What Is It?



In 1811, nine years before the editor of this paper was born, the great and good Mercer wrote the Circular Letter of the Georgia Association, in which he presented "his reasons for regarding the administration of baptism by Pedobaptists, though in the proper mode, as invalid." The following is an outline of his argument, which is taken from his Memoirs by Mallory:

I present them in proof that the principles and practice so bitterly assailed by a class of our ministers as something new and unheard of before their advocacy in The Baptist, are not new, but were considered as the scriptural landmarks of the churches of Christ before we were born. Bro. Mercer uses church figuratively for "churches," and by apostolic succession he means a succession of churches from the days of the apostles.

"I. The Apostolic Church, continued through all ages to the end of the world, is the only true gospel church.

"II. Of this church Christ is the only head, and true source of all ecclesiastical authority.

"III. Gospel ministers are servants in the church, are all equal, and have no power to lord it over the heritage of the Lord."

Having established these propositions to his own satisfaction, he infers the following "clear and certain truths."

"I. That all churches and ministers who originated since the apostles, and not successively to them, are not in gospel order; and, therefore, can not he acknowledged as such.

"II. That all who have been ordained to the work of the ministry without the knowledge and call of the church, by popes, councils, etc., are the creatures of those who constituted them, and are not the servants of Christ or His church, and, therefore, have no right to administer for them.

"III. That those who set aside the discipline of the gospel and have given law to an exercised dominion over the church, are usurpers over the place and office of Christ, are against Him; and, therefore, may not be accepted in their offices.

"IV. That they who administer contrary to their own or the faith of the gospel can not administer for God; since without the gospel faith they have nothing to administer, and without their own He accepts no service; therefore, the administrations of such are unwarrantable impositions in any way.

"Our reasons, therefore, for rejecting baptism by immersion, when administered by Pedobaptist ministers, are—

"I. That they are connected with ‘churches’ clearly out of the apostolic succession; and, therefore, clearly out of the apostolic commission.

"II. That they have derived their authority by ordination from the bishops of Rome, or from individuals who have taken it upon themselves to give it.

"III. That they hold a higher rank in the churches than the apostles did, are not accountable to and of consequence not triable by the church; but are amenable only to or among themselves.

"IV. That they all, as we think, administer contrary to the pattern of the gospel; and some, where occasion requires, will act contrary to their professed faith. Now, as we know of none implicated in this case but are in some or all of the above defects, either of which we deem sufficient to disqualify for meet gospel administration, therefore we hold their administrations invalid."

On the question of apostolic succession, he adds:

"But it should be said that the apostolic succession can not be ascertained, and then it is proper to act without it; we say that the loss of the succession can never prove it futile, nor justify any one out of it. The Pedobaptists, by their own histories, admit they are not of it; but we do not, and shall think ourselves entitled to the claim until the reverse be clearly shown. And should any think authority derived from the mother of harlots sufficient to qualify to administer a gospel ordinance, they will be so charitable as not to condemn us for professing what is derived from Christ. And should any still more absurdly plead that ordination received from an individual is sufficient, we leave them to show what is the use of ordination, and why it exists. If any think an administration will suffice which has no gospel pattern, they will suffer us to act according to the divine order with impunity. And if it should be said that faith in the subject is all that is necessary, we beg to require it where the Scriptures do, that is, everywhere."