Archive for February, 2009

Baptist Why and Why Not (1900)

Edited by J. M. Frost
The Sunday School Board of
The Southern Baptist Convention

Chapter 2:  Why the Bible and Not Other Standards

By T. T. Eaton, D. D., LL. D.
Pastor Walnut Street Baptist Church
Louisville, Kentucky

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. – Isaiah 8:20.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. – I John 4:1.

For the prophecy came not in old times by the will on man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:21.


THERE are three reasons, either of which is decisive.


We are often told to

“Accept the truth wherever found,
On Christian or on heathen ground,”

and the inference is implied that there is some truth on heathen, not found on Christian ground. But no one has ever ventured to name any such truth. The simple fact is that whatever religious truths may be found in other sacred books or in works of philosophy, these same truths are found in the Bible, and here they are free from mixture with errors.

Ethics knows nothing higher or nobler than the moral teaching of the Bible. Amid all the wonderful progress of the race during the more than 1800 years since the last book of the Biblewas written, not the smallest addition has been made to Biblical ethics. No moral truth has been discovered beyond what is contained in the Bible. And the same is true of all other religious truth. If any man thinks some new religious truth has been discovered since the Bible was completed, he has only to attempt to produce it, and he will be convinced. What we must believe, what we must be and what we must do, are set forth in the Bible with a clearness and a completeness found nowhere else. Not a doctrine, nor an aspiration nor a duty is omitted.

Here are a few testimonies from great thinkers who will not be suspected of any bias in favor of the Book:

Fichte says of the Bible:  “This ancient and venerable record contains the profoundest and loftiest wisdom, and presents those results to which all philosophy must at last come.”

Renan says of the Gospel of Matthew:  “All things considered, it is the most important book in the world;” and of the Gospel of Luke, he says: “It is the most beautiful book in the world.”

“In the Bible,” says Coleridge, “there is more that finds me out than I have experienced in all other books put together. The words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being, and whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.”

Prof. Huxley said of the Scriptures:  “By what other books could children be so humanized and made to feel that each figure in that vast historical procession fills, like themselves, but a momentary space in the interval between the two eternities and earns the blessings or the curses of all time according to its effort to do good and hate evil.”

The other standards offered are, 1st, other sacred books, like the Vedas, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and 2nd, the Church, and 3rd, Reason.

Ist. All other books are weak in comparison with the Bible; and the great superiority of the Bible to these books being admitted by all who are likely to read this article, there is no need of arguing the point at length. A simple comparison of the lands where these other books are regarded as standard with the lands where the Bible is most believed in will convince the most skeptical.

2nd. The Church derives its authority from the teaching of the Scriptures. And the church using the term in its modern sense, to include all bodies of Christians-the church has ever taught the inspiration and authority of the Bible, although sometimes claiming the right to interpret it for the people. The meaning of the Scriptures, however, was ever the important thing. Ecclesiasticism has assumed to take charge of the Bible and to dole out its teaching to the people, but ecclesiasticism has never denied its authority. Often, as in the case of the Pharisees, the Scriptures were made “of none effect,” but like those Pharisees, ecclesiasticism admitted them to be the highest authority.  The result of withholding the Bible from the people and of filtering its teachings through ecclesiastical channels, are manifest in Spain and Italy.

3d. Shall we turn to reason? Then whose reason? Shall we seek to be guided by the reason of the wisest and best ? Who will select these for us ? Those most generally recognized as the wisest and best bow before the Bible. But reason can not avail us. The most it can do, in the most favorable conditions, is to save us from error, it cannot lead us to truth. The philosopher Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason-the highest authority on the subject-says:

“The greatest and perhaps the sole use of all philosophy, of all pure reason is, after all, merely negative, since it serves not as an organon for the enlargement of knowledge, but as discipline for its delimitation, and instead of discovering truth, has only the modest merit of preventing error.”

Prof. Huxley, in the Nineteenth Century forr February, 1889, quotes and endorses this utterance of Kant.

John Ruskin (Val D’Arno, sec. 55), quotes and commends the following language of Thomas Carlyle:

“Perceptive reason is the handmaid of conscience, but not conscience hers.  If you resolve to do right, you will do wisely; but resolve only to do wisely and you will never do right.”

In a letter to a friend, published in the London Christian, Herbert Spencer said:

“In my earliest years I constantly made the foolish supposition that conclusive proofs would change belief.  But experience has long since dissipated my faith in man’s rationality.”

