The 1830's and 40's have been characterized as years of religious ferment and conflict. For the Baptists, as regards their relationships with other denominations, this was indeed true. The principal points of disagreement were, as might be expected, the Baptist position on the administration of baptism and their practice of close communion. Actually, there had been around the beginning of the nineteenth century a marked renewal of interest in these doctrinal matters and the conflict had continued unabated, with some increase in force and fervor, into the fourth and fifth decades of the century. The religious books and periodicals of the day, both Baptist and Pedobaptist, dealt rather largely with these matters, with remarkably little being settled and more confirmation of opinion than change.

The Bible controversy of the latter half of the thirties, which involved Baptist and Pedobaptists in their association together in the American Bible Society, was sparked by the long-continuing controversy over baptism and led to the organization of a separate Bible society under Baptist sponsorship. The immediate concern of this chapter is to show the relationship of the Bible controversy to the development of the Landmark movement of later years. It will be seen that the conflict did undoubtedly contribute to the fostering of ideas and attitudes among Baptists which not only aided the beginning of the Landmark movement but also made possible its rapid spread among Baptists. It will also be observed that Baptist sentiments toward other denominations, later regarded as Landmark, were widely prevalent in these years prior to 1851.

The American Bible Society and the "Baptizo" Question
The American Bible Society, like a great many other religious institutions of the day, was a product of the Second Great Awakening. It represented an effort on the part of leading men in a number of denominations to work together on what was conceived to be a most indispensable task: the distribution of the scriptures to every person in his own language. But the very nature of the task, which involved the encouragement and subsidizing of the translation of the scriptures into many languages, made it virtually inevitable that the society would run afoul of the Baptist-Pedobaptist conflict. This was precisely what occurred.

The Formation of the American Bible Society
The formal organization of the American Bible Society took place in the year 1816 at a Bible Convention called for that purpose, meeting in New York City. The purpose of the society was indicated in the first article of the constitution which was adopted:

This Society shall be known by the name of The American Bible Society, of which the sole object shall be to encourage a wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note of comment. The only copies in the English language to be circulated by the Society shall be of the version now in common use.1

This was the simplest possible statement of the purpose for which the Society was organized. There was nothing contained in this article or in any of the succeeding articles with reference to principles or a standard to be followed in the translation of the Bible into foreign languages. Apparently no difficulty was anticipated in this connection, but the failure to have a prior understanding with regard to principles of translation led to a serious rupture twenty years later and laid the basis for a Baptist charge that the Board of Managers acted in bad faith and contrary to the Bible Society constitution.

From its beginning, Baptists were active in the work of the Society and contributed generously of both their money and labor. Spencer H. Cone, of New York City, one of the ablest of Baptist leaders, served as one of the corresponding secretaries for the Society for several years. In the twenty years of Baptist affiliation with the Society, it has been estimated that more than $170,000 was given to the Bible cause by the Baptists.2 This record of Baptist cooperation in an interdenominational work is significant and suggests that Baptists were sincerely seeking ways in which they could conscientiously work with other denominations and yet maintain their distinctive witness.

The Request for Assistance with the Revised Bengali Version
In August 1835, a letter from William H. Pearce, Baptist missionary to India, was transmitted to the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society, inquiring as to the possibility of a monetary grant to aid in the printing and circulation of a revised edition of Carey’s Bengali Bible. Pearce and a fellow missionary, William Yates, had produced this revised version and had previously requested aid from the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Calcutta Bible Society, auxiliary to the British and Foreign. In both instances the request was refused, unless they would agree that

The Greek terms relating to baptism be rendered, either according to the principle adopted by the translators of the authorized English version, by a word derived from the original, or by such terms as may be considered unobjectionable by other denominations composing the Bible Society.3

The refusal was made in spite of the fact that the earlier version of Carey’s Bible, in which the words relating to baptism had been translated and not transferred, had received liberal assistance from the British Society over a period of more than twenty years.

In making their request for assistance from the American Bible Society, Pearce and Yates fully related these facts with the explanation that they were now making such application because they had done their work of translation on the same principle as that followed by Adoniram Judson on the Burmese Bible, and it was their understanding that the Society had liberally patronized this latter version. And indeed they had! More than eighteen thousand dollars had been given to aid in the printing and circulation of the Burmese Bible. But this subsidy had been given, according to a statement issued by the Board of Managers, without their being aware that the Greek terms baptize and baptisma and their cognates had been translated by words signifying "immerse" and "immersion."4

The Refusal of the American Bible Society and a Baptist Protest
Upon receiving the request from Pearce, the Board referred the matter to the Committee on Distribution, which reported that they could not recommend an appropriation "until the Board settle a principle in relation to the translation of the Greek word Baptizo."5 The matter was now referred to a special committee of seven, composed of individuals representing the various denominations affiliated with the Society. Spencer Cone was the Baptist member of this committee. After considerable study and debate, the special committee brought a report containing the following resolutions:

1. Resolved, that the Board of Managers deem it inexpedient to appropriate any funds belonging to the Society, in aid of translating or distributing the aforesaid Bengalee New Testament, or any other version containing the aforesaid translations, or any similar translations.
2. Resolved, That the Board of Managers on receiving satisfactory evidence of such corrections having been made in the aforesaid translation of the Bengalee New Testament, or other versions in other languages, or dialects, as will comport with the known views of other Christian denominations; or, in other words, with the obvious intention of the authorized version, will most cheerfully aid in the printing and circulation of said version or versions as heretofore.6

