GEORGE W. TRUETT
The place is Atlanta, 1939; the occasion is the 6th World
Baptist Congress; the setting is the Ponce de Leon Ball Park where 12,000
delegates from 60 countries are gathered with others in attendance from across
the United States swelling the audience to as many as 100,000 persons.
Dr. George W. Truett had been elected President of the
Baptist World Alliance in Berlin, Germany, in 1934. On this occasion, he was
delivering his Presidential Address.
Dr. Truett enters the room conversing with Dr. J.H.
Rushbrooke of London recalling the six months' trip which they had made
together four years earlier meeting with Baptists around the world.
My dear Dr.
Rushbrooke, I cannot tell you how magnificently refreshing it is to be with you
again. Since the world journey on which you joined Mrs. Truett and me, there
has been rarely a day that we have not spoken of the thrilling moments we
shared together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even in the most
difficult circumstances imaginable. Ah, yes, the tears have been abundant in
remembering their great faith and their irrepressible courage. And our prayers
have been ceaseless as we have spoken to each other and to the First Baptist
Church and to our Southern Baptist fellowship.
And you, Dr.
Rushbrooke, you have been the object of our prayers, as well. How very much we
are in your debt for your leadership of our great Baptist World Alliance. Mrs.
Truett and I have with unfailing frequency thanked God that He has placed you
in such a position for such an hour as this. Before we mount the podium, I want
to say to you personally, what a delight it is to welcome you to the United
States. And further I want to say to you how comforting it is to have you
beside me as I address this mighty delegation here in Atlanta, Georgia.
You may know this: I was
reared no more than a hundred miles from this site in the mountain village of
Hayesville in the State of North Carolina and taught school as an
eighteen-year-old lad in Hiawassee, Georgia. Have you met Dr. Louie Newton
since your arrival? He is a widely read journalist who is now the Pastor of the
great Druid Hills Baptist Church in this City. It is he who has chaired the
arrangements committee for this 6th World Baptist Congress. Through
his extensive influence we have been accorded the most cordial welcome to
Atlanta. Look at that Choir! I am told that Mr. John Hoffman is among the most
celebrated choral musicians in the Southeastern United States. Now look at that
sea of faces, from every continent on the Earth. Dr. Rushbrooke, they are our
brothers and sisters in Christ representing all the races of mankind. Does that
not bespeak the oneness we know in Him, just as we experienced on our journey
such a short time ago.
There is Dr. Newton, now,
motioning us to the podium. Thank you for sitting alongside here as I go to the
lectern. Indicates the place where Dr.
Rushbrooke will sit, Truett moves to the center of the platform and to the
My beloved brothers and sisters, "As Baptists from around the
encircling globe are gathered in this beautiful, forward looking, and nobly
hospitable city of Atlanta, in the 6th session of the Baptist World
Congress, surely gratitude deep an joyful is in all our hearts, when we recall
the grace of God bestowed upon our world wide Baptist fellowship, during the
thirty-four years of the life of the Baptist World Alliance. We are gathered
here from five continents and from some sixty nations. These messengers of good
will are here from the Far East - - from India and Burma, and China and Japan;
from Australia and New Zealand; from Africa and South America; from practically
all the countries of Europe, except Russia, and even that great land will be
represented by some of her exiled sons. We are here from Canada and Alaska, and
Central America and Cuba, and from the Islands of the Seas. We are here
manifestly from the United States, North, South, East and West.
One may well wonder whether there has ever assembled on this Continent
a more significant religious gathering than in the Congress. The Baptist
Communion is now the largest Free-Church Communion in the entire world. The
Baptist family is by far the largest non-Catholic communion in the United
States, her churches numbering more than ten million members. Included in this
large company are between three and four million Negro Baptists, whose
remarkable growth in numbers and in glorious achievements, let me say to our
fellow Baptist from other lands, will forever stand out as epic chapters in the
religious life of America.
