S. E. Tull (1878-1973) pastored the First Baptist Churches of Paducah and Middlesboro, KY, Jackson, TN, New Orleans, LA, Greenwood, MS and Pine Bluff and West Helena, AR.
I am glad of the opportunity to set out in these following words a short resume of the beliefs of our Baptist people. These things are not newto the world, but the glory of what we stand for is substantiated through its age-long repetition. The beliefs of Baptists are now a part of the world's religious inheritance.
Baptists hold the Truth of the Gospel in its simplest and most axiomatic form. There are worlds of people in other churches who believe what the Baptists believe. They are in faith Baptists though not attached to Baptist churches. On the other hand, there are people who are greatly prejudiced against Baptists because the simplicity of Baptist Belief absolutely destroys the things upon which some denominations are built. Here are some of the things which Baptists throughout all Christian history have stood for:
1. The all-sufficient and finished work of Jesus Christ as the one and only means of redemption from sin. To the Baptists, every other claim to merit before God other than the imputed righteousness of Jesus is blasphemous dishonor against Him who is the only Lord in "The Household of Faith" and the only "Head of the Church" for which He died.
2. The open Bible as the only source of doctrine and the only authority to govern churches and individuals. By inspiration, God, has given to the world His revelation in the Bible. The Baptists hold that every soul may interpret God's Word for himself, and that every soul is accountable only to God for his obedience to the Scriptures. No power civil or ecclesiastical, can add to or take from the Bible as God's only and final message to every individual. The destiny of every man depends absolutely upon what God says in His Word.
3. The absolutely individual liberty of every soul to personal worship and obedience as his own conscience dictates.
This great principal of individualism in religion underlies and explains the age-long contention of the Baptists for the complete separation of church and state. No constituted civil power must contravene the God-given right of any soul to worship God or not to worship as he pleases.
It is this doctrine of individualism which forces the Baptists to discount the pratice of infant baptism. To baptize an unconscious baby is to rob him of the right to personal faith in Jesus Christ. The command of Jesus cannot be performed by proxy.
It is this doctrine of individualism which dethrones religious autocracy, and refuses any vested or constituted religious autocrat the right to govern or to dictate the religious belief or habits of any soul.
It is the doctrine of individualism in religion which makes every believer his own priest before the gracious God who is "No respecter of persons."
4. Baptists hold that the New Testament church is composed only of those who are saved by personal faith in Jesus Christ. They have stood through the ages for a converted church membership. This doctrine of salvation before church membership forbids the Baptists to accept the theories of sacramental or covenajatal grace being imparted by church relations. For this reason Baptists hold that the ordinances are only acts of Christian obedience and that baptism and the Lord's Supper contain no grace-imparting efficacy.
5. The absolute equality of all church members in the government and privileges of the church.
This great doctrine logically follows the doctrine of a converted church membership. All souls are saved alike therefore, they stand on an equal footing before God and among themselves in all religious privileges. This is the explanation of Baptist democracy and their doctrine of self-governing churches. It is this doctrine of the equality of all the saved before God and among themselves that forbids the Baptists to recognize grades among church members. For this reasons Baptists have no Popes, Priests, Bishops or Presiding Elders. If God is "No respecter of persons," Baptists believe that He is no respecter of clothes. "Equal rights to all and special privileges to none" is a Baptist fundamental. Church government "of the people, for the people, by the people," is a principle which Baptists declare should never perish from the earth.
6. By every principle of their faith, Baptists are missionary to the core. Baptists want all people, the world around, to enjoy the freedom and the blessed privileges which they themselves possess.
Baptists rejoice in the fact that their principles have taken a great hold upon the mind of the world. We hear much today about Individual Liberty, the Right of Self-determination, the Inherent Brotherhood, of the Nations, and the Universal Democratization of the World, but these great principles are nothing more than Baptist beliefs as applied to human interests in the greater realms of life. Baptist doctrine liberates men wherever it is preached. All the Baptists believe and teach is exemplified in the beauty and informality of their local church fellowships. Wherever the Gospel is preached by Baptists and Baptist churches spring up, the people have a new-birth to freedom in all respects. Baptists are the pioneers of liberty and the harbingers of freedom among all races and people. Be glad you are a Baptist, and work and pray that truth which we hold may become the inheritance of all people. "If the Truth shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
[Republished by the J. H. Spencer Historical Society. Scanned by Jim Duvall.]