The last geographic area to receive consideration in this study of Landmarkism antecedents is Tennessee, the birthplace of the Landmark movement. The importance of this phase of the investigation is indicated by the historical connection. It was the Tennessee Baptist that served as the vehicle for the propaganda of Landmark views. It was the Big Hatchie Association of West Tennessee that provided the platform for the first "official" pronouncement of Landmarkism. The Baptist people of Tennessee were virtually unanimous in tendering their warm and cordial support of Graves' efforts to restore what he considered to be the doctrinal landmarks of the denomination. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Graves regarded the Baptist history of Tennessee as of the greatest importance in his search for a historical vindication of his views and that he confidently affirmed that this history provided abundant support for his contention that the views advanced by him and his fellow Landmarkers were not new or heretical but represented the age-old principles and practices of the Baptist denomination. Graves declared that:It is a fact that the oldest and most successful Baptist ministers, as the venerable James Whitsitt, and George Young, deceased, and Joseph H. Borum, now living, for forty years a pastor in West Tennessee, never affiliated with Pedobaptists or Campbellites, and they testify that affiliation is a new practice, and the forerunner of open communion.1
Because of Graves' interest at this point and also because of direct historical relationship indicated above, the history of the Baptists of Tennessee is of particular significance with respect to the purposes of the present study.
In this chapter the approach will be much the same as that which has been taken in the fourth and fifth chapters of the dissertation. Attention will be focused upon the principal ecclesiological concepts held by the early Tennessee Baptists, with specific reference to their emphasis on the independence and authority of the local church; upon their beliefs and practices with regard to the ordinances; and upon their relationships with other denominations. The effort will be made to distinguish those points of doctrinal similarity between them and the Landmarkers and thus to show from this aspect the close relationship of Landmarkism with the historic Baptist movement in America.
Baptist beginnings in Tennessee
There is an unconfirmed tradition, reported by Benedict, that Baptist work in Tennessee had its earliest beginning some time after 1765, with the establishment of two churches in the eastern part of the territory. These churches were soon broken up, however, by the unsettled conditions then prevailing on the frontier and no permanent organization was effected until several years later.2 About the year 1779 Tidence Lane, a Baptist preacher from North Carolina who had been converted by Shubal Stearns, came into the Tennessee country and became the first pastor of the first Baptist church in Tennessee to have a continuing existence, the Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church.3 Benedict says that the members constituting this church at the time of its origin had accompanied Lane into the state in something of an organized capacity as an arm of the famed Sandy Creek Church in North Carolina.4 As such, they represent an extension of the zealous Separate Baptist influence into this section of the country, a factor which is not without significance in the subsequent history of Tennessee Baptists.
Seven other Baptist preachers, all from Virginia, came with Lane into Tennessee and were instrumental in the founding of five or six Baptist churches by 1781. These churches met for a time in a twice yearly conference which apparently functioned as a branch of the Sandy Creek Association of North Carolina. In 1786 they formed a separate and distinct associational union, the Holston Association, which was the first such body in the state of Tennessee.5 Tidence Lane was the first moderator.6 Out of the Holston was formed in 1802 the Tennessee Association, a body of great influence and importance.7
In middle Tennessee, the first permanent church organization formed was at the mouth of Sulphur Fork River in 1791. Assisting in the formation of the church was the pioneer Baptist preacher of Kentucky, John Taylor, who had traveled almost two hundred miles to render his aid. The first association to be formed in this section was the Mero District Association, established in 1796, but it was soon dissolved.8 The most influential, if not the first, was the Concord Association, organized in 1810. 9 J. R. Graves later served as clerk of this association.
Among the early Baptists of Tennessee, then, were represented both the Regular and Separate branches of the denomination, with the latter being the most numerous. The peculiarities of the Separates may be observed at several points in Tennessee Baptist life. While the doctrinal differences were actually very minor between these two groups, some of the later divisions and difficulties were along Regular-Separate lines.
Ecclesiology of Early Tennessee Baptists
Tennessee Baptist ecclesiology, in the years preceding the rise of the Landmark movement, was substantially that of the Baptists of North Carolina and Virginia, the principal areas from which the first Baptists of Tennessee had come. Much that has been said in Chapter Five regarding the ecclesiology of the Carolina Baptists could also be applied to the Baptists of Tennessee. The Separate Baptist influence was possibly more concentrated, in some respects, in Tennessee than it had been in the eastern states. Although the first association organized in the state adopted the Philadelphia Confession,10 indications are that this statement of faith had much less influence generally in Tennessee than in the Carolinas. Apparently the Baptists of Tennessee preferred the shorter and simpler "Abstract of Principles," supposedly containing the substance of the Philadelphia Confession, which had been originally drawn up in 1787 as a basis for union between the Regulars and Separates in Virginia and North Carolina. Thus, the influence of the Philadelphia ecclesiology was less direct in Tennessee than it had been in the Carolinas.
