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7a Baptist History, J. A. Shackelford

J. A. Shackelford completed his “Compendium of Baptist History” in 1891. It was not his original intent to write a history of the Baptists, but rather prepare a chart “which would give a bird’s eye view of Baptist History, with its relations to the Catholic hierarchy, and the branches of the Romish church.” However, the amount of material acquired through research provided an abundant supply of historical facts which suggested a larger work should be produced. The finished manuscript is a superb summary of significant events which tell the story of Christ preserving His church through two millennia.

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An unusual interest has, of late, been awakened in the study of church history. This is a hopeful indication. It shows that many are disposed to turn away from human organizations, and seek for the true church of Christ, as revealed in the Gospels. It is worse than folly to suppose that the Saviour left his work so incomplete that uninspired men, of later years, must take it up and bring it to perfection. It must be a recognized fact that Christ established his Church, as a “pillar and ground of the truth.”

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The advent of John the Baptist into the world was not an unexpected event. Although his birth had not been announced by angels, as was Christ’s, yet God had declared, “I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me.”—Mai. 3:1. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”—Mai.4:5,6. Jesus declared that it was John of whom this was written. —Matt. 11:10. He also testified that Elias (Elijah) must first come, but declared that he had already come, and they knew him not.—Matt. 17:11,12.

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Before proceeding further it will be necessary to examine into the meaning of the word “church.” This word has come to be used in such a broad sense that it takes in and is applied to any religious organization, or society, whether a Scriptural church or not.

By some writers it is made to “include the entire body of professed Christians.” By others it means “the spiritual congregation, or aggregate of the regenerate, including the saints in heaven, the saints on earth and the saints yet to come.” The general usage of the word at present justifies both of these definitions, but its Scriptural use does not, nor was the word so used in the time of Christ and his apostles.

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The night before his crucifixion the Saviour formally assembled his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem, and with them he instituted the Memorial Supper. This was the closing act of his life as far as it related to his church, and was well calculated to remind it continually of the responsibility which rested upon it as the executor of his laws, and the administrator of his kingdom.

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