None of these men quoted can be charged with bias in favor of evangelical religion.  They are the very ones to whom those who exalt reason as a standard naturally turn.  It is manifest, therefore, that reason is not to be made a standard in religion.  George Eliot has well said:  “When you get me a good man out of arguments, I will get you a good dinner by reading you the cookery book.”


The second ground for taking the Bible rather than other standards is that it alone is authoritative. It is the only one we are under obligation to accept. The Bible alone speaks “with authority and not as the Scribes.”  The Protestant rule of Faith as given by Dr. Robert Watts is as follows:

1. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, to the exclusion of the apocryphal books and tradition, contain all the extant word of God. 2. That they furnish the only infallible rule of faith and practice. 3. That the rule contained therein is complete, embracing all that man is to believe concerning God and all the duty that God requires of man.” (Faith and Inspiration, p. 86.)

All through the Bible its authority is asserted. Paul argues for the plenary inspiration of Genesis (26:4) when he writes to the Galatians (3:16) “He saith not and to seeds as of many, but as of one and to thy seed, which is Christ.”  Here the argument turns on the use of the singular rather than the plural. Jeremiah called “the roll,” the “Words of the Lord.” (36:6.)  Jesus quoted Deuteronomy as infallible, and as settling the questions raised by Satan, saying in reply, “It is written.” (Matt. 4:4, 7.) Our Lord affirmed the infallibility of the 82d Psalm by quoting from it (John 10:35) and saying: “The Scriptures can not be broken.” Indeed he argued the infallibility of the clause from the infallibility of the Scriptures containing it. These are but samples. Jesus and His apostles ever treated the Old Testament as fully inspired and hence of absolute and final authority on all questions treated of in its pages. Peter tells us (II Pet. 1:21): “For no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost.” (R. V.) And the apostles are put upon a par with the prophets (Eph. 3:5). Paul claims inspiration for the words he writes (1 Cor. 2-4, 13) and he enjoins that his epistles be read to the churches as Scripture (Col. 4:16). Peter calls the words of the apostles ”the commandment” of the Lord (II Pet. 3:2), using the strongest Greek word in the vocabulary for authority – εγτολη And Jude exhorts us to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.” (v. 3, R. V.)

It is not that men were spiritually elevated above their fellows so that with a broader and clearer vision they could instruct their fellows in spiritual things. It is not that certain seed thoughts or basal principles were communicated to men, which were to be expanded and developed along with the spiritual life of the ages, changing as circumstances might require-so that what is a correct statement of doctrine in one age is incorrect in another. Truth is not a system of “fluent and fluxions,” such as Newton discussed. Truth can not change. If two and two did not make four in the time of Abraham they do not make four now and never will make four, while if they do make four now, they always did and always will. No possible change of circumstances or development of mind can have the slightest effect on the truth. So the Bible is God’s Word to the world. His message to mankind, was delivered through chosen messengers, but delivered “once for all.” It is not subject to addition or development or modification of any kind. It is the absolute and final authority in all questions of faith and morals. We are not bound to believe or do anything because Buddha, or Mahomet, or Shakespeare, or Goethe, or Spencer says so. While we are bound to believe and do whatever the Bible says we must. “Thus saith the Lord” is an end of all controversy.


The third ground for taking the Bible rather than other standards is that it alone tells us what our souls need. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” said the astonished Peter, “thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68.) Dim and uncertain is the light of nature and of philosophy on the great questions of character and of destiny; so that Socrates, after thinking on these things as perhaps no other man has ever done, “felt,” so his great disciple Plato tells us, “the need of some ‘sure word of God’ to guide us in the right way.” The Bible is not one of a class of books. It is unique in its theme, its power and its authority. All other books are feeble in comparison. Scientific books tell us of matter, of force, of heat, light and electricity. How feeble all this in comparison with such utterances as “Let there be light,” “I am the light of the world,” and “All power hath been given unto me.” Books on political economy tell us of the laws of trade, of supply and demand, of how to develop the material resources of a country, and how to regulate taxation and the authority of officials. What are such things in comparison with the great themes of death, judgment to come and eternity?

Ruskin tells us of the pictures fading away on the stones of Venice and the crumbling walls of Florence. With a few touches the inspired penman gives us a picture of love and duty, and the story of Ruth and Naomi fades never away from our minds. Probably the best book besides the Bible is Shakespeare, and the best thing in Shakespeare is Hamlet. But is not the sorrow of a dreaming boy for his foully murdered father for that is Hamlet-trivial in comparison with the grand drama of Job, where God and the angels are spectators, and Satan wrestles with faith in the torn heart of the patriarch?

