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Let Baptists maintain unity among themselves

June 21, 2013 1 comment

broadus

II. MEANS AND METHODS OF PERFORMING THIS DUTY

6. Finally, let us cultivate unity among ourselves. The Baptists of this vast country are, in fact, united. Dr. Barnas Sears, who had exceptional opportunities of observing, spoke to me long before his death of the fact that our theological seminaries are all teaching the same doctrines without any central authority to keep them united. And the fact is more general. Apart from mere excrescences, American Baptists are wonderfully agreed, wonderfully, if you remember it as an agreement reached and maintained in perfect freedom.

This unity becomes more manifest to any one in proportion as he gains a wider acquaintance. For example, pardon my taking local names to illustrate, there is many a brother in Mississippi with no knowledge of New England who, if he should spend a few weeks in Boston, would be astonished to find himself surrounded by real, right-down Baptists. And if some brethren in New England should go among those dreadful Landmarkers, whom they have seen so severely censured by newspapers that do not seem to know even the meaning of the term, they would conclude that most of the said Landmarkers are really very much like themselves, and not dreadful at all.

Dr. Fuller was fond of giving a story told by William Jay. Mr. Jay walked out one day in a dense English fog. Presently he saw approaching him a huge and monstrous object that made him start. As they drew nearer together it assumed the shape of a gigantic man; and when they met, it was his own brother John.

And American Baptists are becoming more united just now. A few years ago there was in some quarters a movement toward the propagation of “open communion” which at a distance awakened concern. But the estimable brethren engaged in that movement have gone in peace or have peacefully subsided into quiet. And in some other quarters altruists are losing influence, and brethren who once followed them seem now disposed not at all to abandon any principle, but to avoid pushing differences among ourselves into an occasion of denominational disruption. So the general outlook is now very encouraging.

Let us cultivate, I say, this unity among ourselves. In order to do so, our watchwords must be freedom, forbearance, patience. There can be no constrained unity among us. The genius of our ideas and institutions quite forbids it. That newspaper, seminary, or society which undertakes to coerce American Baptists into unity will soon weary of the task. We must be forbearing and patient, and not discouraged by many things which under the circumstances are to be looked for. Competing journals and other institutions may get up an occasional breeze; each great city may show a too exclusive interest in societies there located: that is natural, if not wise; personal rivalries may sometimes curiously complicate themselves with questions of principle and of general expediency: it may cause regret, but need not cause wonder; East and West may pull apart in some respects, and North and South; even the “celestial minds” of our noble women may not always perfectly agree about organizations; we cooperate fully in some matters, partially in some, perhaps work separately in others, yet with hearty fraternal kindness, but let us cultivate freedom, forbearance, patience, and we shall be substantially united more and more.

This growing unity among ourselves gives us increasing power to impress our denominational opinions upon others; and the more zealously we strive to teach our distinctive views to others, the more we shall become united among ourselves

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

Let us work with other Christian denominations without sacrificing our convictions

broadusII. MEANS AND METHODS OF PERFORMING THIS DUTY

5. Let us gladly cooperate with our fellow Christians of other Persuasions in general Christian work as far as we can without sacrificing our Convictions. Men who think ill of us are sometimes sorely perplexed. They say, “Look at these narrow-minded, bigoted ‘close-communion’ Baptists! How zealously they work in our union enterprise! how loving they seem to be! I don’t understand it.?

It is well to increase this perplexity. At the same time, we must not allow our conscientious differences to be belittled. Sometimes in a union service you will hear a well-meaning and warm-hearted man begin to gush, till at length he speaks scornfully of the trifles that divide us. In such a case one might find some means of diverting the dear brothers mind to another topic, and either publicly or privately inform him that such talk will not quite do.

Indeed, this is coming to be better understood than was the case a few years ago. In Young Men’s Christian Association for example, one seldom encounters now the unwise speeches this respect that were once somewhat common. We must lean how to distinguish between abandonment of principles and mere practical concessions in order to conciliate, a distinction well lustrated for us in Acts 15 and in Paul’s action as to Titus and Timothy. In the case of Titus the apostle would not yield an inch, would not give place for an hour, because a distinct of principle was made; and shortly after he voluntarily did, the case of Timothy, what he had before refused, there being now no issue of principle.