In opposition to this report of the majority, Spencer Cone presented a lengthy, strong-worded minority report in which he stated that the "pervading sentiment" of the majority report was "entirely inconsistent with the spirit of benevolence and brotherly kindness which first called into existence the American Bible Society." He deprecated the tendency to stigmatize the Baptist translations as sectarian and offered a counter resolution calling for an appropriation to aid Pearce and Yates in their work.7

After extensive discussion and consideration, the question was referred back to the committee for further study. Finally, in February, 1836, the committee brought a substitute report which set forth a general policy to be followed by the Society in making appropriations for the circulation of the Scriptures in all foreign tongues. The substance of the report was contained in the following resolution:

1. Resolved, That in appropriating money for the translating, printing, or distributing, of the Sacred Scriptures in foreign languages, the Managers feel at liberty to encourage only such versions as conform in the principle of their translation to the common English version; at least so far as that all the religious denominations represented in this Society, can consistently use and circulate said versions in their several schools and communities.8

As before, Spencer Cone presented a minority report, brief and to the point, in which he stated that "the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions have not been under the impression that the American Bible Society was organized upon the neutral principle that baptize and its cognates were never to be translated, but always transferred, in all versions of the Scriptures patronized by them." Calling attention to the large balance in the treasury of the Society, Cone strongly urged, almost demanded, that an appropriation be made for the object under discussion.9 After numerous efforts were made to defer any action by the Board of Managers, the majority report of the special committee was passed by a vote of thirty to fourteen.10 This result of the long dispute was made conclusive when the American Bible Society, in its annual meeting in May, 1836, approved the action taken by the Board.11

The Establishment of the American and Foreign Bible Society
Clearly the action taken by the American Bible Society left the Baptists with no alternative but to withdraw and to form their own Bible organization. The Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, had anticipated the result and in its meeting at Martford, April 27, 1836, it passed the following resolution:

Resolved, That, should the American Bible Society at its approaching anniversary ratify the resolutions of their Board of Managers, passed February 17, 1836, it will be the duty of the Baptist denomination in the United States to form a distinct organization for Bible translation and distribution in foreign tongues.12

Plans were made for a Bible Convention to meet in Philadelphia in April, 1837, to take the necessary steps towards the formation of a separate society, but this was not deemed soon enough by many of the Baptist brethren who had been so deeply involved in the dispute from its beginning. On May 13, 1836, the day following the final approval of the much-debated resolutions by the American Bible Society, one hundred twenty Baptists gathered in a called meeting in the Oliver Street Baptist Church, New York City, of which Spencer Cone was pastor, and formed the American and Foreign Bible Society. This "provisional" organization was ratified at the officially called Bible Convention which met in Philadelphia the following April.13

The Purpose of the Society
In April, 1833, the Foreign Mission Board of the Triennial Convention, meeting at Salem, Massachusetts, adopted the following resolutions:

Resolved, That the Board feel it to be their duty to adopt all prudent measures to give to the heathen the pure word of God in their own languages, and to furnish their missionaries with all the means in their power to make their translations as exact a representative of the mind of the Holy Spirit as may be possible.
Resolved, That all the missionaries of the board who are and or shall be engaged in translating the Scriptures, be instructed to endeavor, by earnest prayer and diligent study to ascertain the precise meaning of the orginal text, to express that meaning as exactly as the nature of the languages into which they translate the Bible will permit, and to transfer no words which are capable of being literally translated.14

It would almost appear that the Board had anticipated the controversy that arose within the American Bible Society and was laying the groundwork for a statement of the Baptist position in the dispute. At any rate, by the action of the Society in May, 1836, it became obvious that the spirit and purpose of these resolutions could not be carried out within the framework of Baptist cooperation with the American Bible Society. Therefore it was seen to be "the indispensable duty of the Baptist denomination in the United States, to organize a distinct society for the purpose of aiding in the translation, printing, and circulation of the Sacred Scriptures."15

The second article of the constitution adopted by the American and Foreign Bible Society in 1837 gave formal expression to the Society's purpose in virtually the same words as above: "The object of this Society shall be, to aid in the translation, printing, and circulation, of the Sacred Scriptures."16 At the initial organizational meeting in 1836, with the din of controversy still ringing in their ears, the founders of the new Society stated its purpose in words that echoed the central issue in the dispute: Its "single object shall be to promote a wider circulation of the holy scriptures, in the most faithful versions that can be procured."17 Even more nobly, the wide-ranging missionary vision of these men is seen in their declaration that the Society shall engage "in circulating the scriptures according to its ability, in all lands, whether Christian, Mahomedan or Pagan,"18 and in their "avowed intention of giving to the whole world a literal translation of the Bible."19

Its Work Begun
The new Bible society began its work with the expressed assurances from many quarters that Baptists generally applauded its organization. Indeed, as quickly as word had circulated of the action taken by the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society, there was generated a spontaneous demand among the Baptists for a separate Bible work under Baptist direction.20 With but few exceptions, the most prominent leaders of the denomination were firm supporters of the new institution, and with their influence, they led churches and associations to affiliate with it. Numerous local auxiliary societies were formed in every section of the county.

