Why Be A Baptist?
Chapter 4: The Baptist Book
There is a great deal of loose and foolish talk these days by ignorant and uninformed people. To read their writings and hear them talk, you would think that the Bible, instead of being written to guide us into all the truth, was written to teach everything in general and nothing in particular. The idea of Unitarians is that every sect in Christendom can find support for its vagaries in the Bible or that the Bible is silent on all distinctive doctrines and every man is left to his own whims and fancies as to what he believes. Such is not the case. The Son of God said: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17). The Bible is Godís compendium of truth. No man is left to his own choice as to what he believes or what church he joins. So particular was the Son of God as to what church Godís children join, that He said: "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:7-8).
That means that if a man says it doesnít make any difference what you believe just so you are sincere, the Lord Jesus says he is a hypocrite and that his worship is vain, heartless and only lip service. That means that if a man says one church is as good as another that he is not obeying Christ at all, but is a man-pleasing timeserver, who if saved at all will be saved so as by fire and all his works burned up. "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is. If any manís work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any manís work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so much as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Ps. 138:2). God thus exalts the truth of His Word above His own name or the name of His Son or the name of His blessed Spirit. God sets unlimited store by the truth of His Word. Nothing is higher or holier than the truth. Satan in the garden of Eden began his work with Adam and Eve by insinuating a doubt in their mind and getting them to put a question mark about Godís truth. He is still at the same old tricks. When he gets men and women to say it does not make any difference what you believe or what church you join, just so you are sincere, it is equivalent to saying that believing a lie will do you as much good as believing the truth. The Bible says "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4).
Nobility of character is determined by just one thing, namely, by a manís attitude to the Word of God. "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13). Next to the rejection of the Lord Jesus the worst curse that God can pronounce against a man is to turn him over to Satan with all deceivableness. "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thess. 2:10).
"Does Make A Difference What You Believe"
It makes a great deal of difference what you believe and what church you join. John the Beloved, in both his second and third epistles, which were addressed, one to a layman and the other to an elect lady, commends them and their children for walking in the truth and loving the truth. And the most terrible execration, which John was capable of writing, he wrote against the modernists of his day, who put so called new truth above "what is written" and against Diotrephes, who with malicious words, prated against the truth. The Bible is Godís textbook on truth, all truth, pertaining to life and godliness. There are no contradictions in it. It is the truth without any admixture of error because it is the Book of Him: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Because the Bible is Godís book, it is the Baptist book. The first Baptist church began during the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus here on earth. The New Testament begins with the work of His forerunner in getting a people ready for Him to build His church. The forerunner said that Christ must increase and he must decrease. John soon passed from the stage of action; Jesus and His churches from then on until the end of the Book are the themes of discussion. Jesus and the Baptists are the theme of this book. These facts prove beyond cavil or gainsaying that the New Testament is the Baptist Book.
I. It was Written by Baptist
The Holy Spirit chose just eight men to write. Matthew, Mark, James and Jude wrote one book each. Luke and Peter wrote two each. John wrote five and Paul wrote fourteen. All of them were Baptists. Matthew, John, James, Peter and Jude were all baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Mark, Luke and Paul were baptized by others, who got their baptism from John. We know then that every book in the New Testament was written by a Baptist. If there were no other reason but that for saying the New Testament is a Baptist book, the fact it was written by Baptists, since it talks about Christ and His churches, would prove that it is the Baptist book,
II. It was Written About Baptist
The New Testament was not only written by Baptists, but it was written about Baptists. It tells of the baptism of Jesus and the twelve apostles and multitudes of others by the first Baptist preacher. It tells of the organization by Jesus of the first Baptist church. It tells about the rapid spread of the Baptists and their doctrines and principles throughout the first century. It tells of their mission work throughout all Southern Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa. This Baptist book tells about the persecutions of Baptists for a generation or two after the ascension of the Lord Jesus. Like Baptists today these New Testament Baptists were a free people and had many contentions and discussions of their differences. This Baptist book tells about them and about the democracy of these Baptists of the long ago in settling their differences.
The letters from the writers of this Baptist book to Baptist churches and individuals are full of expositions of Baptist doctrines and of discussions of the problems and duties of the Baptist church members. There isnít a book in print today that discusses as many of the doctrinal and practical problems of discipline, missions, worldliness, the ministry, the Lordís Supper, speaking in tongues, the disorderliness of women speaking in the churches, church finances and a host of other things Baptist churches are wrestling with today, as Paulís two letters to the church in Corinth. The New Testament was written by Baptists and about Baptists and for Baptists and it will settle all their problems, if they will only read and obey it.
