Early American Landmarkism – Jeremiah 18:15

Last Sunday, when Bro. Nimmo showed me his picture of George Washington being baptized by John Gano, he also handed me a taped interview of a pastor who has just written a 600 page book on Baptist history in America. I confess to having some skepticism as I began to listen to that tape. First, because the author was a man of whom I had never heard (as if I should know all the Landmark Baptists in the United States). And then secondly it was because the interview was being conducted by the Southwest Radio Church. What do those middle-of-the-roaders know or care about Baptist history? But as we listened to about an hour and a half of interviews I was very impressed. Despite saying things that I had never heard before, there was nothing that he said to which I disagreed. For example, although showing great respect for Roger Williams, he said that he was not a Baptist and the first Baptist Church in this country was planted by John Clark. He made the statement that Williams was the first real American, but the first real American Baptist was Clark. He also said that George Washington was baptized by a Baptist preacher, and he logically explained why. I was so impressed with the interview that when I got home I ordered the book.

That interview also encouraged me to go back more Baptist church history for our lesson today. So this morning we focus on American Baptist history, as it relates to Landmarkism. From the planting of the first church in Newport, Rhode Island, A.D. 1638, until 1776, Baptists were, in faith and practice, “Landmarkers.”

Let’s think about the New England Baptists.
Did the Puritans on the Mayflower in 1620 AD come here with the intention of establishing a nation where there would be genuine freedom to worship the Lord? They came with the intent of protecting their own particular creed and guaranteeing that THEY could worship and they chose without being confused by other faiths, or by the truth. So when they framed their laws, they put both their creed and their sword into the hands of magistrates, and made it those men’s highest duty to see that all men, who wanted to enjoy the protection of their laws had to accept their religion. This was freely acknowledged by them: “And because they foresaw that this wilderness might be looked upon as a place of liberty, and, therefore, might in time be troubled with erroneous spirits; therefore, they did put one article into the confession of faith, on purpose, about the duty and power of the magistrate in matters of religion” (Morton’s New Eng. Mem., p. 145-6). “The reforming churches, flying from Rome, carried, some of them more, some of them less, all of them something of Rome with them, especially in that spirit of imposition and persecution which has too much cleaved unto them all.” (Samuel Mather – Apology, Appendix, p. 149).

Of all the so-called “erroneous spirits,” the Puritans regarded the Anabaptists – the Baptists – as the most pernicious and dangerous to the state, and against them they enacted the most cruel laws. The Records of the Massachusets Colony contains this statement: “Forasmuch as experience hath plentifully and often proved that since the first rising of the Anabaptists, about one hundred years since, they have been the incendiaries of the Commonwealth, and the infectors of persons in matters of religion, and the troublers of churches in all places where they have been, and that they who have held the baptizing of infants unlawful, have usually held other errors, or heresies, together therewith, though they have concealed the same till they spied out a fit advantage and opportunity to vent them, by way of question or scruple; and, whereas, divers of this kind have, since our coming into New England, appeared amongst ourselves, some whereof denied the ordinance of magistracy, and lawfulness of making war; and others, the lawfulness of magistracy, and their inspection into any breach of the first table; which opinions, if they should be carried out by us, are like to be increased amongst us, and so, must necessarily bring guilt upon us, infection and trouble to the churches, and hazard to the whole Commonwealth; it is ordered and agreed that if any person, or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance, or shall deny the ordinance of magistracy, or their lawful right and authority to make war, or to punish the outward breaches of the first table, and shall appear to the Court willfully and obstinately to continue therein, after due time and means of conviction, every person, or persons, shall be sentenced to banishment.”

And so there was open hunting on the Baptists.
In 1644, a man named Painter refused to have his child baptized, and when arraigned before the Court, told them that it was, in his opinion, an antichristian ordinance. For this he was tied up and whipped. Governor Winthrop declared that he was whipped for “reproaching the Lord’s ordinance.” (Backus, vol. 1, p. 127). John Smith, for gathering a church at Weymouth, “contrary to the orders,” was fined twenty pounds. Richard Sylvester, for going with Smith, was disfranchised (stripped of citizenship) and fined forty shillings. Ambrose Morton, for calling the Puritan covenant a human invention, and that their ministers did dethrone Christ and set up themselves, was fined ten pounds ($50).

