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History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism
Chapter VII
Baptists of North and South Carolina

By J. H. Grime, 1909
      The Baptists of the two Carolinas are very closely allied, but each State has its early centers of Baptist influence. We will begin with the South State. Of late years South Carolina and Virginia have been mentioned as the most lax of any of our Southern States upon this question. But South Carolina, like Virginia, shows no traces of it, so far as we can ascertain, in her early history.

      The Charleston Association is the second oldest in the United States, being constituted in 1751, and like all the old Associations adopted the London or Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which has already been abundantly quoted on this question. The history of this Association is the history of the early Baptists of South Carolina. The close relation between this and the Philadelphia Association and the frequent exchange of pastors, and the fact that they both had the same Confession of Faith, is sufficient ground to assert their oneness in doctrine and practice.

      The following query and answer found in the minutes for 1758 have been quoted by alien immersionists as an instance of alien immersion:

“Whether baptism administered by Paul Palmer, a disorderly person, be valid?

“Answer: Though Palmer was a disorderly person, yet as he baptized according to the word of God, persons baptized by him may be received into our churches, upon satisfactory examination as to principles and grace.” Furman’s History of the Charleston Association, p. 37.

Who was Paul Palmer? He was a General Baptist, and to him is ascribed the planting of the Baptist standard in North Carolina. He was baptized into the fellowship of the Old Welsh Tract church by their pastor, Owen Thomas, and was ordained in Connecticut. (See History Sandy Creek Association, p. 42, and Hassell’s Church History, p. 662.) His baptism and ordination were regular. He was a Baptist. Just what the “disorder” referred to here consisted in we are not informed. He is said to have been loose on requiring his candidates to relate an experience of grace before baptism; and this may be the “disorder” referred to here. This is most probably it, for in the same year they passed an action endorsing such baptisms. (History of the Charleston Association, p. 37.)

      We turn our attention now to North Carolina. The Sandy Creek Association is the third oldest in the United States, being constituted in 1758, mainly through the labors of Paul Palmer and Shubael Stearns. Much of their early records are lost, but enough remains to ascertain how they stood on this question. In 1822 we have the following, viz.:

“Query: If a man representing himself to be a legally ordained minister of the gospel, receives persons into the church and baptizes them, but is afterward found not to be in possession of proper credentials, are such persons, so baptized, to be considered regular members of the church, and entitled to privileges thereof?

“Answered in the negative. If a minister acts without church authority, his ministerial acts are invalid. If he be clothed with valid church authority, his acts are valid, though he may be a bad man; that is, the validity of his official acts depends upon his being a member of the church, and clothed with ministerial authority. If he has no church membership, and is without ordination his acts are invalid.” Purefoy’s History of Sandy Creek Association, p. 122.

      Again, in 1839, a query from Pleasant Grove church:
“Is it consistent with the spirit of the gospel, and according to the Scriptures, for any regular Baptist church to receive into her fellowship any member or members of another denomination, who have been baptized by immersion, without baptizing them again?

“Answer: We think it is not. The vote on this query was unanimous. The Baptist is the only denomination that is not guilty of schism—of making a division when it came into existence. They existed prior to any Pedo-baptist denomination now in existence. Baptists have never seceded from any other denomination. All other denominations have either seceded from Rome or one another; they made a division when they came into existence, instead of receiving their baptisms as valid, they are to marked and avoided for causing divisions. Romans 16:17.

“We cannot admit the validity of their baptisms without admitting that they are true and Scriptural gospel churches, if we do this we unchurch ourselves, for God never set up or authorized but one Christian denomination. He is not the author of confusion or antagonistic denominations.

“The Baptist is the only denomination that can claim descent from the apostolic churches, through the true persecuted and witnessing church, that fled into the wilderness for 1,260 years. See Revelation 12:6 and 14.

