Last week we looked at four foundational facts which underlie the ideas about church authority. First fact: “That Christ while on earth did build a Church, unlike any institution that had ever been seen.” That Jesus is still building His church doesn’t mean that He didn’t begin to build it before Pentecost and before His death on the cross.
Second fact: “That Christ set up but one church, and built but one house, which he called “the house of God,” “the Church of the living God,” and which was to be “the pillar and ground of the truth.” Eventually there were many churches, even in the days of the Book of Acts, but they were all basically duplicates and replicas of the first church that Jesus’ started. The Lord Jesus built one KIND of church.
Third fact: “That Christ did not found His church with different parts in deadly antagonism to each other, or in open rebellion to His own authority, laws and government – ie. an house divided against itself. Nor did Christ construct His house, which he designed for His own glory and praise, of different and discordant materials, so that, from their very nature they could never be “fitly framed together” and become a homogeneous compacted whole. Furthermore Christ’s kingdom is never to be brought to desolation, and his Church is to stand forever.”
Fourth fact: “It will be granted by all that there are hundreds of distinct religious organizations in America, each radically dissimilar in form and faith, each asserting its right to be considered a scriptural church, and, in more respects than any other, like the original organization which Christ set up to be the model and pattern for all His churches. Now, the unthinking multitude is taught to believe that all these sects are equally scriptural, and that it is proof of “intolerant bigotry” and the lack of all “Christian charity,” to assert that all can not be true churches, or if one is indeed scriptural all the rest must be unscriptural. The absurdity of admitting them all to be equally churches of Christ does not occur to them. ”
Some direct inferences from these admitted facts are: First: “That the popular “church-branch theory” is a bald absurdity. That theory, as preached and taught by those who pride themselves upon being non-undenominational Christians, is that all these different sects are “branches of the true Church.” “Branch” is a relative term, and implies necessarily a trunk or body, but they are unable to tell us what or where the trunk or body of the tree is! The absurdity of the conception of a tree bearing natural branches of fifteen or twenty different kinds of wood does not seem to occur to these people or their teachers!
Second Inference: The absurdity of the “church-army theory,” which is a popular pulpit illustration with “non-denominational preachers.” This theory is, that all the different denominations compose one great army, Christ being the Captain, and the various sects the regiments, brigades and divisions, and their different creeds the different flags, etc. The illustration breaks down fatally when we remember that the parts of an army are all under the same laws and army regulations, and drilled by the same tactics. They are not in conflict, each regiment with every other regiment in the army, as these different denominations, called churches, are. They are doing the army more deadly harm than the common enemy can do!
The third Inference from the premise is the equal absurdity of the “universal church theory.” This theory is, that all the different and opposing sects, taken together, constitute the “church” or the kingdom of Christ on earth, and all the true Christians in these sects constitute the “invisible, spiritual Church.” This theory is too preposterously absurd to be put forth by men who have any respect for the wisdom of the Divine Founder of the Church. Infidels could wish for no better argument against Christianity. I honestly believe that those who preach, hold, and teach these absurd and unscriptural church theories make more infidels than by all the speeches and writings of infidels themselves. Convince a man that it is true that Christ created all these diverse sects, and is the author of their radically different and mutually destructive faiths, and he must be either an infidel or a fool. If they mean invisible kingdom, the reply is, Christ has not two kingdoms or two churches, considered as institutions, for He has but one Bride, and will have but one “wife” – the Lord is not a bigamist.
These were Graves’ four basic facts and three inferences from those facts.
It is asserted by the advocates of an “non-denominational Christianity,” that Baptists and Pedobaptists hold “in common all the fundamental doctrines and essential principles of Christianity, differing only in non-essentials.” This is a thorough misstatement of the real facts in the case, and calculated to deceive and mislead the unthinking.
