was pastor of BuffaloAveChurch for 29 years. During this time he edited the church paper which was called “Faith and Life,”
and for many years he preached over the largest chain of radios daily of any pastor in the country. Dr. Mason still conducts
radio programs over five radio stations sponsored by BuffaloAveBaptistChurch, some of these stations carry
the program daily.
the introduction to the seventh edition of “THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT” Dr. J.W. Jent, at that time, President
of Southwest Baptist college, Bolivar, Missouri had this to say:
an introduction to the seventh edition of this book is a peculiar pleasure. When the first edition appeared in 1923 I welcomed
it not only because it met a real need as a text book in my department in Oklahoma Baptist University, but because I have
never read anything which sets out quite so thoroughly and clearly my own conception of Christ’s ‘ECCLESIA.’
The second edition, which I used as a text in the Theological Seminary of Mercer University was more comprehensive and better
organized than the first edition. It is a valuable and timely contribution to the literature of Christian Polemics. The issue
of this seventh edition reflects the persistence of gratifying interest in Christian fundamentals—a tangible disproof
of the claim that denominationalism is dead”
“I had my introduction to the New Testament Ecclesiology
at the feet of my father, years ago, in the country churches of Southwest Missouri. He still serves as a rural pastor in that section and is widely known as perhaps the strongest doctrinal
preacher in the OzarksMountains. Again and again, during the plastic years of my boyhood, I heard him through his series of sermons on THE CHURCH—Its
nature, Institution, CHARACTERISTICS, PERPETUITY, and Modern IDENTITY. When
I followed him into the ministry and the country pastorate, we labored together laying the Biblical foundation upon which
it was easy for me to build, later, a doctrinal superstructure, under the sympathetic guidance of Dr. B. H. Carroll”
“Years of study and practical experience have
convinced me that the interpretation of my father and my great teacher is correct; that the CHURCH --- Christ’s
‘ECCLESIA’---is ‘A CONGREGATION OF BAPTIZED BELIEVERS associated together in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE
GOSPEL ;’ that it is a SPIRITUAL DEMOCRACY—visible and LOCAL or PARTICULAR; that it is A NEW TESTAMENT INSTITUTION, designed by Our Lord, historically instituted by Him: persisting from century to
century; conserving the characteristics of the New Testament model; easily identified by the rarks of the doctrinal integrity;
functioning true to the genius of its Holy Mission ; justifying its existence by its challenging achievements and its benevolent
blessing to sin-cursed humanity. This is the THESIS Dr. Mason so ably defends in the following pages. He is frank, candid,
consistent, convincing. His arguments are impelling and unanswerable. He states the representative Baptist belief, with its
essential implications. He gives our ‘reason for the faith that is in us’—the ineradicable consciousness
of a mission and a destiny—the utter intolerableness of comity and compromise—the unique point of view in which
we have the paradox of inflexible exclusiveness synthesized with superlative toleration and good will”
“Since the doctrine of the church is clearly
determinative in the distinctive field, this book not only meets a serious denomination need, but admirably clarifies the
atmosphere for the general public. Its challenging restatement of the BAPTIST THESIS not only meets, with unflinching candor,
the ‘invisible church’ propaganda of Pedobaptist, but the superficial sentiment of non-denominational and anti-denominational
Modernist. The author sounds the clarion call to a new crusade of constructive doctrinal preaching. He points the way to a
program which would revitalize not only our churches but our denominational machinery. The one dynamic which has always heartened
and impelled as a intelligent CONVICTION; a DENOMINATIONAL CONSCIENCE and the consciousness of a DENOMINATIONAL MISSION.
We have a MESSAGE the world needs and really wants to hear. One is blind who does not realize that the high noon of
in the down of the twentieth century is a Baptist day. The dare of denomination loyalty is the wisdom and constructive genius
to make the most of it.”
“Dr. Mason’s ringing appeal to reason
and Divine Revelation in this book must win the open mind that gives him a hearing. Pastors who are wise will put ‘THE
CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT’ in their teaching program. It deserves a place in the training courses of all our auxiliary
departments. The author has put all our Baptist under obligation to thank him for a service so timely, fundamental, and far-reaching.
May God bless this seventh edition and make it an abiding blessing to an ever-increasing company of readers and open-minded
students through all the years.”
President, SouthwestBaptistCollege, Bolivar, Mo.
It gives us great pleasure to have this opportunity of
republishing “THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT’ by Dr. Roy Mason. We believe that the need is ever greater for a Biblically
sound book to this nature than it was even one year ago. The pastor and members of the BuffaloAvenueBaptistChurch believe that God provided the means for us to publish this the TENTH EDITION, and we endorse its use
among our Baptist people as heartily as did Dr Jent.
Claude King, Sr.
“The Baptist faith is radically and fundamentally
different from that of all others. On this ground alone can their continued separate existence be justified.”
--M. P. Hunt, in “The Baptist Faith.”
There are few things about which as many false notions
and heretical opinions are held, as the church. Many are wedded to a church theory that is totally at variance with the plain
teachings of the Scriptures. Some hold these false theories honestly, having never carefully studied the church question for
themselves. Others, it is to be feared, hold them because they fit into their ecclesiastical scheme, and because to surrender
them for the truth would mean a revolution in their life involving a change in the matter of their church affiliation.
Because of the neglect of church truth, loose thinking
and erroneous views as to what properly constitutes a New Testament church, many hold the church to light esteem. It is not
to them the high and holy thing it ought to be. It is not to them the divine institution that towers high above all of the
organizations and institutions of men. It is by no means uncommon for one to encounter persons who esteem a lodge, club, society,
or other organization of the kind, or a par with the church. And among the multitudes of sects and denominations calling themselves
churches, people commonly make little distinction. The popular idea is that “one church is as good as another,”
without reference to whether or not it has Jesus Christ for Founder and Head.
Among those who hold loose and unscriptural views
of the church, the writer of these pages was once numbered. In common with others, I inherited many of my notions, and gathered
others from current thought. I recall that it was a shock to me when first I learned that Baptist claim identity with the
church that Jesus established. This claim seemed to me to be the expression of unwarranted arrogance and bigotry. Later, as
I began to study the church question, my idea of what constitutes a true church narrowed and became more distinct. In the
light of the teaching of the Scriptures the idea of church perpetuity, at first so repellent, became more and more reasonable.
Finally it became clear to me that if the Scriptures are true and the promise of Jesus to be relied upon, the church which
Jesus founded must have had a continuity of existence throughout the ages, and must be somewhere in the world today. Careful
study of the Scriptures and history, together with a study of the origin and teachings of the different denominations, has
served to form within me a conviction almost as strong as life itself. That conviction is, that the first church that was
ever organized was what we would today call a Baptist church, and that churches of the same form, characterized by the same
doctrines and practices, have existed from the day that the first one was established to the present moment, and will continue
to exist until the Lord comes again.
It is my purpose to set forth in the following pages
some of the grounds, biblical and historical, upon which I base my convictions, and to show the reasonableness and creditability
of the Baptist claim to what is generally termed “church perpetuity”.
In thinking along this line, one of the first questions
that commonly arises is with reference to the practical importance of this doctrine. For I think we may term church perpetuity
a doctrine. Assuredly it appears important when you consider that the veracity of our Lord’s word and the validity of
His promise is at stake. If the church that Jesus established has not been perpetuated, then His promise has failed. If His
promise concerning the church has failed, then is it not possible that His promise concerning our salvation and destiny will
in like fail?
Again, it is important to know what church can truly
claim to exist in fulfillment of Christ’s promise of perpetuity, because to find that church means to find the only
true one. In a world filled with all kinds of so-called churches, each holding forth their peculiar doctrine and claims, many
are hopelessly confused and know not which church to turn to. A knowledge of the truth concerning perpetuity will dispel the
confusion and make the duty of the Christian plain.
A proper understanding of Christ’s promise
concerning the church and the recognition of its fulfillment in those holding Baptist principles, would perhaps have prevented
the schismatic condition of Christendom today. Christ promised that His church would not fail or cease to be. All organizations
of so-called churches rests upon the assumption that His promise was broken and that His church failed.
The doctrine of Baptist church perpetuity has ever
been an offensive doctrine to those of other faiths, and quite naturally so. For if it can be shown that Baptist churches
are the true churches of Christ, then the churches of other faiths immediately come to occupy the position of rivals to those
having divine origin. However, it is not only those of other faiths who find this doctrine offensive. In these modern days
of compromise and lack of conviction, it is not infrequently that one discovers a Baptist of the “Uniontarian”
or “Indifferent” type who takes exception to this biblical doctrine. I recall that one such Baptist or Pedo-baptist
proclivities once took me to task for my views concerning church perpetuity, stating that it could not be historically proven
that Baptist churches have continued from the days of Jesus until the present. With the historical data that has come to my
notice, fresh in mind, I replied that I fully believed sufficient historical proof had already been produced to settle that.
Then I went on to say that the question was more than an historical one; that it was more biblical than historical. “If,”
said I, “I had only my Master’s promise to perpetuate His church, that would be enough to make me believe in its
present existence.” God made a staggering promise to Abraham once, one whose fulfillment seemed impossible. Of Abraham’s
faith Paul says (Rom. 4:20-22): “He staggered not at the promise of God…being fully persuaded that what he had
promised, he was able also to perform, and therefore it was counted to him for righteousness.” Should not we have the
faith of Abraham? Christ promised to perpetuate His church. Should not we have the faith to believe that “He who promised
is able to perform it?
In dealing with the question of church perpetuity,
I am aware that I will in all probability encounter some who are antagonistic to the term “perpetuity”. This antagonism
has been induced by the frequent misuse and abuse of the term. In fact, there are three words that have been frequently misused
in the connection, namely, “succession,” “continuity,” and “perpetuity.” As one writer
puts it, “There are three words used almost indiscriminately in the discussion of church history, viz: ‘succession,’
‘continuity’ and “perpetuity’. Not one of these words express the whole idea, but each one is nearly
right and sufficient for honest inquiry”. In considering which word I should use, I finally decided to use the word
perpetuity as perhaps the most suitable of the three for my purpose. However, because of the misleading way in which perpetuity
is often used, it is advisable to define, at the outset, something of what is meant and what is not meant, by the term as
employed in the pages to follow.
1. When Baptist affirm belief in the perpetuity
of their churches, they do not mean: that they can trace an unbroken SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS from the days of the apostles to
the present. The Roman Catholic Church bases her claim to perpetuity upon alleged succession of bishops, or popes as they
term them. Thus we find Cardinal Gibbons saying (Faith of Our Fathers, p 93), The Catholic Church teaches also that our Lord
conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of His whole church, and that the same
spiritual supremacy has always resided in the popes, or bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter. Consequently
to be true followers of Christ all the Christians, both among the clergy and the laity, must be in communion with the See
of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor.” It may well be noted in this connection that the Catholic
claim to perpetuity fails for many reasons. We pause to make bare mention of four of these. First, their lack of any good
ground upon which to base their claim for the supremacy of Rome. Second, the absolute lack of proof, either biblical or historical, that Peter was the first pope.
Third, the plain teaching of the New Testament, which precludes the idea that Peter occupied the place of primacy, in the
sense of being the vicegerent of Christ and head of the church. Fourth, the lack of a shred of historical evidence to prove
that Peter was ever so much as in Rome, much less the first pope.
2. Baptist do not claim perpetuity upon the
basis of a successive and unbroken CHAIN OF BAPTISMS. The opponents of Baptist perpetuity often seek to invalidate Baptist
claims by saying that it would be necessary for them to establish beyond doubt that there has been at no time a break in the
chain of baptisms, before assuming the right of perpetuity. This arises out of a misconception of the Baptist position, and
what properly constitutes perpetuity.
3. Baptist do not claim perpetuity upon the
basis of a chain of CHURCHES succeeding each other in the sense that kings and popes succeed each other. Dr. J. B. Moody puts
this truth very aptly when he says, “In the sense of popes and kings succeeding each other, the word (perpetuity) is
not to be used of church history, because one church does not take the place of another. Sometimes one church dies as an organization,
and some of the members may constitute in the same or in another place, and thus one may succeed the other. But this is hardly
involved in this discussion, except where churches may have been driven from place to place, or from one country to another.
The church at Jerusalem was multiplied into the churches of Judea, Samaria, etc., but they did not succeed the church of Jerusalem, because that church had not died, as when kings and popes succeed each other by death. That particular
idea of supplanting, or taking the place of another, must be eliminated.”
4. Baptist do not claim perpetuity on the basis
of the NAME BAPTIST. They do not make the claim that churches called by the
name Baptist have existed through all the ages. True Baptists have existed all along, but they have often been called by other
names. The churches of the New Testament as they have existed down through the ages have usually received their names from
their enemies and persecutors. The names were received as terms of odium and reproach. It will be shown later that New Testament
believers grouped together in New Testament churches here and there, bore different names in different times, such as Paulicians,
Bogomils, Waldenses, Anabaptist, Catabaptist, etc., each name giving place to another until today they are known the world
over as Baptist. History shows that the peoples of the New Testament churches just mentioned, although scattered by persecution,
hunted and driven into the dens and caves of the earth, conformed in essential points to the teachings of the New Testament,
and were the progenitors of modern Baptist.
What, then, is meant by perpetuity as used
by Baptist? It will not be amiss for me to quote two or three well-known Baptist who have given this subject more than ordinary
attention. In the writings of S. F. Ford, L.L.D., or honored memory, we find these words:
among Baptist is not a linked chain of churches or ministers, uninterrupted and traceable at this distant day.... The true
and defensible doctrine is tht baptized believers have existed in every age since John baptized in Jordon, and have met as
a baptized congregation in covenant and fellowship where an opportunity permitted.:”
Again from W. A. Jarrell, D.D., author
of a most convincing book on church perpetuity, I quote the following:
Baptist mean by ‘church succession’ or church perpetuity is; there has never been a day since the organization
of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine church of the New Testament existing on earth”
As is indicated in the foregoing quotations,
Baptists claim that the first New Testament church organized the Jesus was in doctrine and practice essentially the same as
Baptist churches of today. They claim that there has never been a day since Jesus started the first one when such churches
have not existed to bear true witness to Him. They claim that there is sufficient historical proof to demonstrate that Baptist
churches of today have direct historical connection with the churches of apostolic times. They believe that as time goes on
and further investigations are made in the field of church the proof of their continuity will become so irresistible that
no reputable church historian can reasonably deny it. The not only hold on the authority of the Word of God and reliable history
that the churches of the News Testament were what would be called Baptist churches today; that Baptist are the historical
descendants of these same New Testament churches, but they also believe and hold that Baptist churches will continue to exist
until the Master comes again to this earth.
Did Jesus Found The Church?-
If So, When?
The Baptist belief in the perpetuity
of their churches involves several questions. The correct answer to these questions will go far toward paving the way for
a proper examination of their claims. Among the more important questions are the following:
1. Did Jesus found the church?
2. If so, when?
3. What kind of a church was it?
4. Did He promise its perpetuity?
So well established is the fact that
Jesus founded the church that it seems almost superfluous for us to spend time considering the first question propounded above.
However, it will perhaps not be amiss for us to spend a few moments on this question as there are to be found here and there
those who either openly or by implication deny that Jesus founded a church. It is a common thing for destructive critics of
our day to try to array Jesus and Paul against each other, and to try to show that Jesus never had in mind a founding of a
church at all. Such critics would have us believe that the disciples, and particularly Paul, foisted the church upon the world
without divine warrant. In substance it is the claim that they substituted a church of their own devising for the Kingdom of Jesus’ thinking and purpose.
There are some denominations that embrace
a theory that practically denies to Jesus the founding of a church. They advance the claim that the church existed in the
Old Testament times, and that the church or the New Testament times and of the present is merely a continuation of the church
that has existed all the way from the days of Israel’s beginning.
Those who hold such a theory do not see
any essential difference between the economy of the Old Testament and the New, but hold that baptism is, meant to occupy the
same place in the church of the present that circumcision held in the “church” of Israel. This theory plainly
denies by implication that Jesus founded a church. For it is evident that He could not have founded the church if it already
existed at the time of His coming.
For the one who believes the New Testament’
to be the inspired Word of God, the question, “Did Jesus found a Church?” is once for all answered in the affirmative
by Matthew 16:19, in which Jesus Himself makes the statement, “I will build my church.”
the gospels record Him as mentioning the church but twice, is a matter of no moment in view of the fact that after His ascension
and glorification, as recorded in the Revelation, we find Him speaking of the church a number of times. And indeed, if the
Lord had only mentioned the church one time, that ought to be enough so far as the validity of His promise is concerned. A
statement made only once may be just as true as one reiterated a thousand times. The Point is, Jesus said He would build His
church. A little later He tells the disciples of a matter that should be taken before the church for its discipline.
In His words He clearly indicates that the church is then already in existence. So we have His promise of the church; the
clear implication in His own words of the fulfillment of that promise; the New Testament account of the church from its beginning
on for many years, and the testimony of history to the effect that the church of Christ is an institution that has existed only from the time of Christ.
If Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18
mean anything at all, they must mean that the institution which He promised was one separate and distinct from any institution
that had previously existed in the world, or existed at that time. It will presently be shown that the disciples were already
thoroughly familiar with the word “ecclesia” or “church” and its meaning. But Jesus indicated very
clearly that the institution which He proposed would be a new one, distinct and be distinguished from all other “ecclesias”
by the fact that it was to be HIS church, built upon an entirely different foundation than any ecclesia in existence at that
Having determined from the New Testament
that Jesus began a church, let us now turn to a brief consideration of the further question,
WHEN DID JESUS BEGIN HIS
This becomes an important question in
view of the heretical teachings so widespread in our day. Several very dangerous heresies spring out of the theory that the
church began on the day of Pentecost. One of these is the “InvisibleChurch theory,” which leans very heavily upon the Pentecostal assumption. Then there is the theory
so widely promulgated by Dr. C.I. Scofield, Dr. James M. Gray of the Moody Bible Institute, and others, that the church was
formed on the day of Pentecost by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that every believer becomes a member of the universal
Church similarly, by being baptized into it by the Holy Spirit. This is really a most absurd theory. It rests principally
upon a perversion of I Cor. 12:13, and an examination of the context of scripture is fatal to the theory. Dr. Scofield (Synthesis
of Bible truth, p 42) plainly says of the church, “The body could not begin to exist before the exaltation of Christ
and the descent of the Holy Spirit.” He also goes so far as to say that a church before the death of Christ would have
been an unredeemed church. This is as much as to say that none of the disciples were saved previous to Pentecost!
Those who are unwilling to admit Baptist
perpetuity struggle desperately to show that the church was not in existence before Pentecost. Nothing else fits their theory
of an “invisible” church.
What, then, are the facts? When was the
church begun? I shall not take the space to go into details, but will put the answer in one sentence: Out of material prepared
by John the Baptist, Jesus organized and founded His church during the days of His personal ministry here on earth.
In this belief I am not alone. Dr. L.
R. Scarborough, president of one of the largest theological seminaries in the world, in a recent article in the Baptist Standard
is quoted as saying: “It is certainly true that Christ in His own personal ministry established His church.”
A lengthy chapter could be written to
prove my statement, but I must confine myself to a few reasons, First let me ask did not they have all of the essential things
that go to make up a church before Pentecost? Let us see:
1. They had the Gospel (Mark 1;1)
2. They were baptized believers. The
apostles had been disciples of John, having
by him (Acts ). Of John’s baptism, we are told that it was
3. They had an organization. They even
had a treasurer, though he turned out to be
4. They had the same head that the
church of today has, Christ.
5. They had the ordinance of baptism.
6. They had the ordinance of the Lord’s
7. They had the Great Commission.
8. They met together as a church for
prayer preceding Pentecost.
9.Moreover, they even had a business meeting and selected one to take Judas’
an attempt to discredit this action of the church, Dr.
Scofield (Scofield Bible notes) makes
the claim that the disciples erred in doing this.He claims that God ignored their choice by
later calling Paul for this place, and affirms that we
find no further mention of Matthias in
the New Testament.In this he casts an unwarranted aspersion upon that New Testament
his statement about Matthias is not true to the scriptures, for in a later
chapter (Acts 6:2-6) the Holy Spirit recognizes Matthias
as an apostle by mentioning him
as one of the twelve. Dr. Scofield
seeks to fit the incident of Mathias’ selection with his
theory that the church began on the
day of Pentecost, and his effort merely betrays how far
men will go in order to seek to sustain
Again, that the church
existed before Pentecost is shown in that we are distinctly told that Christ sang praises in the midst of the church. Heb.
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church I will sing praises unto thee.” This passage
is quoted by the inspired writer of Hebrews from the twenty-second Psalm. To what incident in the life of Christ does it refer?