All these Baptists here assembled, and the millions of Baptists
represented by these messengers, we would fervently salute with Paul's
benediction: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from god our Father, and from
the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of
God which is given you by Jesus Christ." Nor would we stop with our salutations
to our fellow Baptists, but we would also say with Paul, o our fellow
Christians of every name and land: "Grace be with all them who love the
Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."
It is especially gratifying to us all that so many missionaries, from
lands near and far, are here with us in the Congress. They are our most honored
messengers. The largest and best contribution made to the missionary cause is
the missionary. More important than all our gifts in money, important as they
are, are the lives of the missionaries. What money gift to missions could
compare with the life of the missionary, William Care? Or with the lives of
Adoniram Judson, and Luther Rice, and Matthew T. Yates, and Lottie Moon, and
Henrietta Hall Shuck, and Robert Morrison, and David Livingstone, and John G.
Paton, and John E. Clough, together with an unnumbered host of faithful men and
women whose missionary lives have markedly changed the world? We stand in most
grateful salute, upon every thought of our valiant missionaries and the immeasurably
I would also speak a very personal word concerning one who is here with
us today, one especially dear to my own heart, even our own beloved World
Secretary, Dr. J. H. Rushbrooke.
Through the years of intimate association and conference and travel and
toil with him, he has continually loomed larger in spiritual wisdom and
strength, and in epoch-making serviceableness to our needy world. He is the
most informed man about Baptist affairs in all the world today.
You have come together in one of the ominous and fateful epochal hours
in the life of the world. Stupendous influences and forces are shaking the
world to its very foundation. The deadly menace of materialism casts its
baleful shadow throughout all realms, and among all peoples. The astounding
fact of ghastly persecutions, both racial and religious, continues to challenge
the whole world with horror, and to make a blot that is an unspeakable disgrace
to civilization. Fear seems to have the pass-key to whole nations, as well as
to myriad individuals, whether in palace or cottage. Vast changes of all kinds
are rapidly sweeping the world as swirling ocean currents sweep the seas. These
changes are economic and financial, political and governmental, educational and
social, moral and religious. Misunderstandings, both national and
international, seem relentless in their persistence. Wars and rumors of wars,
even now are casting their dark shadows across the earth. All these conditions
poignantly remind us how desperately we need help above ourselves. We are now
facing one of the most fateful days in all the history of the world.
On every hand, the acutely searching question is heard: Have Christians
an adequate remedy for the poignantly troubled world situation of today? Is
there a Door of Hope in the Valley of Achor? Happy am I to believe that this
assembled Congress, with united and unfaltering conviction would answer:
"Yes," to such a question. We would fervently sing with the poet:
We know of lands
that are sunk in shame,
Or hearts that
faint and tire;
And we know of a
Name, a Name, a Name
That can set such
lands on fire.
And there is only one Name
that can do it. "Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His
people from their sins." He was born in the first century, yet He belongs to
all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. And He is
adequate for the ills of today.
The question arises: What is the purpose of this
Baptist World Congress? What brings together this vast company of Baptists? . .
. we come to get and to give renewed emphasis to "THE BAPTIST MESSAGE and
MISSION for the WORLD TODAY."
The Congress does well to have as its Motto Text, Paul's positive
pronouncement: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ." I would here frankly say that for Baptists there
is one authoritative and final source of religious truth, and that source is
the Bible, the Holy Word of God. Our contention is that God's Will for mankind
is fully expressed in the Bible, and to that Will we are bound to conform, in
all matters relating to doctrine, polity, ordinances, worship and Christian
living. How shall we find out Christ's Will for us? He has revealed it in His
Holy Word. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the rule of faith and practice
for Baptists. Not traditions, nor customs, nor councils, nor confessions, nor
ecclesiastical formularies, however venerable and pretentious, guide Baptists,
but simply and solely the will of Christ as they find it revealed in the New
Testament. Christ is our one foundation, and we are to build alone upon Him. He
is our Prophet, Priest, and King, our one authoritative Teacher, our atoning,
adequate Savior, our Divine Lord and King. His Word is our Court of last
appeal, and His command is to be faithfully obeyed, whatever may be the cost.
