Put to the Test
SELSUS E. TULL
Upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell SHALL NOT PREVAIL against it—Matthew .
These two addresses are offered to the public only after urgent request by many brethren who have heard them delivered on several special occasions. By a rising vote of the Murray Bible Conference of Murray, Kentucky, February, 1912, these addresses were formally asked for publication. They are sent to the printer as they were prepared for public delivery.
This writer hopes that the publication of these addresses may of least serve to provoke some one else, more able than himself, to give the matter herein so hastily discussed the thorough discussion that it de- serves. It would be a matter of peculiar personal delight to me to read a defense of the right to a separate denominational existence by some representative of each of our modern Christian denominations. If denominationalism is scriptural, then it is best for Christianity: if it is best for Christianity, then so-called "Christian Union" is wrong. If denominationalism is unscriptural, then it is not best for Christianity; and if it is not best for Christianity, then separate denominational existence is a sin against the cause of Jesus Christ. If modern Protestant denominations each have a right to a separate existence, would not a thousand more have the same right?
I have used only ten denominations in the following discussion. I did not have time to consider others. The ones that are used are well known and are typical of all others.
In fixing the date for the founding of the denominations herein considered, I have endeavored to use the earliest possible date upon which a real separate existence could be said to begin. Any reader will understand that the present creeds and systems of government for modern denominations were a matter of process and growth which took present shape, in many respects, after they became looked upon as separate from other peoples. Authorities may differ as to dates,
but the point at issue is whether any date since the day of the personal ministry of Jesus Christ were a time when any man had the scriptural right to build up an ecclesiastical system and call it a "Christian Church."
SELSUS E. TULL.
DENOMINATIONAL laxity is manifest everywhere. Church
affiliation, as a rule, is determined by caprice, whim, or environment. The
question of principle, to an increasing number, is never raised. It is taken
for granted that one denomination is as good as another, and on this
The hour has come when denominationalism should be put on trial. Simple fairness demands that each denomination give a valid, a scriptural reason for its existence. When one Christian body by co-operation, fellowship and transference of members places the brand of approval on another, from such a course it is evident that a union should be consummated. To maintain a separate existence is to be guilty of creating a schism in the body of Christ.
The Baptists are now and ever have been free from this charge, the following pages amply demonstrate. In keeping with their time honored traditions they, as heretofore, are willing to be put to the test.
Historians, other than their own, frankly accord to Baptists Apostolic origin. And through the succeeding centuries they have stood for the fundamental truths of the Gospel. At the present time there is a marked and world-wide tendency towards Baptist principles. Still their mission is not complete, nor will it be 'till the principles for which they contend are universally accepted. Till then, as loyal subjects to their King, they will maintain a separate existence.
C. M. THOMPSON.
THE ORIGIN OF DENOMINATIONS
A BRIEF SURVEY of the civil conditions of the times will
give us an understanding as to the origin and final establishment of the Roman
The Christianity of these terrible times met a supreme test, the wrecks and deformities of which, she, in many respects, has never survived. In a despairing effort to hold some power over these heathen invaders, the Christianity of the times assumed to play upon the superstitions of the uncivilized hordes. This was successfully accomplished in many ways, principally by claiming great spiritual powers for the bishops, by imposing severe penalties upon the violators of Christian precepts, and by overawing the uncultured mind with mysterious ceremonies and gilded pageantry. It was this misguided effort to convert the barbarians that gave rise in those awful days to the fanaticism which finally stretched its pall over the middle ages and prostituted the simplicity of Christianity into a mighty system of sacerdotalism and ritualism.
Ridpath says, on page 520, Vol. 4, in speaking of the times of Charlemagne: "The Holy See at this time made the discovery that the presentation of moral truth and obligation to the barbarian imagination was less effective than splendid shows and gilded ceremonies. She, therefore, adopted pageant instead of moral expostulation and converted the barbarians with spectacles." It was through these means and under these conditions, that the Church was able to gradually assume her control, until she grinned and subdued the political as well as the religious powers of the people.
The actual establishment of the Roman Papacy was
accomplished by Gregory the Great, in the year A. D. 590. On page 418, Vol. 4, Ridpath says, "This epoch in history should not be
passed over without reference to the rapid growth of the
However, the light of modern civilization broke with the beginning of the sixteenth century. With the dawn of the Reformation, we have the rise of modern denominationalism. This period seems to have been God's time to wake the nations out of sleep. The intellectual, political, and religious mind of the world was ready for a new order of things, and the people were prepared to welcome any leaders who could teach them to walk in new paths.
All great movements converge their forces into the personality of some one man. Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, whose life spanned the years from 1483 to 1546, became the religious leader of the new day. Luther saw the general catholic degeneracy and dissolution, and organized a movement for reform. He had no avowed intention to break away from the Church; his idea was simply to reform the practices of the Church. His attacks upon the rule of the Pope, and his defiance of the Pope's edicts brought him under the anathema of excommunication. This situation forced Luther and his followers into a separate organization in the year 1520.
*Professor Kurtz, in his Church History, in speaking of
the final break between Luther and the Catholic Church, says, "Meanwhile Eckbad issued the bull. (The papal bull
of excommunication against Luther.) Luther published a scathing polemic
against it, and renewed his appeal, made two years before, to an ecumenical
A close study, however, of Luther's doctrines, and the polity of the church he organized, and which bears his name, will show that he was not strong enough to carry his movement back to the New Testament; and his work, after all, was only a partial reformation. Luther was but a part of a general movement, peculiar to the times, and we find that the sixteenth century, and particularly the first half of it, is noted in history as the birth time of Protestantism and the beginning of modern denominationalism.
