Gleanings from The Baptist
By James Robinson Graves (1820 - 1893)
Via The Berea Baptist Banner
The following material is taken from The Baptist. The dates are indicated at the end of each article. During the years cited, J. R. Graves (Memphis, Tenn.) was Editor and Proprietor, M. P. Lowrey (Ripley, Miss.) was Mississippi Editor, W. E. Paxton (Shreveport, La.) was Louisiana Editor, and J. B. Searcy wrote the Arkansas Department. The Queryist section is most interesting. Bro. Graves generally answered this section, but on a few occasions Bro. M. P. Lowery did so. This material is taken from microfilm. Milburn Cockrell
Bro. Graves: I write you in regard to a question that is causing some real trouble with the members of the Baptist church at this place, and being a subscriber to your valuable paper would be pleased to have you answer it through THE BAPTIST. Can a Baptist church give its pastor the power to receive and baptize converts at any point where he may be preaching other than at said church; say, for instance, he (the pastor) was preaching at a schoolhouse five miles from said church with no church organized at the place. — J. J. Byers
ANSWER: A church cannot give away what she has no legal right to alienate. In legal phrase, Qued delegatur non delegatum cat, delegated authority cannot be alienated. The churches of Christ are charged and held responsible by the great Head of the Church for the purity of her membership. This high and responsible trust is committed to her own vigilance and she must attend to it herself; she cannot divest herself of the responsibility; she cannot, without rejecting Christ, delegate it to angels or to men (Feb. 5, 1876).
GRAVES ON LANDMARKISM
Landmarkers believer that there has been a succession of essentially pure Baptists from the days of John the Baptist until now, and that during all this period they have “suffered violence,” not only from the hand of their enemies, but, as now, from their professed friends. They believe that visible churches of Baptists have existed through all these centuries, though they do not profess to be able, as yet, to demonstrate the fact. They believe that Christ declared a succession would be preserved. They believe that the ancient Waldenses, whose history Sir. Wm. Jones has largely written, were Baptists, the true witnesses of the truth in the dark ages and before the rise of Protestantism. They believe that these Baptists, our ancestors, were strict; it not all who bore their name, yet churches of such as they are this day, who would not and did not “defile themselves with women—i.e., affiliate with the meretricious Woman and her Daughters. They believe the declaration of Sir Isaac Newton, who so patiently studied their history, “the Baptists have never symbolized with the Papacy.” This means, they never belong to Rome; never came out of her; never affiliated with her in worship. They believe the historical statement of Bullinger, Presbyterian, who wrote a history of the Reformation (Jan. 29, 1876).
The remarks of Spurgeon below are worthy of consideration:“Mr. Spurgeon says in his lectures to his young men,” ‘I hold very stern opinions with regard to Christian men who have fallen into gross sin; I rejoice that they may be truly converted, and may be with mingled hope and caution received into the church; but I question, gravely question, whether a man who has grossly sinned should be very readily restored to the pulpit. Let those who have been shorn by the sons of Ammon tarry at Jericho till their beards be grown; this has often been used as a taunt to beardless boys to whom it is evidently inapplicable; it is an accurate enough metaphor for dishonored and characterless men, let their age be what it may! Alas! the beard of reputation once shorn is hard to grow again. Open immorality, in most cases, however deep the repentance, is a fatal sign that ministerial graces were never in the man’s character. Caesar’s wife must be beyond suspicion, and there must be no ugly rumors as to ministerial inconsistency in the past, or the hope of usefulness will be slender. My belief is that we should be very slow to help back to the pulpit men who, having been once tried, have proved themselves to have too little grace to stand the crucial test of ministerial life’” (Jan. 22, 1876).
Bro. Lowrey: “If a wife leaves her husband on account of bad treatment and is divorced, and in a short time marries another man, and in the course of seven or eight years professes faith in Christ, and makes application to a church for membership, would it be right to receive her or not?”
ANSWER: We think it would be right to receive her. She is the wife of her present husband, according to the civil law, and the church cannot require her to leave him and her children, if she have any. That would be a crime, both against God and the civil law. What can she do? If God has forgiven her, she ought to be baptized; and the church has no right to go back behind the act of God’s pardoning mercy, and bring up her former sins as a reason why she shall not obey God’s command. Paul says, “As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” Again: “Brethren, let every man wherein he is called, to abide with God,” I Corinthians 7:7-24 (Oct. 30, 1876).
