|Click on this Protestant Picture to enlarge|
If you believe that the Apostles taught the fundamentals of the faith e.g. the Trinity, Virgin Birth etc., along with autonomous church government and the immersion of believers only, then you might well consider them (to use an anachronism) "Baptists" and thus, in your eyes, say that they predate the Protestants by some 1500 years. Well and good. I wish you well with that one. OTOH, if you believe that the Apostles taught those same fundamentals of the faith and that the church government of the Apostles was not autonomous, but rather the many in the presbytery made decisions binding on all member churches and that baptism may be ministered by several modes etc., then it is likely that you will consider them (again to use the anachronism) to be Presbyterians. IOW, your historical designation of the Apostles relies heavily on your interpretation of several passages of Scripture.
CH Spurgeon professed himself to be a Baptist. In line with his conviction, he could bring himself to say (as explained above)
We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents . . .
But, equally, Spurgeon also professed to be a Protestant and indeed, hoped that he was the "most ardent Protestant living" and obviously could detect no inconsistency in so doing. Spurgeon was not alone in this. Not a few posts in recent times (somewhat an imbalance number wise) have pointed out how many other Baptists, including John Gano, Isaac Backus and their twenty member Baptist Churches Association, quite happily professed themselves to be Protestant and Baptist in the one breath.
My Twitter friend, Mr Stratton (Albeit of the blocking kind) relates that they only described themselves as Protestants to indicate that they were not Romanists. This is strange:
1) To profess something which you are not (i.e. Protestant) in order to deny something else that you are not (Roman Catholic) does not seem honest or sensible. You cannot get rid of one confusion (or hope to ward it off) by introducing another.
2) Not sure (forgive my non desire to spend a lot of time researching on the internet here) if Mr Stratton runs with the view that Popery is the Harlot of Revelation 17 (FTR: I do) and that the Protestant churches are just the daughter of the Harlot and share her filthiness and uncleanness. (I certainly don't). I take the line expounded by famous Baptist preacher, FB Meyer, propagated here, that the Apostles were de facto Protestants. If the old Baptists who called themselves Protestants but held to the view that Protestant churches were filthy daughters of Rome - then we must wonder at their sanity. If both Protestantism and Popery is so leprous, then why identify with one crowd to disassociate yourself from another. it just doesn't add up, does it? Why didn't they just say: "We are neither Catholic nor Protestant. We are simply Baptists"?
3) If a Baptist group calling itself "Protestant" makes reference to "the Protestant religion" (as the Baptist framers of the 1689 Baptist Confession do) and indeed hope to venture all for that same "Protestant religion" - joining "hearts and hands with other Protestants" - and doing so in order that this same "Protestant religion be preserved" - then we may be sure that they positively mean "the Protestant religion" and nothing less.
4) If a Baptist group refers to "other Protestants" meaning those non Baptists i.e. Presbyterians, Anglicans etc., then the word "other" means that they are not Baptist only, but also Protestant. You may actually be both because the term "Protestant" is an wider umbrella term while the designation of Baptist or Presbyterian etc., is more particular and precise. That's OK. The world wont cave in. Or at least, it hasn't yet.
5) If a Baptist group when articulating its creed (their own term) uses the word "Calvinist" (as the 1678 Baptists did) then they are using a Protestant term. John Calvin himself was not a Baptist, but a Presbyterian and wider again, a Protestant. Mr Spurgeon not only described himself as a Baptist, but as a Protestant (see above) but also a Calvinist. My favourite quote from Spurgeon - outside any that might speak about the sufficiency of the Cross etc - but along the lines that we are discussing here is that which is in the above graphic.
Perhaps part of the problem lies in our designation of "old Baptists." This term has been left (by me too) as undefined. It is to be admitted a pretty wide term. No one is at liberty to speak for every last Baptist - of whatever generation - no matter if within or without the Baptist denomination and no matter what argument he wishes to espouse. That some "old Baptists" might not have been able to see beyond the tip of their Baptist noses is to be admitted, although it is not for me to find them. Others appear to be more qualified. But other "old Baptists" could. Well aware that the term Protestant extended far beyond their Baptist designation, the Baptists who drew up the 1679 "Orthodox Creed" hoped to unite "all true Protestants" round its confession. Again, nine Baptist preachers from North Carolina in 1741 quite happily put their name to the term "Protestant Dissenters" in a document with sixteen other Protestants (non Baptists).
Some of these "old Baptists" while obviously disagreeing with other Protestants on Baptism - to the point of consistently (at least with themselves) denying their friends' baptism, yet recognised the validity of their call to the ministry. They preached in each others pulpits. They recognised the Protestant Reformers as men sent of God - not exactly the language you use for those whose ministry you see as a sham or even a fraud. They communed delightfully together around the Lord's table as the observant Cotton Mather rejoiced. The Presbyterian evangelist, Daniel Baker, records how Baptists and Presbyterians etc., all rejoiced together round the preaching of Calvinist doctrine. "A beautiful and cordial union prevailing" is how he words it.
To deny the basic Protestantism of these old Baptists who actively and unashamedly professed it or to try and whittle it down to mean something else is to belittle these men. It is to treat them as if they were imbeciles or worse because their profession has become meaningless.
It is to be noted that even many of the Baptist historians who recorded these old Baptists confess their Protestantism let this term go unchallenged. Others resorted to editing the term of "Protestant" out, but the truth is there to for all to see. The internet has opened up research facilities so that the truth no longer lies with the privileged few, but the searching many. In some cases, it is the Baptist historian who refers to them as Protestants when there is no presented documentation (as I have done here) to show that this was their position. The terms, although not strictly synonymous, are close enough to be rendered interchangeably without any need of a ruckus. Henry Burridge obviously agrees.
In closing (although much more could be said) I can't help but wonder when it became fashionable to deny the Protestantism of these professed Protestant Baptists? What point are they trying to make? Especially by using such a failed method? It is somewhat ironic that some of these rather narrow sites link back to the very sources that destroy their view. History certainly is not kind to their position.
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