What Is It?
How did Paul regard, and how did he teach the churches he planted, to regard teachers of false doctrine?—How did he instruct the early Christians and churches to treat them? —Associate with, or withdraw from, and avoid them?— Can it be supposed that they invited them into their pulpits, and to the Lord’s Supper, though those teachers belonged to the church at Jerusalem?
"—;but there be some who trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. If we, or an angel from heaven, preach otherwise unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
"I would they were cut off who trouble you. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother who walks out of order, and not according to the instructions which you received from us. And if any one obey not our word by this epistle, point him out, and do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed."—Paul.
"It is affirmed that our position as Landmark Baptists, of non-association with the teachers of acknowledged and dangerous heresies ministerially, and the non-recognition of their societies ecclesiastically, is contrary to the teachings of Scripture."
This charge is most persistently made by those Baptists who advocate and practice affiliations with Pedobaptists and Campbellites, and recognize their ordinations and immersions; and, by such misrepresentations, they prejudice us in the eyes of our own brethren and the world, as bigots and sectaries.
Now, I propose to show the reader that the Scriptures are not more opposed to rantism, or infant baptism, than it is to association with those ministers and teachers who teach things contrary to what the apostles taught, and that no one feature more characterized Baptist Churches, from the fourth to the eighteenth centuries, than their refusal to recognize, in any way, the teachers of acknowledged heresies, and those organizations claiming to be churches, yet, in their estimation, human societies, and apostate from the truth. This charge must be the offspring of the most willing ignorance, or unprincipled opposition to truth and consistency.
1. What are the teachings of the Scriptures?
(a) This much will be admitted by all Baptists, that our churches are scriptural church organizations. If so, they alone constitute the visible kingdom of Christ, which is the antitype of the kingdom of Israel, in the Old Testament.
Paul and Peter distinctly affirm this, (Heb. 12; 1 Pet. 2:9) and the teachings of the type should find a fulfillment in the antitype. What were those teachings? God of all nations selected but one to be unto him "a peculiar treasure above all people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation," and he straightway commanded them that they should not affiliate with the nations around them in their religious rites and ceremonies, neither "walk in the manners of the nations;" for, by so doing, they would render themselves idolaters, since the worship of those nations was purely human, and corrupted the religion which he had given them. The churches composing the antitype must, therefore, keep themselves separate and distinct from all human organizations and societies claiming to be churches, and, in no way, affiliate with them or their teachers, or recognize their rites and ceremonies, which are human inventions, and by so doing admit they are divine, and thus make themselves idolaters. This is the teaching of the type, and upon it the apostles base their earnest exhortations to churches: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people," etc. (1 Pet. 2:9).
But teachers of false doctrine abounded in Paul’s day, for the mystery of iniquity had already commenced working in his day; and, let us mark how he taught the churches to regard every one who preached contrary to the doctrine he had taught them. By his teachings, the charge of our opposers must be tested, and our own practice as Baptists determined, whatever may have been the practice of our historical ancestors. It should be borne in mind that these teachers, who subverted the faith of many by their false doctrines, were not heathens, nor infidels, nor heads of alien and formidable organizations, set up in direct opposition to the churches of Christ, as all Pedobaptist and Campbellite societies are, but what made it more delicate and difficult to fix relations and determine the character of the intercourse, they were Baptists—influential members of the church at Jerusalem, and of churches which he himself had planted. They did not teach the churches to substitute sprinkling for the act Christ enjoined, nor to baptize infants, nor that baptism is "the law of pardon," nor "a seal and sacrament essential to salvation;" and thus subvert the gospel of Christ, and make the law of God of none effect by their traditions; but these teachers did it quite as effectually and far more plausibly, and, if charity should be extended to false teachers, it should have been to those whom Paul antagonized. Those teachers, like Pedobaptists, taught that the covenant made with Abraham was binding upon Gentiles, as well as Jews—was the covenant of Grace—and, therefore, unless all were circumcised, and kept the law, as well as the requirements of the gospel, they could not be saved. There were many thousands of these Judaized brethren in the church at Jerusalem, even after that church with the apostles and elders had answered the question sent up by the church at Antioch, that the Gentiles were free from the law of circumcision; for teachers from Jerusalem had troubled this church with this doctrine: "And certain men, which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised, after the manner of Moses, ye can not be saved" (Acts 15:1).
And when this question was raised in the church at Jerusalem, the record reads: "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed [i.e., in Christ, and were members], saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the laws of Moses" (v. 5).
