Pastor, First Baptist Church, Bowling Green, KY 1837-1857 and First Baptist Church, Hopkinsville, KY 1833-1836.
Were I to state that I am a Baptist because Baptists believe the Bible to be the word of God, and cordially subscribe to the doctrine of salvation by grace - justification by faith - regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and all kindred topics - some other person might say, "I belong to a different religious communion for the same reasons." It is necessary, therefore, that my reasons embrace the distinctive peculiarities of Baptists. In other words, I must show why Baptists different from other religious denominations.
I am a Baptist then, because Baptists regard the Baptism of infants as unscriptural, and insist on the baptism of believers in Christ - and of believers alone. The commission given by the Savior to his apostles just before his ascension to heaven, furnishes no plea for infant baptism. Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 26:46-47. Surely this language of this commission is plain. Matthew informs us that teaching, or making disciples (for the verb matheteuo means make disciples) is to precede baptism - Mark established the priority of faith to baptism, and Luke connects repentance and remission of sins with the execution of the commission. No man can, in obedience to this commission, baptize an unbeliever or infant. The unbeliever is not a penitent disciple, and it is obviously impossible for the infant to repent and believe the gospel.
The household baptism recorded in the New Testament do not sustain the practice of infant baptism. It will not do to say that ordinarily there are infants in households. It must be. shown that it is universally the case. Then the household argument will avail Pedobaptists - not till then. But it can never be predicated of all households that there are infants in them. Many a Baptist minister, in the United States, has baptized more households than are referred to in the New Testament - and no infants in them.
I am a Baptist because Baptists consider the immersion in water, of a believer essential to baptism - so essential that there is no baptism without it. The design of baptism finishes an argument in favor of the position I am establishing. It represents the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12, 1 Peter 3:21. It is clear from these passages that baptism has a commemorative reference to the burial and resurrection of Christ.
Now if these views of the design and emblematic import of baptism are correct, it follows inevitably that the immersion in water of a believer in Christ is essential to baptism - so essential that there is no baptism without it. If baptism represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, it must be immersion. Do the sprinkling and pouring of water bear any analogy to a burial and resurrection? Absolutely not. They would never suggest the idea of burial or resurrection. Immersion, however bears a striking resemblance to a burial and resurrection. We are "buried by baptism" - that is, by means of baptism. When the baptismal process is performed there is certainly a "burial." The two are inseparable; and where there this is no "burial," there is no baptism.
The places selected for the administration of baptism, and the circumstances attending its administration as referred to in the New Testament, afford an additional argument in proof of the position of Baptists. John baptized in Jordan. That the Jordan is an suitable stream for purposes of immersion is manifest from the testimony of one of the most distinguished of modern travelers and scholars - Dr. Edward Robinson, speaking of the Jordan, he says: "We estimated the breadth of the stream to be from eighty to one hundred feet. The guides supposed it to be ten or twelve feet deep. I bathed in the river without going out into the deep channel."
I am a Baptist because Baptists adopt the form of church government adopted in the New Testament - that is to say, the congregational form of government. Does the New Testament then inculcate the foundation-principle Congregationalism; namely that the govemmental power of a church is with the people, the members? Let us see:
In Acts 6, there is reference to the circumstances which originated the deacon's office, and also the manner in which the first deacons were appointed. It will be seen that the apostles referred the matter of grievance to the multitude of the disciples. The democracy of the whole arrangement is as clear as the sun in heaven.
In Acts 14:23, there is mention made of the ordination of elders in every church. The word in the original literally means "to stretch forth the hand," as is the custom in most Baptist churches when a vote is taken. The apostles did not thrust pastors into the church through a lordly superiority, but chose and placed them there by the voice of the assembly.
In view of all these facts, I argue that, according to the New Testament, the officers of a church are chosen by the church. No one church has the right to choose officers for another. No combination of churches has the right. Every church is as independent in its actions is if it were the only church in the world. Every church is an executive democracy, who business is to carry out the will of her Divine head.
I am a Baptist, because there is among Baptists alone, a scriptural observance of the Lord's Supper. The doctrine of Baptists has ever been, that the Lord's Supper is a Church ordinance, to be observed as a memorial of the death of Christ. The bread broken represents His body crucified - the wine poured forth represents his blood shed on Calvary. The language of the Institutor of the sacred feast, the same night in which he was betrayed, was: "This do in remembrance of me." Paul says to the Corinthians, "As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Here the intimation is, that the death of Christ will be commemorated till He comes the second time without sin unto salvation. We learn, also, that in the sacred Supper we do no show the birth, or burial, or resurrection, or ascension, or glorification of our Lord, but His death. If ever the tragedy of Calvary should engross the thoughts of the Christian, to the exclusion of every other topic, it is when he is at the Lord's table.
Baptists, with comparatively few exceptions, have ever considered Baptism a prerequisite to the Lord's Table. They have so regarded it, because they have recognized its indispensableness to church membership. They have reasoned in this way: The Lord's Supper is an ordinance, to be observed exclusively by the members of a visible Church of Christ. None can be members of a visible church of Christ without Baptism. Therefore, Baptism is a prerequisite to Communion at the Lord's Table. A refusal on the part of Baptists to commune with Pedobaptists, has grown out of the fact, that the latter have ever been considered by the former as unbaptized and consequently without a scriptural church membership.
[From the book by the same title, originally published in 1856, Baptist Publishing House, Nashville, TN. Edited for length. Reprinted for the J. H. Spencer Historical Society. Scanned by Jim Duvall.]