Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hardshells and Alien Baptism IV

The following citations are from Dr. A.C. Dayton's book, introduced in the preceding post (see here). The case being debated is whether a person immersed by a Pedobaptist, or by a "Reformer" ("Church of Christ" or "Campbellite") upon a profession of faith and in the name of the Trinity, is to be judged as having undergone legitimate baptism and therefore need not be baptized again by the Baptist when such a person seeks membership in a Baptist church.

Dayton first cites from minister Lathrop and records (emphasis mine) these words from him:

"The Rev. Mr. Lathrop thus speaks in behalf of himself and the leading ministers of N. York:

"So far as it has been in my power, I have ascertained the views of leading brethren in this city. Brethren in this quarter are pretty generally agreed on this point. Perhaps nine out of ten of our ministering brethren regard baptism in the case proposed as valid. Their reasons are as follows: The individual was immersed in good faith, viz: had repented of sin, believed in the Lord Jesus; and on looking into the Bible, saw that the first thing afterwards to be done, was to be baptized, and "arose and was baptized."

"But the administrator, you think, and so do I, was not qualified, that is, who is not himself a baptized man. The question arises--Is it essential to the validity of baptism that the administrator shall be in all respects qualified? It is always desirable, but is it essential? It is thought not. What in an administrator is a higher qualification than piety? Yet how many unholy, unconverted Baptist ministers, as we have reason to fear, have administered the ordinance of baptism to true converts. When, afterwards, such men have apostatized, no one has supposed that all whom the apostate (unqualified as he was) had baptized, should be re-immersed. If in good faith and to answer a good conscience, the individuals supposed have been baptized, they have discharged their duty. The administrator must settle his account with God."

I find the reasoning of Mr. Lathrop cogent. Who can disagree that most Baptist churches have judged that the baptisms of such cases were legitimate? This being so, who can deny that many Baptist churches today have members whose baptismal or church lineage has such members? Further, if we say that the baptisms of certain administrators are invalid due to some lack of a qualification, such as not having been immersed, or not having a church to give authority, or because authorized by an illegitimate church, then where will such reasoning end? Who can doubt that many, even in Hardshell churches, have been immersed by unholy or unconverted ministers? Further, with all the divisions within the Hardshell church, an administrator in one side of a schism is judged to be in disorder by another side in a schism. Therefore each side declares that all the baptisms done by that "disorderly" church or preacher is illegitimate. On this point more will be said later as we look at some things our Hardshell brethren have said on this issue in our time.

Lathrop continued:

"The case, I admit, is a somewhat difficult one, from the fact that there is nothing in the Bible that bears directly on the point. We can be guided only by general principles, and a reference to consequences. I confess, that in looking over the whole matter, I am inclined to the opinion, that to re-immerse under the circumstances mentioned, would be to establish a worse precedent than to pursue the contrary course."

Yes, the subject is difficult and those Hardshells and Landmarkers who think it an easy question have not really approached it with the open mindedness and honesty that it requires. Further, who can doubt that the precedent established by Hardshell Landmarkers has indeed created a "worse precedent"?

Lathrop continued:

"Benedict, the Historian, (after mentioning the opinion of the Richmond Association, that re-baptism is to be required,) says:

"As persons are frequently applying for admission into Baptist Churches, who have been immersed by Methodist and Congregational ministers, this question has, within a few years past, been often proposed, and most Associations have decided differently from this. All agree that it is an unadvisable measure, for a person to apply to unbaptized ministers to lead them into the water; but after they have been properly immersed on a profession of their faith it is generally thought that it would be improper to immerse them a second time. It is difficult to conceive why they would not, in this case, come under the denomination of Anabaptists." — (Vol. IL, pp. 472-3.)

Of course it is essential that people seeking to be baptized 1) understand that baptism must be by immersion, and 2) that it be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and 3) that faith and repentance must precede the act, and finally that it should be done by a Christian. But, is it also essential that the administrator have been immersed? Yes, it is preferable, of course. But, is it essential? If so, then where is the scripture that says so?

