Baptist History Homepage


by Louis Keith Harper

      Chapter Two sought to characterize the first half of the nineteenth century as a time of general religious strife and controversy. Baptists were certainly no exception to this pattern. This chapter will discuss four specific controversies that plagued early nineteenth century Baptists and ultimately led to the rise of Landmarkism. These four controversies are Anti-missionism; Campbellism, or the Restoration Movement led by Alexander Campbell; the "Baptizo" controversy within The American Bible Society; and an editorial conflict between R. B. C. Howell and Dr. J. B. McFerrin.

      These four controveries helped precipitate the Landmark movement by posing new questions for Baptist consideration. Specifically, the anti-mission movement questioned the legitimacy of missionary societies. Campbellism boldly claimed to restore the authentic, New Testament pattern of worship. The "Baptizo" controversy questioned the translation of "Baptizo" as "immersion" and thereby questioned the validity of baptism by immersion itself. The Howell-McFerrin controversy intensified existing strife between Baptists and non-Baptists and forced Baptists to defend their doctrines, especially baptism by immersion. Old Landmarkism offered persuasive answers to these questions that many ultimately accepted as the final statement of Baptist thought.

      Citing these four controversies as pertinent to the rise of

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Landmarkism is not exactly new. Several scholars have noted the significance of these controversies in relation to Old Landmarkism. However, this chapter will tie together several threads that others have mentioned by bringing these controversies under one heading and showing how Landmarkism provided answers to some of the most searching questions that faced nineteenth century Baptists.

      Anti-missionism, the opposition to organized missionary activity, divided Baptists during the early 1800's. Among the chief complaints of the anti-mission advocates was that missionary societies were un-Biblical. They also believed that missionary societies infringed on local church autonomy. This forced Baptists to consider the question of where final religious authority rested, a main question of Landmarkism.

      Alexander Campbell, leader of what came to be known as "The Restoration Movement," introduced doctrines that deviated from standard Baptist interpretations. This was especially true regarding baptism. Many left the Baptist ranks to follow Campbell, and Landmarkism sought to stem this tide by demonstrating historically and theologically that Baptists were the true disciples of Christ.

      The "Baptizo controversy" in The American Bible Society did two things that helped lead to the rise of Landmarkism. First, it forced Baptists to defend one of their most distinctive features, baptism by immersion. Second, it created a non-cooperative spirit between Baptists and Pedobaptists. These two things paved the way for a sectarian attitude that eventually characterized the Landmark Movement.

      Finally, the Howell-McFerrin editorial conflict stirred denominational animosities between Baptists and Methodists in the

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South, especially in Nashville. It was perhaps the final element that drew the ultimate lines of conflict for the Landmarkers.

      As noted in Chapter Two, the early nineteenth century saw a dramatic increase in the formation of mission societies and the evangelization of the frontier. It was also a time of increasing awareness that evangelization of foreign nations was a Christian imperative. In 1814 the Baptists formed the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States for Foreign Missions. This Association, also known as the Triennial Convention, was organized chiefly through the efforts of Luther Rice who will be discussed later. Participation in the Convention was contingent upon financial support. Missionary societies or other Baptist bodies who contributed at least $100 annually were entitled to send up to two delegates to the meetings.1

      As missionaries and other representatives of the Convention's missionary activities were dispatched to the frontier, they met increasing opposition from frontier preachers. By the 1820's this opposition had developed into what became known as the anti-mission movement. In its early stages anti-missionism had three champions in John Taylor, Daniel Parker and Alexander Campbell. In A History of Southern Baptist Landmarkism In the Light of Historical Baptist Ecclesiology, James E. Tull demonstrated the significance of anti-missionism in relation to Landmarkism. Each of these men along with their reasons for opposing missions deserve special consideration for the way the anti-mission movement related to Landmarkism.

      John Taylor was a prominent Kentucky Baptist preacher and farmer in the early 1800's. Although he received little formal education,

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Taylor was a writer of some ability. In 1819 he used his writing skills against organized missionary activity in a pamphlet entitled, Thoughts On Missions. This pamphlet was polemical in nature but expressed Taylor's two main concerns with missionary societies. First, he believed that missionary societies and mission boards employed a hierarchical form of government that was contrary to traditional Baptist church polity. He feared these societies would soon arbitrarily impose their will upon churches scarcely regarding the feelings or opinions of church members upon whose support the Society depended. Second, Taylor said that those who were engaged in raising funds for missionaries were nothing less than "money grabbers" and went as far as comparing Luther Rice to Tetzel in the art of money raising.2

      Daniel Parker was another Baptist who became critical of modern missions. Parker is best remembered as the leading propagator of a teaching known as "Two-Seed In the Spiritism," an extreme form of predestination. Parker also attacked missionary activities in an 1820 pamphlet entitled, A Public Address to the Baptist Society. According to William W. Sweet, Parker's opposition to missionary activity was two-fold. First, Parker believed that the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, the board established by the Triennial Convention to implement the Convention's missionary activities, would usurp the authority Christ gave to his churches. He further believed that the New Testament gave neither precept nor example of missionary societies.3 Hence, all such organizations were to be avoided.