Upon what occasion did He sing praises in the midst of the church? Turn to Mark 14:26, and you will find the occasion mentioned.
It was following the institution of the ordinance or the Lord’s Supper that Jesus in the midst of His little church
joined with them in singing a hymn. That Christ sang praises in the midst of the church before Pentecost, carries without
saying that the church existed before that time.
Exegetical and eisegetical ingenuity
has been exerted to give the passage just quoted some other meaning, but the fact remains that the interpretation that I have
indicated is the simplest and most natural one.
In the third place, that the church existed
before Pentecost is clearly shown by Acts 2:41, where we read that on the day of Pentecost “……There were
added unto them about three thousand souls.” Since they were believers added by baptism, it is very evident that what
they were added to was the church. If I should tell a friend that I had recently added a hundred dollars to my account, he
would understand me to imply that I had in existence a bank account previous to the time of my depositing the hundred dollars.
A church was necessarily already in existence on the day of Pentecost, else it could not have been “added to.”
It is useless to argue that the three thousand were merely added to the ranks of believers and not to the church, for the
same language is used in the 47th verse, where we are told that the “Lord added to them day by day those
that were saved.” (American Revision.) None will deny that “them” in the 47th verse refers
to the church. Indeed the Authorized Version translates “church” instead of “them.” Does the 47th
indicate the existence of a church any more strongly than the 41th? Indeed it does not. Only those in desperate straits to
maintain a theory would deny that the three thousand baptized on Pentecost were added to a church that already existed, for
that is what the language irresistibly leads one to conclude.
Again, let us read the Master’s
own words as recorded in Mathew , “If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church,
let him be unto thee as a heathen man and publican.” The context shows that these words were addressed to His disciples.
His words would lead one to believe that they constituted His church in its incipient stage. Indeed, the belief that the apostles
themselves were the first members of the church is in exact accord with I Cor. 12:28, where we read, “And God hath set
some in the church, FIRST apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,” etc.
One may speculate and theorize upon Matthew
18:17 all they please, but still it remains unreasonable to believe that Jesus referred to something that the disciples did
not understand, or that did not exist. To the one that accepts this passage at its face value it appears conclusive that the
church was in existence at the time that Jesus spoke these words.
In the fourth place, let us note that
if the church did not exist before Pentecost, then the Great Commission was given only to the disciples as individuals, consequently
is not binding upon the church. Unwilling to concede a church before Pentecost, Dr. C.I. Scofield takes this very position.
In his “Synthesis of Bible Truth” (p. 431), he says: “The visible church as such is charged with no mission….The
commission to evangelize the world is personal and not corporate.” If this theory be true, then the Great
Commission was binding only upon the apostles, and when they died the obligation no longer rested upon anyone. This view is
as absurd as it is unscriptural.
No, Jesus gave the Commission to His
disciples in corporate capacity. He delivered it to them as a church. His church he charged with the task of evangelization.
His church He charged with the duty of baptizing and teaching. And knowing all things, He knew that His church would have
that continuity essential for the carrying out of His orders.
Similarly, let us note that, unless the
church existed previously to Pentecost, the Lord’s Supper is not a church ordinance. If He gave it only to individuals
as such, when they died the ordinance died with them. We cannot believe this in the light of Paul’s account of the institution
of the Supper as given in I Cor.11. Here, according to the account given, Jesus clearly implied that this memorial ordinance
will be observed “till He come again.”
And obviously, if Jesus gave the Memorial
Supper to His church that church must have been in existence at the time He gave it. That time preceded Pentecost!
I close the chapter by quoting Dr. Scarborough
from the article before mentioned. He admirably sums up the facts concerning Christ’s founding of the church in these
words: “When He ascended He left the church some of its officers, the apostles, not to be permanent, to be sure; it
foundation of faith; its laws of life; its ordinances; its commission; its great world task; the terms and conditions of admittance;
the new birth based on repentance and faith in Christ; He left it its great central dynamic theme and power-Jesus crucified,
buried, risen, coming again-; He gave it the promise of the Holy Spirit. After He ascended, this unit and growing corporate
organization called out and appointed officers to take Judas’ place-Acts -26. This was the act of the church. Then in the
first chapter of Acts we find this church well organized, already established under the personal ministry of Christ and by
Him set to the task of evangelism; and through the Holy Spirit it held its first great meeting. Then in Acts the sixth chapter
we find the organization completed by the addition of deacons; and so it has two sets of officers – pastors and deacons;
two ordinances- baptism and the Supper; a democratic form of organization, as was shown in the election of Matthias to take
Judas’ place and the election of deacons. The church itself was the authority of their appointments. Thus we can see
that through the process of years Jesus Himself organized His church and under the direction of the Divine Spirit deacons
were added to the organization after Pentecost. It can in all the highest senses claim Christ as its organizer and central
authority and power.
The Kind of Church that
We have seen that Jesus established a
church, and have determined from the New Testament record that He did this during the period of His personal ministry on earth.
It is now in order for us to consider the third question; “What kind of church was it that Jesus founded? Just what
did He mean when He said, “I will build my church”? If all persons were willing to accept the New Testament without
bias, prejudice, or preconceived notions and theories, there need be no difference of opinion at all on this point. Unfortunately
all are not willing that the New Testament should be permitted to mean what it says. The clear meaning of “ecclesia”
which Christ used to designate His new institution, does not fit unto the church theory of some, so they have coined a new
meaning for the word. In this way, by using ecclesia in an unwarranted sense, they have invented another “Church”
than the one that Jesus established.
Rome, in order to justify her theory, overlooks the distinction
that the Scriptures make between the church and the Kingdom, and seeks to identify the church that Jesus founded with the
hierarchical organization that we today know as the Romans Catholic Church. In Catholic thought, the “Church”
is the visible Kingdom of God on earth, and with them there are not churches, separate, local, independent bodies, but one great, all-embracing, world-organization
under papal dominion and control. Accordingly we find Cardinal Gibbons saying (Faith of Our Fathers, P 6), “The Church
is call a Kingdom.” And following this he goes on to show that the members of the Catholic Church, although many are,
to use his own words, “all united to one supreme visible head, whom they are bound to obey.”
I need not here take the time to discuss
the difference between the church and the Kingdom. That difference is very clearly marked in the New Testament, as I
will show in the next chapter.
The theories held by the various Protestant
denominations (let it be kept in mind that Baptist are not Protestants) are somewhat different from that of the Catholics.
Some of these denominations with the Catholics, repeat the Apostles Creed and affirm a belief in the “Holy Catholic
Church,” but at the same time attach to the words a different meaning.
Protestants have conceded out of necessity that Jesus founded
and established a church. And they have recognized the fact that if this church was a local, visible body they cannot be members
of the true church the one founded by Jesus since the organizations that they belong to have,. Without exception, originated
hundreds of years since Christ established His church.
In this situation only two things remain
to do, either frankly admit their organization to be extra-scriptural and rivals of Christ’s church or else devise some
theory that will justify their separate denominational existence and still permit them a place in the ecclesia of Christ.
The latter alternative is the one that has generally been taken, for there have been theories a-plenty. One of these is what
is sometimes called “the church branch” theory. It is the theory that all of the various Protestant churches are
but “branches” of the true church. It embraces the idea that all are headed for the same place-all are part and
parcel of the same thing-the Church of Christ. However this church “branch” theory immediately raises the embarrassing question as to
the identity of the trunk of the church tree to which the “branch” denominations belong. I use the word “embarrassing,“
and it is embarrassing in the light of the historical fact that all of the great Protestant denominations (remember again
that Baptist are not Protestants) have either directly or indirectly “branched off” from the Catholic Church.
Of the theory mentioned above Dr. R.L.
Baker aptly says: “The branch church theory has a great place in the popular thinking. It is untenable, unscriptural,
and even unthinkable. Plant a water melon, let its branches run out in several directions, on one branch there grows a pumpkin,
on another a melon, on another a citron, and so on until we have the various branches all covered in the Protestant melon
patch. Who would not say this is a freak of nature, a real monstrosity? Yet this is the average reasoning of to-day
amongst the branch theory people. “Tell it to the church’ would hardly work in such a wonderful monstrosity.”
But the theory that is most commonly
relied upon, by those who belong to apocryphal institutions and do not wish to admit the truth of Baptist claims, is the “Universal,
Invisible Church” theory. This theory, which plays exegetical tricks, employs specious arguments and minimizes the importance
of the true churches of Christ, is a theory that has been and is a curse to the cause of Christ. It is one of the most widespread
and hurtful heresies of our day, and yet, strange to say, without foundation and contrary to common sense once it is subjected
to close scrutiny. The theory has variations, but in the main the holders of it maintain that the church mentioned in Matthew
16:18, the one that Jesus said He would build, was not the local assembly, but consisted of all believes of every church (or
no church, as the case may be) everywhere. According to this view, one becomes a member of this church automatically when
he becomes a Christian. To believe this one must believe that side by side to-day exists two churches, one local and visible,
consisting of men and women organized for the carrying out of Christ’s commands, the other unseen an invisible and entrusted
with no work or mission. Moreover, this involves that these churches have a different membership, since some presumably belong
to the universal, invisible Church who have never joined the local and visible body. Not only that, it further makes Christ
the author of two churches, unless we utterly deny the He is the Founder and Head of the local, visible church.
It ought to be clear to everyone that
much is involved in the meaning of Matthew , and in the correct answer to the question, “What kind of a church did Jesus build?”
If the church which Jesus promised was “universal and invisible,”
then if follows that the Baptist claim to perpetuity is absurd, and the product of an unwarranted arrogance. This being true,
the Baptist claim to church perpetuity stands or falls according to the meaning of ecclesia in Matthew 16:18, and other passages
of the New Testament.
After careful study of all the passages
in which the word ecclesia occurs in the New Testament, and the Septuagint, and after examining to ascertain the use of the
word in classical Greek, I submit the proposition that the church that Jesus founded was the local assembly, and that to use
the word ecclesia to designate a “universal,” or “invisible” Church is to pervert its meaning, and
to fall into serious error.
I realize full well that for me merely
to make the bare statement recorded above is not enough. Proof is, of course, required. But I believe that ample proof can
be produced to satisfy any mind that is open to the truth.
Since the validity of the Baptist belief
in the perpetuity of their churches hinges upon the kind of church that Jesus established, it seems advisable to deal with
the question somewhat at length. I trust that the reader will pardon me if I seem to spend an undue amount of time on this
point. It is because the question of the kind of church that Jesus founded is absolutely fundamental to the discussion of
church perpetuity. If the church that Jesus established was the local assembly, the churches which have had a continuity
of existence since the days of Jesus, is simply unassailable. I have a number of reasons to offer as to why I believe that
the church founded by Jesus was the local, visible assembly.
My first reason is that the meaning of
the word “ecclesia” used in Matthew
irresistibly leads one to believe that the local assembly was meant. Indeed, locality inheres in the very word, so that it
is really improper for anyone to speak of the “local” or “visible” assembly, since the only kind of
an assembly that can exist is both local and visible. In this book I only use the terms “local” and “visible”
because of the failure on the part of so many to recognize the truth that there can be no ecclesia or assembly anywhere without
a place to meet. By using these terms so commonly used I hope to be better understood, although I realize that to do so is
to use more tautology.
The very strongest argument against the
“universal, invisible theory” is a correct understanding of the meaning of the word ecclesia or church. Indeed,
to make a study of the word in the light of its usage in the time of Christ and preceding, is to see how impossible and absurd
is the belief in a “universal, invisible Church.” To make the word as used by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, refer to
other than the local assembly is to attach a meaning to the word utterly foreign to its nature, and completely out of harmony
with its ordinary use.
Let us briefly consider the word as regards
its meaning in classical and New Testament usage:
The word ecclesia, rendered “church”
in English versions, was not a new word coined by Jesus, but a word already in current use at that time and moreover a word
the meaning of which had become definitely fixed and established. This being the case, it would seem highly improbable that
Jesus, speaking to the disciples, would use the word in some sense altogether foreign to its current use, and that without
a single word of explanation. As one writer puts it: “It is not ingenious for a teacher without a word of explanation
to use words to his pupils with a meaning entirely different from what they understand the words to have.” Dr.
Jesse B. Thomas says in his book, “The Church and the Kingdom”:
“No such difficulties attend the construction of the language-it
simply supposes our Lord consistent with Himself, and with the ordinary usages of speech, assuming that He whom ‘the
common people heard gladly’ would not wantonly use words in a strange sense that would inevitably perplex and mislead
the common man”
What, then, let us ask, did the word
mean as understood by the people of that day? Says Dr. Geo. W. McDaniel (The Churches of the New Testament), “Both with
the Greeks and the Jews, the word denoted an assembly of the people……Among the Greeks ecclesia was the assembly
of the citizens of a free city-state gathered by a herald blowing a horn through the streets of a town.” Dr. Thomas
says in another place, “It was the organized assembly of the authorized voters of the local community met to transact
business of common concern. It corresponded to the town meeting of New England of later days.” Liddell and Scott (Greek Lexicon) define the word ecclesia as follows: “An
assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly.” Again Dr. B. H. Carroll says: “Its primary
meaning is : An organized assembly, whose members have been properly called out from private homes for business to attend
to public affairs. This definition necessarily implies prescribed conditions of membership. This meaning applies substantially
alike to the ecclesia of a self-governing Greek state (Acts ), the Old Testament ecclesia or convocation of National Israel (Acts
the New Testament ecclesia. When our Lord says: ‘On this rock I will build my ecclesia,’ while the ‘My’
distinguished His ecclesia from the Greek state ecclesia, and the Old Testament ecclesia, the word itself naturally retains
its ordinary meaning.” (Ecclesia the Church).
Therefore, since ecclesia in its accepted
meaning carried with it the idea of locality and organization, it make it refer to a so-called “universal, invisible”
church, possessing neither locality nor organization, is to do violence to the word and to use it in a purely arbitrary sense.
“But” someone objects, “does
not the actual use of ecclesia in certain New Testament passages indicate a broader usage than to designate a local organized
assembly?” In reply to this it may be said that in the Christian usage of the world there were three ideas, viz., an
institution, a particular congregation , and the redeemed of all time considered in the light of a church in prospect. In
each case where the word is used there is nothing that argues against the general usage. To particularize: The word is used
fourteen times to denote an institution. When it is used in this way it is, according to Dr. Carroll, used in either an abstract
or generic sense. “This follows,” he says, “from the laws of language governing the use of words. For example,
if an English statesman, referring to the right of each individual citizen to be tried by his peers, should say: ‘On
this rock England will build her jury, and all the power of tyranny shall not prevail against her,’ he uses the
term jury in an abstract sense, i.e., in the sense of an institution. But when this institution finds concrete expression
or becomes operative, it is always a particular jury of twelve men and never an aggregation of all juries in to one big jury.”
Then he cites Matthew 16:18 as an example
of the abstract use of ecclesia. Matthew he cites as an example of the generic use of the word. Then he adds these words: “Whenever the
abstract or generic finds concrete expression or takes operative shape it is always a particular assembly.”
It is permissible for us to use the word
“church” abstractly as did Jesus in denoting the institution He founded. But, as Dr. Carroll points out, when
we begin to particularize we must, according to the very laws of language, settle upon a particular assembly of baptized believers
in Christ. So we can see that the abstract or generic use of the word is, after all, at the bottom, no different in meaning
from the use of it to denote a particular assembly. And it is to denote a particular local body of believers that the word
is mostly used-indeed by actual count, ninety-three times out of a little over a hundred times that the word occurs in the
And now for the third idea contained
in the Christian usage of ecclesia, viz., the use of it to denote the redeemed of all time, considered in the light of a church
in prospect. At least two passages seem to use ecclesia in this sense, and these two in no wise militate against the general
use, since this is an assembly that exists only in prospect. Dr. Carroll states the whole case very clearly in his booklet
as follows: “This ecclesia is prospective, not actual. That is to say, there is not now but will be a general assembly
of Christ’s people. That general assembly will be composed of all the redeemed of all time. Here are three indisputable
and very significant facts concerning Christ’s general assembly: First, many of its members properly called out, and
now in Heaven. Second, many others of them, also called out, are here on earth. Third, indefinite millions of them probably
the great majority, yet to be called, are neither on earth nor in heaven, because they are yet unborn, and therefore non-existent.
It follows that if one part of the membership is now in Heaven, another part yet unborn, here is as yet no assembly, except
in prospect. We may, however, properly speak of the general assembly now, because, though part of it is yet non-existent,
and though there has not yet been a gathering together of the other two parts, yet the mind may conceive of that gathering
as an accomplished fact. In God’s purpose and plans, the general assembly exists now and also in our conceptions or
anticipations, but certainly not as a fact.”
I have quoted Dr. Carroll somewhat at
length because his booklet is one of the sanest, most careful and scholarly examinations of the New Testament church that
has ever been written. Many scholarly men fully accord with his position as here outlined. For instance, Dr. J. G. Bow, in
his “What Baptist Believe,” writes as follows: “The general assembly and church of the first-born—this
last will evidently be local when they shall have assembled.”
A second reason as to why Matthew 16:18
refers to the local assembly and not to the Church universal, is that Christ’s own use of the word prohibits us from
believing that He meant anything else. Suppose that one should hear a speaker use a certain term, the meaning of which
seems doubtful. Later on in his address the speaker uses the same word at least a score of times, and in such a way as to
be perfectly clear as to his meaning. Would it be wise for one to judge that he meant something totally different in his first
use of the word then in the twenty times in which he subsequently used it? Or would it be the part of common sense to interpret
the meaning connected with the first use of the term, in the light of his subsequent use? This illustration set forth
the exact situation as regards the interpretation of Matthew 16:18.
Let us for the sake of argument, say
that we are in doubt as to what Christ meant by “church” in this passage just mentioned, which is the first in
which the term occurs. Let us look at the other places in which he uses the word, and see what He meant there. We find, upon
making a careful search that He subsequently used the word ecclesia or church twenty-one times. Following the first place
in which Church is mentioned, we find that the next, and the last place in which church is mentioned in the Gospels, is Matthew
18:17, where Jesus says: “Tell it to the church, but if he neglect to hear the church…” To affirm that Jesus
was here speaking of a universal, invisible Church would be to descend to absurdity, since it would be impossible for a church
member to bring a matter before a universal, invisible, unorganized “Church” not possessing locality. Jesus plainly
meant local assembly; nothing else would fit the case at all.
The other instances in which Christ used
the word ecclesia are found in the Revelation. Examples are as follows:” To the angel of the church at Ephesus;” “Hear what the Spirit
sayeth to the churches;” “The seven churches,” etc. With reference to the last example, Sir William Ramsey,
world-renowned scholar, affirms that the seven churches mentioned were actual, local churches that existed at that time. In
each of the twenty-one times that Jesus used ecclesia, subsequent to his utterance recorded in Matthew 16:18, He plainly and
unmistakably referred to the local assembly. As Dr. T.T. Eaton remarks, in commenting in this question: “The probability
therefore is twenty-one to nothing that He meant local assembly in Matthew . A probability of twenty-one to nothing is a certainty. Hence it
is certain that Christ meant the local assembly when He said ‘On this rock I will build my church.’”
Again, a third reason for believing that
Matthew refers to the local assembly is that Christ only promised to build one kind of church. He never intimated in any way
that He would found the local assembly and also a universal, invisible Church, composed of the redeemed of all the so-called
churches. Consequently when we turn to the book of Acts and the Epistles, and find local assemblies of believers springing
up here and there, we immediately identify these with the church that Jesus spoke of . To do otherwise would be to assume
that something else came into existence other than the institution which Jesus promised.
A fourth reason for believing that the
church referred to by Jesus was the local assembly is that the universal, invisible theory is not only unscriptural but according
to history is post-apostolic in its origin. Harnak, the church historian, in his “History of Dogma” makes this
clear. He says: “The expression, invisible Church is found for the first time in Hegessips. Eusebius, Tertullian, Clement
of Alexandria, Hiero, Cornelius, and Cyprian, all used the term holy churches and never the Catholic or UniversalChurch.” Again in Vol. 2, p. 83, he says: “No
one thought of the desperate idea of an ‘invisible Church;’ this notion would probably have brought about a lapse
far more rapidly than the idea of the Holy Catholic Church.”
A fifth reason for believing that Jesus
founded the local assembly is that the local assembly is not only the only kind of an assembly that can exist; it is the only
kind to which Jesus could have entrusted the Commission and the ordinances. Christ’s chief purpose in forming His church
was in order that it might reach the lost with the gospel, and then might build up those saved by teaching and training them
in all things He commanded. The functions of a church as outlined by Jesus can only be performed by a local assembly. A universal,
invisible Church composed of an unorganized throng of “members of all the churches,” is from the functional point
of view, simply inconceivable.