III. It was Written for Baptists of All Ages
The Lord Jesus promised perpetuity to Baptist churches. He plainly said the gates of hell should not prevail against the institution, which He called "My church." "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20). His world wide commission promised that He would be with His churches unto the end of this age. " Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21). He promised that God would be glorified in the church by Christ Jesus in every generation world without end. This Baptist book was written to encourage Baptist churches in times of backsliding or persecution. He promises that there would be Baptist churches in every generation until He comes again. Our enemies testify that our Lord has kept His promise and that Baptists can be traced through the centuries by a trail of blood.
Joan Rocher, of Kent, Anne Askew, and hundreds of other Baptists were murdered for their principles in the sixteenth century before the Smyth affair. The following edict was put forth by the Council of St. Gall, March 26, 1530: "All who adhere to or favor the false sect of the Baptists, and who attend hedge meetings, shall suffer the most severe punishments. Baptist leaders, their followers and protectors, shall be drowned without mercy." (Bullinger, Reformations -ge-schichte, 11, 287: "A History of the Baptists," by J. T. Christian).
In 1819 the king of the Netherlands appointed Dr. Ypeij, Professor of Theology in Gronigen University, and J. J. Dermont, his chaplain, to write the history of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Baptists kept getting in their way when they made a statement concerning them, closing in these words: "We have now seen that the Baptist, who were formerly called ĎAnabaptists,í and in later time Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages." Did these men tell the truth? They were not Baptists.
Alexander Campbell, in 1851, when he had been an ordained minister for forty years, and fifteen years before his death, said: "There is nothing more congenial to civil liberty than to enjoy an unrestrained, unembargoed liberty of exercising the conscience freely upon all subjects respecting religion. Hence it is that the Baptist denomination, in all ages and in all countries has been, as a body, the constant asserters of the rights of man and liberty of conscience. They have often been persecuted by Pedobaptists; but they never politically persecuted though they have had it in their power." ("Christian Baptism," page 409.)
The New Testament was not only written by Baptists and about Baptists and for Baptists, thereby giving overwhelming testimony that it is the Baptist book: but there is one other proof that is stronger than any of these.
VI. It was Written to Make Baptists
The last commission of the Son of God before His ascension to His Fatherís right hand said: "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20). That commission was given to His church. It could not have been given to individuals, because perpetuity was promised unto the end of the age. The only thing that was to continue unto the end of the age was His church as an institution. To that institution He gave this world wide commission. His first command was to make disciples (get folk saved) or Christians by preaching the gospel to every creature in all nations. Then He commanded His church, which was a Missionary Baptist church, to make Baptists out of all Christians, by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He who has all authority in heaven and in earth commanded His church to make disciples or Christians of all nations by preaching the gospel to them and make Baptists out of all Christians by giving them Baptist baptism.
The command of the Lord Jesus is as plain and as imperative to make Baptist as it is to make Christians. Those are our orders until He comes back. First make them Christians and then make them Baptists. According to the orders of Him, who has all authority in heaven and in earth, it is as much our business to make Baptists as it is to make disciples. If the Lord Jesus by His orders can make His will clear and plain, it is His will that every Christian on this earth be a Baptist. Not by force is this to be done but by teaching. And just as they are not to be made disciples by force but by teaching, so they are to be made Baptists exactly the same way, namely, by teaching all Christians the all things He has commanded. The same Bible that will make Christians, will make Baptists if faithfully taught.
Baptists will have two big accounts to settle at the judgment bar of the Lord Jesus. The first one will be for not going our lengths to make Christians by giving the world the gospel of grace. The second will be for not doing our best to make Baptists out of all Christians. The orders of Jesus include both. The Book is very plain about the plan of salvation. It is equally plain about church membership. The New Testament will make Christians if read and believed. The same New Testament will make Baptists if read and obeyed. It is just as plain and clear on the second as on the first. Salvation first, then obedience in baptism and church membership.
"Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). That is the order of the Lord Jesus and these New Testament Baptists obeyed their orders. The orders havenít changed. They still read that way. First make them disciples: then make them Baptists. Every disciple or Christian ought to be a Baptist. Why arenít they? Because Baptists have sold out for pay and popularity. They try to make disciples: but they donít try to make Baptists. They are afraid they will be called narrow or be unpopular or the collection will fall down. How much better is that crowd than Judas? Selling out the Lord for dirty silver. Who is doing that? All Union evangelists are. All compromising pastors, who dismiss any of their services are. All the "mixed multitude" who because of intermarriage with other denominations want the soft pedal put on doctrine are. Who else? Every Baptist school which is selling out for pay and patronage. A Baptist school, which is not trying to make Baptists out of its students is recreant to its Masterís orders and untrue to a sacred trust. The business of every Baptist school in the land is first to make Christians and then to make Baptist out of all their students, who are Christians. Why should Baptist put any money in any school, whose chief business, is not first to make Christians and then to make Baptists out of all their students?
