Thank you, Lord, for the Calvinists who have contributed so much to the kingdom.
Thank you for William Kiffin, that untiring and unflinching defender of believer's baptism. Thank you for his quick wit and sharp tongue. Thank you for his steadfast continuation in an erstwhile unpopular and minority view that has since, by Your grace and power, come to be the cherished belief of millions.
Thank you for Kiffin's nemesis, that unlettered tinker of Bedford, John Bunyan. His Calvinism, perhaps, contributed to his ongoing flirtation with the sprinkling of infants and kept him from ever fully being a Baptist, yet I thank you for his twelve principled years in Bedford Jail and the great heavenly beauty that flowed from his pen.
Lord, I thank you for Andrew Fuller, the midwife of Baptist evangelism and missions. Reawaken in your children, dear Father, an appreciation for the worthiness of the gospel and a commitment to share it with the world. Thank you for giving him a vision of your kingdom beyond his environs, and thank you for the generosity of the church at Kettering to allow their pastor to wander from the fens of Northamptonshire to the moors of Scotland to encourage missionary faithfulness among the Baptist brethren.
I thank you, Lord, for William Carey, the plodding soldier of the cross who sacrificed so much and yet endured in his witness. Thank you for moving his supervisors and supporters not to cut him off after seven seemingly fruitless years without any converts gained or churches planted. Thank you for the teeming masses that You brought into the gospel through Carey's faithfulness. Grant him the joy of your glory, dear Lord, now that the sorrows of his family life here on earth are no more.
Thank you, Father, for Boyce and Broadus and Manley. Thank you for their dream that Southern Baptists could raise up a legion of pastors—men with training to match their passion and calling—to carry the gospel into the burgeoning communities of North America and beyond. Thank you for the riches and comforts that they laid upon the altar in their quest.
And I thank you, O Lord, for a new generation of students with an appetite for the passionate writings of the sixteenth, seventeeth, and eighteenth centuries. I do not think it a coincidence that the century which contributed McDonalds and microwave dinners to cuisine also contributed Barth and Elliot to Christian thought and practice. I know that today there are some who claim the mantle of Calvin who have drunk freely at the well of evangelical ecumenism (and consequently, have drunk a great deal more than that!), but for the great heritage of so many other Calvinists, I thank you, O Lord.
I do not thank you for their Calvinism, dear Father. I think it a way of thinking often inclined to impose philosophy above the sacred text (and sometimes violently so). Sometimes I pray that You would protect us from the extremes of Calvinism. Yet for all of these men, whatever failures or weaknesses they embodied, their commitment to You was so evidently greater than their allegiance to any system devised by men. Without the men listed above, we Baptists would never have found evangelism and missions in the first place to ever be in danger of losing them. They have been among the first and most faithful to point us to the Great Commission. It is for this, their allegiance to the cross and their tireless labors for the kingdom, that I say to You, thank You, O Eternal Father, for these our Calvinist forebears and brethren.