‘Baptist Life & Thought’ Category

Holy Wisdom that Possesses the Soul

September 18th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

In a sermon on Proverbs 14:8, Andrew Fuller observed an insightful principle of how the Word of God helps us get wisdom.  The Word shows us that wisdom deters us from the destruction of folly; moreover, wisdom should not look mainly to the destruction of folly but to the greatness of Christ.  This gaze upon Christ is done through meditation and prayer.

We shall read the oracles of God: the doctrines for belief, and the precepts for practice; and shall thus learn to cleanse our way by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word.  It will moreover induce us to guard against the dangers of the way.  We shall not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, nor of the numerous temptations to which our age, times, circumstances, and propensities expose us.  It will influence us to keep our eye upon the end of the way. A foolish man will go that way in which he finds most company, or can go most at his ease; but wisdom will ask, “What shall I do in the end thereof?”  To understand the end of the wrong way will deter; but to keep our eye upon that of the right will attract.  Christ himself kept sight of the joy that was set before him.  Finally, as holy wisdom possesses the soul with a sense of propriety at all times, and upon all occasions, it is therefore our highest interest to obtain this wisdom, and to cultivate it by reading, meditation, prayer, and every appointed means.[1]


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 465-66.

_______________

Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Judson’s Baptismal Prayer

September 11th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Prayer

By Evan D. Burns

The first American missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), wrote a number of different kinds of tracts, some of which have never been translated before into English. For my Ph.D. dissertation research, I have managed the translation project of a few of his untranslated Burmese tracts. It is fascinating to read them for the first time in English. For instance, in one of his practical tracts for church order and discipleship, The Septenary, Judson suggested this prayer as part of the closing liturgy for the baptism service:

Prayer to be said before baptism….  O almighty and everlasting God, who has great compassion; previously I/we had worshiped and followed the wrong god and have transgressed against our Saviour and have sinned.  By your grace I/we repent and confess my/our sins.  Referring to the fact that those who believe in Jesus Christ and took baptism will be saved, with faith I/we ask to be baptized.  As body filth is washed off by water may my/our conscience be washed off by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Like the dead body of flesh is buried in the ground through baptism, die as son of the world and in coming out of the water help me/us to resurrect as new person of heaven.  The person who takes baptism must discard wrong religion and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit till the end of days.  Rejecting own preference, bear the cross and follow Jesus Christ.  I/we promise to try and put into effect all the principles a believer should follow.  Grant upon me/us the Holy Spirit so that I/we do not break my/our promise and abide with the principles all the days of my/our life/lives.  I/we reverently pray that when I/we pass away from this world let me/us be at thy foot together with the saints enjoying the never-ending heavenly riches, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.[1]


[1]Adoniram Judson, The Septenary, or Seven Manuals, 2nd ed. (Maulmain: American Baptist Mission Press, 1836), 66-67.

_______________

Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Spurgeon’s Kind of Revival

September 4th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Revivals

By Evan D. Burns

In his day, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) called for Christians to labor in prayer for revival.  He outlined a few facets of genuine revival:  First of all, revival, if is authentic, should be “real and lasting” as opposed to “feverish and transient.”  Second, genuine revival should emphasize “old-fashioned doctrine,” including teaching the infallibility of the Scriptures and doctrines such as “the ruin, redemption and regeneration of mankind.”  Third, true revival would see the rise of “genuine godliness” and men who are “consecrated to the Lord and sanctified by His truth.”  Fourth, real revival should affect “domestic religion” in such a way that families are “trained in the fear of God.”  And fifth, the revival that Spurgeon prayed earnestly for was a revival of “vigorous, consecrated strength” where men of God find power in secret prayer.  Let us heed Spurgeon’s call for genuine revival in our day:

Saints acquire nobility from their constant resort to the place where the Lord meets with them. There they also acquire that power in prayer which we so greatly need. Oh, that we had more men like John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to Queen Mary than 10,000 men! Oh, that we had more Elijahs by whose faith the windows of heavens should be shut or opened!  This power comes not by a sudden effort; it is the outcome of a life devoted to the God of Israel! If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility….  Given a host of men who are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, the glory of God’s grace will be clearly manifested, not only in them, but in those round about them. The Lord send us a revival of consecrated strength, and heavenly energy![1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, The Kind of Revival We Need.

_______________

Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Announcing Kettering: A Newsletter of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies

August 29th, 2014 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History

By Dustin Bruce
Cover

August 2014 Issue
(Click to enlarge.)

The Director and Fellows of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies are happy to announce the release of a new publication, Kettering: A Newsletter of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

In an effort to expand the reach of the Fuller CenterKettering will be published quarterly and feature small articles, book reviews, and news items. This will enable the Fuller Center to publish a single high-quality print volume focused around themes relevant to Baptist studies.

