The Spencer Journal
The Baptist Art of Living Together
By J. M. Frost

This high art of living together is essential in the family where association is closest, and where the bonds are the strongest and most tender. Without it there can be no peace or prosperity or happiness. It goes also to the very heart of the membership of a church, and determines its character, condition and efficiency, as Christ's chosen instrument and method of advancing his kingdom among men. It is of the essence of the gospel, that this art of living together is made possible, and actual even under adverse circumstances. The apostle emphasizes the fact that in the church of God at Corinth, Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, the most unlikely extremes of race and social conditions, are yet brought together, and are made one through the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual heart and through the larger dispensation of his grace in the organic life of the church. This indeed is the cause and consummation of church unity.

All this applies with remarkable force to our great Baptist hosts as the army of the Lord, whether of America or throughout the world. This Baptist Art of Living Together should be written large and made the word of conquest throughout our Southern Zion. More depends on that, humanly speaking, than on any other one thing as to what our people shall do for the cause of Christ, and for the extension of his kingdom to the uttermost parts of the earth. There is no drill master for this, and there can be no drill master except as each one shall master himself for the honor and glory of Christ. Consideration for one another, the recognition of the rights of one another, these are essentially Baptist principles and are at the very core of the Baptist art of living together in fellowship and efficiency for the gospel.

At a great dining of notable men some years ago, Dr. John A. Broadus sat beside Dr. John Hall, the distinguished Presbyterian preacher, of New York. In their conversation Dr. Hall expressed surprise that Baptists kept together with such force and efficiency when they are held by no ecclesiastical bond, "but simply by a rope of sand." Dr. Broadus replied, "that rope of sand is what holds them and is the mightiest bond if you will look into it more closely." How true this is! Baptist fellowship is unique, is their bond of union, and is their art of living together. Fellowship in its highest form is an affinity, and affinity means an inherent, inevitable coming together of like seeking like, and forming the union of many into one. Baptist fellowship is a kind of four-fold affinity, a four-fold cord or bond of union, at once their bondage and their liberty, their life of service and their crown of rejoicing. The fourfold elements may be enumerated somewhat as follows:

1. Fellowship in conversion.
Spiritual affinity, a common experience of grace through the Spirit's work in the heart, and the one sure basis of all Christian fellowship and church association.

2. Fellowship in doctrine.
Doctrinal affinity, oneness of creed and confession of faith, as the expression of personal conviction concerning the fundamental doctrines and policy of the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament.

3. Fellowship in the ordinances.
Ceremonial affinity, oneness of view concerning baptism and the Lord's Supper, as to their spirit, form and purpose.

4. Fellowship in service.
Affinity of common interest and aim as co-workers with God, and as having fellowship with him and with his Son Jesus Christ.

These are the mighty elements in Baptist fellowship, and make them one as a great people, and create among them the Baptist art of living together, and of working together in churches, in associations and conventions. With these rooted and grounded in the character and life, there is yet left large room for individual views and private interpretations, and yet with royal regard for Baptist loyalty and Baptist liberty. There is in this the high art of at once holding fast all we count dear while at the same time we give and receive liberty of conscience and freedom of choice. Surely this is possible with a people who live in the fellowship which is outlined above.

For twenty years now I have studied the Baptist situation in the South, and I honor and love our people as a great people more and more as the years go by. My supreme desire for them is that they should do their best for the glory of Christ, and show themselves a mighty brotherhood in his service. I do not see among them the differences which are often mentioned, and sometimes, as seems to me, are emphasized out of all proportion. Some years ago I ventured to express the conviction that it is possible to gather up the views of our people from over even a wide extended territory, and so to formulate them into one statement as to win almost unanimous consent among the Baptist hosts of the South. Someone thought it worth0while to answer the suggestion with a laugh of scorn. That, however, did not disturb me, and my conviction still abides. The Baptist agreement in fundamentals is so large and strong, so comprehensive and definite, so unencumbered with details, that it affords ample room for our private views and personal notions concerning many other matters. By this means our people have come to what they are, and by this means, too, they shall come to yet larger things in the kingdom of God.

The Baptist art of living together has already been at work for years, and we are in the enjoyment of its fruitage. It is our exalted privilege, not to use the word duty, to cultivate it in our hearts and to illustrate it in our lives. Surely it is worth being made the watch word in our Southern Zion. It will give our people the place of prestige and command in the future ages. We have in the territory of the Southern Baptist Convention over twenty-one thousand churches with a membership of largely more than two millions; and every one of these two millions made a public profession of faith for himself before some Baptist church, was voted a place among its members, was buried with Christ in baptism and raised up again to walk in newness of life. What a host they are, and by what mighty bonds they are held! Thinking of them as a vast army for God, what can they not accomplish for him when they are trained in the art of camping together, marching together, fighting together, winning victories together, united in one mighty effort and purpose for the world's conquest, and for the coronation of Christ as King in Zion! This is our hope, our inspiration and joy.

James Marion Frost {1848-1916} was a Kentucky Baptist pastor, a noted author, and the first secretary of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article is taken from The Baptist Message, 1911, pages 178-184. It has been edited for length.

Published by the J.H. Spencer Historical Society.

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