Address of Welcome to the
Southern Baptist Convention.
Mr. President, Brethren of the Convention, and Visitors:
I have often visited the Southern Baptist Convention, but never had it to visit me before. I feel proud, elated, yea, I am almost beside myself.
I desire very briefly to Introduce to you our city, and then to introduce you to our people. There are many kinds of cities in the world, most of them common, and but few uncommon. Ours is one of the few. The name does not express its only peculiarity. It is notably a city of hot springs, and it ought to be also for its cold springs, which abound in great variety, and are of the best quality. Out of the same mountain proceed both cold and hot water. This is a great mystery, which I trust some of you will solve. Truly, this is a place of "many waters," and I congratulate you in following the example of the first Baptists in resorting to such a place. If any should doubt there is much water because there are many waters, let me assure you that we have over five hundred places prepared for immersing the body in water. We all believe in immersion here. When we asked our bath-house men if the Convention might test our capacity to immerse a multitude, they cordially replied: "Certainly, send them on;" and one said, "Send them all to me." There was duly one complaint, and that was, after tendering the baths they would not be accepted. If you don’t accept you ought to be sent back and made to take a whole course. Get your tickets with instructions and your baths "as free as the water runs out of the ground," is the way one stated it. We welcome you to our many waters, cold and hot. Use them muchly and freely, both externally and internally. While this is not Washington City, yet it is a washing city. We take in washing—tons of it.
But not only the best of waters, but we have also the most precious stones. Passing by the baser metals, such as corruptible gold and silver, of which there are prospective mines more promising than the retrospective ones. Yea, we have mines in our minds more promising than those in our mountains. Passing by these, I Introduce to you our crystal, the like of which is not found in all the world. No diamond can sparkle more brightly than ours; and the whole world is our market for whetstones. Bro. Moderator, as you are a lover of the beautiful, we present to you a Hot Springs crystal. That you may never feel poor, we present to you a Hot Springs diamond, and that you may never feel dull, we present to you a Hot Springs whetstone! These we have in great abundance. You may show this to your dull speakers.
But ours is also a boarding city, and it is needless to say we welcome our boarders. It is not customary to welcome customers, but to thank them. You have heard addresses of welcome belabored with eloquence, but eloquence is not needed now. You have heard it "spread on thick," which was necessary if the welcome was thin. But ours is thick enough, perhaps too thick, as some may covet not you, but yours. Not all of us, even in Hot Springs, are saints and angels. It is possible in a city like this for strangers to be entertained by angels unawares, but watch the angels, as there are two kinds. John says try the spirits, but he didn’t refer to ardent spirits. Hot Springs has charge of that case. We keep them for trial, keep them on trial, and we keep up the trial. But let strangers beware lest these spirits try them. Indeed, if reports be true, we would not like to have them tried by every Baptist jury lest it happen unto them as it did to those evil spirits in the camp of Israel when "the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up." Up is right, as they "fly to the head."
But I ask your attention to another peculiarity of our city. On a limited scale, here is perhaps the greatest combination of wealth and poverty, sickness and health, misery and pleasure, to be found in all the land. This is called the World’s Sanitarium. The rich come here for pleasure, the poor for alms and the afflicted for healing. Of the latter classes you can hear stories, as true as holy writ, more horrifying than the ghost stories of your youth. Often are the poor shipped here on a charity ticket and dumped penniless at our, depot. These are not our poor, but yours, and, as you are the representatives of the world’s charity, I want you to know how we are imposed upon with the outside poor and afflicted. I hear that the Government bathes on an average of 600 to 1,000 daily of these indigent poor. But there is no charity fund here, and no charity home, and both these ought to be provided by those from whom the poor come, and to whom they rightly belong. We don’t ask you to provide these, but to see that it is done. Acquaint yourselves with some of the facts, and your hearts will move with pity.
Next, I wish to interest you in our sore need as Baptists. Our church is out of place, and not in keeping with the place. A better church in a better place would give us access to hundreds that we do not now reach. If there is any place where the gospel can be preached to all the world, here is the place. Our people, sorely burdened with poverty and daily calls for charity, desire and deserve your sympathy and co-operation. Brethren, "if there be any virtue, any praise, think on these things, and those things which ye learn and see and hear, do; and the God of peace shall be with you."
