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Why I am a baptist

By Rev. A.E. Prince
Pastor of First Baptist Church
Charleston, Illinois

(Article found in the Charleston Courier newspaper in Charleston, Illinois 
in July of 1896)

Does it make any difference which church I join? The superficial 
professor says it does not and he unites with a church for the social 
benefit of his family, because his parents belonged, in order to keep his 
family together in one church, for business prestige, to please his 
friends, because it is popular, or for some other inconsiderable reason. 
The devout believer seeks to know the will of his Lord and governs his 
church affiliation by the dictates of his conscience. Such a person unites 
with a church because he believes it is the gospel church, and he will be 
a valuable addition to that church.
That the church was established during the personal ministry of Christ is 
too well attested to need proof in this article. This is, I believe generally 
conceded by the religious world. After the ascension of our Lord there 
were local congregations in various places but these were of one faith It 
was never claimed until modern times that these were churches of 
various faiths. In fact, there was but one faith of Christians until the great 
division of the third century. That division marked the dividing line 
between the true faith and the faiths of that time and later days. At the 
time of that division the true believers who were opposed to the pagan 
practices and unwarranted principles which the spirit of the Anti-Christ 
had produced in the church, withdrew into the Piedmont valley, and from 
that time to the present age have suffered persecution for their faith and 
practices. Christ promised to perpetuate the church he founded the 
church he founded and if his promise is true, which all will surely believe, 
that church is still in existence. If that church is still in existence it is the 
duty of all who call him Lord to seek fellowship in that body.
After a careful and prayerful investigation of the New Testament 
scriptures I am lead to make three demands of the church I join. If it did 
not meet these scriptural requirements I could not hold membership in 
that body. I do not mean to infer that the church must strive to meet the 
demands of the individual. Instead, I believe that the church should be a 
gospel church and that the individual should belong to it because it 
corresponds with his views of scriptural doctrine and practice. The faith 
and practice of the church which was founded by our Lord, were given by 
him and they must not be changed by man, by any council of men, nor 
suit the taste of any individual.
1. Origin and Perpetuity
The church with which I am connected must be scriptural in origin and 
must have survived
the storms of the centuries of the Christian era. If historians can locate its 
origin this side of the personal ministry of our Lord it cannot be the 
church of Christ. To have the candid consideration of men it must have 
had advocates of its principles in all ages since the days of the apostles. 
In terms of modern thought, the apostolic church was one religious 
denomination having local congregations at various places for the 
convenience of its members in various localities. Baptists dislike the 
name “denomination” but it must be used o meet the demands of modern 
thought and by the term “Baptist churches” in this article I mean the local 
congregations of the denomination I represent. These united make one 
denomination or one church. I do not refer to the various denominations 
of Baptists for some of them are as much unlike us as many of the 
religious sects of this age. No one denies that the apostolic church was 
scriptural in origin. I believe the local congregations of the denomination I 
represent are as much like the local congregations of the apostolic 
church as they were like each other. A gospel church is a body of 
baptized believers, associated together by covenant in the faith and 
fellowship of the gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ as they were 
delivered; governed by His laws; and exercising the gifts, rights, and 
privileges invested in them by His word. If such a church can be found 
today it ought to be given careful consideration.
Such a church can be found but their claim of perpetuity is denied on the 
ground of church succession. No one denies the succession of the 
human family from Adam, although no man can trace his ancestry back 
through the ages to Adam. We find men on the earth who resemble the 
progenitors of our race and we believe in the succession of the family. 
The question of legitimacy might be sprung, but if God in the beginning 
promised to perpetuate the race by lawful marriages, we would have to 
content ourselves, without sufficient documentary evidence, with the 
belief that it has been done. Perhaps no one believes he can prove 
church succession in the congregational sense, and the effort to 
establish it by historical proof alone should never be made. Phophetic 
(probably means prophetic) proof is sufficient for the believer, but historic 
proof would not convince the unbeliever. I do not demand apostolic 
succession because it is not implied in the New Testament nor needed 
since Christianity is established. But I do demand that the church I join 
shall furnish proof of its perpetuity. I believe it does and offer two reasons 
for my opinion.
1. The first is prophetic proof. I have already said that Baptist churches 
are like apostolic churches. Granting this to be true, and I have never 
known it to be successfully refuted, the Baptist church would meet the 
definition of a gospel church and hence would be the gospel church. But 
some ask if the connection between the apostolic church and the Baptist 
church can be established. I predicate Baptist perpetuity on the promise 
of Christ. In Matt. 16:18 he said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail 
against it.” He spoke of His church. This was a prophecy as well as a 
promise. If the church has perished, if there ever was a time when it 
ceased to have a visible organization for even a moment, then, there was 
a time when the gates of hell prevailed and the promise was not kept. 
The promises of God have never failed. Dr. D.B. Ray says, “If all hostory 
(history) was a blank, if from the time the canon of revelation closed until 
now was one vast chasm of darkness, and not one line to light up the 
dreary pages of the past, with the prophetic word in one hand, I would 
span the chasm and say, THE GATES OF HELL HAVE NOT PREVIALED 
The church is the bride of Christ. She came into existence in the 
beginning of his personal ministry. That she is to be here when he comes 
is plainly indicated in his teachings. If the church ceased to exist for a 
moment the bride of Christ was dead. If she had to be revived by human 
agency after the dark ages then God was forced to call upon human 
hands to establish that which He did not have the power to perpetuate. If 
she perished in the dark ages then God’s plan failed, for provision was 
made for her (the church) to be fed in the wilderness. See Rev. 12:6.
The final appeal to adjust all differences is to be made to the church. 
“Tell it unto the church” – Matt. 18:17. If there was a time when the 
church had perished from the earth for even one moment, then, there 
was a time when this plain commandment could not be obeyed.
2. The second is historical proof. History supplements prophetic proof. All 
scholars concede that there have been religious communities in all ages 
who have kept the doctrines of the gospel. The history of the true 
believers have been written principally by their enemies. Their own 
records have been destroyed by their persecutors. It is conservatively 
estimated that not less than fifteen millions of persons preaching, 
teaching, and practicing what Baptists do, have been martyred since the 
apostolic age. These persecuted people have been known by various 
names, in divers places. They were contentious about the name that 
designated them. They were first called Christians at Antioch. This was 
not a denominational name but aname applied in derision. Such names 
as Montanists, Novations, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigenses, Mennonites, 
Waldenses Anabaptists, Baptists, and other names have been applied to 
them. The name “Baptists” has not been chosen by the Baptist 
denomination but was applied to them by their enemies because they 
immersed. The name “Missionary” was prefixed to it after the Anti-mission 
Baptists broke away from them in the early part of the nineteenth 
century, and was applied to designate them from the latter.