The Concept of the Church
Tennessee Baptists, generally speaking, did not directly deny the concept of the universal church, but neither did they acknowledge it, at least to any great extent. With some degree of accuracy, it may be said that this aspect of the doctrine of the church was largely ignored by them. The Holston Association, it is true, by its adoption of the Philadelphia Confession, had given a nominal recognition to the universal church idea, but in 1801 this body had expressly stated that its member churches were not obligated to receive every particular article of the Confession; rather, it was intended to serve only as a general system of principles on which the churches might unite.11 Thus, the owning of the Philadelphia declaration of faith did not necessarily involve the acknowledgment of the universal church by all of the association churches. Articles of faith adopted by the other early Tennessee associations are silent as to any definition of the church other than local and discussions concerning the church in the records of the various associations reveal no significant interest in the larger concept of an "invisible" church.
It was the local church that represented the primary ecclesiological concern of Tennessee Baptists. Their queries to the associations reveal an intense interest at this point. Perhaps this was a reflection of what Goen called the Separate Baptists' "atomistic doctrine of the church."12 A typical expression of this local church emphasis is found in an article on baptism by R. B. C. Howell appearing in the September, 1835, issue of The Baptist. Howell spoke of the word "ecclesia" as used in the New Testament to describe the visible church of Christ, "who have united with each other for the worship of God, after giving satisfactory evidence of a change of heart." He went on to say that a church is properly constituted of those persons who have been regenerated; who have come to possess a general knowledge of and belief in the leading doctrines of the gospel; who have evidenced a determination to live a life of holiness and obedience to the commandments; and who have submitted to the ordinance of baptism.13 A series of articles appearing in The Baptist the following year, which Howell had copied from the Baptist Advocate (of Cincinnati), was entitled "New Testament Order of Churches." The second number in this series spoke of the meaning of the word "church." It called attention to the fact that the word is sometimes used in a universal sense to refer to "the whole body of saints in all ages. As such, it has no visible organization of churches in the aggregate." But the major emphasis was placed on the word "church" taken in a local sense. "Whenever the word is used in the New Testament, in a religious sense, for a visible organization of believers, it means a separate congregation, meeting in one place, and transacting business together as one body." Never is the word used to refer to a number of congregations, and therefore a church of Christ can be neither parochial, provincial, nation, nor diocesan.14 A further illustration of the Baptist emphasis on the local church is found in the letter of a correspondent in The Baptist who asked: "What is a Baptist Church, or a Church of Jesus Christ?" The writer answered his own question in these words: "It is an assembly of Christians united together and meeting in one place for the solemn worship of God; amongst whom the word of God is to be preached, and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's commands."15 It is not difficult to see that the understanding of the church expressed here corresponded very closely with the Landmark insistence upon the primacy of the local church.
The Independence and Authority of the Church
Closely related to the emphasis on the church as a local body was the stress laid upon the independence and authority of each local congregation. This was no unique emphasis among Baptists, as has been pointed out in the previous chapters, but the Baptists of Tennessee evidently felt a keen sense of personal responsibility for the maintaining of the complete autonomy of the local church. The correspondent mentioned in the previous paragraph, having defined the church in purely local terms and having set forth the gospel order of a church of Jesus Christ, declared that "a church thus organized has the divine right to govern itself . . . and is a free and independent body under the control of no association, presbytery, Synod, council, or assembly."16 Likewise the writer of the series on the "New Testament Order of Churches" stated that "a church upon the gospel plan is congregational and independent; having power to receive and to put away members . . . And from this tribunal there is no appeal to any higher judiciary."17 Both the Holston and Tennessee Associations included in their plans of union a statement declaring that each church is regarded as an independent body and that the association must not seek to impose laws or exercise supremacy over the various congregations.18
In a measure, the emphasis on church independence seems to have been a partial factor in the development of what was termed (not always accurately) an antimission spirit among some Tennessee Baptists. Burnett, in his biographical sketches of Tennessee's pioneer Baptist preachers, says that many of the "Old School" preachers felt so deeply about the matter of church autonomy that they were reluctant to cooperate with their brethren in plans of missionary endeavor. They had, he says, "inherited a religious bias in the direction of individualism and local church independence, or Baptist democracy. They would naturally, therefore, look with suspicion upon ecclesiastical machinery or organization beyond the local church or district association."19 Even John Bond, the historian of the Concord Association, who was missionary to the core, was somewhat skeptical of the need for a state convention, evidently because of what he believed about the scriptural role of the local church, and proposed a plan for the promotion of missionary objects that would obviate the need for a convention. He concluded by saying:Now, dear brethren, could such a system as we have proposed be adopted and executed with vigor, there would be no need for a State Convention. The Church would keep her own work in her own hands, as Jesus gave commandment.20It was this same fear that the scriptural authority of the church for the proclamation of the gospel might be usurped that led the Landmarkers to oppose mission boards and societies.