But enough concerning ourselves. I wish now to introduce you to our people—to acquaint them with some of the peculiarities of our guests—I should say customers. Who are these that have come from the North, South, East and West, and have set down here to take council together? Who are they? From whence came they? And for what came they? Whether any do inquire of this or that one, he is my partner, my fellow-helper concerning the truth; or if they all be inquired of, "they are the messengers of the churches—the glory of Christ." In apostolic days the churches, with uplifted hands, chose messengers and sent them out on the Lord’s business. But note well, they were the "messengers of the churches." In the second and third centuries some of these messengers claimed to be delegates of their churches, which, of course, put church authority in their hands, and church authority is all the authority Christ left his people in the world. How the church could hold authority after delegating it I know not, or how they could delegate authority I know not, or how they could resist the delegated authority I know not; for they had been taught not to resist "the authorities." These delegates were generally the pastors of churches, and in two or three centuries they succeeded in wrenching authority from some of the churches, and thus arose an unscriptural congregational episcopacy. But not satisfied with authority over their church, they sought and fought to extend their authority over several churches contiguous to them. When they succeeded in this, they sought and fought to conquer more churches, and to conquer them the more. Thus grew the metropolitan episcopacy, and then the diocesan or provincial, and this grew into the national; and when the two greatest of these sought and fought for supremacy over the other, the bloody victory fell to the bishop at Rome, and he at length acquired the title of Universal Bishop, and from this he acquired the title of Pope, first of all Christendom, and then of all the world. Not satisfied with the confines of this little planet, he extended his authority into heaven, and then into Hades, and then into hell; and the final claim was, that all authority from the highest heaven to the lowest hell had been delegated to the pope of Rome. And this meant authority over men’s bodies, minds, souls, property and destiny for time and for eternity. As all authority had been delegated by the Father to the Son; and as the Son had delegated it to his vicegerent, the pope, then the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must await, expecting till the pope, by fire and sword, should put all authority under his feet. Whether the pope, after subduing all things unto himself, proposes to deliver the kingdom back to the Father, and himself become subject, I know not, but I trow not, as he has "exalted himself above all that is called God or is worshiped." And, mark you, all this (and the half has not been told) was hatched out of that little egg that at first was innocently called "delegate." Are there any real delegates here claiming authority from their churches? We will save our welcome for you until the time of your departure, and if you are in a hurry for the welcome, then you must hasten your departure. Let me emphasize. I introduce to our people the "messengers of the churches." Not messengers or delegates of the Convention.. Members of the Convention and messengers of the churches. These are the glory of Christ. Delegates who rob churches of their authority dishonor Christ. These messengers claim no authority, not even over a hair on any man’s head, nor will they allow any one to exercise authority over a hair on their head. These are the champions of civil and religious liberty, and their mission and commission is to make all men as free as themselves.
But note another peculiarity. These are not messengers of the church, but of the churches. Not one of them is a messenger from a State Baptist church, or Southern Baptist church, or national, or general, or universal church, for if so, he would be from a big church and the others from little low-down local churches, and there would be inequality and preeminence. A heavenly principle would be violated, and his place would not be in a Baptist Convention, but in the Vatican at Rome, or some milder copy of it. These be brethren. They have no lords, no rulers, no masters. "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them, and are called benefactors. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant. And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."
Not even our President has the shadow of ecclesiastical authority. If there are sovereigns here they are on the floor. Our President, in allowing himself honored with election to this service, has really been abased. If we say go up he can go, and if we say come down he has to come. Don’t you see how the earthly principle is reversed by the heavenly? No one-man authority here. The majority rules even the President. Even a delegate, claiming all the authority of the big church, would be cut off by the messengers of the churches. Christ built but one kind of a church, either a kingdom church to be increased, or a congregational church to be multiplied. These are messengers of the churches. Can you even imagine in that expression differing orders of rank either in the messengers or the churches? A telescope or microscope has never been invented that can bring such inequality even to the imagination. Christ is glorified in maintaining an equality of members, a parity of ministers and a comity of churches. To whatever extent preeminence goes to a messenger or a church, to that extent Christ is robbed of his glory, for he is head over all things to his churches—churches of same faith and order once for all delivered, else there might be schisms or divisions and heresies which cannot glorify Christ. There will be contentions about conventional matters, but that is to be expected from soldiers having on the whole armor and belonging to militant churches. But when the majority exercises its authority the fight will subside. They are sent here to fight for what they think is right, and then to abide by what the majority may decide. Atone time you may say: Behold a fight in the camp of Israel, but when the vote is taken the war will end, and you can then say: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."
