Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hardshells And Alien Baptism III

John T. Christian, the learned Baptist historian (see here) wrote (emphasis mine):

"It is now time to consider the history of another body of Baptists, who if not so numerous were at least highly influential. They were called Particular Baptists, since they held to Calvinistic views. Two views of the administrator of baptism prevailed among them. The first and oldest was that every Christian man could, without himself having been baptized, immerse a candidate upon a profession of faith." 

Several things are to be particularly noticed from these words of our historian. First, he states that the issue regarding the question of who may lawfully baptize, or regarding qualifications of baptism's administrator, is an old one among Baptists. The debate among Particular Baptists goes back to the early 17th century. It is therefore doubtful than anyone will introduce any new arguments to the discussion. What needs to be done is for the historical debate to be made available to new generations who seek to arrive at an answer. I have done this and would recommend that all do this. It saddens me that many Hardshells and Landmark Baptists take their position because they are told to do so by their churches and leaders and fail to listen to both sides fairly and honestly before making a decision on the question. We should not take a position on this issue till we have fully studied it.

Second, Dr. Christian says that the oldest and majority view among the early 17th century Particular Baptists was the one I have been putting forth as the correct view, which avows that any teaching disciple may baptize, and that baptism is not strictly a church ordinance that can only be performed by its direction or by its ordained elders. This was the view of Dr. Gill and many of the first organized Particular Baptists of the 17th century. Knowing these things about those Old Baptists leads us to reject later Landmarker arguments that avow that "Baptists have always insisted on qualified administrators appointed by the church."

Christian continued:

"Later there were those who held that an administrator should have a succession from a previously baptized administrator." 

Notice that he says that the Landmark Baptists were "later" in origin. As we will see, John Spilsbury, leader of the first Particular Baptists who signed the 1644 Confession, wrote against the idea that there were qualifications that an administrator had to meet in order to legally baptize. Some Landmarkers argue that William Kiffin differed with Spilsbury on this point, and that he and others, in order to obtain valid baptism, sent to Holland to receive baptism from an "authorized" administrator. Though I will not get into this disputed event, involving what is called the "Kiffin manuscript," which supposedly proves these events, the reader should read Dr. Christian's remarks on it. He fully shows that the "Kiffin manuscript" is not genuine, but was a hoax, probably created by later Landmarkers.

One of the sub tenets that the Landmarker view was forced to uphold, relative to "proper administrators," was the view that only properly baptized (immersed) persons, whether ministers or church appointed individuals, had authority to baptize. A minister who had himself only been sprinkled could not therefore administer proper baptism, even if he immersed the candidate. I firmly believe that the two leading arguments against this view have not, nor can they be, answered by the Landmarkers. Those two sub tenets are these:

1) Valid baptisms, like valid churches, require a valid succession to be legitimate
2) Only baptized persons can baptize others

Concerning these two important points, I will have much to offer later in this series. But, I will briefly rebut these two points, giving the historical response to them. Concerning the first, i.e. concerning the contention that in order for baptism to be valid, a person must be able to have a legitimate succession of baptisms, and administrators, back to the beginning, is both absurd and smacks of Romanism. Concerning the second tenet, it is obviously invalid due to the fact that John the Baptist was not baptized.

Christian continued:

"At times these views came into conflict and caused much troublesome discussion. The Particular Baptists had a wholly different origin from the General Baptists."

One of those "times" certainly was the middle 19th century, when "Landmarkism" became a major controversy among Southern Baptists and other Baptist groups. It is also a controversy now with the Hardshells who are requiring that Russian Baptists, who are seeking fellowship with the Hardshells, be immersed again by Hardshell elders. Many of these Russian Baptists are asking for the Hardshells to tell them why their previous immersions were not valid and why they must submit to being newly baptized. Concerning the debate among J.R. Graves and the Landmarkers against their non-Landmarker brethren, I will be giving more information in this series.

Christian continued:

"But the greatest number of English Baptists, and the more judicious looked upon all of this as needless trouble, and what proceeded from the old Popish doctrine of right to administer sacraments by an uninterrupted succession, which neither the Church of Rome, nor the Church of England, much less the modern dissenters, could prove to be with them. They affirmed therefore, and practiced accordingly, that after a general corruption of baptism, any unbaptized person might warrantably baptize, and so begin a reformation (Crosby, I. 100-103)."

This requires little comment from me. I just wish that our Hardshell and Landmark brethren would consider these things and quit being so hasty to take the Landmarker view without having first researched the matter fully.

