We know much about the great men from church history, but sadly, we tend to hear little about the scores of women who have been vital in the building of Christ's church. A brand-new volume
The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is happy to co-host a conference on "The English Reformation and Its Legacy" with West Toronto Baptist Church. The conference will be held in
By David E. Prince “The struggle between religion and irreligion has existed in the world in all ages; and if there be two opposite interests which divide its inhabitants, the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God, it is reasonable to expect that the contest will continue till one of them be exterminated. The peaceful nature of Christianity does not require that we should make peace with its adversaries , or cease to repel their attacks, or even that we should act merely on the defensive. On the contrary, we are required to make use of those weapons of the Divine warfare with which we are furnished, for the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
The opposition of the present age has not been confined to the less important points of Christianity, nor even to its first principles: Christianity itself is treated as an imposture. The same things, it is true, have been advanced, and as frequently repelled, in former ages; but the adversaries of the gospel of late, encouraged it should seem by the temper of the times, have renewed the attack with redoubled vigor […].
One thing which has contributed to the advantage of infidelity, is the height to which political disputes have arisen, and the degree in which they have interested the passions and prejudices of mankind. Those who favour the sentiments of a set of men in one thing, will be in danger of thinking favourably of them in others; at least, they will not be apt to view them in so ill a light, as if they had been advanced by persons of different sentiments in other things as well as in religion. It is true, there may be nothing more friendly to infidelity in the nature of one political system than another; nothing that can justify professing Christians in accusing one another merely on account of a difference of this kind, of favoring the interest of atheism and irreligion: nevertheless it becomes those who think favourably of the political principles of infidels to take heed, lest they be insensibly drawn away to think lightly of religion. All the nations of the earth, and all the disputes on the best or worst modes of government, compared with this, are less than nothing and vanity.
To this it may be added, that the eagerness with which men engage in political disputes, take which side they may, is unfavourable to a zealous adherence to the gospel. Any mere worldly object, if it become the principal thing which occupies our thoughts and affections, will weaken our attachment to religion; and if once we become cool and indifferent to this, we are in the high road to infidelity. There are cases, no doubt, relating to civil government, in which it is our duty to act, and that with firmness; but to make such things the chief object of our attention, or the principal topic of our conversation, is both sinful and injurious. Many a promising character in the religious world has, by these things, been utterly ruined.
The writer of the following pages is not induced to offer them to the public eye from an apprehension that the Church of Christ is in danger. Neither the downfall of popery, nor the triumph of infidels, as though they had hereby overturned Christianity, have ever been to him the cause of a moment’s uneasiness. If Christianity be of God, as he verily believes it to be, they cannot overthrow it. He must be possessed of but little faith who can tremble, though in a storm, for the safety of the vessel which contains his Lord and Master. There would be one argument less for the divinity of the Scriptures, if the same powers which gave existence to the antichristian dominion had not been employed in taking it away. But though truth has nothing to fear, it does not follow that its friends should be inactive; if we have no apprehensions for the safety of Christianity, we may, nevertheless, feel for the rising generation. The Lord confers an honour upon his servants in condescending to make use of their humble efforts in preserving and promoting his interest in the world. If the present attempt may be thus accepted and honoured by Him, to whose name it is sincerely dedicated, the writer will receive a rich reward.”
Excerpt From “The Gospel Its Own Witness”, 1799
Fuller, Andrew, The Works of Andrew Fuller. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007.
Daniel R. Horst,William of Orange, trans. Lynne Richards (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2013), 70 pages. To a reader acquainted with English history rather than that of the Netherlands, the name William of Orange recalls the Dutch prince who played the key role in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 and became England’s William III. The subject of this small monograph, however, is the great-grandfather of the English king and is often known as William the Silent (1533–1584). This William was the central figure in the Dutch Protestant revolt against the Spanish Hapsburgs in the late sixteenth century and also has the dubious distinction of being the first head of state assassinated by a handgun. William died at the hand of a fanatical Roman Catholic Balthasar Gerards, who shot him in the chest with two pistols in the Prinsenhof, Delft, on July 10, 1584.
Horst’s monograph focuses on the portraits and statuary associated with the assassinated prince from the painting by Cornelis Anthonisz when William was twelve to his funerary monument to various prints and paintings done after his death (even including a 2007 poster relating to the integration of Morroccans into Amsterdam culture). Horst illuminates the way this art reflects the Dutch culture of the time and the way William became an icon of liberty. William’s tomb, for instance, is a stone illustration of the “frugality and humility” of the regnant Dutch Calvinism (p.49). Along the way, Horst gives the reader an excellent overview of the history of the Netherlands in one of the most important periods of Dutch history as well as a superb illustration of the importance of art in reading history (the lavish illustrations make the book a delight to read).
One point made by Horst, however, stuck this reader as questionable but all too typical of modern historians. The sculptor Hendrik de Keyser (1565–1621), arguably the most important Dutch architect of the time, was commissioned to build William’s tomb. De Keyser was also responsible for designing three of the oldest Protestant churches in Amsterdam—the Zuiderkerk, Noorderkerk, and the Westerkerk. But Horst believes De Keyser’s design and supervision of the construction of Amsterdam’s stock exchange was the most important task he accomplished for this structure was central to this city’s growth into a world mercantile power (p.42). Many of De Keyser’s contemporaries would certainly have disagreed: their Calvinist faith was absolutely central to their resistance to the Spanish.
