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BROTHER WILLIAM L. BEEBE: - A brother in Georgia, {brother Matthews,} requests my views, through the MESSENGER, on the following queries:

1st. What qualifications are requisite to constitute a lawful administrator of the ordinance of baptism?

2nd. Can a person, after having been once so qualified, so act as to disqualify himself?

3rd. If so, is it right to hold a baptism administered by such persons valid?

4th. What course would you advise the Primitive Baptists to pursue in receiving members from the Missionary Baptists, with whom they have declared non-fellowship?

Brother Beebe, as my views are requested on these points, I trust that I shall be permitted to give them irrespective of what may be the views of others. I give them as the views I individually entertain, but claim no infallibility for them, any further than they are sustained by the testimony of the word of God. God’s revealed word is infallible, what therefore that sustains as truth is infallible, and what does not sustain, however ancient may be the idea, is error.

In noticing the first query as to what qualifications are necessary to constitute a valid administrator, in order to obtain a Scriptural answer, we must enquire who were the persons and what were their qualifications to whom our Lord the only and Great Head of the church, gave the command to baptize. The testimony of the Scripture is that it was given directly to the Apostles, and there is no account of his having directly so commanded any others. Matt.28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” appears to me clearly to imply that there was to be a succession to them in the application of the commands he had given them. The inquiry next arises, Where are we to look for the apostolic succession? The idea has been very prevalent from a very early period of the church, that this succession is to be found in the ministry. As this idea affords so good a plea for the ministry to assume the authority over the churches such as the apostles exercised by their Lord’s appointment, it has been much insisted on by the clergy of all denominations. And a good many Baptist ministers, who would dissent from this full influence drawn from the above idea of succession, still claim the succession to themselves so far as relates to baptism, and perhaps to preaching. Hence they conclude that they have the independent right to baptize whom they please without the consent of the church; of course if they may act independently of the church in one case, they may in another. And therefore being once ordained to the ministry, they may claim to themselves that having been called of Christ as were the apostles, that is directly, and not through the judgment of the church, they may go on independently of the government of the church, preach what they please, baptize whom they please, &c., and require that the churches should fellowship their acts. But certainly no candid reader of the New Testament can find therein any sanction for ordinary ministers; that is, pastors and teachers, claiming to themselves any such independency of the churches; they are called to the work of the ministry through the judgment and fellowship of the church, are of right subject to the discipline of the church, are the servants of the church.

There is another class of Baptists, who, rejecting this notion of ministerial succession, claim that every disciple or baptized believer, is individually a successor of the apostles in all but their peculiar apostolic gifts; that is, this I judge to be their views from the ground they occupy. They claim for each disciple the individual right to baptize whom and when he pleases; and some consistently with that claim, also claim it as their right to preach the gospel merely on the ground of their being disciples. A church upon this principle instead of possessing the harmony of the human body, would be like a body in which every member claimed the right to occupy what station he pleased in the body, and to act from his own impulse, and not in subjection to the will of the whole. This, if I understand the apostle, is the very kind of disorder which he is reproving, and the opposite to that order which he declares to belong to the gospel church as the body of Christ, in I Cor., 12th chapter throughout.

