What Is It?
NOTICE OF THE OBJECTIONS TO THIS BOOK.
This little book has elicited a large amount of adverse criticism, and revealed the fact that the most diverse and grossly unscriptural views of the Baptist Church Polity exist among our authors and writers—the recognized teachers of our churches.
The Religious Herald, and some few other critics, declare that the fundamental error of this book is its "cold, inexorable, mathematical logic." It asserts that strict logical methods of reasoning are not admissible in discussing such questions as are treated in this book, but "moral and probable reasoning" only. We reply, that since logic has only to do with forms of thought, and is the science of correct thinking, that it is rightly applied to the investigation of all subjects, especially to all moral and religious ones; that this, in my opinion, is the chief merit of the book. Sir Win. Hamilton, Bowen, and all standard authorities, sustain me in this. I have demonstrated something, i.e., that Old Landmark principles and policy are taught and enjoined by the Word of God.
The Relative Rights of Ministers and Churches.
There is an irreconcilable diversity of opinions among the teachers of our Israel on these matters, I will divide them into classes:
1. This class is composed of those who hold and teach that baptism belongs to the kingdom, and only introduces the subject into the kingdom, and never into a local church; and that the subject, to gain admission into a church, must apply and present certificate of his baptism by some one, and upon this the church receives him by an unanimous vote!
The unscripturalness and absurdity of these positions can be shown by these plain facts:
(1) The kingdom of Christ has no officer save its one King and Lawgiver, who never baptizes, and hence can not administer an ordinance to any one!
(2) The kingdom of Christ has no ordinance, and therefore no one ever yet received baptism as an ordinance of the kingdom.
(3) The kingdom of Christ is not composed of persons, but of churches, as kingdoms are of provinces, and therefore no person ever was or can be a member of it and not of one of Christ’s churches.
(4) But, if one ordinance belongs to the kingdom, then both do, for what God hath joined together let not man attempt to sever. The advocates of this theory will not admit that the Supper belongs to the kingdom.
(5) But, if the theory be correct, then, when the church excludes a member, she leaves him in the kingdom, where she found him. Think of it—all her excluded members are in the kingdom of Christ, and there is no authority on earth to put them out!
(6) And more, the churches have no disciplinary jurisdiction over ministers, since they belong to the kingdom—if they can administer its ordinance, for it is evident an officer must belong to the government whose laws he executes. If these are distinct organizations, as these teach, one can not interfere with the subjects of the other!
(7) This class also teach that baptism was delivered to the ministry, and not to the church, and therefore they have a right to administer it to whomsoever they deem fit, and wheresoever they please; though they think it expedient to take the voice of a church, when one is convenient, of which they are the sole judges! They may enter a church, and baptize in its own baptistery, without consulting it, if they please!
Now every Bible-reader knows that both ordinances were delivered to the same organization—not to the kingdom, not to the ministry, but to the churches (1 Cor. 11:2); and the churches are everywhere charged with their guardianship and scriptural administration, and the ministry are nowhere thus charged.
(8) And, finally, if it be true that baptized subjects are only in the kingdom after baptism, and not in a church until they make application with certificate of or witnesses to their baptism by a scriptural minister, and the church must receive them by vote, then there is not a Baptist church on this continent, for no Baptist in America was ever so received! And these advocates themselves are not church-members! American Baptists, save the few afflicted with this "crotchet," believe, with their historical ancestors of 1120, that "by baptism we are initiated into the holy congregation of God’s people;" and with Paul (1 Cor. 12:13), that in one spirit we are all baptized into one and the self-same body — a local church, and not the kingdom.
2. Another class of teachers claim that both the church and its pastor—though not a member—jointly decide who may be baptized; and, if the pastor objects, no baptism can be performed! All can see this puts the veto-power into the hands of the minister; and he alone, even when not a member, can prevent any one entering the church of Christ, or receiving its ordinances. This would be to make the pastor an Autocrat. It is most passing strange that intelligent Baptists should put forth such theories for Baptist or scriptural church polity!
The polity set forth in this book is that the churches of Christ are absolutely independent bodies; and that to them Christ committed all the ordinances, and constituted them the sole guardians and administrators of them; and that his ministers are the servants, not the masters, of the churches, to administer the ordinances to those whom the churches deem qualified. Let the reader decide whether this theory is scriptural, or the above contradictory ones.
