Archive for April, 2009

LET us consider two matters in connection with our Sunday school work as Baptists – first, several reasons for the existence of the Sunday school, and, second, some suggested methods for increasing its efficiency.

Why a Sunday School in a Baptist church?  Several reasons suggest themselves.


We must acknowledge with regret that a great many persons have a very mistaken conception of the real nature of its work.  They think that it is merely a place for the care of the children on Sunday morning-a sort of World’s Fair “Baby Room.”  So widespread is this erroneous idea that in almost every community when boys get to wearing long pants and standing collars they think they are “too old to go to Sunday school.”  They accent in speech and thought the “Sunday” and forget that it is a “school.”  The Sunday school in truth is that agency of Christianity to which is especially committed the teaching of the Scriptures. If we fail to thoroughly realize this fact we shall fail in our appreciation of its purpose and power.


More than any other denomination, we Baptists need a well organized, well equipped Sunday school in every church-indeed in every mission station.  We need the training that it will give.

a. As to Doctrines.

This is emphatically true because of our very polity.  A religious organization without the usual constitution and by-laws, book of discipline or any such thing; a denomination calling no man lord, and without appeal to any earthly court, priest or potentate; a people with but one book and that book the Bible; surely if we fail to “Search the Scriptures” – if we fail to teach God’s Word, there can be no hope or expectation of our occupying that position which it is our duty and privilege to occupy.

b. As to Giving.

A Sunday school in every Baptist church and that school given a proper conception of its true work, would soon supply us with a great host of trained, systematic givers instead of a multitude that no man can number that take pleasure in a freedom they claim to possess.

As Baptists we are to-day facing the great question of how shall we enlist all our people in the financial support of the cause of the world’s evangelization?  On every hand men and women are saying, “Here am I, send me;” but for lack of means in the Lord’s treasury, they are not sent.  Organize a Sunday school in every Baptist church, give to that school the one work of teaching God’s Word, of imparting His commandments-and we shall see such a quickening in the gifts of our people as has never yet been seen.


The Sunday school is the greatest of all the agencies given to the churches of Jesus Christ for bringing the world to God.  This is true, in the first place, because it is a school, and there must be knowledge before there can be belief.  There must be fact before faith.  It is true, in the second place, because the material upon which it works is usually in the plastic state.

Daniel Webster once asked Thomas Jefferson the patriotic question:  “What is to be the salvation of our nation?”  After a pause, Jefferson replied:  “Our nation will be saved, if saved at all, by teaching the children to love the Savior.”  Solomon’s saying, “Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” today has the warrant of every century’s experience that has passed since he said it.  “Lycurgus,” says Plutarch, “resolved the whole business of legislation in the bringing up of the youth.”

Statistics gathered by associations and conventions show that more than ninety per cent of all the membership of all our churches have come to us from the ranks of the Sunday school.  It is further clearly established not only as to the organized church, but also as to our mission stations, that without a Sunday school we need hardly hope for increase, for progress, for conversions.


Some persons have an idea that the Sunday school is not a Bible institution, but is purely manmade.  They say that Robert Raikes started the movement.  There never was a more mistaken notion.  Robert Raikes simply revived in England what had been in existence in Palestine before the time of Christ.  Let us remember that preaching the Word is not the same thing as teaching the Word.  The preacher proclaims the truth; the teacher examines it with his students by questions and answer.  Both urge the acceptance-the preacher by general exhortation, the teacher by personal application.  You can preach to trees and stones, but you can’t teach them.  The gospel is meant for men, and so the teaching of it (the work of the Sunday school) is commanded:

a. By Christ’s Example.

Christ was both preacher and teacher, and yet-an examination of some passages in the New Testament will show us that His special, emphatic work was that of teaching.  In Matthew 4:23 and 7:29 we find, he went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues as one having authority; and in Mark 1:22 that they were astonished at his doctrine for he taught not as the Scribes.  Sometimes it was with one scholar, as Nicodemus or the woman at Jacob’s well, and then again the crowd, as in Mark 10:1.  He not only taught in the synagogue, and by the seaside, but in the streets, as indicated by Luke 13:26.  So important was this teaching work to the Master that he never let an opportunity escape; even during the feast he went into the temple and taught, as in John 7:14, and early in the morning as in John 8:2.  When asked by the high priest of his disciples and his doctrine, he replied, “I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple.”

b. By the Apostles’ Example.

Among the first of the apostles to be persecuted were Peter and John, and reference to Acts 4:18 and 5:28, 42, shows that it was because of their teaching. In Acts 11:26 we are told that Barnabas and Saul conducted a school of twelve months duration, and as one of the results “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”  And a further result was the qualifying of others who became teachers.  This is the first account we have of what in this day we call a normal school, judging from the work that followed.

The apostle Paul, though a great preacher, relied very much upon teaching.  In 1 Cor. 4:17 he says, “I teach everywhere in every church.”  And he means by that the method of asking and answering questions, the only way that true teaching can be done.  Refer to 1 Cor. 14:19 and you see he urges the value of teaching with the voice. In 1 Tim. 6:2 Paul tells the young apostle to teach and exhort, showing that he recognized the value of both and that he did not regard them as one and the same thing.

To the Sunday school is committed this important work begun by Jesus Christ and followed up by his apostles, as to no other agency connected with a church of God.

c. By the Great Commission.

As Baptists, the Great Commission, as recorded in Matthew 28:19- 20, contains our marching orders.  It naturally falls into three parts-making disciples, baptizing them, teaching them.  The first is the mission work, the second the observance of his ordinance symbolizing His death and resurrection, and the third, imparting His commandments.  That is our work, and with us as Baptists the Sunday school is organized for obeying the last or third division of the Great Commission.

