Kentucky has of late years been something of a battle ground on this and kindred questions. Many rash statements have been indulged in. It has been called “proscription” to make regular Baptist baptism a test of fellowship and orthodoxy in a Baptist church. That such was not a product of Kentucky , but was imported from Tennessee about sixty years ago, before which time it was not known in Kentucky. That prior to that time, the Baptists of Kentucky held that the reception of alien immersion should be no bar to fellowship and that probably the prevailing sentiment favored the reception of alien immersion. That “the question did not come before Associations, but was discussed and settled in the churches.” No authorities or recorded instances are cited to make good the above statements. I shall give all I am able to find on both sides and the reader can judge for himself where the proof lies.
The older Associations of Upper and Central Kentucky adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which has already been extensively discussed. In the southern and Western part they adopted an abridged Confession, embracing the same doctrines of the Philadelphia Confession, but in a much shorter form. The Little River Association was constituted in 1813 and adopted a Confession which has this article:
“We believe that no ministers have a right to the administration of the ordinances, only such as are regularly baptized, called, and come under the imposition of hands by the presbytery.”
Such were the Articles of Faith of West Kentucky Baptists.
Now, if the reader will go with us, we will look into the practice of Kentucky Baptists as they applied these principles.
Elkhorn, the oldest Association in the State, constituted in 1785, has this to say: In 1802 a query from South Elkhorn: “What constitutes valid baptism? Answer: The administrator ought to have been baptized himself by immersion, legally called to preach the gospel (and), ordained as the Scriptures dictate; and the candidate for baptism should make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, by dipping the whole body in water.” Spencer’s History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 16.
This was reaffirmed in 1822. Ibid, p. 19.
Salem is the second oldest Association in the State, constituted a little later in the same year (1785) of Elkhorn, and includes the two oldest churches in the State. In 1797 this old Association passed the following:
“The Association advises the churches to discountenance Ruben Smith from either preaching or administering the ordinances among them, unless he unite himself with some church. This Elder Smith had been a member of a small church called Strode’s Creek, Clark county. The church had been dissolved. He had moved to what is now Spencer county, and had failed to unite with any church.” Here was a regular Baptist preacher (presumably holding a church letter, as that is the way churches dissolve) denied the privilege of administering the ordinances and preaching as well, because he would not file his membership in the church where he lived. Was this a test of fellowship? See Spencer’s History, Vol. 2, p. 49.
From the same Association in 1812, in answer to a query from Little Union church, they say:
“We believe each church is the most proper tribunal to determine the qualifications of her members, and that baptism is not rightly administered by any one except a regularly ordained minister.” Ibid., p. 53.
Tate’s Creek Association was constituted in 1793. In 1801 they passed the following:
“Query: Is an immersion performed by a Pedo-baptist Scriptural? Answer: No.” Spencer’s History, Vol. 2, p. 91.
North District Association was constituted in 1802, and in 1830 she put forth the following declaration:
“Mode of Baptism. The administrator, an ordained preacher, and the person to be baptized standing in the water of suitable depth, the minister, in an audible voice, pronounces the baptismal words; then lays the person to be baptized backwards into the water, until the body is covered, or overwhelmed with water, then raising the person to his or her feet..” Spencer’s History, Vol. 2, p. 124.
The North Bend Association was constituted in 1803 and in 1822 we have the following:
Query, from Licking (church): Whether that is gospel baptism which is not administered by an ordained Baptist minister, to a believer, by immersion?
“Answer: We believe that baptism, only a gospel one, which is received by immersion on a profession of faith, and administered by one who has been so baptized himself, believing that to be the only Scriptural mode, and duly authorized to administer that ordinance.” Ibid, pp. 144, 145.
The Long Run Association was constituted in 1803, and in 1824 5he following query from Union Springs (church):
“Is it consistent with gospel order for any church, which is a member of this Association to invite and permit a preacher to administer the ordinances to them, who is not in union with us, and denies the doctrines on which we are constituted? The Association simply answered, “No.” Spencer’s History, Vol 2, p. 163.
Russell’s Creek Association was constituted in 1804, and in 1871 they passed the following”
“Resolved, That the Association does not consider any person baptized unless he has been immersed in water, in the name of the Trinity, by the authority of a regularly organized Baptist church.” Ibid, p. 203.
Stockton’s Valley Association was constituted in 1805, and in the minutes of 1806 we find the following:
“If a person has been baptized by a minister in disorder, have we any right to receive such person, on such baptism? No.” Ibid, p. 213.