What course should a Baptist church take with a Baptist preacher that has committed fornication and makes an acknowledgment to the church? Is there any Scriptures to justify the church in restoring such an one? Please give your opinion through your paper. —Edneyville, N.C., August 7, 1875.
ANSWER: “The church can do nothing but exclude him. Such gross immorality cannot be repented of and reformed from in the church — only out of it, and with all his confessions not until he has regained the confidence of the community he has so justly forfeited can he be restored to membership, and to the pulpit never” (August 28, 1876).
BRO. GRAVES: - Please inform us through the columns of THE BAPTIST whether a church, in the absence of her pastor, has the right to discipline her members, administer the ordinances? etc. And really we would be glad to know whether a church without a pastor really is a church. —H. H. REYNOLDS Dreswell, Dorsey country, Ark., April 2, 1876.
Remarks — Is a flock of sheep a flock of sheep if it has no shepherd? Is any army an army, lacking one of its officers?
There can be a church without a pastor, but no pastor without a church. A church can elect one of its own members, or a foreign minister, as her moderator, and transact any business she can do with a pastor, else had she no pastor how could she elect one? She should elect a minister to baptize and administer the supper for her. (April 29, 1876).
1. Can a member of the Baptist church be allowed to dance, and if not where are the passages of Scripture that condemn it?
2. Has a Baptist church the right to arraign, try and exclude a member holding a letter of dismission from the same church, for dancing? — A CLERK OF CHURCH
Answer: We think a Baptist church that will allow without reproof or discipline her members to dance, undeserving the name of a church of Christ or of existence. We think any community far better off without than with a church of dancing, frolicking members.
Where is the Word of God that makes it a sin?
1. Dancing by name is given as a distinguishing mark of the sinner, “their children dance.” Job 21:11. A church member and deacons have been seen leading their children to the dancing school, and thence to the dancing party.
2. The Word forbids conformity to the world, and this means especially in its pastimes and pleasure. “Be ye not conformed to the world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Dancing is preeminently a pastime and pleasure of sinners, “their children dance,” and spend their days in mirth.
3. Revellings are forbidden to Christians, and that dancing is one species of reveling no one can doubt. See I Peter 4:3, and Galatians 5:21.
4. But there is a moral law violated which will warrant any church discipline for dancing, theater-going, etc.
Our Christian influence belongs to Christ and His church, and we have no more right to commit moral, than we have physical suicide. In no way does a Christian more effectually destroy all their influence that they once gave to Christ and to His service, than by joining with sinners and their revellings and sinful pleasures. The world says these are like us. Old things and old pleasures have not with them passed away. They do not hate the things, the worldly pleasures they once loved. A dying sinner would never call upon a dancing, frolicking church member to pray for him. He believes he is as good as they and so do we.
We want no better evidence that a church member is in the “gall of bitterness,” a poor deceived unregenerate sinner, than to know they love the pleasures of this world, their revellings and dancing, better than they love the cause of Christ, and the best interests of His church. Surely they cannot sing the son[g]:He or she prefers her ball room to her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise.“Beyond my highest joy,
I prize her heavenly ways.”
You can act upon this charge. Practices not consistent with the Christian profession. There is no specific law against horse-racing and betting on the race. What would you do should your pastor enter his own horse in a race and ride him? Suppose he should conduct a lottery office of his own, or under a salary? Could you not find a charge against him? Suppose he should be head manager of a ball and lead every dance until twelve o’clock Saturday night? What pastor may not do a member may not — injure the influence of the church in destroying his own.
One thing more. We will lose one of our most influential families and financial supporters that we so much need. No you don’t need such a family, and let its money perish with it if it will pursue such a course, all that great influence is against the church, and so much the greater the reason why you should rid yourself of it, if it will not give it to Christ. A church of a dozen members living godly is morally stronger than one of one hundred or five hundred dancing one.