I invite you to download a copy of Kettering, check out the Editor’s Introduction for more information about the future of the Fuller Center, and enjoy the rest of the contents in the August 2014 issue.

Like always, we would love to hear from you, and thank you for your continued support of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

_______________

Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

International Conference on Baptist Studies VII

August 26th, 2014 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Conferences, Historians, Revivals

Luther King House

Manchester, England

15-18 July 2015

Following six successful International Conferences on Baptist Studies around the world beginning at Oxford in 1997, there is to be a seventh at Luther King House, Manchester, England, the home of the Northern Baptist Learning Community, from Wednesday 15 to Saturday 18 July 2015.  All of these conferences have taken the history of the Baptists throughout the world as their subject matter, and participation has been open to all, both as speakers and attenders.  The theme this time is ‘Baptists and Revival’, a topic which includes traditional revivals, modern crusades and the more general reinvigoration of Baptist life.  The theme will be explored by means of case studies, some of which will be very specific in time and place while others will cover long periods and more than one country. All will be based on original research.

A number of main papers will address key aspects of the subject, but offers of short papers to last no more than 25 minutes in delivery are very much welcome as well.  They should relate in some way to the theme of ‘Baptists and Revival’.  The proposed title should be submitted to Professor D. W. Bebbington, School of History and Politics, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, United Kingdom (e-mail: d.w.bebbington@stir.ac.uk).  Papers from the first conference have appeared as The Gospel in the World: International Baptist Studies, edited by David Bebbington, and volumes representing nearly all the subsequent conferences have also been published in the series of Studies in Baptist History and Thought published by Paternoster Press.  We intend that a volume containing some of the papers will again appear after the seventh conference.

Luther King House is generously providing meals, accommodation and facilities for the three days for the remarkably low figure of £200.   The capacity of the House is limited to 59 and so early booking is advisable. Nevertheless additional attenders will be welcome if they are willing to make their own bed and breakfast arrangements and pay £80 for lunch, dinner, refreshments and facilities at Luther King House. Registration forms are available from Beverley Bartram, Conference Office, Luther King House, Brighton Grove, Manchester M14 5JP, United Kingdom (e-mail: LKHConferenceOffice@lkh.co.uk; tel: +44 (0)161 249 2539).  Further information is available from Nathan Finn, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina (e-mail: nfinn@sebts.edu).

Fuller’s Sketch of the Lord’s Prayer

August 8th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Eminent Christians, Prayer

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a skillful pastor-theologian.  He was also a soul physician who knew how to guide God’s people into a deeper knowledge of Christ.  Below is an example of Fuller’s ability to unfold the principles and meaning of Scripture in a way that is clear, practical, and faithful to the text.  Fuller summarizes the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-15) with a few simple observations:[1]

If in anything we need Divine instruction, it is in drawing near to God. It does not appear to have been Christ’s design to establish a form of prayer, nor that it was ever so used by the disciples; but merely a brief directory as to the matter and manner of it. Such a directory was adapted not only to instruct, but to encourage Christians in their approaches to God.

  1.  First, The character under which we are allowed to draw near to the Lord of heaven and earth.—“Our Father.”
  2. Secondly, The place of the Divine residence.—“Our Father, who art in heaven.”
  3. Thirdly, The social principle which pervades the prayer.—“Our Father—forgive us,” etc.
  4. Fourthly, The brevity of it.—“Use not vain repetitions, but in this manner pray ye.”
  5. Fifthly, The order of it.—Our attention is first directed to those things which are of the first importance, and which are fundamental to those which follow.

As there are three petitions in respect of God’s name and cause in the world, so there are three which regard our own immediate wants; one of which concerns those which are temporal, and the other two those which are spiritual.

  1.  “Give us this day (or day by day) our daily bread.” Bread comprehends all the necessaries, but none of the superfluities, of life.
  2. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” As bread in this prayer comprehends all the necessaries of life, so the forgiveness of sin comprehends the substance of all that is necessary for the well-being of our souls.
  3. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The last petition respected the bestowment of the greatest good; this, deliverance from the worst of evils. Christ teaches us to suspect ourselves.

The concluding doxology, though omitted by Luke, and thought by some not to have been originally included by Matthew, appears to agree with the foregoing petitions, and to furnish encouragement to hope for an answer.


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 578-583.