To conclude this part of our investigation, we Baptists need the Sunday school because of its efficiency as a training school for our denominational doctrines which we ought either to teach or abandon; because of its efficiency as an evangelizing agency, one command being to evangelize the world; and, lastly, because it is commanded in the Scriptures, indirectly by the example of Christ and the apostles, directly by the words of the Great Commission.  We need it as a denomination.  We need it as Christians.  Being responsible for the use of the best instrumentalities possible, we can not afford to be without it.  Claiming to be followers of the author of the Great Commission we dare not be without it.


Realizing the great value, the incalculable blessing possible to the Sunday school, the demand is upon us as Baptists to extend the work.  How shall we do it ?

1. By a wide reach to interest the people.

We organize all sorts of forces to reach the churches.  We urge the importance of broadcasting our literature in all our homes.  We hold mass meetings, institutes and conventions to stir our people in behalf of missions.  These are good, but have we not gone ahead of the foundation work and erected a structure that could not stand?  In some communities there are many; in most communities there are a few that deeply feel the great importance of a well organized Sunday school.  The work before us as Baptists is that of enlisting our whole people in this great work.

2. By the whole church being concerned for the success of the Sunday school.

Our most serious trouble as Baptists is not in getting a Sunday school organized in every church so much as enlisting the sympathy and cooperation of all the members.  And to this work we believe we need first of all to address ourselves.  The great majority of our churches are content with their ability to report to the association each year the fact that they have a Sunday school, giving but little thought or concern about the work committed to it or how that work is being done.  In too many of the churches the Sunday school is almost a separate organization and is in all respects so treated.  A closer relation is needed, and the more intimate it shall be made the more certainly may we look for an extension of the work.

3. By organization for increased attendance and better methods.

An inquiry in towns, cities and country neighborhoods has revealed the lamentable fact that less than one-fourth of our population in the southern states, not including the larger cities, are outside of the Sunday school.  We are not surprised with the condition in the large cities, but when these are left out, and our small towns, cities and even country districts only are considered the showing is cause for deep concern.

The cause for this is due largely to our want of systematic effort to change it.  And this is all wrong.  One of the very first things to be kept in our view in our Sunday school organization is that of reaching all the people.

As Baptists we have made a great mistake in this matter.  With a church organization so near the people our Sunday schools should swarm with young and old.

House to house visitation, as observed by a few schools, if regularly and persistently pursued by all, would bring into our ranks such a multitude as we have not dreamed of.  The people are all about us. We have said “come” in a very quiet, orderly way but have not gone “out into the highways and hedges and compelled them to come in.”  The house that fails to do this will be empty.  The house that obeys the command “may be filled.”

An illustration of this comes to us as we write.  A little over one year ago there was a Baptist Sunday school in the little town of P. with 45 to 60 members enrolled.  The superintendent of the school attended an Institute that was held in a neighboring village and during its sessions became deeply concerned for the extension of the work at his home.  House to house canvassing was freely talked about at the Institute and on returning to the village of P. he at once organized this work in the interest of his own school.  As a result of that effort, in less than one month the little school of 45 to 60 had run up to 175, and soon to over 200.  As a further but natural result, a revival of religion soon began in the church and over 150 persons professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only do we need to organize for largely increased numbers, but also for better methods of management and teaching.  We must at once come to understand that the Sunday school demands the very wisest management and the most devoted and efficient teaching.

We are demanding these things for our day schools but we have sadly lost sight of their greater necessity for the Sunday school.  And this accounts for so much of our work that is weak, unstable, not to say almost wholly wanting in attractive, holding power.

It was a great supper that had been prepared for those in the highways and hedges, streets and lanes – not a scanty, uninviting meal.  There is abundance in the Gospel out of which to provide such a feast that all may be fed; and when they have freely and joyously partaken they will come again.

We need the most efficient and godly members of the church for the officers and teachers of the Sunday school – men and women who realize something of the great possibilities of the Sunday school, and who will give of their time, their talents and their means for its success.  And we need organized methods for the training of these teachers.  Just as a Normal school, the Teachers’ Institute and the Summer school are being established in all our states in easy reach of the day school teachers, so we must organize for the enlightenment and helpfulness of the Sunday school teachers and workers.

4. By making the Sunday school work a part of our educational system.

Not only are special chairs for technical education being added to private and state schools but the same is true of our denominational schools and colleges, and therefore it is not necessary that our boys and girls shall go away from home in order to be trained for preaching, teaching, dentistry, law, mining, milling, mechanics, etc.  “They can be trained in these various lines here in the south by the very best instructors.”  But how about Sunday school teachers?  So far as we remember, not a school in the south, outside of our Theological Seminary, pretends to prepare students for teaching the Bible.

A few of the schools have added what is called “A course in Bible Study,” or a “Chair of the Bible;” but not in one of these, so far as we know, do they pretend to instruct in the work of teaching the Bible.

But some will say a person can not teach what he does not know, and can teach if he knows what to teach.  The last part of that proposition is a mistake.  There are plenty of people that know much of the Bible and yet are not able to impart that knowledge.  Many of these with a little special training would make splendid teachers in our Sunday schools.  The truth is, for lack of training we have but few competent teachers in these schools.  Once realize the great possibilities of the work and we shall find preparation for doing it in the most efficient way possible being furnished in all our Normal and Pedagogical courses.

Yes, we need a Sunday school in every Baptist church and then from these churches we ought to plant one in practically every community of people throughout the world, and use every effort within our power to increase their efficiency, because in this God-given work is presented the opportunity for doing that personal work so necessary and so helpful to the development of the Christian and so indispensable in the work of winning souls for the Master.


