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Landmarkism Under Fire 

A Study of Landmark Baptist Polity on Church Constitution

by Elder J.C. Settlemoir 


Appendix VI. - Terms

The reader is informed that this glossary is not to be construed as authoritative. It is rather an attempt to develop a working definition of the terms used in this book and as found in Baptist History. In many cases I could find no definition of these terms in Baptist History except in usage. I have attempted to glean the meaning from histories, church records, confessions, and other sources. I have given sources for some of these. If you detect any errors in my conclusions I will appreciate it if you will call them to my attention. If you know of any source for the definition of any of these terms included please make me aware of them. Throughout these definitions italicized words or phrases indicate terms which are also defined in this glossary.

Assistance. Assistance refers to non authoritative help which is given by one church to a group or to a church. There is no authority in assistance. We know this because churches sent assistance to ordinations, church trouble as well as constitutions. Assistance cannot in one case mean one thing and in the other something else without specific statements to prove this. In Baptist history assistance was often called Helps. Cf. Helps.

Arm. An arm was, in Baptist history, a group of baptized believers who belonged to a particular church but being at a distance too great to attend the church where membership was held, met and functioned as an arm of the home church until such a time as they were considered ripe for constitution. They preached, baptized and partook of the supper but all their actions were subject to the approval of the home church. This term has almost slipped from Baptist usage the arm being now called a mission. It is synonymous with branch. I believe this whole concept is unnecessary and unscriptural. It has no NT basis.[636]

Authority. “The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge. One that is invested with this power”[637] All authority is found in Christ, Mt 28:18-20. The question is often asked: “Did not Christ give His authority to the church?” We think The answer is “No.” He still retains His authority. We believe Christ commanded the church to carry out His commandments but the authority still belongs to Him. All the “authority” any church has pertains to those who are or who wish to become members. This authority is given to disciples who are in gospel order directly by the Lord Himself when they covenant together according to Mt. 18:20. Where the membership of a church ends, there their power to command, determine or judge, ends. No church can project authority beyond its own members.

Branch. A branch is a company of the members of a church that hold meetings elsewhere, but are not regularly organized into a church.[638] It is synonymous with Arm. I believe this practice is unscriptural.

DVA. Direct Vertical Authority. Cf. Divine Authority. This term is used by some for self constitution or Divine Authority for constitution.[639]

Divine Authority. Divine authority means the authority comes from the Lord Himself directly. A “church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the word and Spirit of God to the visible profession of the faith of the gospel, being baptized into that faith and joined to the Lord, and each to other by mutual agreement in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances commanded by Christ, their head and king.”[640]

Church authority. “The New Testament, which contains the charter, constitution, and discipline of these voluntary societies of Christians, defines and limits their rights. Whatever powers have been expressly delegated to them, they exercise but the assumption of others is an unauthorized usurpation.” [641] It is a misunderstanding of this term to apply it to a mother church which grants another church the authority to become a church. A church can no more authorize another church to constitute than it can authorize another church to ordain, baptize, or settle church trouble.

Church essential. A Church essential, refers to “so many as may act properly and orderly as a church, Mt. 17:15-17.”[642]

Constitution. “1. The act or process of composing, setting up, or establishing. 2. The composition or structure of something.”[643] In reference to a church this term means the beginning of a church.

Covenanting together. The assembly of Christ is composed of those who covenant together. They have been effectually called unto Christ, first in salvation and who have made that good confession before many witnesses and which includes Scriptural baptism, and who, then, in agreement with a sufficient number of others, obey Christ’s command to form an assembly in gospel order in accordance with His plain direction in Mt. 18:20. They covenant together by giving themselves to the Lord and to one another, II Cor 5:8. They are glued or welded [644] together, Acts 5:13; 9:26. This joining is not accomplished by another church but by the power of Christ Himself. The Lord added to the church, Acts 2:47. If we view this process from the Divine side, it is Christ who brings them together and forms them into a church. If we view it from the human side, the disciples join together and in accordance with His Word and the leading of His Holy Spirit, form themselves into a new church by a covenanting together (In my name). The church is formed by Christ and He gives it authority. The church follows His will and receives the blessing from Him alone.

Divine constitution. This term refers to the work of Christ in conferring upon a sufficient number of disciples church status. Christ personally confers the church state upon each new church directly by His exclusive power. This power comes from Christ directly and is bestowed whenever there is a sufficient number of disciples in gospel order, who gather together in Christ’s name in covenantal union according to Mt. 18:20 for this purpose. Divine constitution and self constitution refer to the same event but viewed from different sides.

EMDA. Essential Mother Daughter Authority. This is the teaching of some Baptists, and others, that there is an essential authority which must be given by a mother church to a group of baptized believers (the daughter) in order for them to constitute a new church. These members must be members of the mother church in order for them to receive this authority. Without this authority from the mother church it is impossible to constitute a scriptural church. Some also teach the Holy Spirit was given only one time at Pentecost. They believe Churches since Pentecost only receive the Holy Spirit via a mother church granting constitution authority. Thus it is taught that this mother to daughter connection must have been repeated from one true church to another true church all the way back to the Church at Jerusalem. Some EMDA advocates also maintain you must have an ordained man present in order to constitute a church. This theory is believed to be of a modern origin. Cf. The Laws of EMDA, chapter 4.