The mighty preacher, the late Dr. B.H. Carroll, has thus stated it for us:
"The New Testament is the law of Christianity. All the New Testament is
the law of Christianity. The New Testament is all the law of Christianity. The
New Testament always will be all the law of Christianity." The law is
Christ; it is the law of Christ's reign. Holding aloft a little book, the name
of which is the New Testament, the Baptist shouts this cry: "Let all the
world go to bits, and we will reconstruct it on the New Testament."
It matters vitally what we believe. Ideas rule the
world. The late President (Edgar Young) Mullins has left on record one sentence
that may well characterize the historic significance of Baptists. That sentence
affirms the competency of the individual, under God, in matters of religion.
The individual is competent. That principle is the keystone truth of the
Baptists. Religion is a matter of personal relationship between the soul and
God, and nothing extraneous may properly intrude here - - no ecclesiastical nor
civil order, no church, nor ordinance, nor sacrament, no preacher, nor priest,
may dare to stand between the individual soul and Christ. Out of this cardinal,
bed-rock principle, all our Baptist principles emerge. Everyone must give
account of himself to God. There can be no sponsors or deputies or proxies in
such a vital matter. Each one must repent for himself, and believe for himself,
and be baptized for himself, and answer to God for himself, both in time and
eternity. Quaint John Bunyan was true to the New Testament teachings, when in
his Pilgrim's Progress he made the entrance into the narrow way to heaven, a
wicket gate so small that only one person could go in at a time. In the Kingdom
of God the individual is always the unit.
One man can no more repent and believe and obey Christ
for another, than he can take another's place at God's judgment bar. Neither
persons nor institutions, however dear and powerful, may dare to come between
the individual soul and God. "There is one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus." Let both the state and the church, let any
institution, however dear, and any person, however near, stand aside, and let
the individual soul have his own direct and personal access to God. One is our
pontiff, and His name is Jesus. The undelegated sovereignty of Christ makes it
forever impossible for His saving grace to be manipulated by any system of
human mediation, whatsoever.
And for any person or institution to dare to come
between the soul and God is a blasphemous impertinence and a defamation of the
crown rights of the Son of God. What a frightful chapter has been written, the world
around, by disregard of this lofty principle of freedom of conscience, and its
inevitable corollary, the separation of church and state! John Bunyan was kept
in Bedford jail for twelve long years, because he utterly rejected the claim of
the state to forbid his preaching the glorious Gospel of Christ. Yonder in
Massachusetts, Henry Dunster, the first President of Harvard, and one of its
chiefest helpers, was removed from the presidency, because he objected to
infant baptism. Roger Williams was banished, John Clarke was put in prison, and
Obadiah Holmes was publicly whipped on Boston Common; and all this, because
they refused to stultify their consciences. In Connecticut, the lands of our
Baptist people were confiscated and their goods sold, to build a meetinghouse
and support a preacher of another denomination. In old Virginia, the battle for
religious and civil liberty was long and grandly waged, and the final triumph
recorded there was such as to write imperishable glory upon the name of
Virginia forever. Fines and imprisonments and persecutions were everywhere in
evidence in Virginia, for conscience' sake. On and on our Baptist forbears
waged their unyielding battle for religious liberty. They dared to be odd, to
stand alone, to refuse to conform, though it cost them suffering and even life
itself. They pleaded, and suffered, and kept on with their protests and
remonstrances and memorials, until thank God, forever, their contention was
won, in these United State, and written into our country's Constitution, that
church and state must, in this land, be forever separate and free, and that
neither must ever trespass upon the distinctive functions of the other. The
impartial historian will ever agree with Mr. Bancroft, our American historian,
when he says: "Freedom of conscience, unlimited freedom of mind, was from
the first the trophy of the Baptists." Their contention is not for mere
toleration, but for absolute liberty. There is a wide difference between
toleration and liberty. Toleration is a concession, while liberty is a right.
