A people who loses its heritage, loses its foundation. Starting shortly after the Civil War, some among the Baptists of that day started rewriting Baptist history. As a result much of our Baptist heritage has been forgotten. Over the last century and a half many Baptist have begun to consider themselves just another protestant denomination.
A man named William H. Whitsitt, in a book published in 1896, set forth the view that Baptists had their beginning in the early 1600’s and did not start baptizing by immersion until 1641. At first most Baptist historians opposed his teachings but by the middle of the 20th century most of them had jumped on Mr. Whitsitt’s band wagon.
If Mr. Whitsitt’s theory that Baptists started in the 1600’s is true, who were those being drowned a hundred years earlier in Switzerland for Baptist beliefs, most particularly for baptizing by immersion? Prior to Mr. Whitsitt’s view, even Protestant historians agreed that Baptists had existed by various names from the time of Christ until the time of the Reformation.
John Clark Ridpath (1840-1900), a Methodist historian, said, “I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A.D. 100, though without a doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists.”
At the request of the king of the Netherlands, a study of the history of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands was made and publish in 1819. It concluded that “the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the Apostles; and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages.”
I could give many more quotes from both friends and foes of Baptists to prove that Baptists existed long before the Reformation but that is not my purpose here. My purpose is to show that Baptists are not Protestants.
It is important that we understand our origins. Many gave their lives to keep the truths of the Gospel pure. Fifty million of them were killed during the dark ages. This means 137 were killed every day, 50,000 every year, for 1,000 years. We need to know why they thought it was worth dieing for those doctrines that have been Baptist distinctives. The most important being that the Scriptures are our all sufficient authority for both our faith and our practice.
These people believed all the orthodox Christian doctrines like the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His bodily resurrection, etc. It was not for these that they were killed. They were killed because they believed in the sufficiency of the Scriptures, the autonomy of the church, soul liberty, freedom of conscience, salvation by grace, through faith, without works, holiness of life, and most of all they were killed because they believed in baptism by immersion of those who had a credible testimony of salvation.
Baptists once stood apart from others and kept the Gospel pure through the centuries. They did it all at great cost to themselves.
If what our Baptist ancestors stood for was worth this cost, should it not be worth the same cost today? The compromise we see in far too many Baptist churches comes from losing the biblical foundation that Baptists have stood upon since the first century. It comes from Baptists being Protestantized if you will let me invent a word.
The importance of a strong foundation cannot be overemphasized. I believe there are troubled times ahead. If our people are not founded, our heritage will be lost. If our heritage is lost we will lose our influence in the world. If we lose our influence who will keep the truth alive in the troubled times ahead?
As Baptists we must stand up and stand out or we will die out!
When I left Bellingham Baptist Church I preached a message telling my members why I was leaving. The following message is a condensed version of that message. It will let anyone interested know what is upon my heart.