It may sometimes be difficult to make the distinction, but that is a difficulty we may not shirk. One of the great practical problems of the Christian life, especially in our times, is to squarely for truth and squarely against error, and yet to hearty charity toward Christians who differ with us. This assuredly can be done. The very truest and sweetest Christian charity is actually shown by some of those who stand most firmly by their distinctive opinions.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

We must strive to defend our Baptist distinctives in Christian love

broadusII. MEANS AND METHODS OF PERFORMING THIS DUTY

4. We should study the wise treatment of controverted topics. Upon this point I venture to offer several practical suggestions for what they are worth.

(a) Years ago I asked the now lamented Dr. Jeter how he managed about matters in dispute between us and other denominations. His reply was, in substance, “I never go out of my way to avoid such topics, and never go out of my way to find them. When naturally suggested by my subject or the circumstances, I speak of them, and I try to speak without timid fear of giving offense, and without fierce vehemence, as if taking hostility for granted, but just treating these matters, so far as I can, in the same tone with which I speak of other things.”

This seemed to me then, and still seems, an admirable statement of the course it is generally best to pursue. Some are constantly going out of their way to find such topics through a bred-and-born love of controversy or a mistaken judgment as to its necessity and benefits. Others go out of their way to avoid all disputed questions, and want nothing to do with controversy of any kind. This latter class might be advised to study the history and recorded writings of a man named Paul. He did not shrink from controversy. Yea, and his Master and ours is polemical on every page of his recorded discourses, always striking some error or evil practice of the people around him.

(b) Dr. Jeter’s plan may further suggest, what I think is true, that it is commonly better to treat these topics as they occur in our ordinary discourses. Set sermons have certain advantage even public debates may still be useful in some few quart though most of us think their day of usefulness in this is passed. But set sermons forewarn our hearers holding different opinions to come with armor buckled and visor close watching that no shaft shall reach them; while some excellent people take them as an invitation to stay away. They are doubt sometimes appropriate and helpful, but in general the other course can scarcely fail to prove best.

(c) I think it very undesirable to connect sharp polemics with the actual administration of ordinances. Do not go into a defense of our restriction of the Lord’s Supper when about to take the bread and wine. Whatever you can say will repel some hearers and deeply pain some others, while such a discussion scarcely prove the best preparation for partaking. Try to out the sweet and blessed meaning of the ordinance and to serve it with unpretending reverence and solemnity, and it will itself teach all concerned.

I think Baptists often mar the wholesome solemnity of ordinance through the persuasion that they ought then and there to defend their restricted invitation. And when about to baptize, it is usually best simply to read the New Testament sages which give the history and significance of the ordinary and then with solemn prayer and a carefully prepared and reverent administration of the rite to leave it and the Scripture make their own impression. If an address or sermon be given present the practical lessons of baptism, especially that we should walk in newness of life, that will be more seemly, and often convincing, than to argue the proper subjects and proper action of baptism. Of course, any such suggestion as this must be subject to exception, but I am persuaded it will generally hold good.

(d) We should use mainly arguments drawn from the English Scriptures and from common experience or reflection; only occasionally those which depend on learning. Scholarship is greatly to be desired in ministers, and may we have much more of it!, but the highest function of scholarship in preaching is to take assured results and make them plain to the general understanding, and certain thorough evidence which the unlearned can appreciate. If you pour a flood of learning about your hearer, and he remembers that two Sundays ago there was a torrent of learning from Dr. Somebody on the other side, then, as he does not understand and cannot judge, he is apt to conclude that he will not believe either of you. And do let us beware of using doubtful arguments as if they were conclusive.

(e) We may treat these subjects by other means as well as by preaching. Many opportunities will occur in conversation, for one who has a cultivated social tact and conversational skill, to relieve some prejudice, parry some thrust, or suggest some point for research or reflection, far more effectively than it can be done in the pulpit, and this without unpleasantly obtruding such subjects or in any wise violating the delicate proponents of life. And carefully chosen tracts, books, or periodicals will often reinforce the sermon or conversation, or even reach some who would not listen to any public or private spoken words. We have already a great wealth of good literature of this kind, with which preachers and intelligent private members should make themselves as thoroughly acquainted as possible, so that they may know how to select precisely the most suitable for every case? a matter of the very highest importance.