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The dissent against the medieval order was in 1517 already a millenium old and extremely widespread.  Because it had been obliged to carry on under cover, so that conference between the dissidents was quite out of the question, it had gone in all directions.  The “medieval underground,” as it has been called, was unable to have its “town meetings” to discuss and then come to consensus; hence the endless variety.  The Church called all its foes by one and the same name, “heretics,” who “like the foxes of Samson, have diverse faces but are all tied together at the tail.”  The Church had no desire to differentiate between group and group; they were all guilty of one and the same sin, that of challenging her monopoly; and she vented her spleen on them indiscriminately.

This will go far to explain why the “Left-wing of the Reformation” or the “Radical Reformation,” or whatever one wishes to call the camp that developed the Second Front, shows such bewildering diversity.  The Church had long had a sort of catch-all, a kind of wastebasket into which she thrust everything she didn’t want; when the Reformation failed to satisfy there was again and at once the same multifariousness; Menno and Muntzer, Schwenkfeld and Servetus, and many more, all clubbed together under a single label.

Fortunately for us, the record shows that there were great polarities right within the camp of the “heretics,” in medieval times and also in the days of the Reformation.

Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Sarasota:  Christian Hymnary Publishers, 1991.  p. 15.)

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The following is taken from the transcript of this sermon.

The Ad Interim Committee of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in their report to the General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1944 said that Dispensationalists, “do not hold that God has one plan of salvation for all men but that he has had various and diverse plans for different groups.”

Now, in my opinion that is the result of a great deal of confusion. I think, it is fair to say that it is also the result of a bit of ignorance. It’s the result of perhaps deliberate misrepresentation on the part of some and to my mind it’s a bit unworthy of scholarship not to mention Christianity. But I’d like to say this; Dr. Chafer was not always clear on this point. Dr Chafer it so happen was an individual who had a lot of affinity for ultra dispensationalism. That’s not often realized, but if you would read his systematic theology through you would find some statements that would make it very plain that he had affinity for what has come to be called ultra Dispensationlism. Let me read you something Dr. Chafer wrote in his theologies right there for you to read if you like. He says this, “A distinction must be observed between just men in the Old Testament and those justified according to the New Testament. According to the Old Testament men were just because they were true and faithful in keeping the Mosaics Law. Micah defines such a life after this manner, “he hath showed the old man what is good and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.” Men were, therefore, just because of their own works before God or for God, whereas, New Testament justification is God’s work for man in answer to faith. That’s quite evident from that.

Now Dr. Chafer was well in my way of thinking he was confused over Old Testament salvation. Just preceding this he has said manifestly to be justified before God is his that is God, is his own undertaking. But he was talking about New Testament justification when he said that. When he talks about Old Testament justification he talks differently. Further Dr. Chafer made the difference between the age of the kingdom and the age of grace. Present age writing, there are his words, “the sermon on the mount is the expansion of the full meaning of the personal righteousness which is required in the kingdom.” The great words in this age the present age are believe and grace. Not once do these words appear in connection with the kingdom teaching of Matthew.

Now the implication to that, I think, is very plain. Finally he says “Under grace the fruit of the Spirit is” which indicates the present possession of the blessing through pure grace. While under the kingdom the blessing “shall be such as merited by their own works.” So you can see that Dr. Chafer believed that in the Old Testament men were justified by what they did and they will be justified by what they do in the kingdom to come. But in the present day they are justified by grace through faith.

Now, in fairness to Dr. Chafer I will say that he wrote with a bit of confusion. And when I was in the class with him he expressed a great deal of, I don’t want to use the wrong word here because I greatly admired this man he was a man of faith, but he manifested a great deal of doubt as to what the Bible taught about Old Testament salvation. And later on I will point out one or two of the things that he said. But, I think, you can see that it’s not without some justification that people have said that Dispensationalists, of whom he was the leading one in his day, have taught more than one method of salvation. Now, in fairness also Dispensationalism today — practically every Dispensationalist that I know — makes a point of saying there is just one method of salvation. It is by grace through faith. The object of faith changes as the divine unfolding of the history of salvation takes place so that in the Old Testament men do not have has the object of faith the precise object of faith and the fullness of it that we have in the New Testament times. Some of them fell that it is not really true to say the Old Testament men looked forward to the coming of a personal redeemer. But then again I personally think that they stand in the minority but unfortunately in this area there are some that imbibe that particular teaching.

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I have been dealing with other priorities lately and haven’t been keeping up with the various blogs as I had been in the recent past.  But in case you haven’t seen them, here are some links to get you up to speed if so inclined:

Expository Thoughts links to several recent posts, including John MacArthur’s series “The Rape of Solomon’s Song.”  There were numerous comments on each of those posts that I haven’t begun to wade through yet.  For follow-up discussion on the Expository Thoughts site, see here.

For further discussion involving the TeamPyro bloggers, Tom Ascol and yours truly, see here.

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Yesterday Boyce College, the undergraduate college at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, hosted a discussion on N.T. Wright’s forthcoming book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, which is largely a response to John Piper’s The Future of Justification.  Denny Burk, who moderated the forum, posted about it here.

I spent about three years in conservative confessional Presbyterianism, and this justification controversy was raging at its hottest at that time.  During that period, (the middle part of this decade) practically every major confessional Reformed and Presbyterian denomination in the USA as well as most related seminaries denounced this teaching along with the related Federal Vision teaching that at least to some degree sought to apply some of the purported insights of the New Perspective to Presbyterian and Reformed churches.  A related justification controversy had erupted in the late 1970’s with the teaching of former Westminster Theological Seminary professor Norman Shepherd, ultimately resulting in his departure from WTS.

