor does it deserve to live if its
principles are comparatively valueless. Without a "Thus saith the
Lord" for what is peculiar in its teachings, as its Christian basis, a
religious denomination has no right to exist, and the sooner it disbands and
unites with a denomination which has such authority for its existence, the
better for all parties. Continued separation from other Christian workers, under
such circumstances, is schismatic, injurious, and un-Christian.
We are not disposed to avoid the
issue here raised. We will not be disloyal to our convictions by asking that,
the Baptists be relieved from the test herein involved. Baptists are not exempt
from the application of these principles. They have no right to maintain a
separate existence, unless they stand for great New Testament doctrines which
are peculiar and distinctive. Ordinarily, we have not been slow to accept this
THE BAPTIST MONOPOLY
There are certain things in Christian doctrine and practice of which we have a monopoly. No one else is manifesting any special concern about these views and practices of ours, except to oppose them, and, if possible, to banish them from the world. This is the sect now, as it has ever been, everywhere spoken against. However our brethren of other persuasions may differ among themselves, they are solidly one in opposing Baptist principles; and hence it is manifest that there is something peculiar, as well as provoking, in our position and principles. And yet to all charges of creating schism and division Baptists may lift their hands to heaven and cry: "These hands are clean!" We simply stand by the old rules
—as old as the New Testament. If others come in with new rules, upon them
must rest the responsibility which comes with warring sects. From the peace
which is bought at the expense of truth, may the good Lord deliver us? One
particle of truth, in God's sight, is more precious than all earth's
glittering treasures. Union in the truth is the only union worth the name.
Baptists from the days of John the Baptist, have given the most emphatic testimony to their conception of the value of their denominational tenets. In maintaining them, they have accepted imprisonment, stripes, and death itself. If the noble army of Baptist martyrs, who joyfully welcomed all the ills that earth could inflict rather than abandon their advocacy of Baptist views, were not greatly deceived, there is something wrapped up in this Baptist idea of priceless value. Roger Williams knew what he was doing when he plunged into the wilderness, and for days went without bread or water (he says, "For fourteen weeks I knew not what bed or bread did mean"), in his zeal for soul liberty, which was then as peculiar and distinctive a Baptist principle as believers? baptism is now. But Roger Williams was only one of a great multitude
—we might almost say a multitude which no man can number
—who proved their appreciation of what Baptist
principles are worth by enduring fierce persecution in their behalf. It might
quicken the zeal of Baptists for them to recall the sufferings endured by their
fathers, to bear in mind at what cost this liberty they now enjoy was obtained,
and how joyfully their fathers paid that price in the dungeon and at the
whipping-post. They counted life itself a thing of no value, when called to
abandon Baptist principles. The man who does not see anything worth living for
or dying for in Baptist doctrines is a man immensely unlike Obadiah Holmes, who,
after a term in jail, was tied to a public whipping-post, his clothes stripped
off, and received thirty lashes; "the executioner striking with all his
might, and spitting upon his hands three times, that he might do his utmost. His
flesh was so torn and cut that for weeks afterward he could only rest upon his
hands and knees, even in his bed." It was his profound conviction of the
value of Baptist principles which cheered and sustained him through it all. He
calmly accepted the situation, believing that the coming ages would prove that
his sufferings were wisely endured. And so thought the old Virginia Baptists,
who laid the foundation of our faith in this old Commonwealth, as their songs of
praise to God rang out from many an old jail.
Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice
did not stop to count the cost when, far from home and friends, in a heathen
land, they gave up their only guaranteed support, as soon as they discovered
that Baptist principles were simply New Testament principles, and cast their lot
in with the Baptists. They did not stop to ask as to the social position or the
wealth and worldly influence of the Baptists. They did not once raise such
inquiries. As soon as they discovered that the Baptists had Scripture authority
for the points on which they differ from others, Judson and Rice were ready, at
any and every sacrifice, to espouse their cause. What a rebuke to all who desert
the old Baptist banner because their lot happens to be cast in a community where
it is not popular to be a Baptist, or because they happen to be associated with
those who would be pleased to have them abandon these principles!
NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE.
