HISTORICAL BAPTIST PRACTICE
There is no need to mention those basic truths accepted by all major denominations of “Christians” such as the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus Christ and his virgin birth, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the blood atonement, Biblical authority, the coming judgment, eternal heaven and hell, etc. These are all doctrinal truths which may be believed intellectually without the saving benefits of the atonement of Christ being applied. I am unable to concede that any who after due consideration cannot believe these basic truths is really a Christian, or that it is any favor to him to acknowledge him as such. In this work we are more concerned about spiritual matters which can either establish in the heart, or nullify, these great doctrines as far as their benefit to the individual soul.
Barely noticed by the world, a small group of Baptist Churches located in southwest Missouri, being driven by sincere conviction and somewhat in desperation, in the year of 1950 rebelled against the Southern Baptist Convention. That year the Baptist Association of Polk County, Missouri voted to part company with the Southern Baptist Convention and all of its programs. Soon after this move was made, the churches remaining in that association were joined by many churches in neighboring counties who also wished to preserve the historic practice of Baptists in opposition to Convention “modernism.” A minority of the churches and people formerly numbered with them departed at that time to continue with the convention in its drift into Spiritless “fundamentalism.” A few years later, in 1955, a report was published by a committee of Baptist leaders appointed by that association entitled, “History, The Separation of the Polk County Missionary Baptist Association.” (page 397, HISTORY OF THE POLK COUNTY MISSIONARY BAPTIST ASSOCIATION, by J. W. Haines, updated and reprinted, 1969, by a committee of that association) Part of this defense reads as follows: “Over forty years ago there was peace and harmony among the churches of the Polk County Missionary Baptist Association. We all believed that a Baptist Church should not conform to the world, but year after year a division began to come among us. There was no longer peace and harmony among the churches because some believed in the old-fashioned way of worship, while others believed in having the altar removed and substituting in its place man-made organizations which were a dishonor to God. They had conformed to the world. We still believe the altar is the place for a soul to seek the Lord, and should be guarded to prevent anyone trying to deceive a mourner. We believe in a ‘broken and contrite heart,’ not just a ‘decision for Christ’ as some say. They say, instead of conviction and repentance through faith by the grace of God, it is just ‘YOUR DECISION’ and leave out the office work of the Holy Spirit. ‘No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.’ (John 6:44) Anyone that believes in salvation by grace cannot work hand in hand with those that practice ‘decision.'”
While some of the words in this explanation may not ring familiar or agreeable to all who read it, to all who have looked deeply into the eternal truth of the new birth experience, and have studied well the evangelism conducive to producing it in the hearers of the gospel message, the reasons for this separation are readily apparent.
From that little remnant of historic Baptists determined to hold on to the old paths, the gospel began to be spread to other areas at a time when the truth about true soul-salvation was being largely extinguished from vast regions among Baptist churches by acceptance of this new “easy salvation” doctrine. This writer was saved in 1955 during an altar prayer in one of those churches in Polk County, Missouri. That fact makes the occurrence of this separation more important to him than to most other people. However, to this present time I have never found this subtle heresy, which is the primary difference between us and the “fundamentalist” movement, more simply stated, or the profound difference between us more clearly understood, than among those Missouri Baptists. As already stated in the prologue, no one seemed to understand or be able to explain how that such a gigantic apostasy had occurred, although it WAS clearly understood what the grounds of departure had been. Never in twenty-nine years of regular attendance in and among those churches, seven of those years as a preacher and pastor, did I ever hear it preached or even implied that it was necessary for a lost sinner to sit upon or kneel at a “mourners’ bench,” or “altar of prayer,” as some choose to call it, in order to be saved unless, of course, such a move was included among those impressions made upon the lost sinner’s heart by the convicting Holy Spirit. Troubled mourners who were experiencing the misery of Spiritual reproof were offered a place to pray where saints of God would pray with them for their conversion, which was always expected to come directly from God in a heavenly experience. This is the birth “from above” of John 3:3 when more accurately translated. They came to such a place, not expecting any reward in exchange for the act of coming, but earnestly seeking God and His forgiveness. More than a few found what they needed and went away much relieved. Others returned at later times still searching for satisfaction and assurance. Those who persevered always found their answer in Jesus. Some souls found their repentance and faith, unto God’s satisfaction and His mighty deliverance, between church meetings at some other location.
Not far away, some 500 miles, a larger salvaging operation was taking place in Northern Middle Tennessee and South Central Kentucky. This one was well underway several years in advance of 1950.
In this locality there dwelled a number of Missionary Baptist Churches which had long resisted joining the activities of man-made organizations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. At the most their bonds with such, if any existed at all, were cautious, loose, and temporary. Although they held out their hand of fellowship to sound “convention Baptists,” they feared corrupting their own people too much to use many convention methods, which many of them felt were dangerous tendencies.
One of several such churches was Siloam Missionary Baptist Church near Westmoreland, Tennessee. From the minutes of the first protracted meeting (now evolved into “revival meetings” or “revival efforts”) held by this church in 1842, we have, “… after a wonderful sermon delivered by Elder Jonathan Wiseman they called for any in the congregation who might desire the prayers of the church, and many came forward weeping, and fell on their knees and prayed to God. The power was apparent in the congregation. The church then sat for the hearing of experiences, and James Smothers and James Perry came forward, relating what the Lord had done for them, and were received into the fellowship of the church.” (page 17, HISTORY OF SILOAM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH by Jake Lambert). This basic practice of this old church, and many others nearby, is yet unchanged. Some churches in this same region were for a time in close association with the Southern Baptist Convention, but after that convention began its dangerous drift, they withdrew from it, choosing to join forces with those who seemed to be taking a stand to defend our historic Baptist practice.
New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church of Goodlettsville, Tennessee withdrew from a convention association in 1936 and seated with Wiseman Association. Under the able leadership of Elder A. J. Sloan, New Bethel was soon led completely and forever away from the ever worsening influence of the Southern Baptist Convention. The following was recorded of their progress in that time, “God put his approval on the work by blessing their labors in the salvation of many souls, many of them members of the church, who had been deceived, but they, too, were convicted of their sins and sought the Lord in the old time way and were saved. These united with the church, acknowledging their deception, and were baptized.” (page 65, HISTORY OF NEW BETHEL MISSIONARY BAPTISTCHURCH, by H. C. Vanderpool) Thus one of the oldest churches in that region was saved from going the way of “fundamentalism” and was preserved for the glory of God. Since then she has been a leader in missionary work to spread the gospel both locally and throughout the world.
Old Union Missionary Baptist Church, near Bowling Green, Kentucky, another old church with a very rich history, was served by strong pastors from among the Wiseman and Enon associations since 1913. Old Union left the Warren Association, a Southern Baptist affiliate, in 1946 to company with the Wiseman Association. In 1953 she became a charter member of the Siloam Association when the Wiseman was peacefully divided because of large size. In that company she has since remained. For many years Old Union has been a strong and influential church among Old-Time Baptists, and to this very day these paths of old are staunchly contended for in her midst. (HISTORY OF OLD UNION MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH by H. C. Vanderpool) There are many other churches whose histories are somewhat similar which have likewise maintained a staunchness for these historical principles through a time when most churches were departing from them.
Many churches have been established elsewhere, mostly through migration, from this stock of Baptist churches from the northern Middle Tennessee and south-central Kentucky region. Many of these new churches were organized where the faith once had been established, but had since been swept away by the tide of erring practices. Likewise, missions sprang up in much the same fashion and for similar reasons from the churches of southwest Missouri.
It is believed by many that there are at this time other sound Baptists in various locations throughout this country and other parts of the world who need to respond to the call in Revelation 18:4, “come out of her my people,” in separating their churches from those affiliations which have given over to deceptive doctrines and practices. Already some have responded to this call. It is hoped that this work will help some to isolate and identify this cunningly devised and cleverly disguised heresy, so that they may take up a warfare against it, awaken others around them who are asleep to its deadly effects, and bring about a permanent purging of it from the ranks of true Christians. Perhaps many whole churches or groups of churches who are presently affected with some such dangerous influence can purge themselves of it and join the fellowship of true Baptist Churches who are warring against it. Certainly such happenings would be welcomed with open arms.
Today the mainstream of convention Baptists, excepting a few churches loosely held in affiliation by the residual inertia of tradition, have been swept away in the popular erring doctrine we are contesting in this work. For the purpose of identification, that popular movement which has so subverted the faith of the great conventions is being labeled “fundamentalism.” It is true that many convention Baptists have since gone farther astray from historical Baptist practice, but their first great error was a general departure from the actual workings of the Holy Spirit in favor of mental interpretation of Holy Scripture and reasoning upon the soul’s salvation. The first premise of going by the literally interpreted Bible did not work, because once again it was discovered that private interpretation of Scripture can lead to the imagining of almost anything. They vainly imagined that the natural carnal mentality of man can “accept Christ as one’s Savior” and credulously assume Christ has saved the soul as a result of that decision and commitment. This is the false reasoning resulting in false doctrine which emboldened many to deny and suppress the real movement of God’s Holy Spirit in many churches of their fellowship.
“Independent fundamentalist” groups have managed to retain the orthodox doctrinal basics, but that movement had the soul cut out of it before it left the conventions. It had already fully embraced the new and easy salvation ideas of D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday.
Going back in time from this period of confusion and destruction for the Baptist denomination, we return to the nineteenth century for evidence of what Baptists believed in that day.
A few words from that noted Baptist writer and preacher, James M. Pendleton, whose BAPTIST CHURCH MANUAL at one time was perhaps more widely used than any other, are in order. Elder Pendleton’s views on Bible doctrines are as nearly standard, or middle-of-the-road, Baptist doctrine as any other well-known statement. In his book, CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, he stated, “Those who would substitute the term ‘reformation’ for repentance virtually exclude the element of sorrow …” (page 267) and, “The heart of the true penitent is a broken and crushed heart – broken with sorrow and crushed with grief.” (page 268)
Brother Pendleton was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky for many years, having begun his service to that church in the year of 1836. He was one of the few promoters of the ill-fated Kentucky Baptist Convention during the years of its existence from 1832 through 1836 and was an active participant in the rise and progress of its successor, the Kentucky Baptist General Association. He was ever zealous for the promotion of missions and the building up of the kingdom of our Lord. Reminiscing in the year of 1887 during a message before the jubilee (fifty year anniversary) session of that same General Association, Brother Pendleton recalled some commendable practices of the Baptist Churches of Kentucky in 1837. Among his recollections on that occasion we find the following.
