IN THE PERPETUITY OF BAPTIST PRINCIPLES FROM THE
APOSTOLIC AGE TO THE PRESENT Is NECESSARILY
THE SAME PERPETUITY OF BAPTIST CHURCHES.
Prof. Albert H. Newman, D.D., December 13, 1893, wrote me: “The probability is that there never was a time when Christians of a decidedly evangelical type, possessing many of the features of the Baptists, and with organizations closely resembling Baptist churches, did not exist. There are times, however, when we can find no record of such churches. We can, I think, say with all confidence that there has been an unbroken succession of evangelical life. Beyond this I do not care to go.” And, alluding to my question: “Has there ever been a time since the first century when there was no genuine Baptist church on earth?” Dr. Newman closes this statement in the next sentence: “But I should be very far from making the strong assertion which you suggest.”
The Journal and Messenger, a leading Baptist paper, of Baptists and their doctrines, says: “They believe that persons holding these essential doctrines are found all along down through the centuries, from the days of the apostles until now.”
Dr. Armitage's title page to his history reads: “A history of the Baptists traced by Their Vital Principles and Practices from the time of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the year 1886.” (My italics.) This concedes a perpetuity of “Baptists” who practiced “Baptist Principles from the time of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the year 1886” — unless language is meaningless. But what are “Baptist Principles” and “Practices,” as practiced by “Baptists,” but church organization and church work — preaching, observing “the ordinances,” administering discipline — church life? What more doesthis book affirm? To whose book does Dr. Armitage's title page better belong — to his, that denies the truth of his title page, or to mine, which avows it?
J. L. M. Curry, LL. D., in his Introduction to Dr. Armitage's History, well says: “Believers came together into the primitive churches by an elective affinity, an inwrought spiritual aptitude and capacity; and constituted a brotherhood of the baptized, a holy fellowship of the redeemed, a community of regenerated men and women, united to one another by the same animating spirit. A New Testament church, the apostolic model, was a result, a product, an evolution from antecedent facts and principles.”1 Dr. Curry says: “Things will follow tendencies.”2
If believers thus came together in apostolic times, into New Testament churches, and “things follow their tendencies,” as reasonably affirm that while the “tendency” of the gospel in apostolic times was to make churches, yet, in the dark ages, it was the reverse. Only by imagining ourselves in '“Hafed's chance world” can we imagine that the “principles and practices” and their Christ, which produced gospel churches in the first century, have not produced them ever since.
The Campbellite boasts of great faith in the power of the gospel. Yet, to make room for Mr. Campbell's church, he denies that the gospel produced New Testament churches during the dark ages. Who really believes in the power of the gospel — the Baptist who boldly affirms…
2 Idem, p. 11.
…that so great is the power of the gospel that from the first to the present century it has perpetuated gospel churches, or the Campbellite who denies this? Talk about Perpetuity of Baptist “principles and practices” or of Baptists without Perpetuity of Baptist churches — without Baptists to observe and propagate them! As well talk about Christian principles and practices perpetuated by Jews, Masonic principles and practices by non-Masons, or life without corresponding form or appearance, as to talk about the Perpetuity of “Baptist principles and practices” without Baptist churches to observe these “practices and principles.” Or, as well speak of Masons, Oddfellows, Republicans, Democrats or Romanists continuing without organization, as to speak of Baptists continuing during the dark ages without churches. Or, as the principles and the practices of physicians inevitably imply physicians; of lawyers, lawyers; of engineers, engineers; of Buddhists, Buddhists; of Mohammedans, Mohammedans; of Mormons, Mormons; of Lutherans, Lutherans; of Episcopalians, Episcopalians; of Methodists, Methodists; of Campbellites, Campbellites; of Presbyterians, Presbyterians; so, “the principles and the practices of Baptists from the time of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the year 1886,” inevitably demand the existence of Baptist churches during the same period. Consequently, in response to a complimentary copy of Bro. Armitage's Baptist History which the publishers presented me as soon as it was published, soliciting a recommendation, I gave it a recommendation, commending it for “much valuable material and as also a refutation of the erroneous theory of its author,” viz.: that there has not been a Perpetuity of Baptist churches with a perpetuity of their “principles and practices.”
In the name of all reason and experience, what are people thinking about when they say; “I believe in the Perpetuity of Baptist principles and practices from the apostolic age to the present, but I am not so certain as to the same Perpetuity of Baptist .churches!” Pray, do stop and answer the question: Whom do we now find believing and practicing the Baptist principles but Baptists? — Baptist churches? “Baptist principles and practices” being preaching, baptizing, observing the Lord's Supper and administering church discipline, they cannot be observed save in Baptist church organization. The moment they are done by individuals who are not in scriptural churches, by thus denying the necessity of Baptist churches, they cease to be “Baptist” thereby becoming subversive of New Testament church order. I therefore conclude this chapter by saying: “The principles and the practices of Baptists” being conceded to have existed — a belief of all true Baptists who are scholars — during the past 1800 years, all the demands of the bottomless pit cannot shake my faith in the truth that there has been the same Perpetuity of Baptist churches.