The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From the book, The Church That Jesus Built, 1923 (Chapter 12)
“Baptists gave modern missions to the world, and every missionary of every denomination is following the lead of the Baptists…The fact that other denominations are permitted to believe and worship as they please is due to Baptist blood and tears…No one can cite an instance in history when Baptists ever persecuted anyone for conscience sake.” —I. W. Porter, in Random Remarks.
In the earlier chapters we found from doctrinal and historical study and comparison that Baptist churches are the only churches that can rightly claim Jesus Christ for Founder, or that coincide with the doctrinal teachings of the New Testament. In the preceding chapter, I sought to show what was the Master's purpose in founding His church as indicated in the words of the Great Commission.
This Commission was proven to have been given to a Baptist church and consequently is rightly claimed as a Baptist Commission. Let us next examine to see how Baptists have responded to the orders given them by the Master. Have Baptists tried to do the things that the Master left for them to do? Have their labors through the ages been indicative of their divine origin? What has been their work and influence?
A volume might be devoted to answering these questions, but I shall be able to mention only a very few Baptist achievements, and those in only the briefest way. I am persuaded that many are not aware of the tremendous debt that the world owes to the Baptists.
Many of the most priceless things that humanity possesses today have been bequeathed by Baptist churches. Yet, because of their depth of conviction and the tenacity with which they cling to their faith, many look with strong disapproval upon Baptists today. They get far less notice by the press than many denominations much smaller. The amount of notice given them by newspapers and magazines would never lead one to believe they are the largest single evangelical body of Christians in the world, today, but it is nevertheless the truth.
Let us consider what Baptists have done with regard to the thing that Jesus placed the "accent" on in the Commission, namely, MAKING CHRISTIANS. Have they been a missionary people? Indeed they have. In the apostolic age Baptists "went everywhere preaching the Word." In the apostle Paul Baptists possessed the greatest missionary of all ages. In the period of one short lifetime Paul well nigh spread the gospel over the known world. So zealous were the Baptists of that early time that within a few decades there were literally millions of Baptists throughout the Roman Empire. Then began the gradual development of the Roman apostasy, and with this the lessening of missionary endeavor.
The time came when Catholicism dominated governments and with the sword and torture rack sought to exterminate all who refused to bow the knee to the authority of the Pope. No longer was it possible for Baptists to carry on their missionary labors in the same way. That they persisted in so great numbers through those trying ages of persecution, and that many were martyred because of their preaching the gospel, proves, however, that they never ceased to be a missionary people.
When the Reformation brought some relief from Roman oppression, we find that the Anabaptists literally swarmed. So much did they increase that the Reformers were constantly irritated by the evidences of their growth. Had it not been for oppression and fierce persecution, I believe I am safe in saying that Baptists would have taken this world for Christ.
Today there are tremendous missionary efforts being put forth by all of the large denominations. The modern missionary movement is one of the greatest movements of our times.
Who started the modern missionary movement? IT WAS WILLIAM CAREY, A BAPTIST. Baptist churches were the first in modern times to support workers in a foreign land. Before other denominations in America were doing anything along the line of foreign missions, Baptist churches were sending funds toward the support of Carey and his work. Later Judson, who had been inspired by the example of Carey, went out under the Congregationalists, but during his long sea voyage he was made a Baptist by reading the New Testament. He was baptized following his arrival, severed connection with the people who sent him out, and was adopted by American Baptists as their missionary.
Not only were Baptists pioneers in the starting of the modern missionary movement, they have preached the gospel for the first time in many lands. For instance, in Bermuda, Cuba and India they were the first of the so-called evangelical churches to preach the gospel. In America the Baptists were the first to preach the gospel in the vast territory west of the Mississippi river. Today Baptist mission stations girdle the globe. In every clime are to be found Baptists in pursuance of the Master's last command to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
As to the second part of the Commission, which commands the baptizing of Christians, Baptists alone have obeyed. Others have either ignored, or else minimized and perverted this part of the Commission.
Now as the third part of the Commission, the teaching to "observe all things whatsoever Jesus commanded"—how do Baptists stand? In answer it may be truly said that Baptists are the only people who have been willing to teach absolutely "all things commanded. They have always believed in education and in indoctrination. So it is not surprising that Baptists started the modern Sunday school movement. The view most commonly held is that Robert Raikes started this movement, but this is untrue.
The honor belongs to William Fox, a Baptist deacon, as Dr. J. W. Porter abundantly proves in his book, The World's Debt to the Baptists. Deacon Fox started his Bible school in 1783, and two years later helped to organize the "Society for the Support and Encouragement of Sunday Schools." This society organized by Baptists was the first organization for the promotion of Sunday schools in the world, so far as we have record.
However, so far as individual Sunday schools are concerned, the primacy belongs to Welch Baptists. In Wales some Baptist churches maintained Sunday schools at least 132 years before the Raikes movement. And in this connection it is well to point out that the school of Raikes was not a Sunday school in the modern sense. True, it met on Sunday, but not for Bible study. The Bible held no place in the course of study.