In 1509, Henry the Eighth was crowned King of England.
Henry was only twelve years of age at the time. He was married the same year to
Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand, and widow of his brother Arthur.
Twenty years later than this, when Henry came to exercise his own prerogative
in personal matters, he decided to divorce Catherine and to marry Anne Boleyn,
an English girl, who had been reared at the court of Charles the Fifth of
France. This question of Henry's divorce raised a great discussion in the
Church, which was finally carried to the Pope of Rome for settlement. The Pope
decided against Henry. Realizing the political impotence of the Pope to
The success of Luther's Protestantism on the continent gave liberty for other like movements. John Calvin, who was born in the year 1509, the same year that Henry the Eighth was crowned King of England, who was educated for a Catholic monk, joined hands with Luther, and aided the Reformation. In some respects, Calvin's ideas of both doctrine and polity were different from those of Luther. For this reason, Calvin's reform fell into distinct channels and crystallized into an independent organization, and because of their form of church government, Calvinists became known as Presbyterians. The Presbyterian Church began its separate denominational existence in the year 1536.
Thus we find that the Lutherans, Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians, are the three great Catholic-Protestant denominations. There are today two great denominations who protested from the Episcopalians. We will now proceed to narrate their history briefly.
There lived in
One hundred and fifty years later than this, another Protestant
movement was started in the
•Professor George P. Fisher, in his "History of the
Christian Church," regarding the circumstances leading up to the founding
of the Methodist Church, says, "Methodism arose within the borders of the
Episcopalian Church. By the force of circumstances, and contrary to the
original intention and preferences of its founders, it drifted into a separate
organization. The principal originators of the great religious revival of
which Methodism was the off-spring, were John Wesley and George Whitefield; but
to the indomitable will and organizing genius, joined with the religious
fervor, of Wesley, its existence as a distinct and influential body is chiefly
due. It was no part of Wesley's design to build up a sect, or to break in any
way the connection with the Church of England. With all sincerity, to the end
of his life, he abjured such an intention. Not many months before his death, he
said, 'I declare once more that I live and die a member of the Church of
England, and none who regard my advice will ever separate from it.' This is but
one of numerous declarations of the same purport. Charles Wesley was even more
resolute in holding this position. But John Wesley, much to the disgust of his
brother, felt impelled to take a course which legally and actually involved
separation. He became convinced that presbyter and bishop are of the same
order, and that he had as good a right to ordain as to administer the
sacrament. He ordained Coke, and authorized him to ordain Asbury as
superintendents of bishops for the Methodists in
In the year 1788, there was born in
Even during the lifetime of the writer, there lived a
woman who has written a book, entitled "Science and Health," which
has become the Bible for a new “Christian” denomination. In the year 1884, Mrs.
Mary Baker Glover Eddy founded, in
Now, we come to the Baptist denomination. Who organized
"A few historical quotations on this point from
prominent men in other denominations establish the historical fulfillment of
the statement of Jesus in Matthew 16:18. Mr. Alexander Campbell said: "The
Baptists can trace their origin to apostolic times, and produce unequivocal
testimony of their existence in every century down to the present time. We can
show that from the earliest
times there has existed a people, whom no man can number, that have earnestly and consistently contended for the true faith once delivered to the saints. From the Apostolic age to the present
time, the sentiments of Baptists and their practice of baptism have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced." President Gregg, a noted Presbyterian, says of Baptist ancestry, "Missionaries sent from
THE HISTORICAL TEST
Such, in brief, is the historical origin of these different Christian denominations under consideration. The question may well be asked: Did Jesus Christ give any historical test by which His true churches can be distinguished in their priority over all other institutions which might claim religious recognition through the ages? Most certainly He did not leave this all important matter in uncertainty. If Jesus were silent here, then He Himself were responsible for the present divided condition of the Christian world as seen in our modern denominational life. Jesus laid down the historical test for His true Churches in Matthew 16:18. Here Jesus said to the twelve apostles, who themselves composed the first church organization, after they had confessed him on this occasion as "The Christ, the Son of the living God," "Upon this rock, I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Two historical tests are clearly defined in this expression of Jesus. The first is that the only true Church was founded by Jesus Christ Himself—"I will build my Church." The second is that the organization which Jesus calls "my Church" shall never cease to exist throughout all the ages—"The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." To this same body of apostles, who composed the organization which Jesus founded, Jesus said, on the day He ascended to the Father, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages."
It is clear to anyone that the Church which cannot bear this historical test which Jesus Christ Himself laid down can never successfully claim to be "The Bride of Christ." It is impossible for any organization failing to meet this historical test to be the Church which Jesus founded, which is His "body" and of which "He is the Head."