Even various branches of Protestants are fundamentally opposed to each other; For example, the Presbyterians will admit, and openly maintain, that their Calvinism is vitally opposed to the Arminianism of the Methodists, and Methodists will just as freely assert that their Arminianism is fundamentally and essentially opposed to Calvinism. Presbyterians hold and teach that Arminianism is subversive to Christianity and Methodists affirm the same of Calvinism. If one preaches the Gospel, then the other certainly does not. Another example: every sound Baptist in the land will affirm that the fundamental doctrines and principles of Pedobaptism are utterly subversive of the whole system of Christianity. Therefore, it is not true that Baptists and Pedobaptists “hold in common” all the fundamentals of Christianity and are equally evangelical. In doctrine they differ radically.
Axiom 2. – Two truths or a thousand truths can no more conflict with each other, than two or one thousand parallel lines can cross each other. Neither two nor one thousand SCRIPTURAL churches can be doctrinally different. If they are both scriptural they must be essentially one in fundamental doctrines and principles, having “one faith and one baptism” in form and design, as certainly as one Lord and Savior. Therefore, all truly scriptural churches are equal to and like each other. And therefore, the hundreds of different denominations in America are not all scriptural. If one is scriptural, then ONLY one is.
Axiom 3. – Since Baptist, Campbellite and Pedobaptist organizations, are fundamentally and vitally different in doctrine, in character and in principles… And if Baptist churches are scriptural, as those Baptists do believe, then all Pedobaptist and Campbellite societies are not scriptural, and vice versa. It requires us to do violence to the plainest dictates of reason to demand that we admit that opposites and contradictories are one and the same, or equal.
Axiom 4. – Contradictory systems or theories no more than competing elements in nature, like light and darkness, can exist in the same time or place without antagonism. The harmony of opinions, which say that only THEY are correct, is impossible. There can not be any harmony or real union of effort between a system of religion founded in truth, and systems of religion founded in error; and sham unions are hypocritical and sinful. Compromise is the settlement of differences between two or more parties by mutual concessions. Principles, moral convictions and the revealed truths of God can not be denied, yielded or modified in order to create a compromise, in the same way that opinions, prejudices, feelings and self-interests may be.
For example, politics has been defined “the science of compromise” because based upon opinions, self-interests and prejudices, and these may be conceded or modified. Christianity, being a system of divinely revealed truths and principles to be held and proclaimed in their entirety, and therefore admitting no increase or diminution, can neither be conceded nor modified. Therefore, between Bible Christianity and systems of religion that are not Christianity, between the gospel and “a gospel which is another gospel,” there can be no compromise or affiliation. By withholding any of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity in our preaching, we can no more preach the gospel of Christ than we can spell the English language without the consonants; and to agree to withhold any part of the gospel, for any length of time, to effect a compromise with those who do not hold it, is manifest treason. Those ministers who hold “union meetings” with those who believe and teach contrary to God’s Word, can not at the close of those meetings say: ”We have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God.”
Axiom 5. – Compromise, being based upon mutual concessions, when effected between truth and error, truth must always suffer, since error has no truth to surrender. If I owe you $100, but I don’t even have a dime. You might compromise and agree for me to pay you $75, but I have nothing to compromise, because I have no money – no truth.
Axiom 6. – “The accessory before or after the fact is equally guilty with the principal.” – Common law. If we receive or pass, or encourage others to receive and pass, counterfeit money, we make ourselves equally guilty with those who counterfeit it. Unscriptural systems of religion and churches are counterfeits of Christianity and counterfeit churches.
To associate with the teachers of these systems so as to impress them and their followers, and all who witness our acts, that we recognize them as the accredited ministers of God”s truth; we encourage them in their work and thus “bid them God-speed” and make ourselves accessories to, and partakers of their sins. II John 10-11: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Second: to establish clearly what are the “Old Landmarks,” the characteristic principles and policy, of true Baptists in all these ages.
To demonstrate, by invincible argument, that treating the ministers of other denominations as the accredited ministers of the gospel, and receiving any of their official acts – preaching or immersion – as scriptural, we do proclaim, louder than we can by words, that their societies are evangelical churches, and their teachings and practices are as orthodox as our own; and that by so doing we do encourage our own families, and the world, to enter their societies in preference to Baptist churches, because, with them, the offense of “the cross hath ceased.”
With the sole desire to gain the “well-done” of my Divine Master I shall write these pages regardless of the praise or censure of sinful men.