“That the Baptists have descended from this true church is susceptible of the clearest proof. This is not true of any other denomination. We all know the day when, and the man or men who set them up, and not one of them had existence before A. D. 1500. Ordinances cannot be validly administered by both Baptists and Pedo-baptists. God is not the author of but one of them, consequently we cannot receive members upon baptism administered by them, without repudiating the ordinances administered by ourselves.” History of Sandy Creek Association, p. 179.

      We suppose the reader will have no difficulty in understanding the language just quoted.

      We now turn our attention to the Kehukee Association of the same State, being the fourth oldest in America , constituted in 1765, A. D. This Association at first adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, but in 1777 they abridged it, and retain it until today in this shortened form. The Sixteenth Article reads thus: “We believe that no minister has a right to the administration of the ordinances, only such as are regularly called, and come under imposition of hands by the presbytery.” (See Burkitt & Read’s History of the Kehukee Association, p. 54).

      This is a clear statement that baptism (as well as the Lord’s Supper) is confined to regularly called and ordained ministers of the church. If any one has any further doubt as to the meaning of this Association upon this point, let them refer to the following questions and answers which occurred in the same meeting in which this Confession of Faith was adopted:

      “Query: From the Church in Chowan:

“Suppose a man to be a member of the Presbyterian church, and therein ordained a minister of the gospel, and administrator of the ordinances thereof with approbation of them in their way, afterwards submits to believers baptism — is his ordination valid to the Baptists? Answer, No.”
      Again : “From the church in the Isle of Wight:
“What shall a church do with a minister who labors to make them believe that, difference in judgment about water baptism ought to be no bar to communion?

“Answer: Such a practice is disorderly, and he who propagates the tenet ought to be dealt with as an offender.”

      These statements are clear, and show that no authority in “ordination” was recognized except it come from a Baptist church.

Six years later, in 1783, the following occurs:

“Is the baptism of a believer a legal baptism, if performed by an unauthorized minister?

“Answer: It is our opinion that the person who administered the ordinance was very much out of his duty, and displeasure ought to be shown to such a practice; but as for the person’s baptism, as it was done in faith, we esteem it legal.”

      This has been cited as a case of alien immersion. But to my way of thinking it does not involve that point. The minister referred to was evidently a Baptist minister. This is shown by the answer, which implies that he is a subject of church discipline. It follows then, we think, clearly (as nothing is said concerning ordination) that he has baptized some one on his own motion, without the action of any church, as, for instance, an itinerant or traveling minister, baptizing on his own score. Any one who will take the pains to examine the records will see that this very point was dismissed at this same sitting of the Association.

Georgia Baptists

      Georgia is, and has been from the first, a great Baptist State. As early as 1733 a colony was established among the wilds of Georgia. Concerning this colony Rev. Mr. Lewis, of Margate, England, sneeringly remarked: “There are descendants of the Moravian Ana-baptists in the new plantation of Georgia .” Among these there was no minister so far as we can learn. The first Baptist convert ever made upon Georgia soil so far as we have been able to learn was Nicholas Bedgewood, in 1757. There being no authorized Baptist minister in Georgia , he traveled all the distance to Charleston , S. C., to receive baptism at the hands of Oliver Hart, pastor of the First church of that city (a good start). See History of Baptists In Southern States, p. 28.

      Mr. Bedgewood became a preacher, and planted the cause in Georgia. The first church established on the soil of Georgia was at Kioka. And bore the name of “Ana-baptist.” The oldest Association in the State is the Georgia Association, constituted in 1784. This Association, since near its origin, has ever stood firm against the reception of alien immersion. The Yellow River Association is also one of the oldest in the State. The article, in their Confession of Faith, on this point reads thus: “That water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the gospel, to be continued until the Lord’s second coming, and to be administered only by orderly Baptist ministers regularly ordained.” Hear this old Georgia Association express herself later on, in 1824:

“Query: Should a person on profession of his faith receive baptism by immersion at the hands of a minister who is of the same faith, but of another and Arminian denomination, on a change of sentiments and a desire to come into union with a regular Baptist church, be required to submit to the ordinance again? Answer in the affirmative.”
      Just five years after the organization of this Association (1789) Jesse Mercer, the man who has done more for the Baptist cause in Georgia than any other, was ordained. For a long period of time he was Moderator of this old Association. It was he who established the Christian Index. It was he who established the first Baptist school and finally Mercer University . It was he who laid his thousands upon the altar for education and missions, thus starting the influence which has made Georgia the great missionary State that it is. It was he who never gave an uncertain sound on doctrine, and led in the influence which has molded Georgia into the great Baptist State that it is. In 1811 he wrote the circular letter of Georgia Association on the church and its functions. The outline of his arguments are as follows:

      “I. — The apostolic church, continued through all ages to the end of the world, is the only true gospel church.

      “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 certain truths':

“I. — That all churches and ministers who originated since the apostles, and not successively to them, are not in gospel order; and, therefore, cannot be 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 and 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, cannot 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 Pedo-baptist ministers, are:

      “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 themselves.

      “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.”

      He adds: “But, if 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 Pedo-baptists, 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.” Memoirs of Jesse Mercer, by Mallary, pp. 146-148.

      The Yellow River Association of Georgia, one of the old Associations of the State, has this statement in their Confession of Faith:

“Water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the gospel, to be continued until the Lord’s second coming, and to be administered only by orderly Baptist ministers regularly ordained.” Leaves of Life, p. 106.
      The Flint River and Western Associations had some controversy over the reception of members from churches which had seceded from the Flint River Association. In 1834 they jointly adopted the following resolution:
“We recommend that those who have been received by experience and baptized by seceding ministers since their acknowledgment of a different faith to that of the Flint River Association, which was assigned by them at the Sharon church, be, on application, received by the churches on experience and baptism as others who have never been members.” Leaves of Life, p. 122.
      In the Baptist Encyclopedia, giving the "History of Georgia Baptists", we find the following:
“In general, when a course of action has been decided, the Baptists of Georgia are harmonious. In regard to church order they are very strict, and in doctrine they are strongly Calvinistic....

“In sentiment it (convention) was what has been denominated as ‘Landmark’ generally....

“Among the instrumentalities which this convention put in operation for the promotion of its operations was a paper called ‘The Landmark Banner and Cherokee Baptist.’” Baptist Encyclopedia, pp. 443, 444.

      The Georgia Baptist State Convention, when in session in Macon, April 29, 1872 , passed the following resolution:
“That baptism is the immersion of a believer in Jesus Christ, by an authorized administrator, in the name of the Trinity. That such a baptism is a prerequisite to church membership and admission to the Lord’s Supper.

“That unbaptized persons, not being church members, cannot be clothed with authority to administer the ordinances and therefore immersions performed by such persons are null and void.

“That the sincerity of the subject cannot supply the want of authority in the administrator.” These resolutions were published in the Index for May 2, 1872. (See Sumter Debate, p. 165.)

      As late as 1903, J. J. Porter, in the Sumter Debate, made use of the following:
“As to the Baptists of Georgia, they are solid, with the exception of one church, against the reception of alien immersions. The editor of the Christian Index stated that there was only one church in the State that was known to favor the reception of alien immersion.” Sumter Debate, p. 217.
      The only case, even hinted at, of the reception of alien immersion in Georgia ’s early history, so far as we can learn, is the case of Mr. Hutchinson, incidentally mentioned in Semple’s History of Virginia Baptists. It received a partial endorsement of Georgia Association, but resulted in great confusion.

      Campbell in his History of Georgia Baptists, page 58, has this to say of this affair: “But in the end it terminated unfortunately. Many were not well pleased with such a course, and therefore it led on to strife and confusion. However, as he was an eloquent man, and truly fervent in spirit, many were conciliated by his zeal and perseverance, and strong hopes were entertained that much good would be effected through his instrumentality. He went to Virginia, was rejected, and then rebaptized.”

      Campbell further says: “Thus terminated a most fierce and distressing controversy. So much for admitting a Pedo-baptist administration of the ordinance of baptism.” History of Georgia Baptists, p. 58.

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