Not only is it true that Baptists started the modern Sunday School movement, they have likewise led in Sunday School work. A little investigation will prove this. For instance, it was a Baptist, B. F. Jacobs, who gave the world the "International Uniform Lesson System." It was a Baptist, Dr. Warren Randolph, who was the first secretary of the International Lesson Committee. It was a Baptist, Dr. J. R. Sampey, who worked out the first course of advanced lessons for the International Sunday School Association of America. It was a Baptist, Dr. B. H. DeMent, who occupied the first chair of Sunday School Pedagogy ever established in any theological school in the world, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The first Sunday School Clinic ever held was held under the auspices of the Baptist S. S. Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Not only have Baptists occupied the place of primacy in teaching the "all things commanded" by word of mouth; they have likewise been first in teaching by means of the printed page.
Being pre-eminently a "Bible people," they have sought to sow down the whole world with Bibles. The oldest Bible society in existence, The British Bible Society, which has circulated millions of copies of the Scriptures, was founded by a Baptist preacher, Rev. William Hughes. The mission of William Carey had, before his death, published Bibles in forty languages, embracing one-third of the world's population. Much of the translating was done by Carey himself.
It was Judson's labors that produced the first Bible in Burmese. This is the only translation that is used in Burma today. Joshua Marshman, a Baptist, gave the Chinese their Bible. Frances Mason, a Baptist, gave the Bible to the Karens. Lyman Jewett, a Baptist, gave the Bible to the Telugus. Nathan Brown gave to both the Assamese and the Japanese the Bible in their own tongue. Other Baptists have had a great part in Bible translation.
In addition to the work of translating and circulating the Scriptures, it is relevant to mention that the first marginal references in our English Bible were prepared by John Cranne, a Baptist, in 1637.
But passing from the specific work of carrying out the Great Commission, I am sure that it would not be amiss for me to make brief mention of Baptist achievements along some other but more or less related lines.
Some charge Baptists with being an ignorant folk. It is quite true that a great deal of their work is among the lowly, and that they number among their members millions of the common people, but the charge of widespread ignorance cannot be sustained. As proof of this I need but mention a few facts, as follows:
Baptists have had many great scholars and writers. It was John Bunyan, a Baptist, who wrote Pilgrim's Progress, a book that has had the greatest sale of any book ever written, with the single exception of the Bible. It was John Milton, a Baptist, who gave to the world one of its greatest literary productions, Paradise Lost. It is a Baptist, Dr. A. T. Robertson, who is the author of the world's standard Greek grammar of the New Testament, and who is recognized as being the world's greatest Greek Scholar. These names are but a few of the many that could be mentioned.
Baptists have had a large part in the development of America and in the shaping of her ideals and institutions. To Baptists, American people, in part, owe their democratic form of government as well as their ideals of religious and political freedom. The very Constitution of the United States came into existence as a result of Baptist teaching, for Thomas Jefferson, the framer of the Constitution, got his ideas of democracy from the Baptists. Dr. J. W. Porter shows this beyond dispute in his book, The World's Debt to the Baptists. On page 76 he writes as follows:
"’The conception, the faith that calls things into existence, the confidence of the practicability of a free government, whose ultimate earthly power is vested in the masses of the community.’ This idea was plainly obtained by Jefferson himself from a small Baptist church meeting month after month to govern itself by the laws of the New Testament, in his own neighborhood. It was certainly the Baptist churches of this country who were the first to suggest and maintain those ideas of religious liberty."
In addition to Baptist influence as regards the Constitution, the first amendment to the Constitution, fully guaranteeing religious freedom and the protection of religious rights, was secured through the efforts of Baptists. Dr. Porter truly says: "The government of Rhode Island was the first in the world to fully and clearly embody the principles of religious liberty. This was due to Roger Williams, a Baptist preacher." And to this Bancroft, the historian, adds: "Freedom of conscience, unlimited freedom of mind, was from the first the trophy of Baptists."
It was Baptist churches that held before the world the precious truths of equality, liberty, and religious freedom and it is but fitting that it should have been a Baptist woman, Betsy Ross, who designed and made the American flag, the stars and stripes, which symbolizes to the world freedom, both religious and political, for all.
Along many other lines than those mentioned, Baptists have been and are a blessing to the world. As by-products of their religious life and co-operation, many benevolent enterprises have been and are being carried on.
In the Southern states alone they maintain twenty-six hospitals and many orphanages, where many thousands of people are ministered to every year.
Having noted that the Great Commission was given to Baptists and having found from history that they have always been devoted to the carrying out of Christ's orders, we should not be surprised to find that in our own America they are growing more rapidly in proportion than any other non-Catholic denomination.
I say non-Catholic because the Catholics are constantly being increased by immigration. Baptist growth by baptism in 1925 was nearly 350,000! Since the beginning of the Republic, Baptists have grown from 10,000 in 1776 to over eight million at the present time. From one Baptist to every 264 of the total population at the time of the beginning of our nation, there is now one Baptist for every 13 of the total population.
In foreign lands their growth is marvelous. It is estimated that in Russia alone, since the World War, Baptists have had an increase of over two million!
Let Baptists stick to the task outlined in the Commission, and the blessings of God will continue to rest upon them. For the past two thousand years they have, through "dungeon, fire and sword," followed the teachings of the Founder, and their record proves that they have abundantly justified their existence!