I find that this issue generally isn’t on the radar screen for most Baptists, whether Southern Baptist or not.  But it seems that a number of seminarians and others are becoming enamored with at least some aspects of Wright’s teaching on justification and related issues.  Of course, the blogosphere isn’t necessarily an accurate gauge of what’s going on, but I do have to confess to being somewhat concerned with the number of people who have expressed that they would have preferred to have seen “both sides represented” or a desire for “equal time” at the Boyce Forum.  In my opinion, Wright’s views lend themselves much more readily to a hypercovenantalist paedobaptist context (as with the Federal Vision) or maybe something like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, not to a confessional institution like Southern Seminary that is dedicated to proclaiming justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

There are many resources on the web and in print that address Wright and the New Perspective on Paul.  I’ve linked several pages that those who haven’t delved into this controversy might find helpful:

This program from Albert Mohler’s radio show addresses the New Perspective.  Dr. Mohler’s discussion with John Piper and Ligon Duncan on the issue begins about halfway through the show.  Dr. Duncan rightly identifies the NPP as having originated with liberal theologians.  It is now influencing some evangelicals through the influence of N.T. Wright.

Here’s an interview with John Piper about his book critiquing Wright.  You can find other pages on his website that address the New Perspective on Paul here, here, and here.

Piper’s book The Future of Justification:  A Response to N.T. Wright can also be downloaded in its entirety for free from his website here.

Here are some pertinent articles by John MacArthur:

Here is a three part series by Pastor Gary Gilley, who has also written some helpful works on the seeker sensitive movement:
Part 1
Part 2 (Good information here on how the NPP serves Wright’s ecumenical and social agenda, which includes ecumenism (unity) with Rome.)
Part 3

Dr. James Galyon has addressed Wright and the New Perspective in the article Retreating to Rome: The New Battle Over Justification.  The article interacts with others who are in sympathy with Wright’s views as well, particularly in Presbyterian and Reformed circles in which a related movement known as the Federal Vision arose about 6 or 7 years ago.

In 2005, The Master’s Seminary held a Faculty Lecture series on the New Perspective which consists of 4 lectures.  You can download the lectures by visiting this page and scrolling down to the lectures dated 1/1/2005.

Here’s a helpful article on the New Perspective from Theopedia.

Many more resources are linked here.

Douglas Wilson, who is in the Federal Vision camp referenced above, has nevertheless been critical of aspects of Wright’s teaching on justification (and imputation specifically) in recent years, including Wright’s response to John Piper.  Here’s a link to his blog posts on the topic of N.T. Wrights and Wrongs.

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JESUS said:  “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3 :3.)  To put this in plain English, our Lord teaches that only converted people should belong to a church.  Baptists stand squarely for this doctrine.  We contend that only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through intelligent faith in Christ, and who have confessed their faith in word and declared it in baptism, are scripturally qualified for church membership.  We would not claim that every Baptist is converted; for, unfortunately, unconverted persons, those honestly deceived and hypocrites, have been received into our churches; but their number is not large.  Nor do we hold that all members of other communions are not converted.  We greatly rejoice in the many examples of eminent piety outside of our ranks; and we gladly believe that the vast majority of those who profess faith in Christ everywhere are converted.  Our contention is simply this:  Baptist principles strictly applied would exclude from church membership all but the converted; whereas the principles of other denominations strictly applied would include in their respective church memberships some who are not converted.  That is, non-Baptist churches, by admitting the unregenerate into their membership, can not be pure spiritual churches; whereas Baptists, by admitting only the regenerate into their membership, are the only people who even in theory stand for the pure spirituality of the churches.  That is, Baptist doctrine is the only system of truth which will logically, inevitably and ultimately make a church a pure spiritual body of Christ.

1. It is but just to examine these statements a little more in detail to see if they are in fact true.  In the first place, is it true that Baptist principles strictly applied in practice will limit church membership to the converted exclusively?  We can answer this inquiry only by looking at the customs of our churches.  Baptists demand a public, personal, intelligent profession of faith in Christ before admitting any one into their churches.  We will not receive one individual into membership on the confession of another individual; for we repudiate in theory and in practice the doctrine of proxies in religion; for “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God,” (Rom. 14:12.)  This public profession of faith is the voluntary act of an intelligent moral agent declaring his conversion.  No one is ever admitted into a Baptist church until he professes conversion.  Again, Baptists demand that the convert shall further declare his faith in baptism, a public immersion of the believer in water.  Thus we require two professions of the applicant for church membership; one in the word of confession, the other in the act of baptism.  In the former the convert speaks his faith; in the latter he acts his faith in the solemn symbolism of immersion.  All of this is a genuinely kindly arrangement; for a church would be untrue to the applicant for membership if it did not assist him by simple and severe tests of his true heart condition to ascertain certainly and consciously the fact of his conversion; and a church would be untrue to itself if it did not exercise the utmost care to prevent those who are honestly deceived, or hypocrites, from assuming duties and obligations which they will certainly renounce to the injury of their own souls and the distress of the body of Christ.  Thus Baptist churches in principle and in practice do all that human beings can do to make a church a spiritual body.  If an unconverted man gets into a Baptist church, he must profess conversion, and his presence in the membership is not the fault of the church but of himself.  If after joining a Baptist church, it is discovered that one is not converted, then it is his duty to withdraw, or it becomes the duty of the church to exclude him.  Thus we see that Baptist doctrine will inevitably and ultimately produce a pure spiritual church.

II. In the second place, it is equally just to inquire if the principles and practices of other churches do introduce into their respective memberships some who are not converted.  We can answer this inquiry only by looking at the creeds and customs of these churches.  These can broadly be divided into two groups; that is there are two kinds of practices in non-Baptist churches which may introduce the unconverted into church membership.

1. Those who practice infant baptism do in some sense consider these infants as members of their churches.  In which case they have received into their churches those who can not exercise saving faith in Christ, and hence who are unconverted.  Having thus introduced unregenerate material into their churches, their churches cease to be pure spiritual bodies.  And these churches are themselves responsible for this, for it is the act of the church that brings the unintelligent infant into membership.  These churches are not to be excused as they would be in the case of hypocrites who creep into the membership by assuming conversion, or as in the case of those who are honestly deceived.  This custom might be practically harmless if the infants would remain infants, but they will not.  Often the unregenerate infant grows into the unregenerate man, and these congregations are embarrassed by having un-Christian men in their membership as Christian churches.  However harmless we may consider the practice, the principle is an error, and it will logically and inevitably destroy the pure spirituality of the church.

