One of the joys of an itinerant ministry is visiting pastors’ libraries. I have occasionally discovered books for which I have long searched. Usually, one of my first questions to a host pastor is, “Where is your Baptist section?” On many such occasions pastors appeared confounded. It is apparent that many have never considered the matter. To be sure, these men are Baptists by conviction, but their libraries are usually weak in the area of Baptist history.
Historic Baptist tomes are not easily obtained in this day. Interdenominationalism grew of necessity during the Fundamentalism-modernism debates and has created a camaraderie with many Fundamentalists of other denominations. This phenomenon has, however, subjugated historic Baptist distinctives to a position of dispensable paraphernalia, and our history and distinctives are rarely presented to the lay folk in Baptist churches. Tragically, many of the current generation of Baptist pastors have begun to wonder if it is needful to continue to carry the very name Baptist—a name that has been revered by our godly forefathers and has set us apart from Protestantism.
As I conduct “Baptist Heritage Conferences,” pastors often ask two questions: (1) “Where can one obtain Baptist books of historic value?” and (2) “What books would you recommend?” I trust this article may be used of the Lord to stimulate a renewed interest in knowing something of our wonderful history.
Due to a limited market, such books are rather costly. As a fundamental, premillennial Baptist, I must issue a disclaimer in regard to some publishers. I do not recommend everything that comes from the presses mentioned here, but I am delighted that there are some today who are attempting to maintain annals of historic worth. I believe that every Baptist pastor ought to purchase and carefully read books of historic value. Here are seven of my choices which I believe will strengthen Baptist convictions.
I am persuaded that the finest overall Baptist history is Thomas Armitage’s The History of the Baptists. Currently this classic work is printed in two 8.5″ x 11″ hard-back volumes. These volumes are sold as a set for $75.00 and may be obtained from The Baptist Standard Bearer (1 Iron Oaks Drive, Paris, Arkansas 72855). If these books are too pricey, John T. Christian’s A History of the Baptists would be my second choice. Volume one presents a wonderful panorama of our early history, while volume two deals primarily with the Southern Baptist movement. Christian’s volumes may be obtained individually for $8.95 from the Baptist Sunday School Committee, 4605 N. State Line, Texarkana, TX 75503-2928.
Unfortunately, the sets by Armitage and Christian deal with history primarily through the 19th century. Perhaps the most complete volume that deals with 20th century matters is The Baptist Heritage by H. Leon McBeth. This lengthy volume is published by the Broadman Press in Nashville, Tennessee. Historians are admittedly biased, and Dr. McBeth reveals his bias as he honors the Southern Baptist Convention while showing little respect for fundamental Baptists of the last century. The book is available in most bookstores for $49.99.
Baptist Piety is an interesting paperback volume by Edwin S. Gaustad. The book contains a review of the early Baptists of America. One will find great delight in the most interesting account it provides of Obadiah Holmes, who was severely beaten for his faith. The account includes his last will and testimony. The book sells for $12.00 from the Baptist Sunday School Committee, 4605 N. State Line, Texarkana, TX 75503.
I believe every pastor ought to possess a history of the moving of God among Baptists in an individual state. The History of North Carolina Baptists by George Washington Pashcal is currently available. This is a two-volume hardback history that gives rich insight into the impact of the Separate Baptists, who were born amid the Great Awakening. The histories of states often provide invaluable material as they deal with all the major problems confronted by our forefathers: the issues of slavery, anti-missionism, the Masonic Lodge, conventionism, liberalism, and a host of others. (Price: $54.00, from the Baptist Sunday School Committee, 4605 N. State Line, Texarkana, TX 75503-2928.)
Two missionary books conclude my suggestions. Every Baptist should read To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson. This thrilling review of the life of Adoniram Judson is reprinted from time to time. The volume is published by Judson Press in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and is available in major book stores for $17.00.
Another worthwhile reprint available today is Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons by Arabella W. Stuart and available from Particular Baptist Press (2766 W. Weaver Road, Springfield, Missouri 65810). Ann, Sarah, and Emily Judson each made tremendous sacrifices for the cause of Christ in Burma, and the account of their lives is thrilling. The cost of the volume is $14.50.
Wise is the pastor who frequents used book stores, keeping his eyes open for used Baptist volumes. The Baptist Archives, housed in the Rochester-Colgate Seminary in Rochester, New York, boasts 80,000 hardback Baptist books of every description. It is the finest Baptist library in the world and is available for research. In the meantime, every Baptist pastor ought to begin to build his own “Baptist Section.”
The late Dr. David L. Cummins was Deputation Director of Baptist World Mission in Decatur, Alabama.
(Originally published in FrontLine • September/October 2000. Please note: availability and pricing of the volumes mentioned have very likely changed. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)