Again, when Christ promised the church,
He promised that the “Gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” Slight difference of opinion as to the exact
meaning of the “gates of hades” does not obscure the fact that Jesus meant that His church would have foes, and
would encounter opposition. The history of Baptist as they were imprisoned, martyred, driven in the dens and caves of the
earth, shows that His church has had to contend with the organized forces of evil. Baptist churches can be and have been persecuted,
but a universal, invisible Church cannot be. Men cannot persecute an invisible something. Christ’s promise is meaningless
if applied to such.
A sixth reason that suggests itself is
this: The conception of a universal, invisible Church usurps the place reserved in the New Testament for the Kingdom of God. Those who hold this theory practically identify
church and kingdom. This is wholly out of accord with the Scriptures, for they make a very clear distinction between the two,
as will be shown in the next chapter.
When I think along the line that I have
tried to carry the thought of the reader, and am led to see the lack of any sort of foundation for the theory of an invisible,
universal Church, I can heartily join with Dr. J. Lewis Smith in saying: “Here, then, is the inevitable and irreversible
conclusion. This Catholic or Universal Church as well as the Invisible Church idea are things of man’s devising, and
when we say, I believe in the holy Catholic Church, we are placing a figment of the imagination—a chimera—a misnomer
above the real local church idea which Christ Himself used, and one of which churches He built and to which He gave His great
Commission and His ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
The Family, Kingdom and
Church of God Differentiated
When one sets for the Baptist claim to
perpetuity and attempts to demonstrate that Baptist churches alone can claim Jesus for Founder and head, there are always
those who immediately jump to the conclusion that Baptist claim that none are saved but Baptist. They get the idea that Baptist
deny them a place in the kingdom and family of God. Such is by no means true. Far be it from any true Baptist to claim that
one must be a Baptist in order to be saved. Indeed, they believe just the reverse, for according to their view one must be
saved before he can be a Baptist. And as for the kingdom and family of God, true Baptist are members of both before they ever
become members of a Baptist church. If not, they are not fit to belong to the church, for they are yet unsaved. The things
that I have said in former chapters concerning the church have nothing to do with anyone’s membership in God’s
family or kingdom, for the church, family, and kingdom are three separate and distinct things. Because of the confusion that
reigns in so many minds on this point, I have thought it worth while to devote an entire chapter to a discussion of the differences
between these three.
While considering how best to present
my ideas for this chapter, in reading what others had written along this line, I came across an old tract published some years
ago by H.B. Taylor, editor of News and Truths. The tract is such a clear, concise statement concerning the differences between
the family of God, and the church of God, that I can do no better than to quote it. I make only a few changes such as to adapt it to the present
use. I invite the reader to ponder very carefully the distinctions made and to verify them from the Scriptures.
1. THE FAMILY OF GOD. “The
Family of God includes all of the children of God in heaven and on earth. In Ephesians 3:15, Paul speaks of the ‘whole
family in heaven and on earth.’ This family includes all believers. ‘Ye are all the children of God by faith
in Christ Jesus.’ Galat. 3:26. All believers are God’s children. Since Old Testament saints were saved by faith
in Christ (Acts , Rom. , etc.), they are all members of God’s family.
God’s family is bigger than the
kingdom of God or the church of God, for it now contains all of the saved from Abel to the last man who believed, whether
in heaven or on earth. God has only one family. All believers are children and heirs of God.”
2. THE KINGDOM OF GOD “The Kingdom of God
includes all of the saved on earth at any given time. In Matthew 13 the kingdom is used to include all professors. But
the kingdom as used in John 3:3-5, Matthew ; , Luke , Romans , Coloss. , John , etc., is composed of all the born again on earth. This is not the kingdom of Daniel 2:44. :Luke 19:11-27,
Acts 1:6, etc. Those passages refer to the millennium. That kingdom is yet future. What is sometimes called the spiritual
kingdom is composed only of those who have been again, who have been ‘translated out of darkness into the kingdom of
His dear son.’ In John 3:3-5 the Master said, Except a man be born anew he can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God. In Matt. and Mark 10:13-15 the Master shows very clearly
that the kingdom is composed of only such as have received Him, whether children or adults.”
The family of God includes all of the
saved of all the ages, whether in heaven or on earth; the kingdom of God
includes that part of the family of God who are on earth now.”
3.THE CHURCH OF GOD. “The church of God is never used of any institution, except of an assembly or congregation of baptized believers in some
given locality. E. g., the church of God at Corinth.”—ICor.
The local individual church is the only
kind of church God has on this earth today. There is only one family of God, composed of all the redeemed of all the ages
in heaven and on earth. There is only one kingdom of God, composed of all the born again on he earth now. There are thousands of churches of God on earth.
Every individual Baptist church is a church of God. No others are. When a man is born again he is born into God’s family. He is in the family of
God forever. The relationship does not change. Whether in heaven or on earth he is in God’s family. When he is born
again he also enters God’s kingdom. This relationship is for life. When he dies he passes out of the kingdom of God on earth and enters ‘His heavenly kingdom’
(II Tim. ). After he has been born again he is not yet in a church of God but is now a scriptural subject for admission into a church of God. ‘The Lord added to the church daily the saved’ (Acts ). Church membership was not something a man got
with salvation, but a subsequent blessing he got after salvation by being added to the church. Baptism is not essential to
admission into either the family of God or the kingdom of God; but baptism is essential to admission into a church of God. Men are born anew into the family of God and into the kingdom of God; but are baptized into a church of God (I Cor. ). The ‘one body’ referred to by Paul in I Cor. 12:13 was the church of God at Corinth. Note in I Cor. 12:27 he says, ‘Ye are a body
of Christ and members in particular.’ That local church at Corinth was the body of Christ at Corinth. The members of the church at Corinth belonged to only ‘one body’ of Christ. That body of Christ probably did not contain all
the saved at Corinth (I Cor. 1:2) and none of the saved anywhere else except at Corinth. Since they belonged to only ‘one body’ and that was the local church at Corinth, Christ has no other kind of a church
or body except a local church. If they had belonged to a local church at Corinth, which Paul said was a body of Christ, and then to
the kind of church that some believed in, composed of all the saved everywhere, they would have belonged to two churches or
bodies of Christ—one local and visible, the other universal and invisible. The New Testament shown nothing of any such
confusion as that. God is not the author of any such confusion. Jesus Christ has only one kind of church or body on this earth,
and that is the local assembly-the organized body of baptized believers in any given community. The church which Paul called
‘the house of God’ was a local church. The church which Paul said was the ‘pillar and ground of the truth’
was a local church. The church to which the Lord Jesus promised perpetuity (Matt. ) was a local church, for He never spoke of any
other kind. The meaning of the word ecclesia permits of no other kind. On that we will let others more competent than the
Prof. Royal, of Wake Forest College,
North Carolina who taught Prof. A.T. Robertson, of the Louisville Seminary and Prof. C.B. Williams, Greek, when asked of he
knew of an instance in classic Greek where ecclesia was ever used of a class of “unassembled or unassembling persons”
said: “I do not know or any such passage in classic Greek.” With this statement agree Professors Burton, of ChicagoUniversity, Stifler of Crozer, Strong of Rochester and
many other scholars. Joseph Cross (Episcopalian), in a book of sermons entitled “Coals from the Altar,” says:
“We hear much of the invisible church as contradistinguished from the church visible. Of an invisible church in this
world, I know nothing, the Word of God says nothing nor can anything of the kind exist, except in the brain of a heretic.
The church is a body; but what sort of a body is that which can neither be seen nor identified? A body is an organism occupying
space and having a definite locality. A mere aggregation is not a body; there must be organization as well. A heap of heads,
hands, feet and other members would not make a body; they must be united in a system, each in its proper place and all pervaded
by a common life. So a collection of stones, brick and timbers would not be a house; the material must be built together,
in an artistic order, adapted to unity. So a mass of roots, trunks and branches would not be a vine or tree: the several parts
must be developed according to the laws of nature from the same seed and nourished from the same vital sap.”
The limbs of a body scattered on a battlefield
are not a body. The material of a house in the woods or quarries is not a house. The members and this material must be put
in place before you have either a body or a house. So the saved are not a church unless brought together and organized or
builded into a body or house of God. There is not and cannot be such an institution as a universal, invisible church on this
earth, composed of all the saved, because the material has never been brought together and builded into a house or body.
When the Lord Jesus and Paul spoke of
the baptized believers of a large territory than a local church they always said churches. There was no confusion in their
speaking, though there is much confusion in modern thinking upon this question.
Once more we try to make the distinction
clear. The family of God is composed of all the saved in heaven and on earth. Old Testament saints and babies who died in
infancy are in God’s family. They are not now nor were they ever in the Kingdom or in any church of God.
All believers on the earth at any time
since the days of John the Baptist (Luke ) compose the kingdom of God. There are no infants in it. All true believers, whether Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, or non-church
members on earth are in the kingdom; for if true believers they have been born anew. Only baptized believers or Baptist are
members of the churches of Christ.
The Master’s Promise
In the preceding chapters I have shown
that Jesus during the period of His personal ministry, organized and began His church. I have further shown that the church
which He began was not an eternal, invisible, universal, unorganized something without either function or mission, but that
it was the local assembly, entrusted with the greatest task that was ever given to any institution on this earth.
So, having in existence the church, and
having in mind a clear idea as to what kind
It is, we are ready for the further question proposed at the beginning,
namely Did Jesus Promise Its Perpetuity?
Unquestionably He did.
In the same passage where we have our
Lord’s first mention of the church we find the promise that “The gates of hades shall not prevail against it.”
None will deny that these words constitute
a promise of the church’s perpetuity. Dr. J. W. Porter says (World’ Debt to Baptist): “If these words teach
anything, they teach that the churches, instituted by Christ and the apostles would never die, but would reproduce an multiply
and perpetuate themselves to the end of all time.” Of the passage, “The gates of hades shall not prevail against
it,” Dr. Nowlin says (Fundamentals of the Faith), “Referring no doubt to its indestructibility.”
But lest we should be led to depend too
much upon the passage just referred to, let us ask, Is there anything else in the Scriptures that would warrant us in believing
that Christ meant to perpetuate His church? The answer is, we find abundant evidence of this. Let us look at some of the proof:
First, the Kingdom of God, as all will agree, is to be perpetuated “until the kingdoms of this
world become the kingdom of ourLlord and His Christ. (Rev. 11:15) In Luke we have this statement: “Of His kingdom there
shall be no end.” (Luke 1:33). How, let us ask, is the kingdom of God to be extended and advanced in the world? The answer is, by the church which Jesus founded. Men get
into the kingdom of God by being born into it. This spiritual birth comes about through personal faith in the Son of God as Saviour. It is the
church that preaches the Good News of the Son of God. Through the church’s message men hear, believe, and are born into
God’s kingdom. Thus the church stands in the position of a recruiting agency for the kingdom of God, since no one gets into the kingdom except as they
hear and believe the gospel, which has been preserved and is proclaimed by the church.
So, in summing up we state it this way:
the Bible teaches that the kingdom of God is to be perpetuated. It shows that the church is Christ’s divinely purposed instrumentality
for the advancement and perpetuation of the kingdom. This being true, the Bible’s teaching as to the perpetuity of the
kingdom involves as a matter of course the perpetuity of the agency through which the kingdom is to be perpetuated—namely—the
Again, when Christ gave the Great Commission
to His disciples, as has been shown, He addressed them not simply as individuals, but as individuals constituting His church.
To the Commission He added the promise, “Lo, I am with you
always, even unto the end of the age.” Manifestly, if the church at any time ceased to exist, Christ’s promise
would become of none effect. To be with the church always, or more properly, “all the days,” necessarily means
that there must always, every day, until the end of the age, be in existence the church to which the promise was given!
Then again, all of the great denominations,
so far as I can ascertain, agree that the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance. Now when Jesus instituted and gave this
ordinance to His church to be observed, He said: “This do in remembrance of me…as oft as y e eat this bread and
drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death TILL HE COME.” Most certainly if the doing of a thing is to
be perpetuated, the doers of that thing must be perpetuated also. If the observance of the Lord’s Supper is to be perpetuated
until Christ come again, then obviously the church to which He gave the ordinance must, in the very nature of the case, be
perpetuated too. There is no escape from this conclusion!
The Search for the TrueChurch
We have seen that Jesus founded or established
the church, that He founded it during the days of His personal ministry on earth, that the church which He established was
the local assembly, and that He promised to perpetuate it “till He come.” Having ascertained these truths, we
are driven to the conclusion that somewhere in the world today is to be found the true church of Christ—the church that has been perpetuated from
the days of Christ and the apostles, and that holds fast the doctrines that prevailed in the New Testament church. As has
been said, “We must either suppose that there has been a Christian people existing in every age from the apostolic to
the present, characterized by the same doctrines and practices, or that there were periods in the intervening history when
apostolic faith and practice had absolutely no representative on the face of the earth. Are we prepared to take the later
alternative?..... What then becomes of the Saviour’s promise?”
Forced, therefore, to the conclusion
that in accordance with Christ’s promise, His church has been perpetuated, and that is to be found in the world today,
let us ask the question, “How shall we go about finding it? How shall we, from among the multitudes of so-called churches
and denominations, find the true, New Testament church?
I propose to conduct our search for the
true church along three corroborative lines, as follows:
1. THE LINE OF HISTORICAL ELIMINATION.
2. THE LINE OF COMPARISON OF DOCTRINES.
3. THE LINE OF HISTORICAL STATEMENTS
BY RELIABLE HISTORIANS.
Let us then begin our search along the
first line proposed—namely, that of historical elimination. Possibly an illustration will serve to make cleat what I
mean just here. Let us suppose that you come into possession of a valuable document. You lay the paper upon your library table
and soon you are called away for something and, forgetting the paper, you go off and leave it lying there among the papers
and books that litter the table. Presently you return and upon looking for your paper you find that your table has been put
in order during your absence and the document removed. You call the housekeeper and make inquiry. She tells you that she placed
the document between the pages of one of the books on the table. She is very sure about it, but she does not recall just which
book she placed it in. You begin a search, looking through book after book without result. Finally you have examined every
book save one, and you are certain that the books examined do not contain the document. What conclusion do you reach? There
is only one conclusion possible, and that is if, you were told the truth, the paper you seek must be in the one book
So in our search we must eliminate every
so-called church whose origin may be dated after the time of Christ. If in the process we eliminate every church save one,
we shall be forced to the conclusion that that one is the true church.
Going back to the much-discussed Mathew
16:18, we find two historical tests defined by Jesus—tests that should help and guide us in our investigation.
The first is that the only true church
was founded by JESUS HIMSELF—“I will build my church.”
The second is that the institution which
Jesus called “My church” shall never cease to exist through the ages—“The gates of hades shall not
prevail against it.”
If in applying these two scriptural,
historical tests we find that none of the organizations calling themselves churches, save one, can meet these tests, I reiterate
we must conclude that that one is the true church of Christ. Let us then inquire into the origin of the various denominations that exist today. In this inquiry
we shall concern ourselves only with the origin of the main denominations: those that are well known and typical of all others.
The denominations that we shall consider are those from which the many small sects have sprung in more recent years. Being
the offspring of the older denominations and having their rise in very recent times, they of course fall so far short of meeting
Christ’s historical test that it would be entirely superfluous to deal with them.
In this investigation, of course the
Church of Rome, which we today call the Roman Catholic Church, takes priority. Let us then begin by asking,
“WHEN DID THE CURCH OF ROME ORIGINATE?
We have this question from Dr. J. B.
Moody (My Church, p.95): “It did not originate in a day or year, but gradually subverted the apostles’ teaching,
and in centuries inaugurated full-grown popery. But there is not a trace of a Pope or Universal Father…in the first
three centuries of the Christian era.”
The Catholic Church is the result of
gradual perversion and corruption. From the days of Constantine, when soldiers without regeneration were baptized into the church by the thousands, and compromise
was made with paganism, conditions waxed worse and worse, finally bringing about a state that made the Catholic Church possible.
The actual establishment of the Roman Papacy was according to Dr. S. E Tull (Denominationalism Put to Test), accomplished
by Gregory the Great in the year A.D. 590. Dr. Tull corroborates his statement by the following quotation from Ridpath (Vol.
4 p. 41):
“This epoch in history should not
be passed over without reference to the rapid growth of the papal church, in the close of the
sixth century and the beginning of the seventh. Most of all by Gregory the Great; whose pontificate extended from 590 to 604,
was the supremacy of the apostolic See attested and maintained. Under the triple title of Bishop of Rome, Prelate of Italy, and Apostle of the West,
he gradually by insinuations or bold assertions as best suited the circumstances, elevated the Episcopacy of Rome into a genuine papacy of the church.
He succeeded in bringing the Arians of Italy and Spain
into the Catholic fold, and thus secured the solidarity of the Western Ecclesia.”
Schaff (History of the Christian Church,
Vol.1, p. 15) tells us that Gregory the Great (A.D. 590-604) was the first of the “proper popes,” and that with
him begins “the development of the absolute papacy.” Says Dr. J. Christian in commenting on this point: “The
growth of the papacy was a process of history. Long before this the bishop of Rome made arrogant claims over other churches.” Then
he adds: “The line of absolute Mediaeval popes began with Gregory.”
We have seen that the Catholic claim
to apostolic origin breaks down at several points (See Introductory Chapter): First, in failing to establish the primacy of
Peter. Second, in failing to establish that Peter was a pope, or indeed that any pope existed for several centuries after
Christ. Third, in failing to prove that Peter was ever in Rome. Fourth, in the fact that Catholic faith and practice is utterly at variance with that of the apostolic
church. In connection with the points mentioned above, it may be well at the risk of multiplying quotations, to give the words
of Dr. J. W. Porter (World’s Debt to Baptist, pp165, 166):
“As is well known, the Roman Catholic predicates
its claim to scriptural origin on the supposition that Peter was the first Pope of Rome. Unless they can prove that Peter was at Rome, and the he was also a Pope, their claim to apostolic origin
is utterly false. However, there is no controversy on this point, as all the claims of the Roman hierarchy are conditioned
upon the primacy of Peter. The two are inseparable and must rise or fall together. Hence for the purpose of this discussion,
it will only be necessary to prove that Peter was never a pope at Rome or anywhere else….The overwhelming supposition
is that Peter was never at anytime in Rome….There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that Peter ever thought
that he was a pope, or that anyone else ever thought so…But even were it granted that Peter was at Rome and that he
was a pope, the Roman Catholic hierarchy has by faith and practice forfeited its right to be called a Scriptural church.”
If, as Dr. Tull asserts, with Ridpath,
world-renounced historian, and others to corroborate him, the Roman papacy was actually accomplished by Gregory the Great,
whose pontificate extended from A. D. 590 to 604, then Gregory the Great may be termed the founder of the Catholic Church.
True, it is admitted that the Roman apostasy began long before this, but we may rightfully attribute the real formation of
the papacy—the real crystallization into a fixed hierarchy—to Gregory the Great, under whose pontificate the “Supremacy
of the Apostolic See was asserted and maintained.”
To illustrate: It is a well-known fact
that David during his reign over Israel, collected vast quantities of materials for the building of a temple. It was his work that in a sense
made the temple possible. Yet we do not attribute the temple to David, but to Solomon, his successor, under whose reign the
structure was actually erected. Similarly the heresies, traditions, heathenish practices, an indeed all of the elements necessary,
had accrued one by one an were in existence at the time of Gregory the Great. It only remained for him to elevate, as Ridpath
puts it, “The episcopacy of Rome in to a genuine papacy.”
Let us now apply the historical test
laid down by Jesus in Matthew 16:18. It is very evident that he Catholic Church, built by Gregory the Great from the existing
paganized, apostate material, five hundred and ninety years after Christ, cannot meet the historical test of Christ as to
origin and perpetuity, and therefore is not the true church—the church which He
founded and promised should never cease to exist.
ORIGIN OF THE LUTHERANCHURCH
of the world does not refer to the existence of a Lutheran, or LutheranChurch before the days of Luther. That he was the founder of the LutheranChurch none can successfully deny. Luther, revolting against the degeneracy of the Catholic Church, organized
a movement for reform. There is no historical evidence that he even thought of breading with the Catholic Church and forming
a new one. But his activities brought down upon him the anathema of excommunication, and Luther and his followers were almost
forced into forming a new organization. The year 1520 is the very earliest date that can be assigned to the formation of the
It was in this year, according to McGlothin (Guide to Study of Church History), that Luther burned the bull of papal excommunication
and openly defied the pope. It was not, however, until the year 1530 that the system of doctrine and morality which he and
his followers had adopted was presented to the Diet of Augsburg.
be but evident that the LutheranChurch founded by Martin Luther, 1,533 years or thereabouts after Christ, fails to meet the historical test
of Christ as to origin and perpetuity, hence cannot be the church which He founded.