That the affirmations of support were genuine is evidenced by the record of financial contributions and disbursements. Within a matter of weeks after its establishment, the Society was enabled to send $2,500 to aid in the printing and circulation of the rejected Bengali New Testament. Another $5,000 was "appropriated to the Baptist General Convention of the United States, to aid in printing and circulating the translations of the Bible made by American Baptist missionaries in Asia." This appropriation was repeated in February, 1837, to aid in the distribution of other Asian versions. At the same time, it was resolved, as soon as finances would permit, to pay an additional $2,500 "to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions in London, to aid them in printing the Scriptures in Bengalee." This pledge was soon redeemed21 In April, 1837, when the Bible Convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of officially organizing the new Bible society, the Board of Managers was able to report that more than $21,000 had been received during the year of its "incipient organization" and that over $15,000 had been actually disbursed for Bible work in foreign lands.22 Truly the work was well begun.

Its Continuing Controversy with the American Bible Society
It should not be supposed that the formation of a separate and distinct Baptist Bible society signified the end of the controversy. By no means. The Baptists, on their part, felt that they had been wronged and they used every means at their disposal to make this fact known. The most effective means proved to be the Baptist press. Detailed accounts of the events that had led to the separation were printed in most of the Baptist newspapers, along with sermons and other articles setting forth the injustice of the action taken against the Baptists and asserting the necessity of establishing and supporting a separate Bible organization. The annual reports of the American and Foreign Bible Society dealt extensively with the points at issue and these were given wide circulation.23

A complete account of the controversy cannot be given here, but it will be of interest and of some importance to note certain of the specific charges made by the Baptists against the American Bible Society. In the first place, the Baptists charged the Board of Managers of the Society with inconsistency, in having now refused to aid in the preparation of a translation of the same character of versions which they had previously patronized. The managers replied that although such help had indeed been given, it was without their knowledge of the "denominational" character of the translation. A second charge lodged against the Society by the Baptists was that of sectarianism; that is, that the Society had acted against them in defense of sectarian doctrines and has thus become a sectarian or Pedobaptist organization. The charge of sectarianism, however true it might have been, was obviously an accusation that could very naturally be turned against the Baptists themselves, and this was what occurred. Most seriously, the Society was charged with having set up the English Bible as the standard to which all translations must be conformed, "thus abridging the liberty of the translators." This was, of course, essentially what the Society had done and it was a charge that came right to the heart of the matter. The reply of the Society was that they had specified that the English version was to be imitated only in the transfer of a few words, which either could not be translated or were of disputed meaning. Finally, the Baptists leveled a charge of virtual financial dishonestly against the Society, in their assertion that the Baptist denomination had given large sums of money for the Bible cause, far in excess of the appropriations made for Baptist work, and these funds were now unjustly withheld from them. Predictably, the Baptist claim was denied and figures were cited from the Society's records to prove that the Baptists had not been treated unfairly in the matter of finances, but a great discrepancy remained between the figures given by the Society and those cited by the Baptists. It seems likely that neither party to the dispute achieved complete accuracy at this point.24

The question of a charter of incorporation for the new society proved to be an additional source of controversy in the intensely bitter dispute between the two Bible societies. In 1842, the American and Foreign Bible Society applied to the New York legislature for a charter but was turned down, largely because of opposition by the older society. In 1844, when the application was renewed, an offer was made to grant the request on the condition that the name of the organization be changed so as to indicate its relationship to the Baptist denomination. The Society rejected the offer, stating that participation in it was not limited by its constitution to the Baptists. The next year a new application was made and this time the American Bible Society officially and publicly opposed the granting of a charter, sending a remonstrance to the legislature in the name of the Board of Managers. The basis of the opposition of the Society was two-fold: First, the claim was made that the American and Foreign Society was sectarian in its organization and purpose, a fact not indicated by the name under which it sought to be incorporated. Second, the similarity of the names of the two societies was so great as to cause much difficulty and confusion.25 Finally, in 1848, a charter was received under a general act of the legislature for chartering societies26 but a far deeper animosity had been stirred and the controversy had been greatly prolonged by the proceedings.

The Effects of the Controversy
The Bible controversy was not limited in its effects to the work of the Bible organizations. Widely publicized as the matter was in all of the denominational papers and arousing as it did the most intense feelings throughout the largest denomination numerically in the United States, inevitably the controversy reached beyond those specific organizations and persons directly involved and made its impact felt in other areas only indirectly related to the matters in dispute. For the purpose of this dissertation, two of these areas will be given particular notice: the effects of the controversy on relationships between and Pedobaptists, and the effects of the controversy on the denominational spirit of the Baptists.

On Relationships between Baptist and Pedobaptists
The conflict which wrought such great disturbance within the American Bible Society and resulted in the separation of the Baptist from it was essentially a Baptist-Pedobaptist affair. This is to say that the principal points at issue were the basic questions of doctrine and interpretation which divided the Baptist and Pedobaptists and which had long been matters of discussion and argumentation between the two groups. It was to be expected then that one of the major results of the prolonged dispute would be a worsening of relationships between Baptists and Pedobaptists and an intensifying of doctrinal debate. It is of importance to notice the specific points at which these relationships were affected.