“There was more religious conversation formerly than now. Brethren and sisters spoke often one to another. They talked about the dealings of God with their souls. Frequently, they would begin with what they called their ‘experience’ and tell how they were first led out of darkness into the light of salvation, how the Lord had afterward led them in ways they knew not, how great had been their conflicts with their spiritual enemies, how they had been delivered, and how the deliverance had inspired hope of deliverance in all the future, and preservation to the heavenly kingdom. Those sharing in these conversations could often say, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us ?’ and often tears flowed from eyes that have long since ceased to weep.” (pages 20 & 21, “The Condition Of The Baptist Cause In Kentucky in 1837” by James M. Pendleton, also reprinted in the Jubilee Minutes of the Kentucky Baptist General Association held in 1887)
“While, however, historical candor requires me to find fault with the churches of a half-century ago, for the reasons indicated, there are other things for which they deserved commendation. In some important respects they were in advance of the churches today. Their superiority, if I mistake not, appears in such things as these:
They were more careful in the reception of members. They required what they called ‘an experience of grace.’ This always embraced two things: First, conviction of sin leading to repentance, the latter including hatred of sin, and sorrow for sin, with the purpose to forsake it. Second, trust in Christ for salvation, followed by a consciousness of acceptance with God, and peace with Him for Jesus’ sake. It would have been difficult for anybody to get into one of our churches without giving satisfaction on these points. This experience of grace was indispensable in candidates for baptism. In this carefulness in receiving members, the churches of today might well copy the example of those fifty years ago. ” (Jubilee Sermon, 1887 )
From that same period, and the same general area, we have the expressed convictions of Elder J. B. Moody, a highly respected defender of Baptist principles. From an 1889 debate with J. A. Harding (Campbellite), known as THE NASHVILLE DEBATE, his words are recorded as follows: “… It is experimental knowledge, growing out of fellowship. To know God and to know about God are different things. To know that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and to know about the Holy Spirit, are different things. Christ will one day say, ‘I never knew you,’ yet he knew of them. The Father revealed Jesus Christ to Peter, and no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. This is more than an opinion or belief about him; it is knowledge in the sense of personal consciousness, growing out of spiritual fellowship. The two disciples may have had their opinion about their strange companion on the way to Emmaus, but he was KNOWN to them in the breaking of bread. We believe, and ARE SURE, is a way of showing that this word is knowledge in advance of faith. ‘Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge,’ is another proof. Connected with faith there may be facts, truths, evidence, and confiding trust; yet this word expresses an advance on it all. The Jews were ready to dispute about the law, but Christ told them they knew not the law. Paul did not understand the law till God worked in him mightily with his quickening Spirit. Not till then did he have an experimental know- ledge of the law of which he boasted, but which at last slew him, by making sin revive and appear to him as exceeding sinful. Not until then did he KNOW in himself. This is the way we know spiritual truth. When truth comes to our personal consciousness it produces an effect, is experimental. We then know it, and no man’s want of experience can disturb our assurance. To know this system of doctrine called truth we must begin with the first principles, or we cannot go on to perfection. This doctrine of Christ has to do with the heart, the inner man. The stony heart must become a heart of flesh that can FEEL. Hence the Holy Spirit begins the work on the inside by convicting of sin because they believe not on Christ. This is to make them conscious of sin, which is experimental knowledge. It works godly sorrow for sin, and this repentance which the man must know experimentally, or he has no knowledge of them at all. When sin appears in and works death in him by that which is good, HE KNOWS IT. When he is pierced to the heart, HE KNOWS IT, and is likely to cry out as at Pentecost. When the secrets of the heart are made manifest and he falls down on his face, HE KNOWS IT. When he is sick enough to need the Great Physician, HE KNOWS IT. When agonizing to enter through the strait gate, HE KNOWS IT. When he seeks repentance with tears, HE KNOWS IT. When his heart is broken, his spirit contrite, and he trembles at the Word, HE KNOWS IT. When he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, HE KNOWS IT. When, like the prodigal son, he comes to himself, and realizes his ruined condition, HE KNOWS IT. When repentance brings a change of thought and purpose, HE KNOWS IT. When he is seeking God with all his heart and soul, HE KNOWS IT. When he believes in Christ to the purifying of his heart and saving of his soul, HE KNOWS IT. Being justified by faith and having peace with God, HE KNOWS IT. When God testifies by giving him the witness in himself, HE KNOWS IT. When God sets his seal upon him and gives the earnest of his Spirit in his heart, HE KNOWS IT. When he tastes and sees that the Lord is good, HE KNOWS IT. When he loves God and his Christ and all his people, HE KNOWS IT. When he has passed from death unto life, HE KNOWS IT. When he has passed from darkness to light, HE KNOWS IT. When old things have passed away and all things are become new, HE KNOWS IT. When he is happy from the consciousness of sins forgiven, HE KNOWS IT. Confidence, assurance, hope, faith, love, peace, are matters of EXPERIMENTAL knowledge, or they are not known at all. The testimony of all saints of all ages is, that the penitent prayer, offered in faith, heals the sin-sick soul as well as the body. Those who have come thus far, learning by EXPERIENCE the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, can go on to perfection. Those who did not thus begin and thus advance know nothing at all as they ought to know. The one has perfect knowledge as far as he has gone, the other is in darkness, even until now. The ritualist has no experimental knowledge of these things. The service may be beautiful to the natural man, but if it begins not in conviction of sin, and leads not through tearful penitence and heart-seeking after God and heart-confidence in Christ, if it leads not thus and there, it leads to hell. The man who goes down into the water to get remission of sins knows nothing – says he knows nothing, and he don’t believe anybody else knows. He mocks at the knowledge he has missed, and only believes that a change has taken place in the mind of God, and confesses there is none in his own personal consciousness. He is doubtless right about himself, and as doubtless wrong about God. The comers to the Levitical priesthood could never with those sacrifices purge the conscience from sin, for it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hence the priest stood daily, offering the same sacrifices which could never take away sins. The sins were in the consciousness of the worshippers, not in the mind of God, and it was from the conscience they were to be taken away. Let sin revive and appear exceeding sinful to one’s personal consciousness, and the taking away will be as palpable to his personal consciousness as was the sin. Hence those who are sanctified have the witness of the Holy Ghost, and under the new covenant have the law written in their mind and heart with full assurance that their sins will be remembered against them no more.
Having, therefore, confidence respecting the entrance of the holies by his blood, let us draw near in the full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water, as our profession of this perfect cleansing by the blood of Christ. Thus the good conscience toward God answers in this figure of salvation. As David described the happiness of the man to whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works, saying, ‘Happy is the man whose iniquities are forgiven and to whom the Lord will not impute sin.’ Let a man be convicted in his conscience, and you may take him to daily offerings of priests, or to my friend, to be washed in water, and there is no taking away of sin. But where there is no conviction of conscience, you may delude him with anything, even with this, that as there is no change in the conscience, you must believe there is a change in the mind of God. The belief of this, by intelligent people, verifies the saying that in the credulity of men nothing is impossible. The testimony of the multitude of witnesses, that no man can number, of all nations and tongues is, that under a consciousness of guilt they sorrowfully, tremblingly, penitently, and prayerfully sought God’s mercy, and when the heart trustingly looked to Jesus and committed the care of the soul to him, the burden rolled away, and rest came to the laboring, heavy soul, and the peace that passes all understanding possessed the mind and heart, and they KNEW that they were justified by faith and had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Every Christian man in this world, or that ever was in it, KNOWS that he did not come to that peace which passeth all understanding – he knows with infallible certainty that he did not receive this peace but by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the infallible knowledge of personal consciousness, enlightened by God’s word, which word, from Genesis to Revelation, supports this holy doctrine with an amazing almightiness and an astonishing frequency. When Christ said the woman loved much because she had been forgiven much, and when he said to her, ‘Go in peace, thy faith hath saved thee,’ he not only uttered the gospel of all ages, but uttered it so as to show the one result of that gospel when it had been made efficacious. One so infused with love, and so suffused with peace, KNOWS it. And not only so, but they know, with a knowledge almost divine, that they come to this love and peace not by baptism, but by faith in Jesus Christ; and never did one deny who thus obtained. As our Churches in these loose days are crowded with the unconverted who failed to obtain experimental knowledge at faith, hence failed to obtain it by baptism, how natural that they, having no experience, should go to their own company, and how natural that they should deny and deride an experience of grace because they know nothing about it. Hence the substitute of a cold intellectual belief of a delusion, a supposed record that God never made, and which man never found, to the effect that in the great transaction of the forgiveness, or taking away of sins, the change is not in man’s consciousness, but in the mind of God. Let the following witnesses testify to this position, since God brought them out of this forbidding darkness. …” (pages 19-22, The Nashville Debate)
Brother Moody’s arguments require some careful reading, and re-reading, to fully understand several major points of historical Baptist convictions so ably set forth. His emphasis on men’s conscious awareness of God’s operations upon their souls, of the Holy Spirit’s necessary work in salvation, and the effect of those workings on the minds and bodies of men are indeed Biblical, Baptist, blessed, and beautiful. To anyone who does not get sidetracked by the difference here being discussed regarding the purpose of baptism, it is apparent (if that person is informed regarding the faith of the modern “fundamentalists”) that most of his arguments are as condemning to modern “fundamentalists'” teachings as they are to those holding the system of doctrines Moody was refuting.
At that same period in time, across the ocean in England we find a noted English Baptist, Charles H. Spurgeon, preaching as follows:(From “The Necessity of Regeneration,” from Volume 54 ofTHE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT) “Pray in the Holy Ghost, preach in the Holy Ghost, and do not believe in the conversion of a single soul apart from the Spirit of God … remember that your preaching cannot, of itself, raise one soul out of its lost estate.” (page 585)
“You may also know whether you are born again by asking yourself another question – Do you feel a new life within you which you never had before?” (page 585)
“When a man utterly despairs of being able to save himself, it is then that he cries to God to save him, so I believe that we cannot do a man a better turn than to discourage him from ever resting upon anything that he can do towards saving himself.” (page 586)
“I know that a great many profess to come to Christ, and I hope that they really do come to him, although they have never felt what some of us experienced when we were under conviction of sin. Well, if they have come to Christ, it is all right, and I am glad; but I am still a believer in the old-fashioned type of conversion, and I do not think that there are many new births without pangs, or that many souls come to Christ without alarms of conscience, and much sorrow of heart because of sin. When I was converted, sinners used to come to Christ this way. They looked by faith at him whom they had pierced by their sins, and mourned for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. I think I have seldom seen a conversion turn out well that had not the foundations of it laid in some measure of abhorrence of sin, and loathing of self, and utter despair of any salvation except by the sovereign grace of God.” (page 586)
“If I were in a state of anxiety about my soul, and I heard such a sermon as this, it would make me feel, ‘Oh, how dependent I am upon the Spirit of God.’ It would compel me to breathe from my inmost soul this prayer, ‘Oh Lord, save me! ‘” (page 586)
(From “Sealing Of The Spirit,” from Volume 22) “… you have a life in you which no one but the Spirit could have given you: of that knowledge and that life you are perfectly conscious; you do not want (NEED, in modern English) to ask anybody else about them … The best seal of a man’s heart must be that of which he is conscious, and about which he needs not appeal to others. Give me a seal that is as sure as my own existence: I fail to see how God himself can give me anything more sure than the gift of his Spirit working knowledge and life in me.” (page 167)
(From “Sincere Seekers Assured Finders,” Volume 61) “Listen with all thine ears when Christ is being talked of, and pray whilst thou are hearing, and say, ‘Lord, bless that message to me.’ Open thy soul to the message; pray the Lord to open it, that thou mayest be like Lydia … ” (page 592)
“Meanwhile (Reference – while seeking advice from “earnest Christians”) take care to be constantly in prayer. Cry unto God to show the way; ask him to do it, for, remember, he can do for thee what thou canst never do for thyself. Understand that thou canst not save thyself – that thou hast no right to be saved – that if saved, it will be his sovereign grace; therefore, cry humbly, but oh! note the value of the blessing thou needest, and therefore pray earnestly. Search the word again and again, and turn each promise into a prayer, and if thou canst get a hold on the edge of a promise, go with it to the mercy-seat and plead it. Grieve not the Holy Spirit by going on with thy old sin. Part with thy old companions; seek the house of God; seek the people of God; addict thyself to holy company and holy spirits; and although I would not put all this together in place of my first word, which was, ‘Believe now – believe now in Christ,’ yet if there be difficulties in the way, they will yield under such an earnest mode of seeking as I have tried to point out to you.” (page 592)
(From “The Poor Man’s Prayer,” Volume 25, THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT)) “We are still more glad when this desire for personal salvation leads a man to prayer, when he begins really to cry out to God on his own account, when he has done with the prayers he used to repeat by rote like a parrot and bursts out with the language of the heart. Though that language may be very broken, or consist only of sighs and tears and groans, it is a happy circumstance … when we find a man praying and praying earnestly, for personal salvation, we feel that this is the finger of God, and our heart is glad within us.” (page 41)
Charles H. Spurgeon is one of the very few preachers of old times, who wore the “Baptist” name, who modern “fundamentalists” like to quote and praise. Several apparent characteristics of the man make him seem uniquely suited for this honor in spite of the foregoing teaching, which is absolutely contradictory to the spirit and essence of their doctrine. He was a “Protestant Baptist,” rather than a “Landmark Baptist.” That is, he appears to have been “universal” in his church views, remained a “Baptist” because of his convictions regarding believer’s baptism, and regarded his denomination simply as the most completely reformed and Biblically correct of all Protestant sects. Among his Calvinistic Baptist brethren in England he alone was friendly enough to D. L. Moody that he was reported to have invited Moody to preach in his pulpit despite apparent differences the man held with the above stated convictions, which are now, if they were not then, very obvious. Dwight L. Moody was and is the chief apostle of modern “fundamentalism” and the deceptive evangelism so prevalent in that movement. Spurgeon was an ever popular figure whose preaching drew thousands to his church. Some of his sermons can be found in which he seems almost to contradict those points so ably made in the foregoing quotes. Therefore, to some readers, he sometimes appears to condone the always instant, prayerless, tearless, easy conversion doctrine of the “fundamentalist” movement. Far be it from me to insinuate that he allowed this for the sake of popularity, but he would be neither the first or last of this kind among the Children of God if it was so. Even so, we prefer a better judgment of his reasons as may be suggested in the following..