The inquiry then returns as to wherein the apostolic succession is found. I answer that the apostles as they were found on the day of Pentecost, were the representation not of the gospel ministry only, but of the gospel church with all its gifts, with all its power, and with all its weakness; and were thus the visible embodiment of the gospel church, as were the twelve sons of Jacob, of the twelve tribes of Israel. Hence the repeated reference to the twelve tribes of Israel in connection with a reference to the apostles, as in Matt.19:28; James 1:1; Rev.7:8-10, & 21:12-14. The eleven were commanded by their Lord after his resurrection to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. In the mean time however they must show a little of that creaturely impatience which has been common to the church in all succeeding ages, without waiting for this power as directed, they undertook to manufacture for their company a twelfth apostle out of Matthias. But the Lord instead of being forestalled by them, in his purpose, in his own time and order called Paul to the apostleship. Still when the day of Pentecost was fully come, we find them all with one accord in one place. A company of as poor, helpless creatures, destitute of any kind of worldly influence to sustain or encourage them, as need to be. Such has been the case of the true church in all ages since. But the power of God was so manifested for encouraging them and strengthening their faith in the baptism of the Holy Ghost, that with boldness they preached the gospel of Christ. And as a further manifestation of Christ’s presence with them, and of his power over all flesh, multitudes were brought to obey the gospel, and to rejoice in his salvation. Although this baptism of the Holy Ghost was an extraordinary manifestation, in visible form, in the cloven tongues as of fire which sat upon them, as an evidence of their being endued with power from on high to preach the gospel among all nations, yet this same manifestation, as were also the miracles wrought by the Apostles, was for the encouragement and confirmation of the saints in all after ages, in the faith that Christ with his all power in heaven and in earth would be with his church always, even to the end of the world, to sustain her, and to furnish her with gifts adequate for feeding the sheep and lambs of his flock, and for preaching the gospel wherever it is his pleasure to send it.

Again, the three thousand baptized at the time of the Pentecost are said to have been added, or as in our version added unto them. As the Apostles were not afterwards to remain together, in a visible body, as the churches were to be, but to be scattered in the fulfillment of their ministry, and a visible church now existing at Jerusalem as established in their doctrine, those who afterwards became disciples, were said to be added to the church. Not only this, but we soon find the apostles, directing the church to the exercise of a part at least of that authority, which they themselves had hitherto exercised, in reference to choosing from the church men to take charge of supplying the poor. Acts, 6th chapter. And from then on we find the church participating with the apostles in the exercise of authority, see Acts 13:1-3, compared with 14:26,27, as showing that it was the church and not the prophets and teachers which sent Paul and Barnabas forth through the direction of the Holy Ghost. And in Acts, the 15th chapter, we find the church connected with the apostles and elders in deciding on the difficulty which had occurred in the church at Antioch. And in no instance except in the cases of Timothy and Titus, whom Paul had sent to certain churches, as his proxies to set things in order whither it was not convenient for himself to be, and who were therefore called evangelists, as were also certain ministers sent forth by the apostles earlier in the history of the church; I say with these exceptions, there is no instance in which the apostles acknowledged the succession of authority to exercise the government and discipline of the church to be vested in any other than the churches. Paul exhorted the Elders of the church at Ephesus, and Peter exhorted the Elders which were among the churches to whom he wrote, but they only directed them in reference to themselves and to feeding the church and flock of God. Acts 20:28, & I Pet.5:1,2. To sum up on this point, Paul tells the church at Corinth, “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” I Cor.3:21-23. Thus making the churches to stand next to Christ. And so again he shows that all the gifts are given to the churches. Eph.4:11,12. Consequently as the apostolic gift was for the churches; when churches were planted and lesser gifts were given, they were in subordination to the churches, in government.

If then the commission to the apostles to “go and teach all nations, baptizing them,” &c., is transmitted in succession to the churches, we see that all Missionary, Tract, Sunday School, and kindred societies are cut off from all claims to authority for spreading the gospel from this commission, and those who sanction them are rebels against the kingdom of Christ, and are assuming an authority which belongs of right only to the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

But how is the church to preach the gospel and baptize? Evidently through the gifts of pastors and teachers given her for that purpose. Why are these gifts bestowed if the Lord designed every member to perform that for which they are specially given? And why are servants especially given if all the members of the family are alike to serve? These pastors or servants are given as before noticed to the churches, and are therefore to act in subordination to the churches, and not as some assume independent of their fellowship. Hence a man though he may afterward show himself to have been a wolf in sheep’s clothing, having administered baptism under the sanction and fellowship of a gospel church, the baptism, notwithstanding his after defection, thus administered is valid. On the other hand, of course a baptism administered in form, without the authority and fellowship of a gospel church, cannot be gospel baptism. Certainly if our Lord has connected the ministration of the gospel and its ordinances with the church, we have no right to sanction or own anything as gospel order which is severed from the church.

