As was aptly stated in a booklet published many years ago by the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptists believe that:
"No man can be more liberal than the Bible and be true to Christ." 1
This is the historic Baptist position! This is also the view of modern, Bible-believing Baptists who want to be true to Christ in spite of the present situation.
The Present Situation
Some liberal "Baptists" are striding toward unification with Roman Catholicism. Many others remain firm in their conviction that continued separation from both the "Mother of Harlots" and her Protestant daughters is the only right course of action. The following quotation is furnished merely as an illustration of the unionizing tendencies now prevalent among some Baptist groups. Clearly, certain liberal elements within the once conservative Southern Baptist Convention of the United States are thus actively engaged.
"Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic scholars have declared that they basically agreed on doctrinal issues. Sponsored by the Catholic Bishop's Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Southern Baptist Department of Interfaith Witness, the dialogue group recently released a report in the "Theological Educator." Quoting Eph. 4:5, the group concluded "We not only confessed but experienced 'One Lord, one faith, and one baptism" 2
As a further example of the present move among some Baptists toward union with Roman Catholicism, and a more current one, consider the following news item.
"COLUMBIA, S.C. - The agreement between evangelicals and Roman Catholics to end their 'loveless conflict' is being welcomed in some parts of the Bible Belt.
"The agreement signed a week ago by evangelical leaders, including Pat Robertson, and by Catholic bishops continues progress that began seven years ago when Pope John II visited South Carolina and suggested closer ties, religious leaders said.
"'Indeed, is it not the duty of every follower of Christ to work for the unity of all Christians?' the pope told 26 American leaders of several denominations at the time.
"Parishioners at West Columbia's First Baptist Church said they were glad to hear of the recent agreement, especially the part calling for an end to trying to convert each other..." 3
Anyone who understands the Bible message of salvation by grace alone and who is aware of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church will agree that the two are poles apart. Although Catholicism mouths the words of the Bible, she teaches salvation by works. Of course, most Protestants teach works for salvation and liberal "Baptists" do the same. Some "Baptists" are just as guilty of desiring a union of all "Christian denominations" as is the Catholic hierarchy. This is evidenced by the following statements made by "parishioners" of the First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina.
"Baptists and Catholics each believe theirs is the only religion to follow, parishioner Dale Finley said.
"'I think for peace, they should work together and quit trying to shove (beliefs) down their throats,' she said.
"Helen Ford, another member of the large brick church with a wooden cross of flowers on its lawn the day after Easter, said she welcomed the cooperative effort.
"'I'm not so narrow that I cannot accept the fact that there are other very good Christian people in other denominations,' she said. 'I think we're all working toward the same goal; we're just taking different routes to get there.'" 4
These last statements quoted are indicative of the sad doctrinal decline among some who call themselves Baptists. They do not know the truth, or have heard and rejected it.
Jesus said "the truth shall make you free." There is no salvation apart from the truth. Genuinely converted individuals are characterized by a knowledge of the truth. Regenerate persons do not have a perfect knowledge of truth, but a genuine knowledge, nevertheless. Truth, similarly, sets the churches of God apart from those which are false. The Lord's churches are the "pillar and ground of the truth." Doubtless, therefore, the devil is attempting to do away with true New Testament churches. If true Baptists are New Testament churches, the way to do away with them is to destroy their distinctive principles. This is the "modus operandi" presently used by the enemy of truth, the one whom Jesus said was "a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
Satan is often subtle in bringing about misrepresentations of the truth. He instigates mockery of the Bible and Bible-believers. He promotes man-glorifying freewill-ism, the Holy-Spirit-glorifying charismatic movement, doctrine-denying interdenominationalism, and the "universal invisible church" theory which denigrates the Church Jesus built. He attempts to accomplish his goal under the guise of brotherly love, unity and scholarship. After all, he argues, if all Christians are in one great "universal invisible church" and thus all part of one "mystical body" why should they not get together down here? Thus, he persuades the unthinking, and he coincidentally makes Bible-believing Baptists look like unloving, bigoted fanatics because they will not join with "evangelical Christians."
Satan has actively promoted these hurtful doctrines in leading colleges, seminaries and publishing houses in our own day. Because of this activity, he is enjoying some success as most Protestant organizations are now conducting "ecumenical dialogue" with the Harlot. Cooperation, pulpit affiliation, reception of immersions, union meetings, etc. between even some so-called "Baptists" and the Protestant daughters of the Harlot are now common. Charismatic Protestants are now one in spirit with Charismatic Catholics. Doctrinal purity has thus been sacrificed on the altar of Christian union.
