Do the Heathen Need our Baptist Message?
R. J. Willingham, D.D.
Corresponding Secretary Foreign Mission Board
in Convention Teacher
The editor of the Teacher has asked me to give an article on the above subject. He takes for granted that the heathen need the gospel. This is correct. Let this be taken for granted in this discussion. The question, then, before us is: Is the Baptist interpretation of the gospel the correct one to give to the heathen? We emphatically say it is. We believe that the gospel is for all men. We believe that God's Book is given for all men in all countries, in all ages of the world, and that the best thing we can do for this world is to present the whole of God's truth to all nations. No abridged or supplemented or misinterpreted form of the gospel is better than, or as good as, the plain, simple word of God which he has given to us. One reason that we believe in the divine nature of the gospel is that it suits all men all the world around. The Baptists believe that they hold the truth in accordance with God's holy word, and not only this, but they believe that they ought to give it to all men just as it has been given to us by the Lord. We are not discussing
now whether ihe Baptists are faithful in giving the gospel to dying millions. Alas, when we consider that question, some others are putting us to the blush, but we are considering now the importance of our people giving the gospel just as God gave it to us.
There are certain fundamentals in which other denominations agree with us - such as the personality of God, the heinousness of sin, the divinity of Christ, the atonement through Christ, salvation by faith, etc. - but there are some points which should be emphasized, and in reference to which others are not giving proper attention. One of these is the indt vidual responsibility of each soul. No persons can act in religion for another. Each one stands individually before God. No ordinance or form can be received by one or administered by another with saving power. Whether he be a little child or an old man, each one stands responsible before God. Connected with this is the importance of individual repentance for sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing takes the place of this - no ordinance, no joining of the ehureh. The individual must turn from sin to God, and have faith in Christ, his Son. This is the victory that overeometh the world. The soul finds refuge in Christ, and him alone; Along with this goes the importance of ernphasizing that only regenerated people are to join
the church. This is a point which the Baptists need to emphasize in their own land. Alas, so strong has been the influence of others around us, that at times in our churches there is a disposition to receive people who have never trusted in Christ nor fully given their lives to him. On the foreign field this doctrine needs to be emphasized. Not only are Baptists finding it important, but other denominations are also finding that the Baptist position is right, and they are insisting on people being converted before joining the church.
Among some missionaries on the foreign field there has been a disposition to do away with denominational lines, and to enter into unholy affiliation whereby one can pass from a church of one denomination to another without any special reference to his former connections, profession of faith, baptism, etc. We are glad that our missionaries have raised their voice against this, and have let others understand that we take our position not as a matter of controversy, but as a matter of conscience. Those who have joined our churches have been baptized on a profession of faith in Christ, and the baptism has been by immersion, not as a matter of salvation, but in obedience to the command of our Lord and Master. There are some missionaries who go out and send back glowing reports of what numbers desire to join the church.
There is no trouble in getting people in certain mission fields to join the church. The trouble is to keep them out until they are thoroughly regenerated, and have committed themselves entirely to their Master's service. What is needed is not numbers, but souls won to the Lord Jesus Christ. In some Catholic countries certain denominations receive applications for church membership on the christening which was given them in the Catholic Church. How wrong this when one considers how this custom arose in ancient times through a perverted idea that God would honor the sprinkling or the pouring of a little water on a sick person to grant that one salvation, until it came to be considered an ordinance of the church, and was put in the place of a holy ordinance symbolizing the death and burial to sin, and resurrection again of the believer to a new life in Christ, telling to the world that when we die, we shall be buried, but we shall arise again to live forever with our Saviour. One can see how the blessed ordinance has been perverted and its holy teaching lost sight of. The Baptists must give this message of our Saviour to all men. What this whole world needs is death to sin, burial to sin, and a resurrection in the life and image of Christ. Let it be understood everywhere that our following Christ in baptism is not in order that we may be saved; but because we are saved,
we glory in; obeying him. It is no place nor time on the foreign field for us to lay down these glorious principles in order that we may affiliate with others who regard them lightly. Let us help on every one who tries to preach Christ and him crucified, but at the same time let it be distinctly understood that we neither minimize nor propose to set aside any of his blessed teachings.