      A third early opponent of the mission movement was Alexander Campbell. Beginning in 1823, Campbell used his paper, The Christian Baptist to criticize what he perceived were the errors of modern

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missionism. He believed that missionary societies were sectarian in nature, and thus their claim of preaching Christ's Gospel was invalidated. In fact, he said that in many cases the "heathen" were as much in need of conversion after the missionaries did their work as they had been before.4 Campbell also chided modern missionaries for their inability to work miracles as other Biblical missionaries had done. "From these plain and obvious facts and considerations," said Campbell, "it is evident that it is a capital mistake to suppose that missionaries in heathen lands, without the power of working miracles, can succeed in establishing the Christian religion."5 Campbell was also suspicious of the authority exercised by mission boards, Sunday Schools and Bible and Tract Societies. He saw no precedent for them in the New Testament; they existed only to gratify the leaders who created them.6

      Campbell later moderated his position on missionary work as did John Taylor. For those who had already followed their lead, however, it was too late. By 1860 the Baptist historian Benedict noted that anti-missionism had continued to gain momentum, ". . . until in the churches and associations of our order, in this country, which oppose all organized efforts for the support of missions at home and abroad, are about sixty-thousand members; a number nearly equal to all the Baptists in America, in John Asplund's time, a little more than sixty years ago."7

      In fairness to Taylor, Parker and Campbell it should be noted that none of them was opposed to the conversion of the heathen. In light of the fact that many analyses have focused on extreme Calvinism as a reason for anti-missionism, it should also be noted that of the three

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only Daniel Parker was an ultra-predestinarian; moreover, Parker did not publish his views on predestination until 1826, six years after he publically opposed organized missionary activity.

      It appears that as early opponents of missionism, Taylor, Parker and Campbell were agreed that the activities of modern missionary societies were contrary to the spirit and practice of the New Testament. While it cannot be denied that some later opponents of missionism based their arguments on extremely Calvinistic interpretations, these three early opponents of missionism were more concerned with the question of methodology.8 They all agreed that the church's authority was being circumvented.

      The question of church authority was one of the mainstays of Graves and the early Landmarkers. Graves believed that Christ had issued the command to make disciples to only one organization, His Church. Thus, early Baptists pondered the question of how to evangelize. Later, J. R. Graves offered an authoritative answer. Graves believed that Christ had commissioned His churches to make disciples. Since the only true churches were Baptist churches, Graves said that only Baptist churches had the authority to evangelize.9

      Alexander Campbell, the outspoken opponent of missionism, has also been identified by James E. Tull and E. T. Moore as leading yet another controversy that was instrumental in the rise of Landmarkism. These conclusions were presented in Tull's A History of Southern Baptist Landmarkism In the Light of Historical Baptist Ecclesiology and Moore's "Background of the Landmark Movement." According to Tull, Campbell's "main objective was to lead the Christian world to a recovery of primitive Christianity. The attainment of this objective was to be

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accomplished by the destruction, first, of the corrupt forms of contemporary Christianity."10 Campbell and his father Thomas had both left Presbyterianism due to what they perceived as sectarianism. Additionally, by 1813 the Campbells had adopted baptism by immersion and the church they had established, the Brush Run Church, had been accepted into the Redstone Baptist Association of Pennsylvania.11

      While Campbell united with the Baptists, he refused to submit to credal authority or "traditionalism." In a letter to his uncle, Campbell said:

