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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Church That Jesus Built, 1923 (Chapter 13)
"Church membership is not left to your conscience or to your whims or to your reasonings; it is a matter of loyalty and obedience to Jesus Christ, who bought us and saved us by His own precious blood. Conscience is not a standard of right or wrong for any man, for conscience is a creature of education and needs teaching…For if the church that Jesus built was a Baptist church, then no churches but Baptist churches are churches of Christ, and every man will have to face the Lord Jesus at the judgment and tell Him why he joined some church founded by an uninspired man, instead of the one founded by the Lord Jesus Himself."—H. B. Taylor, in Why I Am A Baptist.
"When Baptists enter the scheme of union by a process of compromise and cancellation, they are negotiating for a casket and a lot in the cemetery." J. W., Porter, in Random Remarks.
With the facts presented in the foregoing chapters full before us, we are driven to the inevitable conclusion that Baptist churches are the only true churches of Christ—the only churches authorized by Him to carry out the Commission and to administer His ordinances. Many of our day will make almost any concession in order to be thought of as "broad." How many, many times I have heard some individual who aspired to the position of one of great "broadness" remark, "Oh, it doesn't matter which church one belongs to. One church is just as good as another." That all sounds very nice, but can it be true in the light of the facts that we have studied? What right has any man to set up a rival organization to the one founded by the Son of God and to call it "just as good"? What right has anyone to call such a man-originated institution "just as good?"
The church that Jesus founded is very dear to His heart. Its importance is indicated by the fact that to it alone He has committed the task of carrying on His work in the world. That His church is the object of His tender solicitude and care is indicated by the fact that in spite of persecutions, wars, turmoils, the rise and fall of nations, the decay and death of human languages, He has preserved and perpetuated His church. Most certainly it ought to matter to any sincere Christian who wishes to be obedient to his Lord, as to which church he belongs to. He ought to want to belong to a church that can claim Jesus for Founder and Head rather than to a man-founded institution. He ought to want to be identified with the church to which Jesus committed His ordinances, the church He has perpetuated through the centuries and which has New Testament warrant for its doctrines and practices.
In revival meetings, particularly those of the "union" type I have often heard evangelists tell people to "join the church of their choice," no matter which that might happen to be. Some may call me narrow for saying it, but I could not conscientiously tell anyone to do that. As I see it, a mere "choice" perhaps dictated by fancy, caprice, or mere sentiment, is not enough when it comes to settling the church question. The question with each Christian ought to be, which is the true church—the one that Jesus founded? Which is entirely scriptural in its doctrines and practices?" It is a great thing to point a lost person to Christ. It is also a great thing to point a saved person to the path of full obedience. For a new-born soul to make a wrong choice with reference to the church, and to unite with a church whose doctrines and practices are unscriptural, means to start out on a career of life-long disobedience to Christ.
"Union" meetings, in which sentiment is more exalted than truth, and in which Christ's commands are bartered away lightly for popularity's sake, are the cause of many people entering upon a lifetime of disobedience. In such meetings where the full truth is not preached, people usually form their church affiliations upon the basis of which church, relatives or friends belong to, which church the evangelist belongs to, or something else equally trivial. In fact, almost anything may help decide, except the one thing of importance—the teaching of the Word of God.
BAPTISTS CANNOT BE CONSISTENT AND MIX UP IN DENOMINATIONAL HODGEPODGES FOR UNION REVIVALS. For a union meeting to please all concerned, the preacher must keep his mouth shut on certain truths. For a preacher to preach what the Word of God says concerning the security of believers, baptism, the Lord's Supper, church truth, etc., would be to wreck a union meeting. In such a meeting a Baptist cannot properly counsel new converts concerning "the all things" that Jesus commanded without arousing indignation and criticism. Is it right to engage in meetings where a part of the plain teaching of the Word of God is not welcomed? The truth, the whole truth, as taught in the whole Word of God, without addition, or subtraction—that is what Baptists have always stood for. In so far as they engage in union efforts they depart from their time honored principles.
