Baptists are a people. They have a historical identity. They have a historical image. Their continuity is the longest of any Christian group on earth. Their doctrines, principles, and practices are rooted in the apostolic age. I am not a Pharasaical sectarian but I don't confuse Baptists with the Reformers. The Reformers wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church; the Baptists were against the church, because it was not a New Testament church.
Protestantism originated in the Reformation. Protestantism is "protestism." That's a Negative. Negativism has within it the seed of its own disintegration. The Baptists were not reformers. They were not protestors. They were positive. Freedom of conscience is not a Reformation doctrine; it is a Baptist doctrine. Religious liberty is not a Reformation doctrine; it is a Baptist doctrine. Believer's baptism is not a Reformation doctrine; it is a Baptist doctrine. Baptism of the believer by immersion in water, symbolizing the believer's death, burial and resurrection with Christ is not a Reformation doctrine; it is a Baptist doctrine. The local, visible, autonomous assembly, with Christ as its only head and the Bible as its sole rule of faith and practice, is not a Reformation doctrine; it is a Baptist doctrine. Worldwide missions are not a Reformation doctrine; it is a Baptist doctrine. The Reformers had no missionary vision and no missionary spirit. For almost two hundred years after the Reformers, the Reformation churches felt no burden to implement the Great Commission.
What kind of world would the Western world have been had Protestantism became its master? Who but the Baptist kept Protestantism from becoming master? The general attitude today is that the truth is determined by the passing of time; that there aren't eternal, abiding truths. "You can't turn the clock back. Time invalidates all truth. Time invalidates one set of truth and fastens another set upon us." Baptist history repudiates this philosophy of fatalism. Baptists today are believing, teaching, preaching and practicing the truths that they believed, taught, preached and practiced two thousand years ago. It gives me a feeling of stability to reflect that I, as a Baptist, am in the stream of this long continuity of faith and practice. The Baptist people are a great continuity...a great essence...a great dignity. The world never needed them more than it needs them today.
Dr. Noel Smith