As an example of his somewhat contradictory manner (touching an unrelated subject), in chapter thirteen of his auto- biography he undertook “A Defense Of Calvinism.” In the last paragraph of that defense he declared his belief that a person who held to Arminian views could not be as pious, reverent, or devoted to God as one embracing Calvinistic views. In the same message he had previously declared it his opinion that if there were any men this side of the apostles who deserved to be classed with the apostles, they were George Whitefield and John Wesley. Wesley was called by Spurgeon himself “the modern prince of Arminians.” He also declared himself a five-point Calvinist, while in other places he very nearly confessed that the Bible does seem to teach that the will of man is a factor in conversion. It is not, therefore, surprising if his collection of sermons would seem to please modern “fundamentalists” and sound evangelists both at once, or that his sermons would remain as popular after his decease as his preaching was while he lived. To the sincere Christian who cannot embrace the doctrine of unconditional election in past eternity of all who will ultimately be saved, evangelistic methods which produce soul-deception are exceedingly abominable. We are to have no fellowship with this unfruitful work of darkness. Perhaps, if we could believe that no soul would ultimately go to hell because of such evangelistic deception who might have been saved under the influence of a more correct practice, we also might tolerate its practitioners with less difficulty.
Still earlier in the nineteenth century, inspection can be made of Baptist practice as it was in the state of Kentucky. J. H. Spencer gives a narrative of some happenings about the ministry of Elder David L. Mansfield in and about Warren and Logan Counties in Kentucky.
“He rose up, calm and self-possessed, and read for a text these words, ‘Is it well with thee; is it well with the child; is it well with thy husband?’ His solemn appeals, his soul-stirring manner, and his conscience-dealing questions, put to the sinner about his spiritual health, soon caused a great excitement. David preached as long as he could be heard. I don’t think he called for mourners. They came into the altar, of their own accord, and fell down, crying for mercy, till the space was filled – two of my older brothers, I believe, among the rest. I do not know that I ever saw a more powerful time. It seemed that heaven and earth were coming together. I could but look for the preacher that was to follow. He had thrown down his books, and was clapping his hands and rejoicing. There was no more preaching that day. Many professed religion during the day and night.” (The preceding paragraph was an eyewitness account by Granville Mansfield, a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher and natural brother to D. L. Mansfield)
“In the fall of 1832, a revival of great power pervaded the churches of which Mr. Mansfield was pastor. This was before protracted meetings came in vogue, and much of the preaching was done in private houses. Mr. Mansfield devoted himself to the work with great zeal. He preached from house to house, day and night: The revival continued a year, and the zealous young preacher baptized about 300 people. To Providence (Baptist Church), 110 souls were added, during the year. From some of the rude people, the earnest minister met with violent opposition. ‘At the house of Simeon Shaw,’ says the venerable O. H. Morrow, ‘the wife of Sandy Spillman, and two daughters of William Doors, came forward for prayer. The husband and father of these women became enraged, and threatened violence to the person of the preacher, vowing, at the same time, that they would have their women out of the house, if they had to drag them out. Mr. Mansfield replied in a conciliatory manner, that the moon would be up presently, and then they would come out. After some other threats of violence, the men withdrew. Next night, at the house of John Spillman, the outlaws were still more violent in their threats. Knowing that the men were desperadoes, the friends of Mr. Mansfield were alarmed for his safety; and some of them advised him to arm himself for his defense. He replied: THE WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE ARE NOT CARNAL, and added, I WILL PRAY FOR THEM. The following night, while Mr. Mansfield was hitching his horse, Doors approached him, and began to confess his sins, and to beg him to pray for him and Spillman. On his way to the house, he found Spillman on his knees, praying for mercy. Both of the men, the wife, and the two daughters, were baptized a few days afterwards.'” (page 262, Volume 2, A HISTORY OF KENTUCKY BAPTISTS, by J. H. Spencer)
Spencer also does us a favor by allowing us a view of activity among Baptists at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
“The great revival among the Baptists, so far as history records the facts, began on the northern border of the state. Its first appearance was at the mouth of the Kentucky River, where was built the village of Port William (now Carrollton). This was a union meeting, the only one of which we are informed, that the Baptists engaged in during the revival. The Baptists were probably most prominent, but there were Methodists enough present to make the meetings noisy. John Taylor was present at one of the meetings, ‘very early in the spring of 1800.’ It was at the house of Benjamin Craig, a brother of the famous Lewis Craig. ‘From the dullness of my feelings,’ says Mr. Taylor, ‘I took the text: LORD HELP ME.’ After preaching, ‘they continued in prayer, praise and exhortation, with much noise at times, till late in the night. Some were rejoicing, having lately obtained deliverance, others were groaning in tears. Many people tarried all night to talk with me. I never heard the question: WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED? more prevalent in my life. A number of them neither lay down nor slept during the night. About sunrise next morning, I took my leave of this blessed company of young disciples. I had no desire to use food that day. I rode on with pensive reflection, calling up in mind past days, when I had hoped the candle of the Lord shone on me. But by the multiplicity of the business of this little world, my affections had been stolen off from the Lord. My eyes would not only swim, but overflow with tears, as I rode along by myself.’
Mr. Taylor was on his way to what is now Trimble County. It was a new settlement. Being detained there several days on business, he held three nights meeting in the cabins of the settlers. In these meetings he saw ‘some buddings of a revival.’ Out of these `buddings’ grew Corn Creek church, before the year closed. From this place he went with a burdened soul to Clear Creek in Woodford county. Here he preached with ‘great heart yearning for his old neighbors.’ That day he sowed in tears, and the harvest was plentiful.'” (page 536, Volume 1, Spencer)
Kentucky was the initial gateway of the Baptists to the West. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, northern and central Kentucky served as a center for Baptist immigration, revival, and subsequent emigration to other areas of the South, North, and West. The following account is considered significant for at least two reasons. It confirms the manner of evangelism used among Baptists in pioneer Kentucky, and it implies sanction of such old-fashioned practices by Baptists of Missouri in 1882, from whose history it has been extracted.
In 1873, Elder Noah Flood lay on his death bed in Columbia, Missouri and gave the following account of his conversion: “‘About the year 1824 there was a great religious awakening throughout that portion of Kentucky, when I was led to serious reflection upon the condition of my soul, and had I been under the instruction of modern revivalists, doubtless then would I have been induced to join the church; but it was the custom then for those seeking membership in the church to relate their Christian experience and to tell of the work of grace upon their hearts, and the churches were very careful to ascertain, if possible, if God had produced a new creation before persons were invited to membership. The venerable Abram Cook was then the religious teacher of that part of the country and he was careful that I should make no mistake. I thought much upon the subject until about the year 1828, when I felt that it was my duty and privilege to unite with God’s people.’ In July of that year he united with Six Mile (now Christianburg) Baptist Church, Shelby County, Kentucky.” (page 364, A HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS IN MISSOURI, by Robert Samuel Duncan)
In the preceding account we can also see the old preacher’s expression of concern and dislike for the then modern trends among evangelists. This testimony was given at a time when the popular mass evangelism, which has proved to be one of the curses of the twentieth century, was in its beginnings.
Moving eastward to South Carolina and back into the late eighteenth century we find recorded, “… in 1790 in Welsh Neck, a revival took place under Mr. Botsford’s ministry. The movement was initiated and promoted by Monday evening monthly meetings in prayer to God for revival. Of one of these Mr. Botsford says, ‘It was a day of great things … A blessed work is begun … several are converted – a great number under conviction – children crying out, what must we do to be saved? Old gray-headed hardened sinners are bowed down … I have lately been from house to house praying, exhorting, and preaching ten times a week …'” (page 71, SOUTH CAROLINA BAPTISTS, by Leah Townsend)
The belief that sinners under conviction of sin by the gospel would be a humbled and mourning people, often bowed down before God, seeking His conversion power, is illustrated in this brief ancient account. (While such activity was a normal and natural reaction to gospel conviction, never did they teach people that any particular bodily activity was essential to the salvation of any individual soul; such has been a common misunderstanding among outsiders.) This expectation was once universally held among Baptists, as also was the expectation that every true believer could readily tell a credible account of the inward workings of the Holy Spirit in the bringing about of his or her conversion. Of the practice or requiring such a testimony we have from Leah Townsend’s book an account of a careless and deceitful pastor who plagued the Welsh Neck church from 1776 to 1779.
“Converts were numbered by the hundreds during his ministry, in the last year of which he baptized two hundred and forty persons into the membership of the church. (page 69, Townsend)
His successor at Welsh Neck Baptist Church, upon whom the lot fell to clean up this unholy mess, Mr. Edmund Botsford, and under whose ministry a true revival later occurred, as has already been accounted, wrote the following in the church record:
“A great many of those baptized by Mr. Winchester have been excommunicated, both white and black; but the greater number of blacks. Many of the latter upon examination appeared to be very ignorant of the nature of true religion.” … “In 1791 the church appointed a committee of white members to hear the religious experience of the negroes and to settle any matters among them.” (page256, Townsend)Leah Townsend suggests from this account, “… as Mr. Winchester later preached universal salvation in Philadelphia, it has been assumed that his carelessness in inquiring into the religious experiences of his converts was due to his having dropped from his creed the principle of election.” (page 69, Townsend) (This assumption conveys the once common but erring supposition among rigid Calvinists that the doctrine of God’s conditional election in time was essentially equal to no “doctrine of election” at all. Thus it was suspected that all who did not embrace their doctrine of “unconditional election” by God in past eternity tended toward omitting insistence upon experimental knowledge of conversion. While this is easily proven a false supposition in the experience and ministry of many so-called “Arminians,” Mr. Winchester’s doctrine may have truly been an early manifestation of this aberration of free-will which notoriously denies essential spiritual experience – precisely what we are condemning in this work. His later heresies would tend to indicate some such inclination, if not his problem to have been a lack of regeneration of his own spirit.)
