BAPTIST PRINCIPLES RESET
Dr. J. B. Jeter died February 18,
1880. In the autumn of 1876, In execution of a purpose formed long before, he
began In the Religious Herald, of which he was then senior editor, a series of
articles on "Distinctive Baptist Principles." He was at this date, had
been for many years, and continued till his death the first among his brethren.
His mind was not only rich in the accumulated stores of information, well
digested, but it was characterized by a manly vigor and a most uncommon candor,
which commanded the respect and admiration of all who knew him. Dr. Jeter was a
model controversial writer. Scrupulously fair in his statement of an
opponent?s views, he never descended from the high plane of courteous debate
to indulge in personalities. He was Incapable of subterfuge or indirection. He
took no short cuts in discussion. The articles from his pen which we print In
this volume illustrate these characteristics. No word of bitterness will be
found in them? They are not marred by any attempt at smartness. They are never
extravagant, never hysterical. They are marked by a sober and conscious
strength, ?which makes them very convincing. It Is only just to Dr. Jeter to
say that these papers were prepared for the general reader. While not a
technical and professional scholar, he was well acquainted with the conclusions
of the best scholarship, and these are embodied in his articles. But we venture
the opinion that the reader will find no obscure sentence, nothing abstruse or
recondite. They are plain, clear, coherent. Moreover, let no one neglect the
papers under the impression that they will be dull and lifeless. The writer?s
remarkable command of his mother tongue, his kindly humor, his style, marked by
vivacity as well as sobriety, most of all his clear and well-reasoned conviction
of the unshakable truth of his contention, will give growing interest to the
While these articles were reappearing in the Religious Herald, the editors determined to follow them with another series, written by the ablest and most representative of our living Baptist brethren. Accordingly the articles which are found in Part II. of this volume were, at our request, prepared, and we were permitted to print them in the Religious Herald. Dr. Henry G. Weston, President of Crozer Theological Seminary
—vigorous, clear, scholarly
—contributes the first article, on that fundamental tenet of Baptists, "A Regenerate Church Membership." Dr. Alvah Hovey, President Emeritus of Newton Theological Seminary, who through his long, useful, and distinguished life has been growing "in the grace and knowledge" of his Lord?a most judicious interpreter of the Scriptures
—compresses a most remarkable article on "The Subjects of
Baptism" within very brief limits.
It is distinguished company into
which our young and gifted President Mullins, of the Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, comes; but he is worthy to take his place with these
venerated and experienced teachers. His article, on "The Case for Immersion
at Present," is one of the best.
In Dr. Jeter's fine series one aspect of the baptismal question was not discussed
—its archaeology. it is not extravagant to say that there is no living man more competent to deal with that matter than Dr. Howard Osgood, who is among the very foremost conservative scholars of our day and time. His article on "Archaeology of Baptism
Bath Under the Old Testament" is intensely interesting and highly
When President Harper was gathering around him his great corps of teachers for the University of Chicago, he brought to the Divinity School Dr. Franklin Johnson. Dr. Johnson had already given evidence of his intellectual power
—notably in a volume meeting and combating the destructive criticism which was attacking the Bible. When his strong and stalwart articles on "The Lord's Supper
—appeared in the
Herald, competent judges declared that he had covered the ground with surpassing
skill. We do not know of any argument on the whole question so simple, strong,
Dr. Benjamin O. True, of
Rochester Theological Seminary (Church History), one of the most accurate and
sympathetic students of history, has brought us all greatly in debt to him by
the fine and comprehensive glimpse which he has given of "Baptists and
Religious Liberty." He makes us all long for more.
Then, to complete this remarkable
series and to round out this distinguished company, we laid violent hands on our
Baptist commoner, our philosopher-preacher; Dr. J. B. Gambrell, at Present of
Texas, but in spirit, in the sweep of sympathy and intelligence, a real
"citizen of the world."
Now the Religious Herald, in printing the articles by the revered and lamented Jeter, and in adding these by seven of the most distinguished and representative Baptist scholars and leaders in the world, modestly maintains that this volume is unique. Among all the treatises on denominational teaching that have appeared, we know of none like this. Dr. Jeter's articles were first published nearly a quarter of a century ago. They set forth views which had been formed probably twenty-five years earlier. In the first part of this volume, then, we have the product of one mind, thinking his theme through from start to finish. The articles in Part II. have been printed within the past few months. Seven men
—one in Massachusetts, one in Pennsylvania, two in New York, one in Illinois, one in Kentucky, and one in Texas
—furnish them. They write wholly independent of one another. Each
develops his theme without considering how his discussion will fit in with those
of his brethren.
Now, then, we come out upon a most remarkable result. First, they do make a singularly consistent and harmonious whole. The Jeter articles do not fit one another more perfectly than these. Secondly, they harmonize entirely with the articles by Dr. Jeter. Probably fifty years lie between the Jeter articles and these by our living brethren. They have, too, been years of theological change
—in some respects
change that has been almost revolution. Great denominations have been rent and
great institutions have been alienated from denominational control by
theological controversies. The seminaries have been hot-beds of heresy. But
every important Baptist theological seminary in the land, except one, is
represented in this series, and Drs. Jeter and Gambrell fitly represent the many
who have not taught or learned in these schools of the prophets. Still, with no
authoritative formulary, with no doctrinal court to settle differences, the
Baptists continue to think and believe alike. Thus this book illustrates, in a
way all the more impressive because unintentional, that solidarity of doctrine
is best preserved where human formularies have no voice of authority, and the
true secret of denominational and of Christian unity is a free and reverent
approach to Christ, the center of our hopes and the object of our faith.
May God bless the book to the
honor of his name and the spread of the truth!
R. H. Pitt.
Religious Herald Office,
Richmond, Va., February 25, 1901.
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