A major aspect of the stress placed on church authority was the control exercised by the churches over the ministry. No man could be esteemed as an orderly and properly authorized minister of the gospel, qualified to preach and to administer the ordinances, unless a church had placed some degree of sanction upon his ministry, either by license or ordination. This is illustrated by the action of the Sinking Creek church in 1789 stating that "it is the mind of this Church that any man coming in the name of a Baptist and not Bringing a Good a Thority from his Church is not Purmitted to Preach in this Church."21 It was this principle of church control that led the Holston Association to say in 1813 that it is "not justifiable" for a church or members of a church to invite a preacher to preach in their meeting house who is excommunicated.22 In a similar case eighteen years earlier, the same association had stated in their minutes that a certain William Reno "is preaching in disorder being excommunicated, which if he persists in will necessitate us to advertise him."23 As an excommunicate, he lacked church authority for his preaching. These instances furnish a clear indication that preaching was considered an official act of the church and could be done in an orderly manner only through the permission of a gospel church. It has been pointed out earlier that this was the basic principle underlying the Landmark doctrine of non-pulpit affiliation.
Even when a man had been licensed to preach, he was not necessarily at liberty to preach anywhere that he chose. Ordinarily a church placed certain specific limitations on the exercise of "public gifts," granting the privilege of preaching within the bounds of certain specified churches. The Sinking Creek church, in 1830, decided that a certain brother would "be allowed to preach the gospel in the bounds of Sinking Creek, Buffalo Ridge, Cherokee and Stony Creek" churches.24 The French Broad church denied the request of one of its licentiates for an enlargement of the territory in which he was permitted to preach, stating the he should continue to exercise his ministry within the bounds of that church and three others.25 While ordained preachers were not ordinarily limited in this fashion, they, too, were subject to church control. In 1790 the Holston Association gave its opinion that "ordination to the ministry distinct from a pastoral charge" is not agreeable to Scripture, evidently considering that a preacher would not be sufficiently under the control of a church under such circumstances.26 In 1819 the Tennessee Association, asked if a preacher is at liberty to act as a presbyter without the approbation of the church to which he belongs, replied that "it is most advisable for all petitions to go to the church."27 These citations serve to illustrate the fact that, in the view of Tennessee Baptists, every aspect of the gospel ministry was considered to be under the control of the local church.
The Church in Relation to the Association
The records of the Baptist associations of Tennessee reflect the prevailing concern for maintaining the independence of the church. In their plans of organization, a statement was ordinarily included, limiting the power of the association in relation to the churches and magnifying the independence of the local church. The statement of the Concord Association, organized in 1810, is typical:Art. 3. --The members thus chosen and convened, shall be denominated the Concord Baptist Association, who shall have no power to lord it over Godís heritage, neither shall they have any ecclesiastical power, or infringe any of the internal rights of the churches.28
A similar declaration is found in the constitution of the East Tennessee Association, organized in 1834: "This Association shall not interfere with the rights of any church or assist in settling any difficulty between brethren or churches."29
It is to the credit of the Tennessee associations generally that they sought to carry out the spirit of these declarations by avoiding those actions that would tend to compromise the independence of the churches. Frequently they called upon the churches to accept their responsibilities and to act at their discretion. A query from the Powell's Valley church was brought before the Holston Association ion 1799 concerning the propriety of a deacon administering the Lord's Supper. The next year the association replied that, in the absence of express Scripture on the matter, the churches were advised to act at discretion, endeavoring as much as possible to maintain a uniformity of practice with their sister churches.30 Generally the associations refused to interfere in those matters which were clearly within the province of the local church. Thus, a petition from certain members of the Stock Creek church to the Tennessee Association for assistance in settling some matters of church difficulty received the reply "that this association have no right to interfere with the discipline of the church."31
Practice Relative to the Ordinances
In their observance of the ordinances, Tennessee Baptists were influenced by two factors. The first was their belief that the ordinances were positive institutions commanded by Christ to be observed by his people in every age. The second was their conviction that the Scripture set forth in the most explicit fashion the rules or laws by which these ordinances were to be observed and that no variation was therefore permissible. The strength of these convictions is indicated by their constant concern for the maintenance of a pure "gospel order," as indicated by their queries to the associations. Some of these queries, incidentally, are suggestive of the continuing influence of the Separate Baptists. For instance, in 1802 the Holstein Association was asked by the Big Valley church if the laying on of hands and the dedication of infants were to be considered as gospel ordinances.32 A similar query concerning the "religious washing of feet" was brought before the same association in 1808.33 It will be recalled that all of these were included in the nine Christian rites observed by the Separate Baptists in North Carolina.