Christian continued:

"John Spilsbury did not believe he was under obligation to send anywhere for baptism; but that he had a right to baptize like John the Baptist did. He had nothing to do with this Blount scheme. (the scheme to send men to Holland to supposedly obtain valid baptism by a "proper administrator" - SG) He says:

And because some make it such an error, and so, far from any rule or example, for a man to baptize others who is himself unbaptized, and so think thereby to shut up the ordinance of God in such a strait, that none can come by it but through the authority of the Popedom of Rome; let the reader consider who baptized John the Baptist before he baptized others, and if no man did, then whether he did not baptize others, he himself being unbaptized. We are taught by this what to do upon like occasions.

Further, I fear men put more than is of right due it, and so prefer it above the church, and all other ordinances besides; for they can assume and erect a church, take in and cast out members, elect and ordain officers, and administer the Supper; and all a-new, without any looking after succession, and further than the Scriptures: But as for baptism, they must have that successively from the Apostles, though it come through the hands of Pope Joan. What is the cause of this, that men do all from the Word but only baptism? (Spilsbury, Treatise on Baptism, 63, 65, 66).

There is so much that can be said here, but let me at least say "amen" to what Spilsbury argued. Consider the fact that there have been numerous occasions, undoubtedly, throughout history, where a person was baptized by persons who were not themselves baptized. Why would we want to argue that such baptisms were invalid? If I were a soldier on the battlefield, on the front lines, with little hope of surviving the battle, and I became a believer and wanted to be immediately baptized, why could I not seek a Christian, whether baptized or not, to baptize me? Why must I seek for a "qualified" administrator?

Christian continued:

"Nor is it probable," says Crosby, "that this man should go over sea to find an administrator of baptism, or receive it at the hands of one who baptized himself?" (Crosby, I. 104). The position was defended with ingenuity by the Particular Baptists. John Tombes was one of the most learned men of his times; an unwearied opponent of infant baptism; and frequently in public debates with Baxter and others. He defended this position (Tombes Apology for two Treatise, 10), and such was likewise the view of Henry Laurence, Esq. (Laurence, Treatise on Baptism, 407).

The position was finally assumed by the Particular Baptists as the correct one. Says Crosby: It was a point much disputed for some years. The Baptists were not a little uneasy at first about it; and the Paedobaptists thought to render all of the baptisms among them invalid, for want of a proper administrator to begin their practice: But by the excellent reasoning of these and other learned men, we see their beginning was well defended, upon the same principles on which all other Protestants built their Reformation (Crosby, I. 106)."

Notice that it was the Paedobaptists, like the Catholics, who argued for "proper administrators" and a valid succession of baptisms! I ask my Hardshell and Landmarker brethren to consider these things!

Christian continued:

"The Confession of Faith was equally clear on the proper administrator of baptism. The view of Spilsbury prevailed. He held that if baptism was lost, any disciple could begin it again, and quoted John the Baptist in proof of his position. They declared it was not necessary to send anywhere for an administrator. Article XLI is as follows:

The person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scriptures hold forth to be a disciple, or a person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them who were considered disciples, being men able to preach the Gospel.

"The view of Spilsbury prevailed"! As it should even now!

Graves, Dayton, Pendleton vs. Waller, Wayland, Broadus

In "Pedobaptist and campbellite immersions: being a review of the arguments of Doctors Waller, Fuller, Johnson, Wayland, Broadus, and others" by A.C. Dayton (see here or here), a leading Landmarker who helped forward the movement started by J.R. Graves, we have an in depth discussion of alien immersions. This is a lengthy discussion among Baptists on the subject of alien immersion. In the remaining posts in this series, we will be looking at the argumentation that was put forth by those on each side of question in debate. It shows that the controversy over this issue, though generally settled by Baptists in the 17th century, was revived in the middle of the 19th century in America.

The book by Dayton gives the discussion that was made by leading men on both sides of the question, in J. R. Grave's periodical The Tennessee Baptist and in John Waller's periodical The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer in the 1840s. The discussion begins with a question as seen in the following citation from the first article (emphasis mine):

"Here is a question — a serious and practical question of official duty to the churches of Christ. One upon which almost every church is likely, sooner or later, to be called on to take decisive action. It is whether a person who has been immersed upon profession of his faith, by a Pedobaptist minister, acting in behalf of a Pedobaptist church, and who thereafter shall apply for admission as a member of a Baptist church, shall by that church be regarded as having been truly baptized, or not baptized at all? If he has been baptized, the ordinance must not be repeated; for Christ requires but one baptism. If not baptized, the ordinance must be administered, for Christ requires that every member of his church shall have been baptized. Here, then, is the point which the church must determine: Was that immersion a true baptism, according to the Scriptures, or was it not? Upon her decision of this question her action in regard to his reception will depend.