Interdenominational Controversy Stimulated
One of the most immediate observable effects was in the stimulus that was given to a spirit of controversy among the denominations. Prior to the outbreak of the bible controversy in 1835, it would seem that a new element of cordiality in denominational relationships had begun to be evidenced, at least in some areas, and there was even, perhaps, a slight lessening of intensity in the baptismal debate among Baptist and Pedobaptists. Indeed, Wyckoff speaks of the period as "a season of profound peace, when, more than at any preceding period, evangelical denominations in this country were united in benevolent action."27 But if such were actually the case, it was all changed by the events taking place in the American Bible Society. R. B. C. Howell, writing in 1839 in The Baptist, described the situation in the following words and at the same time revealed what was perhaps a typical Baptist feeling of enthusiasm for the conflict:

The baptismal controversy is again becoming exceedingly rife. All the Pedobaptist papers in the country are in the midst of warm discussions on the subject. Well, we are glad of it. Truth is not likely to suffer by investigation. We say to all concerned, -- go ahead. We shall probably come in for our share, by and by. The sprinklers are getting very much afraid lest their ritualism should fall into contempt. They may be assured this result will occur.28

The Baptist papers, of course, Howell's included, were willing participants in the "warm discussions" on the matter of baptism and were filled with articles, reviews, and editorial comments on the subject. The Baptist Advocate, of which William H. Wyckoff was the editor and to which reference has already been made, must have been fairly typical among the Baptist papers. The columns in every issue of this paper contained letters, articles, extracts from other papers, and news items which must have served to add fuel to the fires of controversy.29 As has already been noted, the March 27, 1841 issue carried the statement of the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society with regard to the issues in the Bible controversy. In that and succeeding issues the statement was fully examined and analyzed by the editor and, at least to his own satisfaction, was refuted. Also in that March 27 issue was begun a series of articles that ran for several months entitled "Paedobaptist Mistakes," which set forth at great length the alleged mistakes that the Pedobapatists make in their doctrine and practice of the baptismal rite.30 References to other papers in the Advocate give an indication as to the great number of periodicals figuring in the dispute. Among those names are the Baptist Record, the New Hampshire Baptist Register, the Christian Panoply, and the New York Evangelist, the latter two being Pedobaptist papers.

Another phase of the renewed debate between the denominations was the publication of numerous works on the subject of baptism and related themes. Many Baptist pastors rushed into print with their exposition of the scriptural teachings on baptism and their justification of the Baptist position and practice. Most frequently these works dealt at length with the significance and meaning of baptize. The Pedobaptists responded to these Baptist productions in predictable fashion, with critical reviews and polemical treatises of their own, designed to refute the Baptist claims. An excellent illustration of this aspect of the debate is seen in the book, The Doctrine of Christian Baptism, written by J. J. Woolsey, a Baptist pastor in Norwalk, Connecticut, and published in 1840.31 Woolsey gave a forceful and thorough presentation of the Baptist teachings with regard to baptism and, in addition, touched upon the Bible controversy and the antiquity of the Baptists. A Congregational pastor in Norwalk, Edwin Hall, having read Woolsey’s book and also having read the Third Annual Report of the American and Foreign Bible Society, felt constrained to make reply. This he did in an extensive review entitled A Refutation of Sundry Baptist Errors.32 The title makes plain the nature and tone of the book.

Cooperation, of any kind, between Baptists and Pedobaptists rendered difficult
It was obvious, after the events of 1836, that there could be no longer any cooperation on the part of the Baptists in the work of the American Bible Society. But what of their participation in other benevolent institutions and in other areas of religious work that involved cooperation with the Pedobaptists? At best, because of the intense feelings generated in the Bible controversy, even this was rendered difficult; as a practical matter, it was virtually impossible. There were several factors that militated against any kind of cooperative effort, individually as well as denominationally.

In the first place, there was the feeling on the part of many Baptists that cooperation with the Pedobaptists was a possibility only at the expense of Baptist convictions and principles. A reflection of this sentiment is seen in the Report of the Board of Managers of the newly formed American and Foreign Bible Society to the Philadelphia Bible Convention in 1837, in which were reviewed the events of the previous year that had led to the Baptist separation from the American Bible Society.

The thought, also, that Baptists, numerically the largest denomination in the United States . . . were now cut off from further cooperation, unless we would consent to abandon our principles, was to us an event truly afflicting, and over which we could have no control, but at the expense of our conscientious convictions of truth, and duty to God.33

Thus speaking, the Board seems to have expressed the feelings of a great many of their brethren. Obviously, if this attitude were shared by any great number of Baptists, it would at least have the effect of making Baptist-Pedobaptist cooperation difficult and unlikely.

Another factor that was evidently of some influence in this connection was the conviction of a large section of the Baptist community that continued participation on their part in interdenominational efforts would only serve to augment the existing bad feeling in Baptist-Pedobaptist relationships and to provide additional opportunity for the Baptists to suffer slights, indignities, and injustices. An illustration of this feeling is seen in the account given in The Baptist Advocate of events transpiring in the 1840 annual meeting of the Nashville Bible Society, auxiliary to the American Society. R. B. C. Howell was evidently the source of the report. The article states that

in the report of the Board there was a brief review of the operations of the principal Bible societies in the world, but not a word was uttered in relation to the operations of either the American and Foreign Bible Society, or the British Translation Society [the English Baptist Bible Society] . . . . This omission was neither the result of ignorance nor accident, but the premeditated and intentional design of the writer, Professor Cross, and must have had the sanction of the Paedobaptist brethren of the Board.34

The article continues with the further details of the proceedings at this meeting, including the aroused reaction of Howell as he sought to enlighten the delegates as to the existence and work of the two Baptist societies and as he spoke a word about courtesy to the Professor Cross who gave the report of the Board. Then, in the concluding paragraph of the article, the writer expresses his convictions concerning Baptist participation in such a group as this:

This is another instance of high handed sectarianism and want of proper respect for a denomination of Christians that have done some good in the world at least. It is now quite time that our brethren not only in Tennessee, but in every section of our country had retired from all participation in this Paedo-baptist institution, viz; the American Bible Society, for so long as they continue to co-operate with it, they expose themselves to insult and injury.35

While it is true that the writer was speaking with specific reference to the Bible Society, it is quite evident that the strong feeling expressed toward Pedobaptists generally would tend to discourage Baptist cooperation with any endeavor in which Pedobaptists had a part.