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, OR EPISCOPAL CHURCH
of this church is very clearly and succinctly summed up by Dr. S. E. Tull, in his booklet before mentioned in the following
words: “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 Ann
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, which was finally carried to the Pope of Rome for settlement. The Pope decided against Henry. Realizing
the political impotence of the Pope to interfere in England’s political matters, Henry thereupon took matters into his own hands, and proceeded to put away
Catherine and to marry Ann, notwithstanding the Pope’s pronounced interdiction. This defiance of the Pope caused Henry’s
excommunication from the Church by Pope Clement the Seventh, 1534. Accepting the situation as an opportunity to rid himself
completely of all political alliances with the Pope, Henry immediately convened his Parliament, and on November 23rd
of the same year, 1534, caused his Parliament to pass an act known as “The Act of Supremacy,” which declared Henry
the Eighth to be “The Protector and Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England.” Thus it was that on the 23rd of November, 1534, the “Church of England” was set up, with the profligate, adulterous murderous Henry as
its founder and head. Brought into existence in a day by the power of a political fiat, the Episcopal Church started on its
career as a “Christian” denomination.
Of the church
mentioned above, Macauley writes as follows ( History of England, Vol. 1 p. 32) : “Henry the Eighth attempted
to constitute an Anglican Church differing from the Roman Catholic Church on the point of supremacy, and on that point alone.
His success in this attempt was extraordinary.” Can anything be clearer than that the Church of England, or Episcopal
Church, founded not by Christ, fails to meet the test as to origin and perpetuity, hence cannot be the true church?
ORIGIN OF THE PRESBYTERIANCHURCH
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 the Henry the Eighth was crowned King of England, who was educated 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 government, Calvinists became known as Presbyterians.”
We may date
the beginning of the Presbyterian Church as a separate denomination in the year 1536, as it was in this year that “Calvin’s
Institutes” was given to the world.
quite naturally that the Presbyterian Church, founded by John Calvin, 1,536 years after Christ, cannot meet the historical
test of Christ and cannot be the true church—the one that Jesus founded and promised to perpetuate.
Episcopalians and Presbyterians constitute the three great Catholic-Protestant denominations. There are in existence two great
denominations, who protested from the Episcopalians, and consequently are the offspring of the Episcopal Church. Let us briefly
consider the facts relating to their origin. I quote from Tull’s excellent tract “There lived in England in 1580 and Episcopal
preacher by the name of Robert Brown. He started a movement in opposition to the StateChurch, in which he advocated a congregational form of church government and greatly opposed sacerdotalism.
He got a following who called themselves “Independents.” Robert Brown organized the first Independent church in
1580. Afterwards Brown repented, made confession of his mistake, went back to the Church of England and died in that faith.
His followers, however, continued the movement, and became knows as “Congregationalist.”
founded by Robert Brown 1,580 years after Christ, the CongregationalistChurch fails to meet the historical test imposed by Christ and cannot successfully claim to be the true church of Christ.
ORIGIN OF METHODISM
Let us next
consider the other Protestant movement that arose in the Episcopal Church—the one that has in the course of time come
to be known as the “The Methodist Episcopal Church.” This movement was led by John Wesley and his brother Charles.
While in OxfordUniversity they, by their regular habits of religious study and work, earned for themselves the designation of “medthodists,”
which later attached itself to the movement originated by them. Wesley never intended to organize a church, and indeed did
not even dignify his organization by the name church, but called it a “Society.” Neither of the Wesleys ever affirmed
the right to start a church, and as a matter of fact both of them died members of the Episcopal Church.
reference to the origin of Methodism, we find the following statement in the “Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal
Church” (1912 edition): “In 1729 two young men in England, reading the Bible, saw that they could not be saved
without holiness, followed after it and incited others to do so…God then trust them out to rise a holy people. This
was the RISE of Methodism, as given in the words of its FOUNDERS, John and Charles Wesley…..Throughout England and in
Scotland and Ireland, arose united SOCIETIES of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness. These subsequently
became the Wesleyan churches of Great Britain.”
Again, referring to Methodism in the early days of its history in the United States, we find these words on page 16 of
the same Discipline: “The parish clergy had mostly returned to England and the Methodist SOCIETIES were without
ordained pastors for hundred of miles together.”
It may be
seen from these quotations that Methodism at first did not assume to express itself in the form of a church, but was a society
within the Episcopal Church. It did not start on a separate denominational existence until the year 1739, according to Dr.
McGlothin in his “Guide.” It was in this year that the first class meeting was held. However, the first conference
was not held until five years later.
here arises, If the Methodist Society had a right to evolve into a Church, why may not any church society of the present day
do the same? They assuredly have as much right. Again, this question comes: If Luther, Calvin, the Wesleys and others had
the right to found a church, have not you and I an equal right to do the same? Again, this question: How old must a movement
or society become before it can properly evolve into a “Church”?
But to return
to the origin of Methodism, it ought not be difficult to see that the MethodistChurch, or “Society” as it was formerly called, founded by John Wesley about 1,740 years after
Christ, in no wise meets Christ’s test as to origin and perpetuity, and cannot be the true church of Christ.
ORIGIN OF THE CAMPBELLITE DENOMINATION
seems necessary to take the space to detail the origin of this sect, since it is of such recent origin that it would be absurd
for anyone to claim for them apostolic origin. Indeed, I am personally acquainted with individuals who knew Alexander Campbell,
and remember many incidents connected with the early days of his church, which is more commonly known today by the name “the
Christian Church.” The date of the beginning of the Campbellites or “Christians” as a separate denomination
cannot well be fixed earlier than 1827, although, ignoring the facts of history, they date their origin a few years earlier
than the date I have just given. However, a few years makes no difference so far as we are concerned in this discussion. I
remember quite well that just a few years ago this denomination with great enthusiasm, all over the land, celebrated their
one hundredth anniversary! To accept their own date, they are only slightly over a hundred years old. Yet I remember to have
seen carved on the cornerstone of one of their large church buildings, a statement to the effect that they trace their origin
to the time of Jesus and the apostles. Strange statement indeed in the light of their own admission!
had a human founder and are of modern origin, it is quite evident that they do not meet Christ’s test and are not the
go on and make mention of the Mormons, Christian Scientist, Seventh Day Adventist, Russelites, Nazarenes, “Holy Rollers”
and others, and detail their origin, but it would be entirely superfluous. It is sufficient to say that each of these just
mentioned, together with all the numerous other smaller sects, have had human founders and were never heard of for more than
a thousand years after Christ.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAPTISTS?
shown that every sect, denomination and so-called church, Baptist alone excepted can be traced to a human founder, and originated
long after Christ started His church. Plainly all of these being of post-apostolic origin, are eliminated. Just as when in
the illustration you looked in every book save one and failing to find the document, knew that it must be in the one remaining,
so when every church save one fails to qualify historically as the true church of Christ, it is but right and logical to conclude
that the remaining church is the institution that Christ founded. Baptist churches are unique and clearly distinguished from
all others in that no one can truly point to anyone as the human founder. Neither can the date be fixed for their beginning
this side of Christ. Some have tried it, and their disagreements and contradictions constitute prima facie evidence of their
historical inaccuracy. Those who would deny that Baptist date back to Christ, and who would assign them a modern origin, ought
to hold council together and agree on some certain date! Otherwise their contradictory statements are liable to prejudice
people in favor of the very thing they deny!
chapters I shall offer historical proof to substantiate my statement that Baptist alone have had existence from the
time of Christ. As Dr. Tull puts it: “The first Baptist church was organized by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, during
His personal ministry on the earth. The Baptist church has Jesus for its Founder, the Holy Spirit for the Administrator of
its activities, the New Testament for its articles of faith and laws of being. Throughout the Christian ages, pure Baptist
teaching has survived. The ‘gates of Hades’ have not and shall not prevail against it.”
The Doctrinal Test
In the preceding chapter I sought
to show by a process of elimination that only Baptist churches meet Christ’s historical test as to origin and perpetuity.
Laying aside for a time our findings, let us now peruse our search for the true ecclesia or church along the second line proposed,
namely, that of DOCTRINE. This doctrinal test is fully as important as the historical test. If it can be demonstrated that
Baptist churches are apostolical in regards to the doctrines they hold, and that they are the only churches that do hold the
doctrines that obtained in the New Testament churches in a pure form, it ought to be doubly apparent that Baptist churches
are the true churches of Christ.
It is by
no means a difficult task to ascertain the fundamental doctrines and practices of the churches that existed in the days of
the apostles, because 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.
to identify the church which Jesus built by means of doctrinal comparison, it might be well to indicate the method which we
shall peruse. Let us first go to the New Testament and note the characteristics of the churches of the apostolic times. Next
we shall examine Baptist characteristics to see if they coincide with those of the New Testament period. Then, finally, we
shall take a brief glimpse at the teachings and practices of other great denominations to see how they stand in relation to
the doctrines and practices of the churches of the New Testament. In following this procedure we shall necessarily have to
One of the
things that very forcibly strikes us when we read about the New Testament churches is that they were composed of THOSE WHO
HAD BEEN REGENERATED AND BORN AGAIN. The doctrine of regenerated church membership is on the pages of the New Testament so
clearly that none can mistake it. Indeed the very word ecclesia, as used in the Christian sense, should signify to us an assembly
of people “called out” of the world, so as to form a separate company—a company of regenerated people. As
Dr. Bow puts it: “The word translated church originally meant ‘called out’…so in the highest sense
and holiest sense all the redeemed are called our, and it is fitly applied to them” In Acts 2:47 we find the following
words: “Moreover the Lord was adding to the church day by day those being saved.” (Sco. Bible, Margin) Throughout
the New Testament we find no slightest hint that any save those claiming regeneration were admitted to the churches. In fact,
without regeneration church membership loses all significance. The duties and obligations which the New Testament teaches
as belonging to church members presupposes a radical internal change on the part of every person uniting with a church
such as to fiat him for his task. The Scriptures most certainly do not bear out the idea that a church is to exist as a sort
of reformatory into which unregenerates are to be taken, worked over and made into children of God. On the contrary each church,
according to the New Testament idea, is to be an assembly of God’s people, regenerated, called out, and separated from
the world—“a peculiar people, zealous and of good works.”
from the doctrine of regenerate church membership we may mention incidentally that the New Testament churches practiced only
BELIEVER’S BAPTISM. A profession of faith in Christ was necessary before baptism was administered. In Acts we read, “Then
they that gladly received His word were baptized.” Note that “receiving His word” proceeded baptism. “His
word” refers to the gospel preached by Peter. None are eligible for baptism, according to the Scriptures, until they
have heard the gospel, believed and received it. As one writer has put it: “The only difference between a person who
has not ‘received the Word,’ before and after immersion is that before their immersion they had on dry clothing,
while afterwards their clothing is wet.” Many cases might be cited to prove that only believers were baptized and added
to the church in New Testament times, if space permitted. I readily call to mind the case of Lydia, the Philippian jailer,
Cornelius, and Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In no verse of the new Testament is to be found anything to indicate that
persons were ever baptized before reaching an age that permitted a person faith in Christ. Indeed scriptural baptism is taught
in the New Testament presupposes saving faith in Christ. The order given in the Great Commission is, first make disciples,
second baptize them.
us ask, do Baptist churches today coincide with apostolic churches in the two respects just mentioned? How do other denominations
stand in regard to these matters? Note well this very true statement by Dr. T. T. Martin (The N.T. Church):”BAPTIST
CHURCHES ARE THE ONLY CHURCHES ON EARTH THAT REQUIRE A PERSON TO PROFESS TO BE SAVD BEFORE THE PERSON UNITES WITH THE CHURCH
OR IS BAPTIZED.” This statement proved startling to me when I first read it several years ago. But investigation has
confirmed me in the belief that it is true. Other great denominations either mix infant baptism with believer’s baptism,
or else hold the theory of baptismal regeneration. For instance, the Methodists and Presbyterians holds evangelistic meetings
and following such meetings often baptize (?) those who profess faith in Christ during the meeting. At the same service perhaps
they baptize (?) infants who are not of an age to believe anything. Of course if infant baptism were universally practiced,
believer’s baptism would perish from the earth. On the other hand, Campbellites baptize only those or an age to believe,
but hold the theory of baptismal regeneration, and baptize to help save. Only Baptist require a profession of saving faith
in Christ before baptizing or accepting into church membership.
thing that stands out in the New Testament as regards the churches of that time is the WAY OF SALVATION as taught by them.
The apostolic churches held that salvation was by grace, through faith in Christ alone. As proof of this I submit Paul’s
well-known words found in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God; not of works least any man should boast.” The vicarious death of Jesus was set forth as the only
means of redemption for any human being, and the teaching was that it was only by faith in Him as Divine Redeemer and Saviour
that one could be saved and become a child of God. Gal. is to the point: “For ye are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Acts
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
in accord with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ? Indeed they are. “This is a doctrine that
is fundamental in Baptist thought. It runs through the whole system of Baptist ideas, and helps to determine everything else
in Baptist thinking.” No other way of salvation is held or taught in true Baptist churches.
denominations as one with the New Testament and Baptist in this matter? On this point I give another quotation from Dr. S.
E. Tull: “The Catholics believe that salvation is not purely 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.”
The council of Trent declared that in “baptism not only remission of original sin was given, but also all which properly has the nature
of sin is cur off.” It makes one “a Christian, a child of God, and an heir of heaven.”
On the doctrine
of salvation purely by grace through faith, the Baptist stand alone, and all others hold the position of the Catholics. Lutherans,
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalist and Methodist hold squarely to the Catholic position that infant baptism contains
sacramental grace, while the Campbellites hold that baptism by immersion is essential to salvation.
that 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.
“Baptism is that wherein I
was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of heaven.”
If the above
does not teach baptismal regeneration, pray tell what words would be used to teach it?
“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 ingrafting into
Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of the giving up unto God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life.”
ritual reads as follows:
“Sanctify this water for his 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.”
at what you have just read, “Grant that this child …may…ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect
children.” This ritual puts the infant into the kingdom and family of God, and that without personal faith. It may grow
to maturity with the idea that it is a baptized child of God and thereby never be regenerated, or perhaps even see the need
of it. This certainly does not accord with the words of Jesus, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
articles were based on those of the EnglishChurch, and reference to the writings of the founder of Methodism shows that he believed in baptismal regeneration
as regards infants. Concerning the articles of the English Church, the which he belonged, we find John Wesley writing as follows
(Sermons, London, 1872, Vol. 2 sermon 45, p 74): “It is certain our church supposes that all who are baptized in their
infancy are at the same time born again; and it is allowed that the whole office for baptism of infants proceeds on this supposition.”
I have known
Methodist to vehemently deny that the founder of Methodism held to baptismal regeneration of infants, but in the quotation
above, from his own printed sermons we have it in black and white.
us examine the Lutheran view. This expressed by the founder in the Augsburg Confession as follows:
“Concerning baptism, they teach that it is necessary to salvation…And condemn the Anabaptist, who
hold…that infants can be saved without it.” (Neander, History of Christian Dogmas, Vol.2, p 693.)
a city where the writer 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 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 conversion 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 teaching of your church, you cannot engage in an evangelistic meeting. You
should either abandon our 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.’” (“Denominationalism
Put to Test.”)
study of the apostolic churches as described in the New Testament, reveals several facts in connection with the ORDINANCES
WHICH WERE ADMINISTERED BY THEM. These facts may be stated as follows:
1. The ordinances
were two, and only two, in number: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—Matthew ; I Cor. -30.
attempts to deduce foot-washing as an ordinance, from the Scriptures, fail. Plainly the apostles had no such ordinance. Neither
were the two ordinances mentioned above held in the light of sacraments. To speak of the Lord’s Supper as the “Sacrament”
is not only unscriptural; it is anti-scriptural.
The ordinances were church ordinances. This is admitted with practical unanimity by all the great denominations. In the light
of this admission, “open communion” becomes not only an unscriptural practice, but likewise a glaring inconsistency.
And if the ordinances were given to Baptist, as I have endeavored to show, then the receiving of “alien immersion”
is of all things most inconsistent for Baptist churches.
They were symbolic ordinances, designed to picture great truths and possessing no saving power at all. There is no need for
me to discuss this, as the New Testament teaching of salvation by grace dealt with above prohibits us from attributing saving
efficacy to the ordinances. For of course if salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, it cannot be by baptism, the Lord’s
Supper, or the doing of any works on our part.
Baptism was administered by immersing the candidate in water. Not even the slightest hint of sprinkling or pouring is to be
found in the New Testament. Many clear cases of immersion are recorded. That was evidently the only form of baptism, for Paul
in Ephes. 4:5 writes, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” And indeed the meaning of the term “baptize,”
if studied in the original, is enough to make perfectly clear to the unbiased mind that immersion was the primitive mode.
Besides this, all reliable scholars of the different denominations frankly admit that immersion was the “mode”
of baptism practiced in apostolic times.
The Lord’s Supper, being a church ordinance, was restricted to church members. This being the case, it was of course
preceded by immersion.
How do the
beliefs of Baptist churches today square with the New Testament teaching concerning ordinances? The answer is, they are in
are sadly at variance. The Catholics admit that they changed the ordinance of baptism in the twelfth century because sprinkling
is more convenient. I quote just here from Cardinal Gibbons (Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 316, 317): “For several centuries
after the establishment of Christianity, baptism was usually conferred by immersion. But since the twelfth century baptism
by infusion had prevailed in the Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than baptism by immersion……Baptism
is the essential means established for washing away the stain of original sin, and the door by which we find admittance into
the Church. Hence baptism is as essential for the infant as for the full-grown man. Unbaptized infants are excluded from the
Baptism makes us heirs of heaven and co-heirs of Jesus Christ.”
churches (remember again that Baptist are not Protestants), the direct descendants of the Catholic Church, got their infant
baptism and their perverted modes of baptism from their parent, the Catholic Church. The Campbellites and others who hold
baptism essential to salvation, get their baptismal regeneration from the same source.
the Lord’s Supper, we find that the Catholic and Protestant world have departed from the simplicity of the New Testament
idea that the bread and wine is merely a symbol or memento which is to be taken in remembrance of the Saviour. The Catholics
hold to transubstantiation, the doctrine that the bread and wine becomes the actual body of Christ. The Lutherans hold to
consubstantiation, which is but a modification of Catholic view. Others, such as the Presbyterians and Methodist, hold the
sacramental or spiritual blessing idea, which makes of the ordinance something more than a mere memorial. Besides this, most
denominations in actual practice do not make immersion a prerequisite to the partaking of the Lord’s Supper as did the
churches of the New Testament, for they practice “open communion” which admits everybody who wants to eat-immersed,
sprinkled, unsprinkled, or what not.
we find that the apostolic churches were DEMOCRATIC IN THEIR FORM OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT. This means, of course that they recognized
the absolute lordship of Christ, and had no human head or master. “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren”
(Matt. 243:8-10) is the New Testament teaching. There was no higher or lower order of clergy; no popes or bishops in the modern
sense, to boss the rest around. Peter had no thought of being pope, for he called himself a fellow-elder with other preachers
(I Peter 5:1) When a successor was needed to fill the place of Judas Iscariot, Peter did not appoint him, but the one hundred
and twenty members of the Jerusalem church (Acts 1:15-26). When the first deacons were appointed, their appointment was by
Peter, nor by the apostles as ruling elders, or as constituting a college of bishops. They were chosen by the multitude of
disciples, or church. We find that churches transacted business without outside interference or dictation. They elected their
own officers, and by vote of the congregation received and excluded members. For example, Paul writes to the church at Rome (Rom. 14:1) “Him that is
weak in faith, receive ye.” This indicated that they were in the habit of receiving members. In I Cor. 5, Paul tells
the church at Corinth to exclude an unworthy member. In II Thess. 3 he gives similar counsel to the church at Thessalonica. Again, from Acts
9 we gather that Paul himself was refused membership in the church at Jerusalem, because at that time the church was in doubt about
his conversion and was afraid of him.
democratic form of church government; being composed of individuals who were on an equality—and having no visible, earthly
head, churches were separate and distinct, and were bound together in no organic way. This is conceded by all the earliest
and most reliable historians as having been the order for several centuries. Geisler, the historian, says in writing of the
churches of the first two centuries: “All congregations were independent of one another” (Vol. 1, Chap. 3). Mosheim,
the Lutheran historian, says (Vo. 1, p 142), “During a great part of this (second) century all the churches continued
to be, as at first, independent…each church was a kind of independent republic.”
churches accord with the apostolic way in regard to their church government and polity? Anyone at all acquainted with Baptist
churches knows that democracy in its purest form is to be found in them. Each church is separate and distinct as in apostolic
times, and when churches meet together in associations and conventions they come together in only a cooperative, voluntary
way. There is no organic union in one big “Church.” And furthermore no association or convention has the right
to dictate to the local church. Baptist churches today, as in apostolic times, have no dignitaries or ecclesiastics to impose
their will upon them. True, in these days we sometimes have an occasional individual who desires for himself ecclesiastical
powers with which to force cooperation among Baptist. Such an individual is in each case predestined to an early fall.
us, for the sake of comparison, take a glimpse at the government of other churches.
give church members no privileges but to obey “The Church,” and no voice whatever in the government of the church.
