An Old Landmark Reset
Ought Baptist to Invite Pedobaptists to Preach in Their Pulpits?
By J. M. Pendleton
In the discussion of this question opinions which have originated from our feelings and partialities should, as far as possible, be discarded. An honest and an earnest desire to know the truth should gain ascendancy of the heart; for then there will be a willingness to adopt the conclusions to which the truth leads. "Buy the truth and sell it not," is the language of reason as well as revelation. There is no advantage in error. So far from it, it is mischievous, hurtful, pernicious. A false principle in science operates injuriously until its unsoundness is detected. An error committed in laying the foundation of a government diffuses its influence throughout the superstructure reared on that foundation. Error can never be harmless, and even should it be apparently so, it is owing to the counteracting presence and operation of truth. There is no truth so important as that which God has revealed in his word. All other truth yields to the superior value of truth divine. The injunction — "Buy the truth and sell it not" — is eminently wise. The
truth is a jewel of such transcendent worth that it ought to be bought at any price and sold at no price. Let him who secures this jewel retain it. Let him not consider its alienation from him a possible thing. Let life be surrendered rather.
The question, Ought Baptists to recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers? must receive either an affirmative or negative answer. It does not admit an ambiguous response. The truth is in the affirmative or negative. And the writer will aim to show that truth requires the question to be answered negatively. Some, perhaps, will say there is great uncharitableness in my object, and that nothing but bigotry could prompt me to attempt the execution of such an object. Others in their sudden astonishment will probably say, "He is beside himself." And others still may exclaim, "He is throwing himself beyond the circumference of the sympathies of all evangelical denominations." "But none of these things move me." "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of man’s judgment: he that judgeth me is the Lord."
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In this day of spurious liberality and false charity much is said about evangelical denominations and evangelical churches. What is an evangelical denomination? A denomination whose faith and practice correspond with the gospel. What is an evangelical church? A church formed according to the New Testament model. Pedobaptist denominations, therefore, are not evangelical. Pedobaptist churches, as they are called, are not evangelical. There is supposed to be a
wonderful virtue in the epithet evangelical. It is used as a balm for many a wound, as a plaster for many a sore. Its application to a denomination is thought to bring the denomination at once within the pale of respectability and fellowship. It is used with injurious latitude of meaning. It gives currency to many doctrines and practices which deserve emphatic condemnation. "Evangelical Alliances," so called, may, for aught I know, have done some good work; but there is danger lest they infuse greater vitality and energy into the errors of those who enter the co-partnership. The religious nomenclature of the age requires serious revision. It is high time to call things by names expressive of their properties. The language of Ashdod should not be heard within the precincts of Zion. Nor should the language of Zion be employed in describing what belongs to Ashdod. More, perhaps, is meant by "the form of sound words" than most persons imagine. But to return from this apparent digression.
If Pedobaptist societies are not churches of Christ, whence do their ministers derive their authority to preach? Is there any scriptural authority to preach which does not come through a church of Christ? And if Pedobaptist ministers are not in Christian churches, have they any right to preach? That is to say, have they any authority according to the gospel? They are doubtless authorized by the forms and regulations of their respective societies. But do they act under commission, some of the injunctions of which
they utterly disregard. The ordinance of baptism in its action and subject they pervert. They change the order of the ascending Saviour’s last commission, and administer what they call baptism to infants who give no proof of discipleship, and who are naturally incapable of going through the process of discipleship. Are we at liberty to bid those men "God speed" and aid them in deceiving the world, by acknowledging their societies as churches, and themselves as veritable gospel ministers, who invert the order established by the Head of the church?
