"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." I Timothy 3:15
Who Are The Baptists?
Available in Tract Form. Contact the Editor.
It is with great jay that I introduce to you this little booklet by Brother Curtis
Whaley. With Brother Whaley's gracious permission, the First Baptist Church of Harrison,
Ohio, considers it a privilege to put it into print again.
The Baptist heritage is a glorious one! We can be proud and thankful for our forefathers.
Their history from the time Jesus built their first church until now is the most
interesting history in the world!
Many Baptists of today are not aware of who the Baptists are. This booklet has many
of the answers to that question. It is hoped that the reading of this booklet will
create a sincere desire to study in depth the Baptist ancestry.
We need loyalty to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ today. As one begins to trace
the ancestry of the Baptists back, back, back to that First Baptist Church in Jerusalem,
shivers will run up the spine. Gratitude to God for the perpetuity of the people
called Baptists will produce a love and loyalty for His church.
May God, in His sovereign mercy, use this booklet to stir up interest, study and
preaching concerning the church Jesus built. The local church is God's plan for today.
May we realize that "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all
ages, world without end" (Eph. 3:21).Berlin Hisel - Harrison, Ohio -1974
WHO ARE THE BAPTISTS?
I have been impressed more than ever during these changing, and somewhat unpredictable
days, with the importance of knowing what you are, and having firm convictions for
being what you are. The words of Peter are ringing a fresh tone of urgency in my
soul as I observe the appalling indifference that underlies the reasoning and thinking
trend of our day. He said, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh
you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." (I Pet. 3:15)
Can the slightest trace of conviction be found in the answers with which many respond,
when they are asked, "Why are you a Baptist?" When I ask a man that question, I am
hardly impressed with such answers as, "My parents were Baptists," or, "I believe
once in grace, always in grace," or worse yet, "The Baptist church is the nearest
to our home."
If you are a Baptist, you should know why you are a Baptist, and to know why you
are a Baptist, you should know who the Baptists are. To know who the Baptists are,
you should know where the Baptists began, what the Baptists believe and what the
Baptists have done.
I. WHERE DID THE BAPTISTS BEGIN?
While modern denominations trace their origin to modern founders, the Baptists have
existed through all the centuries of Christian history. The Lutherans began with
Martin Luther, the Presbyterians began with John Calvin, the Methodists began with
John Wesley and the Disciples began with Alexander Campbell. All the modern cults
began with modern founders. The Jehovah's Witnesses began with Charles Taze Russell;
the Mormons began with Joseph Smith, Jr.; the Christian Scientists began with Mary
Baker Eddy; the Seventh-Day Adventists began with William Miller; Swedenborgianism
began with Emanuel Swedenborg, etc.
Though many Baptist groups sprang up during the Protestant Reformation, according
to Collier's Encyclopedia, the Baptists have "descended from some of the evangelical
‘sects’ of the preceding age during which the Roman and Orthodox Churches dominated
all of Europe and suppressed all dissent."
A Catholic, Cardinal Hosius, President of the Council of Trent, (1545 - 1563), wrote
during the early years of the Reformation period, "Were it not that the Baptists
have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve
hundred years, they would swarm in greater numbers than all the reformers." This
should convince anyone that the Baptists are not a by-product of the Reformation,
and are not even Protestants in the popular sense of the term.
If the Baptists did not begin with the Reformation, when did they begin? We will
let a great American and World historian answer that question for you. John Clark
Ridpath, (1840 - 1900), a Methodist by denominational conviction, wrote:
"I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist Church as far back as 100 A.D.,
although without doubt there were Baptist Churches then, as all Christians were then
Baptists." Yes, all Christians were then Baptists, because the doctrines that Baptists
believe and teach today, are the same as those taught by the Lord Jesus Himself,
by Peter, John, Paul and all the Apostles. We have not always been called "Baptists."
