What Is It?
The current pleas of liberal "Baptists" considered: 1. That preaching is not an official duty. 2. That we do not recognize those societies as churches by accepting their ordinances. 3. That we do not recognize those ministers as scriptural ministers, by accepting their official acts. 4. That we do not indorse their erroneous doctrines and practices by affiliating with them.
"Then said Pilate to the chief priests, and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place."
"And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves" (Luke 23:4-5, 12).
It argues a degenerate state of affairs when Baptists have to defend themselves against the attacks of their own brethren, for consistently maintaining the time-honored principles of their own denomination. When professed Baptists make friends with a common enemy, they even show a more "fierce," and bitter, and persecuting spirit, than those who once put our fathers to death for holding the self-same sentiments that Landmark Baptists hold today. But this is the case, while the impartial and candid world renders the verdict: "We find no fault in these men,"—conceding that our course is strictly consistent with Baptist principles, while that of our opposers is not. Affiliationists deny—
1. That preaching of the gospel is official or strictly ministerial work but equally the duty of all.
We oppose to this, 1. The plain teachings of the Scripture. Jesus specially called and ordained—i.e., commissioned those who preached during His public ministry—John the Baptist, the seventy, and the apostles. The very term he selected to designate their work, Kerusso, is used in the Greek to indicate the special official duty of proclaiming as a herald. 2. "Paul distinctly declares that he was specially called, ordained, and put into the ministry" (1 Tim. 1:11, 12 and 2:7). He reminds both Timothy and Archippus that they were specially designated for this office (1 Tim. 4:14; Col. 4:17). He also declares that evangelists, pastors, and teachers are special gifts to the churches. He commanded Titus to ordain elders in every city, and left Timothy in Crete for this purpose. Why ordain men to do a specific work—as preaching and administering the ordinances—if all Christians are equally obligated to do it? 3. We oppose to their position the almost united voice and practice of all denominations of Christendom, in all ages, and the unbroken practice of Baptists founded upon the Word of God. 4. The unvarying practice of these very brethren themselves. They invariably require a Baptist to be baptized and ordained, by the authority of some church, before they deem him qualified to preach and administer the ordinances. Not one of them, if a member of a Presbytery, would lay his hands upon a brother who should confess he was not convinced that he had any special call to preach, or any impression of duty in that direction that members in common have not; nor would he presume to lay his hands upon him if he knew he was unbaptized. If "it is as much the duty of one Christian as another to preach the gospel," then the doctrine of a special call and the duty of ordination should both be repudiated, and all men, women, and children, if only church members, should proceed to preach and baptize when, where, and whomsoever they please! The preaching of the gospel, and administering the ordinances, belong strictly to a specific officer of a local church—can only be done by its authority and under its guardianship. The minister is then a church officer, and his work is official work. Should not Baptists promptly reject a theory that would so completely anarchize the whole polity of the church? Let all decide who are revolutionists and distractionists—those who plead for the "Old Landmarks" or modern "liberalists"—who are laboring to undenominationalize our people, and lead the denomination into open communion! Despite all their sophistries, it is as certain as the teachings of the Scriptures are true, that the preaching of the gospel and administering its ordinances, is official work; and that no one may take this office or work unto himself but "he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4).
2. It is in the next place denied that we do recognize and indorse the ministers of other denominations, as scriptural ministers, and as upon a perfect equality as ministers with ourselves, when we invite them to preach and pray in our pulpits, and do work which we strictly limit to our own ministers.
Such a denial should fill the brethren who make it with "shame and confusion of face." It is an accepted axiom, by all nations and in all ages, that "actions speak louder than words." No man of truth can, or will, deny that the act does seem to teach this. But says Bro. Jeter, the recognized leader of ecclesiastical looseness in the South: "We do not understand ourselves to indorse them as scriptural ministers, nor do we intend so to indorse them, and we do not believe they so regard our ministerial associations with them.
We can not regard this as an ingenuous declaration, but the specious plea of an advocate, since reason, common sense, and the united and outspoken voice of Pedobaptist ministers, as well as the world at large, affirm that they and their churches do understand us to publicly recognize them as scriptural ministers of scriptural churches, and in all respects equal to our own ministers, when we invite them to perform ministerial functions for us.