_______________

Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“It Is All Right”

July 31st, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

After the death of Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) wrote to her mother to inform her of Ann’s death.  In his long letter, he weaves together his heavenly-minded piety with his providentialist piety in order to make sense of Ann’s protracted suffering and in order to comfort Ann’s grieving mother.  Here is a small portion of that letter:

Oh, with what meekness, and patience, and magnanimity, and Christian fortitude, she bore those sufferings!  And can I wish they had been less?  Can I sacrilegiously wish to rob her crown of a single gem?  Much she saw and suffered of this evil world; and eminently was she qualified to relish and enjoy the pure and holy rest into which she has entered.  True, she has been taken from a sphere, in which she was singularly qualified, by her natural disposition, her winning manners, her devoted zeal, and her perfect acquaintance with the language, to be extensively serviceable to the cause of Christ; true, she has been torn from her husband’s bleeding heart, and from her darling babe; but infinite wisdom and love have presided, as ever, in this most afflicting dispensation.  Faith decides, that it is all right, and the decision of faith, eternity will soon confirm.[1] 


 [1]Adoniram Judson, “Letter from Rev. Dr. Judson, to Mrs.Hasseltine of Bradford, (Mass.), Amherst, Feb. 4th, 1827,” in The Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. 7, 89 vols. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1827), 261–62.

_______________

Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Was John Bunyan a Baptist? A Test Case in Historical Method

July 29th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Theology

By Nathan A. Finn

In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the life and legacy of John Bunyan (1628–1688). Some readers will know that Bunyan was the famous tinker-turned-pastor who spent most of 1660 to 1672 (and a few months in 1675) imprisoned for preaching illegally during the reign of King Charles II. This was a season when many Dissenting pastors, including Baptists, were fined and often imprisoned for violating the Clarendon Code, a series of laws meant to promote Episcopal uniformity in Britain. Over 2000 Puritan ministers lost their pulpits during the “Great Ejection” of 1662 alone.

No doubt even more readers will know that Bunyan authored the famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), a work that has remained continuously in print, been translated into over 200 languages, and likely outsold every book in the English language besides the King James Bible. Of course, Bunyan also wrote numerous other books and tracts, including his famous spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and the allegory The Holy War, which focuses on cosmic spiritual warfare (1682).

What many readers may not know is that scholars have debated whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist or a Congregationalist since at least the late-1800s. There are several reasons for this debate. First, Bunyan’s church in Bedford, which began as a Congregationalist (Independent) meeting, seems to have embraced a dual baptismal practice prior to his pastorate. Second, though there is no evidence the church baptized infants during Bunyan’s pastorate, the church continued an open membership policy that included both credobaptists and pedobaptists. (Bunyan even engaged in a literary debate with William Kiffin, among others, over the relationship between the ordinances and church membership.) Finally, after Bunyan’s death in 1688, the church gravitated toward mainstream Congregationalism and rejected credobaptism as a normative practice.

For these reasons, scholars have tended to fall into three camps when debating Bunyan’s baptism bona fides. First, some scholars argue he was not a Baptist, but rather was a Congregationalist who privately preferred credobaptism to pedobaptism. Second, some scholars argue that Bunyan was an “Independent Baptist,” i.e., a Baptist who practiced open membership. Finally, some scholars punt (ahem) and suggest that Bunyan was “baptistic,” but falls short of being a consistent Baptist.

This makes for a good test case in historical method.  A growing number of scholars argue there was considerable interchange and even intercommunion between various Dissenters prior to 1660. It was not unusual for one to move between Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and even Quaker meetings during his lifetime (besides other lesser-known sects and the Church of England). Among Baptists, even the very terms “General Baptist” and “Particular Baptist” are arguably anachronistic when used prior to the 1640s, because the two groups were different trajectories rather than fully formed denominational traditions.

Furthermore, many scholars of the Independents in particular suggest that there was a great diversity of baptismal views in the tradition prior to the adoption of the Savoy Declaration in 1658. In other words, it was perfectly possible, even acceptable to be an anti-pedobaptist Independent, yet not self-identify as a Baptist (the latter carried considerable cultural baggage due to frequent association with Anabaptism). Other historians have suggested that there was a “dotted line” between many Independents and their Particular Baptist friends.

Finally, there is no doubt that a number of self-identified Baptist congregations, all of which had their roots in Independency, did practice an open membership policy, at least for a season. Examples include Henry Jessey’s congregation in London, the Broadmead Church in Bristol, the Baptist meeting in Oxford, and some Welsh Baptist congregations.

As in so many historical debates that touch upon the nature of Baptist identity, the answer to the question of whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist depends upon whether one is speaking descriptively or prescriptively. From a descriptive standpoint, I find it hard to argue that Bunyan was anything other than a Baptist, at least during his years of formal pastoral ministry. He was an Independent Baptist who practiced open membership and open communion. While this was a minority position, it was not unknown among British Baptists. For the past century, this exact position has been quite common among Baptists in the British Isles and Australasia (and, increasingly, in North America).

