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A Letter to Dr. Hill, Editor of the Presbyterian Herald
From James M. Pendleton
The Tennessee Baptist newspaper, 1854.
      Dr. Hill - My Dear Sir: -
      I have read your notice of my "series of articles in the Tennessee Baptist designed to show that Baptists ought not to recognize Pedo-baptist preachers as gospel ministers." I am much obligated to you, for the respectful manner in which you refer to me. Your kindness is appreciated the more because it has often fallen to my lot to be misrepresented in Pedo-baptist papers. Even your grief at what you call "so monstrous a proposition" as mine, has the appearance of magnanimity, and somewhat excites my admiration.

      Permit me to say, that I am highly gratified that you say of my position - "It is the carrying out of Baptist principles, as we understand them, &c." Here then we are agreed. It is certainly true that Baptist principles legitimately carried out, will conduct all who entertain them to the platform on which I stand. I rejoice in believing this.

      But allow me to ask you if these principles are peculiar to Baptists? Do not Presbyterians, and all Pedo-baptists hold them? By a reference to what I have written, you will see that Dr. Griffin, a celebrated Pedo-baptists has furnished the premises from which my conclusion is drawn. He says without qualification - "where there is no baptism, there are no visible churches." So say I. Do you not also? I am persuaded you do. So far then our views coincide. Dr. Griffin proceeds, in what may be termed a process of argumentative elimination, till everything vital to the subject is condensed into the question, "whether baptism by sprinkling is valid baptism?" To this question, you of course, give an affirmative answer, but my response is intensively negative. Here we disagree. Need I say that Baptists consider immersion the exclusive baptismal action? If there are any in our denomination who dissent from this view, the sooner they leave it the better. You believe baptism essential to the existence of a visible church, and so do I. But we differ as to the action of baptism. (I say nothing now on the subjects of the ordinance.) You say sprinkling, pouring and immersion are all valid baptism, and hence you find no difficulty in seeing "visible churches" where these three operations are performed. I recognize the validity of immersion alone, and cannot possibly discern "visible churches" where there is no immersion. Dr. Griffin says "if nothing but immersion is baptism, there is no visible church, except among the Baptists." With my view of immersion, therefore, you can readily see what I believe of "visible churches."

      If you, my Dear Sir, believe sprinkling the only baptism, would you, could you admit the existence of "visible churches" among immersionists? Evidently not. You would say, "immersion is not tolerated by the gospel, and, therefore, it has nothing to do in the constitution of a gospel church." What you would say of immersion, on the supposition suggested, I say, without any supposition, of pouring and sprinkling. The subject is just like that of communion. It turns on what is baptism? With us the baptism is "close," rather than the communion. Baptism is prerequisite to communion. This, I presume, is your view, because your practice in regard to infants, gives an inevitable priority to baptism.

      May I be allowed to ask yon whether there is any more authority, according to the gospel, for an unbaptized man to preach than to commune at the Lord's table? Would you fraternize with any one as a minister of Jesus Christ who, in your judgment, had not been baptized? Would Quaker preachers, repudiating baptism, as they do, be received into the Presbyterian ministry? I imagine not. You would not recognize a Quaker preacher, as a gospel minister, because he lacks baptism. Is it more illiberal for me to refuse to recognize you as a gospel minister, because you lack baptism? I imagine I almost hear you saying, "I have been baptized." But this I can by no means concede. Do you ask whether I question your piety? No more than you question a Quaker preacher's piety.

      The matter seems to me very plain: "Where there is no baptism, there are no visible churches." There is no baptism among Pedo-baptists. Therefore, there are no visible churches. Where there are no visible churches, there is no gospel authority to preach -- It follows, then, that Baptists ought not so [to] recognize Pedo-baptist preachers as gospel ministers. You cannot avoid the conclusion, if you admit the premises. Every real Baptist will say that the premises are true. Feeling and prejudice may, in some cases, struggle against the conclusion; but the clamor of feeling and prejudice should be unheeded where truth leads the way.

      I am sorry, my Dear Sir, that you refer to my "unchurching, nineteen-twentieths of the best ministers that have ever lived upon the earth &c." I regret it because it looks too ad captandum for our occupying your position. I do not say your object was to excite the prejudice of your readers, and thus prevent an impartial perusal of my Tract, when it is thrown into general circulation -- but I doubt not this will be the effect. I suppose there are pious priests belonging to the Romish hierarchy. God doubtless has a people in the Romish church; for he says, "come out of her, my people &c." But you would not, I am sure, argue that on this account the papal hierarchy, is a church of Christ.

      Nor does the success that attends the ministry of a preacher, prove either that he is in the visible church of Christ, or that he is a good man. NARNI preached in Rome "half the city went from his sermons, crying along the streets, Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us." He belonged to the church of Rome, not to the church of Christ. Seldom has the preaching of any man produced such effects. And you will admit that many preachers who have been very successful, have shown subsequently that the grace of God was not in them. I am not under obligation to account for this; but it shows that the word of God alone can be relied on to decide what is true, and what is right. This, I think is plain.