When the civil courts call upon a man to perform a certain act, which the law authorizes only a certain qualified officer to do, is it not understood by all men that the courts recognize that man as a legally qualified officer? When they act upon the cases prepared for them by a professed magistrate, do they not recognize the man filling that office as a legal magistrate? It is not the part of common honesty to deny it. But some have admitted, that did they believe that Pedobaptist and Campbellite ministers understood their exchange of pulpits, and general ministerial affiliation with them, as indorsing them as scriptural ministers, they would refuse to invite them to do so, and we believe that Bro. Jeter has so admitted.
Let us settle this question here, and forever, with all candid men. It is a well-known fact to all, that they do so regard our association with them. Any Baptist can satisfy himself by asking any Pedobaptist, or addressing a courteous letter to one of their representative men, and they will tell him frankly that they would regard an invitation to fill a Baptist pulpit, with the distinct understanding that they did so as unbaptized and unordained men, as a personal insult. Elder J. W. Jarrell, of Illinois, addressed letters of inquiry to ten or twelve prominent Pedobaptist ministers, and their replies should satisfy every one.
It must be presumed that the answers of Bro. Stuart Robinson (O.S.P.), Louisville, Ky., and Bro. Charles Hodge, Princeton, N. J., forever determine this matter. Says Bro. Robinson: "The idea of inviting one to preach in the character of a layman seems to me a paradox."
Bro. Hodge says: "When one minister asks another to exchange pulpits with him, such invitation is in fact, and is universally regarded as an acknowledgment of the scriptural ordination of the man receiving the invitation.
"No man who believes himself to be a minister can rightfully, expressly, or by implication, deny the validity of his ordination; and, therefore, if invited to lecture or speak in the character of a layman, he must decline."
I have said it is a fact well known to Bro. Jeter and all our opposers—for they are all intelligent men—that our affiliating acts are regarded as endorsements of their ministerial character by Pedobaptist ministers.
In a discussion of this very question with Bro. Jeter, Bro. J. B. Link, of the Texas Baptist Herald, put in this strong language: "Pedobaptists hold the pulpit to be sacred to the ministry, and understand them to be indorsed whenever invited into it. When a Baptist who does not so hold, invites them to the pulpit, not intending such endorsement, as many pretend they do not, he practices duplicity knowingly or ignorantly."
To justify this putting of the case, he appealed to the Texas Christian Advocate: "Will the Texas Christian Advocate please tell us how he regards the invitation of one of its ministers into a Baptist pulpit, which invitation regards him only in the light of an unbaptized religious teacher, without church membership or ecclesiastical authority of any sort? What would you say to that?"
This is that editor’s reply, well-known to Bro. Jeter and all editors: "When one gentleman invites another to his house, receives him into his parlor, and seats him at his table, he recognizes him on terms of perfect social equality. So when one Christian minister invites another to occupy his pulpit, all who witness the courtesy thus extended, regard it as a proclamation of perfect ministerial equality. Only Christian ministers are invited to the pulpit. If, however, the one who gives the invitation is a Jesuit and a hypocrite, who wishes to make a show of liberality he does not feel, and believes the brother he thus pretends to honor as a minister is only ‘an unbaptized religious teacher, without church membership or ecclesiastical authority of any sort,’ he should be treated as all hypocrites and pretenders deserve to be treated."
This is rather hard upon Bro. Jeter and all our pulpit affiliationists, but it is true. (See App. B).
The Texas Presbyterian, in its next issue, emphatically indorsed the sentiment of the Texas Christian Advocate, and Bro. Hill, late editor of Presbyterian organ at Louisville, asserted the same.
This fact, then, that we do recognize them, and that they so understand it, is established by the highest possible proof and testimony. We agree with other Pedobaptists, in declaring that it is a personal insult for a Baptist or church to invite a Pedobaptist minister to preach or perform any ministerial office, with the understanding that he does so as an unordained and unbaptized religious teacher, and he would prove that he was himself as unworthy the office, as the inviting minister, should he consent to disclaim by his act that he was a minister or even a church member.
3. It is strangely denied by our "liberal" brethren that we do impliedly recognize the societies as scriptural churches, whose ordinances we receive as valid, and the offices of whose ministers we accept.