Then be compassionate to the souls of these members. If they love the dance and the revel, the pleasures of this world more than Christ they are not Christians. If any man hath not the spirit of Christ he is none of His. For their sakes cut them off. They may some day see that they are sinners and repent, but keep them in the church and they are lost (May 6, 1876)
What do you think “born of water” means in John 3:57? Many want to know. — Winona, Miss.
We think it is a metaphorical expression referring to water baptism, as “born from above,” and “born of the Spirit,” are metaphorical expressions denoting the office of the Holy Spirit on the heart, quickening and imparting to it spiritual life. This spiritual life is the first operation, and enables the once dead man to see — i.e., comprehend, discern — the spiritual things of the kingdom or church of God. Then there is an advance in the thought, “Except a man (once already born, as he must be to be a man, a person) is born of water (and added to, as well as) of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom (or visible church) of God.” This must answer now. Soon we will give our views at length, and the reasons of our faith. There is neither Ritualism nor Campbellism in this passage, but the deathblow to both, if you can separate them (May 20, 1876).
BRO. GRAVES: - Is it Scriptural and in accordance with Missionary Baptist usage for a Missionary Baptist church to receive a member of the Antimissionary Baptist Church without rebaptizing them? Please answer in your next issue. — SUBSCRIBER
Remarks: This question has engaged a large share of our thoughts for years past, and we cannot say that we are prepared to give an answer that will satisfy our own mind. Our present impression is that the question should be divided. There is a larger part of these Anties radically unsound in the vital doctrines of the gospel, as well as in constitutional disobedience to the positive command of Christ to send the gospel to the whole world. All these should be disfellowshipped by us as having forfeited all claims to be in any sense true churches of Christ, the ordinances of such should not be recognized, nor should they be allowed to lay their strange fire upon our altars, or bring their leaven into our feasts.
But concerning those bodies which have kept that faith touching the doctrines of grace which they held in common with us before they went out from us on the mission question, and have not passed disfellowshipping resolutions, and are not excluding their members that they may be receiving from our churches, we say, with reference to all such bodies, and associations of such Antimissionaries, we are not prepared to advise that a reimmersion should be made a condition of membership with us. We cannot see the great difference between an Omissionary and an Antimissionary Baptist, except that the latter is the more consistent, and yet more than one-half of the nominal Missionary Baptists of the South are Omissionary, and tens of thousands within our churches, and not a few ministers, are so in theory, and even opposed to an educated ministry. We should be glad to hear from our elders, Breth. Wood, of Georgia, and Pendleton, of Pennsylvania, and Reynolds, of South Carolina (June 10, 1876).
What does the Baptist mean when applied to a church? The Campbellites are trying to make capital out of our name. — A BAPTIST
Answer: - When applied, as it first was, to John by the Holy Spirit, it meant the man who truly baptized. Applied to the church of Christ today, it means the church of the truly baptized, the baptized ones. Baptists are the only truly baptized Christians. Their name, Baptist, is an inspired name, nor should those who worthily bear it be ashamed of it (June 10, 1876).
1. Does the Bible, especially the New Testament, sanction or recognize in any manner the marriage of divorced parties? 2. If it does sanction it at all, to what extent? 3. Or it if does not, and only the law of the land recognizes it, is it according to the spirit of Christianity for ministers of the gospel to marry divorced parties, or to receive or retain such as members of a Christian church? — A MEMBER
This is a more delicate than difficult subject. We think the only Lawgiver in Zion has given one plain and explicit law; and He has made no exception to it, and that is the difficulty with many.
We find our answers to these in an exchange, which we will give, having so often, in thirty years past, given our own:
“We believe that Protestants generally agree that the aggrieved wife or husband, many remarry, and is in all respects untainted by the divorce. We know of no gospel rule that forbids repentance and church fellowship to persons who have committed adultery, so that under some circumstances a person divorced for his own sin might be received or retained in the church. On the matter of membership, therefore, action depends on the guilt or repentance of the person. The guilty person ought not to be married again by a gospel minister. His right to salvation by faith in Christ remains to him: he has lost his right to the marriage relation by his infidelity to his duties. The reason why the higher right remains and the lower is lost, is easily seen. Human society is put in peril by the remarriage of adulterous persons: the grace that saves the vilest sinner, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost wrongs no person, invades no sacred institutions, and blesses society by reforming a human life. If reformed, why not remarry? First, because society can not be assured of the reformation, though the church may be so assured. Secondly, because society has too great a stake in marriage to deal leniently with those who pollute it. Thirdly, because repentance does not give a man back what he loses by sin. A defaulting bank cashier can never again be bank cashier, though divine grace may make him an honest man. Many people learn too late that sin causes irrecoverable loses (June 24, 1876).