Toleration is a matter of expediency; while liberty is a matter of principle.
Toleration is a gift from man, while liberty is a gift from God. It is
therefore, the consistent, insistent, and persistent contention of our Baptist
people, always and everywhere, that religion must be forever voluntary and
uncoerced, and that it is not the prerogative of any power, whether civil or
ecclesiastical, to compel men to conform to any religious creed or form of
worship, or to pay taxes for the support of a religious organization to which
they do not belong, and in whose creed they do not believe. God desires free
worshippers, and no others.
Jesus stated this principle in the two sayings,
"My Kingdom is not of this
world," and "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto
God the things that are God's."
Caesar's dues be paid
Caesar and his throne;
consciences and souls were made
the Lord's alone."
That one utterance of Jesus,
"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things
that are God's," marked the divorcement of church and state, once and for all.
It marked a new era for the creeds, and deeds of men. It was the sunrise gun of
a new day, the echoes of which are to go on, and on, until the doctrine of
"A Free Church in a Free State," shall have absolute supremacy, in
every land, whether great or small, around the encircling globe.
Concerning the church, Baptists hold that it is a
Divine institution, not evolved from the changing conditions of society, but
expressing the mind of Christ; that it is an enduring institution, adapted to
all times and climes, and to all peoples. They hold that a church of Jesus
Christ is a spiritual institution, and that it is a pure democracy, without
disbarment of franchise to any member, on the ground of nationality, race,
class or sex. There are two ordinances of the church - - Baptism and the Lord's
Supper - - neither as a means of salvation, but both figurative and
commemorative. It is a vital Baptist principle that spiritual birth must
precede church membership and these two ordinances.
Baptists hold the immemorial position that all true
believers in Christ as their personal Savior, are saved, having been born
again; and this without the intervention of preacher, priest, ordinance,
sacrament, or church. Therefore, we profoundly rejoice in our spiritual union
with all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth. We cherish them
as our brothers in the saving grace of Christ, and heirs with us of life and
immortality. We love their fellowship, and maintain that the spiritual union of
all true believers in Christ is now, and will ever be a blessed reality.
Baptists joyfully cherish all these believers in Christ, as their brothers in
the common salvation, whether they be found in a Protestant communion, or in a
Catholic communion, or in any other communion, or in no communion.
The momentous, epochal days which are now upon us call
mightily for renewed clarity of thought, and for deepening of convictions
concerning the message and mission of all Christ's people. It is conviction
that convinces. The place of the Christian pulpit and the Christian teacher is
no proper place for a religious stammerer. We need a reincarnation of the John
Bunyan spirit, throughout all the Christian world today. He was long kept in
(Bedford) jail, because of his fidelity to his Christian convictions. When he
was offered his freedom, if he would put his conscience in shackles, he made
the sublime reply: "I will stay in prison till the moss grows on my
eyebrows (as thick as on these walls), rather than make a slaughterhouse of my conscience,
or a butchery of my principles." That is the spirit for all God's people
This incomparably fateful hour in the life of the world
calls for the dedication of our all for the furtherance of Christ's Kingdom
through every nook and corner of this earth. Our task is nothing less than the
evangelization of the whole world, and to bring it into obedience to Christ.
Christianity cannot yield its claim to supremacy, everywhere, nor will it
consent to enroll Christ in any Pantheon, anywhere. Christ must be Lord of all,
or He will not be Lord at all. There are not two Saviors but one, and hence
Christ's holy religion must be exclusive and adapted to all mankind. "He
must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet." We are in no
losing battle when we follow Christ.
has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
sifting out the hearts of men before the Judgment Seat;
swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet,
God is marching on."