The Church and the Ordinances
In 1825, the Tennessee Association was asked by one of its member churches to define the word "ordinance." In reply, the association stated that they considered "a gospel ordinance to be obligatory law or rule established in the Church by the command of Jesus Christ to remain untill His second coming as that of baptism and of the Lord's supper."34 By this definition, then, the association expressed its view that baptism and the Supper were ordinances of the church and that they could not be validly administered or observed apart from this relationship with the local church. Records of this and the other associations in the state indicate that this close connection between the ordinances and the church was recognized in both principle and practice. Editor Howell of The Baptist concurred in the judgment that the ordinances were properly considered as such only in their relation to the church. In an 1835 article which included a statement of faith prepared by Howell, he said "that in the Church of Christ, [italics mine] there are but two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper."35
The emphasis on baptism and the Lord's Supper as ordinances of the church necessarily involved the idea that the church was responsible for their proper administration, including the provision of a proper administrator. Howell's statement of faith referred to above said that baptism must be administered "by a regularly authorized minister."36 The articles of union adopted by the Concord Association of United Baptists in 1842 declared "that ministers have no right to administer the ordinances, but such as have been baptized, called, and come under the imposition of hands by a presbytery."37 The western District Association, constituted in 1823, stated in its articles of faith that only those who have been "regularly baptized and come under the imposition of the hands of a presbytery" have a right to the administration of the ordinances.38 An even more detailed statement was contained in the articles of the Obion Association: "We believe that no minister has a right to the administration of ordinances, only such as are regenerated and born again, regularly baptized, specially called of God to the work of the ministry, and come under the imposition of the hands of a presbytery."39 A proper administrator, then, according to these statements, was one whose ministry had been sanctioned by the authority of a local church. Further, he must be one who had received "regular baptism," which evidently meant Baptist baptism, for without this he had no right to administer the ordinances. This last requirement, in the Baptist view, eliminated all Pedobaptist administrators.
The Question of Valid Baptism
The question of baptismal validity, particularly the validity of that baptism performed by Pedobaptist administrators, does not appear to have occasioned as much concern among the Baptists of Tennessee as it did among the Baptists of other areas. The minutes of the Holston and Tennessee Associations up to the year 1850 contain only a very few references to the matter and none of these clearly and unmistakably involves the question of Pedobaptist immersions. The singular absence of such discussion in these records does not signify, however, that the Baptists of Tennessee were less opposed to the acceptance of such baptism than their brethren elsewhere or that they considered such baptism as valid. Many of the associations, as indicated above, by their insistence upon a baptized administrator for the proper administration of the ordinance, were already committed to the rejection of those baptisms performed by Pedobaptist administrators. For them the matter was a closed issue. There are indications that this was also the case with many of the other churches and associations in Tennessee. Then there is the testimony of one of the leading pioneer preachers of Tennessee, James Whitsitt, who dies in 1849, that the Baptists of Tennessee had never accepted the baptism of Pedobaptists. His statement should not be overlooked or lightly regarded.We object to receive the baptism of Pedobaptists because we think it a dangerous innovation. We have no recollection that the history of the Baptists furnishes an example of the kind, and we are well assured that the common sense and piety of the Baptist [sic] were as strong one hundred years ago, as they are now. This question we have before us must be a new comer, we hope it will not be very obtrusive. . . .We say again we think this a dangerous innovation.40
Graves quoted this statement in his Old Landmarkism as a further proof that his views were the legitimate descendants of Baptist principles in years gone by.