In the introduction of her book, written in the early 1900’s, Ms. Townsend made the following statement about Baptists in general: “The Baptists claim that baptism, as authorized by the Scriptures, must be by immersion only, and if carried out according to Scriptural prescription, the sacrament must be administered to regenerate persons only, that is, to those who have experienced the consciousness of personal salvation through Christ.” (page 1, Town-send) According to the Welsh Neck Baptist Church record as examined by Leah Townsend, that church in the 1760’s showed “sympathetic consideration for the shy and sensitive souls among them in their decision to allow persons who found it difficult to give their religious experience before the whole congregation to ‘relate it to the minister and a few others and have them relate it to the church.'” (pages 71 & 76) Here we can clearly see the pains taken to verify a genuine conversion in all prospective members by early Baptists. Such effort would hardly be thought of under the practice of modern “fundamental Baptists,” among whom all who walk to the front or kneel at an altar, in response to an evangelistic “invitation,” are presumed to be converted, without so much as a word from any of them giving account of the inner workings of the Holy Spirit upon their souls.
The Sugar Creek Baptist Church in South Carolina, which had seven black people in its membership had in its church record in the early 1800’s that “twice the church heard the experience of a ‘negroe woman’ and pronounced it unsatisfactory. “(p. 259, Townsend) Far it would be from many “churches” today to reject a professor of faith on the basis of an unsatisfactory conversion experience. The loving and sympathetic attitude of the Welsh Neck Baptists caused them to give their illiterate black brothers and sisters special consideration in the appointing of a committee to hear their conversion experiences in a less stressful setting than a public assembly. This slight departure from the tradition of the times was made for the benefit of children of God who found it difficult to communicate the feelings of their hearts in public. Nevertheless, such an unusual procedure in no degree diminished requirements for such examination.
All of the pioneer Baptists of North Carolina were of the same persuasion as those Baptists thus far mentioned. We have some very clear passages from the pages of history to document this fact. There were in this period two factions of Baptists, but they were well agreed upon their doctrines and practices regarding salvation of the soul. When Shubael Stearns and his Separate Baptist congregation arrived in North Carolina in 1755 and began to preach to the inhabitants, the following is recorded of their reaction:
“The inhabitants about this little colony, though brought up in the Christian religion (Episcopal), were grossly ignorant of its essential principles. They possessed the form without the power of godliness; consequently, Stearns and his party brought strange things to their ears.
The doctrine of the new birth, as insisted on by these zealous advocates for evangelical religion, they could not comprehend. Having always supposed that religion consisted in nothing more than the practice of its outward duties, they could not comprehend how that it should be necessary to FEEL CONVICTION AND CONVERSION; and to be able to ascertain the time and place of one’s conversion, was in their estimation wonderful indeed. These points were strenuously contended for by these new preachers.” (page 46, A HISTORY OF THE SANDY CREEK BAPTIST ASSOCIA- TION, by George Purefoy, taken from David Benedict’s GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST DENOMINATION, and also recorded on page 15 of Robert B. Semple’s HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS OF VIRGINIA)
It should be noted that the Separate Baptists were the most effective group in spreading the faith to other regions. Their evangel- ism covered most of Virginia as well as North and South Carolina and Georgia. From these places the results of the revival among them extended into the western states across the mountains.
We also have some clear statements regarding the practice of Regular Baptists of this region in the early years.
(in 1802) “The ministers used frequently, at the close of worship, to sing a spiritual song, suited for the occasion, and go through the congregation, and shake hands with the people while singing.
The ministers usually, at the close of preaching, would tell the congregation that if there were any persons who felt themselves lost and condemned under the guilt and burden of their sins, if they would come near the stage and kneel down, they would pray for them …. The act of coming to be prayed for in this manner had a good effect.”(page 50, Purefoy, taken from Burkitt’s and Read’s HISTORY OF THE KEHUKEE ASSOCIATION, page 145)
Another North Carolina author confirms the Baptist practice concerning dealing with lost souls in that period at the beginning of the nineteenth century along with some interesting comments in the following language:
“It may not be out of place to observe what revival measures were then employed, and how such meetings were conducted. At the close of his sermon, the minister would come down from the pulpit and while singing a suitable hymn would go around among the brethren shaking hands. The hymn being sung, he would then extend an invitation to such persons as felt themselves to be poor guilty sinners, and were anxiously enquiring the way of salvation, to come forward and kneel near the stand, or, if they preferred to do so, they could kneel at their seats, proffering to unite with them in prayer for their conversion. After prayer, singing, and exhortation, prolonged according to circumstances, the congregation would be dismissed to meet again at night at the meeting house or at some private residence, either for preaching or in the capacity of a prayer- meeting. They held afternoon or night meetings during the week, or several nights during the week. In these night meetings there would occasionally be preaching, but generally they were only for prayer, praise and exhortation, and direct personal conversation with those who might be concerned about their soul’s salvation. In seasons of religious awakening, large crowds would attend these meetings, which were blessed in the conversion of many souls. It was not uncommon for the brethren, and especially the sisters, to give expression to their feelings in outbursts of joy and praise; but it appears that they were free from those wild and fantastic exercises which prevailed in many other places. It seems that protracted meetings as now held, and what is termed the anxious seat system, did not come into use at Grassy Creek till about 1825 or ’30. I would remark in passing, that after a careful examination of the church records running back more than a hundred and ten years, and from an intimate relation with it as pastor for nearly thirty, I am convinced that as large a proportion of the converts, that have united with the church under the present revival measures, which have been practiced for more than fifty years, are as consistent church-members and as faithful in maintaining an exemplary Christian character, as those did before the anxious seat system was employed. The anxious seat, like everything else that is good, is liable to abuse, but that is not a sufficient reason why its prudent use should be abandoned.” (pages 69 & 70, THE HISTORY OF GRASSY CREEK BAPTISTCHURCH, by Robert I. Devin)
It may be observed by the thoughtful reader that there is no essential difference between the former and latter practices mentioned by Mr. Devin. Whether seeking souls kneel for prayer in front of the pulpit, or at a designated pew, or at the one on which they have been sitting, or they sit earnestly in prayer upon the so-called “anxious seat,” or “mourners bench” as many have preferred to call it, there is no consequential difference. In either case the person is seeking forgiveness and relief directly from God by calling upon God, whether audibly or silently, and waiting anxiously for God at his pleasure to do His work of grace in their hearts. The anxious seat was popularized by Charles Finney, whose ministry began about 1825. Several opponents of any such “invitations” have insisted that all methods of calling lost sinners to prayer for their own salvation originated with Charles Finney’s revivalism. According to Devin, even the “anxious seat system” credited to Finney was in use at Grassy Creek in North Carolina at the approximate time of Finney’s conversion to Christ in New York. It is far more evident that some practice of calling lost sinners to prayer was in common use for many years previous to this time. It may also be observed that these Baptists who so practiced consisted, in the majority, of adherents to the theology of Calvinism, and it is as obvious that they in no way allowed that Calvinism to prevent them from appealing to lost sinners to seek God in prayer while being prayed for by the saints. There are a number of churches in existence today who boast that they are maintaining the practice of old by holding to rigid Calvinism who also scorn any practice of lost sinners praying and seeking God. Others scorn the use of any call to prayer directed to lost sinners in a public setting. These falsely believe that they are standing for the ancient Baptist faith by omitting all “altar calls.” We are free, however, to confess that the use of some type of “altar call” is not essential to the life of a Biblical church provided a proper invitation for sinners to come by the Holy Spirit directly to Christ is made in their evangelism. They must, however, teach correctly concerning gospel requirements for salvation, and restrict baptism and church membership to those who give proper evidence of regeneration.
Many, if not most, Baptist churches that still retain sound teaching and practice, maintain a practice regarding invitations to lost sinners more nearly aligned with the former practice of Grassy Creek Church than with its latter practice as indicated by Mr. Devin. Most of our churches, characteristically, take great pains to instruct people that the altar call is no more than an invitation to pray God for Divine assistance with which to answer His demands for repentance and faith. Some of our churches set aside a special bench at which sinners may kneel and pray, while others do not. It is well understood that any place or position in which the heart is totally humbled before God, and by his grace and power fully repents from sin, and trustingly asks God for mercy and forgiveness, is as good as any other in which to be saved. It is also believed that God’s “house of prayer” is not a building made with hands but may be, rather, any place where God’s praying people are gathered so as to form a spiritual sanctuary for the poor troubled lost soul. Thus it is that the virtue of any “altar call” is found solely in the value of lost sinners “calling upon the name of the Lord” in the midst of God’s “house of prayer.” So it is understood by all sound Baptists. It is well understood that men must anxiously and prayerfully wait upon God until His Holy Spirit has performed the complete work of regeneration upon their spirits. So important is this “tarrying” that that lack of understanding regarding its necessity will usually render any method of inviting lost sinners void in its proper effects. It is failure to understand the need of prayer and of anxiously and prayerfully waiting upon God that has caused most abuses of the “altar call.” Charles Finney was one of the first well-known characters to depart from the teaching and practice of awaiting God’s time in conversion. He used the bench in a more streamlined manner than his predecessors in “revivals.” Finney’s “anxious seat” was more a place for him to exhort sinners than a place for them to pray. D. L. Moody and his generation graduated to the “inquiry room,” where emphasis was still stronger on instruction by men rather than, as formerly, upon prayer to God and resulting instructions directly from Him. Billy Sunday and his generation graduated to the “sawdust trail” and a handshake, where the emphasis was on man’s decision alone, and prayer and immediate Divine action were forgotten. Meanwhile, in some localities where the bench was retained, a gross ignorance regarding the original purpose of the method overtook the minds of the people such that the bench and the practice of its use became an idol. In such places the impression seemed to be upon the minds of all of the people that all one must do to be saved was “go to the altar.” In all such places it is common to hear the final step of salvation expressed as “going up” or “going forward” instead of the experience of a Divine operation within the heart. It seems to be presumed by everyone in such places that everyone who responds to an “altar call” automatically gets saved. We thank God for sparing us such error!
So universally was the examination of one’s experience a requirement among Baptists that by this trait we find them contrasted in history with “Disciples of Christ” (often called Campbellites).
“The Baptists require of all candidates for admission into their churches the relation of what they term ‘Christian experience.’ That is, they require a statement in evidence of the power of truth in which belief as has been avowed has had upon the heart, as an indispensable condition to baptism. The Disciples oppose this as unscriptural …” (page 504, RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD, Gay Brothers)
Perhaps there is no sect of religion whose historians supply so much detailed evidence as to what extent Baptists were long champions of the doctrine that spiritual experience is necessary to true Christian religion as those Campbellite sects known as “Disciples of Christ,” “Christian Churches,” or “Churches of Christ.” Until recent times, adherents to their system of doctrines, who now comprise two major denominations, were the primary antagonists of this belief, this difference having always been the greatest cause of division between them and Baptists. We will allow them to describe the Baptists at length.