In the judgment of charity we will say, that those who can conscientiously make this denial are shame fully ignorant of the simplest principles, not of church organization only, but of any organization.
I pause not to reason, with those ministers who can make this declaration, but with those brethren whom they endeavor to deceive and mislead by such a statement.
To use a carnal, worldly illustration, but not approving of the same, we will grant that there is only one body on earth that can celebrate a Masonic rite, admit a member into a Masonic Lodge, or confer the Master Mason’s Degree. That body is a Masonic Lodge. An Odd-Fellows’ Lodge, or a Grange Lodge can not do it. Now, when the Masonic Lodges of this city recognize these acts, and such an officer, when performed and made by another body professing to be a Masonic Lodge, do they not thereby give the highest endorsement possible of the true Masonic character of that Lodge? If a body can masonically perform Masonic rites, and confer Masonic Degrees, that body is a Masonic Lodge. The body that can make Masonic officers, whose acts are legal in the order, is most certainly, "to all intents and purposes, a Masonic Lodge. A wayfaring man, though a fool, can understand this. Now apply this common sense to churches. There is but one organization on this earth that can authorize a man to preach the gospel—i.e., confer scriptural ordination—and that body is a scriptural church. There is but one organization on earth that is authorized to administer Christian baptism or the Lord’s Supper, and that is a scriptural church. There is but one body on earth that possesses Christian, or Evangelical, or gospel ministers, and that body is a scriptural church. Now when we recognize the preachers of Pedobaptist societies as ministers of the gospel, by inviting them to perform the functions of gospel ministers, do we not thereby recognize the societies which ordained them as churches of Christ? When we receive the immersions of those societies as valid baptisms, do we not thereby proclaim, louder than words can express it, that those societies are scriptural churches, and in all respects equal to our own? Brethren, be not deceived by your teachers. Axioms are not more self-evident than these facts. Those ministers, and their members, and the world, and the masses of our own people so understand these acts, and they have a right — they ought to so understand them, for they are logical and irresistible conclusions from the premises.
That the Methodist Church—i.e., the General Conference (North)—for 1876 regarded "Union Meetings" as an open proclamation, on the part of those denominations that engage in them, that Methodist societies are evangelical churches, may be learned from the following resolution that can be found on page 371 of the Discipline for that year:
"Resolved, That we regard the annual observance of the week of prayer, in concert with the Christian people of other denominations, as highly salutary and an appropriate recognition of the unity of the church," etc.
That is, they are an acted declaration that all the multi-form and opposing sects together constitute the one church of Christ!
Did you believe it? Can you, then, act it?
4. We do impliedly indorse the doctrines of the societies those ministers represent.
But if they are churches of Christ, then is their infant-membership; then is their sprinkling for baptism; then are their distinguishing doctrines—their sacramentalism, and ritualism, and priestism, their baptism as a "seal and a sacrament," and their communion as a means of salvation, and their hierarchical and aristocratic church governments—scriptural for no organization on earth—unscriptural in these regards as every sound Baptist believes Campbellite and Pedobaptist societies to be—can be, or should be regarded as a church of Christ. By recognizing their religious teachers, then, as ministers of Christ, we recognize their societies as scriptural churches, and we do thereby indorse the false doctrines and most pestilential errors of those societies as scriptural.
By such unscriptural and inconsistent conduct we destroy the world’s faith in the authenticity, and its regard for the authority of the Bible, by making it teach manifest contradictions; and we teach our children and the world that there is no essential difference between Pedobaptist and Campbellite ministers and our own, and between their societies and the churches of Christ—between the doctrines held and propagated by those societies and our own, and between their ministers and our own; that all—ministers, and churches, and doctrinal teachings—are truly and equally evangelical! Is not the insensible and powerful tendency and influence of all this to fill those societies with our children, our neighbors, and the world, and to effectually obliterate Baptist Churches from the earth, by destroying all denominational distinctions and preparing an easy down-grade into the slough of open communion?
The principles that distinguish us as Baptists are so intimately connected and like a chain inter-linked, that we may as well break or give up every link as any one, and we can not consistently hold to one without holding to all. Dear reader, decide here and now, to give up all or to hold to all, and may God help you; for an inconsistent "half-and-half" Baptist is as offensive to God as to man (Rev. 3:16).