As to our religious state, news, progress and attainments, I expect my father has written or will immediately write you. I shall therefore drop you but a few hints on this subject. For my own part, I must say that, after long study and investigation of books and more especially the Sacred Scriptures, I have, through clear convictions of truth and duty, renounced much of the traditions and errors of my early education. I am now an Independent in church government; . . . . of that faith and view of the gospel exhibited in John Walker's seven letters to Alexander Knox, and a Baptist in so far as respects baptism.12
From this statement it appears that Campbell's union with the Baptists was never complete. He cast himself as a reformer and sought to do so from within the Baptist ranks. In 1823 he began publishing his views in a paper called the Christian Baptist. In a series of articles entitled "A Restoration of the Ancient Order," Campbell criticized Baptist doctrine and practice. A division resulted and by 1830 one scholar noted, "One of three things was inevitable. The reformers had to abandon their demands and propaganda; or the Baptists had to change their beliefs and practices to conform to these demands; or it would be necessary for them to separate."13 Campbell ultimately separated from the Baptists. Those who followed Campbell became known as the Disciples of Christ, and Alexander Campbell was their leader.
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      A number of studies have detailed the division between the Baptists and the Disciples of Christ.14 They have suggested a number of reasons for the division and each deserves due consideration. That is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this study. Nevertheless, two important facets of Campbell's teachings must be considered because of their bearing on the rise of Landmarkism. These include Campbell's doctrine of baptism and the operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion.

      Initially, Alexander Campbell had advanced the Baptist doctrine of baptism by immersion in debates with Pedobaptists. Later, Campbell deviated from the Baptist concept of baptism. Baptists understood baptism as a symbolic representation of an inner, spiritual experience. Campbell, however, attached more significance to the ordinance. He said that baptism was connected both to the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.15 In a debate with William McCalla, a Presbyterian, Campbell said:

Our third argument is deduced from the design or import of baptism. On this topic of argument we shall be as full as possible, because of its great importance, and because perhaps neither Baptists nor Paedobaptists sufficiently appreciate it. I will first merely refer to the oracles of God, which show that baptism is an ordinance of the greatest importance and of momentous significance. Never was there an ordinance of so great import or design.16
After quoting a number of Bible verses and making brief comments, Campbell said, "I know it will be said of me that I have affirmed that baptism saves us. Well, Peter and Paul have said so before me. If it was not criminal in them to say so, it cannot be criminal in me."17

      In fairness to Campbell it should be noted that he did not believe that baptism had any sort of "abstract efficacy." He believed that before baptism had any effect, the one baptized had to exhibit faith in

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the blood of Christ, as well as repentance before God.18 He nevertheless said, "Still to the believing penitent it is the means of receiving a formal, distinct, and specific absolution, or release from guilt."19

      Campbell also differed with Baptists regarding the nature of conversion. Baptists believed that conversion was the result of a direct, subjective work of the Holy Spirit. Many Baptist contemporaries of Alexander Campbell argued that he believed otherwise. In December, 1830, eight churches from the Dover Association in Eastern Virginia met to discuss the alleged errors of Campbell. After some discussion it was decided that Campbell's chief errors were, ". . . the denial of the influence of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of man the substitution of reformation for repentance the substitution of baptism for conversion, regeneration or the new birth and the Pelagian doctrine of the sufficiency of man's natural powers to effect his own salvation."20 To these four charges Campbell pleaded not guilty and reduced the four Baptist concerns to two. Campbell denied the direct, subjective work of the Holy Spirit in conversion as Baptists understood it. He also insisted that baptism played a role in the remission of man's sins. Campbell said:

The whole matter in brief is the denial of their mystic influences of the Holy Spirit and immersion for the remission of sins. . . . That God has 'his own time' for converting every person is a favorite point of many . ... And because we differ from them in this one opinion, they have, if we do not repent of it, assigned us our position with infidels and hypocrites.21
      One may easily see why Baptists took such radical exception to Campbell's teaching and his "restoration movement." To accept Campbell's ideas of restoration meant the acceptance of what Baptists
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considered heresy. And yet, Campbellism left Baptists in a dilemma. On the one hand, Campbell and his followers shared many common beliefs with Baptists. J. B. Jeter, a Baptist student of the Restoration Movement said:
Mr. Campbell embraces some views in common with Baptists. Whatever evils he may have done them, directly and indirectly and they have been neither few nor small he should have due praise for his indefatigable efforts to restore the apostolic baptism, or the immersion of believers, to expose the traditionary origin of infant baptism, and to shew that the primitive churches were composed of exclusively baptized believers.22
On the other hand, Campbell found a sympathetic ear among many Baptists. A number of Baptist churches and associations found their membership roles depleted by defection to the Restoration Movement. In Kentucky, for example, the Green River Association dwindled from 2,951 members in 1830 to 740 members in 1832. The Elkhorn Association declined from 4,488 members in 1829 to 3,277 members in 1836. The Franklin Association went from 1,860 members in 1829 to 1,484 members in 1839.23 Viewed from a broader perspective, the Disciples went from 22,000 in 1832 to approximately 192,000 in 1860.24