When Alexander Campbell was baptized, along with others of his church by Baptist Elder Mathias Luce in the early part of the nineteenth century, it happened in the following manner. “Alexander had stipulated with Elder Luce that the ceremony should be performed precisely according to the pattern given in the New Testament, and that, as there was no account of any of the first converts being called upon to give what is called ‘a religious experience,’ this modern custom should be omitted, and that the candidates should be admitted on the simple confession that ‘Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ These points he had fully discussed with Luce during the evening spent at his house when he first went up to request his attendance, and they had been arranged as he desired. Elder Luce had, indeed, at first objected to these changes, as being contrary to Baptist usage, but finally consented, remarking that he believed they were right, and he would run the risk of censure.” (page 193, CHURCH FALLING AWAY AND RESTORATION, by J. W. Shepherd) Certainly Mr. Campbell must have been a brilliant and persuasive man. He was very successful at subverting weak Baptists on this point, and by so doing he gained the main strength of his early movement. Elder Luce and many of his contemporary Baptist brethren evidently swallowed the idea Mr. Campbell set forth that there existed a contradiction between Baptist methods and New Testament scripture. They apparently did not understand WHY the “experience” was required by Baptists before Mr. Campbell assaulted their minds with his arguments that this practice was unscriptural. Evidently he did not have such an experience or he surely would not have made the destruction of this practice his life’s work. What IS Scriptural is the practice of maintaining a regenerated church membership. THIS the Baptists did. Campbell and his followers did not. Campbell’s error is found in his assumption that the confession, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” was to always remain as good a test of conversion as it was for the first century converts. It did not. Even the latest New Testament writer, the Apostle John, had seen enough change that he greatly emphasized spiritual experience as attendant to and an essential part of that faith which brings salvation. John knew that such faith as was obtained solely by man’s teaching, though conducive to true religion, did not bring salvation until the experience of the Holy Spirit’s workings had created saving faith in the human heart. What better “fruit worthy of repentance” could have been required of the first Jewish converts, the Ethiopian eunuch, and others of their generation than their bold and confident declaration that Jesus was the Son of God? They had no incentive to make any such confession other than the fact they had been thoroughly convinced in their hearts by the power of God. After Christianity had become established in certain societies so well that children were taught from the cradle that such was the true report of Jesus, the incentive changed. This important fact is the reason for Baptists requiring a testimony of such spiritual experience as John repeatedly emphasized in his gospel by using many narratives of Jesus teaching comparisons such as the birth from above, the fountain of life within, spiritual resurrection, etc. This excellent screen has been used by the Baptists and sometimes advocated by other spiritual groups for generations, perhaps from the first century in some places. Mr. Campbell missed this spiritual analysis of the practice in his desire to justify as saved men those who outwardly believed, but upon whom God had not savingly operated. Many today are missing it also for the same reason.
The gross error of applying Holy scripture without the help of the Living Holy Spirit to update that application to present needs was also a tendency of another leader of the early “Restoration” movement, of which Alexander Campbell stands out as the primary founder. Barton W. Stone began his ministry as a Presbyterian but soon left that denomination with many followers in search of a more thorough reformation of Christian religion. While yet a child Barton Stone was influenced by the Baptists in Virginia.
“Young Stone was constant in his attendance, and was particularly interested in hearing converts relate their experiences. Of their conviction and great distress they were very particular in giving account, and how and when they obtained deliverance from their burdens. Some were delivered by a dream, a vision, or some uncommon appearance of light; others by a voice spoken to them – ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ and others by seeing the Savior with their natural eyes. Such experiences were considered good by the church, and those relating such were baptized and received into full fellowship.” (page 154, Shepherd) Although Mr. Shepherds’s account of Mr. Stone’s testimony seems as typically exaggerated as usual when Campbellites try to describe Baptist experience-telling, in his account is clear evidence that this was the practice of Virginia Baptists in the late eighteenth century. Of Barton Stone’s own conversion experience we have the following account: “In accordance with the popular belief, and the experience of the pious in those days, he anticipated a long and painful struggle before he should be prepared to come to Christ, or, in the language of that day, before he should ‘get religion.’ This anticipation was fully realized …” (page 156, Shepherd) Barton W. Stone had such an experience, so he once testified, having obtained such a deliverance as Baptists commonly experienced. It seems incredible that this apparently genuinely converted man could later ally himself and his followers with Alexander Campbell, who ever ridiculed the necessity of such a conversion experience. Perhaps this unsettled preacher who was instrumental in the beginnings of the famous Cane Ridge, Kentucky camp meeting revival became disillusioned because of some of the excesses and apparent hypocrisy which resulted from the camp meetings. His tendency to misapply Holy Scriptures is apparent from his impulsive actions related to us by Mr. Shepherd.
“… at a great meeting at Concord, when mourners were daily invited to collect around for prayer, as was their custom then, and many persons were prayed for without receiving the expected comfort, the words of Peter rolled through Stone’s mind – ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ – and he thought, ‘Were Peter here he would thus address these mourners.’ So he quickly arose and addressed them in the same language and urged them to comply with his demand. The effect, however, was the reverse of what he intended. Instead of comforting the mourners, it only perplexed and confused them by directing them to an untried course of procedure utterly unknown to ‘revivals,’ and for which they were wholly unprepared. ‘While their hearts were filled with ardent desires for special operations of the Holy Spirit and of fire, this unexpected presentation produced a chilling effect, and tended to cool the ardor of their excited imagination.'” (pages 169 & 170, Shepherd)
It is sad that Mr. Stone could not conclude some years later that the chilling effect was due to the fact that his misplaced verse of scripture had offended the Holy Spirit as well as the people. Had he humbled himself to such an admission perhaps he would not have gone with his followers into the ranks of the Campbells’ movement.
We are able to see from such accounts what expectations characterized the whole camp meeting era, whether the participants were Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist or a mixture of all. Presbyterians who believed and practiced such things must have moved somewhat toward the “experimentalism” which Baptists always held, and upon which the Methodist movement had been recently founded. Often the extravagant activities of these meetings, which frequently went beyond the leadership of the Holy Spirit, disturbed the more stable Baptists who, while desiring restraint of wild actions, taught the true facts regarding Spiritual experience and accompanying manifestations long before the others. If we correctly regard Anabaptists and Waldenses as spiritual ancestors of Baptists, this sect zealously guarded and preserved the principle of experimental knowledge for centuries before other sects participating in the camp meeting fervor had an existence.
The same “chilling effect” learned by Barton Stone was also experienced by Walter Scott, another leader of the “Restoration Movement” in its early years, when he first gave his invitation before a congregation which Mr. Shepherd only reveals was “outside the bounds of Mahoning Association” for “anyone so disposed to come forward, confess his faith in Christ and be baptized for the remission of sins;” No one came. Shepherd further commented, “To his audience this was like the proclamation of a new religion, so different did it seem from the orthodoxy of the day. They regarded him as an amiable but deluded enthusiast, and looked upon him with wonder, pity, and even scorn. This result was not unexpected, for the whole community was filled with the idea that something supernatural had to occur before anyone could become a fit subject for baptism.” (page 238, Shepherd) Why Mr. Shepherd did not reveal the location of this “community” and the denomination of the church is unknown. It seems very likely that it was a solid Baptist community. Perhaps it was within bounds of the nearby Redstone Baptist Association, from which Campbell and Scott fled to the Mahoning Baptist Association in eastern Ohio, where this same doctrine was received and the whole association was subverted.
Another major promoter of Campbellism was John Smith, who had been a Baptist preacher in Kentucky before his encounter with Alexander Campbell and his subsequent conversion to the views of his “Restoration Movement.” Mr. Smith was converted to Christ according to the following account: “Finally, after a night spent in agonizing prayer, his heart seemed to throw of its burden and he was happy.” (page 212, Shepherd)
Perhaps John Smith’s problem with the Baptists was that, while he desired to preach, he did not possess the usual vivid divine call they required. “It was regarded as an almost unpardonable act of presumption to stand before the people as an expounder of the Scriptures without a supernatural call, and yet he was without evidence of such a call to preach the gospel.” (page 213, Shepherd) Another problem John Smith had was his Arminian tendencies amidst Kentucky Baptists leaning hard toward rigid Calvinism. Campbell, being “freewill” in his views, was unfortunately attractive to Baptists who felt abused by that sad extreme of Calvinism from which the Baptists of America had yet to rebound. Many of them crossed over to this new movement never to return. So it was with John Smith. We have an account of Smith’s convictions when he first met Campbell. Although he had been favorably impressed with Campbell’s periodical, “Christian Baptist,” his conversation with a fellow Baptist who was apparently enthralled with Campbell at the time, William Vaughn, reveals that Smith’s Baptist convictions somewhat doubted Campbell’s conversion at first. Evidently, Alexander Campbell was later able to persuade him away from these Baptist convictions in the same manner as he had persuaded Mathias Luce. That conversation between Mr. Vaughn and Mr. Smith is related as follows: (page 218, Shepherd)
Vaughn – “Brother John, have you met Brother
Smith – “No, sir, I have not. Have you seen him?
Vaughn – “Why, I have been with him for eight
days and nights through Mason and
and Bracken Counties, and have heard
him every day.”
Smith – “…. but tell me, Brother Vaughn, does
does he know anything about heartfelt
Vaughn – “Lord bless you, he is one of the most
pious, godly men that I was ever
in company with in all my life.”
Smith – “But do you think he knows anything
about a Christian experience?”
Vaughn – “Bless you – he knows everything.
Come, I want to introduce you to
Assuming the accuracy of this account, we can see the expected concern of John Smith regarding Alexander Campbell’s apparent lack of “heartfelt religion” and “Christian experience.” Surely, Campbell must have been able to persuade him that these two possessions were not essential to salvation, or at least that they were not prerequisites to baptism, since he afterward became a zealous promoter and preacher in Campbell’s restoration movement. “So fruitful were his labors that within a short period of six months he was able to report seven hundred conversions and five new churches organized.” How normal it is for those who omit the requirement of a Spiritual conversion to multiply many times over the numbers of their successes in soul-winning! Tragically, most souls thus “won” remain lost in sin while being deceived into thinking they are saved.
When action finally came from concerned Baptists to stop the growing threat of Campbellism, which was subverting many churches, Baptist leaders tried to expose the heresy to fellow Baptists who were likely to be confused or deceived by the apparently Biblical quality of the new doctrine, and to show the shallowness and superficial nature of it.
“The Russell Creek and South Concord Associations took action against ‘Campbellite Heresy,’ the latter passing a resolution to lock their doors against the followers of Alexander Campbell who deny the agency of the Spirit.” (page 228, Shepherd) Obviously, the staunch Baptists of that time were not so much concerned about the teaching of baptism essential to salvation, or the Arminian tendencies, or the non-denominational character of the Campbellites, as about the supremely important fact that they denied “the agency of the Spirit” in the work of converting souls to Christ.
These important accounts by Mr. Shepherd are appreciated. The Baptist position on spiritual experience in the first half of the nineteenth century, and their resulting practice in evangelism at that time, would be much more obscured had not he and his brethren so diligently recorded it from the point of view of the “Restorationists,” whose diligent purpose was to overthrow it. Certainly no claim of bias in favor of the Baptists could be successfully made against the evidence here presented.
Let the man himself, Alexander Campbell, also bear witness of typical Baptist evangelism as it was practiced near the end of the second great awakening in America.
“Next to the empty and deceitful philosophy on the subject of regeneration, wholly inoperative and ineffectual of good to saint or sinner, comes, from the same metaphysical cloisters, the absorbing theme of something called ‘CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.’
We never doubted nor denied CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE. But in this case as in the former, in our benevolent endeavors to correct the diction and the palpable errors everywhere canonized on this subject, we are obliged to take exception to the MISAPPROPRI- ATION of the term ‘CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE’ to the states of mind occurring or existing antecedent to faith, repentance, and baptism. This was formerly almost universal in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, – indeed, in all the fields of my early labors among the Baptist brotherhood.