In other books we find such truths as men can spell out with their observations and experiments, and such as they can guess out with their philosophy, but in the Bible we have the revelation of God to us, and the opening of Heaven to our vision. Here we learn the remedy for sin. Here we are told how God can be just and the justifier of him that believeth. Here we find the “words of eternal life.” There is but one way of salvation and the Bible alone tells us of that. Nothing else but the Gospel has ever changed a bad man into a good man, or ever can; while the Gospel has done this in multiplied thousands of instances. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” and to be saved is our supreme necessity. Outside the Bible we can learn of God’s power, of His wisdom, of His glory, but only here can we learn of His love and of His mercy. Only here can we learn that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Only here can we learn of Him, whom to know is life eternal. Only here can we find the “sure word of God” for which Socrates sought, and lay hold on the hope which “maketh not ashamed.”

To take any other standard is to follow the creature rather than the creator. It is to accept the thoughts of men as superior to the wisdom of God. It is to turn our backs upon the only light of the world and go out into that outer darkness that knows no morrow forever.

In the market place at Worms, I was profoundly impressed as I stood before the Great Luther monument. Surrounded by statues of his coadjutors, all fronting in the same direction, and rising on a pedestal in its colossal proportions, is the bronze statue of Luther. His right foot is firmly advanced; In his left hand he holds a Bible, on which his right hand rests clenched.

The artist has seized the moment when the hero stood facing the Diet of Worms to answer for himself. Looking into that calm upturned face I could almost hear from those parted lips the noble words: “Here I stand; I can not do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” Answering to this statue, across the ocean in the land where the Bible has been widest open, there stands a companion statue. It is the monument of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. On a lofty pedestal is a colossal statue of faith pointing with one hand to the open Bible and with the other toward the open heaven.

Other standards are composed of men’s guesses, while in the Bible the great truths of God burn and glow with all the eloquence of heaven. And facing a gainsaying world it becomes us to plant ourselves squarely on God’s Word – for we can not do otherwise, God help us – and to point a sin-sick and guilt-blinded race to the open Bible and to the open heaven it reveals.


Read Full Post »

dispensationalism-vlachMichael J. Vlach.  Dispensationalism:  Essential Beliefs and Common Myths. Los Angeles: Theological Studies Press, 2008. $8.45

In my opinion, this 73 page book by Dr. Michael Vlach of the Masters Seminary is an excellent resource.

The book consists of four parts.  The first is a history of dispensationalism.  Dr. Vlach surveys variations within dispensationalism, including Classical Dispensationalism, Revised or Modified Dispensationalism and Progressive Dispensationalism.

The second part of the book is an exploration of what Dr. Vlach identifies as the six essential beliefs of dispensationalism:

1.  Progesssive revelation from the New Testament does not interpret or reinterpret Old Testament passages in a way that changes or cancels the original meaning of the Old Testament writers as determined by historical-grammatical hermeneutics.

2.  Types exist but national Israel is not a type that is superseded by the church.

3.  Israel and the church are distinct, thus, the church cannot be identified as the new or true Israel.

4.  There is both spiritual unity in salvation between Jews and Gentiles and a future role for Israel as a nation.

5.  The nation Israel will be both saved and restored with a unique identity and function in a future millennial kingdom upon the earth.

6.  There are multiple senses of “seed of Abraham,” thus, the church’s identification as “seed of Abraham” does not cancel God’s promises to the believing Jewish “seed of Abraham.”

In the third part of the book, Dr. Vlach also identifies and dispels five myths about dispensationalism:

Myth 1:  Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation.

Myth 2:  Dispensationalism is inherently linked with Arminianism.

Myth 3:  Dispensationalism is inherently Antinomian.

Myth 4:  Dispensationalism leads to non-lordship salvation

Myth 5:  Dispensationalism is primarily about believing in seven dispensations.

The fourth part of the book consists of a series of questions and answers about dispensationalism.

No matter what eschatological view you may hold, in my opinion this book deserves a wide reading if for no other reason to learn what one articulate theologian’s views are with regard to what dispensationalism is and what it is not.

Matt Waymeyer has reviewed Dr. Vlach’s book here.

Dennis Swanson has reviewed it here.

Andy Naselli blogged about the five myths here.

You can order the book directly from Dr. Vlach here.

Dr. Vlach’s 2004 Ph.D. dissertation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism can be ordered here.

Read Full Post »

David Porter is giving away one free Calfskin Premium Leather ESV Study Bible (retail: $239).

