WHY BAPTIST AND NOT PRESBYTERIAN

imgresBy T. S. Dunaway, D. D.
Fredericksburg, Virginia

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. -Phil. 2:12-13.

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall; For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter, 1:10-11.

MY ancestors for several generations, on both the paternal and maternal sides, being Baptists, I was born and reared in that communion. What originally came to me by heredity, early… impressions, and training, I now hold to by the convictions of judgment and experience, after years of as careful and impartial study of the New Testament as I am capable of making.

Being a pronounced Baptist, and in thorough accord with my great denomination in its doctrines, practices, and polity, it follows that I could not be identified with the Presbyterians without doing violence to my conscience and disregarding what I believe to be the plain and authoritative teaching of the Scriptures.

And yet it is but simple justice to the Presbyterians to say that there are many of their beliefs and practices which entitle them to my highest respect, warmest admiration and brotherly love. Concerning what are called the doctrines of divine grace, the Baptists and Presbyterians are perhaps nearer agreed in their beliefs than any other large and distinct Protestant denominations. The soundness of their views concerning these doctrines of grace, their intelligence, the prominent part they have taken in higher education, their reverence for God’s word, their strict observance of the Sabbath, their fervent piety and consistent Christian living, call forth the praise and admiration of every true Baptist. While I would not dim the lustre of a single star that shines in the crown which they so worthily wear, yet I could not be a Presbyterian for many reasons, some of which I now proceed to point out.

  1. Because of their teachings and practices respecting the ordinance of baptism, both as to mode and subjects. While the Baptists hold that, according to New Testament teaching, nothing but the immersion of a professed believer in Christ in water into the name of the Holy Trinity constitutes Christian baptism, the Presbyterians not only practice sprinkling for baptism, but they go so far as to declare that immersion is unscriptural and no baptism at all. In the proceedings of the General Assembly which met in Nashville in May, 1894, on page 197, there is this minute: ”An overture from a number of persons asking whether in the discretion granted to the sessions to receive members from evangelical immersion churches, it is intended to admit immersion to be the Scriptural mode of baptism,” the following was given for answer: ”Baptism by immersion is not Scriptural as to its mode, but the irregularity of this unscriptural mode does not invalidate the sacred ordinance, and persons who have been baptized by immersion, by the authority of an evangelical church, are not required to be rebaptized by the Scriptural mode of sprinkling or pouring when received into the communion of our church.”

By this deliverance our Presbyterian brethren not only put themselves in direct antagonism with the Baptists, but with all other Protestant denominations who acknowledge the scripturalness of immersion, and admit that it was the primitive mode of baptism. And they show an unaccountable inconsistency when they declare that ”baptism by immersion is not Scriptural,” and yet it is to be recognized as valid when an immersed person seeks membership in a Presbyterian church.

  1. Again, our Presbyterian brethren are as much in error as to the proper subjects of baptism as they are in regard to the mode. While the Baptists maintain that the Scriptures clearly teach that only believers are proper subjects for baptism, they hold that unbelieving and unconscious infants are proper subjects for the ordinance.

Dr. Hodge, in his ”Outline of Theology” (p. 419), says ”the proper subjects of baptism are all those, and those only, who are members of the visible church. These are, first, they who make a credible profession of faith, and secondly, the children of one or both believing parents.”

In the ”Book of Church Order,” adopted by the General Assembly of 1879, on page 10, is the following: ”The infant seed of believers are through the covenant and by right of birth members of the church. Hence they are entitled to baptism.” While such is the teaching of Presbyterianism, the Baptists hold that there is no scriptural warrant for believing that there can be inherited goodness or right or title to the ordinances or church privileges; but that all are alike born in sin, and each for himself must repent of sin on reaching the years of accountability, believe on Christ, and voluntarily submit to the ordinance of baptism.

