A Study of the Antecedents of Landmarkism

By LeRoy Benjamin Hogue


The term "Landmark Baptist" was first called to the writer's attention during the days of his first pastorate, in southwestern Oklahoma, while still a student at Oklahoma Baptist University. Particular interest was aroused by the fact that no one, among those with whom the writer talked at that time, seemed to be able to define Landmarkism or to tell what a Landmark Baptist actually was. Studies in Church History at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary gave the opportunity to pursue this interest and the result has been this study on one particular aspect of the subject.

The writer has noted in the course of his studies that it has been a common practice on the part of some Baptist historians and other Baptist writers to refer to the Landmark movement and its characteristic doctrines as innovations in Baptist life. A typical expression of this viewpoint is found in a brief article on the nature of the church by Dale Moody:

Many Southern Baptists, unaware of the facts of Southern Baptist history and unmoved by the plain teachings of the New Testament, have followed the innovations of Landmarkism which infiltrated into the South from the North through such personalities as J. R. Graves and J. M. Pendleton.1

In a similar vein, James E. Tull has said in a recent thesis that Landmarkism

embodied elements of innovation which made it, not only in total scope, but also in separate details, a movement alien to those ecclesiastical traditions which were formulated by English and American Baptists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 2

Tull has also characterized the Landmark movement, at the time of its inception, as "a minority, alien, heterodox element in the denomination."3

Statements such as those given above, expressive of the viewpoint that Landmarkism constituted an innovation in Baptist life, have provided much of the incentive for a study of Landmark antecedents. A question has been raised in the mind of the writer as to the relationship of Landmarkism to the historic Baptist movement in this country. Is it historically accurate to speak of Landmark principles as innovational among Baptists? If so, in what sense was this true? It has been against the background of such questions as these that the purpose of this dissertation has been formulated. Basically, the intent has been to indicate the sources in Baptist life from which Landmarkism sprang and to show, by reference to these antecedents, that Landmarkism represented, at every major point, simply the logical extension of practices and beliefs widely held among Baptists in the one hundred year period preceding the rise of the movement. In the view of this writer, there are many elements in Baptist history which bear an obvious and direct relationship to the tenets of the Landmark system and which clearly demonstrate that the architects of the movement, “the Great Triumvirate,” were building on a foundation in Baptist life which was already laid. It is this belief that has led to the present study.

Toward the fulfillment of the stated purpose, the major portion of the dissertation has been devoted to a survey of Baptist principles and practices in certain representative geographic areas. The basic research materials used in this phase of the study have been the minutes of the earliest Baptist associations in the areas involved, the associational confessions and articles of faith, early Baptist periodicals, and associational and denominational histories. Most of the minutes used were found on microfilm in Fleming Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Of invaluable help also, in the research for Chapter III, was the microfilm collection of the writings of Isaac Backus, also in Fleming Library.

The study has been limited at two points. Of necessity, because of the great abundance of available materials, the survey could only be typical and not exhaustive. Again, it has not been possible to include several important areas, because of limitations of space. The historical records of Baptists in Kentucky, Virginia, New York, and Alabama offered a wealth of pertinent material which it was not possible to use.

It would be a task beyond the realm of possible fulfillment simply to name those many individuals who have contributed in so many ways to the completion of this study. To thank them in ant adequate fashion is even more impossible. Particular appreciation is due to Dr. Robert A. Baker, Chairman of the Church History Department, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for his invaluable guidance and counsel at many points in the preparation at many points in the preparation of this dissertation. Sincere thanks is expressed to Dr. W. R. Estep, Professor of Church History at , Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for his many helpful suggestions and evidences of genuine interest in the work, and also to Dr. Leon McBeth, Associate Professor of Church History, , Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for his kind encouragement along the way. Rev. Edward C. Starr, curator of the American Baptist Historical Society, has been most kind in responding to requests for information and in supplying research materials that were not obtainable elsewhere. The entire staff of Fleming Library has assisted immeasurably by their helpfulness in locating and obtaining needed materials. A deep appreciation is also expressed to Robert M. Pyle for her careful typing of the final copy. Words are inadequate to voice any suitable acknowledgment for the assistance, encouragement, and patient endurance of the wife of the writer. Finally, the writer feels especially obligated to acknowledge with gratitude the generosity and understanding of the members of the Second Baptist Church, Vernon, Texas, in permitting their pastor to be absent from the duties of the church field to continue, over an extended period of time, his research for this dissertation.

Reference works used for matters of form and style were Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (rev. ed.; Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1955) and A Manual of Style (11th ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).


1. Duke K. McCall (ed.), What is the Church? (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958), p. 17.

2. James E. Tull, "A Study of Southern Baptist Landmarkism in the Light of Historical Baptist Ecclesiology" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1960), p. vi.

3. Ibid., p. 655.