HT:  Justin Taylor

Read Full Post »

Dr. Russell Moore:

“If we want to reshape American culture, we need to give up on reshaping American culture. We need to turn to reshaping Southern Baptist churches. In order to save our influence, we must lose it.”

See full article here.

HT:  Sharper Iron

Read Full Post »

Some wonder today if the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention was truly worth it.  One needs to look no further than this article in the Associated Baptist Press for an example of why it was necessary.

HT:  Dr. Thomas White

Read Full Post »

Baptist Why and Why Not (1900)

Edited by J. M. Frost
The Sunday School Board of
The Southern Baptist Convention

Chapter 2:  The Distinctive Baptist Why

By R. M. Dudley, D. D.
Late President of Georgetown College
Georgetown, Kentucky

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. – Deut. 4:2.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. – Rev. 22:18-19.



(This paper was left by the distinguished author at the time of his death, and has been given to the Sunday School Board.)

IN the year 1879 I attended, as fraternal messenger from the Southern Baptist Convention, the Anniversaries of our Northern Baptist brethren at Saratoga, New York. At the same time and place was held the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. I remember as a pleasant incident of that occasion, a visit of the Rev. Dr. Jessup, Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, to a meeting of his Baptist brethren. Being invited to speak he urged upon them the importance of greater devotion to the work of Foreign Missions (Dr. Jessup himself a foreign missionary). Failing in this he asked the Baptists what reason they could give to God for their separate existence as a denomination. The interrogation of Dr. Jessup chanced to be in a line of my own thinking and stirred me up to the question afresh;-what reason is there for the separate existence of the Baptists as a denomination? Why should we have our separate churches, ministers, colleges, boards, missionaries and societies? Why not merge our existence and enterprises into those of our fellow Christians of other denominations? This is a question that will apply to others as truly as to us; but we are responsible for our own existence and must give answer for the same to God and to a generous public whose sympathy and support we desire. I wish there could be an intelligent, candid and loving discussion of this question by every one of the denominations of Protestant Christendom. The public has the right to demand of each one of the different sects, upon the penalty of withholding sympathy and support, a reason for its separate existence. As to ourselves, we recognize the justice of the demand and will offer our answer. Let the people hear and judge of the strength of our plea.


The first reason that would arise in the mind of an intelligent, free people would likely be: This is a land of religious liberty, and if the Baptists wish to maintain a separate existence no one has the right to object. According to this the right to our separate existence lies in the fact that we wish it.

I desire emphatically to deny this right and the principle upon which it rests. Religious liberty does not consist in the right to do as one pleases in religious matters. Government can not hinder my being a Baptist. This is true: but it is very poor logic to say that because Government has no right to interfere with my religion, therefore I may do as I please.

The exercise of religious liberty is subject to two very important restrictions: (a) It must not run counter to the will of God. Christ said, ”Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” There is no liberty of man that can supervene this law of the risen Lord. In accordance with this the apostle writes: ”As free . . . using your liberty … as servants of God.” ”To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth,” said the Lord. ”The church is the pillar and ground of the truth.” There is no room left for the exercise of my individual preferences in the kingdom of Christ. Others may claim their right to a separate denominational existence on the ground that this is a land of religious liberty; but God forbid that Baptists should urge this poor plea,

(b) Again, the exercise of our religious liberty must not interfere with our duty to our fellow men. Brethren, I solemnly avow that in the present religious condition of mankind the needless multiplication of denominations is a crying sin against humanity. The great bulk of the human family are without the knowledge of the true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Think of this, and then look at this typical town. It has 1,500 inhabitants. There are in it six or seven Protestant denominations. Each has its own house of worship, minister, services. These represent thousands of dollars every year. Yet the people who attend services might be easily gathered into one house of worship and served by one minister. Before the bar of reason and conscience, the remaining five or six with the attendant cost must stand as a needless expenditure of labor and means, for which I believe God will hold men responsible. The needless consumption of men and means in this way is to-day more than enough to supply the destitution of our country. In our own State it is more than we all have ever done to give the gospel to the heathen. If we had all the men and all the money that we need for Christian work at home and abroad the case would be different. But how does it stand ? Here are six or seven men to supply a population of 1,500; and in China or India there is one minister to four or five million. Needlessly to multiply denominations because we wish to, while the bulk of the human family is dying without the knowledge of Christ, is folly and wickedness; it is rebellion against the last command of Christ; and argues an indifference to the perishing souls of man. Again, I say, with increased emphasis, God forbid that Baptists should justify their separate denominational existence on the ground that this is a land of religious liberty and no one has the right to interfere with us.