The Baptists are a peculiar people. The churches sending messengers here are all modeled after the apostolic churches, and these after the church at Jerusalem, and that was the original first church which traveled about with the divine Carpenter and Master Builder. This first church, located for a while at Jerusalem, but getting too large and too lazy, the Lord permitted persecution to scatter it, and in their dispersion this church of Jerusalem became the church of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, going everywhere preaching the Word. But when they had rest they walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and was multiplied by the members organizing themselves in their several places of abode into the churches of Judea, churches of Samaria and churches of Galilee, of which we afterward read: "Added to" in Jerusalem, but when persecuted it multiplied. Addition makes more, multiplication makes many. The Lord is glorified when his churches are multiplied. Indeed, addition, subtraction and division are all for a healthy multiplication. Multiplication is more important than location. Location is not always essential. The first church was not a local church. It located until it thought it necessary to be local, then it dislocated, by the will of God. We have all heard, and, I trust, read of the church that immigrated to this country from Europe. It was a church all the way. It is not right, because not Scriptural to call a church a local church. It was to an unlocal church that Christ said: "Going, disciple you all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to guard safely all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you in all the days, to the consummation of the age." What more authority has a local church? Christ may be more glorified in a going church than in a local one, however well located it may be. I don’t object to a church locating as a means to multiplication; but I do object to using the word local as descriptive of our churches, unless we do it to distinguish from a migratory church. They don’t have to be located to be churches of Christ. "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them." We don’t have to locate in Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem. Our religion and churches and doctrines are too much localized. They ought to be going and discipling the nations. Seeds are for sowing—broadcast.
We are trying to change, our location, but some are so wedded to the place that they had rather stay and starve than to move and thrive. Our literature abounds with these hurtful words, "delegate" and "local." I trust some one will move, and that the motion will receive a thousand, yea, two thousand seconds, to expunge these unscriptural terms from our nomenclature. They are misleading. Christ is more glorified in many little churches than - one big one, and this discriminating adjective "local" is intended to disparage the congregational church. If the church Christ built is persecuted in one city, it can flee to another; but the church that occupies all space can’t change its place. It can’t even go to heaven, as that belongs to the universe. With this congregational construction it is proof against destruction. If all the mosquitoes were one, we could combine our forces against him and prevail; put as it is, it is a hopeless case. I never heard of a local mosquito, nor of local being used of any figure of the church. I never read of a local assembly, building, body, bride, city, congregation, candlestick, flock, fold, family, field, house, household, temple, vine, vineyard, woman, or wife. They may be local, but it is tautological tomfoolery to say so, except to distinguish them from some other kind. But there is no other. The kingdom is not local, but the church is necessarily so. When a church dies in a place, it dies only to the place, and scatters itself to others. Christ says," I will remove the candlestick out of its place." It is made of pure gold, the most enduring and indestructible of all metals. The more you melt it, the purer it becomes; the more you beat it, the more it spreads; the more you rub it, the brighter it shines. Christ does not destroy his candlesticks, but removes them out of their places. If Christ walks in the midst of the candlesticks and holds the stars in his right hand, how can you destroy them without destroying him? Christ is glorified in being the head of every man and of every church; and if being the head of every church makes him multicipital, being the head of every mall makes him more so. If it is not necessary for every man to become one, that He may be the head, so of the churches. Behold these messengers of whom Christ is the head of every one, and they come from the churches of which the same may be said. Every man complete in himself, and every church complete in itself. Here is individual liberty and church independency. All, with differing gifts and nationalities, yet in one Spirit have been baptized into one body, that is, one kind of body like the human body, with the head over the members, and the members having the same care one of another, "the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." These have all drunk of one spirit, even the spirit of peace, truth and unity; having one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. The brother of low degree is exalted, and the brother of high degree is humbled, so there is equality, and they talk and walk and work together as brethren. While these messengers have been sent, and are servants, if the least one, in any particular, had preferred, he would have stayed away. His liberty was not lessened by being sent and being a servant. I speak in the language of Canaan. They were sent by the law of love and they serve in the law of liberty. What a peculiar people are Baptists!
