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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Old Landmarkism

William Cathcart

The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881

The following sketch was written at the editor’s request by one of the ablest Baptist ministers in this country. His account of the opinions of all landmarkers is entirely reliable:

The origin of the term old-landmarkism was as follows: about the year 1850, Rev. J. D. Graves, editor of the Tennessee Baptist, published at Nashville, Tenn., began to advocate the position that Baptists cannot consistently recognize Pedobaptist preachers of the gospel. For several years he found but few to sympathize with this view.

Among the few was Rev. J M. Pendleton, then of Bowling Green, Ky., who in 1854 was requested by Mr. Graves to write an essay on this question, “Ought Baptists to recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers?” The essay was published in four consecutive numbers of the aforesaid paper, and afterwards in the form of a tract. The title given to it by Mr. Graves was “An Old Landmark Reset.” The title was consider appropriate, because there had been a time when ministerial recognition and exchange of pulpits between Baptists and Pedobaptist were unknown.

This was an old landmark, but in the course of years it had fallen. When it was raised again it was called “an old land mark reset.” Hence the term “old-landmarkism,” and later years, by way of abridgment “landmarkism.”

That doctrine of landmarkism is not a novelty, as some suppose, is evident, because William Kiffin, of London, one of the noblest of English Baptists, advocated it in 1640, and with those who agreed with him formed a church, of which he was pastor till his death, in 1701, a very long pastorate. These facts are taken from Cramp’s “Baptist History,” and he refers to Ivimey’s Life of Kiffin.

Benedict, in his, “Fifty Years among the Baptists,” in referring to the early part of this century, says, “At that time the exchange of pulpits between the advocates and the opponents of infant baptism was a thing of very rare occurrence, except in a few of the more distinguished churches in the Northern States. Indeed, the doctrine of non-intercourse, so far as ministerial services were concerned, almost universally prevailed between Baptists and Pedobaptists.” pp. 94, 95.

Truly the old landmark once stood, and having fallen, it was deemed proper to rest it.

The doctrine of landmarkism is that baptism and church membership precede the preaching of the gospel, even as they precede communion at the Lord’s table. The argument is that Scriptural authority to preach emanates, under God, from a gospel church; that as “a visible church is a congregation of baptized believers,” etc., it follows that no Pedobaptist organization is a church in the Scriptural sense of the term, and that therefore Scriptural authority to preach cannot proceed from such an organization. Hence the non-recognition of Pedobaptist ministers, who are not interfered with, but simply let alone.

At the time the Old Landmarkism Reset was written the topic of non-ministerial intercourse was the chief subject of discussion. Inseparable, however, from the landmark view of this matter, is a denial the Pedobaptist societies are Scriptural churches, the Pedobaptist ordinations are valid, and that immersions administered by Pedobaptist ministers can be consistently accepted by any Baptist church. All these things are denied, and the intelligent reader will see why.