On my first visit to Dover Association, Virginia, A.D. 1828, I witnessed scenes of the wildest enthusiasm ever witnessed by me in any camp-meeting. There were ‘the mourners,’ ‘the seekers for religion,’ ‘the screaming penitents,’ ‘coming up to be prayed for,’ ‘relating their Christian experience.’ Elder Carr of Richmond, and Elder Jeremiah B. Jeter, were contributing their smiles and exhortations. And there were Bishop Semple, and Bishop Broaddus, &c.&c., all concurring in the scenes transpiring, so far as I could judge.
The candidates for baptism in those days, when presenting themselves for baptism, occasionally related strange SIGHTS, marvelous SCENES, irrepressible EMOTIONS, but they generally ended in ‘getting religion;’ and such was the relation of their ‘CHRISTIAN experience.’ The head and front of my offending consisted in remonstrating against this wild enthusiasm. It had this extent, no more. It was, indeed, not peculiar to the Dover Association, nor to any other association in Virginia, Kentucky, or over the great West or South, to have from every candidate for baptism, a RELATION OF HIS FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, on which a vote of approbation was taken to entitle him to Christian baptism. I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF EVER HEARING A SINGLE CONFESSION OF CHRISTIAN FAITH OR OF A BELIEF OF THE GOSPEL FROM ANY CANDIDATE AMONG VIRGINIA BAPTISTS IN ORDER TO BAPTISM. The candidate was baptized INTO HIS OWN EXPERIENCE, rather than the Christian faith, as I understand it.
In calling these customs into question, we, in their view, denied Christian experience! All the appreciable difference indeed between the Virginia, Kentucky, Southwestern Baptists, and the adult Methodists or Congregationalists of those days, was, the former were IMMERSED, the latter SPRINKLED, ‘IN THE NAME OF FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST.’
True, they differed in ecclesiastic politics, tactics, and economics. But in no one grand, distinctive, characteristic doctrine, or Christian practice, did they differ; and in no special reverence or regard for the apostolic institutions. In these respects the Virginia and Kentucky Baptists in those days were greatly excelled by the Scotch and some of the English and Welsh Baptists, especially in their zeal for primitive Christianity, and in their more profound piety and consecration to the Redeemer’s cause and glory.
While, then, we cannot approve the equivocal and temporizing course adopted by Mr. Jeter on the subject of Christian experience before conversion, which he himself and his brethren formerly demanded or inquired for as a passport to baptism, we cannot but congratulate the denomination on the felicitous change which has already come over it in this and some other respects – so that considerable numbers (as the report has reached us) are now being substantially baptized INTO THE FAITH of the person, office, and character of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alarmed at the prospects in his horizon, and eager to become a ‘heroic defender of the faith,’ Mr. Jeter, with characteristic zeal, has unsheathed his polemic sword, and, with clarion sounds, has in two consecutive volumes twice killed an appalling hydra of his own creation nicknamed ‘Campbellism.'” (Bethany, Virginia, 1857, from the “Introduction” of REVIEW OF”CAMPBELLISM EXAMINED” by Moses E. Lard) Thank you Mr. Campbell, not for the sarcastic criticism of our most holy faith and practice, but for the outstanding confirmation of these facts of Baptist history.
A number of relevant and interesting points beg to be made from this information. Campbell’s usual style of ridiculing improper use of WORDS, and of boasting his superior intellect thereby, while belittling his opponent in debate, is here shown in classic example. The term “Christian experience,” later more commonly called “con- version experience” or “salvation experience,” was intended, by Baptists and others who used it, to mean their individual spiritual experience of becoming a Christian. Campbell knew this, but he always despised the doctrine of such a conscious but supernatural conversion. He equally despised the emotional manifestations which people under the strong influences of the convicting and regenerating Holy Spirit often demonstrated. He would have reproved such “wild enthusiasm” and instructed the participants that the Bible allowed for no such emotion. He would, no doubt, likewise have reproved the men of Nineveh for their actions following the preaching of Jonah had he been there. Today there are many preachers who call themselves “Baptist” who hold a very similar prejudice against spiritual experience, and conscious awareness thereof, as important parts of a true conversion experience, and scorn the quite normal manifestations which often accompany such experiences. Campbell was rejoicing in the report that some American Baptist churches had already, in 1857, done away with this practice he held to be mystical and metaphysical foolishness. He commended the Scotch Baptists and “some” of the English and Welsh Baptists for not participating in this practice which he held to be a departure from apostolic simplicity. There is considerable evidence that “Scotch Baptists,” or at least many of them, did indeed have their rise from quite another source than most English, Welsh, and American Baptists and did retain quite a bias against emotional and spiritual evidence in religion. It is interesting that Mr. Campbell failed to mention the fact that certain factions of the Presbyterians in considerable numbers ALSO embraced the experimental religion he so passionately hated, through the influence, no doubt, of the great awakening revivals in America. That was not the case with the old world Scotch Presbyterians whence Alexander and his father came and brought with them his peculiar contempt for of the work of the Holy Spirit. While he gave up many of the carnal and outward traditions of his youth, he clung tenaciously to the anti-emotional prejudice for which Presbyterians were noted. We have much circumstantial evidence presented in this work which would point to the Reformed and Presbyterian sects as the most likely channel of the heresy we identify as “Moodyism,” often identified as “fundamentalism” in reference to evangelistic practice. It is certain that they had it, held it, and continually gravitated toward it each time experimental religion invaded their ranks, long before it was a fixture in any appreciable number of Baptist churches, except perhaps, in Alexander’s beloved Scotland.
Alexander Campbell has done us a favor by leaving such a clear picture of the evangelism of all American Baptists and most prevalent Protestants at that point in American history when the nation was amazing the whole world with its meteoric rise to great- ness. No one could have done it as well as he has done. It is certain that no one could honestly accuse him of prejudice in our favor, or of any bias against these “fundamental Baptists,” whose spirit and modern practice he would more nearly approve.
Forasmuch as our subject for this entire work is the “fundamental error” of the modern “fundamentalist” movement, though they share the substance of it in common with Campbell’s restorationists, we must leave for now the testimonies of that people regarding the practices of early Baptists. Surely those already given are more than enough.
In the event that anyone should decide that the Baptist’s emphasis on spiritual experience was an American innovation and merely a result of the revivals of the two great awakenings and the camp meeting fever, the following is offered regarding English Baptists of the late nineteenth century:
“They differ from others in holding that no person is, on any pretense, or for any reason, to be admitted into the membership in the visible church until they have professed regeneration. Until this is claimed, and satisfactory evidence given, they will not administer the ordinance of baptism.” (page 407, RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD,Gay Brothers) This evidence is in perfect accord with that before quoted from C. H. Spurgeon, a preacher of distinction among them in that period. The statement, “they differ from others,” on this point indicated that Baptists were alone among the denominations in England in their insistence upon an entirely regenerated member- ship. This point, along with immersion of those regenerated, most clearly distinguishes and locates the true churches of Jesus Christ on the pages of history. Infant baptism among all early Protestants, Puritan “half-way covenants” (page 3, THE GREAT AWAKENING IN VIRGINIA, 1740-1790: by Wesley M. Gewehr), Methodist mixed societies (page 42, OUT OF ALDERSGATE by W. T. Watkins), and other such inventions of human devising, forever kept other “evangelical” sects including as church members, in considerable part, unregenerated people. Baptists alone made every effort to keep the unsaved from receiving baptism and being counted as members of their churches. Because of this practice and steadfast insistence upon it, they have always been reproached and abused with the false accusation that they shut out those who might otherwise be saved. No accusation could be farther from the truth.
Any account of English Baptists would be incomplete without a word from John Bunyan, that most famous of Baptist writers in the esteem of the rest of the world. Truly Bunyan was somewhat unusual in his views among the English Baptists in favoring open communion with Protestants who were never immersed. He seems to have been a “Protestant Baptist,” always regarding himself as Protestant while embracing Baptist opinion that immersion in water of a true penitent believer is the only valid baptism. He was, however, in his own time among a minority in this openness. We are informed that English Baptists in more recent times have largely adopted Bunyan’s liberal views toward other denominations. (See editor’s note, page 618, Volume 2, THE WORKS OF JOHN BUNYAN ) Be that as it may, Bunyan was far from liberal or unorthodox on any of the matters of the Holy Spirit and the human heart as always held by Baptists, even until this present day. This man appears to have had few peers regarding his combination of profound understanding of matters of the Spirit, and his superb writing ability. It may be that his noted gifts caused a more than usual desire in his contemporary Baptist brethren to overlook his looser church views, which, it is feared, have not profited English Baptists in this century of great apostasy. Perhaps no spiritual writer has ever done more to advance the truths of conscious experience with The Holy Spirit, since the Apostle John, than has Brother John Bunyan, seventeenth century English Baptist preacher.Some examples of his writing follow.
“A broken-hearted sinner, a sinner with a contrite spirit, is of more esteem with God than is either heaven or earth. “(page 690, Volume 1, THE WORKS OF JOHN BUNYAN, edited by George Offor)
“… none understand what communion with him and what his teachings mean but such as are of a broken and contrite heart.” (page 691, Volume 1, Bunyan)
“… physicians are men of no esteem but with them that feel their sickness.” (page 691, Volume 1, Bunyan)
“No man can break the heart with the word … that is, if God forbears to second it by mighty power from heaven.” (page 693, Volume 1, Bunyan )
“…though the word be the instrument, yet of itself doth do no saving good to the soul; the heart is not broken, nor the spirit made contrite thereby; it only worketh death, and leaveth men in the chains of their sins, still faster bound over to eternal condemnation.” (page 694, Volume 1, Bunyan)
“A broken-hearted man, such as is intended in this text, is a sensible man; he is brought to the exercise of all the senses of the soul. All others are dead, senseless, and without true feeling of what the broken-hearted man is sensible of.” (page 696, Volume1, Bunyan) “Come, come, conversion to God is not so easy and so smooth a thing as some would have men believe it is. Why is man’s heart compared to fallow ground, God’s word to a plough, and his ministers to ploughmen, if the heart indeed has no need of breaking, in order to the receiving of the seed of God unto eternal life?” (page 720, Volume 1, Bunyan)
The foregoing quotes are just a taste of the content of Bunyan’s lengthy argument on “The Excellency of a Broken Heart.” Such an abundantly Biblical work is only one of many written by Bunyan which strongly emphasize a point which all seventeenth century Baptists believed, that eternal salvation is conferred in a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of conscious man who is in a heart-broken state made so by the gospel message.
Let it not be said without contest that Baptists ever in history believed otherwise until the latter part of the nineteenth century. This is, of course, a general statement. All Baptist churches have always been independent self-governing congregations who may do as they wish in the sight of God alone. So were the churches described in the New Testament Biblical record, but before that record closed, some once strong and sound churches were already going astray.
