The Baptist denomination, to which we happily belong, my brethren, commends itself to the filial veneration and favorable acceptance of all, by many powerful arguments, and many affecting claims. What has been so confidently asserted of another church, may be said with much greater truthfulness of our own - "She is Apostolical in her ministry, pure in her doctrine, and beautiful in all her forms." She has always aimed to follow most scrupulously the divine model, even as Moses followed the pattern shown him in the mount. She has never been willing to bow down at the shrine of mere human authority in matters purely religious; nor to venerate the traditions of erring religionists, as though they were the commandments of God. Requiring a "thus saith the Lord" for all her practices, she has been happily exempt from the whims and fancies of fallible mortals, and her distinguishing performances have been as immutable and uniform as the essential principles from which they are derived. Herself entirely free from a spirit of persecution, she has been subjected to the most cruel sufferings which the ingenuity of men and devils could invent. More than any other people, the Baptists have experienced the truth of the Saviour's declaration - "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." But notwithstanding they have
been thus afflicted and abused, they have maintained a steadfast adherence to their distinguishing doctrines and practices, and have evinced a moderation and charity, which cannot fail to command the highest respect and veneration of every intelligent,and unbiased mind. Well established in the truth and excellence of their principles, they commend them in kindness to all, but desire not to force them upon any. A fundamental principle in the constitution of the Baptist church is, that the Christian dispensation acknowledges no tie which can unite a human being to the visible kingdom of God on earth, except a voluntary profession of faith in Christ. This involves, as an essential part of true Christianity, the idea of religious liberty. No one can be forced to a voluntary profession, to a cheerful obedience. Hence results the sentiment, that the magistrate has no right to interfere in the affairs of conscience - hence the disconnection of the church and the state. This, too, of course, excludes infant baptism in the present dispensation, which is adapted only to intelligent, free, responsible beings."
[From Joseph Belcher, editor, The Baptist Pulpit of the United States: Eloquent and Instructive Passages . . ., 2nd edition, 1853, pp. 336-337. Document from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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