by Pastor Tim
The commencement of the
Landmark movement was prompted in the 1850's by a series of published
articles written by James Robinson Graves, editor of
Baptist and John L.
Waller, editor of the Western
Review (Tull 1980, 130).
The official endorsement came in July, 1851 when the Big Hatchie
Association at Bolivar, Tennessee unanimously adopted five Landmark
resolutions that had been discussed at the Cotton Grove meeting one
month earlier. The Resolutions "dealt with the problem of recognizing as
valid churches those bodies whose polity, offices, doctrines and
practices were different from those of Baptist" (Patterson 1975, 46).
The evidence confirms that multitudes of Baptist all over the South
fully endorsed these resolutions.
It was not until 1854 when
a tract was written by James Madison Pendleton entitled "An Old Landmark
Re-set" that the phrase "Landmarkism" was coined. This tract was later
printed in book form in 1899 and included a response to all opposing
arguments. This book also included articles by J. N. Hall, J. R. Graves,
Judson Taylor and J. B. Moody, all of whom favored this movement.
It is from the
introduction of this book that the term Landmarkism is defined as
"Always speaking and acting consistently with what you profess to
believe the Scriptures to teach" (Pendleton 1980, 7). Rooted within this
definition is the heart of Landmarkism, which is the ecclesiastical
separation founded upon authority and preserved by tradition. The
argument is simple: if the Scriptures do not authorize sprinkling or
pouring for baptism, then those who are sprinkled have not been
scripturally baptized, and are not members of the Lord's church.
Therefore, unbaptized men that claim to be preachers should not be
invited to teach and preach from Baptist pulpits. This practice would
accept infant baptism as scriptural and endorse at times another gospel
which is a violation of scripture.
THE STUDY OF LANDMARKISM
In taking up the study of
Landmarkism, there are many complications that arise. The primary
problem is that Landmarkism is surrounded by contradictions.
Scholars from the
twentieth century disagree and view the whole Landmarkism movement very
differently than nineteenth century scholars. There are four different
areas of study that the scholars have developed through the years, and
there are seven main works concerning Landmarkism (Harper 1990, 31). In
Heritage, Louis Keith
Harper compared these seven works and concluded that the scholars cannot
agree on Landmarkism. This creates confusion and causes difficulty in
finding the truth. An example of this can clearly be seen in the book by
James E. Tull entitled A
History Of Southern Baptist Landmarkism In The Light Of Historical
Baptist Ecclesiology (1988). Tull ground a historical ax and
tried to connect Landmarkism with an anti-mission movement, Alexander
Campbell, and traditionalism. He claimed that Graves was the innovator
of Landmarkism and that he had actually erected a new Landmark. Of this
Tull wrote: "The author, prophet, and statesman of the Landmark movement
was James Robinson Graves" (Tull 1980, 128). Following a short biography
that stresses an "educational deficiency" Tull implies that Graves was
trying to build an empire on these teachings, and used his gifts of
speech to "bewitch" people (Tull 1980, 146).
The Baptist Encyclopedia
of 1881, on the other hand described J. R. Graves as an "intellect so
great, and a genius so uncommon". This biography described Graves as a
great evangelist. "Before he was thirty years of age over 1,300 persons
had professed religion in special meetings which he held" (The
Baptist Encyclopedia 1988). The perception of
The Baptist Encyclopedia
regarding the authorship of Landmarkism also differed greatly from that
of Mr. Tull:
The doctrine of
landmarkism is not a novelty, as some suppose, is evident, because
William Kiffin, of London, one of the noblest English Baptist, advocated
it in 1640 . . . Truly the Old Landmark once stood, and having fallen,
it was deemed proper to reset it. (The
It is important to note
the smoke screen imposed by men like Tull and others who try to weaken
Landmarkism by pinpointing its origin. If one looks beyond this, it is
clear that the philosophy of Landmarkism was in place long before J. R.
Graves penned his first article regarding the subject.