July 19, 1651, John Clark, pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, R.I., along with church members Obadiah Holmes, and (John) Crandel, visited William Witter, of Lynn, Mass. a brother of the church, who, by reason of his advanced age, could not undertake so great a journey as to attend the services. The next day, being Sunday, Mr. Clark decided to hold a preaching service in his house. In the midst of the sermon two constables appeared, and arrested the three men, and carried them away to an ale house first, and then proposed to carry them to one of the Congregational churches. Mr. Clark replied: “Then we shall be constrained to declare ourselves, that we can not hold communion with them,” i.e., even by appearing in their religious assemblies. “We shall declare our dissent from you both by words and gesture,” but the constables persisted. Later Clark testified: “At my first stepping over the threshold, I unveiled myself, civilly saluted them, and turned into the seat I was appointed to, put on my hat again and sat down, opened my book, and so fell to reading.” At the close of the sermon Mr. Clark arose and courteously asked permission to state why he was there, and why he put on his hat to declare his dissent: He said, “I could not judge that you were gathered together and walk according to the visible order of our Lord.” Many modern Baptists think what Bro. Clark did was unchristian and discourteous, but he believed that if he didn’t do something which declared his disagreement with them, he would have been accused of showing approval of the worship of the Congregationalists. He believed that it was unscriptural to bid them “God-speed,” and so, by “gesture,” he declared his dissent.

All three men were then committed to prison. Mr. John Spur, then a member of the Baptist church at Newport, was present and wrote: “Mr. Cotton, in his sermon, immediately before the Court gave their sentence against Mr. Clark, Holmes, and Crandel, and affirmed, that denying infant baptism would overthrow all, and this was a capital offense; and therefore they were soul-murderers.” They were fined, Mr. Clark twenty pounds, Holmes thirty pounds, and Crandel five pounds, and they were ordered to remain in prison until their fines were either paid or security given, or else they were to be “well whipped.” Friends, without Clark’s knowledge, paid his fine, but this was not the case with Holmes. When he was brought forth to receive his stripes, he desired of the magistrates permission to speak, which was refused. The executioner then “having removed so much of his garments as would hinder the effect of the scourge, and having fastened him to the post, (On Boston Commons – Does anyone know what happened on Boston Commons?) The executioner “seized a three-corded whip, and laid on the blows in a most unmerciful manner. Stroke followed stroke as rapidly as was consistent with effective execution, each blow leaving its crimson furrow, or its long blue wale on the sufferer”s quivering flesh. The only pause was when the executioner ceased for a moment in order to spit in his hands, so as to take a firmer hold of the handle of the whip to render the strokes more severe. This he did three times.” Ninety stripes! The blood flowed down, filled, and overflowed his shoes and bathed the ground. For weeks after he could only rest upon his knees and elbows. So lacerated was his body, he could not suffer it to touch the bed. When released from the post, his brother Spur took him by the hand, and with a joyful countenance, said, “Praised be the Lord!” and walked with him to the prison. For this grievous offense he was arrested and fined by the Court ”forty shillings, or to be whipped.” John Hazel, another of Mr. Holmes’ brethren, an old, sick man, had traveled nearly fifty miles to see his beloved brother, also gave him his hand, and said, “Blessed be God.” He was likewise arrested, thrown into prison, and fined forty shillings, or to receive ten strokes with a three-corded whip. This was the fellowship Protestants had for Baptists in that age.

One of the reasons that Baptists were treated this way was because they practiced Landmark principles. C. E. Barrow, quoted one of Clark’s sermons: “He also charges the people to steer clear of – the opinion of those, on the one hand, who destroyed the purity and spirituality of the church by uniting it with the civil power, and by introducing into it unregenerate material by infant baptism; and of the opinion of those, on the other hand, who denied that there were any visible churches. He would have them avoid both extremes, not turn to the left side in a visible way of worship, indeed, but such as was neither appointed by Christ, nor yet practiced by those who first trusted in him; nor to the right in no visible way of worship or order at all, either pretending . . . that the church is now in the wilderness, or that the time of its recovery is not yet.” (Semi-centennial Discourse, p. 22). In other words, John Clark warned his people against the false order and worship of Pedobaptists on the one hand, and the no order and anarchy of Roger Williams on the other.