Another aspect of the baptismal question which occasioned much interest is indicated by the query before the Concord Association in 1833 concerning the propriety of a Baptist preacher "baptizing any person who has not first been received by a Baptist church upon a declaration of their faith in Jesus Christ." The query was occasioned by the actions of one of the leading preachers in the association who had baptized three persons under such circumstances, with the full knowledge of their intention of going into a Pedobaptist church. Two issues were involved in such baptism: the authority of the church with regard to the ordinance and the implied recognition of Pedobaptist churches as being on a par with Baptist churches. After extended discussion, the associations replied that "the Church of Christ is but one . . . And he has instituted but one baptism, we advise ministers not to baptize those who are unwilling to go into the Baptist church."41 Essentially the same issues were involved in a query addressed to Howell as editor of The Baptist in 1846: "Is it right for a Baptist preacher to baptise a member of a Pedobaptist Church, and for him to still remain among them a Pedo?" Howell replied: "We would not baptise a man, who, when we are administering the ordinance, tells us plainly that he intends to do things for which, if he were a member of the Church, he would be excluded . . . It can't be proper to baptise a man at all who professes his intention instantly to do wrong, and to continue to do it."42
In some respects, the Baptists of Tennessee appear to have been more concerned about the acceptability of other Baptist baptism than they were with the problem of Pedobaptist immersion. This is an indication not only of the seriousness of the divisions within the denomination, but also of the strictness of their practices regarding the ordinances. In 1831 the Concord Association was occupied with a question concerning the validity of baptism administered by the Separates, who had split off from the Regular Baptists some five years before. In a reply that is somewhat suggestive of the "high church" tendencies of Landmarkism, the association said:There has been, and still is, in the United Baptist Church, all the liberty of conscience which charity could reasonably require, therefore we think it wrong in her members to oppose, abuse, and separate from her; and hence we do think such baptisms to be not only without the range of presbyterial power, but that there is no example in the scriptures authorizing her to receive it.43
In 1821 the Tennessee Association ruled that it was not "according to gospel order" to receive on their baptism those persons who had been baptized by "the schismatics." This group was evidently an Arminian branch of the Baptist denomination that had become somewhat tinged with Arianism. These doctrinal differences were too much for the Regular Baptists of the Tennessee Association and, in their rather strongly-worded reply, they declared that "the ministers of that denomination are not authorized by Jesus Christ to administer the ordinance of baptism and . . . we do not believe that man who propagates doctrines subversive of the very foundation of Christianity can be a Christian much less authorized by the Great Head of the Church to officiate in the most sacred office of the ministry."44
Thus, in these two instances, the "orthodox" Baptists rejected as invalid the baptisms of other Baptist groups. It is not surprising, therefore, that there was little discussion among them of the validity of Pedobaptist immersions. Their closeness with regard to the baptisms of their own denomination precluded any possibility that they would recognize the "irregular" baptisms of the Pedobaptists.
The Communion Question
True to the distinguishing characteristics of their denomination, the Baptists of Tennessee firmly maintained a restricted communion. They emphatically declared that "none have a right to the Lord's Supper until they are baptized."45 Acting upon this conviction, they refused to admit to their observances of the Lord's Supper those whom they considered to be unapprised, and they refused to accept the invitations of such to join with them in their communion This practice meant that Pedobaptists were excluded from the communion tables of Baptist churches. The general inflexibility of the Baptists in the matter of communion stemmed from their concept of the ordinances as positive institutions which were to be observed according to Scripture.
While there was a virtual unanimity among Tennessee Baptists in the practice of restricted communion, occasional queries appearing in the associational minutes suggest that some disagreed. The Holston Association considered the question of the McPheter's Bend church in 1803: "Shall all unessentials in religion be made terms of communion in the church or shall nothing be made a term of communion in the church but essentials in religion?" The answer of the association evidently went right to the heart of the problem that had prompted the query: "We think it is not according to Gospel direction to commune with any who have not been regularly baptized by immersion on profession of their faith."46 The Tennessee Association responded to a similar query in 1806 by saying: "We think none have a right to commune with us but those of our own faith and order."47 These statements are indicative of a determination to maintain a strict separation between the Baptists and other denominations.
