Several years ago a man by the name of Bob Ross took it upon himself to republish the messages of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by reprinting The Metropolitan Tabernacle Series, a multi-volume set of every message preached by C.H. Spurgeon during his pastoral ministry. Many Southern Baptist pastors have this Metropolitan series in their libraries, including me.
Recently Bob Ross sent me a letter explaining his former background in Landmarkism and his eventual repudiation of this belief system. I am posting his letter to me on this blog, along with his excellent summary of Landmarkism, closing with several quotes from Mr. C.H. Spurgeon himself. I know the post is long, but it is vitally important you understand the implications of reemerging Landmarkism in the SBC.
Tomorrow I will explain why a repudiation of Landmarkism is absolutely essential for the planting of churches on the mission fields around the world.
Dear Brother Burleson:
I have read some of your comments on Landmarkism, and I surely hate to see that it is apparently rising again to some significance among Southern Baptists.
I spent the first several years of my Christian life in Landmarkism, after having been baptized at Parkview Baptist (SBC), Jackson, Tennessee in 1953 by a godly and beloved Pastor (now deceased) who first introduced me to the writings of J. R. Graves.
I left the SBC over Neo-orthodoxy in the schools (particularly at Union University) in 1954, and spent the next eleven years of my life advocating Landmarkism among the "strong as a bear's breath" type of independent Baptists. In the Providence of God, I was enabled by His grace to study my way out of it and abandoned it in 1964.
Since I knew Landmarkism very well from the "inside" of independent Baptists and saw its divisive and sectarian character, I wrote a book, OLD LANDMARKISM AND THE BAPTISTS, briefly discussing the history and teachings of Graves and other Landmark Baptists, including myself. If you have not seen the book, I will be happy to send you a free copy. It is a 188-page paperback, fully documented.
Over the past 41 years, I have received many testimonies from readers -- especially preachers -- who have been helped by my various writings on the erroneous theories and practices of Landmarkism.
Here in Texas, as recently as this week I read the SBTC Texan magazine article by Jim Richards which advocated some of the principles involved in Landmarkism (Feb. 6, 2006, page 5). I hate to see the SBTC leadership get on this dead-end trail which leads to the type of Landmark sectarianism which I have witnessed among independent Baptists, the American Baptist Association (Texarkana headquarters), and the Baptist Missionary Association (Little Rock headquarters).
I have tried my best to maintain fellowship with Christian brethren who hold to Landmarkism, but they usually have held me at arm's length and regard me as a heretic!
Bob L. Ross
"Old Landmarkism" and the Baptists
An examination of the erroneous theories of CHURCH AUTHORITY and CHURCH SUCCESSION of the so-called LANDMARK BAPTIST movement.
The term LANDMARKISM is a nickname which refers to ecclesiastical views arranged as a logical system or ecclesiastical order and popularized by the late James Robinson Graves (1820-1893). According to Landmarkers, there is no authority in either the Word or from the Spirit for doing the work of the Great Commission; this authority comes solely from the local Baptist church.
It is held in theory by an undetermined number of Baptists in various conventions, associations, fellowships and independent churches. The system, sometimes called "church truth," is not exclusive to the Association Baptists, but according to Dr. I. K. Cross, the term "Landmarkism" has been widely used in "derision" for those Baptists in the fellowship of the American Baptist Association of Churches with which Dr. Cross is affiliated. There are quite a number of independent churches that are Landmark, but they do not affiliate with a convention or association. Usually, these churches do not believe there is scriptural authority for anything larger than the local church, although many of them do affiliate in "fellowships" and special "conferences."
Landmarkism involves the authenticity of a church as an organization, the administration and administrator of baptism, and the ordination of ministers. It is asserted that a church is unscriptural, baptism is invalid, and ministers are not duly ordained unless there is proper Church Authority for them. This is Landmarkism's "chief cornerstone."
Some writers of the past referred to this position as "high churchism." Consequently, the Landmark view is that Baptist Churches ALONE have the authority of Christ to evangelize, baptize and carry out all aspects of the commission. The system further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue. This position, though not uniformly defined among Landmarkers, is believed to have been taught by Christ in such verses as Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20.
While Landmarkers in general profess either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so, their efforts to advocate their system of "church truth" are almost invariably characterized by several quotations from secondary sources and their own respected authors, supposedly establishing the historical claim. Generally therefore, they believe that
1) the true and scriptural organization of a church,
2) the valid administration of baptism, and --
3) the proper ordination of a gospel minister,
all MUST all be enacted upon the authority of a sound and true, scriptural church namely, a church that was born through the authority of a "mother" church continuing in like manner back to the original apostolic church of Matthew 28 where "church authority" first "began".
In refuting these errors, Baptists and other Christians today can believe in the continuity of Christianity since Christ and may devote themselves to regulating their faith and practice by the Scriptures (in an orderly manner) without adhering to the Landmark teachings of church authority and succession. The authority which validates baptism, or any other scriptural action of our time, does not reside in the church institution any more than does the authority which validates salvation itself; authority resides in Jesus Christ and is expressed in His Word. The church itself is dependent upon this authority, but this authority is not dependent upon the church.
This book advocates no new or novel views in opposition to Landmarkism. The first Confession of Faith set forth by English Particular Baptists is the well-known Confession of 1644, and in Article 41 it states:
"The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this ordinance (baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching disciple, it being no where tied to a particular church, officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples."
Landmarkism, as a system, is of relatively recent origin among the Baptists, although various items in the system have been obvious at certain times in our history. But at least not until J. R. Graves popularized all of the related concepts in systematic form did a significant segment of Baptists finally become a fragmentation from other Baptists (in the Preface of his book, Old Landmarkism; What Is It?, Graves takes credit for "inaugurating the reform" which became known as Landmarkism).
May this book assist all who read it to see Landmarkism in its proper perspective among the Baptists. -- Bob L. Ross
The following are some great quotes from C.H. Spurgeon. The emphasis is all mine. Spurgeon said in his day what I am attempting to say today.
C. H. SPURGEON (The Sword and Trowel, 1974, page 267, 268):
From "Fragments of Popery Among Nonconformists" --
It is very natural that our friends should desire their minister to baptize them, and yet there is no reason why he should do so on account of his office. It does not appear from the Scriptures to have been an act peculiar to preachers; in fact, at least one of them, and he by no means the least, was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. A vigorous Christian member of the church is far more in his place in the baptismal waters than his ailing, consumptive, or rheumatic pastor. Any objection urged against this assertion is another unconscious leaning to tradition, if not a relic of superstition.
The usefulness of the ordinance does not depend upon the baptizer, but upon the gracious meditation and earnest prayer of the person baptized: the good which he will receive will depend upon how far his whole soul is receptive of the divine influence, and in no sense, manner, or degree upon the agent of the baptism.
We do not know what Paedobaptists think upon their ceremony, but we fear that the most of them must have the minister to do it, and would hardly like their infants to be left to the operation of an unordained man. If it be so, we do not so very much wonder at their belief, for as it is clear that no good arises to an infant from its own prayers or meditations during the ceremony, there is a natural tendency to look for some official importance in the performer of the rite; but yet we do not and cannot believe that our Paedobaptist friends have fallen so low as that; we make no charge, and hope we shall never have cause to do so.
For Baptists to attach the smallest importance to the ordinance of baptism being administered either by a minister or a private member would be to the last degree inconsistent, and yet we are not sure that the inconsistency is not to be found in many quarters. It behooves ministers to break down in time every tendency to make us into necessary adjuncts of the ordinances, for this is one step towards making us priests.
All I can say is "Amen" Mr. Spurgeon!