One hundred and twenty-seven years after this, we find the Baptists in New England still being fined and imprisoned, and as the objects of the most disgraceful indignities. “Two young ministers were called to preach in Pepperell, near forty miles north-westward of Boston, to whom six persons offered themselves as candidates for baptism. Therefore, on June 26th they met in a field by a river side, where prayers were made, and a sermon begun, when the chief officers of the town, with many followers, came and interrupted their worship. A dog was carried into the river and plunged in, in evident contempt of our sentiments. A gentleman of the town then invited the Baptists to go and hold their meetings at his house, which was near another river. They accepted it, and so went through with their worship – at the close of which a man was hired, with a bowl of liquor, to go into the river and dip another two or three times over, when also two or three dogs more were plunged; after which three officers of the town came into the house where the Baptist ministers were, and advised them to immediately depart out of that town for their own safety” (Backus).

Doesn’t this next statement make the Baptists of Revolutionary period sound somewhat Landmarkish? The Puritans declared to the Court that “Some [Baptists] have had the affrontery to say that the standing ministry is corrupt; ministers themselves unconverted; the churches impure and unholy, admitting unconverted and unsanctified persons into their communion” (Quoted by Backus).

Can any one believe that Baptists would believe this, and then by affiliating with those same people recognize these unconverted ministers and these sects as scriptural churches? If our Baptist forefathers were this stubborn for the truth, shouldn’t we be equally so?

In 1767 many of the Baptist churches in New England began to fellowship as the Warren Association. That association, by the way, in the middle of 19th century refused to recognize John Clark’s church in Newport, Rhode Island, because by that time it had begun to practice open communion. In 1770, because of the “standing order,” to sell people’s lands and homes to pay the tax to support the hireling ministers of the Puritans, the Warren Association resolved to appeal the King, and appointed a committee to collect grievances. Then it published the following in the Boston Post, August 20th, 1770:

“To the Baptists in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, who are, or have been, oppressed in any way on a religious account, it would be needless to tell you that you have long felt the effects of the laws by which the religion of the government in which you live is established. Your purses have felt the burden of ministerial rates; and, when these would not satisfy your enemies, your property has been taken from you and sold for less than half its value. These things you can not forget. You will, therefore, readily hear and attend when you are desired to collect your cases of suffering, and have them well attested; such as the taxes you have paid to build meeting-houses, to settle ministers and support them [i.e., for their enemies], with all the time, money, and labor you have lost in waiting on courts, feeing lawyers,” etc., etc. (Backus, vol. 2, p. 155).

“Mr. Nathan Underwood [Pedobaptist minister of Harwich] and his collector seized six men, who were Baptists, on the 1st day of December, 1795, and carried them as far as Yarmouth, where one of them was taken so ill being old and infirm before, that he saw no way to save his life but to pay the tax and cost; which he did and the other five were carried to the prison at Barnstable, where they also paid the money rather than to lie in the cold all winter. Their collector went to the house of one of the Baptists when he was not at home, January 8th, 1796, and seized a cow for a tax to said minister; but his wife and daughter came out and took hold of the cow, and his wife promised to pay the money, if her husband would not do it, and they let the cow go, and she went to Mr. Underwood the next day and paid the tax and costs, and took his receipt therefor. Yet four days after, the woman and two daughters, one of whom was not there when the cow was taken, were seized and carried before the authorities, and fined seven dollars for talking to the collector and his aide, and, taking hold of the cow while they had her in possession, so they had to let her go” (Backus).

We could go on, but for this morning, I’ll close we a quote from J.R. Graves: “Let the most prejudiced Anti-Landmark Baptist – the most “liberal” Baptist on the continent – if a Christian man, with the facts before him, decide whether the Baptists of New England, from 1638 to 1796, regarded or treated Pedobaptist organizations as Evangelical churches, and their bloodthirsty and cormorant preachers as ministers of the gospel of love and peace.”

Baptists in America prior to the Revolutionary War were Landmark Baptists.