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Importance of Maintaining the Baptist Spirit
By J. B. Gambrell, D.D., Editor
The Baptist Standard, April 14, 1910

      One sometimes wishes he could discuss a question, such as is here proposed, without using the word Baptist at all. But really the Baptists have a name and a habitation in the earth now and have become one of the great religious factors in America, and beyond.

      It will be admitted by thoughtful persons that in any religious denomination, or in the religious life of any individual, two great elements ought to hold. These are set out by the Saviour himself in his unfolding of truth to the woman at the well: "God seeketh such to worship him as worship in spirit and in truth." Not in spirit simply; not in truth alone; but in both combined, and the two do most certainly combine, each wonderfully strengthening the other. Indeed, there is such a thing as the spirit of truth. It has often been remarked that truth may be preached in such a way as not to be effective. This has been the fault of much preaching in the past and it is entirely too much so in the present. It is worth while to repeat that there may be just as

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much heresy in a bad spirit as in an unsound doctrine. I do not doubt that the truth has been greatly prejudiced in the minds of people who might have been won to it, because the preacher preached the truth of God in the spirit of the flesh and the world. And cases have been when the spirit of the devil got into the pulpit, so that the truth has been associated with all that is unlovely, hard, gritty and indigestible to the common mind.

     Taking it for certain that the Baptist people hold to the New Testament doctrine, and are, therefore, the best exponents of it in its entirety and symmetry, it becomes a matter of tremendous importance that we maintain the spirit of the truth, as well as the form and the substance of it. Indeed, it appears to me that just now there is a very great call for a special emphasis to be placed on the maintenance of the Baptist spirit. Let us briefly notice some of the characteristics of the true spirit of the New Testament which Baptists are set to maintain in, the earth.

     First of all, it is a spirit of loyalty to Jesus Christ and his truth. Professor Wilkinson has well said that every church is formed on three words, "Loyalty to Christ." It is certain that where loyalty fails everything else will ultimately fail. Christianity centers in Christ; the Scriptures center in Christ. The law and

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the prophets taught till John; then John took up the message and pointed to the Christ who was at hand. All the Old Testament teaching converges to Christ and is fulfilled in him. And all,the New Testament teaching goes out from Christ, and along the manifold ways of this teaching the Christian spirit is diffusing itself throughout the world. To maintain a spirit of loyalty to the supreme authority of Jesus Christ and to that authority expressed in his word contained in the Scriptures is of the first importance. The spirit that will let down on this authority is an evil working spirit, disguised in any way you take it. We are talking these days much about unity. We can only have unity on the authority of Jesus Christ and his word, and all the talk to the contrary is only leading to dismay. The world never went apart religiously until it quit the true center of unity. Now, the true Baptists spirit will stand loyally to the Word, which is the same as saying, loyalty to the authority of Jesus. The true spirit will not even consider compromises which affect the integrity of the Word. I see nothing around the whole horizon so ominous as the letting down on the part of some Baptists in the matter of loyalty to the Word of God.

     To maintain the Baptist spirit it is necessary to maintain the institutions which are

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built up to foster the truth, but at the same time to insist that those institutions shall foster the truth. It is not the Baptist name that counts so much, although it is a good enough name; it is the name that heaven gave to the first Baptist; it is the spirit that will maintain the thing that the name stands for that we need.

     And further. The maintenance of the Baptist spirit means that we are to stand for the work of the Baptists. It is hard to think of a greater mistake than that which some of our brethren are making in that they contend ceaselessly for the doctrine and yet care little or nothing about the work. There is no better way to dissipate the spirit than to stagnate the work, and this lesson we can learn from the Scriptures. It is against the whole scheme of Revelation that there shall be any great spirit where there is not something going on as the result of the spirit. The Baptist spirit is certain to die where the Baptists are doing nothing in a practical way for the world. Even nature teaches us this lesson. The only way to kill out any persistent growth is to prevent its ever fruiting. If nature has put forth its effort repeatedly in shrub or plant to reproduce itself, and is thwarted, the plant or shrub gives up the struggle and dies. This is not only a doctrine of Revelation and nature, but

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it has been abundantly demonstrated to us, and we are stupid if we do not see it. The Baptist spirit, which is the real Christian spirit, expresses itself in tenderness toward others. Those Baptists who maintain a spirit of rank antagonism to the good that is in other people have not the true spirit. The true spirit is the spirit that recognizes good and rejoices in good everywhere, and this is a critical test for some brethren to apply to themselves. Now, there are a great many ways of impairing the Baptist spirit. One is to neglect the doctrine of the New Testament. It is to be observed that Christ joined spirit and truth. If we substitute platitudes and generalities and little sentimental nothings for the great doctrines of the Bible, the spirit will die out. If one is to be a stalwart of the New Testament order he is to feel the solid rock of truth under his feet. He must see a reason for being a Baptist. One of the things that ought to be done now everywhere is to take the people through a course of teaching on the fundamentals that they may be rooted and grounded in the truth. Oh, there is a good deal of talk about dry doctrine. It is not the dry doctrine that is killing out the Baptist spirit; it is the dry preaching of it, or no preaching of it in some quarters. The right kind of preaching is only taking the honey out of the rock. I
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wish we might have a revival of solid fundamental preaching even in our evangelistic meetings. It is a great thing for revivals. Sin, sovereign grace in salvation, justification, the eternal security of the believer, and the like of that is worth preaching. Nothing shows the weakness of the ministry more than the little catch subjects which we see printed in the papers. They are fit for nothing but to generate a generation of milksops and molly-coddles in religion.

     There is another way to let down the Baptist spirit and that is by the process of dilution, mixing with every sort of a thing that comes along. I have just this morning had a letter from a sister who strenuously objects to a Baptist baseball team. Who does not? If we vulgarize the name and the things it stands for, who is going to have any great spirit for them? Then we can mix in with every sort of nondescript religious movement, substituting a kind of interdenominational politics for the truth of God, until people will lose all spirit for the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. Indeed, things have gone to the point in places now that it is an offense even to Baptist churches for preachers to speak right out on the most solemn and important doctrines of revealed religion. We have to watch these simpering, simple souls, that would mix us up

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with all sorts of things until nobody knows the difference between this and that.

     And my final remark is that without a great spirit of loyalty to the truth of the New Testament it will not have the vigor nor the force necessary to conquer a gainsaying world.
     Dallas, Texas.


[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, pp. 185-191. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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