      This depletion of the Baptist ranks, as well as the many similarities between the Disciples and Baptists, forced Baptist preachers and editors to clarify their position on baptism and Campbellism itself. Throughout his life as a preacher and editor J. R. Graves was an outspoken opponent of Campbell's teachings and Landmarkism presented a formidable foe for Campbellism. Alexander Campbell had claimed that Christianity had become corrupt and needed renovation. Graves countered by claiming that no "restoration" was needed because Baptists had remained pure throughout the centuries. Those Baptists accepting this premise and the symbolic nature of

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baptism, found in Landmarkism a measure of stability in a time of great religious controversy.

      At this point a word should be said about R. B. C. Howell, a man who played a part in the rise of Landmarkism. Howell was a Baptist minister who had come to Nashville in 1835 to assume the pastorate of a Baptist church that had lost most of its members to Campbellism.25 While Howell was pastor the church began publishing a paper entitled The Baptist. Howell used the paper to champion the cause of missions and express his views on contemporary events. Howell was not a Landmarker. In fact, in the middle to late 1850's Howell and Graves became bitter enemies. Nevertheless, Howell established certain principles that were later incorporated into Landmarkism, especially pro-missionism and anti-Campbellism. This provided Graves with a solid foundation that he ultimately used to his advantage.

      The third significant controversy affecting Baptists in the early 1800's, and ultimately leading to the rise of Landmarkism, involved mission work in The American Bible Society. This argument has been demonstrated by LeRoy B. Hogue in his study "The Antecedents of Landmarkism." The missionary fervor that characterized American Christianity in the wake of the Second Great Awakening was not confined to the home front. The salvation of the heathen became a passion for practically each denomination and a number of missionary agencies arose to carry the gospel into the world as a result. In 1859 the Baptist historian David Benedict wrote, "Fifty years ago, not an agent for collecting funds for any object of benevolence or literature was to be seen in the whole Baptist field."26 He went on to say, "No one then dreamed of so soon seeing such an army of agents in the field, for so

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many different objects, and that the business would become a distinct vocation, of indispensible necessity, for carrying forward our benevolent plans and for performing our denominational work."27

      One particular missionary organization, The American Bible Society, was established in 1816 for the purpose of translating, publishing and distributing Bibles. As LeRoy Benjamin Hogue has noted in his study, "A Study of the Antecedents of Landmarkism," a controversy involving the translation of the New Testament was a contributing factor in the rise of Landmarkism.

      Baptists were no strangers to missionary enterprises. The first American Baptist missionary to go to the foreign field was Adorniram Judson. In February, 1812, Judson and his wife of two weeks, Ann, set sail for India as Congregationalist missionaries. During the trip Judson studied the New Testament and concluded that immersion was the only valid mode of baptism and that the Baptist's position was correct.28 Upon reaching India Judson and his wife were baptized by William Ward, a Baptist missionary in Calcutta, September 6, 1812. The Judsons resigned their appointment as Congregationalist missionaries and offered themselves to the Baptists as missionaries to India.29

      Ironically, Luther Rice had also sailed for India as a Congregationalist missionary and had an experience similar to Judson's. Rice was baptized November 1, 1812.30 After receiving his baptism Rice returned to the United States where he became a spokesman for the cause of missions.

      Judson remained in India until he was forced to leave by the British East India Company. In 1813 he and his wife made their home in Burma where Gudson began to translate the Bible into Burmese. Judson

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completed this task in 1834.31

      In August, 1835 Dr. William Yates, who had been in India since 1815, and Rev. W. H. Pearce assisted William Carey in his final revision of the Bengali Bible. Carey, usually referred to as the "Father of Modern Missions," had been in India since November, 1793. He was an expert in the fields of botany and linguistics.32 It is said of Carey that he supervised the translation of the Bible into forty-two "Oriental tongues" and thereby provided one-third of the world with the Christian Scriptures.33

      With the final revision of the Bengali Bible complete, Yates and Pearce asked the British and Foreign Bible Society for financial assistance in printing the revision. The request was denied because the Bengali Bible had translated the Greek word "Baptizo" and its cognates as "dip" or "immerse" rather than transliterating the word as the translators of the King James Version had done in 1611.34 Earlier versions of the Bengali Bible had translated "Baptizo" literally and received the sanction of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Nevertheless, by 1835 the Society had experienced a change of heart and decided not to aid in the publication of any translation where the Greek terms relating to baptism were translated in such a way as to be offensive to other denominations who supported the Society.35