If Baptist churches could be obliterated, the process of ecumenical union (not unity) would be made easier. Few oppose the merger of all churches into the Romish system other than healthy Baptists. "Evangelicals" in North America are having their distinctiveness eroded away by New Evangelicalism, liberalism and the Charismatic movement. Most "evangelical Christians" do not even realize what is happening! The end-time one-world church is just around the corner!
Many "Baptists" are fed Protestant fodder which is prepared in apostate seminaries and effectively disseminated through unscriptural denominational machinery, literature and programs. In spite of this, God still has a remnant who will not surrender Bible principles. These very principles are what make them Baptists. These historic principles keep this remnant of New Testament Baptist churches from organizing under some earthly headquarters, fellowship, convention or association.
After all, in spite of what you may have been led to believe, it is no sin to be a Baptist in a Baptist church practicing Biblical Baptist principles!
The Issues Stated
Although often accused of believing that they alone will be in Heaven, Baptists do not believe that only Baptists are saved! Salvation is an individual matter. Salvation is the result of the work of the sovereign grace of God in the individual heart. We are happy to recognize that God's people may be found in many denominations. One Baptist writer of another generation has well said:
"Calling on God to witness his sincerity, the author of this book gladly expresses his Christian affections for every blood-washed soul - whatever may be his or her creed." 5
Baptist elder Claude Duval Cole, formerly an instructor at the Toronto Baptist Seminary, had this to say:
"While claiming to be the true church, Baptists do not deny the salvation of others. We put salvation in the person of Jesus Christ, and believe any and every sinner who pins his faith and hope to Jesus Christ will be saved. We never tell the sinner to unite with a Baptist Church in order to be saved. Like John the Baptist we point the sinner to the Lamb of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose blood cleanseth from all sin." 6
However, there is another matter to be considered here: the matter of acceptable service to God. Is everything that goes by the name of service to Christ acceptable to God? If Christ did establish His kind of church and such churches still exist upon the earth, are not those churches important to Him? Will He not surely be angry with all who have thought His work inconsequential? Will he be pleased with those who have refused to serve Him in His church? Shall those who continue to rebel against His order and authority be rewarded along with those faithful servants who have borne the brunt of opposition and persecution down through the centuries? If we would please Christ, must we not do things His way? After all, did He not say, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14). Did He not command His church to teach converts to "observe ALL THINGS" He had commanded?
David learned to his anguish that not just any procedure is permissible with God. He tried to serve God in a way that was popularly acceptable but foreign to the Word of God. David's inappropriate (sinful) method in attempting to return the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful place resulted in terrible judgement. God's anger was vented on Uzzah! What sorrow, frustration, fear and mistrust must have swept through the nation Israel following this evident judgement of God. Following this tragedy David was both "displeased" and "afraid of God" (1 Chr. 13:11, 12). Visualize the terrible consequences in the nation Israel when the monarch was in such a wretched spiritual condition! Can you see the consequences of disregarding God's revealed will regarding the Divinely ordained way of service today? Do you doubt that Christendom has run amuck with all its man-made organizations, methods, activities and plans?
David was made to see that the reason for the catastrophe incurred in moving the Ark was "...that we sought him God not after the due order" (1 Chr. 15:13). How important that principle is! In service to God we must do things the way He instructed!
God had said that His priests were to walk and carry the Ark on poles provided for the work. The nations around them might use oxen to pull their idols about on flower-laden, newly painted carts - and even got by with putting God's Ark on such a cart. But God's chosen people, while not specifically forbidden to do the same, were specifically commanded to do otherwise. There is a basic Bible principle displayed here! It is important to remember that a specific positive command implies and includes specific negative prohibitions. The command to do one thing automatically forbids doing anything else! A clear understanding of that principle causes Baptists to insist that things must be done the Bible way! We have no right to innovate in either worship or service to God!
Sincerity was not enough! Being acceptable to the people round about was not enough! Doing things like their pagan neighbours was not acceptable! There was a right way then, and there is a "due order" for acceptable service to God and Christ today! Acceptable service to God today is in a New Testament church in submission to the Great Head of the church. There is no other institution that was founded by Christ and authorized by Christ to do His work in the earth!
When God's children have the truth taught to them they are gladly obedient to it. Spiritual "goats" "butt" at the truth; God's sheep are led by Christ, the Shepherd, through His Word. Because of the work of the Holy Ghost, multitudes have been led to be Baptists by the truth of the Scriptures. This writer is one! We urge you to search the Scriptures that you may perceive the truth and "...let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28, 29).