(f) We must always speak of controverted subjects in a loving spirit. Baptists occupy, of necessity, a polemical position; let us earnestly strive to show that it is possible to maintain a polemical position in the spirit of true Christian love. This is really good policy; and, what is ten thousand times more, it is right.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

Baptist ought to strive to put learned men in the pulpit

broadusII. MEANS AND METHODS OF PERFORMING THIS DUTY

2. If actions speak louder than words, we may practically teach our distinctive views by everything that builds up our churches in Christian character and promotes their legitimate influence. Baptists are in some respects placed at serious disadvantage in consequence of trying to do their duty. They have not restricted their ministry to men who had a certain fixed grade of education, but have encouraged all to preach who felt moved to do so, and whom the churches were willing to hear. In this way they have greatly helped to meet the vast demand in our country, and have gained a powerful hold upon the masses.

What would have become of the scattered millions in this new country had it not been for the Methodists, the Baptists, and some others who have pursued a like course? But the result is, that we have a great mass of comparatively uneducated ministers and members. Moreover, our Episcopal and Presbyterian brethren brought over the sea the social influence derived from an established church; and this social superiority they have easily maintained in many of our cities, particularly as their ministry was at the same time restricted to men having considerable education. The result is that, while Baptists have many families of excellent social position and influence, and many ministers of high cultivation, yet, in virtue of having a great number who are in these respects comparatively wanting, they have to bear, as a denomination, the odium of social and educational inferiority.

I do not regret this as regards, our past. I think our principle as to the ministry is right, and I rejoice that we have been to take hold of the multitude. But we must strive earnestly to better this situation in the future by steadily lifting up this great body of people as fast as we can. Whatever elevates the educational condition of our denomination or gives more of social influence, provided this be not gained by worldly conformity, will help in securing respect and attention for our distinctive tenets. And a like effect will be produced by the increasing development of benevolence among our churches, and by a completer report of what is actually done.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

To teach our distinctive views is a duty we owe to the unbelieving world

April 26, 2013 1 comment

broadusI. REASONS WHY BAPTISTS OUGHT TO TEACH THEIR DISTINCTIVE VIEWS

3. To teach our distinctive views is a duty we owe to the unbelieving world. We want unbelievers to accept Christianity; and it seems to us they are more likely to accept it when presented in its primitive simplicity, as the apostles themselves offered it to the men of their time. For meeting the assaults of infidels, we think our position is best.

Those who insist that Christianity is unfriendly to scientific investigations almost always point to the Romanists; they could not with the least plausibility say this of Baptists. And when an honest and earnest-minded skeptic is asked to examine with us this which claims to be a revelation from God, we do not have to lay beside it another book as determining beforehand what we must find in the Bible. Confessions of faith we have, some Older and some more recent, which we respect and find useful; but save through some exceptional and voluntary agreement we are not bound by them.

We can say to the skeptical inquirer, “Come and bring all the really ascertained light that has been derived from studying the material world, the history of man, or the highest philosophy, and we will gladly use it in helping to interpret this which wt believe to be God’s word”; and we can change our views of its meaning if real light from any other sources requires us to do so.

There is, surely, in this freedom no small advantage for being the truly rational inquirer. But, while thus free to sear the Scriptures, Baptists are eminently conservative in their whole tone and spirit; and for a reason. Their recognition of the Scriptures alone as religious authority, and the stress they lay on exact conformity to the requirements of Scriptures foster an instinctive feeling that they must stand or fall with the real truth and the real authority of the Bible. The union of freedom and conservatism is something most healthy and hopeful.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

It is a duty we owe our fellow Christians

April 19, 2013 3 comments

broadusI. REASONS WHY BAPTISTS OUGHT TO TEACH THEIR DISTINCTIVE VIEWS

2. To teach our distinctive views is a duty we owe to our fellow Christians. Take the Roman Catholics. We are often told very earnestly that Baptists must make common cause with other Protestants against the aggressions of Romanism. It is urged, especially in some localities, that we ought to push all our denominational differences into the background and stand shoulder to shoulder against Popery.

Very well; but all the time it seems to us that the best way to meet and withstand Romanism is to take Baptist ground; and if, in making common cause against it, we abandon or slight our Baptist principles, have a care lest we do harm in both directions. Besides, ours is the best position, we think, for winning Romanists to evangelical truth. Our brethren of the great Protestant persuasions are all holding some “developed” form of Christianity, not so far developed as Popery, and some of them much less developed than others, but all having added something, in faith or government or ordinances, to the primitive simplicity.