It is but fair to state that churches which practice infant baptism are of two kinds, viz.:

(1) There are those who claim that the infant is actually regenerated in baptism.  Cardinal Gibbons states the belief of Catholics:  “Water is the appropriate instrument of the new birth.”  “Hence baptism is essential for the infant in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.”  As the infant can not believe, it follows that baptism must do all of the saving.  The Episcopal view of this matter can be found in the formula for the baptism of infants:  “We receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock.”  “Seeing now that this child is regenerated and grafted into the body of Christ’s church,” etc., etc.  In both cases we have baptismal regeneration pure and simple.  If baptism regenerates, then unbelieving children would be converted church members.  Laying aside the paradox as to how one incapable of exercising faith can be converted when faith is necessary for conversion, Baptists would contend that baptism does not regenerate, and that this practice of Romanists and Episcopalians opens a wide door for the admission of the unconverted into their churches.  For it is in evidence on all sides that some who received this presumed baptismal regeneration in infancy fail to give any evidence of it in maturity, either in a profession of saving faith in Christ, or in the practice of piety, and yet they remain unchallenged members of the churches which they were baptized into.  Thus these churches assume a grave risk of not being pure spiritual bodies of Christ.

(2) Again, there are those who practice infant baptism who profess not to believe that the baptism saves the infant; and yet these all do in some sense receive these infants into their church memberships.  The position of all such can be fairly stated in the language of the Presbyterian confession of faith, viz.:  “The infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.”  “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church.”  “The visible church consists of all those who make a profession of true religion together with their children.”  “The infant seed of believers are members of the church.”  Let it be noted that this second class in the practice of infant baptism denies a belief in baptismal regeneration, though the writer does not see how they can escape such a belief, or some other fatal error, if the logic of their position is severely pressed to a just conclusion.  For they baptize infants either to save them, or not to save them.  If the baptism is not to save, as they say, then the baptism of the infant must be for a declaration of faith, or for some other purpose.  It can not be a declaration of the infant’s faith, for the infant has not and can not have intelligent faith, nor is the act of baptism the voluntary act of the infant.  If it be a declaration of faith, it declares the faith of some person other than the infant.  But we have no right to baptize one person on another person’s faith Rom. 14:12.  If the baptism of the infant be neither a saving act, nor a declaration of faith, then it is for some other purpose.  But, if they use baptism for any other purpose save as a declaration of faith, they pervert that ordinance from the meaning and mission which Christ gave to it; and besides they construct two baptisms, one for adults with one meaning, and another for infants with another meaning, which is contrary to the scripture which saith:  “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph. 4:5.  Therefore as they turn away from baptismal regeneration to escape one error, the logic of their position coerces them either into the practice of proxies in professions of faith, which is an error condemned by Rom. 14:12, or into a perversion of the ordinance, which is contrary to Eph. 4:5.

But turning away from these objections which are fatal to the practice of infant baptism, it is just that we should fairly examine the grounds of those who are in this practice and yet who claim that they do not believe in baptismal regeneration. They allege two reasons for baptizing their unregenerate infants into then church membership. This inquiry is legitimate to this paper because infant baptism leads to infant church membership.

(a) It is argued from the baptism of certain households (Acts 10:47; 16:15; 16:32-34; 1 Cor. 16:15) that there were infants in those homes which were baptized into church membership.  It is enough to say in reply that the burden of proof is upon those who affirm that there were infants in those homes.  The only possible proof is the Scripture record.  But the record contains no mention of infants.  Therefore the assertion is without possibility of proof.  If you will look about you, you will see many homes where there are no babes.  Besides, there are intimations in each account of these household baptisms which deny the assumption that there were babes in these homes.  In the case of Cornelius it is said that “all his house feared God;” Paul and Silas “comforted” those who were baptized in Lydia’s home; Paul distinctly tells the jailer that those who “believe” should be saved; and it is said of the household of Stephanas that they all “have addicted themselves to the ministry.”  None of these terms or conditions could apply to infants, they describe the acts of intelligent believers.  There is no such thing in the New Testament as infant baptism begetting infant church membership.  It is true that Jesus blessed babes but he did not baptize them.  Late in our Lord’s life his disciples quarreled at mothers for bringing their children to Jesus.  (Matt. 19:13).  If infant baptism had been in vogue then these disciples would have welcomed these babes into the church.  The New Testament recognizes as church members none but converted adults.

(b) Again, it is alleged that the infants of believers should be baptized and received into the church for the reason that baptism takes the place of circumcision; that as circumcision inducted the infant into the Old Testament church, so baptism inducts it into the New Testament church.  This is a blind confounding of the Jewish state with the Christian church.  There was no Old Testament church with its rites corresponding to the New Testament church with its ordinances.  The Christian church was for the first time set up in the New Testament.  Circumcision was a racial, not a regenerating act.  It has always been true that men became the true children of Abraham through faith, not through any rite, be it circumcision or baptism.  One could be born a Jew, but all must be re-born to become Christians.  And so circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles were alike baptized on the common grounds that they believed in Christ.  This is clearly the teaching of Gal. 3 :29:  “If ye be Christ’s, then ye are Abraham’s seed, and his heirs according to the promise.”  To be Christ’s one must believe; infants can not believe, and so they are not entitled to baptism or to membership in a Christian church.  Thus again true scripture teaching blocks the entrance of unregenerate children into Christian churches.

There is no warrant either in scripture doctrine or precedent for the baptism of infants; and those churches which in any sense receive into their membership these baptized unregenerate infants have in that far destroyed the pure spirituality of their churches.  Their very principles unavoidably lead them into receiving the unconverted into their membership.

