Were the fathers of Virginia
Baptists "Old Landmarkers?" ?Did they,
like too many of their descendants, receive, as valid, the
immersions of Pedobaptists, and recognize them as evangelical churches?
"For the leaders of
this people cause them to err" (Isa. 9:16).
It is for the
"Landmarks" of the fathers of Virginia Baptists?those men who
planted the first churches upon the soil o the Old Dominion?that I inquire,
and not for the opinions of their children, who "have stumbled from the
ancient paths, to walk in a way the Lord certainly hath not cast up."
As I said of the first Baptists
of New England, I can say of our Virginia fathers, they could not have
affiliated with the state church?the Episcopalians?if they would, and they
would not if they could: 1. Because they did not regard it a church of Christ;
and, 2. They were unrelentingly oppressed and persecuted by it, from the
planting of the first Baptist Church in 1714, until the final overthrow of the
Episcopalians in 1798.
No one has ever intimated that
there was the least recognition of this "church" or its ministry by
Baptists, by any act, ministerial or ecclesiastical, during this period or
since. This much is settled, Presbyterians stood side by side with the Baptists
in influencing the state to divorce itself from the Episcopal church, and from
this very fact a kindly sympathy originated by a common oppression, and a common
struggle for freedom sprang up, which disposed our brethren more to affiliation
in Virginia than in New England or any other States, and the influence remains
until this day. That many Associations have invited Pedobaptist ministers to
seats in their Associations in the last fifty years, and that very man y
churches under the misleading influence of their late teachers, have received,
and do now receive, the immersions of Campbellites and Pedobaptists as valid, we
well know, but this was not the practice of the "fathers"
of Virginia Baptists.
1. The ministers who organized
all the first Baptist Churches in Virginia, came either from New England, or
were members of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, whose position will
shortly be noticed. These preachers were Shubal Stearnes, Daniel Marshall, who
came from New England, and David Thomas, John Garrard, John Corbley, J. Marks,
P. P. Vanhorn, Miller and John Gano; and we must believe that they impressed the
churches they planted with their own personal convictions, which were those of
the Baptists of those sections whence they came. Then some of these churches
belonged to the Philadelphia Association, and all the first Associations
in Virginia, were in correspondence with it, and must have been influenced by
I have Semple?s History of
Virginia Baptists before me, and from it I gather the following facts.
Speaking about affairs in the Roanoke Association A.D. 1789, the historian says:
"About this time, H. Pattillo, a Presbyterian preacher of distinction, had
preached several times in favor of Infant Baptism, in which he had degraded
the Baptists in the most scurrilous manner. The Association, in order
to rebut his calumny, appointed John Williams to answer him on a certain day;
which day they determined should be a day of fasting and prayer. Accordingly Mr.
Williams fulfilled the appointment to the general satisfaction of the Baptists
and their friends, and to the annoyance of their enemies (p. 234).
There was little affiliation at
this time, for Baptists regarded Presbyterians as the enemies of the cross of
A.D. 1794, I find this in history
of New River Association: "It appears that the Baptist interest prevails
more than that of any other religious society, there being only two or three
Presbyterian congregations in the district, and but few Methodist classes [it
appears they do not presume to call either churches]. Between these and the
Baptists a good understanding subsisted; insomuch that a considerable party
[which has yearly increased] were of opinion in the Association, that they ought
to invite the Presbyterian and Methodist ministers to sit with them in their
Association as counselors; but not to vote. This subject underwent
lengthy investigation, and finally was decided against inviting" (p. 262).
The reasons given would preclude
the idea that they could affiliate ministerially or ecclesiastically, viz.?
"1. Because it might tend to confusion. 2. Because it would probably rather
interrupt than promote friendship?seeing, in most cases, as it
respects the intercourse between man and man, too much familiarity often ends in
strife. We should be more likely to continue in peace with a neighbor, whom we
treated with the distant respect due a neighbor, than if we were to introduce
him to our private domestic concerns" (pp. 268-9).
Not a word is intimated about
these people being "brethren in Christ," or "evangelical
churches" ?not a word of it? while the plain, square truth is withheld
which should have been spoken.
A.D. 1792, I find this concerning
Baptist interests on the eastern shore: "The established church here, as
well as in most other places in Virginia, declined rapidly after the rise of the
Baptists. Of late they have other opponents that are much more successful. For
many years past the Methodists have been a very increasing people on the eastern
shore. Whether their prosperity is only temporary until the set time to favor
Zion shall arrive; or whether, for some cause, God is disposed to permit his people
to be led into captivity, and to become subservient to the
neighboring nations, we can not determine" (p. 283).
This language leaves us in no
doubt but that they regarded Methodists, in common with the other Pedobaptist
organizations of that day, as the antitypical nations that harassed and
attempted to corrupt and lead into their false religions the Jews, God?s
chosen and separated people of old. This is "Old Landmark" doctrine.
But a case came up before the
Ketocton Association, A.D. 1791, which determined the position the Baptists of
that day occupied.
One Mr. Hutchinson came from
Georgia as a Baptist minister, and held meetings in London, and baptized many
converts. It was ascertained that he had been received, by some church in
Georgia, upon his Methodist immersion. This brought the question before the
Association, and it decided that he was unbaptized, and advised against any
church receiving those he had immersed. The result was, he and his converts
submitted to a proper baptism. They reasoned thus:
"1. If such baptism was
sanctioned, every thing like ordination might be dispensed with. But that
ordination was not only expedient but an institution of the Bible, and,
therefore, indispensable. 2. That such proceedings, if allowed, might go to
great lengths, and ultimately produce confusion."
Whatever laxity prevailed in
after years, I have shown in what light the fathers of Virginia Baptists,
without exception, regarded and treated Pedobaptists and their immersions.
Bro. Jeter received his loose
Baptist ideas from the Baptists who constituted the Portsmouth Association, and
who came from England, and belonged to the General Baptists. Semple says:
"Their manner of gathering churches was very loose indeed; or,
at least, was very adverse to the method now prevalent among Baptists in
Virginia. They required no experience of grace or account of their conversion.
But they baptized all who asked it, and professed to believe in the doctrine of
baptism by immersion."
These arc the kind of baptisms
which Bro. Jeter holds and teaches are scriptural and valid today. He indorses a
Campbellite immersion as valid, which is just like the above, for "no
experience of grace, or account of conversion" is required by the
Campbellites. It is this destructive looseness, and perversion of the
ordinances, and subversion of the gospel, that Old Landmarkers are opposing, and
from the dire effects of which we are trying to save the churches of this age.
Whether we are traveling in the
"old paths" in this respect, let ?the candid reader judge. It was
not until the preachers of Virginia and the United States, desirous of
popularity, commenced to "burn incense to vanity," that
they caused themselves to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths,
and to walk in a way not cast up.
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