It nothing is ever settled until it is settled right, loyalty to conscience and to the Word of God must always rank higher than any mere sentimental desire for the union of Baptists with other denominations. There is no room for compromise left us. It is not a mode of baptism that Baptists plead for, but the thing itself. No immersion, no baptism. Nor do we put baptism above other commands and teachings of Christ. Underlying our denominational position on all these questions there is one great cardinal, basal principle, the bed-rock of Baptist faith and practice. That principle is that the sacred Scriptures are the only and the absolute authority in religion. The object to the phrase "paramount authority," and we are not quite satisfied with the phrase "all sufficient." The Word of God is the sovereign, and this sovereign has no parliament and no prime minister. It is a matter of no earthly interest to us, as modifying in any way our beliefs, what councils, popes, cardinals, bishops, canons or deans, or even district associations, may proclaim. The Word of God
—what does that teach? is
the only question which concerns a true Baptist.
Along this line Baptists have
been working through the centuries, and their labors have not been in vain.
Baptists have been worth something to the world. They have stood for soul
liberty, for converted church membership, for loyalty to Christ as the only King
in Zion. They have kept the ordinances as they were delivered. With them there
is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. No one has a right to say two or three;
God excludes all but his own "one." He has a right to dictate as to
his own gospel and its ordinances, and we have no more right to undertake to
change them than we have to change the physical laws which he has appointed to
govern the material universe. There would be no more presumption in attempting
to abolish the law of gravitation than the law of baptism. We read:
"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
Again: "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him
not." And yet again: "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any
other gospel unto you, let him be accursed." "Behold! To obey is
better than sacrifice."
No, friends, it is not that we are bigots
—not that we are lacking in love for you and in appreciation of all
the good that is in your heart and life; but because we dare not be disloyal to
Him who has loved us and given himself for us. If he counts the immersion of the
penitent believer baptism, then nothing else in the universe is baptism. If he
has put baptism before the supper, no one in earth, heaven, or hell, should dare
to change that order. If he has put the governing power in the local church, you
have no right to put it anywhere else.
BAPTISM NOT THE CHIEF DOCTRINE.
After all that has been said
about Baptists unduly magnifying baptism, we do not hesitate to affirm that
baptism is far from being the chief doctrine of the Baptists. If the other
so-called modes of baptism could be shown to have scriptural authority, we would
not hesitate to adopt them. The very principle which makes us immerse would, in
that case, make us conform to scriptural precept and precedent, whatever that
might be shown to be. The reason for the existence of Baptist churches would
scarcely be weakened by so startling and improbable a discovery. They might have
to change their practice, but their controlling principle would remain intact.
We count as the small dust in the balance any question of much water or little
water. Whether a goblet or a gulf, would make little difference to a Baptist,
who understands that the ground of separation lies much deeper than that.
There are great differences between Baptists and all other denominations apart from the ordinances. We differ as to the first principles. They have one idea of the constitution of a Christian church, and we have quite a different idea. They start out with the old Abrahamic idea, and they say the church is for our children as much as for us, their parents; the Baptist begins with asserting that every human being that is born into the world is dead in sin
—conceived in sin, born dead
nothing but the Almighty Spirit of God can infuse life into that dead soul, and
that until that is done it is the supremest folly to think of bringing it into
the church. Only those who have received Jesus, and to whom he has given the
privilege of becoming sons of God, "who are born, not of blood, nor of the
will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," have, according to
our principles, any right to the church and its ordinances. Thus, if ail others
were to adopt immersion as baptism, and stop there, they and we would be as far
apart as the poles.
In holding to immersion in water
as essential to the act of baptism, the Baptists have saved to the world one of
the only two great symbolic ordinances instituted by the Head of the church, and
the other they have kept just where the New Testament placed it. We have also
made prominent the principle of unquestioned obedience to the Word of God,
placing it not only above, but infinitely above, all questions of custom or
conscience, all decisions of ecclesiastical courts and councils; so that these
latter are not thought of as having any authority whatever.