Another aspect of the communion question which concerned Tennessee Baptists was the matter of transient communion, or the communion of a Baptist church member in a church to which he did not belong. The issue was brought before the Tennessee Association in 1810 by a query from the Stock Creek church: "Can a transient member be admitted to the Communion table yea or nay?" The association recognized that this was essentially a church matter and replied that it was left discretionary with the church.48 Several items of significance are suggested by the query. First, it is clear that the normal and accepted practice was local church communion that is, the communion of each person in his own church. In the second place, no church was considered under obligation to admit anyone outside her own membership to the observance of the Supper. Thirdly, communion, even among Baptists, was carefully restricted, and a wide open denominational communion would have been considered "not according to gospel order." Thus, the position of Tennessee Baptists regarding the Supper seems to have been fairly close to that of the Landmarkers, especially those of the Pendleton stamp.
The Denominational Spirit of Tennessee Baptists
The Baptists of Tennessee during the first half of the nineteenth century were marked by a strong denominationalism. This sectarian spirit, so closely akin to that which characterized the Landmark movement in later years, may be observed in the minutes of the Baptist associations in Tennessee and in other historical records. The pages of The Baptist, after its establishment in 1835, bear significant testimony to the intense denominational feeling which typified the Baptists of this state. Two specific manifestations of this feeling will serve to illustrate the depth of this denominational consciousness: the belief in a Baptist succession and the attitudes of the Baptists toward other denominations.
In consideration of the Landmark emphasis on a succession of Baptist churches from the days of the apostles, it is interesting to note that many of the Baptists of Tennessee, in the years prior to the beginning of the Landmark movement, likewise manifested a belief in such a succession. A prime example is R. B. C. Howell, the highly respected and influential leader among Tennessee Baptists. Howell, through The Baptist, received a request in 1835 to tell "how the name Baptist took its origin. In reply, he demonstrated his strong convictions as to the antiquity of the Baptists:Those who are now called Baptists, have been in different ages of the Church, called by various names. Let it be observed, however, that . . . from the days of "John the Baptist" until now, they have ever maintained the same doctrinal and practical tenets by which they are still distinguished. They were first called Christians at Antioch, afterwards Donatists, then Cathari, then Waldenses, Albigenses, Mennonites, Petrobrussians, Waterlanders, Annabaptists, and finally Baptists.49
Another article by T. J. Bowen entitled "Origin of the Baptists," which appeared in an 1846 issue of Howell's paper, asserted that "the origin of the Baptist denomination . . . . can not be found in any age of the world since the days of Christ and His Apostles." Bowen went on to describe the Baptists as having been "planted by the apostles, driven into the wilderness by the . . . Greeks and Romans, hated and persecuted to death as heretics . . . sometimes almost extinguished by their enemies." Yet the Baptist denomination has survived all these calamities, and they "live till this day, still denounced as bigots, but still the uncompromising advocates of truth, and a perpetual monument of the faithfulness of the Saviour's promise, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church of the living God."50
Essentially, then, the belief in a Baptist succession involved the declaration that Baptist churches alone could claim descent from the days of the apostles and that they alone were entitled to be called "the churches of Christ." To them especially was the promise of Christ given that his kingdom should endure. Other denominations, having originated since the time of Christ, must be regarded as human institutions and therefore as lacking the divine sanction. Bowen said concerning the Protestant denominations:They have come out from the church of Rome; we were never in it. They have corrected many Roman abuses -- they yet adhere to many other abuses, such as ecclesiastical legislation, unscriptural forms of church government, affusion instead of baptism, infant sprinkling, &c. -- but from these errors the Baptist have ever more been free.51
Truly successionism was an expression of the denominational spirit of the Baptists, and it represents a significant link in the chain of evidence pointing to a close doctrinal relationship between early Tennessee Baptist and the Landmarkers.