Albeit a minor point, this is a mistake common to many contemporary historians: religious convictions are not important to many in the modern world, or are seen as a screen for deeper convictions, and so the assumption is unconsciously made that the same is true of the past. But while the remarkable growth of the Netherlands as an economic power in this era is key to the Dutch “Golden Era,” so is Dutch Reformed theology and the houses of worship in which such theology was fleshed out. Whatever the faith commitment of men and women in the modern-day Netherlands (and large numbers are atheists), the history of this nation cannot be explained without taking into serious consideration the centrality of the Christian Faith to the Dutch men and women of the past.
Michael A.G. Haykin
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
By David E. Prince “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”—2 Tim. 3:12.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”—Prov. 16:7.
Some consideration is required for the difference of times. It was the genius of the Old Testament, more than of the New, to connect obedience to God with temporal prosperity; and therefore that might be said under the one which would be less applicable under the other.
It is allowed, however, that this is not sufficient to solve the difficulty. There has always been the same radical enmity in general between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. He that was born after the flesh then, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit; and so it is now. And by how much more spiritual the church at any time has been, by so much higher has the enmity arisen against them. It is also true under the gospel, as well as under the law, that where a man perseveres in righteousness and godliness, though he may have many enemies, yet their enmity shall frequently be prevented from hurting him, and even turned away from him into other channels. The truth seems to be, that neither of the above passages is to be taken universally.
The peace possessed by those who please God does not extend so far as to exempt them from having enemies; and though all godly men must in some form or other be persecuted, yet none are persecuted at all times. God has always given his people some seasons of rest. The former of these passages may, therefore, refer to the native enmity which true godliness is certain to excite, and the latter to the Divine control over it. The rod of the wicked must be expected to fall, but not to rest upon the lot of the righteous. Man’s wrath shall be let loose in a degree; but further than what is necessary for the praise of God it shall not go. It shall be suffered to shoot forth in measure; but God will debate with it. “He stayeth his rough wind in the da
By Michael A. G. Haykin In recent studies on the Serampore Form of Agreement (1805), drawn up by William Ward and William Carey and signed by number of other missionaries, I came across this statement in the version I was using: “It was these truths [the doctrine of the cross] that filled the sermons of the modern Apostles, Whitefield, Wesley, etc., when the light of the Gospel which had been held up with such glorious effects by the Puritans was almost extinguished in England.” I got this version from “Wholseome Words: Worldwide Missions”
The description of Whitefield and Wesley as “modern Apostles” struck me as odd as did the mention of Wesley. Andrew Fuller, the close friend of both Ward and Carey, regarded Wesley (wrongly, of course) as a crypto-Jesuit!
I decided to check out the original, which appeared in Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society 3 (1805):198–211. And sure enough this entire sentence is not there. What is there is this: “It was these truths which filled the sermons of the most useful men in the eighteenth century.” At some point—I suspect it is the 1874 edition that was published at Sermapore—this sentence was changed to the above. Neither Ward nor Carey would have regarded Wesley (rightly or wrongly) as one of “the most useful men in the eighteenth century. Though, interestingly enough, CH Spurgeon would have.
By David E. Prince “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”—1 John 1:8.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”—1 John 3:9.
It appears that the word sin, in these passages, is of different significations. In the former it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived, and that he has yet to learn what is true religion.
But in the latter, it seems, from the context, that the term is intended to denote the sin of apostacy. If we were to substitute the term apostacy for sin, from the sixth to the tenth verse, the meaning would be clear. Whoso abideth in him apostatizeth not: whosoever apostatizeth hath not seen him, neither known him.—He that is guilty of apostacy is of the devil; for the devil hath been an apostate from the beginning.—Whosoever is born of God doth not apostatize; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot apostatize, because he is born of God.
This sense of the latter passage perfectly agrees with what is said of the “sin unto death,” ver. 16–18. “There is a sin unto death.… We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” It also agrees with chap. 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” Altogether, it affords what we might presume to call an incontestable proof of the certain perseverance of true believers.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.
David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.
I always begin church history classes the same way as our dear brother Tom Nettles, with a lecture called “Why Study Church History?” I’m not merely seeking to copycat my mentor; we live in an age in which what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery”—the prioritizing of all things new and the despising of all things old—is beyond palpable.
Thus, students often need convincing that history is important. After all, many of their high school history courses were mere after-thoughts, taught by football coaches. But as my good friend Harry Reeder puts it, we must learn from the past to live effectively in the present and impact the future. Therefore, it is crucial that we know our history as Baptists. And here are eight fundamental reasons:
1. Because we need to see church history as a discussion of the Bible.
Church history in general, and Baptist history in particular, is most fundamentally a discussion about the Bible. Debates such as Arius vs. Athansius, Pelagius vs. Augustine, Erasmus vs. Luther, General Baptists vs. Particular Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship vs. the Southern Baptist Convention are at their root battles for the Bible. That’s why church history—and Baptist history—is so vitally important.