The name is not a self-chosen one. Following what we believe to be apostolic precept
and example, the Baptists rejected infant baptism for lack of Scriptural warrant,
insisted on a "regenerate membership," and baptism sought intelligently by the candidate
as a condition for church membership. For these reasons they were stigmatized as
"Anabaptists," "Catabaptists," and sometimes as simply "Baptists." This was to say,
they were "rebaptizers, perverters of baptism," or, as unduly emphasizing baptism
and making it a reason for schism, simply "baptizers." We are proud of the name,
because it distinguishes our doctrinal position which is set forth in the New Testament,
and identifies us with a host of saints who believe the same precious truths and
were identified by the same denominator.
The premise that first century Christians were Baptists runs counter to the Roman
Catholic claim that the first Church was Roman Catholic. To this we need only point
out that the first Church was organized by Christ and His apostles, and those apostles
became the nucleus of the Church at Jerusalem, not Rome, and James was its leader,
not Peter. We also contend that the bishop of Rome did not win primacy over other
bishops until the fourth century, and that it wasn't until Gregory ascended the episcopal
throne in 590 A.D. that the Roman bishop began to claim his supremacy over other
bishops. Thus, we see that Roman Catholicism dates back to the fourth century at
While we do not contend that only Baptists are going to Heaven, we do contend that
the first Church was organized according to principles historically maintained by
Baptists, and that Baptists have existed since that day. First called they were called
Christians, then by other names down through the centuries until they received the
name that has distinguished them from Protestant and Catholic groups alike.
II. WHAT DO THE BAPTISTS BELIEVE?
When questioned as to his belief, Charles H. Spurgeon used to say, "First of all
I am a Christian. But as that word has become somewhat inclusive in the minds of
many, I further define my position by stating, I am a Christian who holds the doctrines
historically held by the people called Baptists."
The Baptists believe the great Bible Doctrines that have characterized historic Christianity
from its inception. They believe:
A. That The Bible Is The Inerrant, Divinely Inspired Word Of God. Though the pen
used was the pen of man, the words written were the words of God, in the original
manuscripts. (II Peter 1:21) Baptists recognize no divine authority in the traditions
of men, their creeds, or ecclesiastic decrees. For them, the Bible is the final and
only sufficient authority in doctrine, church government and life. They believe that
the Bible, being a revelation of the will of God, sets forth the state of man, the
way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of true believers. They believe
that its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and
its decisions are immutable, that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (II
B. That There Is One Eternal, Living And True God. The Baptists believe that Grid
is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. That He is a personal Being,
who created, preserves and rules the universe. They believe that God is infinite
in holiness and all other perfections, and that to Him is due the highest love, reverence
The Baptists are Trinitarians in that they believe that the one great God is revealed
to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each having distinct personal attributes, but
without division of nature, essence or being.
While we read in Deuteronomy 6:4, "The Lord our God is one Lord," we read in Matthew
3:16-17 that at the baptism of Jesus Christ, the three distinct personalities were
manifested at one and the same time. While Baptists recognize a seeming paradox,
they accept it, and humbly wait for its solution. Baptists do not measure what they
are to believe in the Bible by what accords with finite reasoning. It is not possible
for that which is finite to fully comprehend that which is infinite.
