MERCER, AN OLD LANDMARKER.
In 1811, nine years before the
editor of this paper was born, the great and good Mercer wrote the
Circular Letter of the Georgia Association, in which he presented "his
reasons for regarding the administration of baptism by Pedobaptists, though in
the proper mode, as invalid." The following is an outline of
his argument, which is taken from his Memoirs by Mallory:
I present them in proof that the
principles and practice so bitterly assailed by a class of our ministers as
something new and unheard of before their advocacy in The Baptist, are
not new, but were considered as the scriptural landmarks of the churches of
Christ before we were born. Bro. Mercer uses church figuratively for
"churches," and by apostolic succession he means a succession of
churches from the days of the apostles.
"I. The Apostolic Church,
continued through all ages to the end of the world, is the only true gospel
"II. Of this church Christ
is the only head, and true source of all ecclesiastical authority.
"III. Gospel ministers are
servants in the church, are all equal, and have no power to lord it over the
heritage of the Lord."
Having established these
propositions to his own satisfaction, he infers the following "clear and
"I. That all churches and
ministers who originated since the apostles, and not successively to them, are
not in gospel order; and, therefore, can not he acknowledged as such.
"II. That all who have been
ordained to the work of the ministry without the knowledge and call of the
church, by popes, councils, etc., are the creatures of those who constituted
them, and are not the servants of Christ or His church, and, therefore, have no
right to administer for them.
"III. That those who set
aside the discipline of the gospel and have given law to an exercised dominion
over the church, are usurpers over the place and office of Christ, are against
Him; and, therefore, may not be accepted in their offices.
"IV. That they who
administer contrary to their own or the faith of the gospel can not administer
for God; since without the gospel faith they have nothing to administer, and
without their own He accepts no service; therefore, the administrations of such
are unwarrantable impositions in any way.
"Our reasons, therefore, for
rejecting baptism by immersion, when administered by Pedobaptist ministers,
"I. That they are connected
with ?churches? clearly out of the apostolic succession; and, therefore,
clearly out of the apostolic commission.
"II. That they have derived
their authority by ordination from the bishops of Rome, or from individuals who
have taken it upon themselves to give it.
"III. That they hold a
higher rank in the churches than the apostles did, are not accountable to and of
consequence not triable by the church; but are amenable only to or among
"IV. That they all, as we
think, administer contrary to the pattern of the gospel; and some, where
occasion requires, will act contrary to their professed faith. Now, as we know
of none implicated in this case but are in some or all of the above defects,
either of which we deem sufficient to disqualify for meet gospel administration,
therefore we hold their administrations invalid."
On the question of apostolic
succession, he adds:
"But it should be said that
the apostolic succession can not be ascertained, and then it is proper to act
without it; we say that the loss of the succession can never prove it futile,
nor justify any one out of it. The Pedobaptists, by their own histories, admit
they are not of it; but we do not, and shall think ourselves
entitled to the claim until the reverse be clearly shown. And should any think
authority derived from the mother of harlots sufficient to qualify to administer
a gospel ordinance, they will be so charitable as not to condemn us for
professing what is derived from Christ. And should any still more absurdly plead
that ordination received from an individual is sufficient, we leave them to show
what is the use of ordination, and why it exists. If any think an administration
will suffice which has no gospel pattern, they will suffer us to act according
to the divine order with impunity. And if it should be said that faith in the
subject is all that is necessary, we beg to require it where the Scriptures do,
that is, everywhere."
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