Would Pedobaptists recognize as a minister of Christ a good man whom they consider unbaptized, and consequently disconnected from what they would term every "branch of the church?" They would not. They would say to such a man, "We would not judge your heart — we do not deny your piety, etc., but we cannot countenance you as a preacher as long as you remain unbaptized and sustain no ecclesiastical relation." This is in substance what they would say, and I ask if Baptists should not look on Pedobaptist ministers just as the latter would look on unbaptized men who might choose to go forth and preach? If Pedobaptists are unwilling to recognize as ministers of the gospel men who, in their judgment, have never been baptized, why should Baptists be expected to do so? Consistency, so far from requiring it, requires the very opposite. Pedobaptists cannot reasonably complain of us, for in this we act on the principle which their practice sanctions. Believing their preachers unbaptized,
we cannot with the shadow of propriety recognize them as gospel ministers. If Jesus Christ intended that his ministers should be the servants of the church — and have the sanction of the church in their work — who can be a minister of Christ, according to the gospel, without belonging to the church? No one will say that a church can send forth a man to preach who does not belong to her body, and over whom she has no jurisdiction. The writer does not say there are not pious, devoted men in the Pedobaptist ministry, but he denies that they have scriptural authority to preach. He denies in reference to them just what they would deny in reference to a pious Quaker minister. The so-called baptism of a Pedobaptist preacher is no more authority for preaching than the no baptism of a Quaker. The former is as evidently out of the church as the latter. It is as well to discard an ordinance altogether as to pervert and caricature it. Neither Pedobaptists nor Quakers have baptism among them, and "where there is no baptism there are no visible churches."
Now, if Pedobaptist preachers do not belong to the church of Christ, they ought not to be recognized as ministers of Christ. But they are so recognized wherever Baptist ministers invite them to preach or exchange pulpits with them. As to calling on them to pray, it is a different matter; for men ought to pray whether they are in the church or not. But to invite them into our pulpits to pray, is to recognize them before the world as gospel ministers, since custom consecrates
the pulpit to acknowledged gospel ministers, and therefore, when we act with them in a ministerial capacity, speak of them as gospel ministers, or receive their acts as those of gospel ministers, we plainly and "more loudly than with trumpets," proclaim them gospel ministers, and consequently their societies as gospel churches and if so why not, commune with them? - J. R. Graves. But they ought not to preach unless they have membership in the church of Christ. To this all will agree who have scriptural baptism, as well as those who substitute it for that which is not baptism. Baptists and Pedobaptists differe materially. Their views are totally dissimilar as to the design of baptism, the elements that enter into the composition of a gospel church, the form of government, etc. These differences are by no means non-essential; but a recognition of Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers is a virtual proclamation of their non-essentiality. The people so understand it. They are ready to say that there can be no material differences between the views of ministers who exchange pulpits and perform other acts of ministerial recognition. And thus the custom of exchanging pulpits, originating, as it probably did, in the excess of an unscriptural charity, has a tendency to obliterate the line of demarcation between truth and error. Many a man no doubt has become a Pedobaptist because Baptists have so acted as to make the impression that there is no great difference between them and their opponents. Alas, that there are some Baptists whose
disposition to compromise with adversaries leads them to act as if they were not only ashamed of their distinctive principles, but wished everybody else to be. I am heartily ashamed of such Baptists.
If it is not absurd to suppose such a thing, let it be supposed that there were persons in the apostolic times corresponding to modern Pedobaptists. Can any Baptists believe that Paul, beholding the practices of such persons — seeing the sprinkling of infants substituted for the immersion of believers — would recognize the ministers of such sects as ministers of Christ, acting according to the gospel? Surely not. Paul would have protested against such a caricature of the Christian system. He would have said to such ministers, "Will ye not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" The great apostle would have done nothing that could have been construed into a connivance at error. And why should Baptists now?
We have reasons "to thank God and take courage" that our number in the United States is now over 4,000,000 members, and that it is constantly increasing. But would we not have been much more numerous than we are if we had had no more religious intercourse with Pedobaptists than in the days of the persecution in Virginia and Massachusetts? There cannot be a rational doubt of it. All compromises with Pedobaptists have been disadvantageous to Baptists, and they will always be. These dishonorable compromises have ever involved an implied understanding that
Baptists were not to preach the whole truth on the subject of baptism. The teachings of the New Testament on this subject are held in abeyance. No man, it is true, can preach the whole gospel and leave baptism out; but in these Union Meetings it is thought best to leave it out for the sake of harmonious cooperation. It is to be hoped that the day of these Union Meetings is passed away, never to return. It is time for it to be understood that Baptists and Pedobaptists can not "walk together," because they are not "agreed." The impossibility of "walking together" without agreement was recognized in the days of the prophets, and why should there be a vain effort to make an impossibility then a possibility now? Every such effort is unwise, and involves on the part of Baptists a sacrifice of principle.
