Lest my preference for the biblical inclusion of children in the covenant dismay my Baptist friends, there are several Baptists in Church History I do dearly benefit from. I thought here I might give my appreciation for the 5 best men that the Baptists have given to the Church:
The Preacher: Charles Spurgeon
Spurgeon is best known as “The Prince of Preachers.” His sermons are rich theologically and display a great talent for understanding the minds of the listener. He would often ask the very questions that the topic would bring up as if the audience was asking him about it. His sermons are definitely worth studying for style and substance. But Spurgeon cared not just for his own ministry, but for the training of the next generation of preachers. Some of his insights are preserved in the classic “Lectures to my Students.” [Iain Murray wrote a great biography highlighting Spurgeon's Calvinism called "The Forgotten Spurgeon"]
The Missionary: Adoniram Judson
Few people (other than my brother) have read any thing written by Judson, because his story is far more compelling. Judson was the first missionary to Burma, a title he was (too) proud of. Of course, God likes to strip us of those things we treasure instead of Him, and so one might read in the story of Judson’s life. To the Golden Shore is the best I know about to read up on Judson’s story.
The Hymn-writer: William Gadsby
Gadsby is perhaps, with Anne Steel, the greatest Baptist hymn writer in history. Gadsby compiled a hymn book for Baptists that infused their theology with much needed grace. Gadsby included non-Baptist hymn-writers Toplady (“Rock of Ages”), Isaac Watts (“When I Survey“), Newton (“Amazing Grace” ) and Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way”) along with some of his classics (like the one I highlighted a year ago) “The Love of Christ is Rich and Free” and “Jesus the Lord, my Savior” [Many of Gadsby's hymns are being put to modern music by Red Mountain Music and Indelible Grace.]
The Novelist: John Bunyan
Bunyan penned the second most read and published book in the English language (behind the Bible), Pilgrim’s Progress. The book told the story of the life of a Christian through allegory. Bunyan wrote it while in prison for preaching without a licence. Bunyan also wrote Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, an account of his own spiritual journey. It does seem however, Bunyan’s church became a pedobaptist Congregationalist church after getting into some disputes with Baptists over the doctrine whether or not to allow members and communicants that were not re-baptized (much like the Piper and Grudem debate) and he eventually came to see it as needlessly divisive. But he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress as a Baptist so I will count him…
The Theologian: John Gill
I often consult John Gill’s magnus opum: his commentaries on Scripture. John Gill was a particular Baptist preacher who was perhaps one of their greatest theologians. Yet, here is where the my appreciation is the thinnest. Gill has many great insights, but also construed the doctrines of grace in such a way as to lay the groundwork for the hyper-Calvinists (whom Spurgeon called the followers of Gill). So far in reading his commentaries, I cannot tell if Gill himself disparaged the preaching of the gospel to everyone, or whether his followers just didn’t get him (which I am more apt to think). Still, his followers gave the doctrines of grace a bad name in Baptist culture, that Spurgeon was an exception to, and not the rule. Nonetheless, Gill’s commentary usually has a perspective I need to wrestle with.