The Roman Catholics know this, and habitually taunt them with accepting changes which the church has made while denying the church’s authority, and sometime tell them that the Baptists alone are consistent in opposing the Church. We may say that there are but two sorts of Christianity; church Christianity and Bible Christianity. If well-meaning Roman Catholics become dissatisfied with resting everything on the authority of the church and begin to look toward the Bible as authority, they are not likely, if thoughtful and earnest, to stop at any halfway house, but to go forward to the position of those who really build on the Bible alone.

Or take the Protestants themselves. Our esteemed brethren are often wonderfully ignorant of our views. A distinguished minister, author of elaborate works on church history and the creeds of Christendom, and of commentaries, etc., and brought in many ways into association with men of all denominations, is reported to have recently asked whether the Baptists practice trine immersion. A senator of the United States from one of the southern states, and alumnus of a celebrated university, was visiting, about twenty years ago, a friend in another state, who casually remarked that he was a Baptist.

“By the way,” said the senator, “what kind of Baptists are Paedobaptists?”

Not many years ago a New York gentleman who had been United States minister to a foreign country published in the New York Tribune a review of a work, in which he said (substantially), “The author states that he is a Baptist pastor. We do not know whether he is a Paedobaptist or belongs to the straiter of Baptists.” Now, of course these are exceptional cases; but exemplify what is really a widespread and very great ignorance as to Baptists. And our friends of other denominations often use great injustice because they do not understand our tenets and judge us by their own.

As to “restricted communion,” for example, Protestants ally hold the Calvinian view of the Lord’s Supper, and so think that we are selfishly denying them a share in the spiritual blessing attached to its observance; while, with our Zwinglian view, we have no such thought or feeling. These things certainly show it to be very desirable that we should bring our Christian brethren around us to know our distinctive opinions, in order that may at least restrain them from wronging us through ignorance.

If there were any who did not care to know, who were willing to be deprived of a peculiar accusation against us, them our efforts would be vain. But most of those we encounter are truly good people, however prejudiced, and do not wish be unjust; and if they will not take the trouble to seek information about our real views, they will not be unwilling to receive it when fitly presented. Christian charity may thus be promoted by correcting ignorance. And besides, we may hope that sc at least will be led to investigate the matters about which differ. Oh, that our honored brethren would investigate!

A highly educated Episcopal lady some years ago in one our great cities, by a long and patient examination of her with no help but an Episcopal work in favor of infant baptism at length reached the firm conviction that it is without warrant in the Scripture, and became a Baptist. She afterward said, “I am satisfied that thousands would inevitably do likewise if they would only examine.”

But why should we wish to make Baptists of our Protestant brethren? Are not many of them noble Christians, not a few of them among the excellent of the earth? If with their opinions they are so devout and useful, why wish them to adopt other opinions? Yes, there are among them many who command our high admiration for their beautiful Christian character and life; but have a care about your inferences from this fact. The same is true even of many Roman Catholics, in the past and in the present; yet who doubts that the Romanist system as a whole is unfavorable to the production of the best types of piety?

And it is not necessarily an arrogant and presumptuous thing in us if we strive to bring honored fellow Christians to views which we honestly believe to be more scriptural, and therefore more wholesome. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and Aquila and Priscilla were lowly people who doubtless admired him; yet they taught him the way of the Lord more perfectly, and no doubt greatly rejoiced that he was willing to learn. He who tries to win people from other denominations to his own distinctive views may be a sectarian bigot; but he may also be a humble and loving Christian.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views

For the most part, Christianity is made up of Judaizers

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

broadusDid you ever consider what became of the Judaizers who gave Paul so much trouble? When we last observe them in the history, in connection with Paul’s latest recorded visit to Jerusalem, they are really beaten, but still numerous and active. When, in the second century, we again get a clear view of the early Christians, the Judaizers seem reduced to a mere handful. But has the tendency really disappeared? Nay; it is beginning to strike through and through the Christianity of the day, and from that time onward a painfully large portion of Christendom has had only a Judaized Christianity.

John A. Broadus-The Duty of Baptists to Teach Their Distinctive Views