Paul, in his letter to the churches at Galatia, thus speaks of these brethren: "And because of false brethren, unawares brought in, who came privily to spy out our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for one hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these, who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me, God accepteth no man’s person), for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference, added nothing to me, but contrariwise," etc.
And in this language he taught these churches to regard them and their teachings: "I marvel that you are so soon removed from him who called you into another gospel, which is not another; but there be some who trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach another gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. . . . I would they were cut off who trouble you"— [excluded from the church, which it was not in Paul’s power to accomplish, but he could wish and advise it.]
"Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. . . . Christ is become of none effect unto you . . . Ye did run well; who did hinder, that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
And there was another element in this doctrine that made it popular, besides that of its being held and taught by those metropolitan ministers, who came down from Jerusalem and taught them to despise Paul, which Baptists of this age should notice.
Let Paul state it: "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ! And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased."
Thousands and tens of thousands would he "Old Landmark Baptists" today were it not for the Overweening desire "to make a fair show in the flesh," and to avoid the odium and persecution that the consistent advocacy and practice of Baptist principles would bring upon them. Every strict, consistent, faithful Baptist knows, full well, that the days of persecution have not passed, and they know, like Paul, something of the "perils among false brethren." I must be allowed to add that the above language of Paul ought to settle the question concerning intercommunion among the apostolic churches. Many of them, like the church at Jerusalem, were corrupted by these false teachers whom Paul calls "leaven," and he specifically commands the church at Corinth to purge out all leaven that the feast might be kept pure.
To the church at Corinth he wrote thus: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [these brethren were not aware that they were the ministers of Satan] also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
Can it be that God ever allowed a true child of his to live and die in the service of Satan? Those who teach doctrines that subvert the gospel, Paul declares to be the ministers of Satan, and that their end will he answerable to such a service! Was he uncharitable? Not only Paul’s usefulness and happiness were measurably destroyed, but his very life was put in peril by these false brethren. (2 Cor. 11:13-16; 26).
To the church at Philippi he wrote thus: "For many walk, of whom I have told you before, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction" (Phil. 3: 18).
2. How did he instruct the churches to treat these false teachers, though professed Christians and brethren?
Did he exhort them to be liberal, and very charitable, and associate with them as brethren beloved? and did he advise Timothy and other ministers to affiliate with them, invite them into their houses to teach their people, as so many of our prominent ministers now do?
To the church at Rome he wrote: "Now I entreat you, brethren, to watch those who are making factions and laying snares, contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them; for such like ones as they are not in subjection to our anointed Lord, but to their own appetite; and, by kind and complimentary words, they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting."
And, alas! how successfully do they do it in this age! Can a Baptist possibly misapprehend this language? Will our churches refuse to listen to so earnest an entreaty? Then let them heed the emphatic command of Paul to the church at Thessalonica: "Now we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly, and not according to the instruction which you received from us. But if any one obey not our word, by this letter, point him out, and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame."
We ask our brethren if Pedobaptists and Campbellites do teach the doctrine that Paul taught, and walk according to his teachings? and if it is "withdrawing from and putting them to shame" to invite them into our pulpits, to preach, as ministers of Christ, to our people, and associate with them in "Evangelical Pastors’ Meetings," "Evangelical Alliances," and "Young Men’s Christian Associations?" Brother, you may treat this question lightly at your peril; for Christ has said: "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words in this age, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
That I have not an improper construction upon these Scriptures, the testimony of A. Barnes and Adam Clark will convince all Pedobaptists upon Paul’s advice to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:22): "He was not to invest one with the holy office who was a wicked man, or a heretic; for this would be to sanction his wickedness and error. If we ordain a man to the office of the ministry, who is known to be living in sin [disobedience to the commands of Christ is sin], or to cherish dangerous error, we become the patrons of the sin, and of the heresy. We lend to it the sanction of our approbation, and give to it whatever currency it may acquire from the reputation which we may have," etc.
Now every thoughtful reader will see the principle is all the same whether we are personally instrumental in putting a man, whom we know to be living in the sin of disobedience or who is a heretic, into the ministry, or whether we sanction and encourage his being in it, we equally indorse his errors and make ourselves partakers of his sin. It matters not one whit whether we engage him to preach for us once, or one hundred times, or continually, as our pastor, we can not divide a principle. If it would be right in us to introduce him into our pulpit to preach once, it would be just as right for us to employ him to preach for us always.