Our brother’s 1st query is above answered; that is, the qualification requisite to constitute a lawful administrator, are that he must have a standing in the fellowship of a gospel church, and officiate in such administration as the authorized servant or minister of a gospel church.

The 2nd query; namely; “Can a person after having been once so qualified, so act as to disqualify himself?” According to the view I have taken of apostolic succession, he can. And does become disqualified for administering Christ’s ordinance of baptism, whenever by his own withdrawal, or by the exclusion or suspension of the church he ceases to stand in the fellowship and to minister under the authority of a gospel church.

Consequently in answer to the 3rd query, whenever a person becomes disqualified according to the answer to the 2nd query, or has never had the qualifications noticed in answer to the 1st query, it certainly cannot be right to acknowledge any performance of such person, as gospel baptism, of gospel order.

The 4th query, “What course would you advise the Primitive Baptists to pursue in receiving members from the Missionary Baptists, with whom they have declared non-fellowship?” My advice is, and let it stand for what it is worth, that you should either fellowship the Mission Baptists as standing in gospel order as churches of Christ, or not fellowship them as such. And if you fellowship them, to fellowship the Paedobaptists also; for if we sanction a departure from the New Testament as our Rule in one instance, why not in another? When you get beyond the New Testament you are out in open sea without a compass; who then is to say which course is right? If on the other hand you are disposed to maintain the stand of acknowledging nothing as belonging to the gospel kingdom, but what is in accordance with the “pattern showed in the mount,” then I would advise you to hold Mission Baptists and other will-worshipers just as the Apostles held all such classes of religionists in their day. If a person who has been among the Mission Baptists applies to be received among you, and if he was baptized by one who at the time of administering the ordinance to him, stood in fellowship with you as a gospel minister, then receive him as you would any other excluded person, upon the evidence of his repentance. If the applicant for membership was baptized by one who at the time stood excluded from your fellowship, or which is the same thing, from whom you had separated, thereby declaring non-fellowship for him, and you were to receive this applicant as a baptized member, would you not by such reception disannul your declaration of non-fellowship, and in acknowledging the dipping as gospel baptism thereby acknowledge the administrator as a gospel minister, and the bodies with which he is connected as gospel churches? Hence I would advise the treating of the applicant just as though he had never professed religion; if by the relation of his experience he gives you evidence of being a believer, and shows a willingness to honor Christ as the King of Zion, by being baptized according to his own appointed order as delivered in the New Testament, then receive him to baptism and membership, and not without. A form of baptism can be of no avail wherein Christ is not honored; and certainly no one can show that Christ ever authorized any to administer baptism in his name who were disconnected with his visible church. I should think that when a person once found himself connected with a society with which he could no longer for conscience sake walk with as a church of Christ, he would not wish to countenance any of their acts as gospel ordinances.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, and he sanctions no compromising with the world or with the world’s religion by the subjects of his kingdom. He tells us that he “came to send fire on the earth.” Again he says, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay, but rather division.” He further shows that the members of the same natural family are to be divided one from the other, even the tender tie of the mother and daughter must have no binding influence on that which relates to his kingdom, they must be at variance where one is the subject of grace and the other not. The daughter in order to show herself a disciple of Christ, must disregard the opinions, prejudices, or wishes of her unregenerated mother on this subject, and hear only Christ; even natural sympathy for her feelings must be laid aside. And a mother must make no compromises of either doctrine or order in order to bring her unregenerated daughter with her into the church. See Luke 12:49-53; Matt.10:34-36. But how many Baptists there are who are unwilling that the doctrine and order of the gospel should be fully insisted for fear of offending their unregenerated children and friends. And some are afraid of rejecting New School baptism, for fear of giving offence. These fleshly feelings should have no place in the church of Christ.

Excuse my having written so lengthily. I feel that the subject is an important one.

With christian regards yours,
Fairfax C.H., Va., April 22, 1853.