CHAPTER XII. General Observations.
We will begin this chapter with a statement from the Confession of Faith of the Baptists of Canada, dated 1820, A. D., as follows:
“We believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to administered by lawfully ordained Elders only.” Hassell’s Church Hist., p. 884.
This quotation is given that the reader may see how Baptists stood on this question in the extreme North, even across the line in Canada, in the early part of last century. But must say that a deflection has taken place in much of the North and some of the South and west, as well.
We take the following from the Baptist and Reflector of April 8, 1909 :
“In a debating society connected with the Fifth Avenue Baptist church, New York—we hesitate as to whether we should put ‘Baptist’ in the name of not—the following resolution was recently discussed:
“ ‘Resolved, That a Baptist church should not refuse membership to any person on the ground of difference of belief and practice concerning an ordinance.’
“A number of persons took the affirmative side of the question, while Dr. T. O. Conant, of the Examiner—all honor to him—and a lady took the negative. It is gratifying to report that when the vote was taken there were only twenty-five in the affirmative and forty-two in the negative. It certainly seems strange, though, that twenty-five persons could be found—presumably members of a Baptist church—who would take the position that a Baptist church should receive a candidate for membership simply on a profession of faith in Christ, with or without baptism. Are such persons Baptists? Is the church in which such a question is an open question a Baptist church? We do not dispute the right of any one to his opinion, but we do dispute the right of any one to repudiate baptism and still remain a member of a Baptist church.”
Editor Folk further states that R. P. Johnston, the former pastor, held that baptism was not essential to church membership. Just what part C. F. Aked, the present pastor, takes we do not know. He, however dedicates the babies, whatever that may mean. On this question Editor E. E. Folk has this to say: “Dr. C. F. Aked, recently imported from Liverpool, England, to become pastor of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, New York City, seems to take pleasure in running his plowshare through the accepted Christian beliefs and Baptist customs of this country as he has done both in sermons and magazine articles.”
He also gives a lengthy quotation from the Examiner, whose editor, T. O. Conant, is a member of said church, and in which the dangers and fallacies of said performance are shown up in loyal fashion. See Baptist and Reflector, March 18, 1909 .
We take the following from the Western Recorder of April 15, 1909 :
“The Memorial Church of Christ, Baptist and Disciples, in parenthesis, has Prof. H. S. Willett, of Chicago University , Disciple, for pastor, and Rev. R. N. VanDoren, one of the editors of The Standard, a Baptist, as associate pastor. Is this a shrewd move to forestall criticism by ultra Baptists and Disciples in that organization? But after all, could an ultra Baptist be identified with such a body?”
It will be remembered that this body includes the Baptist and Campbellite churches, who went through the farce of uniting some time since.
Ever and anon, the question of the union of Baptists with some other denominations comes to the front and is discussed in our religious papers.
The Baptist World, for April 29, 1909 , quotes the following from the Examiner, of New York :
“It is evident that there is a rapid growth of religious laxity throughout our land. The most urgent appeals are being made to Christian people, hitherto strongly conservative in their principles and practices, to abandon their strictness and unite with the liberal and ‘progressive’ ones in their views and activities. And many well-intentioned Christians, unwilling to be regarded as ‘narrow’ and ‘bigoted,’ and ‘extremely strict,’ have yielded to the clamor of the liberals, and are now far less strict in their beliefs and practices than they formerly were. That is called ‘progress,’ but it is a dangerous kind of progress.”
The Examiner certainly states an appalling truth. Why all this? Where did it originate? Where shall we look for the cause? It is easily answered. When a Baptist church surrenders her control and authority over the ordinances she opens the way for the incoming of all errors. If such a course is universally followed, it will in the end undenominationalize the Baptists and they will cease to be known as a separate people. This is both logically and historically true. History has abundantly demonstrated that the perpetuation of Baptists depends on their remaining an absolute, distinct and separate people. The reception of alien immersion is the entering wedge to their dissolution, and if universally adopted would certainly bring it about. It is the Pandora’s Box which would turn loose upon our denomination a flood of untold evils.
Allow some suggestions before closing. Taking all the Confessions of Faith which we have examined, both of Associations and churches, we do not call to mind a single one prior to the middle of the last century, when the New Hampshire Confession was put forth, but what in some way qualifies the administrator of baptism. This is not true of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. It does not say one word about the qualifications of the administrator. This is the Confession found in most all our church manuals, including Pendleton’s Church Manual. This is the Confession being adopted by most of our churches, especially in the South.
Knowing how J. M. Pendleton stood on this question, that he has been dubbed by some as the father of Landmarkism, the churches and ministers take it for granted that he would not incorporate a Confession in his manual that was in any way lacking on this point, and then, not dreaming that it will ever be taken advantage of they simply adopt it as their own. The recent discussions upon this question, however, are enough to convince the most skeptical that the future historian will take advantage of this, and parade the Confession as an evidence that the Baptists of these times were indifferent on this question. The suggestions are:
First—That when we adopt the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, that an article be added on the qualifications of the administrator of the ordinances.
Second—That we spread a resolution on our church books declaring our position on this question.
Third—That our Associations occasionally adopt a resolution declaring their position on this question.
The historian can fully appreciate the necessity of these things. Even if your church is already organized, it is not too late to add an article to your Confession on this point.
Our task is done. These pages now go to the reader. The work may seem one sided, but we can assure the reader that it is no more so than the records justify. We have incorporated every recorded instance of the reception of alien immersion that has come under our eye.
And now, hoping that in the near future we shall all see eye to eye, and this question shall cease to any longer disturb our Baptist Zion, we bid you farewell, till we shall meet beyond the storm clouds of ecclesiastical disturbance.