In the further discussion of this subject, it would be an injustice not to recognize the substantial unity that exists among the various Protestant denominations upon many of the cardinal doctrines of the gospel. I need mention only the divinity and messiahship of Christ, his atoning death, his resurrection, ascension and mediatorial reign, the office of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, the necessity of repentance and faith, the general judgment and the rewards and punishments of the future life. I gladly recognize all this and rejoice in it. While not agreeing about everything, I praise God that there is so much about which we are agreed. Some one may say: ”If there exist this substantial unity why let minor differences disturb you? Let each go his way as he thinks best and all live in peace.” In answer we ask, Does not so great unity demand that we strive after complete unity and escape the many and grievous ills of having so many different sects? If we differed about the things upon which we are agreed and agreed only upon the things about which we differ, then truly we would be compelled to say, Let each go his way and live in peace. But since there exists so great community of sympathy and thought and effort among us why should there be six or seven Protestant denominations in a town of a few hundred inhabitants? There should be an intelligent, candid and loving discussion of this subject.


I wish now to clear the subject of a serious misapprehension. The Baptists are often charged with dividing Christendom upon a bare ordinance, and that one of the externals of religion. We are charged with building up a denomination upon the shallow and narrow basis of a mere rite; with filling the air with our cries about the little thing of how much water is to be used in baptism. We are charged with separating ourselves from others by the arbitrary restrictions that we have placed around the Table of our common Lord, and with bigotry arrogating to ourselves a wisdom and sanctity superior to others. These are the characteristics that are supposed to mark the people called Baptists.

Even among many Baptists this subject fails of an intelligent understanding and therefore of a correct and proper statement. Ask scores of Baptists what is the difference between their own and other denominations and the answer will be: Baptists believe in immersion. This is a correct answer as far as it goes; but it is a very imperfect and shallow presentation of the truth. Or perhaps the answer would be: Baptists practice close communion. This again is correct so far as it goes; but as a full and fair answer to the question it is superficial and misleading. Even intelligent Baptists are sometimes very careless in the statement of the fundamentals of the denomination. Dr. Gotch, the president of a Baptist College in England, says in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, perhaps the most splendid monument of learning in the nineteenth century, ”The Baptists as a denomination are distinguished from other denominations by the views they hold respecting the ordinance of baptism.” To proceed from so high a source this statement is a marvel of shallowness and carelessness. I demur to the statement of the venerable Dr. Armitage in the North American Review for March, 1887, that the distinguishing difference of the Baptists is ”in the demand for a positive moral change wrought in the soul by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit as an indispensable qualification for membership in the churches.” And what shall I say of that popular and useful little book from the pen of the venerable Dr. Pendleton, ”Three Reasons Why I am a Baptist?” A truce to all these brethren, honored and beloved as they are; but in the statement of the fundamental distinction of their denomination they need to go deeper and lay bare the broader foundation that the full truth may be known.


The fundamental principle of the Baptists is their belief in the supreme authority and absolute sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures; and their separate existence is the practical and logical result of their attempt to apply this principle in all matters of religion. This is the bed rock on which the denomination rests; and we do not come down to the true foundation until we reach this. I will show you by the shortest of short methods that the statements of Drs. Gotch and Armitage and Pendleton come short of the full truth. Ask Dr. Gotch why the Baptists believe in immersion; and he will tell you because the Scriptures teach it. Ask him if some other way would not do as well his reply would be: We have no right to alter any of the plain and positive commands of the Bible. This brings us to the bed rock truth stated just now. In the same way you ask Dr. Armitage why Baptists believe in a converted church membership; and he will tell you that it is because the Scriptures so teach. But why not admit to the church all who belong to the same family and nation? The answer would be: We have no right to go beyond the teachings of the Scriptures. If you ask Dr. Pendleton why he practices close communion so-called, that is, why he restricts the invitation to the Lord’s Table to baptized believers; there is but one answer that he would think of giving you: The Bible teaches us that the Supper was ordained by Christ; and he has taught us in his Word that only baptized believers are to approach it; and that we have no right to go contrary to his Word.