It must be distinctly taught on the field that Christ's kingdom and civil government are separate. He is the head of his churches. His law must be their rule of conduct, and the civil government has no right to interfere with the churches of the Lord Jesus, neither should the churches look to the government for laws. It is difficult to teach this great doctrine to people in a heathen land where religion and state have been woven into close relationship. Even the great government of England has not yet learned this doctrine, and many in America have been slow to learn it. We need not, therefore, think it strange that those in heathen lands have found it difficult to understand. The Roman Catholic Church wants to put all government under the church. One cause of the recent great disturbance in China in the Boxer troubles was that the Roman Catholic Church had succeeded in having laws passed which caused their church officials to interfere
with the government officials. It wrought great troubles, and yet, perhaps, it was better that the troubles came than that the unholy arrangements made should have continued. May the time never come when the bondage and blight of soul, the union of church and state, shall come upon the heathen lands through so-called Christian teaching. The Baptists must stand against the unholy relationship, and let men know that they are free to worship God according to the dictate of their own consciences, no.one having the right.to molest or make them afraid.
Let me make the observation that in traveling around the world it seems to one that other denominations are more and more coming to Baptist positions on some of these fundamental doctrines. We have nothing to be afraid of to standing by our tenets. We believe that they are founded on God's holy truth. If so, they are worth living, and if necessary, dying for. We rejoice in them because we believe they are the teachings of God, and what comes from our Father is the best not only for us, but for all men in all the world. The Baptists have never seen a brighter day than the present for presenting the truth. The great danger is not in our holding the truth earnestly and faithfully, but in our being lukewarm and indifferent. We ought to love all men, who love the Lord
and help every one who is willing to tell of Christ and his lore, but while doing this, we ought to stand faithfully to the teachings of our Master, feeling that in true fidelity we get his greatest blessing, and we prove the greatest blessing to others.
In closing we give two little incidents: Years ago in crossing the Mediterranean, going to the northern coast of Africa, two gentlemen sat on the upper deck of a steamer. They tried to speak to each other in several languages, but neither could understand the other. Finally one of them, a Baptist preacher, looking intently at the other, and supposing he understood something of the Greek, said: "Christos" (Christ). The other smiled and bowed his head, and answered: "Christos." Then the first man, making the sign of the cross with his fingers, put his hand over his heart to let the other know that the crucified Christ was in his heart. The other smiled and bowed. Then the first man reached over and making the sign of the cross, and saying, "Christos," put his hand over the other man's heart. The other smiled and bowed again. They then shook hands, together, feeling that they both loved the same Christ. The Baptist preacher never did find out to what church or denomination the other man belonged. He probably was a member of the Greek Church, having come from
Vienna, Austria, but it was not known definitely. He loved him because he felt that he loved Christ.
Later on the same preacher was in Jerusalem, and preached in the upper room of a mission. That night it was proposed that all present should observe the Lord's Supper. The Baptist preacher sat down with the others in the room, but when the supper was to be observed, he took no part. Later on in the hotel a gentleman said to him: "I was surprised at your conduct tonight I thought that here in Jerusalem you certainly would have communion with the others." The Baptist preacher answered: "We believe that Christ gave the ordinance to commemorate his broken body and spilt blood, and that when we take part we do so in remembrance of him. We take it not to show our love to each other. We do this every day. He gave it to his church, a band of believers who have obeyed him in baptism, and who are to keep his ordinances." Then turning to the man, he said: "Do you suppose that here in Jerusalem, where my Lord died, I would do something which I would not do in America, simply to please some who are traveling with me? What we hold we hold as a matter of principle to honor our Lord, and not to honor men." These two little incidents set forth the position of Baptists in the world. Wherever we are, let us
love men because they love Christ, and everywhere try to teach men of Christ, but at the same time wherever we are, let us be faithful to our Lord, and believing that his truth is the best for men everywhere, let us loyally teach that truth until the whole world shall rejoice in him.
[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, p. 80-88. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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