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Why Read Books By Baptist Authors
By Ben Stratton, 2022

      One of the most surprising things about 21st century Baptists is how few books they read by authors of their own denominational background. While this wasn’t the case for past generations, it seems to be the norm today for Baptist preachers and church members alike.

      Just consider: The average Baptist is familiar with such famous Pedobaptist theologians as Lewis Berkhof, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther and B. B. Warfield. They delight in the writings of the Puritans such as Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, William Perkins and Thomas Watkins. They devour the sermons of Protestant preachers such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Knox, J. I. Packer, J. C. Ryle and George Whitefield.

      Yet when asked which old Baptist authors are worth reading today, the answers given are few and far between. Usually, Charles Haddon Spurgeon is named as is John Bunyan (a quasi-Baptist at best). Beyond these two, most modern Baptists are left scratching their heads for additional names.

      If this is the case, why then do the reading habits of current Baptists need to change? Below are three reasons why it is important to read Baptist books, especially by older authors:

      1. To Learn About our Rich Baptist Heritage. One of the reasons people don’t read Baptist books is because they foolishly claim there have been no great Baptist theologians, preachers, evangelists or commentators. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      Are you looking for helpful Baptist commentators? Read John Gill’s “Exposition” (he commented on every verse in the bible) or B. H. Carroll’s Interpretation of the English Bible. What about theologians who dive deep into the Word of God? There’s James P. Boyce (the founder of Southern Seminary); J. M. Pendleton (His Christian Doctrine was written to teach freed slaves); or C. D. Cole (who influenced a young A. W. Pink); not to mention Andrew Fuller, J. B. Moody, or A. H. Strong. How about powerful preachers? Besides the Prince of Preachers (Spurgeon) you have the silver-tongued John A. Broadus, J. R. Graves, (who regularly held crowds spellbound for three hours) and the Scottish prodigy Alexander Maclaren.

      Multitudes more could be named such as successful pastors like T. T. Eaton, H. Boyce Taylor, and George Truett; missionaries such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, George Liele, and Isaac McCoy; pioneers for religious liberty including Isaac Backus, John Clarke, and John Leland; fruitful evangelists like T. T. Martin, W. E. Penn, and Shubal Sterns; not to mention such African-American giants as Andrew Bryan, R. H. Boyd, John Jasper, E. C. Morris, William J. Simmons and "The Black Spurgeon" Charles T. Walker. Their stories and life lessons need to be relearned by a new generation of Baptists.

      2. To Avoid the Pitfalls of Protestant and Pedobaptist Theology. The reason Protestant and Pedobaptist writers are not Baptist is because they hold to different theological beliefs. This could true of their understanding of the mode (sprinkling) or purpose (salvific) of baptism. This might apply to how they define who can join the church (infant baptism and infant church membership). It’s possible their view of church and state (the civil magistrates have the authority to persecute and even kill those who hold to different doctrinal beliefs).

      While most Baptist know this to be true, they boldly proclaim they possess the ability to “eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds.” Unfortunately, they end up eating far more seeds than they realize. There is a reason why denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America are literally filled with former Baptist church members. Indeed, the late Gary L. Long, told me personally that one of his chief reasons he started Particular Baptist Press was because so many young Baptist preachers were becoming Pedobaptists from solely reading Banner of Truth books. This is not to say that Baptists cannot learn and profit from the works of Protestant authors. However, any reading of these men must be balanced with a steady diet of old Baptist authors.

      3. To Grow In Your Understanding of Sound Doctrine. Reading Baptist authors will challenge and encourage you in your own spiritual growth. Often in our Baptist churches, we are confronted with issues we are unsure how to address. This is particularly true in ecclesiology. Questions arise such as: Which baptisms should our church accept, and which should we reject? What sort of church government should our congregation have? Who are the rightful participants when the Lord’s Supper is served? What are the duties and responsibilities of a church member? How many ordinances are there, and which is their connection to the local church?

      These questions could be multiplied tenfold. While Baptists have never been in absolute agreement, you will be amazed at the commonality the answers to these questions have from Baptists of bygone eras. If you are only reading Protestant and Pedobaptist authors, you are missing out on a treasure-trove of sound doctrine!

      Recommended Sources and Books

      One of the reasons old Baptist works are not being read today is people don’t know where to find them. Below are some wonderful sources for these books:

Baptist Standard Bearer
The absolute best publisher for old Baptist reprints, including
John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testament.

Bryan Station Baptist Church
Definitions of Doctrines (3 Volumes) by C. D. Cole
Rethinking Baptist Doctrines by V. I. Masters (editor)
These are particularly helpful.

Challenge Press
Many classic works by B. H. Carroll, John T. Christian,
J. R. Graves, etc., as well as James R. Beller's
must-read America in Crimson Red.

Local Church Bible Publishers
Check out the "Baptist Heroes of the Faith" series as well as
William Cathcart's Incredible Baptist Encyclopedia.

Solid Christian Books
B. H. Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible and
Pillars of Orthodoxy by Ben M. Bogard are essential reading!

Solid Ground Christian Books
Baptists, the Only Thorough Reformers By John Q. Adams,
and The Madison Avenue Lecture by Henry G. Weston.

Particular Baptist Press
Commentaries and Biographies, Including
the 12 volume Noble Company Series.

Baptist Global Mission
Many old Baptist authors such as R. B. Cook, Henry C. Fish,
John Gill, Hezekiah Harvey, R. C. B. Howell, and J. b. Porter.

[Published by the J. H. Spencer Historical Society; provided by Ben Stratton; via a tract. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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