2. Because we must become convictional Baptists.
“I was Baptist born and Baptist bred, and when I die, I’ll be Baptist dead.” I heard this pithy dictum many times growing up in a small Southern Baptist church in answer to the question “Why are you a Baptist?” But being Baptist because it is part of our family lineage is not a valid reason to be a Baptist. Studying Baptist history enables us to become Baptists by theological conviction. It teaches us that there are many good biblical and theological reasons to hold a firm grip upon Baptist ecclesiology as a necessary biblical complement to a robust confessional, evangelical orthodoxy.
3. Because we need to see that Baptists have a rich theological and ecclesiological heritage.
Some think that the Presbyterians or Anglicans or Methodists or other denominations have all the good history. But Baptists own a tradition filled with great men and great moments—Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Benjamin Keach, John Bunyan (assuming we accept he was a Baptist), the founding of the modern missions movement, the reformation at Southern Seminary in the late 20th century, the founding of dozens of seminaries and colleges, the First and Second London Confessions, the Baptist Faith & Message, and on and on I could go. Our Baptist heritage is deep and wide.
4. Because we must assess claims as to where Baptist came from and what they have believed.
Are Baptists first cousins to the Anabaptists, the so-called “radical reformers” in Europe, during the Protestant Reformation? Or, did Baptists arise out of Puritan separatism in Europe? Were they mainly Arminian in their doctrinal commitments or were the majority of Baptists Calvinistic, and which theological stream was healthier? These are much-debated questions and only a close, careful study of Baptist history uncovers the correct answers.
5. Because both theology and ecclesiology matter.
I hold a growing concern that ecclesiology is becoming less and less of a conviction among my fellow citizens in the young, restless, Reformed village. But even a 32,000-foot flyover of the Baptist heritage shows that the doctrine of the church and theology proper are inextricably linked. If God has an elect people, if Christ has shed his blood as the substitute for this people, if Christ has promised to build his church, then there must be a theology of the church. Historically, confessional Baptists, at their best (and I include both General and Particular Baptists here), have seen this connection and have sought to build local churches accordingly. Ecclesiology has deep implications for our practice of the ordinances, for church membership, for church discipline, for pastoral ministry, and for many other matters pertaining to the day in, day out life of the church. A strong ecclesiology tied to a robust theology tends toward a healthy church. Baptist history bears this out through both positive and negative examples.
6. Because we need to keep the Ninth Commandment.
It is a sin to caricature and misrepresent those with whom we disagree. We must study their doctrines, hear their arguments, and be able to articulate their case, even as we develop our own convictions. We must avoid populating our theological gardens with straw men or polluting our polemical streams with red herring. We must treat our theological opponents the way we desire to be treated. Polemical theology has a long and established place in the history of ideas, but it should be executed in a way that honors the dignity of our opponents. By this, I do not intend to say we should seek to be politically correct in our debates, but we must be Christ-like and that means taking the beliefs of the other side seriously and treating them fairly. If we’ve learned nothing else from the current political season, at bare minimum, this lesson should not be lost on us.
7. Because we need to understand our forefathers paid a steep price to hold Baptist convictions.
Bunyan famously spent 12 years in a filthy Bedford jail. Spurgeon was strafed by liberalism to a point of death. And time would fail me to tell of Thomas Hardcastle, Abraham Cheare, Obadiah Holmes, and dozens of others who paid a high price for their Baptist beliefs, some dying in prison, some being locked in stocks and subjected to public mockery, others being tied to a post and whipped, and many being persecuted to the point of death. In 2016, we sit in our Baptist churches without a threat of even being scratched for our theology, but we must know that we arrived in this state upon the scars and bloodshed of our Baptist fathers. For these men, believers baptism by immersion, a regenerate church, and liberty of conscience, were not merely peripheral doctrines on which “good men disagree.”
8. Because we need to see that Baptists have been, on the whole, a people committed to the formal principle of the Reformation, sola Scriptura.
Baptists are a people of the book. Baptists have sought to build their churches upon the Bible, connecting theology and ecclesiology together as a seamless robe. The fundamental question Baptists, at their best, have asked is this: “Is it biblical?” Though there have disagreements as to the specific answers, the Bible is our sole authority and a walk through the pages of Baptist history reveals, from solid General Baptists such as Thomas Grantham to Particular Baptist Giants like Spurgeon, demonstrates this as an axiomatic truth.
No doubt, there are many more reasons why we ought to engage our heritage, but let us never be guilty of failing to know precisely why we call ourselves Baptists and at least fundamentally what that meant in the past and continues to mean today.
I recommend the following works of Baptist history for the beginner:
Baptists and the Bible by L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles
By His Grace and for His Glory by Tom Nettles
The Baptist Way by R. Stanton Norman
No Armor for the Back: Baptist Prison Writings 1600s-1700s by Keith E. Durso
Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age edited by Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman
Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life edited by Mark E. Dever
Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as senior research and teaching assistant for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as senior editor for The Gospel Coalition and is pastor of New City Church (SBC) in Louisville, Ky.