Baptist History Versus Religious History
Either by design or by unconscious bias, popularly accepted history is most often the recounting of events in a manner favorable to the dominant party. Throughout history the parties in power have been either a Protestant sect or a branch of Catholicism. First one group then the other was in control. Power changed hands from time to time and from country to country as religious politics fluctuated. Since Baptist churches are not and have never been in that ruling position, though at times they could have been, history is most often slanted against us. It is not our objective here to recount either the history of religion or the history of the Lord's churches. (These two histories are not the same!) However, the reader should be alert to the fact that what is usually presented as "church" history may not be true at all when viewed in the light of all the facts. Hear the statement of Professor C. D. Cole:
"What is known and taught as Church History is in reality the history of Christianity rather than a history of the church Christ founded and promised perpetuity to. History reveals that the true Church as an institution was represented by local congregations as opposed by a developing and growing hierarchy until the bishop of Rome is made Pope or Supreme Bishop." 7
The dominant party soon became what today is known as the Roman Catholic Church. That she is a mixture of paganism and Old Testament Jewish practices under Christian names is clear. Hear the words of an old English Baptist brother regarding "church history" being the history of a corrupt "Judaism". We have modernized his spelling.
"What is all church history but an account of people, who under the name of Christians lived as the Jews lived? Had the Jews a priesthood? So had they. Had the Jews a priest of priests, an high priest? They had one in prospect, and each aimed to be the man. Did the Jews keep the Passover, and worship God by rituals? So did they. Had the Jews Ecclesiastical courts? So had they. Were the Jews governed by traditions of elders? So were they. Had the Jews a temple and an altar, and a sacrifice? So had they. Did the Jews place religion in the performance of ceremonies and not in the practice of virtue? So did they. Have the Jews monopolized God, and hated all mankind except themselves? So have they. 8
To understand the history of the Lord's churches, the reader should be aware that until relatively recently, Baptists had neither historians among themselves nor histories of their own writing. Baptists were ravaged initially by civil governments goaded by whatever religious establishment was in power at the time. First the Jews instigated persecution against the Lord's churches. Later, pagan idolaters violently opposed the churches. Afterwards, both Catholic- and Protestant-controlled powers condemned Baptists and turned them over to the "secular arm" for punishment and most often execution. 9
Our Baptist forefathers were hounded from place to place as outlaws in most kingdoms of the world. Forced to live in constant peril because of their doctrines and practices (neither of which was ever a hazard to any individual or civil power), these Baptists had neither time, opportunity nor inclination to employ themselves with recording their past. Other more immediate concerns pressed upon them because of their circumstances. Matters of doctrine required their efforts as heresies were rampant in the churches round about them. Doubtless their history would have been entirely lost had not their persecutors written against them and so unintentionally chronicled their existence. J.H. Grime stated it well:
"From the first rupture in the church, 250 A.D., that finally resulted in Catholicism, to the Reformation 1520, A.D., the true churches of Jesus Christ were known as Ana-Baptists and such other local names as their enemies gave them. They were not permitted to keep records or write their own history. But their enemies have said enough for us to gather a fairly good history." 10
Consequently, if we would find Baptists early on in history, we must scrutinize the writings of their enemies who were then the ruling party. In those writings, Baptists will not be represented as Christ's churches, but as the enemies of Christ. Mention will be made of them in court records. Accounts of persecutions against "heretics" will often present Baptists to view. Records of religious disputations will introduce them to you. Histories of Roman Catholicism, Protestant sects and those dissenters who opposed them will often tell of our Baptist forefathers. The proceedings of church councils who sought to exterminate them give testimony to their patient continuance. Descriptions of the flogging and executions of Baptists who stood against the dead ritualism and worldliness of Popery often shine as beacons in Baptist history. As the "front page church" continued in her departure from New Testament truth and piety, the martyrs of Jesus shone forth as gold. We will find them - if we look carefully - although we must often view them through the smoke screen of dishonesty and fabrication. They will often be slanderously charged with the most abhorrent sins and scathingly condemned as heretics of the worst sort. But the undeniable fact remains: people holding Baptist principles, observing Christ's ordinances and meeting in church capacity have continued to surface in every generation since the days of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry! This fact cannot be denied by any honest and informed person!
Surely to any honest and unprejudiced mind these three witnesses shall resolve the matter of whom the Baptists are and conversely who are actually the Baptists! However, it is imperative to point out one more thing. Baptists have waxed "respectable" in the last two hundred years or so of their existence. Being no longer viewed as "the offscouring of all things," churches abound that profess the name Baptist, but who bear little likeness to the churches of the New Testament. This has come about because the name Baptist, given to John and those who baptize with his baptism, has become socially acceptable although the old Baptist doctrines and practices have not. Once this name was used as an epithet of disdain and only those compelled by Bible principles to own it were willing to do so. Now that the name is socially acceptable and sometimes financially advantageous, many flock to its shadow.
The devil has failed in his many attempts to "murder" the Baptists. He has put that weapon away in most parts of the world. Now he usually resorts to his more formidable weapon, "mixture." Compromise has replaced killing in his armory. Whereas the devil failed to destroy Christ's churches by persecution, he now seeks to persuade them away from the truth. We would warn our fellow Baptists, if we may borrow the words of Paul, "This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you" (Gal. 5:8).