      Having been denied aid by the British and Foreign Bible Society, Yates and Pearce made their appeal to The American Bible Society. They made it clear that they had translated on the principle adopted by the missionaries in Burma.36 Judson and Carey had shared the same philosophy regarding translation of the Bible. They did not want to obscure the meaning of a Biblical term that the Orientals had no

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equivalent for.37 These British missionaries wanted The American Bible Society to know that they stood on the same theological footings as Judson, a man they already supported.

      The American Bible Society had traditionally been supportive of Judson's work. As early as 1830 they had appropriated $1,200 for the "Burman Bible." This money was given with the knowledge that Judson had translated "Baptizo" with terms that signified "immersion."38 By 1835, The American Bible Society had appropriated $18,500 to aid in the publication and circulation of Judson's translation.39

      A committee within the Society considered the request and decided to make no recommendation until the issue of translating "Baptizo" was settled.40 The question was in turn referred to another committee of seven men for their consideration. Of these seven, six were affiliated with denominations that favored sprinkling rather than immersion as the correct mode of baptism.41 These men argued that if "Baptizo" was translated as "immerse," the Society would be guilty of favoring Baptists. They also claimed that they had no prior knowledge that American Bible Society funds had been furnished for versions that translated "Baptizo" as "immerse." Therefore, they concluded, as had the British and Foreign Bible Society, that funds should be appropriated for versions that conformed "in the principle of the translation to the common English version."42

      A minority report was issued by Spencer H. Cone, the only Baptist among the committee of seven. He feared that if the majority report was adopted that Baptists would be cut off from further use of Society funds. He was also amazed that the Society would require future translations of the Scriptures to conform to an English version.43 He

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went on to chide the committee for saying that they had no knowledge of Oudson's literal rendering of "Baptizo." He suggested that since the Society had a large balance in the treasury, and since much of it had been donated by Baptists, a certain amount should be appropriated for the Bengali Revision.44

      The matter was not settled until February 17, 1836. The Society's Board of Managers accepted the English standard rather than the Greek by a thirty to fourteen margin.45

      Many Baptist leaders quickly lodged a protest criticizing The American Bible Society for no fewer than six things. First, they criticized the Board of Manager's inconsistency in not releasing funds for a translation that was not significantly different from others that had received Society funds. Second, they charged the Society with sectarianism because their decision favored those who favored sprinkling rather than immersion. In Baptist thinking, The American Bible Society had become an official Pedobaptist society. Third, they charged the Society with establishing the English version as a touchstone for all other denominations. Fourth, the Baptists charged the Society with financial dishonesty. They felt that much of the financial security enjoyed by the Society was through the donations of Baptists. Under the circumstances, they felt that they were being defrauded.46 In fact, the Baptists claimed that their contributions to The American Bible Society had exceeded $170,000 while they had received less that $30,000 for their various projects.47

      The Baptists felt compelled to organize a new, distinct society for the promulgation of Bibles. The final decisions were made in 1837 that formed the American and Foreign Bible Society. As Armitage put

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it, "Thus, the Baptists took the high and holy ground that they were called to conserve fidelity to God in translating the Bible, and that if they failed to do this on principle, they would fail to honor him altogether in this matter; because the Society which they had founded was the only Bible organization then established which had no fellowship with compromises in Bible translation."48

      The leaders of the Landmark movement doubtless followed the controversy in the accounts presented by papers such as The Baptist, R. B. C. Howell closely monitored The American Bible Society's handling of the "Baptizo" controversy. In the May, 1836 edition of The Baptist, he lamented the schism but sided with the Baptist missionaries and vowed he would not support what he perceived as heresy within the Society:

If Pedobaptists are ashamed of the ordinances of Christ, and to avoid obedience to them will venture upon a mutilation of the sacred word, let them not expect our countenance or concurrence, and least of all, that to please them or receive their assistance in its circulation, will we make void the Law of God.49
Howell also charged The American Bible Society with inconsistency for having no established policy for translating words such as "Baptizo." Furthermore, he felt that Baptists deserved more consideration in light of the money they had donated to the Society, and called for new measures. "The question will naturally suggest itself," Howell wrote, "what course will the Baptists now pursue in relation to this matter? We are, it is well known, able to help ourselves. Yes, with the blessing of God, we can, and will do our own work."50