It is often said by Pedobaptists that Baptists act inconsistently in inviting their ministers to preach with them, while they fail to recognize them at the Lord’s table. I acknowledge the inconsistency. It is a flagrant inconsistency. No one ought to deny it. Booth, in his "Vindication of the Baptists from the charge of Bigotry in refusing to commune with Pedobaptists at the Lord’s table," does not and cannot refute this charge of inconsistency. It defies refutation, and the only way to dispose of it is to take away the foundation on which it rests. Let Baptists cease to recognize Pedobaptist preachers as ministers of the gospel, by inviting them to preach, and the charge of inconsistency will be heard no more.
Our refusal to commune with Pedobaptists grows out of the fact that they are unbaptized, and out of the church. We say they have no right to commune as unbaptized persons. Pedobaptists, however, have as much right to commune unbaptized as they have to preach unbaptized. That is to say, they have no right to do either. The Baptist argument on "Communion" possesses great power, but it is paralyzed whenever Pedobaptists can say, "You invite our ministers to your pulpits, but you do not invite us to commune with you." Let Baptists repudiate the inconsistency that most of them have been guilty of for half a century, and then their Defense of Close Communion will be perfectly triumphant. It will stand a tower of strength, against which Pedobaptists will vainly turn their artillery. No Baptist who recognizes Pedobaptist preachers as ministers will ever write a consistent Treatise on Communion. It is high time for all our brethren to know this. Consistency requires that while we fail to invite Pedobaptists to the Lord’s table, we should not maintain ministerial intercourse with their preachers.
And another thing follows: The official acts of Pedobaptist preachers have no validity in them. Their falsely so-called baptisms are a nullity — their ordinances are a nullity. Immersions administered by them ought to be repudiated by Baptists. How is it? Pedobaptist ministers are not in the visible kingdom of Christ. How then can they induct others into it by baptism ? Can they introduce others where
they have not gone themselves? Would it not be a violation of all governmental analogies to allow those to act as officers of a kingdom who are not citizens of that kingdom? It may be argued that in case of necessity an irregular act is not an invalid act. As to immersions by Pedobaptist preachers there is no necessity, and never was. There are Baptist ministers enough to administer baptism, and they love to do it. It is high time for those who ridicule immersion and yet perform it rather than lose a valuable member, to be discountenanced. They deserve the contempt of all honorable men. They are willing, for selfish and sectarian purposes, to perform an act in the name of the Sacred Three, and yet make light of that act! Such men I leave in the hands of a merciful God.
I have now attempted to establish the position that Baptists ought not to recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers. Whether I have accomplished my object, I leave for others to say. In conclusion I will notice some of the objections which will probably be urged against the view here presented. Pedobaptists will say, This doctrine repels us from our "Baptist brethren." The time has been when this would have been a recommendation of, rather than an objection to, the doctrine. In other days repulsion from, was considered more desirable than attraction to, "Baptist brethren." The sentiment was once fearfully prevalent that Baptists were more worthy of prison, fagots and death, than of pulpits and communion tables. What country has
not witnessed their martyr-sufferings? What soil has not been stained with their blood? They have been persecuted by Rome Pagan and by Rome Papal; for the latter inherited all the cruelty of the former. Rome has ever found FIRE her most effectual argument.
In the early part of the sixteenth century the light of Luther’s Reformation began to dawn on Europe, and Baptists probably began to flatter themselves that the days of their persecution were ended. But this was not so. Luther was not their friend — Zuinglius thought them worthy of death — and the true idea of religious liberty never penetrated Calvin’s mind. These eminent Reformers were in several respects more nearly allied to Romanists than to Baptists.
And who does not know that Protestant England has had a prominent agency in the work of persecution? Who does not remember the inhuman saying of Rogers at the burning of a Baptist? "Burning alive," said he, "was no cruel death, but easy enough."
It seems from testimony not to be disputed that Edward Wightman was the last person "that suffered this cruel kind of death [burning] in England; and it may be remarked that William Sawtre, the first that suffered in that manner for his religious opinions, was supposed to have denied infant baptism so that this sect had the honor both of leading the way, and bringing up the rear of all the martyrs who were burnt alive in England, as well as that, a great number of those who suffered this death for their religion, in the
two hundred years between, were of this denomination."
This is Pedobaptist testimony, and let it speak for itself.