A brother of another persuasion said to me the other day: "I am glad you have been sent back." "Sent," said I; "am I not free? Am I not free indeed?" After a long correspondence I despaired of getting clergymen’s rates over the Union system of railroads, because I could not give the name of the moderator under whose appointment I was laboring at Hot Springs. Will Baptists never make themselves known? We are to blame for most of this. Who gave one man authority to order another in the service of Christ? If I should receive order from any man, or body of men, to go anywhere or to do anything, it would not be my will at all to go to that place, or to do that thing. Who dare get between me and a throne of grace, or to super- cede the Holy Spirit as my guide?
To be more explicit,, and to make ourselves better known—and I am sure this whole Convention will endorse this confident spirit of boasting—if this, the greatest Convention that assembles on the earth, should order me to continue in my present field till further orders, I would resign next Sunday. This Convention, great in numbers and wisdom, is weak in authority, and why? Because He who has all authority never left it to a large annual gathering like this, but to a little weekly gathering like that on the other hill, called his church.
And again, in order to allay a little apprehension or suspicion among some of our own brethren, I make this further statement, and I am sure I will have, the hearty, if not the audible, amen of even our Boards if in your great wisdom you should suggest plans that my little church will approve, we will adopt, them, but not otherwise. You have the wisdom, and we the authority, and, trembling under a sense of that responsibility, we seek your wisdom to enable us the better to exercise our authority, and that is why we rejoice in your coming. Advise us in all things, command us in nothing. If it is right for the Spirit to contrary the flesh, and right to contrary wrong, it would be our duty to be contrary to any order that would be contrary to the liberty and authority, vested in us by the great Head of the church.
Let me repeat. These are messengers of the churches sent to serve, not as slaves, but as sons, free and willing, doing service from the heart, not unto men, not unto men, but unto Christ. A glorious service, in a glorious liberty, maintaining a glorious unity, and in this is the glory of Christ. And it is our mission in the world to make every man as free as ourselves. Those in bondage to men ought to pray for our success.
We welcome you, disciples, because you are the disciples of Christ. We welcome you, messengers, because you are the messengers of the churches. We welcome you, messengers of the churches, because you are messengers of the churches of Christ. We welcome you, messengers of the churches of Christ, because you are the glory of Christ. And as Christ is glorified in you, see that he is glorified by you and through you.
Glad you are here. Wish more had come. Hope you will stay a long time, and that your stay will be as profitable to you as to us. Especially are we glad to see our brethren from the East side of Jordan. I was a long time on that side myself, but hearing of the corn and wine and milk and honey that flow in Canaan, the promise land, I am here. And yet there is room. Come one, come all. Come to stay. Bring all the family and the folk, and their families and folk. Remember, you are just on the borders of this goodly land. We are the down-Easters. The Middle and Western States are all in the great beyond. It is further to the Pacific, than to the Atlantic. Out here you can raise most anything. But if you prefer to live on sand, stay where you are; if rice and sugar, come to our Louisiana; if corn and cotton and cattle, come to Texas; If you want to raise hogs not fattened on swill from the still, come to Missouri; if you want to raise a fuss, come to the Territory close down on the borders of Texas. Indeed, you can raise most anything in Texas, but I thought I would make a distribution of our Western products; if you want to raise the wind, come to Kansas; if you want to raise yourselves and a fine flock of children, come to Arkansas (and I suppose the difference between Kansas and Arkansas is the same as between angel and archangel.) How can you raise yourselves by coming to Arkansas? There are two ways open to you—the usual way and the unusual. The usual way you know, and if you should fail in that, you can try the other way, which is the Scriptural way, and that is to humble yourself, and you will be exalted in due time. This is one of the best States in the Union for that, as there is so much to help a man to humility, and when he gets there, then he can look to the Lord to lift him up.
I hope you all will take a ride or a walk over these mountains. A way is there prepared, yea, a high way. And as you go with exaltation of body and exultation of soul, don’t forget that it all belongs to U. S.—us. Recognize it, yea, realize it; not only be at home, but feel at home. Seize the keys, do as you please and dwell at ease. If you desire next year to visit Asheville, N. C., the next year you must come back. Come out from there singing "Home Again," and "Home, Sweet Home." Hurry back to your fellow-disciples, who will be found fighting with devils below. And may the God of peace bruise Satan under our feet shortly.