This does not mean I agree with Bunyan from a descriptive standpoint—far from it. I reject Bunyan’s contention that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are private ordinances that are not directly related to the church. Scripturally, I see a close connection between the ordinances and the church, leading me to affirm a closed membership that restricts communion to biblically baptized believers. However, for me to hold Bunyan to my prescriptive convictions would be to confuse the work of the historian with the work of the theologian. The same point could be made about nearly all General Baptists and, eventually, Particular Baptists prior to 1641/1642; their baptism by affusion does not measure up to my theological standards, but for historical reasons I consider them to be Baptists.

Historians of Christianity will always be tempted to be theologians. And, of course, one cannot be a very good historian of Christianity if he or she doesn’t understand theology. Nevertheless, the task of the historian is primarily descriptive, whereas the task of the theologian is primarily prescriptive. We would do well to avoid confusing the two, even when we hold very strong theological convictions. As a historian, I have little doubt Bunyan was a Baptist. As a theologian, I have strong disagreements with aspects of Bunyan’s ecclesiology. It’s a matter of description versus prescription, and for the historian, the former ought to win every time.

_______________

Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

“One Golden Lamp”: The Judson Bible

July 24th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

I just returned from Myanmar a few days ago where I was teaching an intensive class to MA students (who are mostly pastors).  Because I am researching the spirituality of Adoniram Judson, I took time to travel with a guide to most of the identified Judson sites.  Some are still there and others are covered with buildings.  But the most impressive aspect of the Judson legacy was not the historical/archaeological places to be seen, but it was the superlative place that the Judson Bible still held in the minds and hearts of the Burmese people.  In my quest to discover the heart of Judson’s piety, I have found that the Burmese Bible stands unrivaled as the gold standard for contextualized theological translation theory, and for evangelicals in Myanmar the Bible is their daily food.  They speak of it as though it were just handed to them hot off the printing press for the very first time in their language.  It’s amazing how the Judson Bible translation is still revered today, and even among the Buddhists and secular scholars.  In some ways and to some extent, the Judson Bible has become for Burmese what Tyndale’s Bible was to the English language and what Luther’s Bible was to the German language.

I preached on July 13 in a Baptist church not too far from the jetty where the Judsons first landed 201 years earlier on July 13.  I spoke of the doctrine of justification by faith and the rediscovery of the Word of God during the Reformation.  Luther’s rediscovery of the centrality of the Scriptures became the ground in which the modern missionary movement grew and the ground upon which Judson and evangelical Bible translators have stood.  Judson himself said it well:

Modern missions have been distinguished from the Roman Catholic, and, indeed, from all former missions since apostolic times, by honoring and sounding out the Word of God; and I do believe that those missions which give the highest place to the Divine Word will be most owned of God, and blessed with the influence of the Holy Spirit.  There is only one book in the world which has descended from heaven; or, as I tell the Burmans, there is only one golden lamp which God has suspended from heaven to guide us thither.[1]


[1]Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 318-319;  Wayland, Memoir, 2:126-127.  For a very similar statement, consider Judson’s address at the ninth annual meeting of the American and Foreign Bible Society, held May 15, 1846; see:  Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 388-391; Wayland, Memoir, 2:235-238.  

_______________

Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Caleb Evans refutes Antinomianism

July 21st, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Pastoral Ministry, Theology

By Michael A.G. Haykin

A month or so before the seizure of the Bastille in 1789, an association of English Particular Baptist churches in the West Country met, as was their annual wont, for two days of worship and fellowship. This annual meeting on this occasion—June 3–4, 1789—took place at Horsley, Gloucs., where the redoubtable Benjamin Francis was the pastor. On such occasions as these, a circular letter would be drawn up by one of the pastors; then, when approved by the association messengers, it would be sent out to the churches. On this particular occasion Caleb Evans, the Principal of Bristol Baptist Academy, was asked to write the letter.

Among other comments in the letter, which was aimed at refuting especially Antinomianism, although Socinianism was also targeted, was Evans’ critique of what he called a “poisonous doctrine”: “That as God’s love to his people is from everlasting, it must have existed when they were sunk in sin and sensuality, in as high a degree, and in the same manner, as it will be when they are brought to glory” (The Elders, Ministers, and Messengers of the Several Baptist Churches [Circular Letter, Western Association, 1789], 8). Evans called this perspective—usually associated in that era with hyper-Calvinism—an “ignorant, shocking doctrine” and proceeded to refute it. Little did he know the firestorm his remarks would create.

Within the year, one of his fellow pastors in the Western Association, the minister of Chard, Samuel Rowles, attacked Evans in his Thoughts on the Love of God, which led to a reply from Evans and then a surrejoinder by Rowles. And to make things even more difficult the London minister William Huntington also entered the lists against Evans.

Reading over Evans’ circular letter just recently, it struck me that although Andrew Fuller is remembered as the great theologian of this era—David Bebbington once referred to him as a theologian of the caliber of Athanasius—he was surrounded by many capable men: such a man was Caleb Evans.

_____________

Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.