It follows, therefore, that the Catholic Church, which was
founded by Gregory the First, five hundred and ninety years after Christ,
cannot meet Christ's own historical test, as to origin and perpetuity, and is
therefore not the true Church of Christ, The Lutheran Church, which was
founded by Martin Luther, fifteen hundred and seventeen years after Christ,
cannot meet Christ's own historical test either in origin or perpetuity, and
is therefore not the true Church of Christ. The Episcopalian Church, which was
founded by Henry the Eighth, fifteen hundred and thirty-four years after
Christ, cannot meet Christ's own historical test, either in origin or
perpetuity and is therefore not the true Church of Christ. The Presbyterian
Church which was founded by John Calvin fifteen hundred and thirty-six years
after Christ, cannot meet Christ's own historical test as to origin or
perpetuity, and is therefore, not the true
It thus follows, so clearly that no man can fail to see it, that to accept these man-made institutions as the true churches of Jesus Christ, is to rob Jesus Christ of the Headship of His Churches, and make the Son of God a liar when he said His Church should never cease to exist.
THE DOCTRINAL TEST
There is a doctrinal test equally as important as the historical test to which we will now subject these modem so-called churches. The Church which Jesus founded has certain well-defined doctrinal characteristics laid down: in the New Testament by which it may be forever recognized and distinguished from all apocryphal institutions which may through the ages arise to call themselves Christian Churches. Let us now proceed to a brief doctrinal comparison of these several denominations under consideration.
In making out this doctrinal comparison, I want to set forth this proposition and then proceed to demonstrate it: The greatest antithesis in Christian doctrine that can be found in the world of Christian thought is discovered in the two positions of the Baptists, and the Catholics. The two extremes of Christian doctrine rest with the Baptists on the one hand and the Catholics on the other. All other denominations come in between these two positions. We will find by comparison that all other denominations have more in common with the Catholics than do the Baptists. We will also find that most of the other denominations have more in common with the Catholics than they do with the Baptists, Let us, then, state the position of the Baptists, and of the Catholics on certain great Scriptural doctrines, and then see the relative position anti kinship of all other denominations to either the Baptists or the Catholics, on these great doctrines.
(1). The Baptists believe in the Bible as God's final and complete revelation to man and, as His unchangeable law, is the only source of doctrine and the only word of authority for the individual Christian and for Christian churches.
The Catholic position regarding the Bible is the exact
opposite to this. Catholics believe in the Pope as the absolute source of all
doctrine. And the exclusive arbiter of all practice, governing individuals and
churches; that the "Church" may create doctrine, suspend or enforce
practice at any time, arbitrarily without respect or regard for the
unchangeable words of Scripture. Take the other denominations, and compare
their stand on this all, important doctrine. The
A Church of England preacher a few years ago came to
Can Romanism be worse than that? Can Romanism at its worst, do worse than strangle the voice of true prayer to God? "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him."
The town papers announced the resignation of the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church to accept a pastorate in another state. The speaker met this resigning Presbyterian pastor, and expressed regret at losing him from the city. The resigning pastor remarked: "Well, I feel that I could not do otherwise. I have prayed over this matter very earnestly, and I am convinced that my going is the leading of God's Spirit." This man's resignation was sent up to the Presbytery to be passed upon. The Presbytery decided against the change, and sent this pastor back to his old task, notwithstanding, that after prayer, he believed that God's Spirit was directing the change!
Yet, it is a fact that the Presbyterian Church is not
governed by a hierarchism as severe as rules in Methodism;
but we see that Presbyterianism has the power to usurp the functions of the
Holy Spirit. Paul said to the pastors of his day and time, "Take heed,
therefore, unto yourselves, and to the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has
made you overseers; to feed the
(2). Let us take another New Testament doctrine by way of comparison: The Baptists believe that A Believer in Jesus Christ is the Only Scriptural Subject for Baptism, and that No One But a Converted and a Regenerated Person Should Be Baptized.
The Catholic Church invented baptismal regeneration, and set up the practice of infant and unregenerate baptism. On this point of doctrine, the Baptists stand absolutely alone… Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, all baptize babies as do the Catholics; and in fact, stand squarely with the Catholic Church for un-regenerate baptism. Mormons, Campbellites, and Christian Sciences stand with the Catholics for baptismal regeneration.
(3) Baptists believe that New Testament Baptism is Immersion. The Catholics believe with the Baptists, that immersion was the New Testament usage, but consistent with their stand on other Scripture, the "Church" arbitrarily set aside the New Testament usage and substituted, sprinkling for baptism. Lutherans, Espicopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationists, Methodists, all accept Catholic, instead of New Testament baptism, and therefore practice sprinkling. Mormons, Campbellites, and Christian Scientists, refuse Catholic baptism in form, and in formulating their practice of the ordinance, adopt the original New Testament form of immersion.
(4). Baptists Believe that Salvation is Purely of Grace, That the Vicarious Death of Jesus is the Only Means of Redemption for any Human Being. Therefore the Baptists hold that the Ordinance of Baptism is only a Symbol Setting Forth a Believer's Death to Sin, His Regeneration by the Power of the Holy Spirit, and that the Act of Baptism Has in it No Saving Efficacy or Sacramental Grace.
The Catholics believe that salvation is not purely a work of grace, that the death of Jesus Christ is not the only means of salvation, but that the ordinance of Baptism is efficacious, contains sacramental grace, and is essential to salvation. On this doctrine, again, the Baptists stand alone, and all others hold the position of the Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, hold squarely to the Catholic position that infant baptism contains sacramental grace; while the Mormons, Campbellites and Christian Scientists, hold that baptism by immersion is essential to salvation.
