In previous chapters I have examined the Hardshell claim to being "the one true Church of Christ," or "kingdom of God," showing that this is one of the evidences that they are a cult and that it is a false claim. Historian John T. Christian wrote:
"The name by which they designated themselves was Primitive, or Old School, Baptists; and they claimed that all Baptists were originally of their contention, which certainly was not the fact. "They arrogate to themselves," says J. M. Peck who was a contemporary, "the name of Old School Baptists because they reprobate all these measures (missions, education and Sunday schools, etc.), and declare non-fellowship with all Baptists who have anything to do with missionary work or any of those forms of active benevolence, and with all who hold correspondence with or fellowship missionary Baptists. In this charitable act they cut themselves off from at least nineteen-twentieths of all our Baptists in the United States, unless we can admit that a mere fragment of a party can exclude a vast majority." (J. M. Peck, Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, July 4, 1839) ("A History of the Baptists" - CHAPTER VII - "The Anti-Effort Secession from the Baptists")
In our previous series it was shown that though the Hardshells claim to have church succession through the Particular Baptists of the 17th century who wrote the first and second London Confessions, they cannot legitimately claim such for they are not in agreement with them on fundamental doctrine, especially as it relates to the doctrine of effectual calling. Modern Hardshell historians, such as Elders Harold Hunt and Michael Ivey, have acknowledged this and have sought to find succession through the Welsh Baptists or the AnaBaptists of England. In a future series I will deal with these other supposed lines of succession. The bulk of Hardshells have claimed succession through the churches who rallied around the London and Philadelphia Confessions, however.
Since the Hardshells are Landmarkers, and believe that no church or denomination can legitimately claim to be a "church of Christ" who cannot show a clear succession of churches back to the Apostolic churches, the question of succession is paramount. But, as has already been shown, and will be yet further demonstrated, the Hardshells can show no succession prior to the early 19th century. Thus, by their own criterion, they cannot be a "church of Christ."
It would have been better had the Hardshells not been deceived by Landmarker views, for then they could have simply affirmed, as did Alexander Campbell about the same time, that the church had apostatized and needed to be reformed and restored. This would have led them to simply say that they were finishing the Reformation begun earlier by men such as Luther and Calvin and the Baptists of 17th century England. In fact, one of the first names that the new Hardshell denomination called themselves, before finally settling on "Old School" or "Primitive" Baptist, was "Reformed" Baptists. If they had not held to Landmark views on "church succession" then they would not have had to try to claim succession through the London Confession and would not have had to try and distort it. They would also not be burdened with the impossible task of trying to find churches who believed their unique and aberrant views in previous centuries in a chain linked fashion.
Further, it makes no difference if we admit that the Hardshells can claim succession through the Particular Baptists of the London and Philadelphia Confessions, seeing that the first Particular Baptists who wrote the first London Confession did not come from a previous succession of churches, a fact that the leaders of that first Confession acknowledged, as will be shown.
Further, the attempts of Landmarkers, including Hardshells, to find a link to link succession of churches back to the days of the Apostles has been futile. As will be seen in future chapters, their piecing together groups such as Donatists, Novations, Albigenses, Lollards, Waldensians, etc., is nothing but a patchwork which proves nothing. Most Landmarkers simply believe in chain link succession without proof, accepting it on faith.
In order to understand these matters more clearly, we need to have an understanding of the basic ideas involved in Landmarkism. Bob L. Ross, who wrote the famous book on the subject, "Old Landmarkism and the Baptists," wrote:
"What is the proper definition of church perpetuity? Is it the view of extreme Landmarkism which contends that each new church down through the ages has been mothered by another church’s authority, extending directly back to the first church of apostolic times, thus forming what is called a linked-chain connection? This is what many Landmark Baptists teach, and it is the logical theory where the Romish position on church authority is held. When it is asserted that valid baptism must be administered by an administrator authorized by a church organization which was formed upon the authority of a mother church, then what other view could one adopt? To be consistent, the mother certainly must be as legitimate as what she demands of her children.Among modern Baptists, the ecclesiastical concepts and practices known as Landmarkism revolve around two basic assertions: (1) That God’s authority for fulfilling the commission of Matthew 28:18–20 lies solely in the corporate church (as an organization); and, (2) A valid corporate church, with the above authority, is one composed of validly baptized members, organized upon authority channeled into it by a previously existing valid church. This is often termed linked-chain church succession, and it supposedly extends all the way back to John the Baptist." (Introduction to "Landmarkism: Unscriptural And Historically Untenable" - see here)
Ross also wrote:
"Landmarkism involves the authenticity of an organization, the administration and administrator of baptism, and the ordination of ministers. It is asserted that a church is unscriptural, baptism is invalid, and ministers are not duly ordained unless there is proper church authority for them. This is Landmarkism’s “chief cornerstone." (Old Landmarkism and the Baptists," page 9)
Don Burke, in a thesis paper, wrote:
"However, many, perhaps most, Landmarkers take this concept one step further. These understand succession to be an unbroken chain of Baptist churches linked mother-to-daughter since the time the church was first established, although they largely make such assertions based upon faith, not on hard data. “The system [of Landmarkism] further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue...Landmarkers in general profess either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so...” This chain-link succession is the view espoused in the popular booklet The Trail of Blood J. M. Carroll), and is also foundational in G. H. Orchard’s History of the Baptists." Burke cites Ross, saying (emphasis mine - SG):
"Ross summarizes this doctrinal position thusly: “Graves’ basic presupposition, or axiom, was that the commission was given to the church as a corporate, visible organization institution. He also held that the authority of Christ can come only through this church institution, so that the authority of Christ, in this age, is synonymous to the authority of the church.” Ross then makes a criticism not uncommon among Landmarkism’s opponents: This group is guilty of the same type of evils as those found in Roman Catholicism. “Both agree that the authority of Jesus Christ is now residing in the visible church as a structured organization and can be received from no other source,” and he later notes “Landmarkism therefore makes the same identical claim to authority as the church of Rome and the Pope.”" (An examination of the erroneous theories of "CHURCH AUTHORITY" and "CHURCH SUCCESSION" of the so-called "LANDMARK BAPTIST" movement see here)
"The term LANDMARKISM is a nickname which refers to ecclesiastical views arranged as a logical system or ecclesiastical order and popularized by the late James Robinson Graves (1820-1893). According to Landmarkers, there is no authority in either the Word or from the Spirit for doing the work of the Great Commission; this authority comes solely from the local Baptist church.
