The People Called Baptists
By George W. McDaniel
THE CHALLENGE OF THE CHANGING ORDER.
"Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required." The principles of Baptists commit them to a large program. The whole gospel for the whole world is that program. No people profess more by their doctrines. We are under obligations to match profession with practice. The world, Christian and non-Christian, has a right to demand works as proof of our faith. Unless we can show results we must give place to those who can. This is not merely a cold, commercial rule; it was the acid test of Jesus: "By their fruits ye shall know them." The truth is not to be wrapped in a napkin for safekeeping; in such manner will it be lost. The truth is to be promulgated. The Providence church suffered for energetic leadership and vigorous evangelism and lost its existence. The Newport church was blessed with
aggressive leadership and evangelistic passion and remains a fount of healing.
Jordan marked the beginning of Christ's ministry. The three busiest, most useful years ever lived on earth followed his baptism by John. They were years crowded with praying, teaching, preaching, healing, saving. He trained the disciples in the lessons of the kingdom and then commanded them to go work everywhere under the power he would send upon them. They stayed until persecution thrust them forth. Then they went everywhere preaching the word. Multitudes were saved; churches sprang up like magic, old systems of error crumbled, and the empire was converted from the worship of Caesar to the worship of Christ.
Jesus' command to go "make disciples" is as binding as his command to "baptize"; and it comes first. When all Baptists are as insistent on the "go" as some are on the "baptize" they will conquer the world for Christ. That is to say, their mission will be fulfilled when orthopraxy equals orthodoxy. This is not to decry orthodoxy. It is folly to proclaim unless one has a vital doctrine
to announce; but woe to him who has such a doctrine and neglects its proclamation! He may hear Jesus say: "Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
A Baptist who is not missionary to the heart of his being and to the tips of his fingers denies the faith and is no Baptist at all. Nor is he Christian. Anti-missionary Christian is a misnomer. Anti-missionary is anti-Christ; for the only Christ we know is the Christ of the gospels and he embraced the "world" in his plan of salvation. You mutilate the gospel when you confine it to one nation, race or hemisphere, or to the "elect" of the earth. Calvinism is a comforting, strengthening doctrine, but ultra-Calvinism is a blight. Our duty is to invite all to salvation and leave God to do the drawing. Spurgeon was right: "The question for me is not, are the heathen lost without the gospel, but am I saved if I have the gospel and fail to give it to them." The old negro had a very practical and scriptural doctrine. Asked if he believed in election, he answered: "Yes, but I hab noteeced
ain't no man been 'lected ter office whut wan't er candedate."
Stinginess is the root of much "omissionaryism." Such people love money more than they love lost souls. God created the world out of nothing; He made order out of chaos; He formed man out of the dust of the ground; He caused water to gush forth from the rock; He performed every kind of miracle; but even God, with all His power, cannot use a stingy man or woman. Covetousness dries up the fountains of spirituality and parches the life with barrenness; it shrivels the soul; it mars the countenance; it paralyzes religious energy; it makes men idolaters; it bars the gates of heaven; it smoothes the way and opens the portals to hell. Bad everywhere, it is worse when it attaches to the minister. He becomes a "watch dog" for his church. He pleads their poverty, the pressure of local demands, the multiplicity of outside calls, the untimeliness of the present object. He becomes captious about methods, expenses, waste, management, persons. All the time he is holding up a mirror in which every one but himself sees himself. "Not greedy of
filthy lucre," was one of Paul's qualifications of a pastor.