Baptism symbolizes some of the most precious truths of our holy religion. It tells us that we are dead and buried and raised to a new life
—that our sins have been washed away
—buried out of sight. It points to a blissful resurrection and a glorious immortality. It assures us that, having been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall also partake of the likeness of his resurrection. Baptism proclaims what no tongue can speak. One may in the most eloquent language explain what the Lord has done for him, but his words are cold and lifeless compared with the pathos and power which accompany the silent submission to this symbolic ordinance. We have seen vast crowds melted to tears as they gazed upon this expressive and beautiful picture
—God's own picture
—and we have known men converted by the
sight, when all else had failed to move them.
As long as Baptists hold to their baptism, so long they will secure to the world this precious symbol, rich in soul-saving truth. As long as our baptism stands as an expression of obedience to Christ (and it grows more absolutely clear every day that it is), we exalt the Word of God, and everything that exalts God's Word and authority is something that the world needs. "The Bible, the Bible alone, the religion of the Protestants," was the famous dictum of Chilling worth. But it is lamentably true that the most serious and insidious
—serious because insidious
—attacks upon the Bible have, in recent years, come from Protestants.
The few Baptists who have shared in this unholy crusade have found themselves
quickly and surely shorn of all influence. The great Baptist body has had
sufficient spiritual health to dispose of them effectually and promptly, without
the slow and factitious aid of ecclesiastic courts. The principle which
expresses itself in our baptism and communion and church polity has made this
possible. This literalism, for which we are often mercilessly criticized, has
done the world good service, and will render far more service in the future,
unless we misread the signs of the times.
Baptists not only cleave to the
act of baptism, as given in the sacred Scriptures, but they also adhere to the
Scripture authority as to the subjects of the ordinance. We baptize none but
such as make a personal confession of faith. Here, as elsewhere, we maintain not
only the supremacy, but the absolute sovereignty of the sacred Scriptures. The
failure of others to do this, the abolition of the scriptural prerequisite for
baptism, has as a matter of history led, and does as a matter of fact lead, and
will as a matter of logic continue to lead, in the direction of the union of
Church and State.
Many who practice infant baptism
affirm that infants are "regenerated, made members of the mystical body of
Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven." This rite gives Romanists
an unanswerable argument against Protestants. A Roman Catholic catechism asks:
"Can Protestants prove to Baptists that the baptism of infants is good and
useful?" "No," replied the same catechism, "they cannot,
because, according to Protestant principles, such baptism is useless." An
eminent Romanist recently said to a Baptist: "Either your people or mine
are right. You are at one end of the line, we are at the other. Infant baptism,
if anything, is all we claim for it."
Infant baptism lays the
foundation for national hierarchies, and, where universally practiced, surely
and speedily abolishes all distinction between the church and the world. For the
legitimate fruits of any such practice we must look where that practice has had
ample scope for working out its results, and not where it, is hedged in by
opposing influences. If you would know what are the inherent tendencies of this
"part and pillar of popery," inquire in the countries where for ages
it has had uninterrupted and complete sway. There you will find great
hierarchies crushing out the spirit and teachings of the gospel of Christ, and,
with their imposing ritual and numberless and meaningless rites and ceremonies,
ruling with despotic power over the bodies as well as the souls of its subjects,
the partner and the patron of Caesar.
This ghostly delusion of the
papacy has in it the germ of persecution. The infant is not consulted. His
baptism is a question of mere physical force, rather than of religious faith. If
he is the child of Pedobaptists, and, upon coming to years of responsibility,
wishes to be immersed, but desires to hold his membership in the church of his
parents, it cannot be done. The act performed on him without his consent has
logically, though most unjustly, robbed him of the right of choice. It is easy
to see how the State naturally comes at last to take the place of church and
Infant baptism is the egg out of which all this confusion and perversion of God's truth are hatched. It removes and abolishes the line of separation which God designed should ever stand between the church and the world, paves the way for a union of Church and State, and of this adulterous union a numerous progeny is born
its lurid fires through the dark centuries, the church hunting rather than
comforting, multiplying rather than dividing the sorrows of humanity, killing
when it ought to have been saving. And whence came all this? It grew, as all the
world knows, though all the world may not acknowledge it, out of this union of
Church and State, against which Baptists have always and everywhere protested.
They stand today, as they have ever stood, the natural enemies of every
principle which would enslave the soul.
