The following is by John A. Broadus on The Reason to Teach Baptists Distinctives:
I. Reasons Why Baptists Ought to Teach Their Distinctive Views
1. It is a duty we owe to ourselves. We must teach these views in order to be consistent in holding them. Because of these we stand apart from other Christians, in separate organizations – from Christians whom we warmly love and delight to work with. We have no right thus to stand apart unless the matters of difference have real importance; and if they are really important, we certainly ought to teach them. We sometimes venture to say to our brethren of some other persuasions that if points of denominational difference among evangelical Christians were so utterly trifling as they continually tell us, then they have no excuse for standing apart from each other, and no right to require us to stand apart from them unless we will abjure, or practically disregard, our distinctive views. But all this will apply to us likewise unless we regard the points of difference as having a substantial value and practical importance as a part of what Christ commanded, and in this case they are a part of what he requires us to teach.
And this teaching is the only way of correcting excesses among ourselves. Do some of our Baptist brethren seem to you ultra in their denominationalism, violent, bitter? And do you expect to correct such a tendency by going to the opposite extreme? You are so pained, shocked, disgusted, at what you consider an unlovely treatment of controverted matters that you shrink from treating them at all. Well, the persons you have in view, if there be such persons, would defend and fortify themselves by pointing at you. They would say, “I am complained of as extreme and bigoted. Look at those people yonder, who scarcely ever make the slightest allusion to characteristic Baptist principles, who are weak-kneed, afraid of offending the Paedobaptists, or dreadfully anxious to court their favor by smooth silence: do you want me to be such a Baptist as that?” Thus one extreme fosters another. The greatest complaint I have against what are called “sensational” preachers is not for the harm they directly do, but because they drive such a multitude of other preachers to the other extreme — make them so afraid of appearing sensational in their own eyes, or in those of some fastidious hearers, that they shrink from saying the bold and striking things they might say, and ought say, and become commonplace and tame. And so it is a great evil if a few ultraists in controversy drive many good men to avoid sensitively those controverted topics which we are all under obligation to discuss. The only cure, my brethren, for denominational ultraism is a healthy denominationalism.
2. To teach our distinctive views is a duty we owe to other fellow-Christians. Take the Roman Catholics. We are often told very earnestly that Baptists must make common cause with other Protestants against the aggressions of Romanism. It is urged, especially in some localities, that we ought to push all our denominational differences into the background and stand shoulder to shoulder against Popery. Very well; but all the time it seems to us that the best way to meet and withstand Romanism is to take Baptist ground; and if, in making common cause against it, we abandon or slight our Baptist principles, have a care lest we do harm in both directions. Besides, ours is the best position, we think, for winning Romanists to evangelical truth. Our brethren of the great Protestant persuasions are all holding some “developed” form of Christianity — not so far developed as Popery, and some of them much less developed than others, but all having added something, in faith or government or ordinances, to the primitive simplicity. The Roman Catholics know this, and habitually taunt them with accepting changes which the church has made while denying the church’ authority, and sometimes tell them that the Baptists alone are consistent in opposing the church. We may say that there are but two sorts of Christianity –church Christianity and Bible Christianity. If well-meaning Roman Catholics become dissatisfied with resting everything on the authority of the church and begin to look toward the Bible as authority, they are not likely, if thoughtful and earnest, to stop at any halfway-house, but to go forward to the position of those who really build on the Bible alone.