I do not wish to convey the impression that Baptists are to be selfish, churlish, unsociable, unkind, or anything of the sort. They should rejoice when Christ is preached by whatever sect or denomination. They should rejoice at every soul that is saved. Their spirit should never be that of hostility or unkind controversy. But certainly their first loyalty and allegiance should be to Christ and His Word. On His commands there can be neither compromise nor concession. They are to "contend earnestly (not angrily) for the faith once for all delivered to the saints."
Reader, you who have followed me through the pages of this book, if a Christian, are you also a member of a genuine New Testament church? It will pay you to be strict about the matter of your church affiliation. This is not a matter that affects your salvation, but it is one that affects your reward with God. Jesus taught that "He that breaketh one of these least commandments and teacheth men so shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven."
The person that belongs to a church that minimizes and breaks some of the commands of Christ, necessarily lends his influence toward "teaching men so." By so doing, they place themselves in the class of those whom Christ said should be "called the least" in the Kingdom. The question of your church affiliation is something that you will one day have to give an account for when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. It will pay you to do what is right about the matter irrespective of what it may cost you, and irrespective of what anyone in the world may think about it.
I have tried to set forth the truth on the church question in this book, plainly and simply. My aim has been to enable you who read to know your duty in the matter of what church you should belong to. As to whether or not you will DO what you know to be the right thing—that is a matter for which you are answerable, not to me, but to your Lord.
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
BOOKS READ OR QUOTED
Below is given a partial list of books read in whole or in part in preparing the manuscript for this book:
A History of the Baptists, by John T. Christian
A Short History of the Baptists, by H. V. Vedder
History of the Baptists, by Benedict
History of the Baptists, by Thos. Armitage
Manual of Church History, by A. H. Newman
History of Anti-pedobaptism, by A. H. Newman
A Century of Baptist Achievement, by A. H. Newman
The Baptist Denomination, by Haynes
History of the Christian Church, by Jones
The Story of the Baptists, by Cook
Progress of Baptist Principles, by Curtis
The Baptists in History, by Geo. C. Lorimer
Baptist History Vindicated, by John T. Christian
History of the Christian Church, by Schaff
History of the Christian Church, by Fisher
History of the Apostolic Church, by Schaff
History of the Popes, by Ranke
The Ancient Church, by Kellen
Ancient British and Irish Church, by Cathcart
Church History, by Kurt
Source Book for Ancient Church History, by Ayer
Lectures on Baptist History, by W. R. Williams
Distinctive Principles of Baptists, by Pendleton
Doctrines of Our Faith, by Wallace
Baptist Succession, by Ray
Church Perpetuity, by Jarrell
The Church, by Harvey
Directory for Baptist Churches, by Hiscox
The Ancient Catholic Church, by Rainey
History of England, by Macaulay
Ten Epochs of Church History, by Walker
Baptist History, by Isaac Backus
Guide to Study of Church History, by McGlothlin
Ecclesiastical History, by Mosheim
The Churches of the New Testament, by McDaniel
Fundamentals of the Faith, by Nowlin
World's Debt to the Baptists, by Porter
My Church, by J. B. Moody
The New Testament Church, by T. T. Martin
The Church and the Kingdom, by Thomas
Axioms of Religion, by Mullins
Synthesis of Bible Truth, by Scofield
The Mould of Doctrine, by Thomas
Methodist Episcopal Church Discipline
Baptist Beliefs, by Mullins
Bible Beliefs, by H. B. Taylor
Ecclesia—the Church, by B. H. Carroll
Denominationalism Put to Test, by Tull
Baptist Churches Apostolical, by Newman
Seven Baptist Fundamentals, by Connor
The Baptist Faith, by M. P. Hunt
The Baptist Position, by J. F. Love
Baptist Law of Continuity, by Smith
The Church a Composite Life, by Prestridge
Compendium of Baptist History, by Shackelford