Let us look a moment at this principle and its importance. A father says: Son do this. But his son does something else. When asked about it he says: Well, I thought that what I did was as well as what you told me to do. A master says to his servant: Do this. But he does something else and when asked about it replies that what he did was altogether more convenient and withal more proper. Such a course of conduct in a son or servant when deliberately settled upon is a direct arraignment of the wisdom and authority of the father or master. Baptists say that in matters of religion there must be absolutely nothing like this. God’s Word is the supreme and infallible rule for our guidance. We must not go contrary to it in any article of belief or in any duty enjoined. It is no partial revelation. By it the man of God is thoroughly furnished unto all good works. This is the fundamental position of the Baptists; and every peculiarity which characterizes them is the practical outcome of this principle.

This is the ground on which the Protestants of the sixteenth century planted themselves-the ground on which Luther stood in his great struggle against the Church of Rome. When he stood at the Diet of Worms in the presence of the emperor and the dignitaries of the Church and State and was called on to recant, his reply was, ”I am bound by the Holy Scriptures: my conscience is held by the Word of God. Here I stand; I can not do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” In accord with this is the justly celebrated saying of Chillingworth: ”The Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible is the religion of Protestants.” Baptists say that the decrees of Popes, Councils, Assemblies, Conventions or what not are of no authority save as they are sanctioned by the Word of God. Traditions are worthless save for their historical or probative value.


And let me show you how it is that this fundamental principle has led to the separate existence of the Baptists and to the peculiarities that mark their denominational life.

(a) Take for example, the question of baptism. Luther said that the primitive baptism was immersion and that the primitive practice should be restored. The Baptists said the same thing and following out their belief immersed all who came to them even though they had been sprinkled before. Strange to say, for this Luther hated the Baptists hardly less than he hated the Catholics. Calvin said that the word baptize means to immerse and that it is certain that immersion was the practice of the primitive churches, but that in this matter the churches ought to have liberty. Here now are the points of agreement and the points of difference between the Reformers on the one hand and the Baptists on the other. They all agreed that immersion was the practice of the primitive churches. Luther and Calvin thought that they were at liberty to practice another form, the Baptists said that we ought to do what the Master commands; and that we have no liberty to change a positive ordinance which he has ordained. Here the work of separation begins. The issue was not as to what the act of baptism is, but whether we have the right to change it. Before the court of the highest scholarship of the world it has never been an open question as to what the true baptism is. It really is not now, as it was not in the time of Luther and Calvin. The question is about the right to change it; and it is not that Baptists think too much of one form above another. I am frank to say for myself, that if it were a matter left to our choice whether we should immerse or sprinkle, while immersion is a beautiful and significant ordinance and sprinkling is a meaningless ceremony, still I would give up immersion rather than divide Christendom on a mere rite:-I say if it were left to our choice. But it has never been left to our choice: And when others say that they will change the ordinance, the question between them and us is, not what is the true baptism but whether there is any right or authority to change it. Baptists do not yield their position about baptism because it is the surface indication of a great underlying principle. Principles are of use to us because of the guidance they afford us in practical life. What honor or consistency is there in avowing a principle and then denying it in our daily conduct ? We see how it is then that the peculiarity of Baptists upon immersion results from their fundamental position. They must be peculiar or they must give up the principle that the Word of God is our supreme and all-sufficient rule.

(b) Take the Baptist peculiarity upon infant baptism, so-called. They refuse to practice it or to recognize it, because the Scriptures afford no warrant whatever for it. Luther’s struggle here was great. He saw that the Bible says nothing in favor of infant baptism. The question with him was: Shall we give it up as our principle requires? In fact infant baptism had gained so great a hold upon the public heart that Luther feared the consequences of his radical and penetrating principle and hence modified his position and said: The Word of God does not forbid it and so I will retain it. Zwingli was hesitating and perplexed and failed at last because he did not have the courage of his convictions. The Baptists said: We will stand by the principle. The Word of God does not authorize the baptism of infants but only of believers. Here the work of separation is still going on and upon the same principle; namely, the supremacy and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures. The question of the baptism of infants was simply the surface indication of the underlying principle. The opposition of the Baptists to infant baptism was also strengthened by the vicious error that lay under it, viz.: the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Infant baptism had its rise in the mischievous idea that any one dying without the waters of baptism went straight to the flames of torment. This is one of the palpable facts of history. Baptists are sometimes charged with making too much of baptism. In the light of history the charge is ludicrous. One of the peculiarities of the Baptists is their opposition to those who, in times past, made so much of baptism as to contend that without it new-born infants could not get to heaven. If you will suffer the remark I will say that the Baptists are the only people who have never made either too much or too little of the ordinance of baptism. They make no more of it and no less of it ’than the Scriptures require.