To complete this presentation it is necessary to state that Baptists rightly claim a spiritual heritage which was in large part derived from a people named Anabaptists. The individual “Baptist’s” view of the extent and importance of his “Anabaptist” heritage usually harmonizes with his view of the place of Baptist churches among the other “Christian” societies in the world. Men who see the New Testament Church as strictly a visible and local congregation of baptized believers, and believe all the promises of preservation, perpetuity, and victory made by Jesus to his first church, must stop looking for that church as an offspring of that corrupted religion long ago rejected by the Lord. Baptists who think in this manner must become “Landmark Baptists” in their church views and doctrines. They must also look to those sects in history which avoided that corruption as their true and spiritual heritage. Those “Baptists” who can cling to an idea of an invisible church hidden in the darkest ages of superstition and apostasy in the very bowels of the “Mother of Harlots,” may attach to the promises of Jesus an equal importance while proudly regarding their denomination as the best species of reformed Christianity. We heartily dissent from such a “Protestant Baptist” view, deeming such a notion unworthy of our Lord’s greatness, and furthermore unable to stand the scrutiny of thorough Scriptural or historical examination. At the same time, we recognize the fact that some of our Baptist forefathers held a “Protestant Baptist” view, and yet maintained themselves a separated people in spite of this. This was possible because of other differences, which served to keep them separated and kept the question of proper authority for immersion in water from becoming a major question. (There was not in the Western world other sect of evangelical Christians using immersion of adult believers only as the only proper baptism, until Campbell’s movement adopted it in the early 1800’s in America.) We also think that the true heritage or spiritual descent of Baptists who regard themselves as protestant, and likewise our own, IS WHAT IT IS whether or not all our fathers understood it, and whether or not available history conclusively proves it to be so. History certainly does not disprove the maintenance of Baptist doctrine and practices among the dissenting movements simply because it appears that SOME of the dissenters called by this or that general name may have held views which Baptists could never embrace. Such evidence is the most that the opposers of the “Landmark” view can show against our opinion. We think it wiser to embrace the Scriptural view that the church of Jesus has always been a real band of saved and Spiritually guided people in a given locality rather than calling the whole number of God’s children a “church.” This real institution Jesus labored to establish with his own hands is the same agency to which he gave his commission, his authority, and his promises of perpetuity. The Lord’s church did its best when “they were all IN ONE ACCORD, IN ONE PLACE.” This imaginary universal invisible church has NEVER been in one place OR in one accord, nor will it ever be in this world. The doctrine was simply invented many centuries ago to justify the existence of some sects which dissented from Roman Catholic dogma. It was totally unnecessary for those who were in fact the churches Jesus promised to preserve.
It is unwise to consider scarcity of historical proof better evidence than the presence of Scriptural proof. We acknowledge, as the best of the defenders of the “Landmark Baptist” position have also done, that a visible chain-linked succession of churches or baptisms is not provable. Nor do we think it needful or desirable to prove it with historical evidence. God promised by the prophecy in The Revelation of the Apostle John, Chapter 12, to hide from the serpent, and preserve through the bitterest ages of persecution, His “woman clothed with the sun” and her offspring. God forbid that His saints should think that she apostatized to become the “woman clothed in purple and scarlet” who persecuted the saints unto death, to be later reformed by mortal men to again be the “chaste virgin bride” of Jesus Christ. There are enough scattered remnants of history to certainly satisfy the hearts of those who already know by the trustworthiness of God’s promise that the seed which planted the Baptists in seventeenth century England came from the Dutch “Anabaptists” of the sixteenth century, and that the seed which sowed the “Anabaptists” throughout western Europe ahead of the Protestant Reformation came from certain churches classed among “Waldenses” in previous centuries. We need not prove it to skeptics. God has scarcely given us enough history to do so. This apparent digression from the subject was thought necessary to introduce the remainder of this chapter, in which a few words from the few available documents remaining, which tell of the faith of these persecuted dissenters who lived before the Reformation, will be used.
There are in existence a few documents written by the ancient Waldenses of the Valleys of Piedmont in northwestern Italy in the early part of the twelfth century which were gathered by Sir Samuel Morland in the seventeenth century and preserved in the library of the University of Cambridge in England. (A translation of these may be read in THE HISTORY OF THE EVANGELICAL CHURCHES OF THE VALLEYS OF PIEMONT, by Samuel Morland, 1658, pages 94-187) These people claimed that they and their ancestors in the faith had existed there, and in neighboring regions, holding fast to their beliefs and practices in their pure and simple form, since the days of the apostolic church. They also claimed that they had rejected the fellowship of the Roman Catholics since the times of Pope Sylvester and Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. Their claim is strengthened by testimonies from both friends and enemies. (See THE HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, by William Jones, pages 31, 39, 43, 71, 77, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89, 305, and 356 of Volume 2.) From this region they were scattered by persecution and missionary zeal into most other regions of western Europe where they became the seed of the Reformation. In the beginning years of the Reformation many Protestant leaders claimed kinship and even descent from these churches. (See William Jones’ history, pp. 83, 87, 90, 91, 371, and 396 of Volume 2, and Morland’s history, pages 8-14) The purer descendants of these Waldenses, who were later called Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Baptists, maintained their Waldensian spirit, which caused them to reject the baptism and communion of the Protestants as well as Catholics, for which cause they received persecution and hatred from both. It seems that later Protestant writers were, and yet are, more willing to claim descent from Roman Catholics than from the Waldenses. Those denominations have grown more proud of that Catholic heritage, and less aware of Waldensian influence upon their origins, in the last two centuries. Two renowned ecclesiastical historians, Mosheim and Limborch, both admitted that the Dutch Baptists of their times were most like the ancient Waldenses of any of the Christian sects. (page 92, Volume 2, Jones) Neither of these scholars were Baptists.
By the providence of God a few documents from the early twelfth century were preserved through the horrible persecutions of the Waldenses in the seventeenth century. These documents antedate the merging of the Alpine Waldenses with the Swiss Reformed movement, which occurred in the 1530’s. The evidence of a much earlier date is internal, both from the doctrine of the documents, and dates within the documents (as early as 1100) which some have asserted without proof are forged. Capable apologists for their antiquity have cited other internal evidences corroborating these early dates, such as their failure to mention death among persecutions they endured. History well documents them being persecuted unto death as early as the last half of the 1100’s.
We are glad for but a breath to tell us of the life existing in true churches during such dark pages of history. We are sorry that most such records as could have allowed us a much closer look at the practices and doctrines of these churches have been destroyed by their persecutors in a vain attempt to expunge both them and the memory of them from the face of the earth. The vain hope of the scarlet “whore” of Revelation that she might be regarded by all the world as the virgin bride of Christ is thus disappointed, both by faith in Holy Scripture which will never pass away, and by these few remnants of records which at least prove the existence of primitive churches in an ancient time at which popular opinion says that there were none.
One of these documents known as “The Noble Lesson” contains internal testimony of a date, saying, “There are already a Thousand and one hundred years fully accomplished since it was written thus, for we are in the last time,” (page 99, Moreland) and of their identity, “Waldensian” (page 114) In this lesson it is taught, “This ought they to do who are Pastours, They ought to preach to the people, and pray with them, and feed them often with divine Doctrine; and chastise the Sinners with Discipline, viz., by declaring that they ought to repent. First, that they confess their sins freely and fully, and that they repent in this present life, that they fast and give Alms, and pray with a fervent heart, for, by these things the Soul finds Salvation.” (page 118, Vol. 2, Jones)
According to this account the Waldenses recommended to sinners seeking salvation, confession of sins freely and fully, repentance, fasting, giving of alms and fervent prayer. For these recommendations they have abundant scriptural backing. For confession of sins they have Luke 15:18, 1 John 1:9, and Proverbs 28:13. For repentance they have Matthew 12:41, Luke 13:3 and 24:47, and Acts 3:19, 5;31 and 11:18. For fasting they have Jonah 3:5 and Joel 2:12. For giving alms they have Matthew 10:42, 19:21, and 25:35, Luke 19:8, and Acts 10:4. For prayer they have Isaiah 55:6, Jonah 3:8, Luke 18:13 and 23:42, Acts 10:4, and Romans 10:13. In this doctrine we must note the absence of any requirement for baptism in order to be saved and the absence of any of the Calvinism so characteristic of the later Reformation. Neither can this language fairly be construed to teach a form of salvation partly by works, for it is evident that those things were no more meant as duties to gain merit than they were meant for that purpose in the above verses of Holy Scripture. In both places they were meant as means of seeking the Lord’s salvation.
No doubt many modern readers of the above passage will accuse the Waldensian brethren of teaching salvation partly by works, as some frequently accuse us today, for recommending something in addition to “faith,” such as prayer and mourning. Such an accusation appears as false against them as it is against us. Certainly such things as they named were intended as aids to faith and not requirements for salvation in themselves.
In another document collected in the year 1120 they wrote, “The third work of Antichrist consists in this, that he attributes the Regeneration of the Holy Spirit unto the dead outward work, baptizing Children in that Faith, and teaching that thereby Baptism
and Regeneration must be had, and therein he confers and bestows Orders and other Sacraments, and groundeth therein all his Christianity, which is against the Holy Spirit.” (page 148, Morland)
In yet another document bearing the internal date of 1120, which was a confession of their faith, they acknowledged that a sinner could be saved without baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Clearly it may be seen that these Brethren were Baptists and would be so today with regard to these very fundamental points of doctrine. They did not believe in a salvation obtained by works but rather in a salvation which produced good works. They recommended such actions to lost sinners as are recommended by the Holy Scriptures and such actions as were commended by the Lord in those who did them. Surely they would not have answered the inquiry of a lost sinner as many false Baptists and erring Christians do today in telling the poor lost soul that he needs to do nothing but accept the finished work of Christ. Yet, no doubt, they would have done as Paul and Silas did when they instructed the already trembling, contrite, and penitent jailer to trust fully in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. It is regrettable that the Waldenses of Piedmont later became one people with the Reformed Churches of Protestantism in the early years of the Reformation. This merger is well known from their history and other documents of the seventeenth century and thereafter. Thus they lost much of the Baptist character they had, and their separate identity. While these did so, some of their descendants maintained the ancient Waldensian spirit in refusing the leftover dregs of Catholicism which remained in the Reformed churches. They became known as “Anabaptists” (rebaptizers), who were hated for their unique practice. In the sixteenth century no country was better known for its population of Anabaptists than the Netherlands. From that period of bloody persecution we have a lengthy record of the sufferings of these simple and harmless Christians at the hands of the established “Church” of western Europe. In the introduction of that martyrology, the author attempts a defense of his Church as to their antiquity and uncorrupted doctrine. “But the second part, “OF THE ANA- BAPTISTS,” may easily meet with some opposition, because some will not admit that the Anabaptists, or those who maintain such a confession as they do, have existed through every century, from the days of Christ up to the present time; and, what is still more, that they have had their martyrs. But in order to treat the matter systematically and in the best manner, we shall first speak of the name, and then of the thing itself.
OF THE NAME: ANABAPTISTS
The name “Anabaptist” was really not accepted by them by choice or desire, but of necessity; for their proper name, if we consider well the thing in connection, should be, Christ-minded, Apostle-minded, or Gospel-minded, Gal. 3:26,27,29, as they were called of old, yea, many centuries ago, because their religion agreed with the doctrine of Christ, the Apostles, and the Holy Gospel; which appears from the confession of faith which they from time to time have published, and which we, as far as we know them, are ready to defend, if necessity requires it; of which also others boast; but how they prove it, they may answer for themselves, and the impartial and intelligent may judge.
The name Anabaptist which is now applied to them, has but lately come into use, deriving its origin from the matter of holy baptism, concerning which their views differ from those of all, so-called, Christendom. In what this difference consists, we will now briefly, and in the sequel more fully state.
We could have wished that they had been called by another name, that is, not only after the holy baptism, but after their whole religion; but since it is not so, we can content ourselves with the thought that it is not the name, but the thing itself, which justifies the man. For this reason we have applied this name to them throughout the work, that they may be known and distinguished from others.
