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Circular Letter
Elkhorn Baptist Association (KY)
A Baptist Peculiarity
By R. M. Dudley, 1875

The present hour is an auspicious one for Baptist churches, because circumstances have conspired to awaken a careful investigation of those prinicples which disitnguish them from other christian peoples. When the ground has been fully explored, and the truth in this respect has been fairly manifested, we opine that those differences will be found to apply to other and far more important things than is commonly supposed.

Perhaps, if it were asked of those without our own membeship, and possibly, of some within our membership, "What is the peculiarity of the Baptists?" in the majority of cases, the answer would probably be, that the Baptists practice immersion. It is a stinging taunt that is frequently hurled against us, that we have divided christendom, and built up a sect upon a mere form; and that form a matter of indifference as respects its administration. If the taunt was true, it would be ruinous to our claims to public regard. But against its truth we enter our honest and indignant demurrer.

A brother, honored and beloved, has written a book which he called, "Three reasons why I am a Baptist." Those three reasons are: that the Baptists hold to and practice immersion, believers['] baptism, and restricted communion. In a most important sense these are peculiarities of the Baptists; and for proof of the scripturalness of these peculiarities we may confindently refer the public to Dr. Pendleton's excellent book. But as a statement of Baptist peculiarities, we regard the "Three Reasons" as a partial and superficial presentation of the truth, and therefore, so far forth an unfortunate one. There is something back of, and underlying these surface indications; something that is necessary to the rounded fulness of the truth, and that should never be lost sight of - a peculiarity out of which these afore-mentioned peculiarities logically grow, and without which they would lose much of their force and consistency. We refer to the peculiar view of Baptists concerning the WORD OF GOD. We sound it out on the public ear as a Baptist peculiarity, that they believe that the Holy Scriptures are, at once, the only authoritative and the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice in the churches. This grand truth was the basis of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. And just as far as that Reformation was a success at all, it was the energy and power of this truth that gave it success. But the Refomers were unfaithful in carrying this truth to its legitimate length. While in their creeds they disitnctly avowed it, in their works they denied it. Both Luther and Calvin held to the supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures; yet Luther gave his authority to infant baptism, while admitting the New Testament contained no authority for it; and Calvin said that the word baptize meant immerse, and that it is is certain that immersion was the practice of the primitive churches, and yet he practiced sprinkling. They thus practically abandoned the very truth that gave vitality to their own protest against Rome; for the traditions and commandments of the Church of Rome. And there is nothing that gives the Catholic more pleasure
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to-day than to taunt the disciples of the Reformers with their inconsistency to their own prinicples in these particulars.

On the contrary, the Baptists have ever held that the Holy Scriptures are the only authoritative and all-sufficient rule, in all matters of faith and practice. We hold that the decrees of Popes, synods, councils, assemblies of churches, are of no binding force or authority whatever, except only so far as they agree with the Word of God; and then of force only because authorized by that Word. We believe that one chapter, page, verse, should have greater weight in the churches than the combined laws and declarations of Christendom - Protestant or Papist - even though promulgated under the dreaded anathemas.

And Baptists believe in the all-sufficiency of the Holy Spriptures; that they contain every thing that is needful for us to know or do; that nothing has been omitted that is necessary to the propserity or perpetuity of the churches.

In consequence of this, Baptists throw overboard the traditions of the past, the teachings of the Fathers (so-called), and the edicts of councils. They take as their only chart and compass, the Holy Word of God. The enquiry is: What saith the Scriptures? And from their decision there is no appeal. If a truth be found in them, all the authority on earth cannot remove it. If it is not found in them, all the authority on earth cannot place it there, or make it binding upon his churches as a matter of faith and practice.

And this is a peculiarity from which our other peculiarities naturally and necessarily result. Baptists do no practice infant baptism, because, believing the Scriptures to be an all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, they find no trace of infant baptism in them. Baptists cannot recognize sprinkling or pouring as baptism, because, recoginzing the supremacy of the Word of God, they cannot substitute a human ordinance for the one baptism of the New Testament, which plainly enough is immersion. Let us hold on to this peculiarity, and pray that all christians may be brought to its acknowledgement. Let us cherish the Holy Scriptures, and labor for their dissemination as the true and only light of the world.

[From Elkhorn Baptist Association (KY) Minutes, 1875. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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