2. Infant baptism is the most frequent way of bringing the unregenerate into church membership; but we are now to examine other practices of non-Baptist churches which may corrupt the pure spirituality of the body of Christ.  A word before getting to the main point about the danger of receiving members into churches on probation.  In some sense they are members, and yet their conversion is not certain.  The probationer may turn out to be a Christian, or he may not.  As long as he is on probation his conversion can not be affirmed, and the church which receives him is not a pure spiritual body.  If probationers are on its list all the time, then it never is a pure spiritual body.  Nor is this all the harm such a church does itself; this practice will inevitably lead men to believe that there is a saving efficacy in just belonging to a church.  They will come to look to Christ and church membership to save them.  This is a fatal partition of faith.  How very dangerous this is will appear in the next paragraph.

Next to infant baptism the most prolific source of unconverted church members is sacramentarian baptism administered to adults.  There are churches which do not practice infant baptism and yet they attach a saving significance, in part or in whole, to the baptism of adults.  From this perversion of the meaning of baptism arises another danger of an unconverted church membership.  For we are saved by faith in Christ alone (Jo. 3:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8).  Our Lord did not invent baptism to help him save sinners.  A man who gives part of his faith to Christ and part to baptism has a divided faith.  Paul says that to such a man “Christ is become of no effect,” (Gal. 5:4.)  The apostle is arguing this matter in Galatians.  In the fifth chapter he maintains that to administer circumcision as the ground of salvation, or the condition of justification, is to renounce Christ himself.  It does not take Christ and circumcision to save a soul, and to divide one’s faith between the two results in a renunciation of Christ.  Just so baptism can be no part of salvation without destroying the pure faith principle of redemption, and “Christ is become of no effect.” If “Christ has become of no effect” to such a one, then he can not claim conversion; and, if he comes into the church with this divided faith, he will be an unconverted church member.  This teaching is severe, but Paul emphatically declares that to condition salvation, in part or in whole, on any ordinance or institution is to do away with Christ himself.  If the inquirer in any sense looks to circumcision or to baptism, or to church membership to help in his salvation, then he has destroyed the possibility of his salvation because he is not trusting Christ alone for redemption, for our Lord will not accept a divided heart.  Thus the practice of sacramentarian baptism and of probationary membership may open the door for the unregenerate to enter the churches.

So far as the writer knows Baptists are the only people who are entirely free from infant baptism, on the one hand, and from sacramentarian baptism on the other.  We condition salvation for all alike on simple, personal faith in Christ.  We admit into our churches only those who have, or who profess to have, this saving faith.  Thus Baptist principles strictly applied will admit to church membership only those who are converted, which is the first proposition laid down in the opening paragraph of this paper; whereas, the principles of other denominations strictly applied will include in church membership some who are not converted, which is the second proposition affirmed in this argument.

III. In the third place, it is just to inquire into the correctness of the Baptist position.  Ought we to have only converted persons in our churches?  Should churches be pure spiritual bodies?  We answer these questions in the affirmative.  The proposition submitted is this:  Only the regenerate should be members of a church because of what a church is and does; and we appeal to sound reason and obvious Scripture teaching to support this proposition.

The Greek word for church (ekklesia} means “the called out.”  Only those can be called who can hear and who can come.  This recognizes intelligence and voluntariness as necessary qualifications of the called.  God is calling on men to believe in Christ that he may organize them into churches to whom he will commit his word (1 Tim. 3:15) and his work (Matt. 28:19, 20).  In the nature of the case, only those can answer this call who can understand its conditions, and who will voluntarily comply with its requirements, and who are qualified and competent to discharge the duties imposed.  God does not refuse as coworkers men of humble gifts and children who have reached the years of discretion; but he does require willing loyalty and intelligent obedience.  All who answer the call must be workers, though they are not to be perfect workers.  Capacity then is the necessary qualification in the called rather than competency.  It would be absurd to think that God would lay the duties above mentioned upon those who could not, or upon those who would not, discharge them.  Our Lord would not exhort impotent infants or unwilling unbelievers to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Hence it follows from the very work required of the churches that their members should all be active, intelligent, spiritual agents.

The New Testament history is in exact accord with this conclusion.  Search the record and you will find no instance of a professedly unconverted man being baptized.  There were doubtless hypocrites like Ananias (Acts 5 13) who came in under pretense of faith; but the one aim of our Lord and his followers was to recruit to their service only regenerate men to whom the work could be committed.  Naturally enough those churches would receive into membership only those who could help in the work; and so baptism was refused to infants and unbelievers.  The writer feels that in justice he must state that no denomination would advocate the admission of professedly unconverted adults into the church; but the practice of infant baptism and sacramentarian baptism will bring unconverted adults into these churches, and this is ample apology for the extended argument above on these two points.

Our Baptist churches in refusing to receive members in either of these ways are in exact line with New Testament precedent; and our practice of requiring an intelligent faith before baptism, and faith and baptism before church membership, is the only sure way of bringing into the churches the same kind of material that came into the Apostolic churches of the New Testament era.

We must look to the Scripture for more explicit instruction.  If we would know the qualifications for church membership, let us read Acts 2:41-47.  Every person which the Lord added to that Jerusalem church was converted. Here is the description of them:  They “received his word,” were “baptized,” and “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,” etc., etc.  Surely these terms can not apply to infants or to unbelievers; there were none such in that Jerusalem church.  In Acts 11:21 we have a description of the material which was gathered into the church at Antioch:  “A great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”  Under these conditions there could be no infants in the Antioch church.  A duty is required of church members which none but intelligent converts can discharge:  “Give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”  (1 Pet. 3:15.)  Infants and unbelievers can not do this.  The discourses of Jesus, and the Epistles of Paul. Peter and John are all addressed to intelligent, spiritual agents.  The saints are those who can serve.  The argument from Scripture is cumulative and conclusive that all church members should be converted.  The reason is that God wants in his churches only spiritual workers to do his spiritual work.  Baptist practice is in exact accord with this Scripture principle.