For fear some may find fault with me for classing them with the Catholics on this doctrine of baptismal regeneration, I will quote from the law of some of the other churches on the subject. Unless Church legislators have changed the law very recently, the following obtains among the churches named, and is a fair sample of the position of all covenantal churches on this doctrine:
The Episcopalian Catechism says:
"Baptism is that wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven."
The Presbyterian Confession reads:
"Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and a seal of the covenant of Grace, of his engrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life."
The Methodist ritual reads as follows:
"Sanctify this water for this holy sacrament, and grant that this child, now to be Baptized, may receive the fullness of thy Grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children."
In a city where the speaker was laboring in the Gospel, the pastors of all the churches in the city came together one morning to consider the propriety of inviting Dr. R. A. Torrey to conduct a city-wide evangelistic meeting. To that Pastors' Conference, came the Episcopalian rector of the city. The rector asked to make a statement. He proceeded as follows; "I want to put myself right before all you pastors of the city in my relation to the proposed evangelistic meeting. I cannot co-operate with you in the movement, and I want you to understand my convictions in the matter. I do not believe in what is known among you as evangelism. I do not believe in what you call conversions under the spontaneous operation of the Holy Spirit in the human heart. I believe in covenantal grace, and that people become Christians by baptism and confirmation into the church. Believing as I do, I cannot consistently engage with you in your proposed evangelistic campaign." All this, the rector said very frankly and earnestly. Then, in seeming justification of his position, after a moment's hesitation, he continued: "I want to say to you Presbyterian pastors here, that if you live up to the covenantal teachings of your Church, you cannot engage in an evangelistic meeting. I will say the same to the Methodist pastors also, that if you live up to the covenantal teachings of your Church, you cannot consistently engage in an evangelistic meeting. You should either abandon your covenantal teachings or quit holding evangelistic campaigns. By undertaking to carry out both, you make two plans by which men become Christians. As I see it, these Baptist preachers are the only preachers in our city who can consistently carry on an evangelistic meeting. They do not believe in covenantal grace, but they consistently hold every man to a personal experience of religion which they call conversion and regeneration."
(5). Baptists Believe in the Equality of Church Members in the Privileges and the Government of the Churches.
Catholics give church members no privileges but to obey the "Church" and no voice whatever in the government of the Church. Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Mormons, Christian Scientists, stand with the Catholics on this doctrine in varying degrees, while the Congregationalists and Campbellites submit some things to a vote of the congregation.
(6). Baptists Believe in the Absolute Freedom of the Individual Conscience.
Catholics give the individual no personal prerogative. Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, stand close to the Catholics because of their practice of infant baptism; while Mormons and Christian Scientists stand squarely with the Catholics because of their despotic constitutions. Campbellites put an ordinance between the sinner and his Saviour, and thereby forbid his unlimited approach to God.
Infant baptism is a manifest subornation and usurpation of the function of personal will. If a question of state law were involved in the act of infant baptism, every bishop, priest or preacher who performs the act could be indicted by the court for subornation of perjury, convicted as a felon for the crime of intimidating or usurping the function of individual will upon the part of the child, in robbing him of the prerogative of personal obedience to the command of Jesus. On the same principle, every god-mother or god-father who aids, assists or abets the deed could he convicted for accessory to the fact.
THE DIVIDING LINE
Thus it can be easily seen that the Baptists and the Catholics hold nothing in common; and, that all other denominations hold a middle ground somewhere between the Baptist and the Catholic positions. I believe that the time is now on when the Christian world is going more completely to divide itself between these two great extremes in doctrine. Some are going to drift nearer to the Catholics, and finally be absorbed by them; while others are going to drift further front the Catholics, and come to accept the Baptist position. The final grand definition of Christian theology will be expressed in terms of New Testament authority on the one hand, as held by the Baptists, or the edicts of the Catholic Pope on the other. The Catholics are intolerant to any organization or power that disputes the authority or right of the Pope to govern the religious or civil thoughts of men. On the other hand, the Baptists are intolerant to any organization or power that disputes the authority of Jesus Christ as expressed in the New Testament Scriptures, and the God-given right of men to worship God for themselves.
What the last great struggle between these two intolerant
positions will mean, only the mind of God can know. Yet, I think that the word
of Jesus and the prophecies of Revelation, give hope to the Baptists that their
age-long contention will finally triumph. On one glad day God's angel from
Heaven shall announce to the world that the day of Baptist martyrdoms to the
Truth is passed. "
THE BAPTIST DEFENSE FOR A SEPARATE DENOMINATIONAL EXISTENCE
THE PROBLEM of Church Union is becoming a question of general religious discussion. So far, the practical solution of the question has taken no definite form nor shaped itself into any lines of procedure. The popular idea of Church Union comprehends the breaking down of the standards of modern denominational individuality, and the merging of all kinds and character of professing Christians into one, big Church. The idea of one Church for all Christians is undoubtedly Scriptural. The ideal of Scripture certainly does not give place for the present number of so-called churches which maintain a separate existence in the world today. It is obvious to any thinking man that the multiplicity of Christian denominations, in the maintenance of their separate institutions and mission activities, is un-scriptural, un-economic, contrary to the will of God, and greatly detrimental to the successful propagandism of the Gospel of Jesus Christ both at home and among the unevangelized nations.
For years, the question of denominational union has been discussed. In these later days, however, the idea has taken serious hold in the councils of many denominations: and preliminary steps have been taken by some looking to a world-conference, in the near future composed of leaders from all denominations who, it is hoped, may succeed in formulating some system of "faith and order" which all the Christian world could accept and unite upon. The contemplation of such a gigantic consummation of faith and fraternity is indeed fascinating and thrilling in the extreme to the heart of every faithful child of God.
The Scriptural argument for denominational union is as plain and is as broad and deep as the intercessory prayer of Jesus recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John. The fraternal argument for such union is intense and touches every sentiment of Christian affection. The economic argument for denominational union, based upon the facility and advancement of the kingdom, is sane and convincing beyond dispute. Surely the obvious need for denominational union is beyond denial, and the imperative demand for such union must be acknowledged by every deliberate Christian mind.
The Christianity of today is standing before the accusative eye of modern intelligence unable, in her present aspect, to defend herself when the reasonable and just demands of modern thought ask why the divided, inharmonious, and even acrimonious and mutinous conditions of her adherents are allowed to exist.
The time has come when no longer will religious sentimentality and tolerant indulgence give sufficient ground for the useless and extravagant expenditure of great money and religious forces in the multiplicity and duplication of work for the accomplishment of the same professed aim. The religious exigencies of the hour demand of every Christian denomination a reasonable and convincing argument for a separate denominational existence. The problems of the mission fields of the world, as well as the ever-increasing needs of the home land, all cry out against the needless delay of the message of life incurred by the followers of Christ by piling up their millions of money and wasting God's hours of opportunity in duplicating church institutions at the expense of both harmony and advancement.
A fair and unprejudiced comparison of the articles of faith of the modern evangelical Christian denominations will show that on many, and that the seemingly most vital and essential teachings of Jesus, they are already agreed and theoretically united; and that the points of widest Separation are those which would appear the least essential to constitutional Christianity. These vital doctrines on which the evangelical churches are already tacitly at union, stand out prominently as comprehending the very foundation upon which any statement of Christian faith must ultimately rest, his fact should provide a working basis for a program of interdenominational union.
All evangelical churches, upon very slight differences of interpretation, accept:
1. The divine inspiration of the Scriptures.
2. The divinity and messiahship of Jesus Christ.
3. The vicarious death of Jesus as the only remedy for sin.
4. The resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
5. His ascension and mediatorial reign.
6. The personality and office work of the Holy Spirit.
7. The necessity and repentance and faith to divine acceptance.
8. Church membership, the duty of every professing Christian.
9. Baptism, a prerequisite to church membership.
10. Church membership, a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper.
11. The Gospel, God's plan of evangelizing the nations.
12. The evangelization of the nations, the supreme business of the Churches.
13. Hell and eternal punishment for all the rejectors of Christ.
14. Heaven, the blessed eternal home of all the saved.
Since these doctrines are absolutely essential to the constitutional life of a Christian Church, and since these doctrines are professedly accepted by all evangelical Christians, then no man can object to an attempted. Church Union when all these doctrines are incorporated in the articles of federation, unless there is something more essential than these left out or unless, by incorporating other teachings in a proposed statement of doctrine for possible union, these doctrines should be obscured or devitalized.
The Baptist denomination is in hearty accord with the idea of Church Union, and looks with prayerful hopes toward a future which may see all denominational lines wiped out, and the whole Christian world stand a mighty, militant, united people, once more upon the "foundation of Christ and the apostles." The Baptists offer their best services for the promotion of this mighty Scriptural consummation. In the eyes of all the world, and before God's judgment throne, the Baptists would stand adjudged guilty of a colossal failure of duty, if they should stand loose from a complete union of all Christian denominations because of a prejudicial contention for any non-essential point of their peculiar doctrine or polity. If the Baptists should stand uncompromisingly upon the doctrines which they hold, in the face of a general demand for Christian Union, they must do so upon principles that cannot be successfully assailed either from Scriptural or historical grounds.
With all these things clearly before me, and duly considered, I come now to assert that the Baptists have no articles of faith to surrender or modify, or principles of Church polity to give up or compromise in making out a program for interdenominational Church Union. Their very doctrines themselves hold the Baptists to an immutable position, and their constitutional life forbids the possibility of organic union with any organization new or old; because, there is no possible way to modify or alter their doctrine without marring or destroying the doctrine itself. It is a dominant principle among Baptists that there is no such thing as organic denominational union binding their own churches into a system of government. They have no ecclesiastical courts or legislative parliaments for the purpose of making laws and issuing mandates to the particular churches. It were therefore impossible to legislate agreements or sign articles of federation that could bind the Baptist churches of the land for a day. If such were done, the Baptists would be forced to veto the act on the constitutional ground of their complete Church autonomy.
In other words, the Baptists are bound in their existence
by certain fundamental and constitutional laws of being which make them what
they are, and these laws of being forbid the possibility of their being
legislated out of existence without destroying the only material out of which
the doctrinal structure of a New Testament Church could be formed. To the
The Baptists, therefore, have a defense for their separate denominational existence which they shall never hesitate to plead in the face of every possible claim of expediency, and before the highest and most numerous ecclesiastical tribunals that may assemble on earth.
In making their defense for a separate denominational existence, the Baptists, in the first place, renounce any and all responsibility for the present divisions in doctrine and polity which have brought into existence the numerous Christian denominations of today. I grant that this renunciation of responsibility does not relieve the Baptists of the other responsibility of trying to rectify conditions as they present themselves today; but this is only to affirm that this latter responsibility the Baptists have never failed to try to discharge.
The Baptists renounce the responsibility for the present divided condition of the Christian world because the Baptists were here when all other denominations came into existence, and the constitution and faith of all other churches were formulated by leaders who rejected the Baptist position and set up their ecclesiastical systems over the protests of the Baptists, and that with the full, knowledge of the doctrines which the Baptists hold. The value of the Baptist priority of existence over all other evangelical denominations was purchased at the cost of blood and martyrdom suffered by thousands during the dark night of the Middle Ages, and their title to every doctrine which they hold was written in blood in the days when they alone kept alive, even in the dens and caves of the earth, the only true evangelical teaching which the Protestant Churches, in a brighter day, came to profess in part.
Modern denominationalism had its birth in the Reformation in the beginning of the sixteenth century. That date marked a period of general awakening, intellectually and religiously. The world was ready to shake off the sleep of the Middle Ages, and to arouse herself from the religious nightmare of Catholic superstitions. Martin Luther stood forth as the leader of a new religious order. The break with the Catholic Church was general and widespread, the loosening of the grip of the Pope on the civil governments of the time gave the Reformation its greatest promise of success. The Pope marshaled all the civil and ecclesiastical forces at his command to suppress the impending war against Catholic despotism and degenerate practices, but he was impotent to stem the inevitable tide of religious revolution. The Reformers were thrown out of the Catholic Church by excommunication, but this served only to crystallize their doctrines and to solidify their followers into formal organization. The Baptists of the time came out of their hiding places and exiles, whence they had been driven during all the centuries of Catholic dominion, and welcomed the light of the new day as a time for the restoration of primitive Christianity. The Baptists held out to the reformers the open Bible and urged them to adopt it as their only rule of faith and practice, and to cast away forever and completely every vestige of Roman sacramentalism and sacerdotal and thus make their reform a complete return with simplicity of the New Testament order.
Professor Kurtz, in his Church history says of the Baptist attitude towards Luther and the other reformers: "The representatives of the Baptist movement showed their ultra-reforming character by this, that while at one with Luther and Zwingli in seeking the overthrow of all views and practices of the Roman Catholic Church regarded by them as un-evangelical, they characterized the position of the Reformers as a halting half way, and so denounced them as still deeply rooted in the anti-Christian errors of the papacy. They were especially indignant at the position of the reformers for not rejecting with scorn the help of magistrates in carrying out the Reformation movement for recognizing, not only the right, but the duty of civil rulers to co-operate in the reconstruction of the Church to exercise control over the ecclesiastical and religious life of the community as well as each individual, to see to the maintenance of Church order, and to visit the refractory with civil penalties." In a further summary of Baptist doctrine advocated insistently during the Reformation, Professor Kurtz says that they believed in freedom in matters of conscience, religion, worship, and doctrine as a fundamental axiom which forms the primary privilege of the Christian religion. They contended for the Bible "as the only unconditional valid legislative code for Christians." They stood for a strict converted church membership, regeneration before baptism; and declared infant baptism to be of the devil.
Since such was the contention of the Baptists in the days of Luther, no man can undertake to say that the Baptists failed in their duty in seeking to prevent divisions in Protestant Christianity. There is no possible estimation of the consequences which would have entailed in blessings from the Reformation, if Luther and Calvin had accepted the Baptist contention at the time, and had planted their churches squarely upon the New Testament. If no mixture of Catholicism had clung to these first Protestant organizations, the cleavage would have been complete, and there would have been no further excuse for other Protestant bodies. Yet, it is written of Luther, that he hated the Baptists hardly less than he hated the Catholics.
Furthermore, it may be said with equal emphasis, that the Baptists are not responsible for the continuation of the divided conditions of the Protestant world. Baptists are not Protestants. They have ever been the eternal enemies of Romanism. At every break in the, ranks of Catholicism, as well as the reforms that have taken place in Protestantism out of which new denominations have been formed, the Baptists have stood by with the open Bible inviting the dissenters to a full return to apostolic practices, and a complete renunciation of every semblance of Catholicism. In all the history of Protestantism, the Baptists have insistently pleaded with the Christian world to come back to the Bible and to restore entirely the New Testament doctrines and usages. This age-long plea of the Baptists, they offer, no less insistently today, and this plea must yet be heard by the Protestant Churches before the Baptists shall cease to contend for a separate denominational existence.
Again, the Baptists assert that they have ever held
through all the Christian centuries every essential and evangelical doctrine
contained in the creeds of any and all other denominations. The Protestant
denominations would not have to surrender one single New Testament teaching
in accepting the Baptist position. On the other hand, Baptists could not modify
or compromise their doctrine in any respect without devitalizing, or
surrendering altogether, the plain commands of God. That which Protestant
denominations would have to give up to accept the Baptist position are only
those tenets which Protestants have retained of Catholic teaching and
practice, which Baptist growth and perpetuity as a denomination have
demonstrated absolutely are not essential to the vitality or propaganda, of
Christian truth. No Protestant denomination would lose one crumb of truth or
quench one spark of spiritual fire in surrendering their sacramental and
sacerdotal systems, abolishing their ritualism and formalism, swinging dear
from every vestige of medieval ecclesiasticism, and planting themselves upon
the New Testament as the "only valid, unconditional legislative code for
Christians." On the other hand, to unite with Protestantism would mean
for the Baptists that they must leave the foundation of Christ and the
apostles, and don some of the scarlet of
The question of Church Union is an impossibility with Baptists on simple practical grounds. Baptist churches are not organically or legally united among themselves. Because of this fact, it were impossible for them to become such with other peoples. The complete autonomy of Baptist churches precludes the possibility of any federation of their churches that would bind for a day the Baptist denomination as a whole. Baptists have no "Congress of Bishops" or "Chamber of Deputies," or other ecclesiastical courts who may frame laws and issue orders to the particular congregations.
Furthermore, the Baptists are possessed of no constituted books of church laws, disciplines, prayer books, confessions, or other legal formularies, to offer for modification or repeal by some ecumenical council on Christian "Faith and Order." Before such an ecclesiastical assemblage, the Baptists would be forced to appear with the New Testament as their only book of law, to be submitted to their censorship for reconstruction and amendment.
Among many other doctrines which the Baptists honor, and cherish dearer than mortal life, there are three distinguishing and determining Baptist principles which the Baptists offer to the world as absolutely essential to the life of a pure Christian Church, patterned after the order of the apostolic churches. These three principles the Baptists shall never surrender. They offer them to the Protestant world as a reason and a defense for a separate Baptist denominational existence until the Christian world comes to their acceptation. We shall see in the discussion of these three distinguishing Baptist principles that their acceptation by all Protestant Churches would solve the problem of Christian union, and place all the followers of Jesus on a common ground of doctrine and brotherhood.
(1) The first of these principles is, The Bible, the Only
Source of Doctrine and the Only Governing Law for Christians and for
To accept this great principle looks easy; not to accept it would seem a Christian paradox; but to apply this principle literally, would work devastation and ruin to the Church creeds of the world. The operation of this principle would destroy every legislated creed that has ever been formulated by the ecclesiastical councils of the world. It would abolish every ritual, liturgy, or other formulary that has ever bound the devotions of a worshipping people. It would repeal and, nullify every act of ecclesiastical legislation that was ever enacted by a denominational court for the governing of churches, and leave the Christian world with no religious code, save the New Testament as a law of life and conduct.
(2) The second determining and distinguishing Baptist principle which would help to solve the question of Christian Union, if accepted by all Churches is, The Scriptural Interpretation and Administration of the Ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
The unscriptural interpretation and administration of these two ordinances laid the foundation for the vast system of sacramentalism and sacerdotalism which pervades the whole theology of Roman Catholicism, and which has left its stamp upon the life of all Protestant Churches.
The New Testament teaching and practice regarding these
two ordinances are gloriously simple and clear. Each of these two ordinances is
symbolical and monumental in teaching and observance. Nowhere in the New
Testament usage are they observed with anything more than symbolical intent.
That these two pictorial symbols contain sacramental grace and saving efficacy
is an endowment which has been vested in them not by Scripture, but by the
fiat of the ecclesiastical legislature of
To accept the Scriptural interpretation of Baptism as only symbolizing the believer's regeneration by the Holy Spirit, setting forth his "death to sin" and his resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus, as Paul states in the sixth chapter of Romans, would mean the complete overthrow of the practice of infant baptism. There is no argument that can be rendered in favor of the practice of infant baptism except that which the Catholic Church boldly asserts, which is that baptism cleanses the infant from Adamic sin and makes him a child of God. Many of the Protestant Churches which practice infant baptism deny that they do so with the sacramental interpretation of the Catholics. In such denial, they put themselves in the attitude of destroying the Scriptural symbolism of a believer's baptism. To apply baptism to an infant is either to destroy the symbolism of the ordinance or to regenerate the baby. If it is applied to regenerate the infant, it is manifestly unscriptural; if it is applied with any other intent, it becomes destructive of the Scriptural symbolism, and its performance is absolutely meaningless, if not sinful, and is, therefore, superfluous. There is no possible ground upon which to justify the practice on either hand. Baptism is an ordinance to be performed upon a regenerated soul, and its teaching to the world is made void when it is performed upon any other than a regenerated person. It would be a long step in a return to apostolic usage if the Protestant Churches should step out of the shadows of mediaeval sacramentalism and cast from them forever the destructive and sinful practice of infant baptism. They could then stand squarely upon the New Testament ground of believer's baptism and a converted church membership. To reject infant baptism, would be to repudiate also the vain tradition of covenantal grace obtained in church membership; and thus further advance the process of elimination which must take place if Church Union is ever made possible.
Again, the Scriptural administration of the ordinance of Baptism would bring the Christian world to another unit of doctrine. No intelligent Scripture student today will dispute that Scriptural baptism is immersion. The Protestant world in retaining affusion for baptism has held onto a purely Catholic institution, and has set up an immutable barrier to Church Union. The Baptists will never acknowledge the right of a Catholic Pope to change the command of Jesus Christ and subvert the example of the apostles regarding the administration, of the ordinance of baptism. The fact that all Protestant denominations will in these latter days, accept the baptism of immersionists, and will practice immersion themselves, when to fail to do so would be to lose an adherent, is an acknowledgment of the scripturalness of the age-long Baptist contention. Since they have come thus far, it is certainly no longer a matter of conscience with them. It should, therefore, be an, easy thing for them to surrender, for harmony's sake, whatever remaining traditional reverence they might have for the old Catholic institution of sprinkling, and return entirely to the New Testament practice. The most glaring inconsistency which the Protestant world presents to view today is the attitude of Protestant Churches to the administration of the ordinance of baptism. They apply it to the unconscious infant, and to the man of gray hairs. They apply it by sprinkling, by pouring and by immersion. They accept it administered by a Catholic who administers it upon the unregenerate in order to save him, or by a Baptist who performs it only after credible evidence of regeneration. If there were no Scripture governing the practice of the ordinance of baptism, any intelligent mind would renounce the idea that two or more things meant the same thing, or that two acts, directly opposite in performance and intent, are in obedience to the same law of command. The Baptists have for all ages withstood such ludicrous and criminal travesties upon the command of Jesus Christ and they will hail the hour when the Protestant world will turn its back against the treason of the Pope of Rome, which he perpetrated against the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, when he set aside the command of God, and the example of Jesus Himself, and instituted affusion for Christian baptism.
The memorial supper of the Lord has been made by the Catholic Church to serve as a sacrament of grace. Protestant denominations still retain a sacramental superstition regarding the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. The fact is seen in the wording of their rituals and in their notorious contention for privileges at the table of the Lord.
The surrender of sacramentaism would mean also the throwing overboard of all sacerdotalism. If there are no sacraments, then is the priest without an office. The New Testament knows no priest save Jesus Christ. It names no sacrifice save his own precious body. Jesus is the only Priest of the New Covenant. He, "through the eternal Spirit offered up Himself without spot to God." "For this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called, might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." “For Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:” "But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able to save unto the uttermost all them that come to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."
From these Scriptures, it is clearly seen that to ascribe sacramental grace to any thing except the blood of Jesus Christ is to deny the sufficiency and exclusive power of His atonement for sin; and, to vest any man with sacerdotal functions is the climax of human presumption and constitutes the foulest desecration that could he attempted against the priesthood and intercessory office of the Son of God. A return to the Scriptural interpretation and administration of the ordinances which Jesus set in His Church would blast out the very bed-rock of sacramentalism, and tear down the altars of the sacerdotalist, and help mightily in preparing a way for a Scriptural union of all those who love and honor the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth.
(3) The third distinguishing and determining Baptist principle which must be obtained if, ever Church Union is made possible is, The Absolute Equality of All Men Before God in Salvation, and the Equality of All Christians in the Privileges and Government of the Churches.
The doctrine of the equality of all men before God in Salvation, forever does away with all covenant religions, and deals a death blow to the superstition and fallacy of inherited grace. The New Covenant is a covenant of grace, and not of blood or ancestry. The kingdom of grace is composed of those "which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." No child upon whom the ordinance of baptism was ever performed in infancy, as a seal of a supposed covenant of grace, has any merit before God in salvation that the child of heathen parentage may not claim. No child born of Christian parents has any inherited participation in the saving grace of God that the Scriptures do not guarantee to even the un-named and un-claimed half of the slums. "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him." "Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." "The law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ."
The Scriptures speak nowhere of inherited grace, but they speak mightily upon the doctrine of inherited depravity. The idea of inherited grace and the value of covenant religion are a league with the devil, because they deny the doctrine of total depravity of the human race, and dispute the universal necessity of the atonement of Christ. It took even the Apostle Peter some time to learn that "God is no respecter of persons," and that grace knows no aristocracy of human blood.
It would mean a mighty shaking up of foundations in the denominational life of Christendom if inherited grace and covenantal salvation were stricken from the creeds of modern churches. However, it would restore the authority and vindicate the claim of the New Testament, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only hope of salvation for a totally depraved and otherwise hopelessly lost race.
The principle of the equality of church members in the privileges and government of the churches, would, at least, add the finishing touches to a glorious picture of Christian Union. The acceptation of this New Testament doctrine would mean the disbanding of every ecclesiastical, hierarchical system of Church government in the world. Popes, prelates, cardinals, bishops, priests and presiding elders would have to disrobe, and all lay their vestments and official insignia upon the altar of a common Christian Brotherhood. Ecclesiastical legislatures and parliaments would have to adjourn to meet no more forever; and all Church dignitaries, whose mediaeval ecclesiasticism and sacerdotalism have paraded in lordship over the followers of the lowly Jesus, would have to return to walk in the paths of the common saints of God!
Such a mighty revolution of religious thought, such a breaking off of the bands of tradition and superstition, such a unification and mobilizing of the armies of the King, under the banner of "One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism," were a religious pageant whose splendor would dazzle the eyes of wondering angels, and wake their harps to martial airs!
Until we shall see a glorious day like that, the Baptists have a mission in the world, and a mighty defense to plead for a separate denominational existence. The Baptists are set eternally for the defense of the right of Jesus Christ to be the only Lord in "The household of faith," and the only "Head of the Church" for which He died. For this great contention, the Baptists have suffered much at the hands of those who would usurp the authority of their Lord. They stand today willing to repeat the martyrdoms of the Middle Ages, before they will suffer the kingly robes of their only Master to trail in the dust, or swear disloyalty to the absolute Lordship of Jesus over His Churches! If by such a stand, the Baptists be accused of dividing the Christian world, their defiant reply to the accusation is, we had rather divide the so called Churches of the world, than to divide the authority of Jesus Christ with modern Church Ecclesiastics! If this be treason, then make the most of it, but as for the Baptists, give them the Bible, and they shall be content, if they must, to go their way alone!
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
They have already come;
'Tis Grace hath brought them safe thus far,
And Grace will lead them home.