The Cotton Grove Resolutions

This morning we return to the Introduction of J.R. Graves’ book:“Old Landmarkism.”

With more research, I have been able to discover a few things that I missed last week. For example, I did locate five references to the Cotton Grove Resolutions on the internet. Unfortunately, they were not full examinations, but only references. Perhaps, as Brother Graves suggested in this Introduction they were “famous” in 1880, but they are just an historical footnote today. A second thing that I found was the meaning of J.R.’s initials: Bro. Graves full name was James Robinson Graves. Furthermore, the full name of his fellow soldier in these battles for Baptist doctrine: J. M. Pendleton was James as well: James Madison Pendleton. There was actually a third member of this Landmark team: A. C. Dayton. His full name was Amos Cooper Dayton.

I also learned that the pedobaptist who immersed Graves’ mother and sister was a Congregationalist, which is not surprising since was born and raised in New England. J.R. was raised in a Congregational church.

Furthermore, it was the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee which ordained him to the ministry. This was the same church which said that the alien immersion of his mother was satisfactory. And this was the church which first began to publish what became “The Tennessee Baptist.” Graves was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Nashville. He became pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee. And when Bro. Howell, was no longer able to publish his Baptist paper, it was given to the bright young man from Vermont: J. R. Graves. J.M. Pendleton often wrote for the paper, and A.C. Dayton eventually became the assistant editor.

In our introduction last week, we read the five questions that produced the Cotton Grove Resolutions. I realize that we will come to these questions again in our examination of this book, but I thought that it might be good to return to them now, let’s also consider more deeply the false accusations which were being thrown at the early Landmarkers.

Let’s begin with the five points of the Cotton Grove Resolutions.
To quote the book: “1st. Can Baptists, consistently with their principles or the Scriptures, recognize those societies not organized according to the pattern of the Jerusalem Church, but possessing different governments, different officers, and different class of members, different ordinances, doctrines and practices, as churches of Christ? “2d. Ought they to he called gospel churches, or churches in a religious sense? “3d. Can we consistently recognize the ministers of such irregular and unscriptural bodies as gospel ministers? “4th. Is it not virtually recognizing them as official ministers to invite them into our pulpits, or by any other act that would or could be construed into such a recognition? “5th. Can we consistently address as brethren those professing Christianity, who not only have not the doctrine of Christ and walk not according to his commandments, but are arrayed in direct and bitter opposition to them?” These queries were unanimously answered in the negative, and the Baptists of Tennessee generally, and multitudes all over the South, indorsed the decision.

Can Baptists, consistently with their principles or the Scriptures, recognize those societies not organized according to the pattern of the Jerusalem Church, but possessing different governments, different officers, and different class of members, different ordinances, doctrines and practices, as churches of Christ? What is the text book that Baptists use to learn what they are supposed to believe and do? Do we find in the pages of the Bible a pattern, or examples, of churches? Should we assume that the churches of the New Testament, were the sort of churches God wants today? What should we think of modern churches which are NOT like the churches of the Bible? What is meant by Graves’ thought that some churches have different governments? What is meant by the thought that some churches have different officers? What is meant by the thought that some churches have different class of members? What is meant by the thought that some churches have different ordinances? What is meant by the thought that some churches have different doctrines? Can Baptists, consistent with the Scriptures consider societies with these kinds of differences as churches of Christ? Secondly, should they be called “gospel CHURCHES” or “New Testament CHURCHES?” What should we think about the ministers of those churches? What would I be telling everyone if I invited the Nazarene pastor to preach for us tonight? What would I be saying if I invited the pastor of the Post Falls Baptist church to preach on Wednesday? What would I be saying if I encouraged you to attend a church service at the New Life Church? What would I be saying if I asked you to vote to receive into our membership someone who had been saved and baptized in a Congregationalist church? Resolution #5 asks: Have we any Biblical authority to call someone a “brother in Christ, “when that man believes and teaches that baptism washes away sin? What are we doing if we should call that man a “brother?” Do we have any Biblical authority to call someone a “brother in Christ,” if that person professes to trust only Christ and His shed blood for salvation, even if he is a member of a Congregationalism church?

In my simplicity, I don’t find anything radical, illogical or un-Biblical in the answer to any of these questions. But, what does the rest of Christendom think about these questions and answers? Should it worry or upset us that 90% or 95% of Christendom disagrees with us on these issues?

Now, let’s consider the accusations made against Landmark Baptists which Bro. Graves mentions in his introduction.
Many believe that simple opposition to inviting ministers into our pulpits is the whole of it, when the title to the tract, bearing the title “Old Landmarks Reset,” indicated that that was only one of the landmarks of our fathers. Why is it that we should not invite a Presbyterian preacher into our pulpit? It’s not that we are unfriendly or inhospitable? This is the Lord’s house and we cannot show our approval of that man’s false doctrine and false church.

Some have been influenced to believe that we hold to “apostolic succession.” What is the doctrine of “apostolic succession?” Does the Bible teach that the office of apostle would be on-going? What is the difference between “apostolic succession” and on-going “church authority?”

Some think that we hold that baptism is essential to salvation, but its efficacy ineffectual unless we can prove the unbroken connection of the administrator with some apostle. Do we believe that baptism is essential to salvation? Why are there people who assume that we believe that? (Because they believe that doctrine.)

Others think that we hold that any flaw in the qualification of the present administrator, or any previous one in the line of his succession, however remote, invalidates all his baptisms and ministerial acts, as marriages, etc., past, present, and future, and necessitates the re-baptisms and re-marriages of all he has ever immersed or married. This is a point at which we need to be careful. There are very few pastors and churches that agree in every point. Over time even the men ordained by their home church begin to disagree with that church in small points. We see that with J.R. Graves and the pastor of the church which ordained him. Even though total agreement between pastors and churches is difficult, if not impossible, those churches may still be friends and brethren, until at some point one doctrinal difference becomes so great that the two cannot fellowship together. Do we believe that “any flaw” invalidates the authority of a church? Do we believe that there are “some flaws” which actually do invalidate that assembly as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ? What are some examples of that?

Bro. Graves concluded his introduction with these words: “It is certainly due to those who bear the name to our practice those principles which all true Baptists, in all ages, have professed to believe. Be this as it may, one thing is certainly true, no man in this century has suffered, or is now suffering, more than myself “in the house of my friends,” for a rigid maintenance of them.” I’m not in a position to argue that J.R. Graves did, or did not, suffer more reproach than any other man in his generation for taking a Landmark stand. That could very well be the truth. But I think that if he were here today, he’d have to say that a Landmark position is still hated and feared even among Baptists today.

He also said that these are principles which all true Baptists, in all ages, have professed to believe. That is also something to which I completely concur.