The LutheranChurch is an episcopacy with legislative powers governing
both the doctrine and polity or particular congregations and individuals.
Church has legislative courts and does the same.
Church is what had been termed “a centralized aristocracy,” composed of legislative courts with a gradation in
authority, from the sessions of particular church of the General Assembly of the whole denomination. From the decisions of
the General Assembly there is no appeal, either for churches or individuals.
Church comes nearer the Baptist position in this matter than most others, but veers farther away on some other points.
The MethodistChurch is an episcopacy with a system of ecclesiastical
machinery that leaves little room for the autonomy of the local church or the expression of individuality on the part of its
of church government is not only unbiblical; it proves to be unwise in many instances from the standpoint of what is expedient.
The matter of where preachers shall labor, the choice of their respective fields, is taken out of their own hands so that
they must needs go where they are sent. In this system a preacher may be sent where he does not want to go and where he feels
that neither the Lord nor the people want him. In one case that came under my observation, a man was sent to a smaller pastorate
to which was attached a smaller salary than he had been accustomed to receive. The change was so arbitrary and unsatisfactory
that the preacher rebelled and only remained on his new field long enough to dispose of his household goods. If I was correctly
informed he left with the avowed intention of joining another denomination. Such happenings are very embarrassing to both
the church and pastor. They are the natural outgrowth of an unscriptural, ecclesiastical system.
or “Christian”Church received its form of government from its founder, Alexander Campbell, who from his brief association with the Baptist,
had imbued some of their ideas. Campbellites profess a congregational form of government, but in reality the pastor is vested
with Episcopal powers to receive members without a vote of the congregation.
thing that is to be clearly gathered from the New Testament concerning the churches of that day is that they WERE ENTIRELY
FREE FROM COERCION. In other words, they believed in religious liberty. Religion was a purely voluntary matter. They were
deeply impressed with their duty to preach, teach and persuade, but their word ended there. As to whether or not the individual
accepted the gospel and affiliated with the church, was a matter to be decided by the individuals himself apart from all coercive
measures of any kind. There was entire separation of church and state. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s
and unto God the things that are God’s” was the admonition of Jesus. With such a conception as the New Testament
churches had of freedom of conscience, religious precaution was with them impossible.
us ask, how do Baptist churches of today accord with the principles of freedom held by the apostolic churches? The answer
is they hold these principles still, just as they held them in the first century. They hold that it is their duty and obligation
to preach the gospel to all the world, but they seek to force no one to accept it. They believe that every man has the individual
right to settle for himself the question of his relation to God. Consequently they believe that infant baptism is a sin against
God and against little children, in that it forces a religious rite upon a helpless child and from it the privilege of obeying
Christ for itself. Baptist put neither priest, ordinance, nor anything else between the individual and God. They hold that
every person can, through Jesus Christ, approach God and deal with Him for himself. In church relations the same voluntary
principle holds good. No high ecclesiastic forces churches into measures. No set of ecclesiastics run the churches’
affairs for the, and for acceptance of the leaders they choose for the people. Baptist people govern themselves, and each
church determines the measure and kind of cooperation that it will engage in with other bodies and organizations.
union of church and state is an unspeakable evil, and one that they have never been a party to. They have through the ages
suffered cruel imprisonments, punishments, and even martyrdom at the hands of other peoples because, forsooth, peoples of
other faiths, through the civil powers, wielded the sword of coercion and persecution.
Let us now
take a glance at other denominations and observe their attitude on this point. Catholics give the individual no personal prerogative.
The Church holds the soul of the individual and can by excommunication destroy all hope for eternity. The history of the Catholic
Church is one that reeks with blood. Through long periods Catholicism was the state religion, and so fiercely did it persecute
that dissenters were forced to hide in the “dens and caves of the earth.” I need only mention the massacre of
the Huguenots in which hundreds of people were butchered, or the horrors of the Inquisition, in which devilish ingenuity devised
every torture with which to afflict Baptist and others who held dissenting religious views. I write these lines from Brazil, where on every side is
to be seen the evidence of Catholic intolerance. Just last week news came of how Catholics broke up services that were being
held by Baptist in the town of Bom Jardim, a few miles away.
Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodist and Congregationalist stand with the Catholics in abridging the freedom of the individual
conscience because of their practice of infant baptism. “Campbellites place an ordinance between the sinner and the
Saviour, and thereby forbid his unlimited approach to God” Episcopalians in England derive their support from the
government and Baptist are forced to pay to support a church in which they do not believe. Dr. John Clifford, a noted Baptist
preacher, went to jail time and time again because of his refusal to pay to help support the EpiscopalianChurch. Lutherans have united with the state and have
used their power to persecute. For instance, Henry Crant, Justice Muller, and John Peisker, Baptist, were beheaded in Jena, in 1536, by the Lutherans. Among their
announced views was the doctrine that all infants are saved without baptism. (See McArthur’s “Why I am A Baptist.”)
Presbyterians have consented to the unholy alliance of church and state and have persecuted also. The part that John Calvin,
the founder of Presbyterianism, Had in burning Seventus, the Anabaptist, at the stake is too well known to mention in detail.
Congregationalist persecuted by means of civil power in the early colonial days in America. Clark, Holmes and Candrall,
Baptist leaders, were fined, imprisoned an publicly whipped in Boston. On asking what law of God or man he (Clark) had broken, Endicott replied to Clark, “You have denied infant baptism and deserve
And I may
add that persecution of Baptist does not all belong to the past. In almost every place today where Baptist stand for the whole
Bible and preach their doctrines, they meet with persecution. They are called “narrow,” “bigoted,”
and are pointed at with scorn. Many times, because their beliefs do not permit them to engage in all sorts of union movements
and programs, they are bitterly criticized. In my own ministry I have in one instance had my church boycotted by members of
other denominations because I preached the New Testament teachings concerning the ordinances. The forms of persecution are
not the same as in days gone by, but persecution that is none the less real is often resorted to by those who do not espouse
the purely voluntary principle of the New Testament and Baptist.
characteristic of the churches of Christ in apostolic times was their REVERENCE FOR THE SCRIPTURES AND THE COMMANDS OF THE
LORD GIVEN TO THEM THROUGH INSPIRED MEN. To them the Word of God, whether contained in the Old Testament or delivered through
the mouth or pen of inspired men, was sufficient.
of those days did not butcher the Old Testament as do the Modernist of our day, who parcel it out into bits and call this
part a portion of the “J” document this other a part of the “E” document, and so on. To them the Old
Testament did not merely contain a revelation from God; it was the revelation. The teachings of the apostles they received
we distinguish the likeness between Baptist churches of today and the churches of the early times. To Baptist, the Scriptures
of the Old and New Testament constitute the final authority on all matters of belief and practice. The great doctrine that
constitutes the bedrock upon which all of their doctrines are laid in this: “The Bible, the Bible alone, is our only
an all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.” As one has aptly put it, “if you can’t find it in he Bible,
it isn’t Baptist doctrine; if it is Baptist doctrine you can find it in the Bible.” Baptist believe that each
individual has the right to read and interpret the Scriptures for himself. They do not believe in studying and interpreting
in the light of someone’s comments, as do Christian Scientists, who study in the light of Mrs. Eddy’s “Science
and Health,” or Russelites, who interpret by the aid of Pastor Russell’s “Bible Studies,” or Catholics,
who, when they read the Bible at all, read the imperfect translated Douay version, in the light of the Church’s interpretations
appended to each page in the form of “notes.” Baptist believe that the Bible says what it means and means what
it says, and that it is so written as to be understood by the common people. They do not believe that it is right to seek
to justify a practice by a set of regulations drawn up by fallible men. Consequently, that a thing is found in a “Discipline”
or “Catechism” adds little weight to it, for them. But while these things are true, it is also true that Baptist
have always been willing to state their beliefs. This they have done repeatedly in the form of “Confessions of Faith.”
These confessions merely place before the world their interpretation of what the Bible teaches on fundamental matters. They
are not binding creeds forced upon Baptist bodies, for each church has the privilege of making its own statement of belief.
the attitude of other denominations toward the Bible? It is not the Baptist attitude, else there would not be the division
that exists today. Much is said today about church union, and Baptist are often blamed for the schismatic condition of Christendom.
But it can be truly said that Baptist are ready to unite with those of other faiths at any time that they are willing for
union to be consummated upon the principle of absolute adherence to the New Testament.
view, for instance, is the exact opposite of the Baptist. Catholics believe in the Pope as the source of doctrine, and they
hold he is infallible in his decisions. On this point we have the statement of Cardinal Gibbons as follows: “When a
dispute arises in the Church regarding the sense of Scripture, the subject is referred to the Pope for final adjudication…He
pronounces judgment, an his sentence is final, irrevocable, and infallible.” Again, in the same book (Faith or Our Fathers),
he says: “The Scriptures can never serve as a complete rule of faith and a complete guide to heaven independent of an
authorized living interpreter.”
occupy positions between the Baptist and the Catholics. The Lutheran, Episcopal and Methodist churches are vested with legislative
powers ample to allow them to fix doctrine and legislative conduct for the particular congregations and for individuals. As
we have already seen, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church is vested with supreme power in matters affecting doctrine
yet another thing that was considered fundamental among New Testament churches, and that was what has been termed. “THE
COMPETENCY OF THE SOUL, UNDER GOD, IN RELIGION.” “Everyone of us shall give an account of himself to God,”
is the teaching of Paul. Every soul was deemed competent to deal with God without the interference of human priests or mediaries.
. Absolute freedom or conscience was allowed, and coercion was never resorted to, in matters pertaining to religion,
as has already been pointed out.
we find Baptist to be strictly apostolical. Baptist believe that man, as man, has the capacity to know God. and under
the power of the Holy Spirit to do God’s will. “This competency of the soul under God,” as one writer puts
it, “is at once exclusive an inclusive. It excludes all human interference, all proxy in religion, all ideals of priestly
or episcopal intervention. Religion is a matter between the individual soul and God. It includes all the rights of an absolute
democracy, and constitutes every believer his own priest and king.” It might not be out of place just here to quote
Dr. E. Y. Mullins on this point. He says: “The Biblical significance of the Baptist is the right of private interpretation
and obedience to the Scriptures. The significance of the Baptists in relation to the individual is soul freedom. The ecclesiastical
significance of the Baptists is a regenerated church membership and the equality and priesthood or believers. The political
significance of the Baptist is the separation of the church and state. All of these grow naturally and of necessity out of
the doctrine of the competency of the soul in religion.”
let us take a brief look at other denominations and not their attitude in this matter. Everyone who is at all familiar with
the Catholic position will admit very readily that it is in direct antithesis to the Baptist doctrine of the competency of
the soul. Underlying the whole scheme of Roman Catholicism is the idea of incompetency of the soul. This is seen in the auricular
confession, the denial of right of private interpretation of the Bible, infant baptism, the priestly monopoly of the elements
necessary to the “communion” and numerous other things.
is a mixture of the Baptist and Catholic positions. A quotation from Dr. M. P. Hunt (The Baptist Faith) will make this clear.
He writes as follows: “in many things the Protestant world is now with the Baptist, but in some things it still clings
to the rags of Catholicism. As, for instance, the episcopacy, infant baptism, and baptismal regeneration. They are all unscriptural,
and first saw light in the Catholic Church, and were nourished by its unscriptural conception of the incompetency of the soul
in religion. In holding to the doctrine of justification by faith, the Protestant world is at that point one with the Baptist,
while in baptizing their children into the church in unconscious infancy they are one with the Catholics. In the matter of
civil and religious liberty, the Protestant world in America is now in full sympathy with the Baptist position, while those
churches that have the Episcopal form of government get the same from the Catholics. Take the ‘Disciples,’ who
are less than a hundred years old, and they are one with the Baptist in the matter of believer’s baptism; but at the
same time one with the Catholics in holding baptism to be essential to salvation.”
of the apostolic churches could be taken up and their identity with Baptist characteristics established. But surely enough
has already been said to demonstrate that Baptist are apostolic as regards their faith and practice. One who reads the New
Testament cannot help but see the doctrinal identity of Baptist today with the churches of the New Testament. Dr. A.T. Robertson
has said: “Give a man a New Testament and a good working conscience, and a Baptist is the sure result.” Instances
are on record where several denominations have been seeking to get into their church a new convert, and, as a rule, whenever
it is announced that the individual is making a study of the New Testament, and will let that guide him, it is generally conceded
that the Baptist have won.
If I wished
to take the space I could go on at length and tell of I. N. Yohannan, a Persian, converted under the preaching of a Presbyterian
missionary, but who, upon reading the New Testament, came from Persia to New York to get Baptist baptism. I could tell the story of
John G. Oncken and his family in Hamberg, Germany. They, becoming believers and being without ecclesiastical guides, shut themselves up to study of the New Testament
with this result: A BAPTIST CHURCH! I could tell of Judson and Rice, who were sent to the foreign field by another denomination,
on the voyage studied the New Testament and arrived on their field with convictions that led them to join a Baptist church,
even though it meant for them to renounce the support of those who had sent them. I could tell of how in the state of Parahyba, Brazil, men were converted under the preaching of
a Presbyterian missionary and were made Baptist in belief by reading the New Testament. They sent to the city where I now
reside (Perambuco) for a Baptist preacher to come and baptize them.
Points to be remembered
seen in a former chapter that all churches and denominations, with the single exception of Baptist Churches, originated in
post-apostolic times, and moreover that their origin may be traced to a human head and founder. Applying Jesus’ historical
test, which requires that the true church must have had Him for the Founder, and must have been perpetuated through all ages,
we eliminated all churches save those of the Baptist. In the preceding chapter we applied the doctrinal test, with the results
that we found Baptist churches alone to be apostolical in doctrine, form and practice. Other denominations, we saw, failed
to meet this test; each of them showing wide departure from apostolic doctrine and practice. Already it has become apparent
that Baptist churches are identical with the churches of the New Testament era, and consequently may right claim to be the
true churches of Christ. However, we shall not stop here. We proposed in the beginning to devote some time to proving Baptist
church perpetuity by statements of reliable historians.
hear the testimony of these historical witnesses, it might be well for the sake of clearness to deal briefly with several
matters bearing more or less on the subject. These points, indicated numerically, follow:
Let it be born in mind as indicated at the beginning that Baptist do not attempt to establish their claims by the Baptist
name. Some say that Baptist churches are not the true churches because they are not called by the name Baptist in the
New Testament. The plain fact is that they were not called by any distinguishing name at that time, but were simply spoken
of as “churches.” And why? Plainly because all churches were then of one faith and consequently needed no name,
except the church at such and such a place, as for example, “the church at Antioch,” “the church at Corinth,” etc. But it can be readily
seen that as time passed, and spurious organizations calling themselves churches sprang up, distinguishing names came to be
used as a matter of necessity. As for Baptist, they have during the course of centuries been called by different names. These
names were usually bestowed upon them by their enemies and persecutors, as I have previously tried to show. Sometimes in one
land a certain name was applied to them while at the same time in another land they were being called by another name. The
same kind of churches existed, characterized by the same evangelical doctrine and life, but the names they bore were different.
It is very easy to understand how this could be in a time when churches were widely separated and when there was little intercommunication.
As late as colonial days in America, Baptist were often termed “Anabaptist” and “Catabaptist.” Indeed, in reading
some historical documents relating to the history of Kentucky I found that the Baptist were referred to as Anabaptist. Most surely the dropping of the “ana”
in no wise changed the characteristics of the churches. No more were the Waldenses changed when in the course of time came
to be called Anabaptist. So the thing insisted upon is not identity of name, but rather continuity of doctrine and life, held
by peoples meeting as bodies of baptized believers in Christ.
Let it be remembered that those who deny Baptist perpetuity differ widely as to when Baptist had their origin. Their very
uncertainty, and their complete divergence of opinion about the matter is in itself a good argument for the thing they oppose.
Dr. W. A. Jarrell, in preparing his manuscript for his book, perpetuity some years ago, wrote a number or letters to high
officials and scholars of Catholic and various Protestant churches, asking the question, “When, where, and by whom was
the first Baptist church originated?” The answers received showed hopeless confusion and uncertainty. These men, unwilling
to concede that the first church that ever existed was a Baptist church, where hard pressed to find an answer, and their answers
failed to correspond with each other.
to further illustrate on this point: I have here on my writing table two books written by men who violently oppose the Baptist
perpetuity idea. In dating the origin of Baptist, one says that the Baptist were started in Germany in 1521 by Nicholas Stork.
The other says that the first Baptist church was founded in Amsterdam by John Smyth, an Englishman in 1607. The fact is, those who deny that Jesus started the first Baptist
church at Jerusalem simply cannot place their finger on the date of the beginning of the first Baptist church, and the man who started it.
They cannot correctly name the date because it doesn’t exist! They cannot name the man this side of Christ, because
he never lived!
Note the confusion that prevails among those who claim that Jesus did not found the local assembly, but a “universal
invisible Church.” For instance, Dr. C. I. Scofield, in his “Synthesis of Bible Truth,” says that ecclesia
is used in the New Testament in four different senses, as follows: “To designate the whole body of the redeemed during
the present dispensation, to designate a local church, to designate groups of local churches, and to designate the visible
church or body of professed believers without reference to locality or numbers.” Confusion is here worse confounded!
Who can read the New Testament with unbiased mind and get the impression that Jesus founded several different kinds of churches?
This teaching could only have arisen as a theoretical necessity. Further, we find that the Westminster Confession contains
still another conception of church in which those who have never become believers are members. This confession says that the
church consist “of all those throughout the world who profess the true religion, together with their children.”
There are those who readily admit a perpetuity of Baptist principles but who are not willing to admit perpetuity of Baptist
churches. For instance H. C. Vedder, in his “Short History of the Baptist,” devotes most of his introduction to
an argument against Baptist perpetuity, then, strange to say, begins his history of Baptist in the New Testament times! He
does not admit the continuance of Baptist churches, but devotes upwards of two hundred pages to what he calls a “history
of Baptist principles.” There immediately arises this question: If Baptist principles have had continuous existence
from apostolic times, then surely there must have existed people who held those principles. For the perpetuity of Baptist
principles necessarily involves the fact that there lived individuals who held them. Were not the individuals who held Baptist
principles Baptist? And were not the churches made up of such, individual Baptist Churches? If not, I am greatly concerned
to know what kind of churches they were. The position that there has been a perpetuity of Baptist principles but not of Baptist
is illogical, an it ill becomes a person of thoughtful mind to hold such a position.