C. That Man Was Created By The Special Act Of God, as recorded in Genesis 1:27; 2:7.
Though created in a state of holiness, through the temptation of Satan, man transgressed
the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness. Through
his fall the entire human race inherited a corrupt and fallen nature (Romans 5:12),
and are so utterly out of contact with God in their fallen condition that they have
neither the desire nor the will to be in subjection to the will of God. Though man
in his unfallen state had freedom and power to will to do good or evil, man by his
fall, lost his ability to will any spiritual good accompanying salvation and has
no strength to convert himself or make any movement toward God. (Romans 3:10-11)
D. That In The Matter Of Salvation God Has Taken The Initiative (John 6:44). And
grace marks His program from beginning to end. (Eph. 2:8-9) He bestows salvation
upon all, who by faith, receive His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as their Saviour
and Lord. (John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-10) This made possible through the mediatorial office
of the Son of God, who by the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary and took upon
Himself our nature, yet without sin; honored the law of God by His personal obedience
and made atonement for our sins by His death on the cross. As the assurance of God's
approval and satisfied justice, He was raised from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-4), and
is now enthroned in Heaven as our Advocate. He awaits the day when He shall visibly
and personally return to earth to receive His people, assert His Kingly rule over
all the earth and judge the wicked. (Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 20:1:15)
Baptists believe in sanctification as the divine act of God in setting us apart for
Himself, and also as a process of spiritual growth in the believer that shall culminate
in our complete likeness to Christ when "we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:2)
They believe in the eternal security of the believer in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:38-39)
E That A Gospel Church Is A Congregation Of Baptized Believers, Acknowledging Christ
as their Head, united in their faith in His Word, observing the ordinances He instituted,
and covenanting to do what He commanded.
Baptists believe there are two church ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper.
They are not sacraments but symbols of spiritual truths. Baptism is the immersion
of a believer in water as a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of our
Lord. It is also a symbol of the candidate's death to sin and resurrection to a new
life in Christ. The Lord's Supper points back to the coming of Christ to die for
sinners, and forward to the coming of Christ to receive His Bride. (I Cor. 11:26)
In addition to two Church ordinances, Baptists recognize only two Church officers
as being scriptural; pastors and deacons. Pastors are also called bishops and elders.
They exercise no authority save that of leadership. Deacons are servants of the church,
chosen by reason of their fitness to perform certain duties, and by virtue of their
position, are recognized as leaders in the church. In the average church other officers
and committees are chosen in the nature of helpers.
F. That There Will Be A Resurrection Of The Dead (I Cor. 15), that Heaven is a place
prepared for God's people (John 14:2-3), and that Hell is the eternal estate of the
lost. (Psalm 9:17; Matt. 13:42; Rev. 20:13-15)
III. WHAT HAVE THE BAPTISTS DONE?
The Baptists have been active in many fields of service, in addition to establishing
hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged. The Baptists have made an honorable
contribution to the world of literature. They have written a number of our greatest
They have been great leaders in the field of education. Henry Dunster, the first
president of Harvard University, was a Baptist. Vassar College was founded by Matthew
Vassar, a Baptist. Robert Baylor, as a member of the Texas Republic's Supreme Court
and founder of Baylor University, was a Baptist. Brown University, Colgate and Rochester
were founded by Baptists, though they are no longer affiliated with the Baptists.
A number of senior and junior colleges, high schools, and elementary schools are
maintained today by Baptists. John Clarke, a Baptist, is recognized as the author
of the free school system in America.
William Fox, an English Baptist, organized the first Sunday-School society in 1785.
The first Sunday-School paper in America, The Young Reaper, was a Baptist paper.
The well-known Uniform Sunday School Lessons were developed by a Chicago Baptist
Layman, B.F. Jacobs, and a Methodist preacher, J. H. Vincent.
The first English overseas missionary, William Carey, was a Baptist. The first American
overseas missionary, Adoniram Judson, was a Baptist. Sailing for India with Luther
Rice as Congregational missionaries, the two of them were converted to the Baptist
faith en route. Judson sailed on to Burma, and Rice returned to organize support
for the mission.
There is little doubt that the Baptists have been the champions of religious freedom
in this and other lands. The Collier's Encyclopedia says, "The ideals of the Republic
were their own, and they became the leading protagonists of separation of Church
and State which, in the Bill of Rights, became a fundamental principle in the Constitution
of the United States."
Skeats, the English historian, declared, "It is the singular and distinguished honor
of the Baptists to have repudiated from their earliest history all coercive power
over the consciences and actions of men with reference to religion. They were the
proto-evangelists of the voluntary principle."
Thomas Carlyle asserted, "The history of the world is but the biography of great
men." And when you study the history of religious freedom you will discover that
it is largely a biography of great Baptists. For this they have paid a great price.