(c) Take the peculiarity of the Baptists respecting the Lord’s Supper. They believe that it is the Lord’s ordinance, not theirs; and that they have no right to make any other use of the ordinance than that which the Lord has ordained. He tells us that it is to show forth his death till he comes; and that it is to be administered only to baptized believers. We do not profess to be better, wiser, holier or in anywise above others except in our rigid adherence to the terms that he has ordained for the government of this ordinance. Suppose that a citizen of the English government should undertake to vote at one of our elections for president of the United States. The judges of the election would be compelled to refuse him: He might claim to be a more intelligent man than any of the judges, of better social position, of greater wealth, of truer knowledge of American institutions; still they could not allow him to vote because he was unnaturalized. It would involve a violation of their solemn oath if they should allow him to vote. Pity ’tis that sometimes the administrators of human law have more respect to a strict obedience to its requirements than do the administrators of the divine law.


I am not a Baptist because Baptists practice restricted communion, or immersion, or refuse infant baptism. I am a Baptist because by the fundamental principle of Protestantism I am bound by the Word of God in all matters of faith and practice. I believe in immersion not because I believe in one act above another but because the Bible teaches it; so of close communion; and so of the rejection of infant baptism. For these peculiarities as peculiarities I care nothing at all. Indeed I am sorry that we are peculiar in these matters. But these peculiarities embody an underlying principle in religion that is more important than reputation or life itself. And to surrender these peculiarities is to surrender that principle. And if an honest adherence to it and an honest endeavor to practice it bring odium upon us let us have the manliness to bear it. To seek odium is detestable; to run from the post of conscience or of duty to avoid it, is cowardly and traitorous.

And let us give our principles our hearty sympathy, our earnest prayers, our cordial and liberal support. To what better cause can we devote our time, our energies, our means, ourselves? As a group of Christian men and women were standing on the shore gazing after a ship, going out to sea and on which a number of missionaries had embarked for foreign lands, one of the group enthusiastically exclaimed, ”That is what ships were made for, to carry missionaries to the heathen.”

If I am a Baptist and if I am proud of it, I want that it shall affect me not in the way of making me narrow and bigoted and intolerant, but humble, patient, loving towards those who differ from me, and hearty, generous, energetic and persevering in the use of my time, talents and means for the furtherance of the good cause. Let us show our devotion to our principles, not by boastfulness and arrogance, but by a watchful attention to the needs of the cause we love. Thus shall we best show to men our fidelity and zeal; and thus best help the truth in its onward march to complete and final victory.

Read Full Post »

Baptist Why and Why Not (1900)

Edited by J. M. Frost


THIS book is dedicated to the Baptist brotherhood of the world. Baptists are one in contending for the faith; one in their history and in the heritage of their fathers; one in their purpose to preach the gospel of the grace of God among all nations; and one in their championship of liberty, civil and religious.

This unity is not marred but strengthened rather by the condition that the Baptist host is divided territorially, that the Baptists of England and of Canada, of the North and of the South have each a separate organization for the furtherance of their work and the fulfillment of their missions. In this instance division is strength, and offers an opportunity for the cultivation of fraternity in the highest degree, and each may rejoice in the splendid achievements wrought by the others.

Baptists are a mighty host for God. According to statistics, their membership in the world reaches nearly five millions, divided numerically as follows: In the South, as the constituency of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1,586,709; in the South also, as the constituency of the Baptist National Convention (colored), 1,561,030; in the other states of the Union, 1,006,682; in other countries of the world, 786,701. By virtue of our fundamental principles, each person in these many millions has stood out before his own congregation individually, and for himself made confession of personal sin, declared his repentance toward God and his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, professed to have been the subject of divine power, and to have experienced the working of divine grace; has been buried with Christ in baptism and raised again to walk in newness of life to the glory of God. Following the rule applied in such cases, and multiplying this membership by five, gives a Baptist population of nearly twenty-five millions, a vast army indeed, standing everywhere for fundamental principles.

Baptists have put much of their strength into institutions of learning and sought in every way the advancement of education.. Their school property in the United States according to the Baptist Year Book, is as follows:

Institutions No. Value of property Endowment Vols. in Library
Theological Seminaries 7 $2,660,873 $2,392,180 160,734
Universities and Colleges 94 20,534,982 13,062,672 748,532
Academies, Seminaries and Institutes 77 4,191,917 731,079 83,089
Total 178 $27,386,772 $16,185,929 992,345

Next to the churches Baptists have in their schools the greatest source of power for projecting themselves into the future, for spreading their principles throughout the nations, and for influencing the thought and literature of the ages. It is their purpose that Christ be honored in these schools and colleges, that the Bible be given enthronement as the Word of God, that learning in its highest and noblest forms be subservient to Christianity and find its supreme glory in the glory of the cross.