Touching the Lord’s Supper
My position has called forth the most confused and conflicting opposition. As in seeking the condemnation of the Author of Truth, the witnesses fail to agree among themselves, and thus virtually destroy their own testimony. Let us see. The position advocated in the book is—
That the Lord’s Supper is a Church ordinance, symbolizing church relations among other things, and therefore should in all cases be so observed, else the ordinance is vitiated and null. Some Baptists oppose this outright, while the most admit that it is a church ordinance, but seek by various indirect methods to evade it, to uphold the present unscriptural and inconsistent practice.
1. The former hold and teach that the Supper belongs to the kingdom, and therefore a member in good standing in one regular Baptist Church has the right to eat with any and all other churches; and that "there is no power in heaven (?!) or on earth that can withhold it from any member where a church is." (The language of the Baptist Reflector, Nashville, Tenn.). This is blasphemy, denying, as it does, that Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Author and Lord of the ordinance, has a right or power to change it! But this class, while agreeing that the member of one church has the right to eat with every other church in the denomination, disagree. Some of these consistently apply the absurd theory to all other church rights, acts and privileges, as voting, etc., which the other part repudiate. If the theory is correct, then it is true that the members of one church have a right to vote on all questions in all other churches, and thus discipline them, and determine who shall be pastors, if the non-members can raise an outside majority! Now, all our readers can see that either of these positions utterly destroys the independence of Baptist Churches, and denies to them the guardianship of the ordinance which Christ committed to them (1 Cor. 11:2). This theory is thoroughly unscriptural, revolutionary and absurd to be tolerated for a moment. No standard author or scholar, among Baptists, admits that members of one church have a right to the Supper spread in another.
2. There is a second class that hold and teach that the Supper is unquestionably a Church ordinance, and was appointed by Christ to be so observed; and that it was manifestly so observed universally in the earliest centuries of Christianity. But this class is divided into three parties: Those who teach that the churches, though not under any obligation to do so, may contravene the appointment, and invite visiting brethren of sister churches to occasional communion, as a matter of courtesy. This is the general opinion, agreeing with the popular practice of the denomination. It cannot be honestly denied that a church has as much right to invite all Baptists present to vote in electing or dismissing a pastor, or discipling a member, as to participate in the Supper. But our standard teachers agree in saying that it has no right to do the latter, and that our local churches cannot do it without self-destruction. These, as well as those of the first class, infer that Paul and the eight brethren with him communed with the church at Troas while two things remain to be proved—as they do in proving that infants were baptized in Lydia’s house— viz., that she ever had any; and, if so, that she brought her babes along with her! It has never been proved that there was a church at Troas at the time of Paul’s last visit.
That the meal spoken of (Acts 20:11) was the Lord’s Supper, and not a common meal.
The fact is, there was no church at Troas in the first century, if ever.
3. Others of this class say that, since it is so clear that the Supper is a Church ordinance, i.e., an act that must be confined to the members of the particular church, and that it symbolizes church relations, therefore those invited must be, in some sense, members, they propose their theory, viz., that all visiting brethren be regarded as members for the time being—quo ad hoc—to enjoy this one church privilege but no other, and regarded as foreigners so soon as the Supper is ended! This theory is entitled to the credit of originality, for history affords no illustration of it any more than the Scriptures a warrant. To practice this, would be to practice a "pious fraud," since no conceivable church relations exist, or are recognized either by the church or the individuals. It is seeking to evade the plain law of Christ by a culpable indirection.
4. The author of this book belongs to the fourth party of this class, who hold and teach, that, since Christ appointed the Supper to be observed as a Church ordinance, and to symbolize that all who eat of "the one loaf" are members of one and the self-same church, therefore it must be observed as such; which it never is, nor can be, unless limited to the members of each local church; for, if the thing symbolized does not exist, the symbol is nullified, and the ordinance vitiated. Therefore, Prof. Curtis, in his able work, "Progress of Baptist Principles," though evidently desirous of being very kind toward the prevalent practice, says:
"It [the Supper] is not only committed to their [the churches] care, but is to be administered among them as a symbol, among other things, of that fraternity which they bear to each other as such. It therefore unquestionably indicates visible Church relations as subsisting among all who by right unite together in its celebration. Occasional communion by invitation must follow, therefore, the principles established for the regular celebration of this ordinance. We may not bend the rule to the exception, but the exception to the rule." (pp. 303-4).
This means those who wish to commune with any church must become actual members of it. This is my opinion—no more, and no less; and in this opinion it is a satisfaction to know that I stand with the greatest thinkers who have written on this subject, and, better than all, with the Word of God. There are some who insist that the expression of my convictions upon this subject is "the great blunder of my life." It is my conviction that it will not be so considered by the denomination twenty years hence, and I can well afford to wait that long for the verdict it will then delight to render.