Baptist Relations with Other Denominations
Baptist relationships with other denominations in Tennessee were characterized by controversy and estrangement. Howell uses the term "hostility" to describe the Baptist attitude generally toward the ministry of other denominations.52 This state of affairs stemmed basically from the fact that Baptists regarded these other Christian groups as defective in both their principles and practice. They considered their forms of church government to be without scriptural warrant. Especially did they object to the Pedobaptist administrations of the ordinances as unscriptural. Because of these doctrinal differences, the Baptists tended to hold themselves apart from any involvement with other denominations, especially if such involvement suggested any degree of approval of those things which they considered as contrary to gospel order. The writer of the article on the "New Testament Order of Churches" declared that it was primarily because of the Baptist convictions regarding the constitution of the gospel church that they refused "connexion in a church state with all other denominations."53
This separatistic spirit of the Tennessee Baptists may be seen in their reaction to the bible Society conflict. In May, 1836, Howell reported the impending separation with typical Baptist indignation:The Baptists, finding no alternative, but either to be unfaithful to the cause of Christ, or forfeit the favor of the Bible Society, have not hesitated to choose the latter. Thus are we elbowed out of the Bible Society, and prohibited any participation in the benefits of funds we have ourselves raised.54Two months later, when the separation was complete, Howell rejoiced in the fact that "we are now disconnected with the Pedobaptists in everything. We hereafter, in this matter, as in all others, do our own work in our own way."55
Still another illustration of the state of Baptist - Pedobaptist relationships is seen in the Baptist propensity for proselytism. They apparently considered the members of Pedobaptist churches to be legitimate objects of their evangelistic efforts. Evangelist R. H. Taliaferro reported to Howell in The Baptist that in a revival in a northern Alabama community, he had baptized fourteen persons, "some Paedoes." He declared his intention of returning to the community and said, "I expect to baptise some Paedoes."56 Howell himself, in something of the manner of J. R. Graves twenty years later, boasted that he knew close to a hundred Baptist ministers who had come over from the Presbyterians.57 He regarded this as a vindication of the truth of Baptist principles.
The Landmark Baptists revealed somewhat the same spirit in their relationships with other denominations. They, too, displayed a hostile attitude, even one of belligerence, toward those of other persuasions. Separation was, of course, a leading principle of Landmarkism. The proselyte spirit, reflecting a strong feeling of denominational correctness, was a prominent characteristic of the Landmarkers. Graves' Great Iron Wheel, for example, apparently was aimed expressly at winning converts to the Baptist faith from the Methodists, and he rejoined in its success at this point.
From the beginning of Baptist life in Tennessee, Separate Baptist influence was strong, especially with regard to ecclesiology. The principal emphasis at this point was upon the church as a local body, with the universal church concept virtually ignored. The church, as an autonomous body under Christ, was looked upon as the principal agency for carrying on the work of Christ's Kingdom. Its authority was especially magnified in relation to the proclamation of the gospel, which was regarded as the official responsibility of the church. The antimission spirit in Tennessee, which was so strong, resulted at least in part from the fear that the role of the church might be usurped by some human institution.
As to the ordinances, the Baptists of Tennessee were typically concerned with the maintenance of "gospel order." Baptism and the Lord's Supper were recognized as ordinances of the church to be administered in accordance with the authority of the church. The insistence upon a baptized administrator by many of the Tennessee associations, as indicated by their articles of faith, suggests that the ordinances of the Pedobaptists wre not considered as valid. Tennessee Baptists tended toward an extreme closeness in their baptism and in their communion, rejecting even the baptism of other Baptist groups on the basis of doctrinal differences and refusing to commune with them.
There are indications of a widespread, deeply-rooted belief in a Baptist succession from the time of Christ. At this point and also in their relationships with other denominations, the Baptists of Tennessee displayed a strong denominational spirit, expressing the conviction that Baptists alone had maintained the scriptural pattern in church polity and in the administration of the ordinances. Because of this feeling, Baptists felt justified in refusing to become involved in extensive relationships with other denominations.
There are many obvious points of similarity between the principles of Landmarkism and the ecclesiological views of the early Tennessee Baptists. Their localistic concept of the church, their emphasis on the necessity for a baptized administrator of the ordinances, their strong belief in a Baptist succession, as well as other items of belief and practice, are strongly suggestive of the basic tenets of the Landmark movement. In addition, since Landmarkism first took root in Tennessee, it is not difficult to envision a more or less direct doctrinal relationship between the Landmarkers and their Baptist predecessors in that state. It seems clear enough that the views of the Landmark Baptists could scarcely have been considered as "alien" or innovational by the Baptists of Tennessee at any point of their history prior to the inception of Landmarkism.
1. Graves, Old Landmarkism, p. 213.
2. Benedict, General History, p. 791.
3. Burnett, pp. 318-20. Benedict, p. 791, gives the date of Laneís entrance into Tennessee as "about the year 1780," and consequently places the establishment of the Buffalo Ridge Church during that year. Other sources, which Burnett has followed, seem to indicate that Lane was in Tennessee as early as 1778 and that the church was begun not later than 1779. See also Samuel C. Williams and Samuel W. Tindell, The Baptists of Tennessee (Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1930), I, 23.