THE IRISHMAN AND THE PRIEST
Never was a better answer made than a poor Irishman made to a Catholic priest, while defending himself for reading the Bible. “But,” said the priest, “the Bible is for the priests, and not for the likes o’ you.”
“Ah! but sir, he answered, “I was reading in my Bible, ‘You shall read it to your children,’ an’ sure the priests have got no children.”
“But, Michael,” says the priest, “you cannot understand it, my man.” “Ah! very well, your riverence, if I cannot understand it, it will do me no harm, and what I can understand, does me a heap o’ good.”
“Very well, Mike,” said the priest, “you must go to the church, and the church will teach you; the church will give you the milk of the word.” “And where does the church get it from but out of the Bible! Ah! your riverance; I would rather keep the cow myself” (July 22, 1876).
Have Baptist ministers the right to make compromises with Campbellite ministers and receive them into church fellowship, with the promise, if there is ever a church of their order organized in reach of them, they are at liberty to leave us and return to their own order of people? Is it prerequisite to valid baptism that the administrator be duly set apart and ordained to the work, or can we tolerate baptism from the hands of any one who many see fit to administer the ordinance? — A. R. JEFFERSON
ANS. – We answer both with an emphatic NO. No church can, without openly violating the Scriptural law, receive a Campbellite to membership, nor one of any other sect, unless he professes our faith, and has received our baptism. That Campbellite member is playing the part of a hypocrite before the world, i.e., profession one faith, and holding another that is subversive of it. There is no concord, no conceivable agreement between a Campbellite and a Baptist. The two poles are not more irreconcilably asunder. No one but a duly qualified officer of the church has any Scriptural authority to administer baptism or the supper. A deacon has no more right than a private member, and much less an unbaptized teacher of acknowledged heresies! An unnaturalized foreigner has as much authority to administer the naturalization oath to whom he pleases, as a Pedobaptist or Campbellite has to administer Scriptural baptism (Aug. 26, 1876).
BRO. GRAVES: You will please to answer through THE BAPTIST, the following query:
When did Jesus Christ make the atonement for the sins of His people? Was it when He died upon the cross, or subsequent to His death. Please give answer through your paper. — W. T. NUGENT, Winona, Miss.
ANS. – On the cross He made satisfaction to the divine law — magnified it, and made it honorable; but, as did Aaron, He took His blood and went into the most holy place, Heaven itself, and there appears before God for us. His atoning work is still going on or no sinner would be saved (Sept. 2, 1876).
“Is it the faith of Baptists that saving faith precedes regeneration, or vice versa?”
Remarks: It is the faith of all sound Baptists, that the dead sinner is first of all, quickened by “the Holy Spirit,” before he has life to hear, feel, or see.
“You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
If regeneration is the impartation of spiritual life in the soul, then it must precede all gracious and spiritual emotions (Aug. 12, 1876).
What course should a church pursue toward a person elected by the church to baptism, but has neglected to be baptized for months, and has walked disorderly? Has the church any right to deal with such a church member?
Answer: He is not a member until he is Scripturally baptized. Let this be borne in mind. No conceivable act can put a man into the visible kingdom of Christ, his church, except baptism (John 3:5). The church should refuse to baptize and formally withdraw her act of Christian fellowship from him (Aug. 19, 1876).
We have often used this argument, which we now meet in the Western Baptist [newspaper]:“We suppose the man of the present day is the exact counterpart of the man whom God originally made and placed in the Garden of Eden. But does not the existence of man now prove an unbroken succession of the genus back of Adam? Unquestionably. Why not take his common-sense view of the succession of the church of Christ? Whether such a succession can be clearly proved by accredited histories, is another matter — a very subordinate one — but the succession is as certain in one case as the other.”(July 29, 1876).
[Milburn Cockrell, editor, The Berea Baptist Banner, August 5, 2002, pp. 1, 396-398. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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