      While the American and Foreign Bible Society was not officially formed until 1837, Howell praised the Baptist departure from The

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American Bible Society in a July, 1836 editorial:
We are not disconnected from the Pedobaptists in everything. We hereafter, in this matter as in all others, do our own work in our own way. The result will, we think, be, that Baptists will be more united and vigorous in their exertions, and a larger amount of Bibles will be distributed among the heathen.51
      According to Hogue's analysis, one of the greatest effects of this controversy was the awakening of a strong denominational consciousness that in turn yielded to the rise of denominational exclusivism. Baptists claimed to be the only group faithfully translating the Word of God, and therefore, the true defenders of the faith. All others obscured the truth, and Baptists used The American Bible Society an an example. What is more, this controversy introduced the doctrine of baptism as a vital issue into an era that has already been characterized as volatile.52

     The dust from The American Bible Society controversy had scarcely settled before Howell discovered that his paper, The Baptist, was in financial difficulty, in 1840, The Baptist was temporarily merged with The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, a denominational paper published in Louisville, Kentucky. While the two papers were merged Howell edited his own section dedicated particularly to news from Tennessee.53

      It was during this time that Howell engaged in an editorial debate with Dr. J. B. McFerrin of Nashville, Tennessee and as O. L. Hailey noted in J. R. Graves Life, Times and Teachings, this controversy had a profound effect on Graves. McFerrin was editor of the Methodist paper, South Western Christian Advocate. Linwood Tyler Horne has thoroughly documented this conflict in his Th.D. dissertation, "A Study of the Life and Work of R. B. C. Howell." This editorial debate is mentioned in

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this study for the sake of showing a connection with the rise of Landmarkism, namely, the highly volatile religious atmosphere that existed in Nashville prior to Graves' assumption of The Baptist's editorship.

     The editorial debate between Howell and McFerrin began in the latter part of 1841 when McFerrin wrote a series of articles for the South Western Christian Advocate that criticized certain Baptist principles, especially such Calvinistic concepts as predestination and reprobation. Howell challenged McFerrin's contention that all Baptists were ultra-Calvinists and, according to Home's analysis, "The focus of the Howell-McFerrin debate centered around McFerrin's efforts to prove that Baptists had adopted the total Calvinist system, and Howell's contention that Baptists held a modified Calvinist doctrine."54

     McFerrin based his argument on the assumption that the Philadelphia Confession of Faith was a universally accepted Confession and that its doctrinal content was totally Calvinistic. Howell agreed that Baptists held certain Calvinistic tenets. However, he denied McFerrin's charge that all Baptists were ultra-Calvinists. He further denied that all Baptists embraced the Philadelphia Confession as an authoritative expression of what they believed.55

     As the debate progressed Howell accused McFerrin of deliberately fanning the flames of division and strife between Methodists and Baptists and of smearing the Baptists as a denomination. McFerrin continued to chide Howell for his contention that Baptists were not totally Calvinistic.56

     Toward the end of the debate both participants abandoned their earlier emphasis and turned their attention to each other's character.

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Quoting from the February 17, 1842 and March 10, 1842 editions of the South Western Christian Advocate, Horne demonstrated McFerrin's contempt for Howell. McFerrin said that Howell "raved almost to madness" and that his articles merely poured out the vials of his indignation.57 McFerrin also called Howell, "the inflated bird of Nashville."58

     Howell responded in kind in the June 9, 1842 edition of The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer. Casting himself as the defender of Baptists, Howell accused McFerrin of initiating the controversy. He said, "Mr. McFerrin does not deny, he dare not deny, that this controversy was instigated by his attacks upon 'the Baptist denomination.' He is, therefore, confessedly the agressor."59 He went on to say:

We saw very early in the discussion, that Mr. McFerrin was a writer of vulgar taste, uncultivated intellect; and no reading; who made up in quantity and cant what he wanted in argument and religion, and we should, long since, have turned away from him in disgust.60
In his parting shot, Howell called McFerrin, ". . . a petty newspaper scribbler, and especially one who stands before the world convicted of having borne false witness against his neighbors."61

     At this point the debate was virtually ended. Howell ceased to edit the Tennessee section of The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer at the end of 1842 and devoted his attention to his pastorate until 1844 when The Baptist resumed publication.

     According to Horne's analysis the Howell McFerrin debate forced Baptists to produce a definition for "modified Calvinism."62 This analysis is no doubt correct. However, one must also conclude that the incident intensified the strife between Baptists and Pedobaptists that

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had been generated in the "Baptizo" controversy.