In the eighteen hundreds,
the main differences between Baptists and other denominations were the
doctrines of the visible church and church succession. These two
accepted doctrines became a foundation for ecclesiastical separation. It
is clear that Tull blatantly misrepresents James Madison Pendleton in
these areas. Tull wrote:
form what we may denominate "classic landmarkism" were mainly four in
1. Pendleton never
relinquished the idea of the universal church.
2. Pendleton refused to
equate the kingdom of God with the aggregate of Baptist Churches.
3. Pendleton refused to
subscribe to the theory of church succession.
4. Pendleton thought that
the theory of non- inter-communion was trivial and unimportant. (Tull
1980, 259 260)
Pendleton never had any
views of a universal church to relinquish, and he clearly denounced them
in his book Landmarkism.
Pendleton wrote, "There is no universal visible church" (Pendleton 1980,
31). Pendleton included an article written by J. N. Hall entitled "The
New Issue: The Invisible Church Idea." In this article Hall wrote:
For our part we deny this
whole "invisible, universal church" idea. There is but one sort of
church in the New Testament; and that is a local and visible church.
(Pendleton 1980, 75)
Tull said Pendleton
"refused to equate the Kingdom of God with the aggregate of Gospel
Churches". It should be noted that Graves was a premillennialist and
Pendleton was an amillennialist, which would cause some differences
regarding the Kingdom. However, in spite of eschatological differences,
the two joined hands in the cause of ecclesiastical separation because
they both believed in a visible church and in church secession. The
laying aside of eschatological differences to unite in restoring
ecclesiastical separation adds strength to the movement rather than
weakens it. Was Tull completely honest about Pendleton's position?
Pendleton wrote in the Baptist
The inspired writers, as
if to preclude the idea of a church commensurate with a province, a
kingdom, or an empire, make use of the following forms of expression,
"the churches of Galatia," "the churches of Macedonia". (Pendleton 1949,
Mr. Tull also stated that
Pendleton refused to subscribe to the theory of church succession. Yet,
Pendleton included an article by Graves that gives a church succession
discourse (Pendleton 1980, 45-50) and affirmed it himself in his
original tract (Pendleton 1980, 19). The following refutes Mr. Tull's
claim of Pendleton's position on non-inter-communion. Every visible
church of Christ may be considered a sacred inclosure, susceptible of
entrance in but one way. In the inclosure is set the table of the Lord.
. . As of Baptism so of the Lord's Supper. Its purity is to be preserved
by the preservation of pure membership. . . But let it not be forgotten
that every church is an independent body. This fact forever settles the
question that inter-communion between the members of Baptist churches is
based on courtesy and not on right. (Pendleton 1989, 193 209)
It is sad that many use
resources such as Tull to mold their opinions of Landmarkism. The only
Old Landmark that they were advocating needed to be reset was Pulpit
affiliation. The doctrines of a visible Church and Church succession
were not yet in jeopardy.
The loudest and most
significant plea for ecclesiastical separation came from J. M. Pendleton
and not J. R. Graves. Although Graves is no doubt a primary influence in
the popularization of Landmarkism, Pendleton enhanced its credibility
abroad. Pendleton was the author of the
Baptist Church Manual
that is still in use today (although revised). This original manual was
used as a text book in the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as
late as 1911. Pendleton was also the author of one of the simplest
statements of Systematic Theology ever written entitled
Doctrines (McBeth 1991,
49). Anti-Landmarkers since the turn of the century have been surprised
to find such a renowned Baptist Theologian endorsing these teachings and
taking such a rigid stand (Tull 1980, 202). However, in the foreword of
Pendleton's tract, he explained why he endorsed these teachings. He
wrote, "Truth has nothing to fear from the light. Error finds great
advantage when the facts are obscured. All error is dangerous, but none
so dangerous as a half truth" (Pendleton 1980, 4).
In Harper's appraisal of
the work of Livingston T. Mays entitled
A History of the Old Landmark
Movement, he wrote:
In Mays' assessment, . . .
