David Spencer in The Early Baptists of Philadelphia, 1877, wrote concerning Baptist baptism accepted by churches in the Philadelphia Baptist Association: "Where a person is thoroughly converted and is immersed in the name of the Trinity upon a profession of faith, the baptism is valid without any regard to the character of the administrator." (p. 167.) This was not the position of the Baptists of that area and era.
The Philadelphia Baptist Association answered in their annual Minutes, on at least seven occasions, queries related to this issue and gave opinions in opposition to this statement. They are listed below:
1729 Query from the church at Philadelphia.
Suppose a gifted brother, who is esteemed an orderly minister by or among those that are against the laying on of hands in any respect, should happen to come among our church; whether we may allow such an one to administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper or no?
Answered in the negative; because it is contrary to the rule of God's word: see Acts xiii. 2, 3; and xiv. 23: compared with Titus i. 5; 1 Tim. iv. 14; from which prescribed rules we dare not swerve. We also refer to the Confession of faith, chap. xxvii., sect. 9.
1732 In the year 1732, a question was moved:
Whether a person, not being baptized himself, and presuming, in private, to baptize another; whether such pretended baptism be valid or no, or whether it might not be adjudged a nullity?
Resolved. We judge such baptism as invalid, and no better than if it had not been done.
1744 Query from the church at Bethlehem:
Suppose a person baptized by a man, who takes upon him to preach the gospel, and proceeds to administer the ordinances without a regular call or ordination from any church; whether the person so baptized may be admitted into any orderly church. Yea or nay?
Resolved: We cannot encourage such irregular proceedings; because it hath ill consequences every way attending it; it is also opposite to our discipline. We therefore give our sentiments that such administrations are irregular, invalid and of no effect.
1749 A query from the church at the Scotch Plains:
Whether a person baptized by one that was not ordained, shalt be received into the church, on the baptism already received; or whether he shall be baptized again, or shall such abide without the church's privileges all their days?
In answer, we refer to the solution of the like query, in the year 1744.
1768 In answer to query from New York, it was agreed that baptism, administered by a person not ordained, was invalid and disorderly.
1787 The first church in New York queried: Whether a person applying to one of our churches for admissison as a member, and satisfies the church that he has been previously baptized by immersion, on a profession of his faith in Christ; but at the same time confesses, the person who administered the ordinance was, at the time, neither ordained to the work of the ministry, nor baptized himself by immersion, but only chosen and called by a religious society to officiate as their teacher or minister, should be received.
Resolved. That the above query be held over on consideration til next Association, and that our brethren Holmes, Ferris. S. Jones, D. Jones, or any of the brethren, who choose to engage in it, be requested to deliver their thoughts in writing, upon the subject at the next association.
1788 In answer to a query from the first church in New York, of last year, held over to this time, respecting the validity of baptism, administered by a person who had never been baptized himself, nor yet ordained; we reply, that we deem such baptism null and void:
First. Because a person that has not been baptized must be disqualified to administer baptism to others, and especially if he be also unordained.
Second. Because to admit such baptism as valid, would make void the ordainances of Christ, throw contempt on his authority, and tend to confusion: for if baptism be not necessary for an administrator of it, neither can it be for church communion, which is an inferior act: and if such baptism be valid, then ordination is unnecessary, contrary to Acts xiv. 23; 1 Tim. iv. 14; Tit. i.5, and our Confession of faith, Chap. XXVII.
Third Of this opinion we find our Association in times past; who put a negative on such baptisms in 1729, 1732, 1744, 1749, and 1768.
Fourth. Because such admnistrator has no commission to baptize, for the words of the commission were addressed to the apostles, and their successors in the ministry, to the end of the world, and these are such, whom the church of Christ appoint to the whole work of the ministry.
1791 Doctor Rogers read a paragraph of a letter from the Rev. Abraham Booth, of London, directed to himself, in which was initimated the expediency of our reconsidering the decision of this Association, in 1788, respecting "the invalidity of Baptism when administered by an unbaptized person."
Agreed to refer it to the next meeting of the Association
1792 A query respecting the validity of baptism by an unordained and unbaptized administrator, referred in the sixth section of October 5, in our minutes of last year, was taken up, and determined in the negative.
It is said that J. R. Graves was a serious student of the history of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. The Philadelphia Association time-and-again took a strong position on proper authority in the churches; they implied denial of the scriptural validity of Pedobaptist administration of church ordinances. J. R. Graves, who grew up in Vermont before moving to Ohio, then to Kentucky and finally to Tennessee, called their arguments solid;1 and he seemed to take the PBA's views to their ultimate conclusion in his strong denial of any scriptural validity of Pedobaptist baptism. This became known as one of the tenants of Landmarkism. - Jim Duvall.
Note1 J. R. Graves, Old Landmarkism: What is it?, 1880; reprint, n.d., p. 137
[From A. D. Gillette, editor, The Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, years shown. This issue is addressed by Leroy B. Hogue in "A Study of the Antecedents of Landmarkism," a Th.D. thesis from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1966 (unpub.), pp. 172-175.]
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