It is a significant fact that these names were applied for a purpose. John 
Wesley says in his Revision and Noted, seventh edition, on Rev. 13:7 
“And it was given Him to make war with the saints”. “With the Waldenses 
and Albigenses. It is a vulgar mistake that the Waldenses were so called 
form Peter Waldo of Lyons. They were much more ancient than he; and 
their true name was Vallenses, or Vaudois ***. This name Vallenses, after 
Waldo appeared, about 1160, was changed by the Papists into 
Waldenses, on purpose to represent them as a modern origin.” It is also 
significant that the Baptists of this age are descendants of the original 
Waldenses. In 1819 the King of Holland appointed Dr. Ypeig professor of 
theology in the University of Groningen, and Rev. I.J. Dermont, chaplain 
to the king, both learned men and members of the Dutch Reformed 
Church, to prepare a history of their church. In the authentic volume 
which they published at Breda 1823, they devote one chapter to the 
Baptists, in which they make the following statement: “We have seen that 
the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times 
Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who long in the history of 
the church have received the honor of that origin. On this account the 
Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has 
stood since the apostles, and as a Christian society has preserved pure 
the doctrines of the gospel church through the ages.” Concerning this 
plain statement , Dr.Wheaton Smith says, “Let it be remembered that 
these learned men were not Baptists, that they proclaimed the result of 
their research in the ear of a king who listened unwillingly to their 
conclusions. Let it be remembered that, as a result of their investigations, 
the government of Holland offered to the Baptist churches in the kingdom 
the support of the state, and, true to their principles they declined it.” Mr. 
Alexander Campbell, in his debate with McCalla, page 378, says “From 
the apostolic age to the present time the sentiments of Baptists have had 
an unbroken chain of advocates, and public monuments to their 
existence in every century can be found.” I am satisfied that history 
proves the identity of the true church; and that Christ has perpetuated 
His church, I have never doubted.
3. Doctrines.
The church of my choice must be scriptural in doctrine. I believe that the 
Testament teaches that Christ founded the gospel church during his 
personal ministry. To it were committed the ordinances of the gospel. 
Matt. 28_19-20 and Lu. 22:28-30 were spoken to His church. This church 
is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). It has “one faith, one 
Lord, and one baptism,” (Eph. 4:5). It keeps the ordinances as delivered 
(I Cor. 11:2). It follows the apostolic order, viz. ; 1. Repentance and faith 
which includes regeneration. 2. Baptism. 3. Church fellowship. 4. The 
Lord’s Supper. See Acts 2:41-42. It baptizes only by immersion, (Rom. 6:
4), and baptizes only regenerated people, (Acts 10:44-48). Its members 
have become such by their own voluntary act (Acts 9:26). It teaches the 
utter depravity of man. (Eph. 2:1-3) and hols that salvation is “by grace 
through faith”, (Eph. 2:8), for all who repent and believe the gospel. It is a 
local congregation, independent of all others and has Christ for its head 
(Eph. 5:23) and recognizes no other law above His. It teaches the 
security of the believer and belives that such as belive in Christ shall 
never perish (John 10:27-30 and John 6:40). In short, it believes and 
teaches the New Testament and does not teach nor practice a single 
thing which is not fully warranted by the Scriptures.
3. Practices.
The church with which I hold membership must be consistent in practice. 
It must not hold one principle and practice another. It must discipline its 
members according to the scriptures and no one unworthy of fellowship 
shall, for any reason, be retained. It must have a democratic form of 
government as was exhibited in the business session of the church 
before Pentecost. See Acts 1:15-26. Since Christ ordained those he sent 
forth by the organization of the church (Lu. 6:12), those sent forth by the 
church must be ordained. Its deacons in must be ordained as was done 
in the apostolic church (Acts 6:6). In short, it must exactly coincide with 
the practices of the New Testament church.
Believing as I do that the Baptist church is the gospel church, and that its 
doctrines and practices are scriptural, I cannot be anything but a Baptist. 
If millions have died for no crime, but for advocating these principles, it 
should be a pleasure for one who believes them to live for them. From a 
time that dates back of the rise of any other religious sect, these 
principles have had their exponents beyond the seas. In the colonial 
days of our country, persons holding these principles came here for 
freedom in religious matters. The First Baptist church in America was 
founded by Dr. John Clarke at Newport, R.I., in 1638, and is still in 
existence. Many other Baptist ministers came over from Europe and 
some of these brought their whole congregations with them. These 
churches were the “mother churches’ in the New World. Thus was the 
faith brought to the American continent. Today the Baptist denomination 
is one of the largest in our country.
Firm in my conviction of the right as God gives me to see the right, I 
submit my reasons to the candid consideration of the reader.

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