One other factor that worked against Baptist cooperation in joint endeavors with other denominations was what may be termed "denominational pressures." As late as 1841 the American Bible Society, while admitting that a large part of the Baptist denomination had seceded from them, claimed that "a highly respected and valuable portion are still co-adjutors with the National Institution."36 This concurs with the statement of the Baptist historian Benedict to the effect that "some of our strong men held back at first, and doubted the expediency of a separate organization"37 John L. Dagg, in a letter addressed to Cone, also indicates that there was not a complete unanimity on the question: "I regret exceedingly that any of our brethren should advocate the course pursued by the American Bible Society."38

But the very fact that the great majority of the denomination was undeniably in agreement on the question and felt so strongly that a separate Bible organization was an absolute necessity tended to have its influence on those who "held back at first." Benedict goes on to say that "most of these men by degrees fell into the ranks of the new institution, and are now its firm friends and supporters."39 It seems logical to suppose that the displeasure of their Baptist brethren, subtly or openly expressed, may well have played its part in bringing at least some of these men into the ranks of the Baptist Bible cause. In a matter that so obviously involved the basic principles of the denomination, as well as its honor and dignity, they could not well stand opposite to their brethren.

This same denominational pressure had possibly some influence in other areas of endeavor that involved cooperation with Pedobaptists. The disposition of Baptist generally was opposed to such cooperative efforts and this state of the "denominational mind" acted to discourage Baptist participation in them.

Attitude of mutual distrust created
One of the most tragic results of the whole controversy presently under discussion was the creation of a deep and bitter spirit of mutual distrust. Both parties to the dispute seem to have been convinced that the other side had not been open and honest in their approach to the problem and in their public discussion of the issues involved. The basic problem in this aspect of the dispute was the money question which has already been briefly discussed. The disagreement at this point primarily concerned the amount of money which had been given by the Baptists to the work of the Bible Society. The Baptists declared that they had given no less than $100,000 to the Bible cause and were now arbitrarily cut off from participation in those funds for which they were partially responsible. In reply the Society stated, after an investigation of its records, that the Baptists, had given no more than $30,000. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that charges of virtual dishonesty were soon made.40

The other problem in this phase of the controversy had to do with the question as to what constituted faithfulness in translation. The Baptists insisted that the Bible was to be translated as literally as was humanly possible in order to secure the most faithful versions that could be obtained. This was to be done apart from sectarian considerations. As has been seen, this principle of translation was not acceptable to the Pedobaptists, specifically in the case of baptize. The Baptist therefore charged them with the "obscuration of a part of divine revelation."41 and of trying to make the translator subject "to the various and contradictory opinions of the different sects represented in the Society."42 The Pedobaptists, on the other hand, charged the Baptists with sectarian motivations, in that they insisted on a translation of the Bible into foreign tongues that could only be used by Baptist missionaries. Such a translation of the Bible would be, in the view of the Society, sectarian and therefore "unfaithful."43

The only possible issue to these charges and counter-charges was that which we have already noted: the creation of such a deep spirit of distrust, such a deep gulf of misunderstanding, that controversy and bitterness became the norm in relationships between Baptists and Pedobaptists.

On the Denominational Spirit of the Baptists
Without question, the greatest effect of the Bible controversy was felt by the Baptist denomination. This effect may be observed not only in the conduct of its work but also in the attitude of the denomination toward itself. It may be possible to place too great an importance on this aspect of the results of the dispute, but it seems to be evident that the Baptists in every section of the country were very much aware of the circumstances leading to the Baptist separation from the American Bible Society and were extremely interested in the steps taken to initiate a separate Bible work under Baptist control. It does not, therefore, appear to be an overstatement to say that the denominational spirit of the Baptists was greatly influenced by the controversy. It is this effect that is of particular importance as it relates to the purpose of this study.

Trend toward Denominational Exclusiveness Augmented
Because of their position with regard to the ordinances, Baptists had always been more or less set apart from the other denominations. Their insistence on immersion as the only scriptural mode of baptism, and their oft-repeated claims as to the rightness of their scriptural interpretations caused those of other denominations to regard the Baptists as exclusive in spirit. Granted that this was the tendency of Baptists generally, it seems logical to suppose that the experience of the Baptists with regard to the Bible Society controversy would have resulted in the augmentation of this trend toward denominational exclusiveness. This is what the facts seem to indicate.

It is evident that many of the Baptists involved in the Bible conflict that their denomination stood alone in opposition to all of the other denominations who were united in "an unholy league to suppress a part of the eternal truth of God."44 Writing to Cone many years later, Archibald Maclay said:

In the great conflict which he had in the American Bible Society with our Pedobaptist brethren, we were placed in the minority, for all the different denominations combined against us; yet we remained unterrified by our adversaries, boldly maintaining, that the inspired originals were the only standard to the translators of the Sacred Scriptures, and that all their translations must be made . . . in exact conformity to the inspired oracles of God.45

This same attitude is reflected in the use that Wyckoff makes of the term "Antibaptist." Speaking of the special committee of the American Bible Society that studies the question of aiding the Bengali version, he says that "six Antibaptists were put on Committee with one Baptists."46 Isaac McCoy, writing in 1838 saw the Baptist-sponsored Bible society as "a formidable instrument in hastening the overthrow of anti-Bible customs among professed christians."47 The Board of Managers of the new society said that the Baptists, because they had sought to guard the purity of the Scriptures, were "now become outcasts from our brethren."48 Other citations might be given, but the tenor of these statements is plain. At the very least, they indicate a strong spirit of denominational exclusiveness, based on a conviction that the Baptist denomination was specially chosen of God to stand in defence of his revealed truth, in opposition to those of the Pedobaptist camp.

Impetus given toward denominational consciousness
Another important result of the Bible conflict was the strong impetus that was given to an increased denominational consciousness among Baptists. They had never been necessarily deficient at this point. But the developments within the American Bible Society that resulted in a Baptist withdrawal seemed to suggest to a great many Baptists that continued harmonious cooperation between Baptists and Pedobaptists was not possible, at least over a period of time, and that Baptists would do more and that more efficiently through institutions that were distinctively Baptist. Benedict cites this last factor as one of the basic reasons why he favored the establishment of the American and Foreign Bible Society.

Economy was my first argument, being persuaded that the Baptist denomination at large, throughout its wide extent, would do much more for the Bible cause with an institution of their own, and under the management of men of their own persuasion, whose names were familiar to them, than they had yet done or would be likely to do for the old society, however impartially its affairs might be managed.49

Evidence of the growth of this spirit of denominational consciousness is seen in the almost unanimous approval among Baptist that greeted the formation of the Baptist sponsored society. Archibald Maclay, making a tour of the South as are representative of the new Bible society, wrote Cone just before the Bible Convention in 1837:

The dignified and firm stand taken by our Baptist brethren belonging to the board of the American Bible Society, and the organization of the American and Foreign Bible Society, so promptly, after the doings of the board of the American Bible Society had been sanctioned by the Society at its annual meeting, received the cordial and warm approbation of the western and southern Baptists. And as an evidence of this fact, I have received from them by subscription and donation, for the American and Foreign Bible Society $15, 526.00.50

In addition, there was expressed the feeling that Baptists had the capability within their own denomination of doing what needed to be done, apart from joint efforts with other denominations.

The time, we trust, is not far distant, when the resources of the American and Foreign Bible Society will be abundantly adequate to meet the wants both of Foreign and Home distribution. We have wealth sufficient in our denomination to accomplish it, and all we require to bring the resources of our brethren into the field of benevolent effort is a system of united action, and an entire consecration of all that we possess . . . to God and to His cause.51

Conviction deepened that Baptists alone were true to the Scriptures
The Baptist contention that the Pedobaptists, with their insistence upon the transfer rather than the translation of certain disputed words, were guilty of seeking to obscure a portion of the divine revelation, has already been noted. The other side of this contention, of course, was the deeply ingrained conviction that the Baptists alone were true to the Bible and that they alone were willing for the heathen to have "the whole Word of God." This was no new characteristic on the part of Baptists, but the conflict within the Bible Society did serve to accentuate it greatly. The messages delivered to Baptist audiences, the letters written by leading figures in the Baptist denomination, and the Baptist literature of the day all reveal this abiding conviction that the Baptists were especially chosen of God to preserve his truth inviolate and uncorrupted. They pictured themselves as "set for the defence of the truth" and as particularly charged with the responsibility of taking the pure and unadulterated Word of God to the heathen. The following quotation, taken from an address by Professor George W. Eaton of the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution at the third annual meeting of the American and Foreign Bible Society, indicates the typical Baptist attitude:

Never, Sir, was there a chord struck that vibrated simultaneously through so many Baptist hearts, from one extremity of the land to the other, as when it was announced that the heathen world must look to them alone for an unveiled view of the glories of the gospel of Christ. . . . A deep conviction seized the minds of almost the whole body, that they were divinely and peculiarly set for the defence and dissemination of the gospel, as delivered to men by its Heavenly author.52

In this and similar expressions of such challenging and soul-stirring conviction is seen the development of a strong denominational spirit.

Baptist Interest in Baptist Missions Stimulated
Another effect upon the denominational spirit of the Baptists was the stimulation that was given to the interest of Baptists in Baptist missions. Taken together, the conflict with the Pedobaptists, the feeling of being isolated from the joint efforts of other Christians, the deepened conviction of their peculiar role in relation to the dissemination of the Scriptures -- all of these moved powerfully in the life of the Baptist denomination to create a strengthened interest in the work of Baptist missionaries. This increased mission interest is seen principally in the widespread demonstration of concern for the distribution of the Scriptures in foreign lands and in the financial support given for this purpose and other phases of the denominational missionary program.

The Relationship of the Controversy Toward Landmarkism
In the introduction to this chapter it was stated that the purpose of this phase of the study would be to show the relationship of the Bible controversy to the development of the Landmark movement of later years. With this in view, in the preceding pages has been given a detailed account of the controversy, with particular emphasis being placed on the effects that it had on the Baptist denomination. It is recognized that any such relationship was only indirect and was not organic. It now seems proper to inquire: Based upon the foregoing account, can it be said that there was indeed a relationship between Landmarkism and the Bible societies conflict? If so, what was the nature of that relationship? The controversy which began in 1835 and which absorbed for a number of years so much of the interest and energy of the denomination and which set Baptists and Pedobaptists so much at variance with each other had at least a contributing relationship to Landmarkism. Three possible areas of this relationship will be considered.

The Ground Prepared for the Landmark Movement
The evidence that is available of an almost incredibly rapid growth of the Landmark movement after its initiation in 1851 is indicative also of the fact that its seed was sown in fertile soil, soil that was in a remarkable state of preparation and readiness for just such a sectarian movement as Landmarkism. It appears certain that the Bible controversy had aided greatly in that preparation. In the first place, the distinctive doctrines of the Baptist denomination, specifically the Baptist doctrine and practice with regard to baptism, had become matters of controversy. As the discussion was waged from the pulpit and in the press, Baptists generally became intensely conscious of the doctrinal differences that separated them and the Pedobaptists and became familiar with the arguments that were used by both parties to the conflict. Landmarkism gave strong emphasis to these doctrinal disagreements and found a large part of the Baptist community to be both interested and surprisingly knowledgeable. In addition, the spirit of controversy, out of which Landmarkism was born and upon which it seemed to thrive, came to be, in the fifteen years from 1836 to 1851, almost the normal state of affairs in Baptist-Pedobaptist relationships. Cooperative effort was discouraged. Baptists generally welcomed the conflict, especially in its doctrinal aspect, and were convinced that the strife would result in the vindication of the truths which they proclaimed. It is not difficult to see that Landmarkism would feel at home in such an atmosphere as this. Then, thirdly, the tendency of Baptists to separate themselves from organizations and groups in which Pedobaptists participated, so greatly accentuated by the Bible controversy, was logically related to the Landmark emphasis on non-affiliation of Baptist with Pedobaptist ministers and the non-recognition of Pedobaptist "societies" as gospel churches. It is evident, certainly, that not all Baptist reached Landmark conclusions in this area, but it is also evident that the rigid non-affiliationism of the Landmark movement was but a step away for many of the Baptist leaders in the conflict between the Bible societies.

Denominational Exclusiveness of Landmarkism Foreshadowed
It has already been mentioned that among the effects upon the denomination of the continuing dispute between the American Bible Society and the Baptists was the stimulus that was given to a spirit of exclusiveness among the Baptists. Baptists were regarded as the only ones to whom the heathen world might look for a faithful translation of the Scriptures. They saw themselves as particularly chosen of God to preserve and maintain the purity of God's Word. The Baptists denomination was pictured as set in opposition to an alliance of Pedobaptists whose aim was to "conceal from the nations the real meaning of the ordinance of baptism."53 A strong emphasis was placed on the rightness of the Baptist interpretation and administration of the ordinances in contrast with the unscriptural Pedobaptist usage.

This same spirit of denominational exclusiveness has been described as one of the leading characteristics of Landmarkism. In the Landmark system, Baptist churches were regarded as the only true churches of Christ. As such, only they could rightfully administer the ordinances and only their ministers could "legally" proclaim the gospel. Since Baptist churches were the only ones that administered the ordinances in accordance with the "law of Christ," it could be said that only these churches were faithful to the Bible and only they regarded the Bible in every particular as the binding authority in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters. It is very true that the "high church exclusivism" of Landmarkism was more rigid and more highly developed than that which has been observed in connection with the Bible controversy, but the difference was not in quality; if was of degree. The strongly sectarian feelings of Cone, Wyckoff, Maclay, Howell, Eaton and others of their colleagues in the American and Foreign Bible Society were a foreshadowing of that exclusivistic spirit that would be evidenced in the literature of Landmarkism.

Influence of Controversy on Landmark Leaders
There is little that can be said with a positive certainty as to any direct influence that the Bible controversy may have had on the men who became the leaders in the Landmark movement. It may be said, however, without hesitation that Graves and Pendleton, at least, were aware of it and circumstances were such as to suggest at least a measure of influence on the development of their attitude toward the Pedobaptists and on their convictions with regard to Baptist doctrine.

In January, 1837, the year following the organization of the American and Foreign Bible Society, Pendleton began his ministry at Bowling Green, Kentucky. In April of that year a letter was written to Spencer Cone as president of the Bible society by John Pendleton -- possibly the brother of James Madison Pendleton54 -- informing him of the organization of the Bethel Bible Society and expressing the desire of this local society to be considered as auxiliary to the American and Foreign Bible Society. The letter was written from Bowling Green. The writer of the letter goes on to state that the Baptists in the western part of the state of Kentucky and probably throughout the whole state are in complete agreement in expressing their hearty approval of the formation of a separate, Baptist-sponsored Bible society.55 If the testimony of this letter be accepted with regard to the widespread interest of Kentucky Baptists in the Bible controversy, then it is not possible to suppose that Pendleton, the Landmark leader, was unaware of it or disinterested in it.

Graves was still just a young lad in Vermont when the difficulty arose in the American Bible Society, but, as has been seen, R. B. C. Howell was actively engaged in the Tennessee phase of the national controversy and it seems certain that through his relationship with Howell, Graves was made acquainted with the cause of the dispute. Making it even more certain is the fact that in 1846 Graves was elected corresponding secretary of the Tennessee Bible Society, auxiliary to the American and Foreign Bible Society.56 In 1846 the national controversy was still quite warm, and Graves, with his natural love of controversy, could not have been unaware of it or unaffected by it.

As far as the available evidence is concerned, then, the influence of the Bible controversy on Graves and Pendleton was only indirect. It is clear enough, however, that these men came to their useful years at a time when Baptist-Pedobaptist relations were sorely strained by the conflict. They began their life's work in an atmosphere charged with religious controversy. It is not surprising, therefore, to find these men, with their temperament, in later years leading a movement that was to be the most controversial in Southern Baptist history.



1. Henry Otis Dwight, The Centennial History of the American Bible Society (New York: Macmillian Co., 1916), p. 25.

2. This estimate of Baptist contributions was made by Benjamin M. Hill and was originally published as a part of the Second Annual Report of the Bible Society of the First Baptist Church, Troy, N. Y. It is given as Appendix III of the Second Annual Report of the American and Foreign Bible Society (New York: Printed by John Gray, 1839), pp. 58-62. Other estimates range as low as $100,000, which seems to be a conservative figure.

3. C. C. Bitting, Bible Societies and the Baptists (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1897), p. 12.

4. This statement of the Board of Managers, entitled "Bible Translations," was originally published by the American Bible Society early in 1841, evidently in pamphlet form. Dwight, in his Centennial History, p. 143, says that is was appended to the Annual Report of 1841. It may be found in its entirety in The Baptist Advocate, II, No. 48 (Mar. 27, 1841), 192. Also in William H. Wyckoff, The American Bible Society and the Baptists (New York: John R. Bigelow, 1842), 31-52. Cited hereafter as American Bible Society.

5. Wyckoff, American Bible Society, p. 10.

6. Ibid., pp. 12-13.

7. Ibid., pp. 13-19.

8. Ibid., p. 20.

9. Ibid., pp. 21-22.

10. Ibid., p. 23.

11. Ibid., p. 41.

12. Bitting, pp. 37-38.

13. Ibid., pp. 38-39.

14. "Annual Meeting of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions," American Baptist Magazine, XIII, No. 6 (June, 1833), 207-8.

15. Proceedings of the Bible Convention, which met in Philadelphia, April 26-29, 1837, together with the Report of the Board of Managers of the American and Foreign Bible Society, embracing the period of its provisional organization (New York: John Gray Printer, 1837), p. 8. Cited hereafter as Proceedings of the Bible Convention.

16. Ibid., p. 11.

17. A. L. Covell, "Reasons for the Formation of the American and Foreign Bible Society," The Baptist Library: A Republication of Standard Baptist Works, ed. Charles G. Sommers, William R. Williams, and Levi > Hill (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman and Co., 1858), III, 406, citing original Constitution of American and Foreign Bible Society.

18. Ibid.

19. Report of the Board of Managers of the American and Foreign Bible Society, Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 21.

20. Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, (New York: Bryan, Taylor, and Co., 1887), p. 896.

21. Report of the Board of Managers, American and Foreign Bible Society, Proceedings of the Bible Convention, pp. 42-43.

22. Ibid., p. 17.

23. American and Foreign Bible Society, Annual Reports 1837-42.

24. "Bible Translations," Statement of the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society, as found in the Baptist Advocate, II, No. 48 (Mar. 27, 1847), 192.

25. Wyckoff, Bible Societies, pp. 77-79.

26. Bitting, p. 38.

27. Wyckoff, Bible Societies, p. 67.

28. R. B. C. Howell, The Baptist, Dec. 12, 1839, cited by S. H. Ford, Ford's Christian Repository, LXIII, No. 10, 615.

29. See files of The Baptist Advocate, 1839-45.

30. "Paedo-Baptist Mistakes," The Baptist Advocate, II, No. 48 (Mar. 27, 1841). Also succeeding issues.

31. J. J. Woolsey, The Doctrine of Christian Baptism (Philadelphia: Printed by I. Ashmead, 1840).

32. Edwin Hall, A Refutation of Sundry Baptist Errors (Norwalk, Conn.: John A Weed; New York: Gould, Newman, and Saxton; and Robinson, Pratt, and Co., 1841).

33. Proceedings of the Bible Convention, pp. 29-30.

34. "The Bible Society," The Baptist Advocate, II, No. 40 (Jan. 30, 1841), 157.

35. Ibid.

36. "Bible Translations," The Baptist Advocate, II, No. 48, 192.

37. David Benedict, Fifty years among the Baptists, (New York: Sheldon and Co., 1860), p. 214.

38. John L. Dagg, Letter to Spencer Cone, appended to Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 70.

39. Benedict, p. 214.

40. Hall, p. 70n.

41. Report of the Board of Managers of the American and Foreign Bible Society, Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 27.

42. Address of George W. Eaton, American and Foreign Bible Society, Third Annual Report (New York: John Gray, 1840), p. 69.

43. Wyckoff, American Bible Society, pp. 100-102.

44. Archibald Maclay, Letter to Spencer Cone, appended to Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 73.

45. Archibald Maclay, Letter to Spencer Cone, appearing as Appendix II, in Edward Cone and Spencer Cone, Some Account of the Life of Spencer Houghton Cone (New York: Livermore and Rudd, Publishers, 1856), 481.

46. Wyckoff, Bible Societies, p. 54.

47. Isaac McCoy, Letter to Miss Elizabeth Pine, Appended to First Annual Report, American and Foreign Bible Society (New York: John Gray, 1836), p. 71.

48. Report of the Board of Managers of the American and Foreign Bible Society, Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 29.

49. Benedict, p. 215.

50. MacLay, Letter to Cone,Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 73.

51. "The Bible Society," The Baptist Advocate, II, No. 40, 157.

52. Address by Eaton, Third Annual Report, American and Foreign Bible Society, p. 79.

53. MacLay, Letter to Cone, Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 74.

54. Pendleton had a younger brother named John. His father was also named John, but he died in 1833.

55. John Pendleton, Letter to Spencer cone, Appended to MacLay, Letter to Cone, Proceedings of the Bible Convention, p. 82.

56. "Bible Society," The Baptist, III, No. 12 (Nov. 14, 1846), 182, 183.

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