To admit the unconverted into the churches is to destroy the very nature of the church.  When we speak of a church being a pure spiritual body we mean it has in its membership only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.  We have proved from Scripture that only the regenerate should be admitted to church membership; hence to receive the unregenerate would pervert the very nature of a gospel church.  A church is the body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12 :12-21; it is a big composite body made up of individual believers who belong to it as organs and members.  Each member of this body must be alive, that is he must be converted; he must by the power of the Holy Spirit be competent to discharge the spiritual functions of a member of the spiritual body of a church.  The living Christ dwells in this body; through it he speaks, and in it he walks and works (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16).  Now, if through infant or sacramentarian baptism, or through probationary membership, the unconverted are brought into a church, then Christ’s body has become afflicted with dead members, and the very nature of that church is perverted and its work hindered.

The importance of this doctrine can hardly be overestimated.  There are many who honestly misconceive the nature and mission of the church.  A church is not a nursery for infants, nor an infirmary for the ungodly, nor a refuge for the unbelieving and the indifferent; it is a recruiting station for the soldiers of the cross, every one of whom is commanded to fight the good fight of faith.  To change the figure, “the church is a force not a field.”  The world is the field, and the church is the force to work the field.  The work is spiritual and the force must be spiritual.  It will not do to have in an army those who are not soldiers, or in this force those who are not workers.  Hence we see from its very nature that there is no place in a Christian church for the unconverted.  From an understanding of this doctrine we Baptists limit church membership to those who profess conversion.  We hold that scripture and reason support our position that a church is a pure spiritual body and that none but the regenerate are to be received into its membership.  Relying on this truth, we reject infant and sacramentarian baptism, we refuse probationary membership, and we require an intelligent profession of faith before baptism, and faith and baptism before church membership.  We contend that these requirements are the only true safe-guards for the spirituality of the churches; and being the only people who hold these doctrines in their purity and simplicity, we affirm that Baptist principles are the only tenets which will inevitably bring the churches to the New Testament standard of membership.  Only as churches are pure spiritual forces can they accomplish their true spiritual mission in this world.

This is a proud position which we occupy but we do not hold it proudly.  These doctrines beget humility, sympathy, and mighty dependence on God.  If we hold this high standard of church membership, then we assume a high standard of duty.  If we are all God’s children then we should all “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,” Mi. 6:8. In a peculiar sense we should “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” (Gal. 6:10.)  We should be conspicuous in works of charity and love, and foremost of all in preaching the gospel to the world.  If in fact ours is the best doctrine, then we should be the best people and have the best churches.  And so the claims set forth in this paper do not exalt us, they humble us and fill us with love for all humanity.

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BY close communion we mean that practice among Baptists in which they limit the participation in the observance of the Lord’s Supper to those who are members in good standing in Baptist churches.  And by open communion the practice of other denominations in which they give and accept invitations from members of other churches.  I believe the practice of close communion as observed by the Baptists is right and proper, for several reasons.


The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, and can be properly observed only as a church ordinance.  And therefore those only who are members of a church can properly partake of it.  It is an ordinance given by the Lord Jesus Christ to be observed by his churches and in his churches.  And there is no instruction nor provision for extending the ordinance, or the observance of it to any other.  Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of time and method of its establishment and full equipment, the Savior organized his church and prescribed its characteristics, established its laws, gave its doctrines, outlined its mission.

To his churches he gave the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, as a sacred trust, to be kept and observed till he shall return in personal presence to the earth again.  And he has clearly indicated his will as to the character and qualifications of the persons who shall partake of it.  I repeat he has indicated the character, thus showing that those without moral character, as for instance infants, were not prepared to partake of it; and qualifications, showing that certain experiences must precede the approach to the table.

The Bible summons all men to obey the Lord Jesus Christ.  And to those who give heed these commands are given.  “Repent, believe, be baptised, do this in remembrance of me.” These occur in the same unfailing order.  Where one is expressed alone, it presupposes all that go before it in this order.  And where two or more occur together, they always stand, I think, in the order of their precedence, repentance preceding faith, repentance and faith preceding baptism, and repentance, faith and baptism preceding the “do this in remembrance of me.”  So that no one can begin in the middle of the series and proceed to the end without first obeying those that go before.  No one could exercise faith unless preceded by repentance.  I speak with respect to nature rather than time.  Nor could one be Scripturally baptized until he has believed; nor properly approach the Lord’s table unless he had been previously baptized.  The first active step for the sinner is repentance.  The next is faith in the Lord Jesus as his Savior.  Then comes baptism, and all these before the table.  And since no one could be baptized without the assistance or cooperation of other parties, the Lord has provided for that.  And his provision excludes the provision on the part of any others.

A little careful and discriminating thought will discover to us the reason for the order of these commands, for they are given in harmony with the nature of things.  Let us examine these with reference to the last two, as just here there is some need of clear thinking.  We say that no one is prepared to approach the Lord’s table until he has been properly baptized.  The Savior’s commands make this true.  But I think we can discover why his commands had to be given in this order, if they were to have the significance he intended to attach to them.

In baptism, as designed by the Lord, we are baptized into his death.  This is symbolic of course.  But symbols must represent realities.  What is that reality?  It is the consciousness of the death of Christ for our sin which we appropriate by a living faith.  But there is at the same time another death, the death of the sinner to his old life of sin.  He now is “crucified with Christ.”  And henceforth the life he lives is no more unto himself, but unto the Lord.  He now for the first time has a vivid knowledge of the death of the Lord.  And it so lays hold on him that he dies with him.  And to represent this death, this first knowledge of his death, the man who died to sin, and died with Christ, is buried to sin, and is buried with Christ in baptism.  But this death of the old life is the beginning of a new life.  For he rises now with Christ to walk in a new life.  Hence the Scriptures say that we were buried with Christ in baptism, wherein we are risen with him.