NO MERE ACCIDENT.
Baptists did not stumble upon religious liberty. It is no mere accident that wherever Baptist views have prevailed, and to the extent to which they have prevailed, men have been left to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, with none to molest or to make them afraid. Soul freedom as surely comes with the adoption of Baptist principles as day comes with the rising sun it is the inevitable, logical outgrowth of the doctrine that each must hear for himself, repent for himself, believe for himself, confess Christ for himself, and be baptized for himself
—that as we come one by one into the world, so we must go to Christ one
by one for mercy, and at last go one by one out of the world, to be judged
according to the deeds done in the body. The doctrine of regenerated church
membership, with its basis in the written Word, like the light of the sun, goes
everywhere, and everywhere opens the way for the highest civil and religious
Our form of church government has been of unspeakable value to the world. With us the function of the local church, our only ecclesiastical authority, being exceedingly simple and its authority very limited, there is room for the development of liberty of thought and speech, while the very basis of the organization being in the Scripture model, that fact supplies all needful restraint. If Baptists have ever failed to be in line with all movements looking to human freedom and progress, then in every such case they have gone counter to their own foundation principles. In their own ecclesiastical organization (the local church) there is a decided and perpetual protest against every form of tyranny in religious matters, and in the equality among its membership there is a suggestion of that civic freedom which is beginning in some measure to be realized. If it be the true theory of the republic that "that community is governed best," which is governed least," then it is a truth which finds striking exemplification in our simple, but effective
—and effective because simple
In emphasizing what Baptists have
done for the world, often sufficient attention has not been given to this
free-and-easy church polity of ours. More and more men of strong episcopal
church governments are looking on with amazement at the organized power of these
thousands of Baptist churches in America. They do not see how we manage to
combine, and concentrate the power of the denomination as we do in, great
philanthropic movements; nor can they see how it is that so easily and quietly
we rid ourselves of the heretics and impostors who spring up among us.
We have only to answer that all this proves that the great Head of the church made no mistake in laying down the church polity to which the Baptists cling. Some one has said that "it is no discredit to a Christian organization that it cannot succeed without Christianity." As the Baptists obtain more of the spirit of Christ and more Christian education, as they grow in grace and in knowledge, this church polity will work so well that all the world will see that it is of God, and, abandoning their great ecclesiastical church governments, they will adopt this, which has no machinery to drive
—no great driving-wheels which will keep the concern
rolling on when Christian love and holy zeal have departed from it. A Baptist
church dies when there is no more consecration of heart and life left to it?of
course, it dies then; there?s nothing to keep it going a day longer.
But these strong aristocratic
churches run on centuries after the Spirit of Cod has left them. Their
machinery?wheels within wheels?drives them on long after the divine power
has left them.
BAPTIST INFLUENCE ON
In estimating the value of Baptist principles, we must not fail to take into the account their influences upon other Christian denominations
—how they hold back Pedobaptists from the
ruinous extremes to which they would inevitably go but for such restraining
power. Nothing hinders the baptism and church membership of every infant except
the Baptists. But for them, every babe would as surely come into the church as
it comes into the world.
Wherever Baptists are not found,
there infant baptism goes unchallenged among Protestants and Roman Catholics,
and is universally practiced. You have only to turn your eyes to Europe, Mexico,
and South America to see what sad work it does when left to do its worst. Even
over the lands where Martin Luther's Reformation won its brilliant victories
this evil has spread desolation and ruin. Baptists are now reforming Luther's
work, by taking from it the fatal error of birthright church membership.
Where will you find a spot on the map of this earth where Christianity has
anything more than a name, if on that spot infant baptism, has not been held in
check by the Baptist protest? That rite, as our friends call it, carries with it
a dead formalism, which, as surely as an effect follows its cause, works evil,
and only evil, and that continually. The reason it does not work out such
results in this country is to be found in the prevalence of opposing influences.
Baptists here keep Pedobaptist errors from running to seed; or, to change the
figure, we put down the brakes and hold back the Pedobaptist car from the
frightful precipices over which it would plunge, if left to itself.