Again: “Query from Casey’s Fork church: What shall be done with persons suing for fellowship with us, upon the baptism of other denominations, and not complying with the order of the Baptists? Answer: We advise that such persons should be baptized in an orderly manner, agreeable to the order of the Baptist church.” p. 215.
This last action was taken in 1816, A. D. And in 1874, “It was decided that baptism is valid only when the subject is a believer, the administrator one authorized by a Scriptural church, the element water, the formula that given in the commission, and the action immersion.” p. 218.
Gasper River Association was constituted in 1812, and at the same meeting at which it was constituted the following query and answer is found:
“Shall members baptized by a minister in disorder be received as regular members in orderly churches?
“Answer: We think not.” Spencer’s History, Vol. 2, p. 253.
Little River Association was constituted in 1813, and in 1818 they gave out the following:
“Query from Salem church: What shall be done in the reception of a member dismissed from a church not in our faith and order, but he having faith in his baptism?
“Answer: We advise the church to receive him on a profession of his faith in Christ, and baptize him agreeably to our order.” Spencer’s History, Vol. 2, p. 270.
Franklin Association was constituted in 1815, and in 1830 they passed the following:
“We wish it to be distinctly understood that all persons aiming to prostrate our constitutions and the union by declaiming against creeds or by sapping and ruining the pillars of our constitutions, by innovations on our faith, customs, and usages, ought to find no place in our pulpits, or at our communion tables. Our members should plainly understand that by approaching any table set by those people (Campbellites) to commune they would thereby forfeit the fellowship of all Regular or United Baptist churches.” Ibid, p. 292.
South Concord Association was constituted in 1825, and in 1860 “it counseled the churches not to receive Pedo-baptist immersions.” Ibid, p. 391.
Sulphur Fork Association was constituted in 1826, and “In 1858 the subject of receiving alien baptism was taken up, and a resolution was adopted requesting all the churches to take the matter under consideration, and report their conclusion to the next Association. The following year a somewhat lengthy and very able report, written by B. T. Taylor, advising the rejection of all alien baptisms was adopted by the Association. The general practice of the churches has been in accord with this report.” Spencer’s History, p. 407.
West Union Association was constituted in 1834, and “In 1846 the subject of alien baptism was brought before the body. They churches were advised to receive no applicants for membership, except they had been legally baptized by a Baptist minister.”
A new church at Blandville petitioned for membership in the Association in 1851. It was ascertained that the young church had received into its membership a Campbellite woman, without baptizing her. The church was received into the body, only on her acknowledging that she had unintentionally departed from Baptist principles, and promising not to repeat the unlawful act. The following resolution was also adopted:
“Resolved, That if any of the churches of this Association shall persist in such practice, it will become the unpleasant duty of this Association to withdraw from such churches. This resolution was re-adopted in 1858.” See History Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 477.
By reference to page 474 it will be seen that this Association made it a test of fellowship, in 1844, for one of her churches to allow a member of a different denomination to commune at her table for a single time, much less the reception into permanent communion.
Little Bethel Association was constituted in 1836, and in their proceedings for 1854 we have this:
“The subject of alien baptism was brought before the body in 1854 by a query from Liberty church. The question was answered as follows: ‘We advise the churches in our Association not to receive any into their communion, who shall not have been baptized by a regularly ordained Baptist minister.” History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 492.
Liberty Association was constituted in 1840, and in 1867 we have the following:
“Whereas, Some Baptist churches have recognized the validity of Pedo-baptist and Campbellite immersions by receiving members from those congregations without re-immersing them.
“Therefore, Resolved,That we advise and counsel our brethren of Liberty Association that they abstain from this error, and that they fail not to enter their protest against the recognition of such immersions.” See History of Kentucky Baptists, by Spencer, Vol. 2, p. 522.
Greenup Association was constituted in 1841, and in 1880 they passed the following:
Resolved, That we will not correspond with other Associations who will receive alien immersions.” Ibid, p. 547.
Freedom Association was constituted in 1843 and in 1845 we find “them advising the churches ‘that they had better not receive members from other denominations without administering baptism.” History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 559.
North Concord Association was constituted in 1843 and “In 1873 the body expressed its sentiments on the subject of alien baptism as follows:
“Resolved, That we will not receive, nor fellowship churches that do receive members from other denominations without rebaptizing them.” Spencer’s History, Vol. 2, p. 564.
Daviess County Association was constituted in 1844, and in 1847 some churches asked the Association’s advice on the reception of alien baptism, and here is their answer:
“Resolved, That while we disclaim all right to make laws for the government of the churches, we return as answer to Buck Creek and Station churches, that we advise the churches not to receive members from Pedo-baptists or Reformers, upon their baptism.”