Landmarkism tended to elevate the church as an institution above Christ.
Nevertheless, Mays condemned neither the movement nor its leadership. He
saw the mid-nineteenth century as a time when Baptist had become "loose"
on doctrinal matters". (Harper 1990, 32)
This "looseness on
doctrinal matters" resulted from an open pulpit era sometime after the
turn of the eighteenth century. In the early eighteen hundreds it was
considered a "very rare" thing for Baptists to exchange pulpits with men
that sprinkled infants, and as far as "ministerial services were
concerned the doctrine of non-intercourse universally prevailed between
Baptists and Pedobaptists" (The
1988). Mays added that Landmarkism helped to restore doctrinal purity to
Southern Baptists (Harper 1990, 32). It is clear that these men who were
considered by their peers as Baptist pillars of orthodoxy were fighting
the infiltration of liberalism. Realizing that liberalism was the result
of a "change in pulpit practice" and ecclesiastical intercourse was its
fountain head, The
says: "Truly the old landmark once stood, and having fallen, it was
deemed proper to reset it" (The
Baptist Encyclopedia 1988). Pendleton sets out to re-establish
this landmark with a loud cry for ecclesiastical separation in his
twenty page tract entitled "An Old Landmark Re-set."
Livingston T. Mays
suggested the primary motives of Landmarkism resulted from pride and
bigotry. Landmark writers were extremely conscious of this fact. In the
introduction of the book
Landmarkism, J. B. Moody wrote:
This will at least
convince them that the conclusions arrived at are not the product of
bigotry of any kind or degree. To my mind both the scriptures and
practical consistency require the conclusions arrived at by the author.
(Pendleton 1980, 7)
Moody reinforced this
statement by citing the Baptist practice of excluding its own ministers
for heresy. He also noted that it would show great inconsistency if we
exclude our own brethren for heresy and extend fellowship to others that
teach the same heresy (Pendleton 1980, 7). Pendleton recognized this
same misconception, and to head off any thoughts of pride or bigotry,
his first argument was founded upon some extracts of "Open Communion"
from Dr. Griffin, a Pedobaptist and the president of Williams College.
Pendleton used a doctrinal statement made by a Pedobaptist to call for
ecclesiastical separation (Pendleton 1980, 12). Tull could not
understand why Pendleton quoted Dr. Griffin and thought it strange that
Pendleton would use a Pedobaptist statement to make an argument (Tull
1980, 204). Realizing that it is hard to find truth in the fog of fancy
rhetoric written by Tull, it seems best to analyze the original tract
that brought about the popularity of Landmarkism.
In the tract by Pendleton
he asked the question: "Ought Baptists to recognize Pedobaptist
preachers as gospel ministers?" (Pendleton 1980, 11). In addressing this
question Pendleton set out to prove this question in the negative.
First, he used the statement of Dr. Griffin which is: "If nothing but
immersion is baptism, there is no visible church except among the
Baptists" (Pendleton 1980, 13). Pendleton affirmed that "nothing but
immersion is baptism". This means that the Pedobaptists are not visible
churches and their ministers have not been baptized; therefore, we
should not let unbaptized men in Baptist pulpits. The next concern is
this "transparent sophistry" that Pendleton said developed when
Pedobaptists claim that they were in favor of believers baptism. On this
Yet, they say, they are in
favor of the baptism of believers! Greatly in favor of it, truly! They
allow the sprinkling of a babe to supersede the baptism of an
accountable agent! And they know, too, that if their principles should
universally prevail, the baptism of believers would be banished from the
world. It would become an obsolete thing. (Pendleton 1980, 14)
If these people have not
been scripturally baptized then they are not gospel organizations. It is
at this juncture in history that the term "evangelical denominations"
had its origin. Pendleton writes:
In this day of spurious
liberality and false charity much is said about evangelical
denominations and evangelical churches. What is an evangelical
denomination? A denomination whose faith and practice correspond with
the gospel. What is an evangelical church? A church formed according to
the New Testament model. (Pendleton 1980, 14-15)
Space will not permit a
complete synopsis of this tract. However, in summary, Pendleton claimed
that Pedobaptists have no true evangelism and no evangelical authority.