None deny that there have existed from the days of the apostles on, companies, congregations, and sects of Christians dissenting
from the established and commonly accepted forms. When the prevailing churches fell into errors, and departed from the gospel
teaching, those who continued godly separated themselves from the multitude and worshipped and served God according to their
understanding of the Scriptures. These people, true to apostolic teaching, constituting in the strictest sense what remained
of the true church of Christ, were bitterly persecuted, termed “heretics,” and had applied to them all sorts of odious names. And because
they usually wore the names applied to them in hatred by their enemies, the names varied. Consequently it would be foolish
for one, because the name Baptist cannot be traced back successively to apostolic times, to deny that people holding Baptist
principles and in a real sense Baptist have existed.
is often made to tracing Baptist descent through the so-called dissenting “sects” that existed from the New Testament
times on, upon the ground that there were irregularities among them as to doctrine and practice. Some of the churches included
under that same name as that of the peoples through whom Baptist trace their perpetuity, practiced things out of harmony with
the things that Baptist practice today. Therefore, it is argued that Baptist err in claiming kinship with them. Let us think
about this objection for a few moments. It ought to be evident to anyone who will think it over that churches, absolutely
independent, bound together in no close organic way, driven into seclusion, scattered and separated by persecution, would
in all probability come to differ somewhat in minor matters of doctrine and polity. Moreover, some might even depart so far
from the Scriptures’ teaching as to become unworthy of the name borne by them. There is no doubt that this very thing
happened in many instances among the peoples through whom the Baptist trace descent. Biased historians have seized upon these
more or less isolated instances, and have magnified them in an attempt to show that the whole “sect” was not baptistic
in it s doctrines and practices. Upon the same principle it could be argued that certain churches of the apostolic era were
not true churches. For instance, the church at Corinth was very imperfect; irregularities existed, yet no one asserts that it was not a true church of Christ. One could magnify the irregularities and variations
that exist between Northern and Southern Baptist churches, or between Southern Baptist and the Baptist of Canada or England, and erroneously conclude
that they are not to be classed as the same people. And indeed, there are churches calling themselves by the name “Baptist”
that have without doubt so far departed form Scriptures as to n longer be true Baptist churches. It is quite unfair, however,
to judge a people as a whole by the actions of a few churches that go astray form the truth. In properly estimating them w
must find out what they in the main stand for. We must ascertain, what were the principles that generally characterized them.
should be remembered that much of what is on record concerning those who held Baptist views in ages past has come from the
pens of their foes. Those who wrote about them generally hated these “dissenters” with deadly and malignant hatred
and did not scruple at persecuting them to the death. Can the testimony of such witnesses be considered as trustworthy? All
too often have historians even some who bear the name Baptist been willing to characterize Baptist of ages gone by according
to the records of their persecutors, who delighted in nothing more than to exaggerate their faults. Strange to say, some historians
seem to give more credence to the statements of their enemies than to those contained in the extant writing of these Christians
themselves. It seems to me that the histories of Newman and Vedder go to this extreme just mentioned. As I have compared their
writings concerning the various bodies of Christians who withstood Rome in the earlier days with the writing of other Baptist historians. I have been unable to keep from
feeling that they do these people a deep injustice. Those noble men and women who kept alive the great doctrines of the New
Testament faith through bloody times of persecution who maintained evangelical religion in the face of Romish apostasy,
often at the cost of life—surely they bore enough during their lifetime without having perpetuated against their memory,
by biased historians the calumnies of their enemies.
It might well be asked at this point, How far can a church depart from the truth and still be a New Testament church? Those
who claim that Montanist, Novations, Paulicians, Waldenses, etc were too heretical for Baptist to claim kin with, might well
ponder this question. Even Dr. A. H. Newman recognizes that churches may have irregularities and still be true New Testament
churches, for in his history of “Antipedobaptistm” page 28, he says: “That a church also may make
grave departures in doctrine and practice from the apostolic standard without ceasing to be a church of Christ, must be admitted.” If we can determine
just how far a church may depart from the truth and still remain a New Testament church, we shall then be prepared to examine
the beliefs of the various parties and “sects” of ancient times to determine whether or not we may justly trace
the Baptists through them.
On the matter
of what constitutes a true New Testament church I wish to quote with approval the words of Dr. T. T. Martin, as found in his
splendid book on the New Testament church. He says: “Only two doctrines are essential to a New Testament church. Other
doctrines are important, precious, but only two are essential to a New Testament church. They are the WAY OF SALVATION and
the WAY OF BAPTISM. The Commission makes this clear. Matthew 28: 19-20 R. V.: ‘Go ye therefore and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them…..’ A body of people holding these two doctrines and in this New Testament order may
be in error on other doctrines; yet it is a New Testament church. For instance, if there is in the West a church called a
‘Baptist’ church that holds immersion for baptism, but does not hold the New Testament way of salvation, then
it is not a New Testament Church. If there is a church in New York or England called a ‘Baptist’ church that holds the New Testament way of salvation but does not hold
immersion as baptism, then it is not a New Testament church. If there is a church called a ‘Baptist’ church that
holds the New Testament way of baptism, but that one ought to be baptized before being saved, then it is not a New Testament
been Baptist churches within recent times that practiced foot-washing. Others have held erroneous views relating to the Sabbath.
On our day, I have known of Baptist churches in the North having a woman for pastor, and I have known churches to adopt various
unscriptural plans for the carrying on of their work. But the point is none of these things kept them from being New Testament
churches. Just as a Christian may be disobedient and yet remain a Christian, so a church may be disobedient and yet remain
a New Testament church—though admittedly an unworthy one. For, let us repeat, according to the terms of the Commission,
two doctrines and two only are essential to a New Testament church: THE WAY OF SALVATION AND THE WAY OF BAPTISM.
Baptist Under Other Names
touched on the fact that from the time that corruption began to gain the ascendancy and God’s order began to be perverted
and changed, there have been dissenters—those who protested against the evil and corruption, and banded together to
live and act in accordance with the teachings of the Scriptures. Those who maintained the New Testament form, doctrine and
teachings were termed by the corrupt churches “sects,” and were denounced as “heretics.” All
historians admit that these “sects” or “heretics” existed all along down through the ages.
churches which stood for the New Testament teaching against corruption, there were leaders and learned men who became extremely
well known an well hated because they dared to champion the cause of truth against apostasy. In many instances a large number
of those holding the true faith had applied to them the name of the leader. When a new name came to be applied to those holding
Baptist beliefs, historians often write as though a new sect originated. In truth it was only a new name that originated,
an out of the mouths of enemies at that. A new name applied to the same people, holding the same peculiar beliefs, in no wise
I begin to suggest some of the peoples of ancient times through whom Baptist may properly claim historical continuity, let
me re-emphasize two points which I request the reader to bear in mind throughout the reading of the entire chapter. First,
all I am seeking to establish is that there has always from the time of Christ, been groups of individuals who held on essential
points the New Testament faith, and who banded together in churches that were essentially baptistic in faith and practice.
Second, only two doctrines are essential to a New Testament church: The way of salvation and the way of baptism. If a group
of churches are sound on these two cardinal points they may properly be called Baptist churches. There is no doubt that, due
to circumstances that prevailed and which we might profitably dwell upon if space permitted, some of the “sects”
had irregularities existing among them. Some of the peoples whom I shall mention held erroneous ideas and indulged in some
extravagances. However, if I can show that they hold pure the two cardinal doctrines mentioned as essential to a Baptist church,
I shall have proved my contention that they were Baptists. It is held against some of the “dissenters,” for instance,
that they had extravagant ideas about the Second Coming of Christ. That does not disqualify them from being Baptist. So did
the Thessalonians have these erroneous views, and Paul had to write II Thess., to correct them. So do some Baptist to-day
go to extremes in making programs a placing the events connected with Christ’s return.
us proceed to very briefly notice some of the “sects” that maintained separation from the movement that came to
be known as Catholicism. We may well begin with the
I am well
aware that a few Baptist historians hold up their hands in horror at the thought of Baptist claiming kin with the Montanist.
(Cf. Newman and Vedder.) With preconceived antipathy for the Baptist continuity idea they seek to draw as dark a picture of
the early “sects” as they call them, as possible . From many historians I have gleaned information concerning
the Montanist. My conclusion is that their irregularities have been greatly exaggerated. In some of the churches there were
irregularities, no doubt, but I am convinced that on the whole they were a great and good people holding the doctrines essential
to a Baptist church. Let us notice the admissions of historians concerning them:
(Short History of the Baptist, pp 58, 62): They clearly apprehended the truth that a church of Christ should consist of the regenerated only…of course the Monatanist
immersed—no other baptism, so far as we know, was practiced by anybody in the second century. There is no evidence that
they baptized infants, and their principle of a regenerate church membership would naturally require the baptism of believers
be ashamed to claim kinship with these churches, composed of regenerate people, duly immersed upon profession of faith in
us read further the testimony of historians:
“Montanism’ was a protest
against corrupt a sinful living and lax discipline. The substance of the contention of these churches was for a life of the
spirit. It was not a new form of Christianity; it was a recovery of the old, the primitive church set over against the obvious
corruption of the current Christianity. The old church demanded purity; the new church had struck a bargain with the world
and arranged itself comfortably with it, and they would therefore break with it.” (Moeler, Montanism, in Schaff-Herzog
“As there was at that time…no
essential departure from the faith in action, the subject of baptism, church government or doctrine, the Montanist on these
points were Baptist. (Jarrel, Perpetuity, p. 69)
“Montanism continued for centuries
and finally became known under other names. (Eusebius, Church History, p. 229, note by Dr. McGiffert.)
“The severity of their doctrines
gained them the esteem and confidence of many who were far from being of the lowest order.” (Mosheim, Eccl. History,
Vol. 1 p. 233.)
“Monatanism…is best understood
as a reaction against a condition of the church and of the Christian life, which seemed to the Montanist to be pitched too
low and also to have decayed from an earlier and purer stand.” (The Ancient Catholic Church, by Rainy, p. 130.)
“Montanist held that membership in
the churches should be confined to purely regenerated persons; and that a spiritual life and discipline should be maintained
without any affiliation with the authority of the state.” (Armitage’s History, p. 175)
“Montanus was charged with
assuming to be the Holy Spirit himself; which was simply slander.” (Armitage, p 175)
“History has not yet relieved
the Montanist of the distortion and obliquity which long held them as enemies of Christ; while in fact they honestly, but
in some respects erroneously, labored to restore that Christ-likeness to the churches which had so largely departed.”
(Armitage, p. 176)
THE NOVATAIANS. These were so called because of the leader of the puritist movement who bore the name Novatian. He was a member
of the Church of Rome planted by Paul, but which became so corrupt that separation was necessary in order to preserve the
faith. Of Novatian, Dr. J. B. Moody says:
“He neither began or propagated
a sect. Others followed his example in separating from the corrupt churches and thus followed the divine command, and thus
their walk was orderly. The disorderly constituted the apostasy.”
Robinson says (Eccles. Researches,
“A tide of immorality pouring
into the church, Novatian withdrew and a great many with him…Great numbers followed his example, an all over the Empire
puritan churches were constituted and flourished through the succeeding two hundred years. Afterwards, when penal laws obligated
them to lurk in corners and worship God in private, they were distinguished by a variety of names, and a succession of them
continued until the reformation.”
Vedder says (Short History, p. 64)
Novatians were the earliest Anabaptists; refusing to recognize as valid the ministry and sacrament of their opponents and
claiming to be the true church, they were logically compelled to rebaptize all who came to them… The party gained great
strength in Asia Minor, where many Montanist joined
Dr. J. T.
Christian, in his recent Baptist history, shows that the Novatians held to the independence of the churches, and recognized
the equality of all pastors in respect to dignity and authority.
Dr. J. B.
Moody, after having studied the Novatians in the light of a dozen or more historians, says of Novatian: “He contended
that…salvation…was of the Lord, by grace through faith.”
multiplying quotations we find that the Novatians were Anabaptist, holding the scriptural view on the way of salvation, pure
in life and scriptural as regards their conception of the ministry and church government. I see no reason as to why Baptist
should not trace continuity of existence through them.
THE DONATIST. Dr. J. B. Moody, who read widely on subjects pertaining to church history, says relative to the Donatists:
“Those who contended earnestly
for the original pattern were called in some countries Novatians and in others Donatists. These men did not originate sects,
but separated from the growing apostasy and perpetuated the true churches.”
In the case
of the Donatists, separation from the corrupt occurred in the year 311 A.D.
historian Crespin gives the following as the view held by them:
“First for purity of church
members, by asserting that none ought to be admitted to the church but such as are true believers, and true saints. Secondly
for purity of church discipline, Thirdly, for the independency of each church. Fourthly, they baptized again those whose first
baptism they had reason to doubt. They were consequently rebaptizers or Anabaptist.”
it is apparent that they held the doctrines essential to a Baptist church.
(Progress of Bapt. Principles, p. 21)
“Donatists…seem to have formed the germ of the Waldenses.”
says (Church History, p. 4)
“After the Donatists arose
they (the Monatanist) were often called by that name.”
(HIst. Chri. Church):
was hardly a city or town in Africa where there was
not a Donatist church.”
THE PAULICANS Dr. J. T. Christian say in his Baptist History, pages 76 and 77:
The Paulician churches were of apostolic
origin and were planted in Armenia
in the first century.”
An old book
of the Paulicians called the “Key of Truth,” was discovered a few years ago by Dr Coneybeare of Oxford. In this book the Paulicians claim
for themselves apostolic origin. Dr. Coneybeare, who translated the “Key of Truth” and who is probably the greatest
authority on the Paulicians, tells us that the Paulicians and Bogomils were persecuted but persisted here and there in many
hiding places until the Reformation, when they reappeared under the form of Anabapatism.
“They baptized and rebaptized
by immersion. They would have been taken for downright Anabaptist.”
“Baptist views prevailed among
the Paulicians. They held that men must repent and believe, and then at a mature age ask for baptism, which alone admitted
them into the church.”
(Greek and EasternChurches, page 217):
“There it is quite arguable
that they (Paulicans) should be regarded as representing the survival of a most primitive type of Christianity.”
references above it may be seen that the Paulicians claimed apostolic origin, held Baptist doctrines and persisted until they
were absorbed in the Anabaptist movement.
THE ALBIGENSES. Many historians, such as Mosheim, Gibbon, Muratori, Coneybeare and others, regard the Paulicians as the forerunners
of the Albigenses, and indeed the same people save only for name. Dr Christian states in his history, previously referred
to, that recent writers hold that the Albigenses had been in the valleys of France from the earliest ages of Christianity. Because
of persecution they left hardly a trace of their writings, so that our knowledge of them is not as full as we could wish.
Jones, in the history already quoted from, says that they held the two doctrines necessary to a New Testament church. He also
tells us that they rejected infant baptism.
holding these New Testament doctrines in common, but called by such names a Petrobrussians, Henricans, Arnoldists, existed,
but space does not permit a detailed account of them. Of these Dr. A. h. Newman says (Recent Researches Concerning Med. Sects,
p. 187) “There is much evidence of the persistence in Northern Italy and Southern France, from early times, of evangelical types of Christianity.”
THE WALDENSES. The close connection of the Waldenses with the peoples whom I have previously mentioned is recognized by historians.
Jones says (History, Vol. 2, p. 4)
“when the popes issued their
fulminations against them (the Albigenses) they expressly condemned them as Waldenses.”
tried to begin the Waldenses with Peter Waldo and to make of him the founder, but without success. Peter Waldo did not start
the Waldenses, neither are they called after him, for he and the Waldenses have their name form the same origin. On this point
Jones says (H, Vol. 2): “The words simply signify ‘valleys,’ inhabitants, and no more.” Peter Waldo
was so called because he was a ‘valley man,’ and he was only a leader of a people who had long existed. The Waldenses
held the opinion that they were of ancient origin and truly apostolic. In regard to some historian’s way of dealing
with them, Jones remarks: “The very generic character of the Waldenses is overlooked by most writers respecting the
wide-spread community to whom it applied…They spread all over Europe for many centuries…Whatever local name they
bore, the Catholics called them all Vudois or Waldenses.”
origin, Vedder says (Short History, p. 122):
“The Waldenses, in their earlier
history, appear to be little else than Petrobrussians under a different name…The doctrines of the earlier Waldenses
are substantially identical with those of the Petrobussians, the persecutors of both being witnesses.”
tried to make it appear that the Waldenses practiced infant baptism. Of course, as I have preciously pointed out, a people
so widely scattered, with churches in many sections, may have in some of their churches had heretical practices. But my study
of the Waldenses from many sources has led me to conclude that to charge the Waldenses generally with having practiced infant
baptism, is a base slander. I concur with Dr. Christian when he says: “There is no account that the Waldenses proper
ever practiced infant baptism.”
Of the doctrines
held by the Waldenses, Vedder has this to say (S. Hist., pp. 123, 124):
writers before 1350 attributed the following errors to the Waldenses: 1. They asserted that the doctrines of Christ and the
apostles, without the decrees of the church, sufficed for salvation. 2. They say that baptism does not profit little children,
because they are never able actually to believe. 3. They affirm that they alone are the church of Christ and the disciples of Christ. They are the successors of the apostles.”
goes on to give a list of other beliefs help by them and similar to those held by Baptist today. Then he adds:
“Also we find attributed to
them certain tenets which were afterwards characteristic of the Anabaptist….Maintaining these views, they were the spiritual
ancestors of the Anabaptist churches.”
Keller has this to say:
“Very many Waldenses considered,
as we know accurately, by baptism on (profession of) faith to be the form which is conformable with the words and example
No one can
make a study of the Waldenses and fail to see very rapidly that they held the two doctrines essential to a Baptist church.
They were a great and noble people, who maintained the true faith in the face of bitter and almost continuous persecution.
Baptist need feel no shame in claiming kin with them.
THE ANABAPTISTS. There is much evidence that the Waldenses came to be known later as Anabaptist. The Reformation gave opportunity
for the various “sects” in hiding, which we to-day identify as Baptist, to come forth and declare themselves.
These hated, so-called “sects” came to be known by the general name “Anabaptist.” Dr. Vedder says:
“It is a curious a instructive
fact that the Anabaptist churches of the Reformation period were most numerous precisely where the Waldenses of a century
or two previous had flourished…That there was an intimate relation between the two movements few doubt who have studied
this period and its literature. The torch of truth was handed on from generation to generation.”
Dr. Christian says:
“In those places where the
Waldenses flourished, there the Baptist set deep root…Many able preachers of the Waldenses became widely known as Baptist
ministers…Many details marked the Waldenses and the Baptists as of the same origin.”
says, with reference to the Waldenses and Paulicians:
“In my judgment both parties were Baptist.”
If we ask
the opinion of those hostile, we find Baronius, the learned Roman Catholic historian, saying (Danver’s Baptism, p. 253):
“The Waldenses were Anabaptist.”
who, let us remember, is hostile to the idea of Baptist perpetuity, has this to say (S. Hist., p. 130):
“These Anabaptist churches
were not gradually developed but appear fully formed from the first….Complete in polity, sound in doctrine, strict in
discipline. It will be impossible to account for these phenomena without an assumption of a long existing cause. Though the
Anabaptist churches appear suddenly in the records of the time contemporaneously with the Zwinglian Reformation, their roots
are to be sought further back.”
he says on pages 136, 143:
“The Anabaptist, like Baptist
of today, argued that there is no command or example of infant baptism in the New Testament, and that instruction and belief
are enjoined before baptism…The teachings of the Swiss Anabaptist are accurately known to us from three independent
and mutually confirmatory sources: The testimony of their opponents, the fragments of their writings that remain, and their
Confession of Faith. The latter is the first document of its kind known to be in existence. It was issued in 1527….It
teaches the baptism of believers only, the breaking of bread by those alone who have been baptized, and inculcates a pure
church discipline…The Confession corresponds with the beliefs avowed by Baptist churches today. It is significant that
what is approbriously called ‘close communion’ is found to be the teachings of the oldest Baptist document in
close my discussion of the Anabaptist with a quotation from Dr. W. D. Nowlin (Fundamentals of the Faith):
As to the origin of the Anabaptist, church historians differ,
but it is probable that in many instances they were the revival of the remains of the earlier sects or at least of their sentiments,
which still lingered in many localities. Undoubtedly it was the quickened life and thought of the Reformation that brought
them again into notice and resulted in the vast increase of their numbers. Anabaptist held to the complete separation of Church
and state, liberality of the individual conscience and the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice. They opposed infant
baptism; admitted none but regenerated persons to baptism and church membership; and practiced immersion only for baptism.
As a result they were bitterly persecuted and outlawed. Nevertheless they greatly increased in numbers an extended over a
large part of Europe…The Baptist of the last three hundred years are the direct descendants of the true Anabaptist of
the period of the Reformation; perhaps we might more correctly say, the Baptist were then called Anabaptist. So we find Mosheim,
whose authority is great as a church historian, saying: ‘The true origin of that sect which acquired the name Anabaptist
is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is consequently extremely difficult to be ascertained.’ ”
I have been
dealing with so-called “sects” more commonly dealt with by church historians, and have shown that they held views
in the main essentially baptistic. I have also indicated by historical quotation the connection that the peoples had with
each other. However, there are several bodies of Christians through whom we could trace continuity of organized Baptist life
if space were available. I shall take time to barely indicate these Christians bodies through whom Baptist connect with apostolic
for instance, THE WELCH BAPTIST, who make well authenticated claims to apostolic origin. I can do no better than to state
the facts concerning them, in the words of a write to the “Religious Herald” of some years ago:
“The Welch Baptist claim their
origin direct from the apostles, and their claim has never been successfully controverted. They maintain that the light of
pure Christianity has been preserved among her people during all the ‘Dark Ages.’ They were a pastoral people,
dwelling in their mountain homes. They were subjected to almost constant persecution, and therefore sought to conceal themselves
in their mountain recesses, that have been so appropriately styled ‘the Piedmont of Britain.’ And yet the fact
of their early existence is placed beyond peradventure or doubt. They attracted the attention of the Romish Church, and as
early as the year 597 a monk visited them, by the name of Austin,
and sought to win them to his views.”
Dr. J. T.