No doubt there are many members of these quasi-Baptist (see glossary) churches who are sincere in their profession. They have been immersed somewhere by someone into something called a church. Perhaps it was called a Baptist church. We persist in the view that such an act does not necessarily constitute them members of the Lord's church! Our spiritual forefathers would not have received them based on their immersions. Neither can we!
Today, any immersion is sanctioned as valid baptism in most religious circles. "Baptisms" are routinely accepted by many "Baptist" churches today even though administered by ministers of congregations bearing little resemblance to the churches of the New Testament. The fact that such congregations possess no valid claim to being a Scriptural body of Christ seems to matter little to many at the close of the 20th century. Any immersion is acceptable, in the eyes of the religious enthusiasts of our day, if the candidate was "sincere." Our spiritual forefathers talked of "alien immersion" and refused to accept it as valid. The point we wish to make is that not all who claim the name are, in fact, Baptists in any historical and Scriptural sense of the word! By that we also mean to say that not all churches bearing the name Baptist are true churches of Christ!
The Baptist Name
The fact that some are sailing under false colors is insufficient reason for us to lower our banner or exchange it for another. We are aware that a few brethren are ready to throw away the name Baptist since it has been accepted by so many who are in no way true churches of Christ. To us, to do so would surely be to flee before the enemies of Christ! We do not glory in a mere name, but gladly accept the name "Baptist" for several reasons. S. E. Anderson has well written:
"First, the name Baptist is a Scriptural name. It is found fifteen times in the New Testament. It stands for the man whom Christ approved with high praise. It signifies all that John believed and taught his many converts to believe. They shared his views; they had his viewpoint as to the Lord Jesus: they were as firm believers in his Gospel and in baptism as converts could be. While it is not said they were called Baptists (no need then), they could have been so called with perfect propriety. They were Baptistic without being partisan.
"Second, the name Baptist is a descriptive name. It describes one who believes in Christ's death, burial and resurrection on his behalf, one who has voluntarily buried his past life of sin and has risen to walk in newness of life with Christ, one who believes all that John preached about Christ, one who believes all that Christ said about His forerunner, and one who is obligated by his baptism to exhibit the indwelling Christ in his life.
"Third, the name Baptist is doctrinally sound. Besides conveying the salient points of the Gospel as mentioned above... it is solidly based upon Scripture. For the Lord Jesus approved the name Baptist. He used it repeatedly. The Holy Spirit directed its use. And God the Father approved the baptism of John by His voice at the baptism of His Son.
"Fourth, the name Baptist is unifying. Here is one act that any convert, no matter how weak, can do in exactly the way Christ Himself observed it. It is the same for all races, for bond or free, for men or women, for all ages, for rich or poor, for the learned or illiterate, for old or young, for entire families, for every country, for every age, and it is accepted by every denomination. No other "mode of baptism" has all these assets. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5).
"Fifth, the name Baptist is Christ-centered. It points to Christ Who died and rose again for us; it points to Christ as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world; it points to Christ alone as our Saviour. It therefore denies salvation by works, or by ordinances, or by birth, or by character, or by ancestral covenant. In symbol it puts to death and buries every claim anyone has on salvation by works. It indicates, by complete submission to the baptizer as God's agent, entire dependence upon God. This name also reminds us of John's oft-quoted promise that Christ would baptize His followers in the Holy Spirit." 11
Having frequently been blackened by vicious and imprecise nicknames from ancient times, we consider the appellation "Baptist" a forthright and honest one. To us the name Baptist speaks of New Testament faith and practice that has successively existed since the days of Christ and His apostles. In our minds it brings to view the kind of church established by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. It speaks to us of that Heaven-authorized gospel and gospel-baptism instituted by John and continued by Spirit-led men in every generation since then.
Baptist elder C. D. Cole had this to say about the Baptist name:
"The name Baptist is a denominational name to distinguish it from other denominations. There were no denominational names until there came to be distinct denominations. Before the time of the so-called Reformation under Martin Luther there were scattered churches under different names, and the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. The Reformation started in the Roman Catholic Church, and was only partial. The reformers took with them some of the heresies of Rome such as baptismal regeneration, a graded ministry, and a form of government much like that of Rome. And some of the Protestant denominations hated and persecuted Baptists.
"Baptists are sometimes accused of being narrow bigots because we believe Baptist churches are after the N.T. pattern. The line must be drawn somewhere, for all the hundreds of diverse and conflicting denominations cannot be the church Christ founded and to which He promised perpetuity...
"The writer is a Baptist but not a Baptist braggart. We lay no claim to superiority in character or conduct or education. When you find a Baptist with a superiority complex, you may be sure that he is an off-brand. The churches of the first century were not made up of perfect people in character and conduct. In an experience of salvation the sinner becomes nothing in his own eyes and Christ becomes all in all. Before his conversion Saul of Tarsus was proud and self-righteous, but after he trusted Jesus as the Christ he thought of himself as less than the least of all saints. See Eph. 3:8; Rom. 7:14-25; Phil 3:1-7; 1 Cor. 15:9.
"The first N.T. preacher was called John the Baptist: Matt. 3:1; 11:13; Luke 16:16. Proof that John's baptism was valid is in the fact that the followers of Christ and members of the first church had only John's baptism. The only difference between John's baptism and that of Christ is that John's looked forward to the coming of Christ, and since then valid baptism looks backward to the Christ who has already come. John baptized those who confessed their sins and who trusted the Christ who was to come: we baptize those who profess faith in Jesus Christ who has already come." 12
True Baptist churches follow both the instructions and the models contained in the New Testament and stand in succession to the first church. This qualifies true Baptist churches to administer valid baptism just as John and Christ's apostles did. Both Jesus and His apostles, incidentally, submitted to John's baptism (Matt. 3:13-17; John 1:35-37; Acts 1:21-22).
We can recognize no other baptism as valid, although our Protestant friends assure us that John's baptism is not Christian baptism. If it is not, we beg, tell us just when was "Christian baptism" begun? And, we ask, just who was Divinely authorized to initiate this modern baptism? We also would want to know just when the apostles and all those obedient to John's preaching were rebaptized with this new "Christian baptism?" We would also appreciate knowing just what this new "Christian baptism" depicts?
We believe honesty demands that those believers who are sailing under false colors (claiming to be Baptists when they are not) acknowledge their error and become sound Baptists. This would require submitting to the "baptism of John" at the hands of an ordained man administering baptism with the authority of a New Testament church. Such a "re-baptism" is repugnant to many "Baptists" who are Baptists in name only. They do not consider that Paul "re-baptized" twelve men in Ephesus because they lacked Scriptural baptism (Acts 19:1-5). If these "modern Baptists" remain adamant in their unwillingness to submit to Scriptural baptism, we would be gratified if they would change their colors. We believe that they would more precisely and honestly portray themselves before God and the world by removing "Baptist" from their names.
The Baptist Distinctive is the Protestant Dilemma
The following quote from one of our own generation represents a clear and thorough statement of the historic Baptist position. To point out that Baptist claims are based upon their concept of salvation and of baptism, it is stated:
"1. Any religious assembly that preaches a false gospel and/or practices a false baptism cannot be recognized as a true New Testament Church of gospel order. All such assemblies who fundamentally, characteristically and permanently preach a false gospel come under the indictment of Gal. 1:6-9.
"2. Salvation and a profession of faith are undeniably prerequisite to baptism. Salvation is not by means of baptism. True believing disciples are the only proper subjects for baptism. Immersion is the only proper mode of baptism.
"3. Scriptural baptism is absolutely necessary to church constitution, organization and existence, so much so, that where there is no Scriptural baptism there is no Scriptural church. No baptism, no church.
"4. There is an intimate and inevitable connection between the true doctrine of salvation and the proper administration of baptism. Scriptural baptism is the representation of and the identification with the Scriptural plan of salvation.
"5. According to the commands of Christ, the practice of the early churches of the New Testament, the Epistles of Paul, and the Confessions of Faith of all evangelical religious denominations... baptism as an ordinance, was delivered to the New Testament church to be administered by it according to Christ's commands until He returns.
"6. All the aspects of baptism, (the mode, subject, purpose and administrator) are irrevocably fixed and prescribed by Christ's example and commands. These are to remain permanent and unchanged. A consistent recognition of Christ's Kingship over the soul demands that these things be so, (Mal. 1:6; Luke 6:46), for Christ only has the authority to make, give or alter the doctrines and practices of the New Testament Church.
"7. Only churches of New Testament origin and New Testament order can give Scriptural baptism. Therefore, any religious society that preaches a false gospel cannot give Scriptural baptism.
"What are the ramifications of the concepts? Consider the further statements of the author we quote here:
"1. Strict Baptists have always believed that Catholicism is a false religion that preaches a false gospel, described no doubt in Rev. 17:1-18:24. Catholic assemblies cannot, therefore, give Scriptural baptism. Many others have taken the same position as to the invalidity of Catholic baptism. The Presbyterians, for example, took the same position at the Presbyterian General Assembly (Old School), May, 1845. This is recorded in "The Collected Writings of J.H. Thornwell" Vol. 3, pp. 277-413, Banner of Truth Edition, 1974. We state again, Catholic baptism is unscriptural, invalid, null and void.