     Thus, when J. R. Graves assumed editorship of The Baptist in 1846 he faced a number of crises. Anti-missionism had posed the question of ultimate authority. Campbellism had critically depleted Baptist ranks. What is more, Baptists had engaged in a war of words with Pedobaptists over the Scriptural nature of baptism.

     Landmarkism provided Baptists with a platform from which they could answer these challenges. The Landmarker assertion that only Baptist ministers were authentic gospel ministers, as well as their claim that Baptist churches had an unbroken historical succession, provided a basis to counter the claims made by the Restorationists under Campbell. The Landmarker claim that only baptism by immersion, at the hands of an authentic minister and performed on a believer as a symbolic act, gave Baptists a platform from which they attacked what they perceived as Pedobaptist errors. Finally, the Landmarker insistence that the church is a visible, local and independent congregation responsible for evangelizing the world and teaching converts gave Baptists a firm, tangible source of authority.63

     Perhaps even more significant is the sense of identity that Baptists received from Landmarkism. They proudly pointed to the "historical record" and Scripture itself as their proof of a Baptist heritage that was centuries old. They also used history and Scripture to justify baptism by immersion. And, when confronted with the question of ultimate authority in religious affairs, the Landmarkers justified their exclusivism by appeals to Scripture and their concept of church history, appeals that for many held promise of reinforcing Baptist ranks strained by controversy.

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     The idea of an historical succession of Baptists, as well as the idea that the local church was Christ's repository of religious authority provided Baptists with powerful arguments for supporting their positions against their doctrinal critics.

     Doctrine was vitally important to the Landmarkers. They defined their movement in doctrinal terms, and, as Chapter One of this study demonstrated, historical scholarship concerning Landmarkism has focused almost exclusively on the relationship of Landmarkist ideas to traditional Baptist beliefs. This question, however, does not exhaust the historical significance of "Old Landmarkism." As Chapter Two showed, the American religious scene of the early 1800's was characterized by controversy over the question of final religious authority. Moreover, Chapter Three showed how particular debates and controversies affected the saliency of the particular principles espoused by the Landmarkers.

     Whatever else may be said about Old Landmarkism, three things are true. First, Landmarkism made the question of ultimate authority important to Baptists and provided an authoritative answer for this question by insisting on the primacy of the local Baptist church. Second, Landmarkism gave Baptists a strong identity in the face of mass defection to the Restoration Movement. As Robert G. Torbet put it, "Even when allowance is made for Graves' biased judgement, there is little doubt that he had been influential in calling Baptists to a renewed self-consciousness and regard for their principles."64 Finally, by its strict observance of the ordinances and refusal to recognize non-Baptist churches and ministers, Landmarkism drew clear lines of distinction between Baptists and non-Baptists.

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     Landmarkisim's exclusiveness was the result of Graves' desire to preserve Gospel purity and what he perceived as the true pattern for New Testament churches. Graves believed that true churches were, and always had been, societies of regenerated believers.65 Perhaps O. L. Hailey, Graves' biographer/son-in-law characterized Landmarkism best when he said, "Yes, Landmarkism sounded forth but did not originate in ecclesiasticism, in church forms, or even in regard to the ordinances. It was based upon the fundamental errors of Methodism and Campbellism also."66


     1 ESB, s.v., "Missions," by Herbert C. Jackson. See also ESB, s.v., "Triennial Convention," by Raymond A. Parker.
     2 John Taylor, Thoughts On Missions, pamphlet, 1819, passim.
     3 Sweet, The Baptists, pp. 68-70.
     4 Alexander Campbell, The Christian Baptist (Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, Inc., 1983), p. 14.
     5 Ibid., p. 15.
     6 Tull, SBL, p. 86.
     7 David Benedict, Fifty Years Among the Baptists (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1860), p. 126. Hereafter cited as Fifty Years.
     8 Sweet, The Baptists, pp. 67-74.
     9 The question of local church missionaries vs. board missionaries did not emerge as a real issue until after the Civil War in the "Gospel Mission Movement." Nevertheless, the anti-mission controversy did pose the question of authority.
     10 Tull, SBL, p. 93.
     11 James E. Tull, Shapers of Baptist Thought (Valley Forge: The Orison Press, 1972), pp. 101-105.
     12 Alexander Campbell as quoted by Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell (Indianapolis: Religious Book Service, c. 1897), p. 46c. Hereafter cited as Memoirs.
     13 Alonzo Willard Fortune, The Disciples in Kentucky (The Convention of Christian Churches in Kentucky), p. 81.
     14 Errett Gates, "The Early Relation and Separation of the Baptists and Disciples" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1904). See also Fortune, pp. 44-90 and Tull, SBL, pp. 90-124.
     15 Richardson, Memoirs, Vol. 2, p. 20.
     16 Ibid., pp. 80-81.
     17 Ibid. Emphasis Campbell.