Every godly Pedobaptist minister is doing far greater good because of the Baptist influence upon him and upon his people. He and they may not be conscious of it
—indeed, they may be very unfriendly to us
—but that does not alter the fact that Pedobaptists are a thousand times more useful because of the Baptists. And hence, before you can tell what Baptist principles are worth to the world, you will have to work upon this problem. You will have to ascertain what pedobaptism would be if its position as to the order of ordinances of the gospel were everywhere as fully accepted and practiced among us as they are in some other countries, before you can tell what Baptist principles are worth. Close these Baptist churches, silence these Baptist pulpits, cast aside all our Baptist agencies for spreading our principles, and what then? In a few decades you could not find in all this broad land an unbaptized infant. They would all be in the church, and once there they would remain there in the same enclosure with their parents, and as truly church members as they. With such a universal acceptance of this "rite," surely and speedily all distinction between the church and world would vanish, and pedobaptism would be left to do for our fair land what it has done for every other land where it has had full and undisputed sway. We say these things in no boastful spirit, and certainly with no desire to misrepresent our Pedobaptist brethren. This is no time for self-admiration among Baptists. Nor is it a time
—nor can there ever come a time
—for placing our
brethren of opposing creeds at a disadvantage. God knows that I love with a full
heart Christians who do not wear the Baptist name. If feet-washing were now in
vogue among us as a religious ceremony, I should desire no higher honor than to
wash the feet of some of the very men who most bitterly oppose our views. They
may not love us, but they love Christ, our Master, and I hope and pray that in
time they may come to love our Baptist principles. Learned theologians of all
faiths seem to be more favorable to us than formerly, and there is among
Protestants a constant approximation to our views. Positions that a hundred
years ago were distinctly and peculiarly Baptist, and for which thousands of our
people suffered stripes and imprisonment, are now firmly held by millions who do
not wear the Baptist name.
LEAVENING THE LUMP.
Thank God, Baptist leaven is spreading throughout the whole lump in this, our "Baptist America," and we are mercifully saved from that dead formalism which otherwise would rest like a nightmare upon us. "The Goddess of Liberty" stands upon our shores, and with uplifted torch is "enlightening the world." With the blessing of God, Baptist principles will more and more prevail in this, our loved land, and they will be preached and adopted in all lands. Some day in the coming years
—God hasten that day! ?the sun in his journey will not look down
upon any section of this globe of ours unblessed by these principles.
Baptist principles, when rightly
held, lead to a life of consecration to God's service and to a worldwide
philanthropy. One cannot take this Baptist idea into his heart without taking
with it all else that is good. He is false to his burial with Christ, if there
is in him no resurrection to a new life. He must feel, as Paul felt, that this
world has been put upon his shoulders, that he may lift it up to God; that every
human being has a claim upon his best energies; that his commission is to each
and every being on earth. Nothing less than such a consecrated life does the
Baptist idea demand, and nothing less will it accept.
And here let me say that, as a
matter of fact, Baptists have led in agencies for the world's redemption. Were
not Carey and Thomas, the pioneers in foreign missions, Baptists? Was not the
first Foreign Mission Society of modern times formed by English Baptists in
1792? Were not Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice among the first to go from
America to the heathen? Were not the first Christian churches organized in India
and Burmah, and China and Siam, Baptist churches? And are not more than
one-third of all the converts from heathenism Baptists? And have not the
Baptists ever been the true and fast friends of education? Have they not sought
everywhere to enlighten the masses, reaching down to the lowest and up to the
highest? Who but Baptists made the earliest translations of God's Word into
heathen tongues? Was not the first Bible Society called into being under the
leadership of Joseph Hughes, a Baptist minister? And does not a Baptist deacon
share with Robert Raikes the honor of originating the Sunday school? In every
great movement for the evangelization of the world Baptists have held no mean
place. Nor is this strange. The very principles underlying our system bind us to
go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. That Baptist
would better never have been born into the world who refuses to do all in his
power to save the world, and that Baptist church which knows nothing of this
sense of responsibility to save the perishing nations of earth can do for the
Baptist name no nobler service than to lay that name aside and wear it no more.