Now, and never before, is the believer ready to approach the Lord’s table.  For at the Lord’s table he is to remember the Lord’s death, or if I may so express it, he is to reknow the Lord’s death.  Baptism represents the first knowledge of the Lord’s death, and the Supper the subsequent reknowing or remembrance of it.  It goes with the saying that a man could not remember what he had never known.  Both his first knowledge of the Lord’s death, and his subsequent remembrance of that death are to be symbolized; the first knowledge of it by baptism and the second by the emblems of his broken body and shed blood.  And it is appropriate that these symbols should have the same order of their realities.  It is just this way that the Greek represents it.  In English the prefix re means again, as recount means to count again.  Now in English we do not use the word ”member” in the sense of “know.” But “re-member” in the sense of “re know.” A* in the text “do this in remembrance of me.”

Or again.  Baptism symbolizes the beginning of the new spiritual life, or the new birth.  And the Lord’s Supper symbolizes the sustenance of that life.  And as we are born first and then nourished the ordinance which signifies birth ought to precede that which signifies nourishment.


The Baptist denomination is held together by no ecclesiastical or episcopal organization.  We are so many units of the same kind and as a denomination we are what we are because we believe something definite and distinctive.  I might perhaps be allowed to say we hold a circle of views and convictions that differentiate us, from all the world, and so from all religious denominations.  Our conception of what the Lord intended us to be, and desires us to be now, requires practices which characterize us.  The very basic principle of our organic life is unfaltering obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.  We believe that this is the truest and worthiest thing we can do; the wisest and best; the safest and most effective way to serve him, and to serve the world.  For Jesus said, “if ye love me keep my commandments.”  And he said also, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men;” and again he asks, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

Let no one think that we are willfully perverse, or that we do care nothing for the opinions, feelings or good will of others.  We covet their highest good and their favorable opinion.  But our convictions are imperative and they limit us.  Are we charged with placing limitations on others?  We have first placed them on ourselves.  We ask nothing of anybody that each one of us has not personally performed.  The Lord’s table in Baptist churches is open to all the world.  But there is only one way to it.  And whomsoever you see at the table in a Baptist church has come the same way.  Try the Lord’s appointed way, repent, believe and be baptized and preserve an orderly walk, and you will find no bars across your way.

But we are asked to change our practice.  Were we to change our practice, we should be compelled first to change the contents of our faith.  But to change the contents of our faith, would be to change our very denominational nature, or constitution.  And to do that would be but to make another and a different denomination.  For our faith is a unit, which would be destroyed by a change.  And Baptists do not believe that the multiplication of denominations has ever been conducive to the best interests of the Lord’s cause, nor the salvation of the world.  Nor do we think such a change in our denomination would contribute to that end.  But to abandon the principles which require close communion as a Baptist practice would destroy our denomination as such.  And I do not think that even those who plead for open communion would ask it at that cost.


It is remarkable that there should be occasion for saying that Baptists believe, and greatly rejoice in believing, that there are many, very many excellent Christians who are not Baptists.  We heartily wish they were Baptists.  And we are led to believe that many of them could become Baptists without any very great sacrifice of principles or convictions.  And we believe convictions ought to control men.

Now many of these dear people seem to desire Baptists to so far depart from their practices as to eat the Lord’s supper with them, and invite them to eat with us.  They have perfected an organization which they call a church and they are not satisfied until Baptists also recognize it as such.  And because of the intimate relation between baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they perceive that to acknowledge one is practically to acknowledge the other.  So they seek recognition at the table.  We believe that it was a departure from the truth to organize any one of these.  And that every one of these organizations hold and teach error.  But at the same time we hold another cherished doctrine, which is known among us as Liberty of Conscience.  We have always contended for this.  And we believe it to be as much a right of other men as Baptists.  So we can only enter our protest against their unscriptural organizations and the error which they teach.  And the practice of close communion is the kindest and most Christian way in which we can do so.  For by confining the Lord’s Supper to our own fellowship and refusing to accept their invitations we effectually manifest our dissent from their views and practices, and yet in no way interfere with their utmost freedom.  This is no railing accusation.  It is as mild as it can be made, and leaves them the utmost freedom of conscience.  This practice of close communion is not of our own choosing, while it is most agreeable to our ideas of right.  If there had been no other organizations started and asking to be recognized as churches, the terms would probably never have come into use.  But they must properly conclude that for us to recognize them at the Lord’s table would be to recognize them as churches.

But is it not worthy of remark that this complaint is always urged against the Baptists, as if Baptist recognition was of special value?  Who ever heard an open communionist complain about the close communion of any except Baptists?  And yet Baptists are not the only close comnunionists.  But they seem to feel especially the lack of recognition by the Baptists.  To the thoughtful student this is a very significant concession to the claims of Baptists to be the true churches of the Lord.


For whosoever eats this bread and drinks this cup when he is not prepared to do so, brings condemnation upon himself.  The revised version of the New Testament puts it thus:

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  For he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself, if he discern not the body.”  One who is not regenerated could not possibly discern the body as broken for him, or the blood as shed for the remission of his sins.  One not baptized is not prepared to “do this in remembrance” of the Lord, as we have seen before.  Now if Baptists, by invitation, or by accepting the invitations of others should encourage such persons to partake of the emblems in this way, they would encourage such to bring condemnation upon themselves.  And in so far as they influenced them, would be parties to their sin.  There are other reasons why I believe that the practice of close communion is right rather than open communion.  But with these I submit the case.

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