[p. 73]
     18 Alexander Campbell, The Christian System (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1980. Reprint from 1839, second edition), p. 42.
     19 Ibid.
     20 Richardson, Memoirs. Vol. 2, p. 349.
     21 Ibid., pp. 349-350.
     22 J. B. Jeter, Campbel1ism Examined (New York: Sheldon, Lamport and Blakeman, 1855), p. 115.
     23 Walter Brownlow Posey, Religious Strife on the Southern Frontier (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965), p. 58.
     24 John B. Boles, Religion in Antebellum Kentucky (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1976), p. 46.
     25 ESB, s.v., "Howell, Robert Boyte Crawford," by Homer L. Grice.
     26 Benedict, Fifty Years, p. 69.
     27 Ibid., p. 70.
     28 ESB, s.v., "Adorniram Judson," by Cal Guy.
     29 Ibid.
     30 ESB, s.v., "Luther Rice," by Loulie Latimer Owens.
     31 ESB, s.v., "Adoniram Judson," by Cal Guy.
     32 ESB, s.v., "William Carey," by Herbert C. Jackson and Lynn E. May. Carey was professor of Bengali and Sanskrit languages in the Crown College, Fort Williams, of Calcutta for some 30 years.
     33 Ibid.
34 C. C. Bitting, Bible Societies and the Baptists (Philadelphia: American Baptist Pub!ication Society, 1897) pp. 12-13.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid., p. 28.
37 Ibid., p. 14.
38 Thomas Armitage, The History of the Baptists; Traced by Their Vital Principles and Practices, from the Time of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Year 1886, 2 vols.,[New York: Bryan, Taylor, and Co., 1887, reprint ed. Minneapolis, Mn.: James and Klock Christian Publishing Co., 1977), 2:893. Hereafter cited as History.

[p. 74]
39 Ibid., p. 893.
40 Ibid., p. 894.
41 Bitting, Bible Societies and Baptists, p. 29.
42 W. H. Wycoff, The American Bible Society and the Baptists (New York: John Baker, 1841), pp. 1-4. Hereafter cited as ABS and Baptists.
43Ibid., pp. 5-7.
44 Armitage, History, 2:895. Wycoff, ABS and the Baptists, pp. 7-9. Cone made no specific recommendation regarding the amount.
45 Bitting, Bible Societies and Baptists, p. 30.
46 Wycoff, ABS and the Baptists, pp. 79-110.
47 Armitage, History, 2:895.
48 Ibid., p. 899.
49 R. B. C. Howell, "Editorial." The Baptist, May 1836, II, No. 5, p. 258.
50 Ibid., p. 259.
51 R. B. C. Howell, "Editorial," The Baptist, II, No. 7, p. 290.
52 LeRoy Benjamin Hogue, "A Study of the Antecedent of Landmarkism" (Ph.D. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1966), pp. 78-85.
53 See The Baptist, December 1839. See also ESB, Western Recorder, Vol. 2, p. 1488-1489. Howell edited the Tennessee section of The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer until the end of 1842. Howell began republishing The Baptist in 1844.
54 Linwood Tyler Horne, "A Study of the Life and Work of R. B. C. Howell," (Th.D. dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1958), p. 201. Hereafter cited as R. B. C. Howell.
55 Ibid., p. 202.
56 Ibid., p. 203.
57 Ibid., pp. 203-204.
58 Ibid., p. 204.
59 Howell, The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, June 9, 1842, #23, Vol. IX, p. 41.

[p. 75]
60 Ibid.
61 Ibid.
62 Horne, R. B. C. Howel1, p. 204.
63 See Wamble's assessment, Ch. 1, p. 17.
64 Robert G. Torbet, "Landmarkism," from Baptist Concepts of the Church, ed. Winthrop S. Hudson (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1958), p. 190.
65 Ibid., p. 193.
66 O. L. Hailey, J. R. Graves Life, Times and Teachings (Nashville: n. p., 1929), p. 55.


[A Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Department of History, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, May, 1986 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts. Used with the permission of the author.]

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