THE fact that ominous hints are more or less frequently thrown out, not only by those who are not Baptists, but also by some who claim to be Baptists, that there are ministers of our denomination who hold to doctrines and hypotheses which are not in accord with the generally accepted beliefs of the denomination, has suggested the propriety of expressing a few thoughts upon the subject of Denominational Loyalty. If what has been recently stated, be true - and there seems to be no reason to doubt it, it is manifestly high time to say some very plain things with reference to this subject. Now, there are a few first-principles which need to be considered, and by which every Baptist minister should regard himself as being bound. The first is, his ordination vows.
Every man, who is duly ordained, pledges himself to be governed, in his preaching and other ministrations, by the principles and practices of our denomination. Of course it is not always insisted upon that he shall subscribe to every jot and tittle of all things which Baptists believe. Some margin is allowed for divergence of opinion, relative to minor points of belief. But, with reference to what are recognized, by the denomination as a whole, as the cardinal and distinctive doctrines and practices of the church, a candidate for ordination is required to not only give his consent to them, but also to accept them in good faith, and maintain them with all fidelity. He may not explicitly promise to do this, in just so many words; but, if the council, which ordains him, be true to their obligations, they will see that no equivocal position is taken by the candidate, with regard to the fundamentals of our faith. And they have a right to expect, that, whether there be any definite pledge made or not, the candidate does honestly accept our doctrines, Certainly, as an honest man, no candidate can consistently take upon himself ordination vows, without accepting the cardinal doctrines which plainly distinguish us from others. Taking it for granted, then, that one, who is ordained by us, honestly accepts our views of the Bible, he is bound, both morally and ecclesiastically, to preach and practice them, so long as he remains in the denomination. But the question may arise in his mind after a while, as to whether our views of doctrine and our
practices are right; and he may come to the conclusion that they are not. What then? Shall he attempt to make the members of his church think as he does? No! he has not the slightest right to do this.
But, supposing he has come to believe that his views are more biblical than those of his denomination, would he not be justified in trying to bring his people to embrace his new, and, as he thinks, more biblical views? No! What Should he place more value upon what the Baptists believe and practice than he does upon what he regards as the teaching of the Bible? Yes, under the circumstances. It matters not whether a minister, in our denomination, believe that half of the doctrines, which we hold, be contrary to the teachings of the Bible or not, he has no right to antagonize our doctrines, so long as he remains an accredited minister of the denomination. His only consistent course is to get out of the denomination at once, if he can no longer be true to our principles and practices. He wickedly violates his ordination obligations when he attempts to instill in the minds of his members, doctrines which clash against the vital and fundamental doctrines of the denomination. The principles which underlie his ordination vows, positively forbid his doing anything which militates against the unity and peace of the church which he serves. Again, as a first-principle, personal honesty is an essential element of denominational loyalty. It is far from being complimentary to any Baptist minister, to say that he is positively dishonest when he continues to maintain pastoral relations with one of our churches when he is covertly seeking to unsettle the minds of such members as he can influence, and get them to accept views which are vitally subversive of our cardinal doctrines; but, if such an one be not dishonest, then it is difficult to define the term. We call a man dishonest, who, while in the employment of another, surreptitiously appropriates what belongs to his employer.
And by what other term shall we designate the conduct of that pastor, who deliberately proceeds to instill such views in the minds of his members, as he knows are directly opposed to the fundamentals of our faith? He would inflict less damage to the church, if he were to obtain access to its treasury and purloin all that it contained, even if it were several hundred dollars. If there be any difference in the moral quality of the two acts, it is in favor of stealing the money. Let the fact be recognized that honesty is a very broad term, and that personal
honesty in its broadest sense, is essential to a thorough denominational loyalty. If a minister in our denomination have come to think that he can no longer fellowship us in maintaining the doctrine of the eternal punishment of the incorrigibly wicked, then let him be honest enough to say no, in the most open manner, rather than muffle his voice before the public, and quietly go among the members of his congregation and whisper to such as he dare to, the idea that all men will be saved. If one be an open-communionist let him, as one who should be honest in all things, say so before all, and leave the denomination, instead of staying in it, and slyly seek to inoculate plastic members with his subversive theory. We seem to be in need of a revival in respect to denominational loyalty.
[From S.H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, August, 1890, pp. 95-97. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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