Baptist Self-Respect - A Drawing Force
By W. W. Landrum, D.D., in Convention Teacher
Baptists, to enjoy the respect of others, must be self-respecting. To be self-respecting they must intelligently understand those principles which always excite the attention and regard of ingenuous and thoughtful minds. These principles are at least four in number.
First, the Lordship of Jesus Christ If one trust for salvation in a church he may be a good churchman, but not a Christian. If he trust to a ceremony, he may be a ritualist, but not a Christian. If he trust in himself, he may be a moralist - more likely an immoralist - but not a Christian. If he trust in a doctrine, he may be a theologian, but not a Christian. If he trust in the Bible alone, he may be a bibliolater, but not a Christian. If he trust in the transforming power of education, he may be an evolutionist, but not a Christian.
Christian faith is unlike any one or all of these. It is confidence in a person, that person being Jesus Chrust, the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world.
Second, the intelligent Baptist must stand squarely for individualism. It is for him to
sound out the inherent worth of the individual soul."There is no soul so dead, but it may live again;Presbyterians are familistic. Methodists are tribalist, the conference being the religious unit. Episcopalians are nationalistic. In England church and state are united. In this country the Episcopalians seek a monopoly of chaplaincies in the army and navy. Eoman Catholics are cosmopolitan. The church is the world, and the world is the church. Baptists are individualists. Personal repentance, personal faith, personal baptism mean just that.
No soul so lost that's not worth being found;
No soul so small, but it may enlarge thine own."
Third, the Baptist must maintain his ideal of democracy in church government. Intelligence and virtue are required for its efficiency. Ignorance and vice need to be controlled by a strong hand. Oligarchy or monarchy suits un-regenerated church members. Christ's regenerated freemen are capable of self-government. Beyond question, it is not possible to hold up before discerning and ambitious minds a loftier ideal.
Fourth, the Baptist must plant himself squarely on the doctrine of present-day salvation. Salvation is the biggest word in the dictionary of the human race. Rightly understood,
it takes in the whole man. It is an answer to the call of the universe. Salvation is salvation of body, mind and spirit. It is salvation from condemnation to justification. It is salvation from fear to trust. It is salvation from selfishness to service. It is salvation from littleness to largeness of outlook and aim. It implies a heart twenty-five thousand miles in circumference. It throbs with a brother's interest in the one billion five hundred million fellow beings that populate this globe.
Baptists, to enjoy the esteem of others, must avoid sectarianism. Some seem to imagine we are a mere party of protest. So far as we are a party, we are not original Christianity. So far as we content ourselves with protesting against heresies and schisms, we do no constructive work. The day has gone by when, in talking to opponents, we say, "Our Baptist fathers held so and so," or "This is the Baptist doctrine," or "This is one of our denominational peculiarities." Why have we peculiarities? Nothing is true for the reason that Baptists believe it. Baptists, if they are followers of him who said, "I am the truth," believe what they do because it is true. Baptists should never bully by telling of their numbers. Numbers are no test of truth. They should never boast of superior scholarship or of furnishing the last century with many of its world
famed preachers. Denominational bragging wins no sane mind today.
In seeking to win men we must draw them by disinterested devotion to truth. If they imagine for a moment you wish a convert to a sect, they are naturally and properly repelled.
Finally, be sure to impress the children of an age nearly gone wild with a love for broadness of doctrine that there can be no view of the kingdom of God on earth more catholic or comprehensive than that of the Baptists. Our Christian fellowship is all inclusive. When one confesses Christ as a Saviour, we give him the right hand of Christian fellowship. Always and everywhere we have been one with all honest and earnest followers of our Lord. If, after becoming a Christian, one dissents from what we believe to be New Testament teaching, we say to him: "Decide for yourself. We believe in the right of private judgment. Religion by its very nature must be free. Religion is love, and love cannot be forced. We have no desire to promote our glory, but to open to you the door of duty and of happiness. Enter it of your own free will and accord, or refuse to do so, and take the consequences like a man."
The writer may be allowed to say that when one from another denomination seeks baptism at his hands, he never mentions the fact at the time as something remarkable. All saved sinners
are treated alike. Why not? Jews, Catholics, Unitarians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and others, during a ministry of a third of a century, have professed faith in Jesus and been baptized with no remark concerning their change of doctrinal views. Why mention errors repudiated by repenting souls? Why should it be thought strange that any man renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and relying on the atonement of Jesus alone for salvation, should wish publicly to confess him and obey him in the act of baptism? Is it not rather abnormal for any saved man to neglect Christ's own specific command?
If Baptists so far forget their Christian principles as to degenerate into a mere sect bent on proselyting, they ought to be regarded as sectarian, and bear with resignation whatever odium may attach to the word. When they exalt Jesus Christ and his truth without egotism, but with unswerving loyalty, they will bring in the adherence of many more faithful souls.
[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, p. 75-79. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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