Christian, in his recent Baptist History, presents an abundance of historical evidence which proves Welch Baptists of apostolic
origin. He is well worth reading on this point.
in his history of the Baptist (page 343f.), shows most convincingly that Welch Baptist are of early origin. According to him,
they were ancient in Wales in 597. He shows that at that date they had a college and at least one association of churches.
the history of IRISH BAPTISTS is very interesting reading in connection with the thought of Baptist perpetuity. Baptist had
churches in Ireland at a time not vastly remote from the days of Paul. Patrick, the great Irish preacher, was born about
360, but according to historians, Christianity in Ireland antedated Patrick’s arrival by a long period.
Dr. Vedder writes as follows:
“Rome’s most audacious theft was when she seized bodily the apostle Peter and made him
the putative head and founder of her system; but next to that brazen act stands her affrontery when she ‘annexed’
the great missionary preacher of Ireland and enrolled him among her ‘saints’…From the writings of Patrick
we learn that his teachings and practices were in many particulars at least evangelical. The testimony is ample that they
baptized believers…There is no mention of infants…Patrick’s baptism was that of apostolic times …immersion.”
the churches of Ireland, Vedder further says:
“The theology of these churches
up to the ninth century continued to be remarkably sound and scriptural.”
go on to cite historical references to show that these Irish Baptist sent missionaries to Northern France and Southern Germany
and in that way are related to he “Baptists under other names” that I have already mentioned.
have presented evidence ample to prove my claim that from the days of Christ there has always been in existence churches holding
the two doctrines essential to a New Testament church. I have been able to give only a scrap of the historical evidence at
my command. The more one studies on this question the more dogmatic they are forced to become in the belief that history justifies
the Baptist claim to continuity of Baptist church life throughout the ages. History indeed vindicates the Master’s promise
that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against His church!
Statements of Historians
We saw in
the last chapter that from the days of Christ and the apostles there have existed churches that held to the New Testament
way of salvation and baptism. These churches I have shown to be, on essential points, Baptist churches. I wish for us now
to spend a few moments considering the statements of historians of different denominations concerning Baptist origin and perpetuity.
Some of these statements have been much used and often quoted. This, however has in no wise affected their truth. Indeed they
should carry greater weight, having stood the test of time and criticism.
is sometimes made that even Baptist historians do not believe in Baptist continuity. In reply to this it may be said that
some Baptist historians do not. Some are too “broad” to risk the charge of narrowness that would be hurled at
them if they laid claim to perpetuity. Some have pedobaptist and even modernistic tendencies, and hold to the “invisible”
Church theory. But it can be truly said that most Baptist historians are firm believers in Baptist continuity. And it is interesting
to note that those who seek to discredit it are careful not to assert that Baptist continuity cannot be traced. For instance
Dr. Vedder says: “One cannot affirm that there was not a continuity in the outward and visible life of the church, founded
by the apostles down to the Reformation. To affirm such a negative would be foolish, and such…could not be proved.”
(S, Hist., p.9) Vedder, however takes the position that it was to the “invisible” Church that Christ promised
perpetuity. He evidently expects the reader to accept this merely upon the authority of his word, without proof, biblical
or otherwise. He offers no proof because none can be offered. As I have already shown, there is no such thing as an “invisible”
Church. There has either been a continuity of visible churches, or else Christ’s promise has failed.
historian A. H. Newman disclaims belief in Baptist continuity, but he also is very careful not to assert that such continuity
cannot be traced. Indeed, he goes so far as to admit that all did not go off into apostasy, for he says (History of Antepedobaptism,
p. 28): “That there were hosts of true believers can by no means be doubted.” I have shown that these “hosts”
were Baptist, gathered into New Testament churches!
historian McGlothlin, like Vedder and Newman, does not venture to assert that there was not a continuity of Baptist churches.
His statement is (Guide, p. 29), “Anabaptists may have had some connection with earlier sects.”
better known Baptist historians of the past who were believers in Baptist perpetuity may be mentioned Robinson, Crosby, Irving, Orchard, Jones, Backus, Benedict and Cramp. Of these
historians Dr. Armitage says: “In the main their leading facts and findings have not been proven untrustworthy, and
no one has attempted to show their conclusions untenable…Their historical acumen is quite equal to that of other church
historians” (Armitage’s History, p. 11).
I want that
we shall consider a few statements from noted Baptist themselves concerning their origin and continuity, after which we shall
consider what historians of other faiths have to say about them.
historian that is regarded by many leading Baptists as their greatest historians is John T. Christian. Dr. Christian’s
new Baptist History (Baptist S. S. Board, 1922) presents unassailable proof of the continuity of Baptist. I quote from the
preface to his great word this ringing statement: “I have no question in my own mind that there has been a historical
succession of Baptists from the days of Christ to the present time.”
Lorimer (The Baptists in History, p. 49):
“That the Baptist are more
likely the oldest is generally conceded an grows more certain with the progress of scholarly investigation.”
Dr. J. B.
Moody (My Church) :
“Church perpetuity is scriptural,
reasonable, credible, historical and conclusive.”
Dr. J. L.
Smith (Baptist Law of Continuity):
“We have submitted the testimony
of more than forty of the world’s best historians—not one of them a Baptist—who expressly and clearly point
out the movement of these Baptist people through the long centuries back to the apostolic days.”
Dr. J. W.
Porter, noted author and editor says:
“If Baptist have not perpetuity
then Christ’s prophecy and promise have failed. This is unthinkable.”
H. B. Taylor
“Baptist churches are the only
institutions that are divine on this earth. Without them Matthew has failed of fulfillment.”
Dr. T. T.
“Those who oppose Baptist succession
have no logical ground to stand on in organizing a church out of material furnished by other churches, and with those baptized
by regular ordained ministers.”
Dr. R. B.
Cook (Story of the Baptist):
“Baptist are able to trace
their distinctive principles to the apostolic age…When from the union of the church and state Christianity became generally
corrupt, there still remained, in obscure places, churches and sects which maintained the pure doctrines and ordinances of
Christ, and hence it is certain that these churches and sects held substantially the same principles which are now held as
the distinctive views of the Baptist.”
Dr. D. B.
Ray (Baptist Succession, p. 10):
“Baptist have with one voice
denied any connection with the Romish apostasy, and claimed their origin as a church from Jesus Christ and the apostles.”
Dr. D. C.
Haynes (The Baptist Denomination, p. 21)
“The Baptist church is the
primitive church—there has never been a time when it was not in being.”
W. McDaniel (Churches of the New Testament):
“There is no personality this
side of Jesus Christ who is a satisfactory explanation of their origin.”
go on almost indefinitely with quotations from noted Baptist, showing that great an representative men of that faith, after
investigation and thought, have been firm believers in the perpetuity of Baptist churches. Some of these have written books
that offer conclusive proof on this point. I mention “Baptist Succession,” by Dr. D. B. Ray; “Baptist Church
Perpetuity,” by Dr. W. A. Jarrell: “The World’s Debt to the Baptists, by Dr. J. W. Porter; “Fundamentals
of the Faith,” by Dr. W. D. Nowlin; “The New Testament Church,” by T. T. Martin; “My Church,”
by J. B. Moody, as examples. To the books just referred to, are to be added many historical works by men whose names I have
made no mention of.
for the beliefs of Baptists relative to the continuity of their own churches. Let us now see what historians and great men
of other faiths have to say about Baptist origin and perpetuity. I begin with those who have been the bitterest enemies and
persecutors of Cardinal Hosius, the president of the Council of Trent. He says:
“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 an surer than that of the Anabaptist,
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 more cruel punishment than these people.” (Quoted from
Hosius wrote in A. D. 1554. He dates the history of Baptist back twelve hundred years. This is an important concession. Date
them back to 354 A. D. and we have little trouble following them the rest of the way.
the Swiss reformer, co-worker with Luther and Calvin in the Reformation of 1525 and bitter enemy of the Baptist says:
“The institution of the Anabaptist
is no novelty, but for thirteen hundred years has caused great trouble to the church.”
the existence of Baptist in the year 225 A. D.
Lutheran historian of great note says:
“Before the rise of Luther
and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe
persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of the modern Dutch Baptist.” (Inst. Of Eccl. History.)
“There are also reasons for
believing that on the continent of Europe small hidden
Christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptist, have existed from the time of the apostles.”
(Inner life of the Societies of the Commonwealth, pp 11, 12)
Ridpath, Methodist, author of that monumental work, “Ridpath’s History of the World,” in a letter to Dr.
W. A. Jareell (Baptist Church Perpetuity, p.59) says:
“I should not readily admit
that there was a Baptist church as far back as A. D. 100, though without doubt there were Baptist then, as all Christians
were then Baptist.”
Campbell, founder of the Campbellite or “Christian” church says:
“From the apostolic age to
the present time, the sentiments of Baptist have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence
in every century can be produced. (McCalla-Campbell Debate on Baptism, pp. 378, 379.)
Newton, learned English philosopher, student of the Scriptures and of history, says:
“The Modern Baptist formerly
called Anabaptists, are the only people who have never symbolized with the Papacy.” (Quoted from Baptist Law of Continuity,
“It must have already occurred
to our readers that the Baptist are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described under the appellation of Anabaptist.
Indeed, this seems to have been their leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present time.” (From N. T.
was a Montanist. He was born about fifty years after the death of John the apostle.
next from “Crossing the Centuries,” by W. C. King, having as associate editors some of the great men of America,
such as former President Roosevelt, President Wilson, David Starr Jordan, Lyman Abbott, and a number of presidents and professors
of leading universities. Of The Baptist it has this to say:
“Of the Baptist it may be said
that they are not reformers. These people, comprising bodies of Christian believers, known under various names in different
countries, are entirely distinct and independent of the Roman and GreekChurches,
having an unbroken continuity from apostolic days down through the centuries. Throughout this long period they were bitterly
persecuted for heresy, driven from country to country, disfranchised, deprived of their property, imprisoned, tortured and
slain by the thousands, yet they swerved not from their New Testament faith, doctrine and adherence.” (From the N. T.
Church, p. 25)
Baptist historians all claim apostolic origin for the Baptist, according to Dr. J. T. Christian, who has given much study
and thought to this question. Such is the claim of Herman Schynn (Historia Christianorum), while Blaupont Ten Cate Says
(Christian’s History, p. 95): “I am fully satisfied that Baptist principles have in all ages, from the time of
the apostles to the present, prevailed over a greater or smaller portion of Christiandom.”
of Dutch Baptist to apostolic origin was thoroughly investigated in the year 1819. The King of Holland appointed J. J. Dermont,
his chaplain, a scholarly man, and DR. Ypeij. Professor of theology in Groningen, both members of the Dutch Reformed Church, to write
a history of the Dutch Reformed Church and also investigate the claims of Dutch Baptist. They prepared the history, and in
it they devote a chapter to the Baptists. A portion of what they have to say about the Baptists reads as follows:
“The Mennonites are descended
from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into various countries; and who during the latter
part of the twelfth century fled into Flanders; and into the province of Holland and Zeeland, where they lived simple and
exemplary lives, in the villages as farmers (in towns by trade) free from the charge of any gross immoralities, and professing
the most pure an simple principles, which they exemplified in a holy conversation. They were, therefore, in existence long
before the Reformed Church of the Netherlands.
We have now seen that the Baptist, who were formerly called
Anabaptist, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who have long in history received the honor of
that origin. On this account the Baptist may be considered 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. The perfectly
correct external and internal economy of the Baptist denomination tends to confirm the truth, disputed by the Romish Church,
that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary, and at the same time goes
to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics that their denomination is the most ancient.” (History of the Dutch
Reformed Church, by A Ypeij and J. J. Dermont, Vol. 1, p 148)
could be cited, and quotations could be multiplied, but it is unnecessary to go on indefinitely with these. I shall offer
only two more ere I close the chapter. Enough has already been written, however, and sufficient proof has been produced to
convince the open, unbiased, teachable mind that Jesus founded a Church, that that church was the local assembly; that He
promised its perpetuity, and that His promise is seen fulfilled in the churches today known as Baptist churches.
the following from Dr. J. W. Porter’s book “Random Remarks,” concerning Dr. John Clark, who was pastor of
the first Baptist church in America, located in Newport, R..I. Dr. Porter says:
“Dr. John Clark received his baptism from Rev. Stillwell’s church in London, and this
church received theirs from Holland, and the Holland Baptists from the Waldenses, and the Waldenses from the Novations, and
the Novations from the Donatists, and the Donatist received their baptism from the apostolic church, and the apostolic church
from John the Baptist and John the Baptist from heaven.”
or 1922 I clipped an article that appeared in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, and simultaneously in several denominational
papers of the South. This article deals with the ancestry of the Baptist church at Dryer, Tennessee. It shows a continuity of Baptist
church life from the present to the days of Jesus. I am not informed as to the one who made the research, neither have I had
at my command all the books necessary to enable me to verify each historical reference given. I give the article in
full below for the consideration of the reader:
BAPTIST SUCCESSION BACK TO CHRIST
Link One. The Baptist church at Dyer, Tennessee, was organized by J. W. Jetter,
who came from the Philadelphia Association.
Link Two. Hillcliff church, Wales, England. H. Roller came to the
Philadelphia Association from the Hillcliff church. See minutes of Philadelphia Association, book 3, item 1.
Link Three. Hillcliff church was organized by Aaron Arlington,
A. D. 987. See Alex Munston’s Israel of the Alps, p. 39.
Link Four. Lima Piedmont church ordained Aaron Arlington
in 940. See Jones’ Church History, p 324.
Link Five. Lima Piedmont church was organized by Balcolo,
A. D. 812. See Neander’s Church History, vol. 2 p. 320.
Link Six. Balcolao came from the church at Timto, Asia Minor.
Link Seven. Timto church was organized by Archer Flavin,
A. D. 738. See Mosheim’s History, vol. 1, p. 394
Link Eight Archer Flavin came from the Darethea church,
organized by Adromicus, A. D. 671, in Asia Minor. See Lambert’s Church History, p. 47.
Link Nine. Andromicus came from Pontifossi. At the foot
of the Alps in France. See Lambert’s Church
History, p. 47.
Link Ten. Pontifossi church was organized by Tellestman
from Turan, Italy, A. D. 398. See Nowlin’s
Church History, vol. 2, pa. 318.
Link Eleven. Turan church was organized by Tertullan from
Bing Joy, Africa, A. D. 237.
See Armitage’s Church History, p. 182.
Link Twelve. Tertullian was a member of the Partus
church at the foot of the Tiber,
that was organized by Polycarp, A. D. 150. See Cyrus’ Commentary of Antiquity, p. 924.
Link Thirteen. Polycarp was baptized by John the Beloved
or Revelator on the twenty-fifth of December , A. D. 95. See Neander’s Church History, p. 285.
Link Fourteen. John was with Jesus on the Mount. Mark 3:13-14;
What is the Mission of the Church that Jesus Built?
In the preceding
chapters I have sought to show the reader the Biblical teaching as to what a genuine New Testament church is. With this I
have presented historical evidence to prove to a demonstration that Baptist churches have had continuous existence from the
time of Christ until now. I trust that the views of you who have read thus far have narrowed and become more distinct, so
far as your conception of the church is concerned.
we are clear that Baptist churches are the true New Testament churches, divinely perpetuated throughout the ages, let us go
further and inquire concerning the mission of the church in the world. The world has many erroneous views concerning what
a church is for. Those who belong to the different so-called churches share in many of these mistaken notions, and in some
cases Baptist have come to have a perverted idea as to the proper function of a church. It is no uncommon thing for one to
see in the magazines and newspapers of today the bold charge that the churches have “failed.” By this is meant
that some churches have failed as measured by the standard that some individual or group of individuals have set up. Let us
consider for a few moments some of the erroneous views that are commonly held concerning what a church is for.
conceive it, A CHURCH IS TO BE CHIEFLY ENGAGED IN THE WORK OF CIVILIZATION. In proportion as churches aid a nation to
advance in the arts an sciences of civilization, they are thought of as having succeeded. Especially does this idea obtain
as regards Christian efforts on the foreign mission fields. If only the heathen can be brought to dress properly, observe
rules of cleanliness and sanitation, and adopt the ways and manners of civilized nation, it is often considered that the missionary
had abundantly succeeded.
I shall presently seek to prove, it is not the primary business of churches to civilize. When on the mission field the dominate
motive come to be to civilize, then the labors of the workers on that field are a failure from the standpoint of the true
mission of the church.
is the CLUB IDEA OF THE CHURCH that some have. It is to be feared that some look upon church membership largely as they do
membership in some club or fraternal organization. Church work comes to be sort of a pleasant diversion, and it seems quite
the nice and respectable thing to be a church member, especially if the church is one of the fashionable kind that includes
in its membership some of the socially prominent persons of the community.
But of this
idea it may be said that if a church is merely on a par with clubs, lodges, societies, and other such organizations, it has
little to justify its separate existence.
are those who hold THE SOCIAL AND HUMANITARIAN IDEAL FOR THE CHURCH. To them the church’s main concern should not be
preparation of individual souls for life in an eternity beyond, but the transforming of society as a whole until this world
becomes a better place for men to dwell during this present life. Their chief emphasis is not upon the then but upon the now.
To the end of approximating the ideal they have in view, they insist that the church engage in all sorts of humanitarian projects;
that is deal with politics and legislation, and that it lay out an ambitious program of social service and reform. To those
who conceive of a church in this way, as their ideas are carried out, the churches come to deal less and less with the spiritual
and more and more with the physical. They are the advocates of the “institutional” church, where, as one writer
puts it, one can get anything from a sermon to a sandwich. In that church buildings of such a church recreational features
are prominent. They have swimming pools, reading rooms, shower baths, gymnastic apparatus, social halls, etc. Often
supper is served from the church kitchen, so many nights a week at so much per plate. All sorts of social affairs are constantly
being planned. All in all the church building is used in such a way that people come to look upon it as a place to have a
should enter some church buildings today, I am sure that He would throw out a lot of the things to be found in them. He would
overturn and cast out the gymnastic apparatus, the motion picture machines and the other amusement paraphernalia, just as
He overturned the tables of the money changers long ago and drove out those who desecrated and secularized the temple. His
words to those who desecrate and secularize the places of worship today would be the same as to the same kind of culprits
of long ago, when He said: “Mine house shall be called and house of prayer.” Is there any reason in the world
to believe that Jesus looks more leniently today upon the secularizing of the house of worship than He did two thousand years
ago? Those who bring all sorts of secular things beneath the church roof, follow exactly in the steps of the Jews whom Jesus
drove from the temple.
Of the view
that makes of a church an organization whose primary concern is the improvement of social conditions, and the physical betterment
of humanity it may be said that it is wholly of variance with the truth concerning the real mission of a church. True, social
conditions improve where the gospel is preached and churches thrive. Most great moral reforms have had their genesis among
Christian people, but these things ought to be considered merely as by-products of church activity and influence and not as
things of paramount concern.
to the matter of the church’s mission, when there are so many divergent opinions, where shall we go for the truth concerning
the matter? There is but one place to go—THE NEW TESTAMENT. It is not a question of what this person or that thinks
the church should be, or engage in. It is a question as to what Jesus Christ founded His church for, and what orders He left
for it to follow. Strange indeed that men should ever go astray in regard to the church’s mission, when it is set forth
so very clearly in His own words.
to err in regard to this mission is inexcusable. Other denominations, sects, an so-called churches may engage in the things
mentioned, and may make humanitarian projects their chief concern if they please to do it, without being liable to such strict
censure, because they have no Commission or orders from Christ. He is not responsible for their existence and they are not
responsible for the carrying out of the Commission which He gave centuries before they came into being. But Baptists are responsible,
because it was to a Baptist church that the Lord Jesus Christ gave His Commission. This Commission forever settles the question
of what a church exists for by clearly defining its mission and purpose. Some will no doubt think me very “narrow”
for saying that the Great Commission is a Baptist Commission, but “narrow” or not, it is the truth. The whole
of my book thus far is proof of this fact. A well-known editor recently expressed the truth that I am trying to convey, in
these words: “The Commission was given to none but Baptists. All present were Baptists because they had been baptized
by John or by the twelve, all of whom had been baptized by John the Baptist. It was given to them, not as preachers or individuals,
but as a church, for it was to be obeyed until the end of he age and none of them would live that long. But the Master had
promised that the church He founded would not be destroyed by the gates of hell (Matt. ); and to that church and other churches founded
through their missionary labors the Master gave this world-wide and age-long Commission. No infants, no seekers, no probationers,
no sinners, no proselytes, none but disciples or Christians, are included by the Master in His orders to be baptized. This
Commission was given to Baptists, for every one present was a Baptist. It is a very definite command to make me Christians
by preaching the gospel to them, and then to make them Baptists by giving them Baptist baptism, for that is the only kind
there was at the time the Commission was given. No one else but Baptist can obey this Commission, because no one else has
the kind of baptism that Jesus commanded Christians to submit to. And no one else can do what this Commission enjoins, namely,
make the disciples Baptist by giving them Baptist baptism.”
let us examine the Commission that Jesus gave to His church, and let us analyze it for a few moments. These are the words:
“Go ye therefore and teach (R.V.’disciple’) 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.” Here is the church’s
mission. Nothing less than this, nothing more, should be included in its program. As one has put it, “That should be
the horizon of our visions and the limits of our tasks.” Note well what the Commission includes:
1. MAKE MEN CHRISTIANS.
the first, the foremost, the most important thing—to make disciples of Christians. A study of the Commission in the
original will show that the emphasis or accent is upon making disciples. When in church and denominational affairs we major
on education, hospitals, orphanages or anything else no matter how worthy, we are going contrary to the Great Commission.