Every Christian is to take Christ's world view of the
Christian task. To such end, we must major on Evangelism. That is the first
note in the marching orders of our risen Savior and Lord. Evangelism is the
missionary spirit in action. It is the forerunner and builder of churches. It is
essential to all Christian expansion, and must give its benign influence to all
sound teaching in the churches. The first and supreme business of every church
is to win souls to the salvation and service of Christ. This work is not
secondary and incidental, but it is primary and supreme. "As the Father
hath sent me, even so send I you."
But it is not enough for us to be given the vision of a
lost world - - we must also know of an adequate remedy for such a lost world.
And there is a famine in the earth of the Word of God. Just here we come upon
the most enchanting theme in the universe. It is the Gospel story of how a
sinner may be saved. "There is no other name under heaven, given among
men, whereby we must be saved." This gospel is the one, all-sufficient
hope for mankind. It is the hope for the individual, and it is the hope for
society. Grace is as real as sin, and grace is far more powerful than sin.
"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Wherever the vital
facts of Christ's death and resurrection are faithfully proclaimed, Christ
verifies His promise: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw
all men unto Me." This very hour, Christ is saving Korean demon
worshippers, and south Sea Cannibals, and African Hottentots, and Indian Pariahs,
and Confucian Scholars, and Brahmin Priests, and (American secularists), and
men of every type and temperament under heaven.
Our declared principles inexorably commit us to a large
program of service. The whole Gospel for the whole world is our God-given
program. The acid test of Jesus is: "By their fruits ye shall know
them." The truth is not to be wrapped in a napkin for safe keeping - - the
truth is to be promulgated. "Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the
things which I say?" Faith is more than a dogma, it is a passion, it
lifts, it achieves, it arrives. Great
believers are great doers. Entrusted as we are with such a Gospel, what ought
we to be and do about it? If we are to be true to our Baptist Message and
Mission, we must be missionary enthusiasts. It was no accident that William
Carey became the founder of modern missions. His fundamental Baptist principle
of obedience to Christ made him a missionary. And so with Judson and Rice, and
with all the valiant men and women who followed in their train. If (all of you)
now gathered, have the true Baptist spirit, it will leave us no choice but to
go and to give, and to live, and if need be to die, that the glorious Gospel of
Christ may be made known to every human being. It is high time for Baptists to
take a great step forward. Carlyle's final message is the message for us all:
"Give yourself royally." Let us dare to tread the way of the Cross.
Let us glorify cooperation and not abuse our liberty, remembering that love and
not liberty is the last word in our Baptist vocabulary.
Let us go to our world mission, in no defeatist spirit
but with all-conquering courage and faith. We are following a Leader who
"will not fail nor be discouraged, till He hath set justice in the earth;
and the isles shall wait for His Law. Let us say with Rupert Brooks: "Now
God be thanked Who matched us with this hour." Will we be big enough to
see our day? Will our leadership be worthy? Will we now as never before cast
ourselves upon God? Let us take the long look. The short view is always
inadequate. Christ's people are engaged, not simply in a battle, but in a
campaign, the outcome of which campaign is certain to be victory for Him Whose
right it is to reign, today, tomorrow, and beyond forevermore. "Jesus
shall reign where'er the sun does his successive journeys run." He is
steadily marching on to His coronation, when He shall be crowned with many
crowns - - the crown of creation, of revelation, of history, of salvation, of
all the crowns. Oh! Who would not wish to link his all with this Eternal Savior
hail the power of Jesus' Name
angels prostrate fall,
forth the royal diadem
crown Him Lord of all.
chosen seed of Israel's race,
ransomed from the fall,
Him who saves you by His grace
crown Him Lord of all.
every kindred every tribe,
this terrestrial ball,
all majesty ascribe,
crown Him Lord of all.
with yonder sacred throng,
His feet may fall,
join the everlasting song
crown Him Lord of all.