Benajah Harvey (B.H.) Carroll (December 27, 1843 – November 11, 1914), the founding president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, addresses six Baptist distinctives in his Distinctive Baptist Principles. What absolutely separates me, a Baptist, from other protestants in the reformed tradition is the Baptist distinctive of regenerate church membership and baptism. Regarding this principle, Carroll writes:
IV. Salvation Is Essential To Baptism and Church Membership
Here, if nowhere else, Baptists stand absolutely alone. The foot of no other denomination in Christendom rests on this plank. Blood before water—the altar before the laver. This principle eliminates not only all infant baptism and membership, but locates the adults remission of sins in the fountain of blood instead of the fountain of water. When the author of the letter to the Hebrews declares: It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins,” he bases the impossibility on the lack of intrinsic merit. Following the precise idea Baptists declare: “It is not possible that the water of baptism should take away sins.” There is no intrinsic merit in the water. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, alone can cleanse us from sin. True, the water of baptism and the wine of the Lord’s Supper may symbolically take away sins, but not in fact. “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins” “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.” Both declarations are beautiful and impressive figures of antecedent fact.
A brother of another denomination once objected: “You Baptists have no method of induction into Christ. My people baptize a man into Christ.” The reply was two-fold: (1) It is not enough to get a man into Christ; you must also get Christ into him, as he says, “I in you and you in me.” If you insist that baptism really, and not figuratively, puts a man into Christ, how will you meet the Romanist on the other half of it. “Eating the wafer of the Supper really puts Christ into the man. He eats the flesh of the real presence”?You must admit that the words are stronger for his induction than yours.
(2) Baptists have a method of double induction: “We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” Faith puts us into Christ. ” It pleased God to reveal his Son in me.” “Christ in you the hope of glory.” “Ye are manifestly declared to be an epistle of Christ, . . . written with the Spirit of the living God . . . in fleshly tables of the heart.” “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Thus the Holy Spirit puts Christ in us. We get into him by faith. He gets into us by the Holy Spirit, thus fulfilling his words: “I in you and you in me.”
This great, vital and fundamental Baptist principle. Salvation must precede ordinances, does, at one blow, smite and blast those two great enemies of religion, sacramentalism and sacerdotalism. If ritualism saves, priests are a necessity. If my salvation is conditioned on the performance of a rite, then also it is conditioned on the act and will of a third party who administers the saving rite. The doctrine of salvation by rites is the hope of the priest who alone can administer the rite. This gives both importance and revenue to his office. He multiplies the sacraments. “Two are too few. Let us have seven. The more, the better for us, and thus we will control our subjects not only from the cradle to the grave, but from conception in the womb to eternity.”
Not only does our great principle destroy both sacramentalism and sacerdotalism, but it alone draws a line of cleavage between the church and the world. To perpetuate the baptism of the unsaved, whether infant or adult, tends to blot out from the earth the believer’s baptism which Christ appointed. It is a question of discipleship. John the Baptist made disciples before he baptized them. Jesus made disciples before he baptized them (John 4:1). John made disciples by leading them to repentance and faith (Acts 19:4.) Jesus made disciples by repentance and faith. (Mark 1:15): Jesus commanded: “Go ye therefore and disciple all nations, baptizing them (the discipled).” Draw a perpendicular line. On the right of it write the words, Believers in Christ, Lovers of Christ. On the left of it write the words, Unbelievers in Christ, Haters of Christ. Now, from which side of that line will you take your candidates for baptism? Will you baptize the hating and the unbelieving? You dare not. If from the other side you take them, then already are they God’s children, for what saith the Scriptures: “Whosoever believeth has been born of God. Whosoever loveth is born of God.”
Baptists do not bury the living sinner to kill him to sin. But they bury those already dead to sin. For devotion to this principle you may trace our people back by their track of blood, illumined by their fires of martyrdom.
B.H. Carroll. Distinctive Baptist Principles, 1903.