  1. I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian because I believe the latter are unscriptural in their beliefs and practices concerning the Lord’s Supper. While the former believe that only baptized believers are entitled to partake of that ordinance, baptism being a scriptural prerequisite, the latter administer the communion not only to persons that they do not consider scripturally baptized, but to persons who make no profession of faith. Dr. Hodge says in his book already referred to, on page 513, ”What do our authorities teach as to the qualifications to the Lord’s Supper? Children born within the pale of the visible church and dedicated to God in baptism, when they come to years of discretion, if they be free from scandal and appear sober and steady, and to have sufficient knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, ought to be informed that it is their duty and privilege to come to the Lord’s Supper.”
  2. I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian because I believe the views and practices of the latter are unscriptural concerning church membership, government, and polity. While the Baptists maintain that only baptized believers are proper subjects for church membership, the Presbyterians, in common with other Pedobaptist denominations, claim that ”all children baptized in infancy are already members of the church.” In the ”Book of Church Order,” on page 6, it is said, ”The visible church consists of all those who make a profession of true religion, together with their children.” While the Baptists maintain that the New Testament teaches that the local church is a voluntary assembly of baptized believers, organized for the worship and service of God; that each church is independent of every other church; that her government is democratic or congregational; that she is only subject to Christ as her Head and Lawgiver, and his word is the sole authority in the matters of faith and practice, government and polity; the Presbyterian church adopts the presbyterial form of government, or an ecclesiastical government by presbyters, and that the local churches are subject to ecclesiastical bodies, legislative and judicial.

The distinguished Dr. Cuyler, in an article in the Treasury, July 1897, entitled, ”Why am I a Presbyterian,” says: ”Our normal legislative body and the fountain head of ecclesiastical authority is the Presbytery, which consists of all the ministers and one ruling elder within a certain district. The General Assembly is our highest judicial body and represents all the Presbyteries; but it has no legislative powers, for every new law or change in the constitution must be submitted to the different Presbyteries, and a majority of them is required to order its adoption.” Here, by very high authority, is recognized the authority and binding force of ecclesiastical legislatures and courts in the government and polity of the churches. The Baptists, on the other hand, acknowledge no authority over the local churches save Christ, who is head over all things to the church. They found their claims on the New Testament alone, and they have no other authority, creed, or confession, that is binding upon them. So strong is the form of presbyterial government that they declare that ”no minister shall receive a call from a church but by the permission of a Presbytery.” No pastoral relation can be formed or broken except by the consent and action of the Presbytery, and so they deny the independence of the local church and her right to self-government.

  1. I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian because of our widely-differing views about a call to the ministry and the scriptural qualifications of a minister of Christ. The Baptists believe in a divine call to the ministry, and that the prescribed qualifications for this office are piety and experimental knowledge of gospel truth, an aptness to teach, and a burning desire for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. While we believe in an educated ministry, as far as possible, and encourage learning, we feel we have no right to prescribe a certain amount of learning before we will recognize a divine call to the ministry.

In their ”Book of Church Orders,” on the subject of ordination, the Presbyterians say: ”It is recommended that the candidate be required to produce a diploma of Bachelor or Master of Arts from some college or university; or at least authentic testimonials of his having gone through a regular course of learning. The Presbytery shall try each candidate as to his knowledge of the Latin language and the original languages of the Holy Scriptures (Hebrew and Greek). It shall also examine him on mental philosophy, logic, and rhetoric; on ethics; on the natural and exact sciences; on theology, natural and revealed; on ecclesiastical history, the sacraments and church government. Moreover, the Presbytery shall require of him a discussion in Latin, of a thesis on some common head in divinity.” (See page 49.)

While the Baptists in many ways have shown that they value and have striven to promote the education of the ministry, they have never been disposed to confine the office to those who have passed through a prescribed course of study. They believe that God calls men into the ministry who have not had, and can not obtain, opportunity of a regular classical education. And they believe that the only test which the churches ought to apply is that laid down in the New Testament. For their course in this matter they have the example and teaching of our Lord and his apostles.

While we have a profound respect for the ministry of the Presbyterian church, we inquire, what would have become of the masses of the people in America if all the other denominations had done as they have done with reference to the ministry ? Had it not been for the great Baptist and Methodist Bodies, and some others like them, who have encouraged men called of God to preach who have been comparatively destitute of a liberal education, what would have become of the masses of the people? Let him called of God to preach be encouraged and recognized in his work, though he may not be a Latin, Greek and Hebrew scholar. Our Lord chose the uncultured fishermen to be the first heralds of salvation to a lost world. If a man is pious, and has an aptness to teach, and feels called of God to preach, encourage him to preach and win as many souls as he can to Christ.

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