Over the past several weeks we have been looking at some of the beliefs that set Baptists apart from others within Christianity.
Our History sets us apart; We are not Protestants! Our Position on the Word of God. Our Position on the Ordinances of the Local Church. Our Belief in a Regenerated Church Membership Our Position on the Autonomy of the Local Church
Tonight, we want to look at yet another Baptist distinctive: Individual Soul Liberty and Responsibility.
I. The Doctrine and Its Implications.
1. Every individual has the liberty to choose what his conscience or soul dictates is right, and ...
2. Is responsible to God alone for his choice.
B. Individual Soul Responsibility:
1. Separates the individual from his family, friends, and government.
2. Rom. 14:4, "To his own Master he standeth or falleth.
3. 2 Cor. 5:10, "So, then, every one of us must give account of himself to God."
C. It Means Freedom to Choose
1. Freedom to read the Bible; to interpret the Bible; freedom to approach God; to serve God.
2. Implications: Every person is responsible for himself.
a. We will disagree, we will denounce, we will persuade, but we will not persecute.
b. We will exhort, argue, lobby, but we will not coerce!
c. We will witness, we will teach; we will not compel.
3. We would not baptize an unconscious infant-robbing it of its freedom to choose.
4. We would oppose any form of State Church.
5. We would oppose the intervention of a Priest or anyone else to represent us before God.
D. Our consciences must be free to answer to God.
II. Baptists and Religious Freedom.
A. Concept of Religious Freedom flows out of Soul Liberty.
B. This doctrine brought persecution to Baptists in the Middle Ages.
1. Persecuted by Rome from 313 A.D.
2. Reformation didn't help Baptists at all, because the reformers formed their own State Churches.
a. Lutherans: State Church of Germany
b. Episcopalians: State Church of England
c. Presbyterians: State Church of Scotland (1592)
C. Persecution in America
1. Baptists fled European persecution to come to America.
a. Congregationalists established a State Church in the state of Massachusetts.
1) Obadiah Holmes: Baptist (1651) Was whipped for holding a prayer meeting.
2) In Court he was told: "You have denied infants baptism ... you deserve to die."
3) He was beaten so "the blood ran down his body until it filled his shoes "; for two weeks, had to sleep on his hands or elbows, and knees.
b. Maryland: Roman Catholic Colony.
c. Connecticut taxed Baptists and confiscated their lands to pay for Presbyterian Churches.
d. North and South Carolina, & Virginia: Church of England
2. Baptists scattered throughout the Colonies.
a. First Baptist Church, of Providence, established under Roger Williams, who had been banished from Massachusetts.
b. Establishment of Rhode Island
1) John Clarke went to England to obtain a charter for a new colony.
2) It took 12 years.
3) Wrote charter for R.I. in (1663)
4) The words "religious liberty" were used for the first time in an official government constitution.
3. Virginia:Persecution of Baptists
a. John Ireland: Arrested with two other Baptist preachers; imprisoned in Culpepper, Va.
b. They attempted to blow him up with gunpowder; smother by burning sulfur under his cell; hired a doctor to poison him, and built a wall to keep him from preaching through the bars of the cell.
c. John Waller, Lewis Craig, James Child: on June 4, 1768, were dragged before the Magistrate of Spottsylvania County, Fredricksburg, and held for trial, accused of being 'disturbers of the peace.
1) Prosecutor: "These men are great disturbers of the peace; they cannot meet a man in the road but they must ram a text of Scripture down his throat.
2) They were defended by Patrick Henry.
d. Laws against Baptists:
1) Only one preacher per county; and he could preach 1 time quarterly, in 1 place only.
2) Change in law: monthly but never at night.
3) Mission work and revivals were forbidden.
4. U.S. Constitution.
a. Patrick Henry suggested the idea of 4 state churches: Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist.
b. Thomas Jefferson attended a Baptist church as a young man and got ideas of democracy from it
c. Baptists had great influence through James Madison, graduate of Princeton, who prepared for the Episcopal ministry.
1) He became a "friend of the Baptists", and in assisting in the writing of the Constitution
2) He was instrumental in the idea of Religious Freedom being included.
Ill. The Scriptures on Soul Liberty.
A. From Genesis - Revelation, God calls people to submit to Him.
He gives them freedom to choose. Once we make a choice, we bear personal responsibility for that choice.
1. He called Abraham...he could have refused.
2. Jonah preached to Nineveh: they could have refused.
3. When Israel demanded a king .... God warned them.
4. Jesus said, "Come unto me" (God calls, invites; appeals; but He allows us to choose.)
5. Luke 13:34, "How often would I .... but ye would not."
6. John 1: 1 1-1 3, "He came unto His own and His own received Him not. But to as many...."
7. John 5:40, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life."
8. Acts 7:51, "Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did."
9. Rev. 3:20, Christ outside the door of the church; He knocks, but doesn't force Himself in.
B. This does not violate God's sovereignty.
1. God wants us to love Him-He commands it.
2. But, coerced love, or love without choice, is not love.
Baptists have been around a long time. We haven't always been as well accepted as we are now. Much of the problem has always been that we believe in individual soul liberty and responsibility. We tend to go with what the Bible teaches rather than go along with 'mainstream' Christianity. Tonight, you are responsible for your relationship with the Lord. Is it right?