"2. Any person with Catholic baptism has no baptism. Any denomination founded upon Catholic baptism has no baptism and therefore no church validity. All Protestant groups were formed by persons with Catholic baptism. The reason?... Number 3 above: 'No baptism, no church.' (See R.L. Dabney's Lectures in Systematic Theology," lecture 64, pp. 774-775, for the same conclusion, i.e., 'No baptism means no church'). Had Presbyterian minister, author, and theologian R.L. Dabney been consistent in his practice with the definition of baptism, he would have been compelled to be a Baptist!
"These concepts are the reasons for the "historic" Baptist practice of baptizing all those who came over to them from any religious society that is not of 'like faith and order.' This is why Baptists will not accept Protestant rantism. All Protestant denominations are founded upon Catholic and infant rantism." 13 "Rantism" from Greek "rhantizo" - to sprinkle. All brackets mine: C.A.P..
At issue, then, is this: if Baptists admit that Protestant "baptisms" are Scriptural and valid, they must also admit that Romish baptisms are Scriptural and valid because Rome is the originating source of Protestant baptisms. Consider these words:
"...no Christian Pedobaptist see glossary has any other baptism than he received from the priests of Rome. Luther, Calvin, Zwingle, Knox, and all the first ministers, and all those who composed the first societies of the Reformers, were baptized by Roman Catholic priests, and in the Church of Rome, and consequently their baptisms are unscriptural and invalid. But if their baptisms are invalid, then their societies can not be considered churches in any sense, as there can be no church without baptism; and if not churches, Protestant ministers have no Scriptural right to preach the Gospel, or baptize others into their societies. Moreover, by so doing they deceive and mislead the people, causing them to believe they are baptized, when, in fact, they are not; causing the people to believe that they are in visible churches of Christ, when, in fact, and according to the admissions of these leaders, they are not, but in human societies that can never administer the ordinances of Christ's Church.!" 14 Brackets mine: C.A.P..
This fact was recognized and agreed upon by representatives of a large Presbyterian body during the last century as follows:
"I was in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1829, (a body of about two hundred members,) when a question was sent us for decision: 'Are the baptisms of Popish priests to be accepted by our (Presbyterian) Churches as valid Baptisms?' It was discussed, and we should have voted 'No,' nearly unanimously; but an influential and more shrewd one -secretly reflecting that ALL our baptisms originally came from Popery - moved and obtained an indefinite postponement of the subject." 15
That Roman Catholicism became so corrupt as to provoke some within her walls to attempt a reformation is a well-known fact. She had corrupted the free grace of God into a works-religion of baptismal regeneration, penances, ritual prayers, prayers for the dead, prepaid indulgences to sin, grace coming through "the sacraments," etc., etc. Corruption of the gospel and gospel ordinances caused her to cease being a church of Christ. All agree that there can be no true church without the true gospel. This corruption also made invalid her ordinances that by this time she had perverted into soul-saving sacraments. Not being a church of Christ, she had no Divine authority to administer baptism.
Her "reformers," upon finding themselves ejected from the Romish church, founded churches suitable to their own thinking. They had been trained as Popish priests and brought much Romish "baggage" with them over into their new "Protestant" churches. They possessed Roman Catholic baptism that was no true baptism since she was apostate. They "baptized" others with that same Romish "baptism" for that was all they knew or had. Thus the Protestant "churches" are not churches at all in the Scriptural sense. Protestant baptisms are invalid, coming from apostate Rome which was no true church of Christ.
To be consistent, Protestants MUST receive Roman Catholic baptisms as equal to their own for Protestant baptisms are nothing more than a continuation of Romish baptisms. To reject persons having Catholic baptism would require that they "unbaptize and unchurch" themselves. Upon the insistence of the individual, many Catholic priests will immerse as the mode of baptism. Protestants, if consistent, will accept these immersions as valid baptisms in spite of the damnable heresies taught by Rome. The only people on earth who can be consistent and reject such immersions are sound Baptist churches.
The pastor of one "Baptist church" in the city of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada related to me that Anglican immersions would be received by his "Baptist church" since they recognized Anglican assemblies as "Christian churches." This illustrates the point. IF Catholic and Protestant churches are indeed churches of Christ, their immersions of believers must be valid. If such baptisms are valid, then the reception by Baptists of all such immersions is the logical conclusion that consistency demands.
Christ delegated authority to baptize to His New Testament kind of churches. Churches founded by some man are not Christ's churches. Neither are churches which have gone off into apostasy the Lord's churches, for if that were the case, Christ would have the Harlot for His bride! Only such regenerate persons as are immersed by Christ's churches have Scriptural baptism. This is the Baptist distinctive and the Protestant's dilemma.
