In Regard to Baptist Succession
SUCCESSION means, properly, succeeding - to supply the place of another, to follow on, to go forward in filling the places made vacant. In this sense Baptists have had a real and noble succession.
Imperial Rome was the successor of the grand and ancient republic. It appropriated the names of her offices - senate, consul, trubune. It nominally adopted her laws, though mutilated, damaged, or entirely changed. It still kept her name, and monarchical despotism called itself "the republic of Rome." The eagle still adorned its standards, and the man who ascended the throne - by bribery or blood - went rhough the farce of being elected by the enslaved senate. But did this succession make Nero the real successor of the elder Brutus and make his office or his principles the same as those of Cincinnatus?
The papal hierarchy, by corruptions, pious frauds, and worldly and wicked means, succeeded the churches of Christ, adopted their symbolic names, and pretended to adhere to the doctrines
and ordinances, the word and the principles given by Christ and by his apostles. But it is no more like these than Nero was like Brutus, and no more their successor than the despotic empire of the Caesars was the successor of the glorious republic of the old Rome.
Through popes, surpassing in tyranny and wickedness even Nero himself, papacy and episcopacy trace an order of successsion. They are welcome to it. We trace no line of unbroken order through such foul and bloody chronicles, but a sacred succession of men who united together - though but two or three - stepped into the places of the fallen in the conflict; a celestial chivalry, whose names adorn the pages of history and whose fearless fidelity to God's truth and to soul freedom gives them a rank with earth's heroes and places them on the summit of human virtue; men and women whose deeds and endurance will be remembered and honored when the favorites of fame are forgotten, and Rome, with triple-crowned tyrants, shall sink like a millstone in the flood.
All other succession - apostolic or clerical or ecclesiastical - is a fiction. This is real, vital, everlasting. We have written elsewhere: "Were all the records of the churches lost; were the period of the planning of the apostolic churches to the present hour a dark, trackless chasm; could we descry no living forms, hear the echo of no
living voices, and see no gleam of light on all that waste of ages, yet in the strength of God's truth we would leap the gulf and clasp the hands of those men of God on the other side of that chasm, would claim unity and brotherhood, succession and fellowship with the members and the ministers and churches of the apostolic era."
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
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