That the question is one of great practical importance, and that it has been so regarded by the churches, is evinced by the discussion which it has provoked. That it is exceedingly desirable that it should, if possible, be so answered, once for all, as to secure uniformity of action among all churches, no one will doubt. But many will doubt whether this can ever be done. That very great diversity of opinion does exist, will be seen by the following letters. The majority of the "Doctors," so far as we have been able to gather their opinions, are either undecided, or else believe that the churches should regard such persons as baptized. Were we to be decided by the influence of great names, we should probably ourselves lean to that opinion. But we long since have learned to take no teaching in regard to religion, of any man, however great and good, and learned, as certainly true, until we had ourselves carefully tested it by the word of God. The Bereans were not praised because they implicitly believed without examination the teachings, even of an apostle, but because they "searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so." When, therefore, my attention was first called to this subject, by a letter from a brother beloved, in South Carolina, enclosing a copy of the published letter of Elder Fuller, of Baltimore, with a request that I would review it, I carried it to the Bible, and by its teachings endeavored to ascertain what was the truth concerning it.

I afterwards learned, however, that so far from being a new question, it was one which had, for a long time, distracted and rent our Zion; that it had been, again and again, the object of earnest, and sometimes of almost angry contention; that Elder Fuller, so far from standing alone, was sustained by the opinions of such "Doctors" as Curtis and Johnson, Wayland and Waller, and that there were many who believed that it had been the uniform practice of the denomination in all times to receive immersions so administered as valid baptism. Such a discovery, made after my review of Elder Fuller's letter had been written and published to the world, might well have given pause to one much better qualified than I to conduct such a discussion. It seemed more likely that I should be in the wrong than that so many, so wise, so good, so learned men should have been mistaken. It surely called for a re-investigation upon my part of the grounds upon which I had so hastily ventured an opinion."

Dayton is right when he says that the question as to who may baptize was not a "new question" for it goes back to the early 17th century. Further, it became a major issue in the 19th century because some Baptists, the Landmarkers, began to make it a major issue, in much the same way that the Hardshells began to make missions, religious education, etc., major issues.

Dayton next writes:

"If Fuller and Wayland, if Johnson and Waller, cannot make good the point, which they contend for, others need hardly make the attempt. Upon that side, we suppose, we have the end of the strife. No new arguments are likely to be presented — or if there should be, the gleaner on the field which such men have reaped, will not be likely to gather any thing of equal value to that which they have already brought in. If, therefore, we have succeeded in showing that they have failed, utterly failed, to establish their position, may we not hope that this will decide the controversy at once and forever.

Of the opinions and arguments here collected in favor of the reception of Pedobaptist immersions as true and genuine christian baptism, those of Elder Waller were first published, and we have thought best to place them first in order in the body of this work. The reader will perceive that he is much less confident than "Doctor Wayland," whose sentiments were published in The Western Baptist Review, vol. iv. p. 31.

Says Wayland:

"I have not the shadow of a doubt in regard to the question of which you write. The only command is, to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that is, as I suppose, in baptism (that is immersion) to profess to submit ourselves in all things to God. It is the outward manifestation of what we have done before, in the recesses of a contrite heart. This is the whole of the command. There is no direction given beyond, nor have we a right, to make any. It is convenient, as a matter of church order, that there should be some general rule, and that this rite be administered by a clergyman, and it would be naturally performed by one who had been himself baptized by immersion. But if these things be absent, from necessity or ignorance, they alter not the fact, that the person who has been immersed on profession of faith, is, as I understand it, a baptized believer. This is a very common case with us in this city. Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Methodists here quite frequently baptize persons on profession of their faith. We consider them as baptized believers, and when they request it, admit them upon a simple relation of their experience. Indeed, were not this admitted, I know not to what absurdities we should be reduced. If the obedience to Christ depends upon the ordinance being administered by a regularly baptized administrator, where are we to stop, and how shall we know who is regularly baptized, or who has obeyed Christ? All this looks to me absolutely trivial, and wholly aside from the principle which, as Protestants and Baptists, we have always considered essential to Christian liberty. It seems to me like assuming Puseyism under another name, or in fact going back to the elements of the Catholic church. Such are my views. How they meet the views of others, I know not, but to me these principles of Christian freedom are above all price. It is time that we, above all others, should "walk in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and not be entangled with any yoke of bondage."

More to come!

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