Freedom of Conscience

Baptist’s have always believed in the freedom of conscience. B.H. Carroll {1843-1914} has some interesting remarks concerning this subject. -Brother Shawn

“…If one be responsible for himself, there must be no restraint or constraint of his conscience. Neither parent, nor government, nor church, may usurp the prerogative of God as Lord of the conscience. God himself does not coerce the will. His people are volunteers, not conscripts. As has been stated, the prevalent theory in the days of the Reformation was: Whose is the government—his is the religion. Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, signed by his grandfather, the great Henry of Navarre. Calvin burned Servetus at the stake. Luther loosed all the hounds of persecution upon the Baptists in his day. Holland, the little republic that tore her lowlands from the ocean flood, and for eighty years, by pike and dike, repelled the Spaniard with his Inquisition, did herself destroy her greatest statesman, John of Barneveldt, and banish her great historian Grotius for conscience sake. Henry VIII, in England, and his successors, delighted to persecute for conscience sake. John Knox, of Scotland, so tarnished his great name. The Congregationalists of New England and the Episcopalians of Virginia alike denied freedom of conscience to their fellowmen. There was not a government in the world that allowed full liberty of conscience to all men until a Baptist established the colony of Rhode Island.

At a great dining in England John Bright asked a Baptist statesman beside him: “What special contribution have your people made to the world?” “Civil and religious liberty,” replied the statesman. “A great contribution,” replied John Bright. Bancroft, in his history of America, declares: “Freedom of conscience, unlimited freedom of mind, was from the first the trophy of the Baptists.” On November 5, 1658, these Baptists thus instructed their agent in England: “Plead our case in such sort as we may not be compelled to exercise any civil power over men’s consciences; we do judge it no less than a point of absolute cruelty.” In their petition to Charles II they thus urged: “It is much in our hearts to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand, and best be maintained, with a full liberty of religious concernments.” And so when their charter came it provided: “No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted or called in question, for any difference in opinion in matters of religion; every person may at all times freely and fully enjoy his own judgment and conscience in matters of religious concernment.” And the charter of their great school, now Brown University, has a clause of equal import, a thing unknown at that time in the chartered schools of the whole world.

Freedom of conscience in our day, especially in this country, is a familiar thing. It was not so in earlier days. Pagan, Papist and Protestant ground liberty of conscience into powder under the iron heel of their despotisms.” – Distinctive Baptist Principles by B.H. Carroll

Biography of B. H. Carroll 

Benajah Harvey Carroll 1843-1914 Baptist minister and educator. B. H. Carroll was born in Carrollton, Mississippi, the son of a preacher-farmer and one of twelve children. At the age of 18 he was graduated from Waco University in Waco, Texas, and then spent the next four years in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In 1865, at the age of 22, he was converted to Christ in a wood shed through the efforts of a Methodist evangelist, and was ordained to the ministry one year later. During the first years of his ministry, immigrants were moving into Texas by the thousands, and he labored for their evangelization. After pastoring several Baptist churches, he became secretary of the Education Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1899. He served in this capacity until 1901, at which time he became head of the Bible department at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. In 1905 he was made dean of the Baylor Theological Seminary, which later became Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Carroll served as president of Southwestern from 1908 until his death in 1914. In addition to his intellectual and argumentative abilities, in an age of denominational debates, he possessed a lovable nature. He once said, “When I come to know a man and love him as a friend and a brother, nothing can destroy the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” He believed in the Baptist interpretation of the teachings of the New Testament, and was devoted to spreading those teachings to the uttermost parts of the earth. – Providence Baptist Ministries 


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