Again, in 1871:
“Resolved, That this Association does not consider any person baptized, unless he has been immersed in water in the name of the Trinity by the authority of a regularly organized Baptist church.”
“Resolved, That immersion in water, under authority of a gospel church, is essential to Christian baptism, and pre-requisite to membership in a gospel church; that no one has the right to recognize any organization, or body as a gospel church, the members of which have not these qualifications; that membership and fellowship in a gospel church are essential pre-requisites to a seat at the Lord’s Table.” Ibid, p. 566.
Lynn Camp Association was constituted in 1868, and at their first meeting adopted a written constitution, which has this article:
14th. “We, as an Association, will not receive, nor hold in our union, churches that receive members from other denominations without baptism.” History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 626.
Rockcastle Association was constituted in 1871. “In 1880, the following query from Mt. Pisgah church was presented to the Association: Is alien immersion valid baptism?
Answer: “Resolved, That this Association advise her churches not to receive alien baptism.: History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 637.
We have given the united testimony of twenty-two Associations in Kentucky . These Associations are distributed over the entire State, and their testimony covers the entire history of the State upon this question.
In all our research we have been able to discover only two recorded instances of the reception of alien immersion in the State prior to the middle of last century, and in both these, the Association disapproved it. From what we have been able to gather, this is the sum:
For more than fifty years after the coming of Baptists to the State, the denomination, in the State, stood as a unit in opposition to the reception of alien immersion, while in a few instances little uninformed churches would receive it. But these few irregularities were corrected by the prevailing sentiment of the brotherhood at large. No man of prominence in the State ever advocated alien immersion, so far as we have been able to learn, until near the middle of last century. The first one of this class to favor alien immersion was John L. Waller, and his first published statement, so far as I have seen, was in 1846; and it was not an advocacy of alien immersion, but a plea for liberty in the matter. In fact John L. Waller was not an avowed alien immersionist. He wrote three noted articles published in the Western Baptist Review of June, 1846; March, 1848; August 1848. John L. Waller introduces the last one of these three articles thus: “Thus called upon (referring to a former article) with much reluctance we responded to the request, declaring at the same time that it was a question of great difficulty, and upon which, after a thorough examination of all the premises, we seriously distrusted the accuracy of our own conclusions.” Vol. 3, p. 461.
Near the close of this same last article, he says:
“We cheerfully admit, as we have heretofore admitted, that this is a question surrounded on all sides with difficulties. While we view the reasoning of “Fidus” as worse than logical gossamer, still we know that much may be said against the side of the question which we incline to favor.” Vol. 3, p. 474.
The very most that can be said for J. L. Waller’s position is that he was “inclined” and that with “serious distrust” to regard alien immersion as valid baptism.
We take the following from the Baptist World, written by the editor (J. N. Prestridge), which explains itself:
“The Baptist World stated that Dr. S. H. Ford was at one time a successionist and an alien immersionist upon what it considered undoubted evidence, but we do not question Mrs. S. H. Ford the right to speak for her husband. She says that ‘it is a mistake.’ And gives an incident in the Central church, Memphis , where Dr. Ford joined with the church in declining to receive a member on alien immersion. - Baptist World, Feb. 11, 1909.
During this time A. D. Sears came on the stage, who was an alien immersionist. And at times since, there have appeared those who would practice the reception of alien immersion, or apologize for those who did. I close with the following:
“A letter from Dr. T. T. Eaton, June 19, 1903, states the case for Drs. Boyce and Broadus: ‘Dr. Boyce was very emphatic and pronounced against receiving alien immersions. He baptized Dr. Weaver, though the latter was pastor of Chestnut Street church, because he had been received on a Methodist immersion. A man who claimed to have been converted before receiving immersion from a Disciple preacher applied to be received on that immersion into the Broadway church, in Louisville, of which Dr. J. L. Burrows was then pastor, and of which Dr. J. P. Boyce was a member. Dr. Burrows was willing to receive the man. Dr. Boyce opposed it and succeeded in defeating it. Over and over again have I heard Dr. Boyce say alien immersions ought not to be received.
“I was the pastor of Dr. John A. Broadus from May 1, 1881, until he died, in 1895, nearly fourteen years. We were as intimate as that relationship suggests. I had not been in Louisville long until I asked him squarely whether he would favor our church receiving a case of alien immersion, and he answered squarely, No. Again and again, we talked over that and kindred subjects, and over and over again he told me that alien immersions ought not to be received.” Sumpter Discussion on the Authority for the Administration of Baptism, 1903, p. 134.
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 History, 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.
[J. H. Grime, History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism, 1909. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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