The causes for this change in the practice of allowing Pedo-ministers in
the Baptist Pulpit was due to unscriptural charity, and the fact that
Baptists had grown ashamed of their distinctive principles and
practices. A historical argument is then presented showing that we have
done better without intercourse with other religions societies
(Pendleton 1980, 13-21).
Pendleton charged that
Baptists had grown weak, and sought respectability from the world and
from former persecutors. He also charged that Baptists who would not
take a stand were afraid of being unpopular. In closing his tract,
Pendleton appealed to the conscience of Baptists, asking the question
"What is right?" (Pendleton 1980, 10-21). This tract brought much
response and criticism, and in Pendleton's (1899) book he addressed each
argument made against this tract.
What would be the result
if we let the world in to our pulpits, the place that God has ordained
truth to be proclaimed? Are there requirements or prerequisites for
preaching in a Baptist church? Does one have to be saved? Does one have
to be a baptized believer? Must one believe in the inerrant Word of God?
Is it all right to allow a rationalist, Catholic, Campbellite, or a woman
teach the people from a Baptist pulpit? History bears out the results of
such practices. It does not take long when the old landmarks are removed
for the church to change its course, become weak in doctrinal truth, and
lose their ability to represent Christ.
One of the major factors
in the issue of what had been advocated concerning a closed pulpit, is
the fact that in the nineteenth century, Southern Baptists were closed
communionists. Generally all agreed that the Lord's Supper was a church
ordinance. Even the Baptist pastors that would step aside for a Pedo-minister
to speak in the pulpit, would not invite him to the Lord's table until
he was properly baptized (Tull 1980, 224). Amos Dayton in his novel
takes up only the issue of baptism and explains that in regards to the
Lord's Supper, Pedobaptists and Baptists stood on the same ground
regarding salvation preceding the Lord's Supper:
These bodies and
ourselves, therefore, stand on precisely the same ground -- that is, we
each require evidence of both conversion and baptism, before we admit or
invite any to our communion. (Dayton 1857, 376)
The Pedobaptists professed
that although a person had been sprinkled at infancy, he or she still
could not eat at the Holy Table until they had an experience of grace.
Baptism was the issue in
the fictional novel Theodosia
Ernest: Or, The Heroine of Faith. Dayton used simple observations
in the quest of Theodosia Ernest to find out who had the proper mode of
baptism. Theodosia was a young girl that became concerned about her type
of baptism after seeing a Baptist preacher immerse a new convert:
They went down into the
river, and then he plunged her under the water, and quickly raised her
out again; and sister says if that was baptism, then we were not
baptized, because we stood on the dry floor of the church, and the
preacher dipped his hand into a bowl of water, and sprinkled a few drops
on our foreheads. (Dayton 1857, 3-4)
Through prayer and a
ten-day study with doctors of Pedo-theology this young woman searched
for the truth. This was a fictional story that clearly brought doctrinal
simplicity.In the life of Adoniram Judson, a missionary supported by the
Congregationalists, he too found error in his baptism. As he was
translating the Greek language, while traveling by ship to Calcutta, he
discovered that he had not been scripturally baptized. Adoniram said to
his wife Nancy, "I am afraid the Baptists may be in the right" (Anderson
1972, 129). The Holy Spirit convicted Adoniram and his wife to be
immersed in spite of the consequences of being completely cut off by the
Congregationalists. Nancy wrote of how they felt during this time: " We
feel that we are alone in the world, with no real friend but each other,
no one on whom we can depend but God" (Anderson 1972, 146). They were
baptized by immersion on September 6, 1812 and became the catalyst for
the Baptist mission thrust movement.
P.O. Box 1034