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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke

The Baptism of Believers Alone: “Reasons Why Baptists Ought to Teach Their Distinctive Views”

An Eleventh Day of June Devotional

 

“Reasons Why Baptists Ought to Teach Their Distinctive Views” [1]

 

To teach our distinctive views is a duty we owe to other fellow-Christians. Take the Roman Catholics. We are often told very earnestly that Baptists must make common cause with other Protestants against the aggressions of Romanism. It is urged, especially in some localities, that we ought to push all our denominational differences into the background and stand shoulder to shoulder against Popery. Very well, but all the time it seems to us that the best way to meet and withstand Romanism is to take Baptist ground; and if, in making common cause against it, we abandon or slight our Baptist principles, have a care lest we do harm in both directions. Besides, ours is the best position, we think, for winning Romanists to evangelical truth. Our brethren of the great Protestant persuasions are all holding some "developed" form of Christianity -- not so far developed as Popery, and some of them much less developed than others, but all having added something, in faith or government or ordinances, to the primitive simplicity. The Roman Catholics know this, and habitually taunt them with accepting changes which the church has made while denying the church’ authority, and sometimes tell them that the Baptists alone are consistent in opposing the church. We may say that there are but two sorts of Christianity --church Christianity and Bible Christianity. If well-meaning Roman Catholics become dissatisfied with resting everything on the authority of the church and begin to look toward the Bible as authority, they are not likely, if thoughtful and earnest, to stop at any halfway house, but to go forward to the position of those who really build on the Bible alone.

Or take the Protestants themselves. Our esteemed brethren are often wonderfully ignorant of our views. A distinguished minister, author of elaborate works on church history and the creeds of Christendom, and of commentaries, etc., and brought in many ways into association with men of all denominations, is reported to have recently asked whether the Baptists practice trine immersion. A senator of the United States from one of the Southern States, and alumnus of a celebrated university, was visiting, about twenty years ago, a friend in another State, who casually remarked that he was a Baptist. "By the way," said the senator, "what kind of Baptists are the Paedobaptists?" Not many years ago a New York gentleman who had been United States minister to a foreign country published in the New York Tribune a review of a work, in which he said (substantially), "The author states that he is a Baptist pastor. We do not know whether he is a Paedobaptist or belongs to the straiter sect of Baptists." Now, of course these are exceptional cases; but they exemplify what is really a widespread and very great ignorance as to Baptists. And our friends of other denominations often do us great injustice because they do not understand our tenets and judge us by their own. As to "restricted communion,” for example, Protestants usually hold the Calvinian view of the Lord's Supper, and so think that we are selfishly denying them a share in the spiritual blessing attached to its observance; while, with our Zwinglian view, we have no such thought or feeling. These things certainly show it to be very desirable that we should bring our Christian brethren around us to know our distinctive opinions, in order that we may at least restrain them from wronging us through ignorance. If there were any who did not care to know, who were unwilling to be deprived of a peculiar accusation against us, with them our efforts would be vain. But most of those we encounter are truly good people, however prejudiced, and do not wish to be unjust; and if they will not take the trouble to seek information about our real views, they will not be unwilling to receive it when fitly presented. Christian charity may thus be promoted by correcting ignorance. And besides, we may hope that some at least will be led to investigate the matters about which we differ. Oh, that our honored brethren would investigate! A highly educated Episcopal lady some years ago, in one of our great cities, by a long and patient examination of her Bible, with no help but an Episcopal work in favor of infant baptism, at length reached the firm conviction that it is without warrant in the Scripture and became a Baptist. She afterward said, "I am satisfied that thousands would inevitably do likewise if they would only examine."

But why should we wish to make Baptists of our Protestant brethren? Are not many of them noble Christians -- not a few of them among the excellent of the earth? If with their opinions they are so devout and useful, why wish them to adopt other opinions? Yes, there are among them many who command our high admiration for their beautiful Christian character and life; but have a care about your inferences from this fact. The same is true even of many Roman Catholics, in the past and in the present; yet who doubts that the Romanist system as a whole is unfavorable to the production of the best types of piety? And it is not necessarily an arrogant and presumptuous thing in us if we strive to bring honored fellow-Christians to views which we honestly believe to be more scriptural, and therefore more wholesome. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and Aquila and Priscilla were lowly people who doubtless admired him; yet they taught him the way of the Lord more perfectly, and no doubt greatly rejoiced that he was willing to learn. He who tries to win people from other denominations to his own distinctive views may be a sectarian bigot; but he may also be a humble and loving Christian.


[1] John A. Broadus, The Duty of Baptists to Teach their Distinctive Views, a booklet by the American Baptist Publication Society, 1880.  

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