Book offers glimpse into 1906 Missouri Baptist life
JEFFERSON CITY – Now that it’s online, the once-brittle 248 pages of “Missouri Baptist Centennial 1906” offer insight into the gems of our past – and the ironies of our present – and you don’t have to wear protective gloves to handle it.
The Missouri Baptist Historical Commission hosts a .pdf-scanned version of the 100-year-old volume telling a 200-year-old story, complete with lithographs at its Web site, www.BaptistParchments.org – just in time for the Missouri Baptist bicentennial in 2006.
Joanna Perkins, archivist for the commission, scanned the collection of essays and sermons page by dusty page, not to mention reading the book several times through as she went a long.
“It’s interesting to read what they thought 100 years ago was success, and what they thought was a failure, what they saw as having been accomplished and what still needed to be accomplished,” she said.
On the beginnings of Missouri Bapitsts: “… If 1776 and 1803 were the grandest epochs in American national history, the year 1806 was the grandest epoch in Missouri Baptist history. It was then that the first Baptist church was organized west of the Mississippi River – a Baptist Church organically in accord with the great principles of civil and religious liberty…”
On the typical 1806 Missouri Baptist family: “In those frontier families the children of the household numbered from four to fourteen, and most of them, for part of the year, spent the day in school, while the father and the older boys spent time at work in the field or hunting in the forests. When night came on, the family all gathered around the great bright fire that burned upon the broad hearth stones and related the doings and hearings and learnings of the day. The bear wounded and escaping in the dense forest; the panther shot in the trees and falling with a heavy thud; the lessons that were badly gotten and poorly recited; the whipping received by one of the children… Occasionally both the father and the mother must administer rebuke for wrong or careless doing.”
On comparisons to Baptists in 1806 and 1906: “While, unquestionably, we live in better houses, wear finer clothes, eat at more luxurious tables, travel in faster, better vehicles and enjoy a thousand conveniences to which our fathers of a hundred years ago were strangers, what about improvement in character? – in morals? – in attendance at the house of God? – in the sincerity of religious worship?”
On state missions: “From that day on (June 1835), the work of state missions has always been opposed in one form or another under one guise or another; but always with disastrous effects to the men and measures which have opposed it, until the opposition has no voice that can be heard above the paeans of praise for God’s great blessings on our efforts… As three million are to a few thousand, so is the work before God’s people today to the work then. As three million now are to the unknown millions that are coming, so is the present to the vaster call of the ever widening future.”
On liberalism among Missouri Baptists: “Another count in the indictment is that Baptists are becoming more liberal toward error, which is but another way of saying they are less tenacious of truth. There are more union meetings, pulpit affiliations, denominational courtesies – a Baptist preacher’s library is filled with books from every whence. But is there evidence of yielding in any doctrine touching the trinity, the divinity of Christ, a converted church membership, believer’s baptism, the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures or church policy? Baptist vindictiveness is becoming respectful toward the achievements of others. We may well thank God and the fathers that there is no indication of denominational stampeded across the ancient landmarks, that there is no heresy plant in the state and not one of great influence in our ranks set for the overthrow of Bible doctrines or Baptist institutions. ‘Liberal’ is a term hatched in the same nest with ‘Higher Criticism’ and has no place in our vocabulary unless we admit that our predecessors have been stingy with the truth.”
On Missouri Baptist unity: “The general influence upon the life, work and spirit of the brotherhood in this state has been of untold good. It has been the greatest unifying force in the life of the denomination… Thus coming together in co-operation, they have learned to know and love each other and to put the interests of the cause of our beloved Lord above personal prejudices, passions or preferences.”
On what makes a successful pastor: “The successful pastor is doing more for the people; he must be ready like a doctor, have executive ability like a college president, be confidential like a father confessor, and expert financier, and accomplished conversationalist, an entertaining speaker, blameless in personal morals and, above all, a religious leader. For these very things he is equipped. The church without him, or with a bad one, has more pain in the region of the heart than ever before.”