American Baptists are being weighed in the balances of material prosperity. Our people share in the unprecedented prosperity of the country. They possess conveniences and comforts, and many of them enjoy luxuries. Very well, so long as their spiritual growth keeps pace with their material growth. John had a standard for a Christian's wealth: "Beloved, I pray above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." He prayed for the good health and financial success of Gains, but only "as" his soul prospered. The thought is similar to that in the prayer "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." The measure of the divine forgiveness is commensurate with the human forgiveness. So the degree of temporal prosperity is to be proportionate to that of spiritual prosperity. Sam Jones said, "No man worth more than $50,000 can be saved." That is purely arbitrary. A man may have as much property as he acquires honestly and uses righteously. Baptists successfully triumphed over
State and Church persecution. What shall be the issue of the conflict with prosperity? Only as they "seek first the kingdom of God," only as they administer their wealth as trustees of their Lord, only as they grow in liberality as they increase in worldly goods will they emerge victorious. The law of giving is as obligatory upon the boy making fifty dollars a month as it is upon the man making fifty hundred. It is a larger law than tithing and should yield more than the mere tithe. Every one, young and old, rich and poor, male and female, is to give systematically and weekly as "the Lord has prospered." When we are as scriptural in giving as we are in baptizing we will be the most efficient denomination in Christendom. Pastors will be freed from temporal things to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. They will preach with greater power when a generous support relieves them of financial embarrassment. The ranks of the ministry will be recruited, not indeed by hirelings, but by young men called of God to preach and encouraged by a denomination that does not "muzzle the ox that treadeth out the
corn." The stakes will be strengthened in the home land and the cords lengthened in foreign lands. Mission and Educational Boards will have funds ample for their needs and the kingdom of God will be established in the earth. My soul exults in the thought! A mighty host of New Testament Christians impassioned with zeal for Christ and love for the lost, holding all they have as under tribute to their King, counting not their lives dear unto themselves, finishing their ministry with joy and blessing!
The alternative causes my soul to shudder. A people strong in doctrine and numbers but flabby in deeds and efficiency. A tree, large of trunk and beautiful of foliage, but a cumberer of the ground. A light to shine to the remotest corners of the earth, but "light become darkness." A well of water to spring up to eternal life but the waters are dried up and the thirst unquenched. A sea for boats and fishes, for joy and trade, but with no outlet until its waters are dead and its shores are salt.
"I looked upon a sea, and lo! it was dead,
Although by Hermon's snows and Jordan fed!
How came a fate so dire? The tale's soon told;
All it got it kept, and fast did hold.
"All tributary streams found here their grave.
For this sea received, but nothing gave.
Oh! sea that's dead, teach me to know and feel
That selfish grasp and greed my doom will seal."
The war demonstrated America's ability to mobilize quickly vast resources of men and materials. The churches were active in that mobilization. The fact is, the government called and relied greatly upon the churches to counteract enemy propaganda, to awaken patriotism, to facilitate enlistment, to aid food conservation, to subscribe to government bonds and war savings stamps, and to con- tribute to Red Cross, War Work Council, and Syrian and Armenian Relief. Baptist churches, as others, rallied to the call. They never wearied or counted the cost. It is to their everlasting credit. They must now key themselves to the spiritual notes of the king- dom as they did to the martial notes of democracy. They must combine and direct on missions and Christian education the
tremendous energies they readily directed upon war. The task of the Baptists is to bring their thoughts, made capacious by world problems, into captivity to Christ; to harness loosened powers to kingdom enterprises. May it not be that providential events are preparing us for the program of Jesus, "into all the world," "unto all the nations."
President Wilson has become the world spokesman for political democracy. In outlining to Congress the aims before America in the war, he mentioned three principles that are particularly dear to Baptists: (1) the rights of the small nations; (2) the right of every people to determine their own form of government and to choose their rulers; (3) the safety of the world for democracy. These are cherished and immemorial Baptist principles. (1) Among us the smallest church has equal rights with the largest church; the youngest church member has equal rights with the oldest; (2) every church governs its own affairs and determines its co-operation; every individual not only has the privilege, but is under the imperious duty of determining for himself his religion and choosing his
church; (3) our whole history expounds the doctrines of democracy — the rule of a majority of the people; and we have striven to create conditions in which that doctrine could live and flourish.