Next, Dayton writes these words from Basil Manly Sr. I presume:

"But now, lest it be thought that all the "Doctors" and great men of the denomination agree substantially with these, we will subjoin a few opinions on the other side. "Doctor Manly," in 1848, writes as follows:

About the question of re-baptizing, I must say I have been greatly in the dark. On the question of independent abstract propriety of repeating a baptism once rightly administered, there can be no difficulty. But this case is embarrassed by many circumstances that throw the administration into great doubt. I can suppose a case, (an extreme one) in which the want of baptism to the administrator would not vitiate his performance of it to others. But ordinarily or when it can be avoided, is it best or as good to have an unbaptized administrator? I would not choose to volunteer a declaration that I thought their baptism invalid. But I would not assert that it is valid. I lean over to the side of baptizing them when they come to us. I can have no doubt they are baptized acceptably in this case. In the other I might have some doubt. And I decide the case rather on the ground of expediency; because I cannot see far enough into other grounds to know on which side the argument preponderates."

Dr. Manly argues like others, that though the baptism administered by certain non Baptist administrators is irregular, yet it is not invalid. Manly appears to want to "straddle the fence" on the issue, not being sure which view is right. Does this not say a lot? I'm sure than Manly would not be so indecisive were he certain that the scriptures spoke a clear answer to the question. He was at least willing to be not so dogmatic due to the lack of scripture support for the Landmarker view.

Wrote Dayton:

"Elder A. Broadus, of Va., in his reply to queries presented by "Xenoi," thus expresses his opinion:

"Now, to the particular case before us. The plea of difficulty here urged, I take it for granted, is a reasonable one; and the irregularity, as before presumed, consists in the commencement of the series of baptisms by an unbaptized — perhaps an unordained individual. But it was all done upon solemn conviction of divine requirement, upon profession of evangelical faith; and in due form, according to Christ's expressed will as to the action. Does the apparent defect in the circumstances here stated, invalidate the baptism? I am persuaded it does not."

"I will plead not as a precedent, the case of the baptism of Roger Williams, and his congregation in Rhode Island, from whom many of the Baptists of this country have sprang; if that was wrong, it cannot make this right. Nor am I disposed to deny, that baptizers in the apostles' days were all baptized persons; though, by the way, the first baptizer was not so..." (chapter one)

Again, Elder Broadus shows how the baptisms of John the Baptist would all be invalid if it was a requirement that all administrators of baptism be themselves baptized. Further, as stated previously, if the baptisms done by administrators who were not themselves immersed, or who belonged to churches that held to heresy, then there ought to be scripture that upholds that idea. But, there is none. In fact, many baptisms performed by Hardshells were performed by administrators who were either unconverted themselves, or who held to serious heresy.

If we check the lineage of any Hardshell today, we no doubt will find that someone in their chain of baptismal administrators was not qualified, using the Hardshells own criteria for judging qualifications. Many of their present churches today once believed things that today are judged as heretical and disqualifying. For instance, all of their ancestral churches once believed the London and Philadelphia confessions of faith, and in means in the new birth, and in the absolute predestination of all things. Further, as Hassell's history affirms, many Hardshell churches used to be Arminian, and when they became Calvinistic, they did not all get re-baptized. And, if that is so, then no baptism since that time has been valid! What an awful consequence of Landmark teachings!

In CHAPTER III of Dayton's book, titled "REVIEW OF J. L. WALLER," Dayton wrote:

"Some years ago, our lamented Brother Waller prepared and published in the Western Baptist Review, the following Article. In the recent discussion of this subject and of questions growing out of it, reference has been often made to this great man's opinion, as though it should of itself do very much to settle the controversy. I am very glad, therefore, to see his article republished in the Western Recorder, of November 25th, 1857, so that brethren may see for themselves what positions he actually took, and by what arguments he endeavored to sustain them. Let the reader observe how small a part of all he said has any direct bearing upon the question in dispute. That question is not whether one baptized in unbelief is properly baptized, Upon this point Baptists are very generally agreed. Nor is it whether baptism given by a layman is valid baptism. But whether baptism administered without any authority from a true visible church of Christ, is true and valid baptism. If Pedobaptist Societies are not true churches of Christ, then baptism conferred in them, is conferred by neither ministers nor laymen, but simply by those who are not members of a visible church of Christ at all."