Adam Clark says on v. 22: "To help him forward, or sanction him in it, is to partake of his sins. Will any one presume to deny that we do sanction a heretic’s being in the ministry, and "help him forward in it," when we invite him to preach and attend upon his ministry?
Mr. Clark says on 2 John 1:10,11: "For if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house; neither bid him God-speed." "He that acts toward him as if he considered him a Christian brother, and sound in the faith, puts it in his power to deceive others by thus apparently accrediting his ministry. "No sound Christian should countenance any man as a gospel minister who holds and preaches erroneous doctrines."
Do not Pedobaptists and Campbellites hold and preach erroneous and dangerous doctrines? I can prove it by themselves. The Presbyterians and Campbellites will affirm that the Methodists do. The Methodists and Campbellites will agree that the Presbyterians do; and both Presbyterians and Methodists stoutly declare that the Campbellites do; and all Baptists know that they all do. But hear Mr. Clark further, and then show what he says to your Methodist friends, who think you are too strict and bigoted.
"Nor can any Christian attend the ministry of such teachers without being criminal in the sight of God. He who attends their ministry is, in effect, bidding them God-speed, no matter whether such belong to the established church, or to any congregation of dissenters from it" [Italics his].
Barnes quotes and indorses this view, and says: "It is as applicable now as then."
This is farther than many Landmarkers have generally gone, but I believe it is the true ground upon which we all ought to stand undeviatingly. Does not our crowding their places of worship constantly with our families apparently accredit and sanction their ministry, and encourage them in their work? Let every Baptist settle this with his own conscience before his God. We must not bid them God-speed, or we become upholders of their errors and partakers of their sin.
How the early churches understood the instructions of the apostles with respect to those who "taught contrary to the apostles’ doctrine," we learn from Prof. Curtis’ statement, who examined the history of those times upon this point, and is undoubted authority. He says:
"In former ages of the church—that is, from the close of the second century downwards until heathenism was obliterated—it was generally supposed by almost all, that Christian fellowship, or communion, consisted chiefly in praying together. Christians would never unite in saying, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven;’ would not even pray in the same house of worship, with those whom they did not consider orthodox Christians. Heathens, unbelievers, heretics, persons suspended, or excommunicated. . . and members of other sects, were admitted to hear the Psalmody, and reading of the Scriptures, and the discourses, but were invariably excluded from the building before the prayers of the church were offered" (Curtis on Com., p. 80).
This testimony establishes beyond controversy two facts:
(1). That any practice looking toward "open communion" at the Lord’s table received no countenance in those early ages.
(2). That there certainly could have been no "pulpit communion, no exchange of "ministerial courtesies,"—as the exchange of pulpits, inter-preaching between the orthodox ministers of those ages and the teachers of manifest heresies, even though the latter belonged to orthodox churches—as the false teachers in Paul’s day did—much less when they belonged to opposing sects.
3. That the orthodox ministers and churches in those ages certainly held no "union meetings," did not labor together in public worship, or co-operate in the preaching of the gospel and promoting the spread of Christianity generally with those ministers and members who preached, or held, doctrines contrary to the teachings of Christ, and, therefore, subversive of it. How could two consistently walk or work together unless they were agreed? and from the teachings of the apostles, the early Christians understood that they did, by their act of worshipping, even in prayer together, say to the world that they were in fellowship with their doctrine and religion.
Who will say, with the teachings of the apostles and the facts of history before their eyes, that the apostolic churches, and the orthodox churches of the earliest ages downwards, were not "Old Landmarkers" of the strictest sort? Let the candid Christian reader decide between us and those "liberal" brethren, who say that we are trying to bring in new customs and ways of our own invention, unsustained by the Word of God, and unknown to the Baptists of the earliest ages.
I. It would have been in open violation of Paul’s instruction. for the primitive churches to have invited all members of other sister churches, to participate with them in the celebration of the Supper, since all those "false teachers, ministers of Satan." "enemies of the cross of Christ," subverters of the gospel "leaven"—the very characters he commanded them to "withdraw from," "avoid." "have no company with." "not to eat," belonged to Baptist churches. There could have been no intercommunion among Baptist churches in Paul’s day, or association in preaching the gospel, or in gospel work, with teachers of false doctrine.
II. It is as unscriptural and as sinful in this age for us. as for Baptists in that age, to violate these plain instructions. Verily, those who do so God will judge.