OF HOLY BAPTISM, AND WHY WE HAVE PREFERRED
IT TO ALL OTHER ARTICLES, IN OUR HISTORY
We have chosen holy baptism in preference to any other article of the Christian and evangelical religion:
1. Because it is the only sign and proof of incorporation into the visible Christian church, without which no one, whoever he be, or whatever he may profess, or how separated and pious a life he may lead, can be recognized as a true member of the Christian church. This is fully, yet without controversy, shown and confirmed in the following history.
2. Because it is, beyond contradiction, the only article on account of which others call us Anabaptists. For, since all other so- called Christians have, yet without true foundation, this in common that they baptize infants; while with us the baptism only which is accompanied by faith and a penitent life, according to the word of God, is administered, to ADULTS; it follows, that with us such persons are baptized who have received baptism in their childhood, without faith and repentance; who, when they believe and repent, are again, or at least truly baptized with us; because with us their previous baptism, being without true foundation, and without the word of God, is not considered baptism at all.
(page 16, MARTYRS MIRROR, by Thieleman J. van Braght, 1660)
Van Braght, a Mennonite directly descended from Dutch Anabaptists, writing barely a century after the worst of the bloody persecution against those good people, did an excellent job of arguing the case for their direct descent from the Waldenses.
One of these recorded Anabaptist martyrs was burned at the stake in 1569 for believing, among many other things in common with us, that there was no literal water mentioned in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, and also, that the very same spiritual regeneration obtained through repentance and faith in Christ was required for salvation in ALL ages. Jacob de Roore answered his Catholic inquisitor with these words:
“Well then, when Christ saw and heard, that Nicodemus was so greatly astonished at the words which He spake to him, and that Nicodemus could not understand His words, and asked, how these things were possible, Christ answered him and said: ‘Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?’ From these words of Christ we can understand, that Christ did not speak of baptism, but that He spoke to him of things that were comprehended in the law of the Israelites, namely, the regeneration by the Holy Ghost, in which all the holy fathers and elect of God, before the coming of Christ, were regenerated or baptized. For if Christ has spoken of water baptism, as you papists think, Nicodemus might have said to Christ: ‘I have never read of a water baptism in the whole law.’ But now Christ spoke to him of things that were written in the law, or in the holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, though he called them by another name, mamely a regeneration of the water and of the Spirit, though the Holy Ghost is therein called a water. But Christ thereby wanted to prove to Nicodemus, in order to astonish him in regard to a matter which he ought to have known and understood very well, since he was a master of Israel. Behold, for this reason the regeneration in which Christ baptized with the Holy Ghost is only signified by the outward baptism of water.” (page 784, van Braght)
While we might not choose to employ the terminology of Jacob de Roore when he spoke of the experience of regeneration as “baptism with the Holy Ghost,” for concern that some might confuse that experience with the real Holy Ghost baptism of the church in Acts 2, it is evident that the good man very well understood that “rock” upon which Jesus built his church to be that directly revealed knowledge of the Son of God which comes by a gracious experience of God’s Holy Spirit operating upon the soul. He also knew that such was the common experience of all of the Old Testament saints and that it did not, therefore, begin with the personal ministry of the Son of God. Rather, the new creation of the Son of God, his spiritual Jerusalem, that is, (as Jesus said, “my ecclesia” – Matthew 16:18) his church, was meant to always consist of none but such regenerated people, all of whom had also declared their new spiritual life with Christ by imitating His baptism.
At that time in history there was a terrible persecution of the Dutch Anabaptists by the Catholic king of Spain. Many fled across the English channel for refuge under the dominion of England.
“By 1535, there were many Dutch Anabaptists living in England, and thereafter their numbers increased steadily. The proportion of Anabaptists is unknown, but in 1562 Dutch people in England numbered 30,000. Gregory records that between 50,000 and 100,000 Dutch refugees came to England in the period of the struggle of the Netherlands against Alva. … Few of the immigrants ever repatriated themselves; most of them were assimilated by the English. In spite of persecution, organized Anabaptist life took shape and continued for some time in numerous English localities …” (pages 13 – 14 & page 79, BAPTIST CONFESSIONS OF FAITH, by William L. Lumpkin)
These tenacious people continued to worship in England in spite of persecutions against them there, “but the Anabaptist element among these had to lie concealed, for throughout the reign of Elizabeth the death penalty awaited any who were convicted of holding Anabaptist sentiments.” (page 79, Lumpkin) Mr. Lumpkin indicates that conclusive proof has not been produced that Baptists in England sprang from these people and their influence. However, the fact that localities where so many of these refugees settled were strongholds of Baptist churches less than a century later is circumstantial evidence enough to open all but the most prejudiced minds. They held essentially the same doctrine and practice and displayed the same Christian spirit, both of which were foreign to the Protestant movement. Pages 323-359 of W. A. Jarrell’s book, BAPTIST CHURCH PERPETUITY OR HISTORY, is an excellent source for expanding upon W. L. Lumpkin’s connections between Dutch Anabaptists and early English Baptists.
By unspeakable persecution many Waldenses had been scattered abroad into various countries where they sowed their doctrines, by which spiritual children were begotten. Not all of the offspring stayed true to all of their ancient principles. In Bohemia and Moravia, where many of them settled, there arose in the following years sects of Christians who had much of the spirit of the Waldenses but also retained some of the practices of the Roman Catholics around them, from which they had been converted. John Huss and Jerome of Prague were of this number and were leaders among these pre-reformation protestants until their martyrdoms at the hands of the Roman Catholics. The Moravian United Brethren, reported to have been formed as a denomination fifty years before the conversion of Martin Luther (see page 208, Volume 2, of William Jones’ history), were the direct descendants of this mixture. It is said that after they formed their society in 1457 that many Waldenses “who had been lurking about in dens and caves of the earth, as well as upon the tops of mountains, now came forward with alacrity, and joining themselves to the ‘United Brethren’ became eminently serviceable to the new-formed societies, in consequence of their more advanced state of religious knowledge and experience. Many of the new converts renounced the baptism of infants, and were baptized by the pastors before they received them into church communion.” (page 209,Volume 2, Jones) These United Brethren clearly owed many of their soundest sentiments to their Waldensian predecessors, through whose influence they continued to be drawn yet closer to the truth of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, AFTER they were formed as protestant societies. Nearly three centuries later, some descendants of these people were bold evangelists who brought the message God used to genuinely convert an Anglican priest named John Wesley. After his conversion these “Moravian Brethren,” spiritual descendants of the ancient Hussite Brethren, became his tutors for enough time to bring him to a good understanding of the mysteries of God’s Spiritual power. (pages 36-65, THE JOURNAL OF JOHN WESLEY, and pages 26-33, OUT OF ALDERSGATE, by W. T. Watkins) In this account it can be seen how that the Methodists inherited their spiritual character through the Moravian Brethren, descended in part from ancient United Brethren of Bohemia and Moravia, who in turn had received their spiritual character from the ancient Waldenses, who were spiritual predecessors of Mennonites and Baptists.
Some of the early Bohemian Protestants who were products of Waldensian influence, but had also retained some Catholic customs and ideas, submitted a confession of faith to their king in the year 1508, about the time of Martin Luther’s conversion. This they did a second time, with amplification and explanations in 1535. These Protestants, it is said, were “falsely called Waldenses” (page 43,Morland). Their confession confirms them to have been, truly, a mixture. Yet, in their article on “Repentance” they went to great lengths to explain their convictions, which are revealed to be the same as those of the Waldenses who preceded them, and of all who have truly descended from them and have retained their characteristic spirit. Since such statements from that period are very rare in available writings, it is needful to insert them here as evidence of the ancient scriptural interpretation of “repentance unto life” and such things as accompany it.
“In this place they teach Repentance to be that which cometh from the acknowledgement of sin and God’s anger, which through the Law of God first strikes the conscience with sorrow and terror: for as much as by the Word of God, they are inwardly convinced of sin, and the mind becomes affected with an evil conscience, unquiet, exceedingly sorrowful and despairing; the heart anxious, broken, and contrite, so that a man by himself can by no means be raised up or get comfort, but is altogether afflicted, his spirit being dejected, trembling, shaken and shattered with exceeding great horror through the sight of God’s wrath, (as David saith of himself) ‘There is no health in my flesh because of thine indignation, neither is there any rest in my bones by reason of my sin, I am become miserable, and am bowed down, and go mourning all the day long.’ But yet notwithstanding they teach, that being thus affrighted, they ought nevertheless not to despair, but rather to return to God with the whole heart, by faith in Christ which also is a part of repentance, taking hold of mercy, and grieving that they have sinned: for although they be void of righteousness, yet ought they to implore Divine Grace and Mercy, that he would have mercy on them and that he would pardon their sins for Christ and his merit’s sake ‘who for our sake was made sin, and a curse that he might satisfy the justice of God for our sins,’ etc.” (page 46, Morland)
Any congregation or community of saints, or any of their preachers, who would earnestly teach the preceding doctrine of repentance would undoubtedly instruct men to truly find the strait gate into eternal life in spite of other erring doctrines they might hold. True churches may enjoy the quiet consolation of knowing that their efforts are frequently propagated far beyond their reaches by others who may have heard them imperfectly except in the matter of that repentance which includes saving faith and spiritual regeneration. It has always tended to be so, from ancient times even until now. But that same love for others who teach the most important doctrine, while denying and corrupting other essential though less fundamental matters of the faith, has repeatedly led true and pure churches into alliances and compromises which have soon destroyed their purity and power with God. So it happened when some of the Bohemian Waldenses merged with the United Brethren of that country and likewise when the Piedmont Waldenses united with the Reformed Church of Switzerland. So it continues to happen in many localities until this day.
Here in the cradle of the Protestant Reformation we can see the seed of it long before it began, existing in the Waldenses. They had for ages, according to their own claims, continued in hidden places, keeping pure churches since the days of the Apostles, ignoring the apostasy of Rome and most of the remaining world so long as they were left alone. When scattered abroad, they took with them that view of repentance and faith which made alive other regions whose inhabitants had long viewed Christ with idolatrous and superstitious “faith.” These people had been dead in their sins, knowing nothing of the Living God. From these regions arose Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and many lesser known reformers, reformed Catholics who threw off the yoke of Rome successfully. Although they never entirely reformed their churches so as to make them pure, nor humbled themselves to become “Anabaptists” as they might have done, they helped to turn the world from its course of a dead and hollow form of Christianity unto a more vital, evangelical religion. From this same region and such sources came Peter Bohler and his fellow Moravian Brethren preachers, with whose help John Wesley became a child of God during his thirteenth year of Episcopal ministry. After his spiritual conversion, Wesley became a champion of that heartfelt religion, vital knowledge, and spiritual experience which made him to KNOW GOD in the conscious pardon of his sins. His followers, the Methodists, owing the origin of their vital religion to Baptist ancestors, while never making that concession, became second only to Baptists in their influence of advocating that essential principle to the world. Some would put them first in that regard, and it must be admitted that in many particular places for some short span of history, they may well have been.
There is little else to be added, except to tell the readers that there exists a vast amount of other confirming testimony from past centuries to help confirm these points. The modern “fundamentalist” movement is not Baptist historically. Neither is it of the same historical material as genuine Holy Ghost revival. It is of a different spirit than those humble and broken-hearted advocates of heartfelt salvation of the distant past who became known as Baptists in the sixteenth century. We leave further research to the reader, knowing the deeper that he digs, the more convinced of this fact he will become.
Where, then, did this doctrine and practice which we are contesting originate, and how did it come to dominate many people and churches who NOW wear the name of Baptists? This mystery we will attempt to reveal in the following chapters.