      I wonder that in calling mine a "monstrous proposition;" you did not think of other times. Clavin [Calvin], were he living, would surely feel no desire to hold religious or ministerial intercourse with the "Anabaptists;" for it is admitted by his biographer that he drove them out of Geneva. See in the Index to Henry's Life of Calvin the term Anabaptist. It is conceded too by Henry that "the main doctrine of the Anabaptists was the necessity of re-baptism in mature years and the rejection of infant baptism as not apostolical." Vol. II, p. 42. If for this "main doctrine" the Baptists of Calvin's day, deserved banishment from Geneva, how can there be real union between the Baptists and Presbyterians of this age? Do you think Calvin would have invited an Anabaptist preacher to occupy his pulpit? You know he would not. He would have announced a "proposition" as "monstrous" as mine; Aye, more so; for he would have contemplated the exile of Baptist preachers.

      During the reign of Charles I, when many in Parliament were in favor of tolerating the 'Protestant sectarians,' "the Presbyterians exclaimed, that this indulgence made the church of Christ resemble Noah's Ark, and rendered it a receptacle, for all unclean beasts." Hume's History of England, chapter LVIII. Baptists were not considered brethren then.

      In May, 1648, the Presbyterians having the ascendency in Parliament passed "such a law against heretics (to use the language of Neal) as is hardly to be paralleled among Protestants." It specifies "heresies" and "errors." Among the errors I observe this: "That the baptism of infants is unlawful and void; and that such persons ought to be baptized again." Upon "conviction," or "confession" of this "error," the person implicated was to "renounce" it "in the public congregation," or "in case of refusal be committed to prison till he find sureties that he shall not publish or maintain the said error or errors any more." See Neal's History of the Puritans, Part III, chapter X. There was, my Dear Sir, in that day no "open communion." A Baptist had to renounce the distinctive peculiarities making him a Baptist to keep out of prison. He could not in his Baptist character, commune with Presbyterians. No, as a Baptist he was thought fit only for a prison, and could not, even if inclined, be present at a Presbyterian communion. The law too, must have contemplated imprisonment for life; for it was to continue till "sureties" were obtained, &c. In the case of real Baptist "sureties" could not, of course, be found. Therefore imprisonment for life was provided for.

      I refer to these things, my Dear Sir, to prove that a desire on the part of Presbyterians to fraternize with Baptists, is of recent origin. -- Illiberal as you consider us you were two hundred years ago, far more so. We never availed ourselves of prisons to keep Presbyterians from our pulpits and communion-tables.

      Look to the early settlement of New England. Did the Pedobaptist colonists put Baptists on a religious and civil equality with themselves? No, Sir, no. The propagation of Baptist sentiments was thought to call for fines, scourging, and banishment. New England persecution blackens one of the chapters of American history. The Pedobaptists of the Plymouth and Massachusetts colony would have "laughed to scorn," the idea of communing with Baptist[s], or allowing Baptist ministers to preach to their congregations. Truly, Sir, ministerial intercourses, and recognition among Pedobaptist, and Baptist preachers is a recent thing. It is inconsistent on the part of both. How can you and your brethren fraternise [sic] with Baptist ministers who regard infant baptism a human tradition? Can you fellowship us and our course when we so earnestly oppose what you hold so dear? Consistency requires you either to give up infant baptism or abjure all religious alliances with those who consider it the "pillar of Popery." If it were possible for me to be a Pedobaptist, I am sure I would keep at a respectful distance all who opposed infant baptism. Consistency, I again suggest, requires this of you. And surely consistency requires Baptists to be a peculiar people - distinct from all other people. They are as I believe, the only people under heaven who are right in their views of church-organization, qualifications for membership, &c, &c. Pedobaptists, as I think, strike a fatal blow at the organic structure of the church of Christ, in allowing infant membership. Campbellites baptize, to introduce those they baptize into a saved state. Baptists say persons must believe and be in a saved state before they can legitimately have anything to do with the ordinances of Jesus Christ. Can Baptists, then, consistently recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers? Can they practically and virtually say there is no material difference between Baptists and Pedobaptists, when the difference is material and fundamental? The truth is, my Dear Sir, if you are right, I am wrong; and if I am right, you are wrong. Both of us cannot be right. Dr. Chalmers says somewhere, "If christianity is true it is tremendously true." So I say, if Baptist sentiments are true they are tremendously true; and if Pedobaptist sentiments are false they are tremendously false, and vice versa. The interests of truth require that while we differ we should let the world know that we differ. Let it be understood by every body that if one of us is right, the other is wrong. And let there be no compromise between the right and the wrong. Let truth and error be kept distinct and apart. Error is never so dangerous, as when mixed with truth. Though I do not recognize you as a gospel minister, not considering you a member of the visible church of Christ, I am, my Dear Sir, very sincerely your friend in defense of the truth.

      P. S. In reading your strictures again, my surprise is excited not a little. I understand you to concede that I am consistent, and yet you seem to be astonished at my position! How is this? Are you astonished that I am consistent? 1 hope the day will soon come when Baptists will be so universally consistent, that it will excite no astonishment. You intimate that what I have written will probably undergo examination. I hope it may. If I am wrong let it be shown. I have no interest in the advocacy of error. "The truth as it is, in Jesus," is my motto. - J. M. P.


[From the Tennessee Baptist, September 2, 1854, p. 2, microfilm CD edition. Source location from Thomas White, Cedarville U, OH; used with permission. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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