In axiom form this can be presented in four statements.
A true Church of Christ is the only organization on earth divinely authorized to preach the Gospel or to administer Church ordinances.
A body, though once a true Church of Christ visible, apostatizing from its original and scriptural faith and order, and teaching doctrines in manifest contravention of them, can not be considered a Church of Christ and its ordinances as valid.
If the majority of a true church should fall away from the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, perverting the ordinances to the subversion of men's souls, and should exclude the minority that abides by the truth, such a majority, though it should retain the name, would not be entitled to the claims of being a Church of Christ, and all its acts and ordinances would be manifestly null and void.
The constitutional minority of any church, however small, holding fast the doctrine and order of the Gospel, though excluded and cast out by an apostate majority, must, in accordance with law and reason, be considered a true Church and its ordinances valid and scriptural." 16
There can be no doubt among Bible-believing Christians as to the apostasy of the Romish churches. Therefore it follows that her administrations are invalid. Protestant administrations, having issued from Rome, are similarly null and void of any Heavenly recognition. Only faithful Baptist churches established in succession from the first church have any claim to Divine authority to act in the matter of baptism.
Two Canadian Illustrations of Biblical Practice
As illustrative of the ongoing practice of Baptists, let us look at the following instances.
Caleb Blood in Canada
In 1802 Baptist elder Caleb Blood of the Fourth Baptist Church in Shaftsbury, Vermont volunteered to travel into what is now Ontario, Canada to do missionary work on behalf of the Shaftsbury Association. That area was then a wild and largely unsettled place. The inhabitants of this new country were British Empire Loyalists. They had not long before fled the United States and were carving out of the wilderness homes, farms and businesses for themselves. Elder Blood's allotted time for travel ran out when he reached the head of Lake Ontario - about the location of the present city of Burlington. He mentions in his journal that he could not go farther with these words:
"I must here mention a trying circumstance. Word came to me, with a request to go about fifty miles farther, to a place called Long Point Settlement, on Lake Erie, informing that there was a work of divine grace in that place; that there were thirty or forty persons stood ready for baptism, and no administrator whom they could obtain within two hundred miles of them; but I had my appointments back through the Province, and could not go to their relief..." 17
If Protestant clergy can administer valid baptism, the believers at Long Point Settlement were wrong to send for an ordained man - a man with authority from a Baptist church - to administer baptism. Elder Blood was wrong about the matter and needlessly upset that he could not help these people. If the administrator of baptism is unimportant, Elder Blood would no doubt have taken comfort that there were ministers of other denominations who could baptize these people. The accompanying record shows that there were Protestant ministers not far away and available to these folk at Long Point. Had he believed that Protestant ministers could administer valid baptism no doubt he would have recommended that these "thirty or forty persons" obtain the services of such a minister. The fact is that the immersions of Protestant ministers would not satisfy those people whom the Scriptures had made Baptists. These new converts knew better than to seek Scriptural baptism at the hands of Protestant ministers, and so did Elder Blood!
Neither did they believe that just any believer acting without church authority could administer valid baptism. Otherwise they might have got either Brother Fairchild or Brother Finch (both of whom were unordained but who preached in the Long Point area) to immerse them. Obviously these people, including Elder Blood, believed in those Baptist principles of both church authority and succession - the very things for which we contend in this volume.
Lemuel Covell and Obed Warren in Canada
The next year (1803) another Baptist elder named Lemuel Covell of Pittstown, N.Y. travelled into Ontario (then called "Upper Canada") doing missionary work. His companion in the work was Elder Obed Warren of Salem, N.Y. These two were able to visit the Long Point area previously referred to by Elder Blood. They reported in part as follows:
"At this place we found a number of Christian brethren, who had lived a number of years without the privileges connected with Gospel ordinances for want of an administrator. They had frequently sent the most pressing requests to one and another, but had always been unsuccessful... There are two brethren who improve in public an old Baptist way of saying there were two unordained men who publicly preached in that country, by the names of Finch and Fairchild. Brother Fairchild resides at some distance from the body of brethren, but visits them at times. Brother Finch lives among them and labors with them steadily; but neither of them are ordained, and when we arrived there, brother Finch had never been baptized." 18 Brackets mine: C.A.P.
Historic Baptist doctrine and practice, based as it is on the Bible alone, allows an unordained brother to evangelize. That same historic doctrine and practice also maintain that without church authority (baptism, church membership and ordination) none can properly administer the ordinances. This is the pattern of the New Testament! The pattern in the Book of Acts is clear: men baptized who had been previously baptized and ordained as either elders or deacons.