A practical question for the nations and Baptists is, "What type of democracy is safe for the world?" Drunk with the new wine of freedom, long suppressed peoples of Europe are destroying every right of property and violating every form of law. So quickly have they come into power that they squander it like prodigal heirs suddenly possessed of a large estate. Democracy to unenlightened, lawless people is like a razor in the hands of a child. Baptists have two advantages in the changing order: (1) their type of democracy is that of Jesus and Paul; (2) they are experienced in its administration. The first time in history the word "democracy" occurs in a civil document is when John Clarke wrote it in the preamble and act of incorporation of the Providence Plantations: "The form of government established in Providence Plantations is democratic, that is to say, a government held by the free and
voluntary consent of all or the greater part of the free inhabitants"; * * * "the government which this body politic doth attend unto in this Island * * * is a democracy, or popular government." That was the first opportunity of Baptists to form a government on their plan. The administration of that democracy was in the interest of public order. A distinction between civil and religious offenses was carefully guarded. Citizenship was refused the anarchist Gorton. Religious freedom does not mean fanaticism; civil freedom does not mean anarchy. Baptists can never be Bolshevists, nor countenance any such. Baptists hold that freedom of action is delimited by the rights of others and license is regulated by law; property is sacred and the person is inviolable.
Baptists must promote education so that intelligence will be the handmaid of experience. Baptists are the last of all the denominations to depreciate learning. Where one man, or group of men, governs, their wisdom may guide affairs aright. Where the people govern it is essential that the masses shall be enlightened in order to rule wisely and well.
Primary education, State education, Denominational education find in us firm friends. We only insist that what is taught shall be knowledge, not speculation; constructive, not destructive; that denominational schools shall be Christian in fact, not in name alone. To make sure of the future we must put a premium upon Christian education. A denomination without its system of schools and colleges and theological seminaries is a denomination without a future. Baptists should never forget that the founder of those little Christian democracies that dotted the shores of the Mediterranean was the best educated man of his time; and that a Greek Testament in the hand of a college graduate was the im- mediate cause of the organization of the Baptist denomination in America.
Times change, but principles are eternal and admit of application to all conditions. We must so teach and exemplify our doctrines as to make them attractive and powerful. Autonomous church government relates itself to other like bodies and forms a co-operating group. The spiritual significance of the ordinances constitutes their highest
value; spirituality in individuals and churches vitalizes the ordinances. On one side of the shield is "Preservation of the Saints"; on the other is "Let every one that hath this hope in him purify himself even as he is pure." Salvation by grace imposes a debt of gratitude upon the beneficiary which is discharged only by its zealous proclamation. Sanctification is a process in which believers grow in grace unto perfection attained when they "awake in his likeness." In the doing of these things we both save ourselves and them that hear us. The love that seeks and finds flows from the redeemed in streams of sympathy and service.
The upheaval over the earth obliterated much hoary injustice but left conditions unsettled, even chaotic. These present a challenging opportunity. For Baptists to waver now would be criminal; for them to surrender would be suicidal. We may profit by the example of the American forces in the great Niagara of war. The general temper of that army was sacrificial and heroic. From the hour General Pershing offered to Genera Foch all that America had in France, and the
larger numbers who were coming, from that hour the clouds began to lift. The day we lay our all upon the altar of Christ to be used as he directs will be the day when the kingdom will come with power.
We may learn also from the method of training the American army. Some attention was given to defense, but much more to offense. Therein is the real secret of the Americans' signal success. They went to Europe to drive the Germans out of France and Belgium. General Bundy sounded the note that won the war. On being ordered by a superior officer at Chateau -Thierry to retreat, he replied: "Retreat! We have just come. We came not to retreat, but to advance."
"Is this the time, O Church of Christ, to sound Retreat?
To arm with weapons cheap and blunt
The men and women who have borne the brunt
Of Truth's fierce strife, and nobly held their ground?
Is this the time to halt, when all around
Horizon's lift, new destinies confront,
Stern duties wait our nation, never wont
To play the laggard, when God's will was found?
No! rather strengthen stakes and lengthen cords.
Enlarge thy plans and gifts, O thou elect,
And to thy kingdom come for such a time!
The earth with all its fullness is the Lord's.
Great things attempt for Him, great things expect,
Whose love imperial is, Whose power sublime."
[George W. McDaniel, The People Called Baptists, 1919, pp. 158-171 Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on Baptist History.
Baptist History Homepage