69 Years Before Old Landmarkism
The following letter was written by Elder Jesse Mercer in 1811…69 years before Elder J. R. Graves book Old Landmarkism was written:
“The Elders and brethren of the Georgia Association, to the brethren they represent: greeting:
Beloved in Christ -From our earliest connection we have studiously selected for the subjects of our addresses to you, those doctrines and duties which seemed the best suited to confirm and increase your faith in Christ; to edify and comfort your heart, being knit together in love; and to lead you on to that light and perfection, which would honor and commend the cause in which you have embarked, and reflect the highest praise and glory of God who has called you into His marvellous light. But while you have endeavored to keep yourselves unmixed with, and unspotted from the world as a chaste virgin to Christ, you have excited some unpleasantness among the religious denominations among you,because you have not found it consistent to admit them and their administrations as ORDERLY AND VALID. We therefore propose as the subject of this letter, the reasons, briefly, which lead us to deem Pedobaptist administrations, though in the proper mode, invalid. That this subject may be as clear as our epistolary limits will admit, we propose to lay down a few Scriptural propositions whose legitimate inferences will, we trust, bring into, though a concise, yet sufficiently clear view, the reasons in question.
I. The Apostolic Church, continued through all ages to the end of the world, is the only True Gospel Church.
The truth of this proposition is not only frequently intimated, but strongly affirmed by the prophets. They speak of a glorious state of religious affairs to take place at the coming of the Messiah, which they say, shall continue or endure, as the sun, or days of heaven, Psalm lxxxix. 29, 36, 37 – Shall never be cut off, Isaiah lv. 14 – And shall stand forever, Daniel ii. 44. Christ affirms nothing shall prevail against His church, no, not the gates of hell, Matthew xiv.18. But John puts this point beyond all contradiction in his prophetic history of the church, in which, tho he admits of various outward modifications, he maintains an uninterrupted succession from the Apostolic Age, till the world shall end.
II. Of this church, Christ is the only Head, and true source of all ecclesiastical authority.
Although the Scriptures are illumed by this truth, yet it may not be impertinent to cite a few passages in point. To Me, says Christ, is authority given, John v. 22, 27. And knowing the love of power, and the strong propensity to rule, in the human heart, He frequently and emphatically declares Himself, to His apostles, to be their only LORD and MASTER, Matthew xxiii.8, 10. The apostles concur in ascribing this honor to him; and transmit it to all after ages of the church, Acts ii. 36 – Ephesian i. 22 and v. 23 – Colossians ii. 10. But the commission of the apostles, the matter, manner and majesty of which are enough to make a saint triumph, an angel rejoice, and a devil tremble, caps the whole, Matthew xxviii. 18, 19.
III. Gospel ministers are servants in the church, are all equa1, and have no power to lord it over the heritage of the Lord.
By the examples of a little child in the midst, and the exercise of dominion over the Gentiles by their principles, our Lord teaches humility, and denies to His apostles the exercise of lordship over His church, Matthew xviii. 2, 6 – xx. 25, 26. He calls them brethren, and directs that they should not be called masters, but servants, Matthew xxii. 8, 11. The acts and epistles of the apostles shew their observance of their Lord’s commands. Here we see them the MESSENGERS AND SERVANTS of the churches, which proves the power to be in the churches, and not in them. – Acts vi. 5, xv. 4, 22, II Corinthians viii. 23, Philippians ii. 25, II Corinthians iv. 5.
Timothy is instructed how to behave himself in the church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth; but if the power had been constituted in him, the advice should have been given, to the church, that she might have known how to behave herself in the presence of her BISHOP, I Timothy iii. 15, compare with Matthew xviii. 17.
IV. All things are to be done in faith, according to the gospel pattern.
Faith is made capital in the Scriptures, and the want of it equals unbelief. The house of Israel is often complained of for the lack of it, the apostles are admonished to have it, and upbraided for their unbelief. Deuteronomy xxxii. 22, Mark xvi. 14. The apostles, and Paul declares without it, it is impossible to please God, and that he that doubts of what he does is damned in doing it because he acts without faith.
From these propositions, thus established, we draw the following inferences, as clear and certain truths.
I. That all churches and ministers, who originated since the apostles, and not successively to them, are not in Gospel order; and therefore cannot be acknowledged as such. II. That all, who have been ordained to the work of the ministry without the knowledge and call of the church, by popes, councils, &c., are the creatures of those who constituted them, and not the servants of Christ, or His church, and therefore have no right to administer for them. III. That those who have set aside the discipline of the gospel, and have given law to, and exercised dominion over the church, are usurpers over the place and office of Christ, are against Him; and therefore may not be accepted in their offices. IV. That they, who administer contrary to their own faith, or the faith of the Gospel, cannot administer for God; since without the gospel faith they had nothing to minister; and without their own he accepts no service; therefore the administrations of such are unwarrantable impositions in any way.
Our reasons, therefore for rejecting baptism by immersion when administered by Pedobaptist ministers are:
I. That they are connected with churches clearly out of the apostolic succession, and therefore clearly out of the apostolic commission. II. That they have derived their authority, by ordination, from the bishops of Rome, or from individuals, who have taken it on themselves to give it. III. That they hold a higher rank in the churches than the apostles did, are not accountable to, and of consequence not triable by the church; but are amenable only to, or among themselves. IV. That they all, as we think, administer contrary to the pattern of the Gospel, and some, when occasion requires, will act contrary to own professed faith. Now as we know of none implicated in this case, but are in some or all of the above defects, either of which we deem sufficient to disqualify for meet gospel administrations invalid.
But if it should be said, that the apostolic succession cannot be ascertained, and then it is proper to act without it; we say, that the loss of the succession can neither prove it futile, nor justify any one out of it. The Pedobaptists, by their own histories, admit they are not of it; but we do not, and shall think ourselves entitled to the claim, until the reverse be clearly shewn. And should any think authority derived from the MOTHER OF HARLOTS sufficient to qualify to administer a Gospel ordinance, they will be so charitable as not to condemn us for preferring that derived from Christ. And should any still more absurdly plead that ordination, received from an individual is sufficient; we leave them to shew what is the use of ordination, and why it exists. If any think an administration will suffice which has no pattern in the gospel; they will suffer us to act according to the divine order with impunity. And if it should be said that faith in the subject is all that is necessary, we beg leave to require it where the Scripture do, and that is everywhere. But we must close: we beseech you brethren while you hold fast the form of your profession, be ready to unite with those from whom you differ, as far as the principles of eternal truth will justify. And while you firmly oppose that shadowy union, so often urged, be instant in prayer and exert yourselves to bring about that which is in heart, and after godliness.
Which the Lord hasten in its season. Amen and amen.
A. Marshall, Moderator.
Jesse Mercer, Clerk. “
As recorded in “A History of the Georgia Baptist Association” by Jesse Mercer