Dayton is willing to acknowledge that baptism does not require an ordained elder, saying that even a "layman" can administer "valid baptism." However, our Hardshell brethren go even further than Dayton and most Landmarkers in this, affirming that only ordained elders can baptize. Most Landmarkers affirm that the authority for baptism resides in the local church, and not with the minister, and therefore a layman may, with authority from the church, conduct baptisms. It seems that the question was not only whether baptism administered by an unqualified administrator is valid, but whether any baptisms of any church deemed not to be a "true" church are valid. But, who judges which churches are "true" churches? With many Hardshell churches, historically, they have been very strict in judging which church was "true" and which was not. But, more on that later.

Dayton cites these words of Elder Waller under the caption "Waller's Essay":

"The inquiry is often made, whether persons baptized upon a profession of genuine repentance and faith, by a "Reformer,'' or by a Pedobaptist, ought, on such baptism to be received as members of Baptist churches? In the West, the practice of our churches has not been uniform, and the opinions of brethren who have bestowed considerable attention upon the subject, are discordant. This question is substantially the same with that which has for many centuries elicited so much angry and useless discussion, viz: Is an ordained minister in the true church, as an administrator, at all times essential to the validity of baptism?"

Yes, that is indeed the question! And, the minority view has always been to affirm that only ordained ministers judged to be in "the true church" could administer valid baptisms. But, more on that later.

Waller continued:

"But our practice, although not uniform, has not been the cause of any serious misunderstanding. It has been left entirely to the churches to dispose of, as the merits of the applicants seemed to demand; and where dissent has occurred at all, it has been confined to the bounds of the church where the case existed; and to the churches in their independent capacities it rightfully belongs. It can never be taken from them. We must be understood, then, as simply discussing a question of expediency and propriety, about which a variety of opinions may exist, and yet furnish no just cause of alienation of feeling. In the discussion of this and all kindred questions, our arguments must necessarily be based upon inferences drawn from the Scriptures. There is no express precept or example to guide us in our investigations. The question is a new one originating out of the unhallowed and unfortunate dissentions and divisions that have transpired since the canon of Scripture was closed. But we must be careful not to violate any of the injunctions of the Scriptures, and to examine attentively for those great landmarks drawn by inspiration, to conduct the patient and prayerful enquirer after truth in the ways that he should go. The primitive practice is clear. The path in which the holy men of old walked is so plain that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. Then all who believed and were baptized, were admitted into the church. The commission of the Savior was, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." "Preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.""

Yes, it should be "left entirely to the churches" to decide. But, the Hardshells would not allow this to be the case, but rather forced churches to conform to their extreme Landmarker view. They have done this even though they cannot defend the practice from the scriptures. As Waller says - "there is no express precept or example to guide us in our investigations."

It seems that one side, the Landmarker view, wants to protect the church against evil associations with other non Baptist churches while the non Landmarker view wants to protect the significance of baptism itself and the conscience of the baptized. If it is indeed intended that baptism, unlike the Lord's Supper, be done only once, and for good reason, then it would be a sin to be baptized more than once. Baptism symbolizes Christ's death, burial and resurrection. So, to repeat it affirms that Christ must die again, or more than once. Baptism also symbolizes the Christian's death to sin and resurrection to spiritual life, and seeing that this likewise only occurs once, and never needs be repeated, then baptism must not be repeated. My own father was baptized three different times and I never did think he needed to have been baptized but once, believing his first baptism was valid. If a church ever required me to be baptized again to become a member then I would never be a member of such a church.

More to come! Comments welcomed.

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