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The Inclusive and Exclusive Character

Of A Gospel Church,  the Old Landmark

By Samuel Howard Ford

 

       OUGHT Baptist ministers (or churches) to invite Pedobaptists (or Campbellite) ministers to preach in their pulpits or meeting-houses?

 

       This has been a question of disagreement, of controversy, and to a limited extent alienation, among Baptists in the South.

 

A strong paper by the highly respected Dr. J. M. Pendleton gave rise to it. He endeavored to show that all such innovations were contrary to the Scriptures and to the usages of Baptists.

 

The work was entitled "An Old Landmark Reset." His view was ably championed by J. R. Graves and A. C. Dayton (author of that popular work, "Theodoisa Earnest"), and also by many leading men in the South and Southwest. Those who agreed with Dr. Pendleton's conclusions, and who acted according to them, were called "Old Landmarkers." They were, if not a majority, a very numerous portion of the churches of the sections named. But their views were sharply opposed by able and influencial writers.

 

       There is one friendly way of reconciling these discordant views and practices. It was put forth at the time when the controversy was at intesne heat, though in a somewhat different spirit and style.

 

       1. An ecclesia - a gospel church - is inclusive. It invites, it receives, it permits no part to be taken in its actions, or duties, by any one but a member of its own body. All others are outsiders, and are excluded from its meetings or else ignored. The one hundred and twenty (with some others united to them - the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brethren) in returning from the Mount of Olives went into an upper room. There this church, as it is named, chose the successor of Judas. They abode inclusive and exclusive until Pentecost. To them were soon added the three thousand - many of whom doubtless had been baptized by John or by the Lord's disciples, but were not in the church. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and … they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship ..." [1] It was a covenant-bound inclusive and exclusive body. And so Peter and John, released from the council of priests and rulers "... being let go, went to their own company and reported ..." [2] They went to the church and reported to it. Again, we read of Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary tour to Antioch, "And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them ..." [3] The church had sent them forth after the laying-on of hands by the teachers or ministers, and to the church they reported the blessed work done. It was to this divinely established inclusive and exclusive body, they felt responsible under God. They therefore gathered its members together and no others. This has been the usage of Baptists through the ages, and is so (with exceptions) still. The example is imperative. None but the members of a church has any right to be even present at its meetings, and only when mere circumstances or expediencies prevent one in fellowship with the church can he or she be admitted to a seat, but not to vote in its church meetings.

 

       This is the old landmark. It is scriptural. It is regular. But when this is transferred to the public worshiping assembly - when the rules guiding the ecclesia are made to bear on the public preaching service, and it is thought to be inclusive and exclusive, and none must take part in its doings and service any more than in the church meeting, then there is an unscriptural and misleading application of the laws of a church to a promiscuous gathering. This is the practical mistake of those called "Old Landmarkers." They carry the exclusive character of a church into the public assembly, and as none but the baptized believers can be invited to take part in the one, they conclude that none but baptized believers can take part in the other.

 

       2. In addition to this it is evident that preaching is not an official act or duty. Others besides ordained ministers have always among Baptists been encouraged to preach the gospel. After the death of Stephen the church at Jerusalem was scattered abroad. "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word." [4] But these were not ordained ministers.

 

       And so Paul writing from Rome to the Philippians tells of some preachers whom he could not fellowship. "What then," he says. "Notwithstanding every way, whether in pretense or in truth [sincerity], Christ is preached; I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." [5] These contentious, disfellowshiped preachers of Christ could not have belonged to the church or churches of Rome. But if they preached Christ "I rejoiced," writes Paul, for he who preaches the gospel is a gospel preacher.

 

       A minister - an administrator of the ordinances - is different from a preacher, and Baptists have always distinguished between them. "Let us be logical and we will be just," said Napoleon III., in his Caesar. "Let us be scriptural and we shall be right," say Baptists.

 

       It is sadly true that the sacredness and responsibility of the churches are greatly impaired by the rule of deacons, the formation of advisory committees, and even of congregational societies made up often of persons not members of the church.  These forms of government remove from the membership their sense of obligation and duty. The church frequently means church roll; few things (except the calling of a pastor) are brought before the church. All this is done by a "Board" of deacons or advisory committee. "Tell it to the church" clearly proves its responsibility and authority, and that authority and responsibility should be impressed upon every member, for his own sake as well as for the sake of the church. This is an old landmark, and it needs resetting where it has been removed.

 

       Intercommunion among Baptists rests on the same basis. No one has a right to the ordinance of the Supper in a church of which he is not a member. But when one is present who would be received into the fellowship of that church, and who if expedient would become a member, he or they are invited to participate. The church is still "one bread" [6] or loaf. And this is the practice of Baptists generally.

 

       The lines separating Old Landmark Baptists from their brethren are now nearly, if not entirely, obliterated, and the churches and ministers of the South and North are at one in this as in doctrine - a united brotherhood.

 

ENDNOTES:

 

1. Acts 2:41-42

2. Acts 4:23

3. Acts 14:27

4. Acts 8:4

5. Philippians 1:18

6. 1 Corinthians 10:17

 

SOURCE: S. H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, Chapter XX: The Inclusive and Exclusive Character of A Gospel Church, the Old Landmark, pp. 137-141, Amercian Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia PA, 1903.

 

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