Jesus never told us to do anything, that He did not first set an example. He made and baptized disciples. "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)" (John 4:1-2). Then He taught them all things needful for the Christian life. That is the business of Baptists everywhere: make disciples, make Baptists, make Missionary Baptists. That ought to be the business of Baptist churches, Baptist Sunday Schools, Baptist schools and everything else that is Baptist. Jesus was a teacher as well as a preacher. He confined His teaching to opening to His young preachers and missionaries the Scriptures. That ought to be the mission of every Baptist school. He left us an example, that we should follow in His steps. Three years or three and one-half of teaching the Scriptures, not only made home and foreign missionaries out of all His preacher boys, but it so saturated the very atmosphere of that first Baptist church with the spirit of missions, that when persecution arose, all the men and women in that church went everywhere "gossiping about Jesus." "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles... Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word" (Acts 8:1,4).
If Baptist schools gave a four years course in the study of the Bible, all their students would go back home to set this whole land afire on Missions, just like they did in New Testament days. Churches, schools and every other agency of the Baptists ought to exist to make Christians: make Baptists: make Missionary Baptists. If they are not run for that purpose, they ought to die; the sooner the better for this wicked world. The New Testament was written to make Christians: to make Baptists: to make Missionary Baptists. Time and space would fail me to cite the many examples of those, who have been made Baptist by the New Testament. Judson and Rice on different ships, going out as Congregationalist missionaries, were made Baptist by studying their Greek Testaments, to meet Marshman and Ward, two English Baptist missionaries already on the field.
A Methodist presiding elder in the "Pennyrile" district of Kentucky held a meeting between Owensboro and Central City. A very prominent business man was converted, but did not join the church. A few weeks afterwards the presiding elder saw one of the stewards on the train between Owensboro and Central City and asked him about his convert. A Baptist deacon was sitting just behind the elder and steward. They either did not notice or did not care, who heard them. The stewardís answer to the elder was that the new convert was reading his Bible. The significant comment of the elder, with a shrug of the shoulder, was: "Well we had as well say good bye to him. He will go to the Baptists." How any man expects to meet the Lord Jesus, except with great embarrassment, who knows the truth about baptism and church membership, and will not obey it, is more than I can understand.
Why the Baptist Preacherís Baby was not Sprinkled!
J. B. Jeterís third wife was a Presbyterian. A baby was born in that home. His wife said something about like this: "Mr. Jeter, you knew I was a Presbyterian, when you married me. As an honest Presbyterian I believe that our baby ought to be baptized." He consented on condition that she would consent to his holding the baby while the ceremony was performed. She thought it would be a feather in her cap to have the most prominent Baptist preacher in Virginia and one of the best known Baptist editors in the South to hold their baby, while a Presbyterian preacher baptized it.
So she consented. J. B. Jeter announced in his church in Richmond, that he would be out of his pulpit to be present at the Presbyterian church and why. That church was jammed and packed. The scholarly and dignified Presbyterian preacher preached and then announced that those who had babies to be baptized would please bring them forward. Bro. Jeter and his wife arose and he took the baby in his arms and they walked to the front. He was careful to get at the end where they were to begin. Quite a number of other parents had children present for that purpose. Just as the honored pastor of that Presbyterian church raised his hand to say the baptismal formula and baptize Bro. Jeterís baby, Bro. Jeter said something like this: "My brother, you and I have been good friends for many years. My wife has been a member of your church for years and I have never tried to proselyte her to my faith. But as a Baptist I believe that we ought to be able to give a thus saith the Lord for all that we do. This is my baby as well as my wifeís. Before you sprinkle my child, I want you to take your Bible and read out of the Book your authority for what you are about to do." The scholarly, old-school Presbyterian preacher slowly raised his hand and pronounced the benediction. Mrs. Jeter soon became a Baptist. She said that her pastor was one of the most scholarly Presbyterian preachers in all the South. If he could not find infant baptism in the Bible, then it must not be there. If infant baptism was not in the Bible, she had never been baptized, for infant baptism was all she had ever had. With an open Bible she soon was led to the truth and obeyed her Lord in baptism. The Bible was written to make Baptists and it will do the work in every regenerate heart if they will only read it and obey it.