Who has not read the story of Baptist suffering in the Colony of Virginia before the Revolution? There are persons now alive whose ancestors preached through prison grates in that renowned Commonwealth. And the sterile soil of Massachusetts has been enriched with Baptist blood. Puritans shed it—men who braved the dangers of the deep that they might enjoy religious liberty, and since then Baptists have risen in the scale of respectability that sects, which once looked upon them with disdain, now court alliance with them. Beward Baptists, beware. Whipping and fining and imprisonment are not the only methods by which you can be injured. There is the embrace of apparent love which is the embrace of death. Error loves to ally itself with truth and the interests of truth suffer by every such alliance.
It will probably be said the position of the author of this treatise is in conflict with the charity of the gospel. If so, "it is a grievous fault." There is no term used more frequently than charity—there is none more strangely misunderstood. A man of charity is generally supposed to possess what are termed "liberal principles," and those who have these liberal principles, in nine cases out of ten, have no fixed principles at all. Charity rejoiceth IN THE TRUTH." That is a spurious charity which does not recognize truth
as a jewel of priceless value. It is a misfortune that the severance of truth and charity has ever been considered a possible thing.
True charity will prompt Baptists not to connive at the errors of Pedobaptists, but to protest perpetually against those errors. And this is done most effectually by a decided advocacy of the truth and an emphatic condemnation of whatever militates against it. How can Baptists utter a consistent, sensible, effective protest against the many errors of Pedobaptism if they recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers ? It cannot be done. But a refusal to recognize them in this capacity is an impressive condemnation of their errors. True charity prompts this course.
Some faint-hearted Baptists may say that if the sentiment advocated by the writer is made practical it will bring great unpopularity and odium on the Baptist denomination. This objection is scarcely worthy of consideration. The question refers not to unpopularity and odium, but to right and truth. What is right? is the inquiry. What does a jealous maintenance of truth demand of us? Popularity is a bauble, dependent for its existence on the capricious direction public opinion takes. Jesus our Saviour was unpopular. His doctrines were unpopular. The first Christians were unpopular. We shall have illustrious predecessors in unpopularity. And the advantage of our consistency will more than neutralize the disadvantages of unpopularity.
Odium! What Baptist is afraid of odium? If our people are not yet familiarized with it they
ought to be; for the very day Paul was taken a prisoner to Rome our sect "was everywhere spoken against." There has been time enough and opportunity enough from then until now to learn to bear odium patiently. We see the law of adaptation illustrated all around us. Light is adapted to the eye — sound to the ear — birds to the air — fishes to the water and Baptists to odium. There is no cause of complaint.
It will probably be said that the tendency of these views will be to interfere with the social relations of neighborhoods and communities. The writer thinks otherwise. Why should there be any rupture of social ties? There is no necessity for it. I will illustrate: The officers of Masonic lodges are not invited into Odd Fellows halls and vice versa. This is no interference with the social relations of the two orders.
Episcopal preachers do not recognize the preachers of other denominations as gospel ministers, nor do I know that the social relations of neighborhoods are affected thereby. There is no good reason why they should be. I would have Baptists, as neighbors and citizens, to exemplify every social virtue; but let them not do that which will inevitably be construed into a connivance at what they deem material errors. The question of questions must be, WHAT IS RIGHT? AND THEY MUST DARE TO DO RIGHT, LET CONSEQUENCES BE AS THEY MAY.
Of Reformers, ALIAS Campbellites, I have said nothing, because, as they reject infant baptism, they cannot be placed in the same class with Pedobaptists. Important arguments, conclusive
against the latter, would be without force or pertinency in their application to the former. I take it for granted that ministerial and religious intercourse between Baptists and Campbellites would be utterly unjustifiable. They differ fundamentally in their views of repentance, faith, regeneration, justification, the influence of the Holy Spirit, the design of baptism, etc., etc. They are not "agreed," and they cannot walk together. An attempt to do so would involve deep hypocrisy and a culpable sacrifice of principle.
If, for the sentiments presented in this treatise, the author should be stigmatized as a bigot, while the justice of the charge is positively denied, he is willing, if need be, to wear the stigma till death shall efface it.
Bowling Green, Ky. =======
[W. B. Barker, Memoirs of Elder J. N. Hall, 1907, pp. 43-57. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. — jrd]
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