The Commission puts first the making of disciples. Disciples or Christians are to be made by preaching the gospel to the lost.
It is the gospel that makes Christ known to men. When they hear the gospel and receive Him as their personal Saviour they
become children of God. John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the sons of God, even
to them that believe on His name.” The main concern of every true church ought to be soul winning. To follow the Commission
demands that each church shall be intensely missionary both as regards the lost of the immediate community in which the church
exists and the lost unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Often the building of a “plant” (?) comes to be thought
of as the main thing, the securing of social recognition or something apart from the thing that the Master emphasized. I repeat,
the first task given by the risen Lord is to make Christians. This must always precede baptism and indoctrination. In John
4:1 we are given the example of Jesus on this point, where we are distinctly told that Jesus made disciples before He baptized
them. Those who baptize infants, and those who baptize to help make disciples are plainly at outs with both the Master’s
precept and example, as are those who receive “probationers” and seek to indoctrinate before discipling. As I
indicated earlier in the chapter, the Commission is a Baptist Commission. It puts salvation before baptism and church membership.
It was not only given solely to Baptist; it is obeyed by them alone. For remember the statement made earlier in the book “Baptist
churches are the only churches on earth that require a person to profess to be saved before the person unites with the church
or is baptized.”
us examine the Commission further and we shall see that the second part of this three-fold Commission is the command to
MAKE CHRISTIANS BAPTIST.
We are to
make me Christians by preaching salvation through faith in Christ to them, then we are to make those Christians Baptists by
baptizing them according to His orders. “Baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of he Son and of the Holy Spirit.” While the command to make disciples takes the place of precedence
in the Commission, the command to make Baptists is just as obligatory and binding upon us. Some censure Baptist, claiming
that they put too great an emphasis upon baptism. This criticism is wholly unjust, for Baptists place baptism exactly where
the Master placed it in the Commission. They hold that it should never precede salvation, but that it should in every
case follow it. They do not believe that they are warranted in stopping with the making of disciples, for their orders read—“baptizing
them,” and as they see it they have no right to change their orders.
part of the Commission is just as explicit as the rest; it commands the
INDOCTRINATION OF BAPTISTS
“…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The “all things” means
every teaching of Jesus contained in the New Testament, such, for instance, as the teaching concerning the ordinance of the
Lord’s Supper, the security of believers, and stewardship. To separate some of His teachings into a group and call them
“non-essentials” and refrain from teaching them is to violate His command. It is a sad fact that most of the denominations
omit two-thirds of the Commission and only take note of the part that refers to making disciples. They assume, although incorrectly,
that the Commission was given to them as well as to Baptists, then they show their unfitness to be custodians of Christ’s
sacred trust by cutting off two-thirds of the Commission—the portion that commands to immerse and to teach all things
that He commanded. Baptist are absolutely the only people who are willing to carry out all three parts of the Commission.
It is often
the case nowadays that what is commonly termed “Christian Education” is justified and taught from the last clause
of the Commission. This is either the result of a faulty exegesis or else it is willful misinterpretation of the Scriptures.
This passage cannot rightly be interpreted to refer to the teaching of history, mathematics, biology, psychology and such
as is taught in denominational schools and colleges. Jesus said, “All things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Christian education in the truest sense is education in the things of the Word of God. That is the only education authorized
in the Commission. Many good arguments can be made in favor of Christian schools, but the point I am making is that they are
not authorized by the Great Commission.
clause of the Commission places upon Baptist churches the responsibility of teaching an indoctrinating all of those who are
saved an added to the church. No teaching of Christ is to be ignored or omitted, but every doctrine is to be taught, no matter
how many charges of “narrow” are called forth, or how displeasing it may prove to those who minimize certain teachings
of Christ on the ground of their being “non-essential.”
this chapter to a close by recapitulating the things said before.
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH THAT JESUS
is not the mission assigned by the world, set forth by press, and conceived by some churches. It is not the civilization of
mankind, it is not social and moral reform, it is not the physical, intellectual and social elevation of the race—save
as the things come about incidentally as by-products of Christianity. But the mission of the church is that which was given
by the Founder, Jesus Christ, in the Great Commission, namely, to make Christians, immerse, and indoctrinate them. Or, to
put it more at length, the divine program for the church is this: To preach the gospel to every human being that lives in
this world; to baptize those who accept a free salvation through Christ; then to teach the saved and baptized until they know
the commands of Christ, and until His will is expressed through those redeemed lives unto the world.
The Church That Jesus Built Justifying Its Existence
In the earlier
chapters we found from doctrinal and historical study and comparison that Baptist churches are the only churches that can
rightly claim Jesus Christ for Founder, or that coincide with the doctrinal teachings of the New Testament. In the preceding
chapter, I sought to show what was the Master’s purpose in founding His church, as indicated in the words of the Great
Commission. This Commission was proven to have been given to a Baptist church and consequently is rightly claimed as a Baptist
Commission. Let us next examine to see how Baptists have responded to the orders given them by the Master. Have Baptists tried
to do the things that the Master left for them to do? Have their labors through the ages been indicative of their divine origin?
What has been their work and influence? A volume might be devoted to answering these questions, but I shall be able to mention
only a very few Baptist achievements, and those in only the briefest way.
I am persuaded
that many are not aware of the tremendous debt that the world owes to the Baptist. Many of the most priceless things that
humanity possesses today have been bequeathed by Baptist churches. Yet, because of their depth of conviction and the tenacity
with which they cling to their faith, many look with strong disapproval upon Baptist today. They get far less notice by the
press than many denominations much smaller. The amount of notice given them by newspapers and magazines would never lead one
to believe they are the largest single evangelical body of Christians in the world, today, but it is nevertheless the truth.
Let us consider
what Baptist have done with regard to the things that Jesus placed the “accent” on in the Commission, namely,
MAKING CHRISTIANS. Have they been a missionary people? Indeed they have. In the apostolic age Baptist “went everywhere
preaching the Word.” In the apostle Paul Baptist possessed the greatest missionary of all ages. In the period of one
short lifetime Paul well nigh spread the gospel over the known world. So zealous were the Baptist of that early time that
within a few decades there were literally millions of Baptists throughout the Roman
Empire. Then began the gradual development of the Roman apostasy, and with
this the lessening of missionary endeavor. The time came when Catholicism dominated governments and with the sword and torture
rack sought to exterminate all who refused to bow the knee to the authority of the Pope. No longer was it possible for Baptist
to carry on their missionary labors in the same way. That they persisted in so great numbers through those trying ages of
persecution, and that many were martyred because of their preaching the gospel, proves, however, that they never ceased to
be a missionary people. When the Reformation brought some relief from Roman oppression, we find that the Anabaptist literally
swarmed. So much did they increase that the Reformers were constantly irritated by the evidences of their growth. Had it not
been for oppression and fierce persecution, I believe I am safe in saying that Baptist would have taken this world for Christ.
are tremendous missionary efforts being put forth by all of the larger denominations. The modern missionary movement is one
of the greatest movements of our times. Who started the modern missionary movement? IT WAS WILLIAM CAREY, A BAPTIST. Baptist
churches were the first in modern times to support workers in a foreign land. Before other denomination in America were doing anything along
the line of foreign missions, Baptist churches were sending funds toward the support of Carey and his work. Late Judson, who
had been inspired by the example of Carey, went out under the Congregationalists, but during his long sea voyage he was made
a Baptist by reading the New Testament. He was baptized following his arrival, severed connection with the people who sent
him out, and was adopted by American Baptist as their missionary.
were Baptist pioneers in the starting of the modern missionary movement, they have preached the gospel for the first time
in many lands. For instance, in Bermuda, Cuba and India they were the first of the so-called evangelical churches to preach the gospel. In America the Baptist were the first
to preach the gospel in the vast territory west of the Mississippi river. Today Baptist mission stations girdle the globe. In every clime are to be found Baptist in pursuance
of the Master’s last command to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
As to the
second part of the Commission, which commands the baptizing of Christians, Baptist alone have obeyed. Others have either ignored,
or else minimized and perverted this part of the Commission.
Now as the
third part of the Commission, the teaching to “observe all things whatsoever Jesus commanded”—how do Baptist
stand? In answer it may be truly said that Baptist are the only people who have been willing to teach absolutely “all”
things commanded. They have always believed in education and in indoctrination. So it is not surprising that Baptist
started the modern Sunday school movement. The view most commonly held is that Robert Rakes started this movement, but this
is untrue. The honor belongs to William Fox, a Baptist deacon, as Dr. J. W. Porter abundantly proves in his book, “The
World’s Debt to the Baptist.” Deacon Fox started his Bible school in 1783, and two years later helped to organize
the “Society for the Support and Encouragement of Sunday Schools.” This society organized by Baptist was
the first organization for the promotion of Sunday schools in the world, so far as we have record. However, so far as individual
Sunday schools are concerned, the primacy belongs to Welch Baptist. In Wales some Baptist churches maintained Sunday schools
at least 132 years before the Raikes movement. And in this connection it is well to point out that the school of Raikes as not a Sunday school in the modern sense. True
it met on Sunday, but not for Bible study. The Bible held no place in the course of study.
is it true that Baptist started the modern Sunday School movement, they have likewise led in Sunday School work. A little
investigation will prove this. For instance, it was a Baptist, B. F. Jacobs, who gave the world the “international Uniform
Lesson System.” It was a Baptist, Dr, Warren Randolph, who was the first secretary of the international Lesson Committee.
It was a Baptist, Dr. J. R. Sampey, who worked out the first course of advanced lessons for the International Sunday School
Association of America. It was a Baptist, Dr. B. H. DeMent, who occupied the first chair of Sunday School Pedagogy ever established
in any theological school in the world, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The first Sunday School Clinic ever help
was help under the auspices of the Baptist S. S. Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
have Baptist occupied the place of primacy in teaching the “all things commanded” by word of mouth; they have
likewise been first in teaching by means of printed page. Being pre-eminently a “Bible people,” they have
sought to sow down the whole word with Bibles. The oldest Bible society in existence, The British Bible Society, which
has circulated millions of copies of the Scriptures, was founded by a Baptist preacher, Rev. William Hughes. The mission of
William Carey had before his death published Bibles in forty languages, embracing one-third of the world’s population.
Much of the translating was done by Carey himself.
It was Judson’s
labors that produced the first Bible in Burmese. This is the only translation that is used in Burma today. Joshua Marshman,
a Baptist, gave the Chinese their Bible. Frances Mason, a Baptist gave the Bible to the Karens. Lyman Jewett, a Baptist, gave
the Bible to the Telugus. Nathan Brown gave to both the Assamese and the Japanese the Bible in their own tongue. Other Baptist
have had a great part in Bible translation. For instance, the English-speaking world is indebted to Baptist for the most accurate
version of the Bible that is printed in their tongue. I refer to the American Bible Union Version, which was translated solely
to the work of translating and circulating the Scriptures, it is relevant to mention that the first marginal reference in
our English Bible were prepared by John Cranne, a Baptist, in 1637.
from the specific work of carrying out the Great Commission, I am sure that it would not be amiss for me to make brief mention
of Baptist achievements along some other but more or less related lines.
Baptist with being an ignorant folk. It is quite true that a great deal of their work is among the lowly, and that they number
among their members millions of the common people, but the charge of widespread ignorance can not be sustained. As proof of
this I need but mention a few facts, as follows: Baptist have more money invested in educational institutions in America than any of the evangelical
denomination today. And Baptist have more students in educational institution in America than any other denomination
of evangelical Christians. The largest giver to cause of education in America is professedly a Baptist. The greatest university
in point of size and endowment in America is run under Baptist auspices and professed to be a Baptist institution. The larges theological seminary
in the world is a Baptist school. On the foreign mission fields Baptist are in the front rank along educational lines. Indeed,
it is sometimes said that they are placing too great stress upon education in foreign lands. And it cannot be said that Baptist
have only numbered educational men among their ranks during the last few years, for if we go back to the beginning of educational
work in America we find the same thing to be true. For instance, the first president of HarvardUniversity was a Baptist, as was also the second, while
one of the largest sums of money given for the endowment of Harvard during its early days was the gift of a Baptist.
have had many great scholars and writers. It was John Bunyan, a Baptist, who wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress,”
a book that has had the greatest sale of any book ever written, with a single exception of the Bible. It was John Milton,
a Baptist, who gave to the world one of its greatest literary productions, “Paradise Lost.” It is a Baptist, Dr.
A. T. Robertson, who is the author of the world’s standard Greek grammar of the New Testament, and who is recognized
as being the world’s greatest Greek Scholar. These names are but a few of the many that could be mentioned.
have had a large part in the development of America and in the shaping of her ideals and institutions. To Baptist, American people, in part, owe their
democratic form of government as well as their ideals of religious and political freedom. The very Constitution of the United States came into existence
as a result of Baptist teaching, for Thomas Jefferson, the framer of the Constitution, got his ideas of democracy from the
Baptists. Dr. J. W. Porter shows this beyond dispute in his book, “The World’s Debt to the Baptist.” On
pate 76 he writes as follows: “The conception, the faith that calls things into existence, the confidence of the practicability
of a free government, whose ultimate earthly power is vested in the masses of the community. This idea was plainly obtained
by Jefferson himself from a small Baptist church meeting month after month to govern itself by the laws of the New Testament,
in his own neighborhood. It was certainly the Baptist churches of this country who were the first to suggest and maintain
those ideas of religious liberty.”
to Baptist influence as regards the Constitution, the first amendment to the Constitution, fully guaranteeing religious freedom
and the protection of religious rights, was secured through the efforts of Baptists.
truly says: “The government of RoadIsland was the first in the world to fully and clearly embody the principles of religious liberty. This was
due to Roger Williams, a Baptist preacher.” And to this Bancroft, the historian, adds: “Freedom of conscience,
unlimited freedom of mind, was from the first the trophy of Baptist.”
It was Baptist
churches that help before the world the precious truths of equality, liberty, and religious freedom and it is but fitting
that it should have been a Baptist woman, Betsy Ross, who designed and made the American flag, the stars and stripes, which
symbolize to the world freedom, both religious and political, for all.
other lines than those mentioned, Baptist have been and are a blessing to the world. As by-products of their religious life
and co-operation, many benevolent enterprises have been and are being carried on.
In the Southern
states alone they maintain twenty-six hospitals and many orphanages, where many thousands for people are ministered to every
that the Great Commission was given to Baptists and having found from history that they have always been devoted to the carrying
out of Christ’s orders, we should not be surprised to find that in our own America they are growing more rapidly in
proportion than any other non-Catholic denomination. I say non-Catholic because the Catholics are constantly being increased
by immigration. Baptist growth by baptism in 1925 was nearly 350,000! Since the beginning of the Republic Baptists grown from
10,000 in 1776 to over eight million at the present time. From one Baptist to every 264 of the total population at the time
of the beginning if our nation, there is now one Baptist for every 13 of the total population.
lands their growth is marvelous. It is estimated that in Russia alone, since the World War, Baptist have had an increase of over two million!
stick to the task outlined in the Commission and the blessings of God will continue to rest upon them. For the past two thousand
years have through “dungeon, fire and sword,” followed the teachings of the Founder, and their record proves that
they abundantly justified their existence!
facts presented in the forgoing chapters full before us, we are driven to the inevitable conclusion that Baptist churches
are the only true churches of Christ—the only churches authorized by Him to carry out the Commission and to administer
His ordinances. Many of our day will make almost any concession in order to be thought of as “broad.” How many,
many times I have heard some individual who aspired to the position of one of great “broadness” remark, “Oh,
it doesn’t matter which church one belongs to. One church is just as good as another.” That all sounds very nice,
but can it be true in the light of the facts that we have studied? What right has any man to set up a rival organization to
the one founded by the Son of God and to call it “just as good?” What right has anyone to call such a man-originated
institution “just as good?” The church that Jesus founded is very dear to His heart. Its importance is indicated
by the fact that to it alone He has committed the task of carrying on His work in the world. That His church is the object
of His tender solicitude and care is indicated by the fact that in spite of persecution, wars, turmoils, the rise and fall
of nations, the decay and death of human languages, He has preserved and perpetuated His church. Most certainly it ought to
matter to any sincere Christian who wishes to be obedient to his Lord, as to which church he belongs to. He ought to want
to belong to a church that can claim Jesus for Founder and Head rather than to a man-founded institution. He ought to want
to be identified with the church to which Jesus committed His ordinances, the church, He perpetuated through the centuries
and which has New Testament warrant for its doctrines and practices .
meetings, particularly those of the “union” type I have often heard evangelists tell people to “join the
church of their choice,” no matter which that might happen to be. Some may call me narrow for saying it, but I could
not conscientiously tell anyone to do that. As I see it, a mere “choice” perhaps dictated by fancy, caprice, or
mere sentiment, is not enough when it comes to setting the church question. The question with each Christian ought to be,
“Which is the true church-the one that Jesus founded? Which is entirely scriptural in its doctrines and practices? It
is a great thing to point a lost person to Christ. It is also a great thing to point a saved person to the path of full obedience.
For a new-born soul to make a wrong choice with reference to the church, and to unite with a church whose doctrines and practices
are unscriptural, means to start out on a career of life-long disobedience to Christ.
meetings, in which sentiment is more exalted than truth, and in which Christ’s commands are bartered away lightly for
popularity’s sake, are the cause of many people entering upon a lifetime of disobedience. In such meetings where the
full truth is not preached, people usually form their church affiliations upon the basis of which church, relatives of friends
belong to, which church the evangelist belongs to, or something else equally trivial. In fact, almost anything may help decide,
except the one thing of importance-the teaching of the Word of God.
CANNOT BE CONSISTENT AND MIX UP IN DENOMINATIONAL HODGEPODGES FOR UNION REVIVALS. For a union meeting to please all concerned,
the preacher must keep his mouth shut on certain truths. For a preacher to preach what the Word of God says concerning the
security of believers, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church truth, etc., would be to wreck a union meeting. In such a
meeting a Baptist cannot properly counsel new converts concerning “the all things.” That Jesus commanded without
arousing indignation and criticism. Is it right to engage in meetings where a part of the plain teaching of the Word of God
is not welcomed? The truth, the whole truth, as taught in the whole Word of God, without addition, or subtraction—that
is what Baptist have always stood for. In so far as they engage in union efforts they depart from their time honored principles.
I do not
wish to convey the impression that Baptist are to be selfish, churlish, unsociable, unkind, or anything of the sort. They
should rejoice when Christ is preached by whatever sect or denomination. They should rejoice at every soul that is saved.
Their spirit should never be that of hostility or unkind controversy. But certainly their first loyalty and allegiance should
be to Christ and His Word. On His commands there can be neither compromise nor concession. They are to “contend earnestly
(not angrily) for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
you who have followed me through the pages of this book, if a Christian, are you also a member of a genuine New Testament
church? It will pay you to be strict about the matter of your church affiliation. This is not a matter that affects
your salvation, but it is one that affects your reward with God. Jesus taught that “He that breaketh one of these least
commandments and teacheth me so shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
that belongs to a church that minimizes and breaks some of the commands of Christ, necessarily lends his influence toward
“teaching men so.” By so doing they place themselves in the class of those whom Christ said should be “called
the least” in the Kingdom. The question of your church affiliation is something that you will one day have to give an
account for when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. It will pay you to do what is right about the matter irrespective
of what it may cost you, and irrespective of what anyone in the world may think about it.
I have tried
to set forth the truth on the church question in this book, plainly and simply. My aim has been to enable you who read to
know your duty in the matter of what church you should belong to. As to whether or not you will DO what you know to be the
right thing-that is a matter for which you are answerable, not to me, but to your Lord.
to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
BOOKS READ OR QUOTED
given a partial list of books read in whole or in part, in preparing the manuscript for this book: