The Pastor\’s Pen

An Independent Baptist Preacher\’s Musings and Observations

Old Landmarkism

Posted by Pastor Szekely on August 12, 2008

[The following was taken from The Baptist Encyclopedia, William Cathcart, Editor, 1881]

The following sketch was written at the editor’s [Cathcart] 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. R. Graves, editor of The Tennessee Baptist, published at Nashville, TN, began to advocate the position that Baptists cannot consistently recognize Pedobaptist preachers as gospel ministers. 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 considered appropriate because there had been a time when ministerial recognition and exchange of pulpits between Baptists and Pedobaptists 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 landmark reset“. Hence the term “old-landmarkism,” and of late years, by way of abridgment, “landmarkism“.


That the 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 [J.M.] Cramp’s “Baptist History,” and he refers to [Joseph] Ivimey’s “Life of Kiffin“:


[David] 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 reset 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 Landmark 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 that Pedobaptist societies are Scriptural churches, that 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.


12 Responses to “Old Landmarkism”

  1. Kate said

    This is interesting reading. I did not know anything about landmarkism. I feel like I’ve been in school 😉

  2. Thanks, Kate!

    As the post said, it was a big issue back then…and the title “landmarkism” was attached to it.

    Not many Baptists realize that in our history some of our pulpits were being given over to and shared with “pedobaptists”, or infant-baptizers…something that was not acceptable before, but came into vogue. This is when and why men like Graves and Pendleton and others spoke out and written against this. They saw an “old landmark reset”.

    God forbid it happends today, but I believe in some pulpits, history has repeated itself. You know the old saying, “Sometimes all we ever learn from history is nothing”. I pray through this post we as Baptists would be reminded and educated to an old landmark of the Faith.

    I hope you liked it and I pray it helps!

    Lord bless, sis!

    🙂 Class dismissed 🙂

  3. iowabaptist said

    Praise the Lord!

    I had just finished reading Pendleton’s tract, “An Old Landmark Reset” just yesterday! It is amazing how any Bible believer could NOT agree with this view. Thanks for “reseting” the “landmark” of “landmarkism”. I intend on posting on this subject as well, on my blog in the future.

  4. You’re right, brother D!

    I too cannot see how a true student and workman of the Word of God would not be able to agree to this…

    I’m thankful this post was a blessing…BTW: Two more posts from now I have one coming up on Elder John Leland and the First Amendment…stay tuned!

    I’ll be checking out your blog, and Lord bless!

  5. Mark said

    I was a member of a Landmark Baptist church for several years. However, I found that, in the end, the members did NOT hold to Landmarkism if they felt it was expedient to discard it.One example: A possible candidate for pastor wasn’t properly baptized. He wasn’t only considered, he was voted in as pastor.He shouldn’t even have been considered for membership. My wife and I left that church.It was apparant how the other members felt about one of the main points of Landmarkism which to us seemed essential to a proper church. I don’t mean to say all Landmark Baptists are like this, however.

  6. G’day Mark!

    It was unfortunate to hear about your situation at that church. That was Biblically wrong for that man to be considered and accepted as a member and pastor. Scriptural baptism is THE DOOR into the membership of a true N.T. church. What are churches doing??? It’s just amazing.

    Did the Lord lead you and your wife to another church?

    Thank you for clicking in ~ Lord bless!

  7. Mark said

    We did move our membership to another church. The problem was that the pastor of this meeting was a friend of the man newly made pastor of the first church. This eventually caused problems between us.

    We were at cross purposes as he kept telling me that I should make statements to his friend regarding the situation. I felt what the first church had done was wrong but as I was no longer a member there (and had been unable to change the course of action taken while I was there) that it was not my business to intervene.

    What the first church did was, in my mind, absolutely uncalled for. It caused me great sadness.However, they had taken this course of action and were not about to reverse it.I refused to be involved with telling the pastor or the church what to do.

    It became very hard for my wife and I to remain in this assembly. One morning after preaching I told the pastor that we did not feel comfortable being there and that we were leaving. I won’t describe the scene that followed. It is enough to say that I have not been to a Landmark Baptist church since then and not a lot of churches of any kind in the years that have followed.

  8. Thank you for your words, Mark…

    Let me say that I’m very sorry all this has come about in your walk with Christ. I too have been involved in “a church or two” where the pastor had acted in similar fashion.

    It breaks my heart to hear that because of these incidents, you and your family haven’t “joined up with the disciples” at another Baptist church.

    Believe me…I can understand and sympathize with your situation, but let me phrase what I want to say in this way: Why take it out on God? Do you know what I mean? Even though man has let you down, why forsake God and His Word about church?

    I really wish I could be a help to you more. You just don’t know how many times I hear things like this happening to people.

    You’re always welcomed to come to our church 🙂

    Lord bless you, Mark, in what you have to do next. If I can be a help to you with the Scriptures, please let me know.

  9. Mark said

    Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about some of this stuff.It is hard to describe what it was like after leaving the second church except to say I felt very bad.This feeling lasted a long time.

    Over time I came to jetison Landmarkism. This had been an extremely important belief to me. Now that I had seen others who had been into it much longer than I had not really hold to it, I guess it was just a tremendous shock, a real jolt.

    Lately I have been re-examining Landmarkism, which is why I found your site.I thought I would look it over again. I don’t know where it will lead.I miss being with other believers but when we visit independent fundamental Baptist churches we feel out of place.In the recent past we have tried going to some places but they either come across like a circus, semi-pentecostal or just plain weird or silly.Some are just social gatherings. I went to a tent revival(fundamental Baptists put it on) a few weeks ago and was disgusted. There was more joke telling than preaching. What preaching there was consisted of ranting and shouting with no power. It actually made me mad.

    Too bad you are not closer to where I live, southwestern Virginia, near Tennessee.I might email you some questions that are on my mind so that you can help me sort them out.

  10. You’re welcome, Mark…I’ve had similar situations occur and although forgiveness was given, the hurt can linger.

    And wow…I hear what you’re saying about some our IFB churches today. Of course, I’m in the Midwest…but I’ve talked [just recently, in fact] with good preachers in the South and the Southeast, and consequently I’ve heard similar reports of the circus atmosphere and the neo-bapti-pentecostal junk that’s going on around them in supposedly “Independent Fundamental Baptist” churches. For what it’s worth – it makes me mad and disgusted too!

    Mark, I’d love to hear from you via email. You may reach me at szek1029 [AT] gmail [DOT] com. I pray to be a blessing to you, and thank you in advance for trying to work some things out.

    Lord bless.

  11. Mark said

    I will be mailing you something shortly.

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    […]Old Landmarkism « The Pastor’s Pen[…]…

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