While there was a gathering of brethren who maintained Baptist principles in the Long Point area of Upper Canada, these very principles forbad them organizing themselves together as a church of Christ. Without someone coming to them with church authority to baptize them and set them in gospel order, they knew they could not be a church after the New Testament pattern. The two accounts cited above prove that Baptists both in Canada and the United States believed this, or they prove nothing at all.
Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find any endorsement of "free lance" organizing of churches or baptizing of converts! Indeed, Christ Himself did not enter His ministry of preaching and baptizing (through His disciples) until He (and they) had been baptized by John the Baptist.
John the Baptist is the only man in the world who had authority to baptize who was himself unbaptized. Remember, John the Baptist had direct commission from Heaven to preach and to baptize (John 1:6, 33). Christ commissioned His church to carry on the work of preaching, baptizing and teaching, if we may sum up the "great commission" in that fashion (Matthew 28:19-20). The specific command being given to a specific entity (His church) automatically excludes any and all other entities having authority to carry on that specific work.
Bear in mind that these early missionaries to Canada held to sound Baptist practice in this matter. Notice also that these events took place PRIOR to the coinage of the term "Landmarkism." It is also important to note that these men represented churches in the northeastern part of the young United States at a time shortly after the American Revolution. These were churches who had recent ties with Britain and other European countries. The two foregoing incidents illustrate that such practices were usual and approved procedures among mainline Baptists of that era.
If the reader will bear in mind the distinctions set forth in this present chapter, Baptist claims will be clearly understood as stated in Chapter Two: The Testimony of the Baptists.
1J.G. Bow, WHAT BAPTISTS BELIEVE AND WHY THEY BELIEVE IT, (Nashville, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, n.d.), pp. 4, 5.
Information furnished by The Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee indicates that agencies of the S.B.C. published this book by J. G. Bow from about the turn of the century utnil 1925.
2 News Item from "CVN" quoted in the PLAINS BAPTIST CHALLENGER, E. L. Bynum, ed., (Lubbock, TX, Tabernacle Baptist Church, April, 1990), p. 4.
3 "Evangelicals, Catholics Edging Closer", Rene DeCair, Associated Press Writer, (Tulsa World, April 9, 1994), p. 16.
4 DeCair, ibid.
5 W.A. Jarrell, BAPTIST CHURCH PERPETUITY, (Dallas, 1894), p. 6
6 C.D. Cole, DEFINITIONS OF DOCTRINE: THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH, Vol. III, (Lexington, KY, Bryan Station Baptist Church, n.d.), p. 12.
7 Cole, ibid., p. 16.
8 Robert Robinson, ECCLESIASTICAL RESEARCHES, (Cambridge, Francis Hodson, 1790), reprinted by Church History Research & Archives, pp. 134, 135.
9 That various Protestant powers actively persecuted Baptists and others who dissented from whatever group was the "established church" is a fact of history though often denied. Michael Servetus (1511-1553) "died in Calvin's Geneva, condemned as a heretic." (William P. Barker, WHO'S WHO IN CHURCH HISTORY, Grand Rapids, Baker, 1977, p. 251.) He was "burned in 1553 with the apparent tacit approval of Calvin" (ibid. p. 252).
The oft praised Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), ranks with Luther and Calvin as one of the 'greatest of the Reformers.' Baptists should be aware that, "He applauded... the execution of Servetus" and "recommended that the rejection of infant baptism, or of original sin, or of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, should be punished as capital crimes," (Schaff, quoted by Will Durant, THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION, Vol. VI, NY, Simon & Schuster, 1957, pp. 423-424). He was appointed over the secular inquisition that persecuted the Anabaptists of Germany and asked, "Why should we pity such men more than God does?" as he was sure that God had destined all Anabaptists to Hell (Smith, quoted by Will Durant, ibid. p. 423).
10 J.H. Grime, WHY AM I A BAPTIST, (Lebanon, TN, self publ., n.d.), p. 11.
11 W. E. Anderson, THE FIRST BAPTIST, (Little Rock, AR., The Challenge Press, 1972), pp. 120, 121.
12 C.D. Cole, op. cit., p. 12.
13 Bill Lee, Publisher's Foreword to A COMPLETE BODY OF DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL DIVINITY, (John Gill, London, Matthew and Leigh, 1809), reprinted by The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., Paris, AR., 1987, pp. vii, viii.
14 J.R. Graves, TRILEMMA, (Texarkana, Bogard Press, 1969), pp. 13, 14.
15 J.F. Bliss, POPERY AND PROTESTANTISM COMPARED, quoted by Graves, ibid., p. 16.
16 Graves, ibid., pp. 119-121.
17 Stuart Ivison and Fred Rosser, THE BAPTISTS IN UPPER AND LOWER CANADA BEFORE 1820, (Toronto, Toronto University Press, 1956), p. 36.
18 Ivison and Rosser, ibid., pp. 42, 43.
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