Baptists have a distinctive faith, and yet hold much in common with people of other names; indeed, their faith is the most universal faith. All Christians hold the baptism of believers, but division comes by adding the ”baptism of infants;” all hold that immersion is baptism, but a wall of partition is made by the adding of ”sprinkling or pouring;” all hold that baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper, but the division comes by asking a violation of this principle; all believe in the Scriptures as the rule of faith, but some, insisting upon the authority of other things, stand apart from the Baptists. Our people are as stout as the stoutest in holding fast and true the great doctrine of election with its co-ordinate doctrines, and yet are nothing behind the most earnest in emphasizing the freedom of the human will, and in proclaiming the gospel as the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Baptists have a singular advantage in the completeness of their faith, which in its very roundness is touched, tangent-like, by the faith of others, so that they come into accord at many points both in belief and practice.

But notwithstanding the many and important doctrines which are common to all evangelical Christians, there are yet fundamental and essential differences, so that the creed of one is not the creed of others. While we may magnify and rejoice in the agreement between the several denominations, yet no good but rather harm will come if we ignore or even make little of the differences. It is far better to recognize these differences, and understand them as differences in our interpretation of the Word of God and to cultivate at the same time earnestness in searching the Scriptures with a persistent purpose to follow where they lead. We accept the Scriptures as an all-sufficient and infallible rule of faith and practice, and insist upon the absolute inerrancy and sole authority of the Word of God.

We recognize at this point no room for division, either of practice or belief, or even sentiment. More and more we must come to feel as the deepest and mightiest power of our conviction that a ”thus saith the Lord” is the end of all controversy. With this definitely settled and fixed, all else comes into line as regards belief and practice. Church relation and membership must be determined not by family ties nor business consideration, nor social conditions, nor personal convenience, but simply and solely by the teaching of the Word of God; and if conviction makes men stand apart, then better stand apart than prove false to one’s highest self. The noblest and mightiest union is the union formed in convictions-none other is worth the naming.

The ”Baptist Why and Why Not,” is a denominational work, presenting a comparative study of denominational creeds. The writers, twenty-five in number, have set forth with fairness and ability what is believed by other denominations, and have put over against this by way of contrast the things which distinguish the belief of our people from the belief of others. ”A Confession of Faith,” as viewed and used by Baptists, whether individually or in their churches, is simply an expression of what they believe the Scriptures teach concerning the several points of doctrine and practice. It is only a declaration of faith showing who we are and what we are, somewhat as the flag floating above the steamer at sea shows ’its nationality. By this declaration of principles, and in the name of our God, we set up the banner that it may be displayed because of the truth.

All Christian people are alike in accepting the Bible for their creed-of course, but beyond this is a question of immense moment at this time, indeed at all times; namely, what do you believe about the Bible? What do you believe the Bible teaches? These questions are basal, and have their answer, so far as Baptists are concerned, in the Declaration of Faith printed at the close of this volume, and of most general use among Baptist churches of this country. To see our belief in contrast with the belief of others is instructive. The different writers have written not only with marked ability, but also with entire freedom from the controversial spirit as that term is generally understood. It has been the one controlling aim not to offend, but to instruct; not to confuse, but to discriminate; not to depreciate others, but to set out and emphasize the things which are believed among ourselves

The ”Baptist Why and Why Not,” is not only doctrinal, but also eminently practical. Going beyond the sphere of doctrine, it sets out also almost the whole round of church life and Christian activity. It pleads for missions; it pleads for denominational schools as the highest form of Christian education; it pleads for the denominational paper and literature; it pleads’ for Sunday Schools in all our churches as fostering the mightiest elements of power; it pleads for the exemplification of the noblest principles God ever gave to men; it can hardly fail to meet its purpose of being an effective ”campaign book,” giving emphasis to the faith of our people, and furtherance to all our denominational interests. This book is meant to be a power, and a power it will surely be, in defense of the faith of our fathers, the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It is the Bible truth shining through the brain and heart of this generation out into the future, to illumine the pathway of our people in the years to come. In sending it forth on this, the first day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred, the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention ventures the hope that it will find its way into many homes and everywhere prove a power for usefulness, to establish the kingdom of Jesus and hasten the day of his coronation.



J. M. Frost

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »