I Am Proud To Be A Baptist
By Duke K. McCall
I am proud to be called a Baptist! Baptists did not choose their name. It was given to them by their enemies. The name “Baptist”, like the name “Christian” which was first applied to the followers of Jesus at Antioch, was intended to distinguish those people who lived and worshiped differently. I am proud to be called a Baptist!
I am proud of what others have said about Baptists’ faithfulness in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The great Methodist historian, Dr. Frank S. Mead, said “They [the Baptist] have the strength of numbers. That represents power. Power to grow. Power to do things. The world has done its best to stop them; we can trace their history more readily in the bloody footprints of their martyrs than in the ink of their historians. We have tried to shame them by whipping them and they have made us ashamed of our whipping-posts…Addlepated world! You tried to stamp them out and all you got for it was to have them leave their stamp on you!
The testimony of Cardinal Hosius, one to the pope’s representatives at the Council of Trent (1545-63), explains Baptists’ growth: “If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the Anabaptists, since there have been none for these twelve hundred years past that have been more generally punished or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people” . (Hosius, Letters Apud Opera, 112-113. Baptist Magazine CVIII, 278. May 1826)
I am proud of our Baptist heritage. I am grateful for men like Statler, who before his tongue was torn out and his body burned, wrote his confessions in which he demanded for himself and for all others the right of a free conscience. Then there was Felix Mantz, who in 1527, for the crime of believer’s baptism, was sentenced to be drowned. Led through the streets of Zurich, he preached to the people as he went. His old mother and brother, brushing away their tears, walked by his side exhorting him to suffer bravely for Jesus’ sake. George Wagner, as he was burned at the stake, cried through the flames, “Jesus! Jesus!” There was Obadiah Holmes, who for the crime of meeting for worship in the home of blind William Witter was whipped by Massachusetts’s authorities until his body was such a welter of sores that he had to sleep on his hands and knees for two weeks.
I am proud to be a Baptist because of what we have done in the field of education. I am proud of Baptist like Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard; of John Clarke, who in 1675 was among the first to advocate a free public school system. I am proud that Baptist established Vassar and Judson, the first colleges for women, that it was a Baptist college, Brown University, which first provided “full, free, uninterrupted liberty of conscience.
I rejoice that Baptists have been in the forefront of religious education with men like Deacon William Fox, who stands at the head of the Sunday school movement; Deacon H. J. Howland, who organized the first Primary department; Mrs. Juliette Dimock Dudley, who with her sister, Mrs. Alonzo Pettit, stated the Cradle Roll; and B. F. Jacobs, who was foremost in initiating the International Sunday School Lessons.
I am proud of Baptist pioneering in missions. William Carey, an English Baptist, rediscovered Christ’s commission and became the father of modern missions. The first missionaries from America were Judson and Rice, who became Baptist on the way to India. Joshua Marshman translated the Bible into the Chinese language. Francis Mason gave the Karens their first version of the Bible. Nathan Brown provided the translation for Japan and Assam. Lyman Jewett rendered a similar service to the Telugus. Joseph Hughes, another Baptist, led in organizing the British and Foreign Bible Society.
I am proud to be a Baptist because of what we believe. We accept the Bible as our all-sufficient guide to faith and practice.
It is reported that at the Council in the Vatican when the College of Cardinals had at last passed the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope, in 1870, Cardinal Manning, in the excitement of that moment, jumped up on a table and swung that document around his head, crying, “Let all the world go to pieces; we’ll reconstruct it on this paper.” Without denying anyone else the right to believe what he pleases and to act as he pleases, we Baptists say, “The whole world will go to bits unless it is constructed on the revelation of God in his holy Word.”
I am proud of our Baptist faith in the Word of God and in the power of the Spirit of God to guide men into an understanding of the truth. We have no ecclesiastical hierarchy to enforce uniformity. We need no creed to coerce the faith of men. Our unity is not that of artificial uniformity in the acceptance of hu-manly prescribed dogmas but of loyalty to divine revelations.
I am proud to be a Baptist who believes in the authority of the Bible and the competency of the soul of man in matters of religion. I am proud to be a Baptist who not only demands for himself but also recognizes for others the right of a free conscience and the responsibility for personal decision to trust Jesus Christ as Saviour, Redeemer and Lord. I am proud to work with my fellow Baptist who recognizes the necessity of uncoerced co-operation in the spread of the gospel to save a lost world.