They were drowned, beheaded, burned at the stake, their eyes were gouged out, melted
lead was poured over their bodies and they were publicly whipped. Collier's Encyclopedia
says, "They were the victims of determined persecution on all sides, and this persecution
was carried on with more violence by Protestants than by Roman Catholics." Though
this may be disputable, the fact remains, in Protestant as well as Catholic countries,
the Baptists paid the price of freedom with their blood.
Though Luther, Zwingli and Calvin appealed to the Scriptures as the final and supreme
authority in matters of religion, not one of them advocated the freedom of the church
from secular control. While Calvin believed in punishing dissenters with death and
exile, Luther said of the Anabaptists, "Let the sword exercise its rights over them."
The champions of liberty in Germany were not the Lutherans, but Baptists such as
Balthasar Hubmaier, a learned man with a doctor of theology degree from the University
of Ingolstadt. This great Baptist was hounded from city to city, until he was banished
to Moravia where he became the leader of thousands who fled from the Zwinglian persecution
and of thousands of Moravian converts to Anabaptist views. He was burned at the stake
by order of the Emperor in 1528, and three days later his wife, with a stone tied
to her neck was thrown into the Danube by the Roman Catholic authorities. Throughout
his career as a Anabaptist leader, Hubmaier insisted upon the separation of the Church
and State, the authority of the Bible and the baptism of believers.
In 1535 Charles V issued an edict ordering all rebaptizers in the Netherlands to
be put to death by fire. During the next eleven years 30,000 Baptists were put to
Religious freedom in England did not originate with the Episcopalians or Presbyterians
but with Baptists, such as, Thomas Helwys, John Murton and their followers who organized
the first English Baptist Church in 1612 and began to spread from there the principles
Our own country is not exempt from the guilt of persecuting the Baptists. When nine
of the thirteen colonies had state-supported churches, hundreds of Baptists were
jailed or beaten in the streets.
On June 4, 1768, the sheriff of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, arrested Lewis Craig,
John Waller, James Childs, James Reed and William Mash. The prosecutor charged them
with being disturbers of the peace alleging, "They cannot meet a man upon the road,
but they must ram a text of Scripture down his throat." They were kept in prison
in Fredericksburg forty-three days for quoting the Word of God.
In 1773, Jeremiah Moore was arrested for preaching and was told by the judge, “You
shall lie in jail until you rot." Patrick Henry was brought to Alexandria to defend
Moore, and in a great impassioned speech said, "Great God, gentlemen! A man in prison
for preaching the Gospel of the Son of God." Moore was later released.
Many others like Obadiah Holmes were stripped to the waist and beaten. It is said,
"Until the blood ran down his body and then his legs until his shoes overflowed."
For days Holmes could not rest except upon his knees and elbows, not able to let
his body touch the bed.
Roger Williams, under the Baptist banner, was banished from Plymouth Colony in 1638.
He fled into the wilderness where he purchased land from the Indians, and together
with a band of sympathizers from Massachusetts, they established the first government
on earth where there was absolute political and religious freedom. They called the
Baptist John Leland became a friend of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, enlisting
their support in his fight for religious freedom, and strengthened their own convictions.
Leland determined to become a member of the Virginia convention called to ratify
the United States Constitution, to force Baptist views of freedom into the document.
He was opposed in the Orange County election by James Madison. He knew he had the
election won, but recognized in Madison a more persuasive political voice. So, the
two met at a place that is now known as the Leland-Madison State Park. There, Madison
agreed to introduce an Amendment to the Constitution assuring separation of Church
and State, if Leland would withdraw. Leland withdrew. Today, the First Amendment
in the Bill of Rights guarantees the citizens of the United States freedom of religion.
Now you know why I am proud to be a Baptist. You should be proud to be a Baptist,
and we must earnestly guard our principles which have been purchased by the blood
of martyrs. Evil efforts are being made to violate some of the principles today.
You should have firm convictions concerning the things that have made Baptists great,
and stand for those things, whatever the cost may be.