It is held in theory by an undetermined number of Baptists in various conventions, associations, fellowships and independent churches. The system, sometimes called "church truth," is not exclusive to the Association Baptists, but according to Dr. I. K. Cross, the term "Landmarkism" has been widely used in "derision" for those Baptists in the fellowship of the American Baptist Association of Churches with which Dr. Cross is affiliated. There are quite a number of independent churches that are Landmark, but they do not affiliate with a convention or association. Usually, these churches do not believe there is scriptural authority for anything larger than the local church, although many of them do affiliate in "fellowships" and special "conferences."
Landmarkism involves the authenticity of a church as an organization, the administration and administrator of baptism, and the ordination of ministers. It is asserted that a church is unscriptural, baptism is invalid, and ministers are not duly ordained unless there is proper Church Authority for them. This is Landmarkism's "chief cornerstone." Some writers of the past referred to this position as "high churchism." Consequently, the Landmark view is that Baptist Churches ALONE have the authority of Christ to evangelize, baptize and carry out all aspects of the commission. The system further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue. This position, though not uniformly defined among Landmarkers, is believed to have been taught by Christ in such verses as Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20.
While Landmarkers in general profess either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so, their efforts to advocate their system of "church truth" are almost invariably characterized by several quotations from secondary sources and their own respected authors, supposedly establishing the historical claim. Generally therefore, they believe that 1) the true and scriptural organization of a church, 2) the valid administration of baptism, and -- 3) the proper ordination of a gospel minister, all MUST be enacted upon the authority of a sound and true, scriptural church — namely, a church that was born through the authority of a "mother" church — continuing in like manner back to the original apostolic church of Matthew 28 where "church authority" first "began".
In refuting these errors, Baptists and other Christians today can believe in the continuity of Christianity since Christ and may devote themselves to regulating their faith and practice by the Scriptures (in an orderly manner) without adhering to the Landmark teachings of church authority and succession. The authority which validates baptism, or any other scriptural action of our time, does not reside in the church institution any more than does the authority which validates salvation itself; authority resides in Jesus Christ and is expressed in His Word. The church itself is dependent upon this authority, but this authority is not dependent upon the church. This book advocates no new or novel views in opposition to Landmarkism.
The first Confession of Faith set forth by English Particular Baptists is the well-known Confession of 1644, and in Article 41 it states:
"The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this ordinance (baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching disciple, it being no where tied to a particular church, officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples."
Landmarkism, as a system, is of relatively recent origin among the Baptists, although various items in the system have been obvious at certain times in our history. But at least not until J. R. Graves popularized all of the related concepts in systematic form did a significant segment of Baptists finally become a fragmentation from other Baptists (in the Preface of his book, Old Landmarkism — What Is It?, Graves takes credit for "inaugurating the reform" which became known as Landmarkism." (cited here)
The "Primitive Baptist Church" holds to several basic teachings of Landmarkism except that they generally believe that there are two phases of the "church" in the new testament, a visible body of local churches, and an invisible body encompassing all those who are of the elect.
Further, the Hardshells do not believe that the Commission was given to the church, as I detailed in those chapters dealing with "Hardshells and the Great Commission." In this, however, they are inconsistent and contradictory, as I have shown in the above series. They believe, as do the Landmarkers, in the supremacy of "church authority," and that nothing can be done apart from it. They would generally reject the view of Dr. Gill who taught that ministers may baptize without requiring permission, in each case, from a church, and that baptism does not automatically add one to a local church. They certainly would reject the view expressed in the above citation from the first London Confession which affirmed that any disciple may baptize, and the administrator of baptism does not himself have to be baptized. The inconsistency is seen in the fact that the Hardshells do not believe that the Great Commission was given to the church, yet in their practice they put all the authority for baptizing into the hands of the church.
Another of the chief tenets of Landmarkism which Hardshells do accept is the view that the validity of each church depends upon having a valid ecclesiastical ancestry, that it must have descended from other valid churches. They teach that no church can be considered a valid church of Christ that does not have this chain link succession. There are lots of problems with this view, however. First, as I have already intimated, they cannot show such a succession, and accept the fact without proof and simply upon a leap of faith. Secondly, by their own admission, many of the churches have descended from churches that were invalid, and from invalid baptisms and church constitutions. They confess that these irregularities cannot be corrected, and so simply ignore the fact.