Or take the Protestants themselves. Our esteemed brethren are often wonderfully ignorant of our views. A distinguished minister, author of elaborate works on church history and the creeds of Christendom, and of commentaries, etc., and brought in many ways into association with men of all denominations, is reported to have recently asked whether the Baptists practise trine immersion. A senator of the United States from one of the Southern States, and alumnus of a celebrated university, was visiting, about twenty years ago, a friend in another State, who casually remarked that he was a Baptist. “By the way,” said the senator, “what kind of Baptists are the Paedobaptists?” Not many years ago a New York gentleman who had been United States minister to a foreign country published in the New York Tribune a review of a work, in which he said (substantially), “The author states that he is a Baptist pastor. We do not know whether he is a Paedobaptist or belongs to the straiter sect of Baptists.” Now, of course these are exceptional cases; but they exemplify what is really a widespread and very great ignorance as to Baptists. And our friends of other denominations often do us great injustice because they do not understand our tenets and judge us by their own. As to “restricted communion,”for example, Protestants usually hold the Calvinian view of the Lord’s Supper, and so think that we are selfishly denying them a share in the spiritual blessing attached to its observance; while, with our Zwinglian view, we have no such thought or feeling. These things certainly show it to be very desirable that we should bring our Christian brethren around us to know our distinctive opinions, in order that we may at least restrain them from wronging us through ignorance. If there were any who did not care to know, who were unwilling to be deprived of a peculiar accusation against us, with them our efforts would be vain. But most of those we encounter are truly good people, however prejudiced, and do not wish to be unjust; and if they will not take the trouble to seek information about our real views, they will not be unwilling to receive it when fitly presented. Christian charity may thus be promoted by correcting ignorance. And besides, we may hope that some at least will be led to investigate the matters about which we differ. Oh that our honored brethren would investigate! A highly-educated Episcopal lady some years ago, in one of our great cities, by a long and patient examination of her Bible, with no help but an Episcopal work in favor of infant baptism, at length reached the firm conviction that it is without warrant in the Scripture, and became a Baptist. She afterward said, “I am satisfied that thousands would inevitably do likewise if they would only examine.”
But why should we wish to make Baptists of our Protestant brethren? Are not many of them noble Christians — not a few of them among the excellent of the earth? If with their opinions they are so devout and useful, why wish them to adopt other opinions? Yes, there are among them many who command our high admiration for their beautiful Christian character and life; but have a care about your inferences from this fact. The same is true even of many Roman Catholics, in the past and in the present; yet who doubts that the Romanist system as a whole is unfavorable to the production of the best types of piety? And it is not necessarily an arrogant and presumptuous thing in us if we strive to bring honored fellow-Christians to views which we honestly believe to be more scriptural, and therefore more wholesome. Apollos was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and Aquila and Priscilla were lowly people who doubtless admired him; yet they taught him the way of the Lord more perfectly, and no doubt greatly rejoiced that he was willing to learn. He who tries to win people from other denominations to his own distinctive views may be a sectarian bigot; but he may also be a humble and loving Christian.
3. To teach our distinctive views is a duty we owe to the unbelieving world. We want unbelievers to accept Christianity; and it seems to us they are more likely to accept it when presented in its primitive simplicity, as the apostles themselves
offered it to the men of their time. For meeting the assaults of infidels, we think our position is best. Those who insist that Christianity is unfriendly to scientific investigations almost always point to the Romanists; they could not with the least plausibility say this of Baptists. And when an honest and earnest-minded sceptic is asked to examine with us this which claims to be a revelation from God, we do not have to lay beside it another book as determining beforehand what we must find in the Bible. Confessions of faith we have, some older and some more recent, which we respect and find useful; but save through some exceptional and voluntary agreement we are not bound by them. We can say to the sceptical inquirer, “Come and bring all the really ascertained light that has been derived from studying the material world, the history of man, or the highest philosophy, and we will gladly use it in helping to interpret this which we believe to be God’s word;” and we can change our views of its meaning if real light from any other sources requires us to do so. There is, surely, in this freedom no small advantage for attracting the truly rational inquirer. But, while thus free to search the Scriptures, Baptists are eminently conservative in their whole tone and spirit; and for a reason. Their recognition of the Scriptures alone as religious authority, and the stress they lay on exact conformity to the requirements of Scripture, foster an instinctive feeling that they must stand or fall with the real truth and the real authority of the Bible. The union of freedom and conservatism is something most healthy and hopeful.
4. There is yet another reason —one full of solemn sweetness: To teach our distinctive views is not only a duty to ourselves, to our fellow-Christians, and to the unbelieving world, but it is a duty we owe to Christ; it is a matter of simple loyalty to him. Under the most solemn circumstances he uttered the express injunction. He met the eleven disciples by appointment on a mountain in Galilee; probably the more than five hundred of whom Paul speaks were present also: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The things of which we have been speaking are not, we freely grant, the most important of religious truths and duties, but they are a part of the all things which Jesus commanded; what shall hinder us, what could excuse us, from observing them ourselves and teaching them to others? The Roman soldier who had taken the sacramentum did not then go to picking and choosing among the orders of his general: shall the baptized believer pick and choose which commands of Christ he will obey and which neglect and which alter? And, observe, I did not quote it all: Go, disciple, baptizing them, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Shall we neglect to teach as he required, and then claim the promise of his presence and help and blessing?
Let us as Baptists be faithful in the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures, from which we gather our Baptists Distinctives.
Posted by T.A.