4. Benedict, General History, p. 791.
5. Benedict, General History, p. 791.
6. Burnett, p. 321.
7. Benedict, General History, p. 792.
8. Ibid., p.799.
9. Ibid., p. 800.
10. "Plan of Association," Record Book of Holston Baptist Association, p. 2. Records are in manuscript, microfilm copy of which is in Fleming Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
11. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1801, p. 71. Page references here and in subsequent citations from Minutes of Holston Association are to Record Book of Holston Association.
12. Goen, p. 293.
13. R. B. C. Howell, "Baptism -- No. 1," The Baptist, I. No. 9 (Sept., 1835), 133.
14. "New Testament Order of Churches -- Chapter II," The Baptist, II, No. 5 (may, 1836), 265.
15. William Kellett, Letter to the Editor, The Baptist, II, No. 3 (Mar., 1836), 237.
17. "New Testament Order of Churches -- Chapter II", The Baptist, II, No. 5, 265.
18. "Plan of Association," Record Book of Holston Baptist Association, p. 1. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1802, p. 4. Page numbers here and subsequent citations of minutes of Tennessee Association refer to manuscript Records of Tennessee Baptist Association, Book 1, microfilm copy of which is in Fleming Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
19. Burnett, p. 15.
20. John Bond, "A Proposition," The Baptist, I, No. 6 (June, 1835), 90.
21. O. W. Taylor, Early Tennessee Baptists 1769-1832 (Nashville: Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1957), p. 204, citing Minutes of the Sinking Creek Baptist Church, Record Book I.
22. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1813, p. 122.
23. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1795, p. 47.
24. Taylor, p. 205, citing Minutes of the Sinking Creek Baptist Church, 1819.
25. Ibid., p. 206.
26. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1790, p. 19.
27. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1819, p. 99.
28. John Bond (comp.), History of the Baptist Concord Association of Middle Tennessee and North Alabama (Nashville, Tenn.: Graves, Marks & Co., Printers, 1860), p. 15. Cited hereafter as History of the Concord Association.
29. The Baptist, I, No. 1, (Jan., 1835), 5.
30. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1799, p. 62; 1800, p. 66.
31. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1848, p. 257.
32. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1802, p. 77.
33. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1808, p. 103.
34. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1825, p. 127.
35. R. B. C. Howell, "Two Baptist Concord Associations," The Baptist, I, No. 7 (July, 1835), 104.
37. Bond, History of Concord Association, p. 71.
38. J. H. Grime, History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism Involving Researches from Different View Points, by Various Writers (no Publication data, 1909), p. 62.
40. James Whitsitt, "Ordinances Administered by Pedobaptists," Southern Baptist Review, V, No. 3 (Sept., 1859), 388. This pioneer Baptist preacher was the grandfather of W. H. Whitsitt, of Southern Baptist Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky. Graves spells his name "Whitsett."
41. Bond, History of Concord Association, p. 48.
42. The Baptist, III, No. 3 (Sept. 12, 1846), 36-37.
43. Bond, History of Concord Association, pp. 46-47.
44. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1821, pp. 106-7.
45. Bond, History of Concord Association, p. 71.
46. Minutes of Holston Baptist Association, 1803, p. 80.
47. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1806, p. 28.
48. Minutes of Tennessee Baptist Association, 1810, p. 49.
49. The Baptist, I, No. 5 (May, 1835), 70.
50. T. J. Bowen, "Origin of the Baptists," The Baptist, III, No. 3 (Sept. 12, 1846), 45-46.
51. Ibid., p. 46.
52. R. B. C. Howell, "A Word to the Ministry," The Baptist, I, No. 6 (June, 1835), 86.
53. The Baptist, II, No. 5, 266.
54. R. B. C. Howell, "The Bible Society," The Baptist, II, No. 5, (May, 1836), 258.
55. "American and Foreign Bible Society," The Baptist, II, No. 7, (July, 1836), 290.
56. R. H. Taliaferro, "Letter," The Baptist, III, No. 11, (Nov. 7, 1846), 165-66.
57. R. B. C. Howell, "Hydrophobia," The Baptist, II, No. 6, (June, 1836), 279-80.
[From Leroy b. Hogue, "A Study of the Antecedents of Landmarkism," Unpublished Th.D. thesis, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, TX, 1966, Chapter VII, pp. 256-288. The complete study may be accessed here.
Baptist History Homepage