A fictional novel that teaches Baptist distinctives? At first this idea seems to be a contradiction, but in reality it is one of the most helpful books ever written on the issue. Mabel Clement is a novel set in late 19th century Texas. It tells the story of a young Church of Christ girl named Mabel Clement and how she becomes a Baptist.
The Kentucky connections to the book are significant. John Milton Sallee (1849-1915) was from Somerset, Kentucky. He pastored the Middlesburg, Cox’s Creek and Henderson Baptist Churches before moving to Texas in 1899 to pastor the Beesville Baptist Church. While pastoring the First Baptist Church of Henderson, Kentucky, Sallee preached a series of sermons setting forth the differences between Baptists and the Church of Christ. The messages were so well received that the congregation asked Sallee to publish them in a pamphlet. Instead Sallee choose to express his Baptist convictions in narrative form. The result was Mabel Clement.
W.W. Gardiner, himself a noted Kentucky Baptist, once told Sallee that he would trust his interpretation of some portions of Scripture more than that of Dr. John Broadus. When Sallee asked, “Why?” Gardiner replied, “Because you have been forced to know some things that Dr. Broadus never had to know.” Pastoring in Kentucky in the nineteenth century, Sallee was forced to know how to response to the followers of Alexander Campbell. In the book Sallee gives Biblical answers on such questions as salvation by faith alone, the design of baptism, the rightful participants in the Lord’s Supper, falling from Grace, and the depravity of the sinner. Each of these subjects are addressed within the wider framework of the story, making the book enjoyable to read and the issues easier to understand.
Mabel Clement was first published by the National Baptist Publishing House of Fulton, Kentucky in 1903. It was later republished by the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tennessee in 1926. It was last reprinted by John R. Gilpin of Ashland, Kentucky in 1956. Today the book is out of print, although copies can readily be purchased on http://www.amazon.com and http://www.ebay.com. The book can also be read online in its entirety at: http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com and http://www.pbcofdecaturalabama.org . I encourage you to read this helpful book for yourself.
[This book review originally appeared in the J.H. Spencer Historical Society Journal. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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