No word of mine can do the subject justice. I cannot tell
—no man living can tell
principles are worth to this poor, sinning sorrowing world of ours. The world is
bad enough as it is, but who can tell how much worse it would be but for these
principles? Who can tell what this uplifting of the word and authority of God
has been worth to humanity? Who knows what a calamity it would have been, had
the ordinances of the gospel been lost to the world, and these two great
monumental pillars in the house of our God been torn to pieces and forever cast
aside? Where is there under the blue arch of heaven a man who has more than the
faintest conception of what religious liberty is worth to the world? Who can
tell how much of the good done by other Christian denominations comes from the
influence, direct or indirect, of this Baptist idea upon their heads and hearts?
No, brethren, I beg to be excused. You might as well ask me to tell you what the shining sun in mid-heavens is worth. It cannot be done; life is too short to tell it all. A greater calamity than the overthrow of Baptist principles one can scarcely conceive. If any are seeking to bring this to pass, they know not what they do. To succeed would be to wreck and forever overthrow the beautiful and symmetrical system as given by Christ and his apostles, and snatch from a perishing world its brightest
—I might almost say its only
BEST OF ALL, GOD IS WITH US.
But, brethren; you need not fear
any such catastrophe. The God of providence is our God. He has often turned the
bitterest enemies of the Baptists into their most helpful friends. Many of the
greatest names in Baptist history are names that have come to us from other
denominations. How often, in searching for arguments against us, have men and
women found that the Baptists have a "Thus saith the Lord," and gone
forth frankly confessing that our position must stand while the inspired record
If Baptists could have been
overthrown, it would have been done long ago. Almost every weapon has been tried
against them, and with what result? Since our Lord bade us go into all the world
and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, there has never dawned a day when the prospect for the Baptists was
brighter than it is this day, and the morrow will be for them brighter still.
These principles of ours are yet to be laurel-crowned. To use the words of a
celebrated Baptist martyr: "Divine truth is immortal. It may be scourged,
crucified, and for a season entombed, but on the third day it will rise again
victorious, and rule triumphant forever." That Baptist martyr did not
overstate the great fact; for back of these Baptist principles is the Almighty
throne, and it is pledged to their complete triumph. If there were but one
Baptist on the earth, he might throw his banner to the breeze with a full and
unquestioning faith that it will surely and completely win in the great coming
"Every plant which my
Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up." Multitudes in other
denominations believe as we do, and the number of such increases daily. Their
preachers may preach some other baptism, but more and more their people are
practicing ours, and daily they are seeing more clearly that infant baptism is
without divine authority.
Let us gird ourselves for the
conflict. Today one of the chief points of attack is the integrity of the
inspired Word. The enemies of Christianity are gathering at this point as never
before, and the very atmosphere around us seems to be laden with skepticism. The
mission of the Baptists is hardly yet begun. Theirs is the post of honor in the
conflict for God's Word. Clad in God's armor, they must more than ever stand
in serried phalanx where the fight is hottest. It is a most comforting paradox
that as we defend the Bible it furnishes us with weapons, defensive and
THE BRIGHTER DAYS.
If God has wrought so mightily through the Baptists in the past, with all their lack of faith, and zeal, and tact, and toil, what may we not hope for in the better days that are ahead of us, when we shall realize as never before the weighty responsibilities which press upon us
—in the coming days, when we shall see that having more truth than others devolves upon us the solemn obligation to live a more holy, a more consecrated life? We are Christ
—s witnesses, and his only witnesses, for the
great distinctive principles he has committed to us. Shall he look in vain to us
to witness aright for him?
There can be but one issue of the
struggle, unequal as it is, with all the mighty forces arrayed against us. He
who is for us is mightier than they who are against us. "As we have
received Christ Jesus the Lord, so let us walk in him." Let us teach these
Baptist principles to all the people, and in doing that let us not forget our
own children. And let us cultivate fraternal relations with other Christian
denominations. Let us give them full credit for all the good they are doing, and
rejoice with them in it all. Often their holy zeal and Christian endurance will
put us to the blush, and cause impartial observers to say that, while Baptists
have the doctrine, others have the practice. Let us seek to profit by all this,
and then, at last, when the crowning day shall come, it will appear to all that
not only have Baptist principles been valuable to the world, but invaluable.
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