False constitution. False constitution refers to the formation of a church made upon false principles. Any church which is not in gospel order when formed has a false constitution. A church formed out of those who do not profess to be regenerate, or who attribute regeneration to ordinances, sacraments, or works; or of a church formed of those who are not scripturally baptized, are examples of false constitution.

Ghosting members. Ghosting members is a term I have barrowed to describe a procedure by which some churches receive members who are not present, never have been present and never will be present in the assembly where they are supposed to be members. Such churches receive these members by proxy and carry these members on their roles by proxy and letter them out by proxy! The church does not even know these members nor do these members know the church! They are therefore not under the discipline of the church. These ghost members have no voice in the church. Ghosting members is usually done for the purpose of granting EMDA. The Ghost members will, at the time of constitution, be granted letters stating they are members in good standing (which is not true) and they will be lettered out to form the new church. Churches who can defend this as a scriptural procedure will have no problem baptizing a baby on the proxy faith of its god-parents!

Helps. Helps has two different meanings. 1. Helps has reference to those in a church who rule.[645] 2. Helps may also refer to assistance given to individuals or churches. Due to its nature it conveys no authority. Helps refers to assistance given by churches, to churches, associations or to those who wish to compose a church, for the purpose of constitution, ordination, settling church trouble, advice, meetings or other gospel endeavors. Helps does not convey authority nor is it requested as authority but for support, recognition, assistance and encouragement for the common good of the churches. Helps conveys no authority whether in ordination, church trouble, constitution, meetings or otherwise but is understood to be advisory only and thus not essential. This term seems to be taken from 1 Cor 12:28.

Irregular. A church, or an act, is irregular when it is not done in a regular manner. Irregular may, but does not always, mean the same thing as unscriptural. A constitution, for example, may be irregular and yet not be a false constitution. Churches which are in gospel order may be irregular but not unscriptural.[646]

Join. “to put or bring together so as to form a unit.” [647] The NT meaning of this word according to Vine is: “( 1. κολλαω NT:2853,) primarily, ‘to glue or cement together,’ then, generally, ‘to unite, to join firmly,’ is used in the passive voice signifying ‘to join oneself to, to be joined to,’ Luke 15:15; Acts 5:13; 8:29; 9:26; 10:28, RV (KJV, ‘to keep company with’); 1 Cor 6:16,17; elsewhere, ‘to cleave to,’ Luke 10:11; Acts 17:34; Rom 12:9.”[648] This is what disciples do when they unite with a church.

Gospel order. Gospel order means to do things according to the gospel. J.L. Reynolds puts it this way:

1. We believe that the visible Church of Jesus Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have given themselves to the Lord, and to one another, by the will of God and have covenanted to keep up a godly discipline, agreeable to the gospel.

2. We believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, the only Lawgiver; that the government is with the Church.

3. That Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are Gospel ordinances, appointed by Jesus Christ, and are to be continued in his Church until his second coming.

4. That the immersion of the body in water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is the only Scriptural way of Baptism, as taught by Christ and his Apostles.

5. That none but regularly baptized Church members, who live a holy life, have a right to partake of the Lord’ Supper.

6. That is the privilege and duty of all believers to make a public profession of their faith, by submitting themselves as subjects for baptism, and as members of the visible Church.

7. that it is the duty of every regularly organized Church to expel from her communion all disorderly and immoral members, and who hold doctrines contrary to the Scriptures.[649]

Landmarkism. Landmarkism teaches true churches must proclaim the true gospel and practice the ordinances scripturally. Those societies which fail to do either of these two things are not Scriptural churches. Landmarkers do not recognize those churches as Scriptural churches because they were not in gospel order when organized. Hence the ordinances of such churches are invalid and their ministers are not ordained.[650]

Linked chain succession. This is the same thing as EMDA. Linked chain succession means that one church succeeds another church as one link follows another in a chain. Each church must be given authority from another church in order to constitute. This idea is not a part of Landmarkism. “All that Baptists mean by church Succession, or Church Perpetuity, is: There has never been a day since the organization of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine church of the New Testament existing on earth.” [651] This term is equivalent to organic church succession.

Mother church. A mother church is a church which was the origin of another church or the church from which a church or churches came. The term has nothing to do with EMDA or the granting of authority as it was used in Baptist history. Indicative of this we also find mother states, mother countries and mother associations, where of course, authority could not be involved.

Organic church succession. Also Cf. Organic succession or Organic connection and Link chain succession . By these terms EMDA advocates mean that one church succeeds another church as one link of a chain succeeds another link and that every church could, if the records were available, demonstrate an EMDA to EMDA succession all the way back to the Jerusalem church. They also teach that without this organic succession or EMDA, there can be no true church. Landmark Baptists do not believe in organic church succession.[652]

Organism. This term is applied by many writers to churches. Some of these believe in EMDA. Some do not. The idea which EMDA advocates attach to the term in reference to a church is that a church is a living organism just as is a dog or a sheep. Then they bring in another idea. Because all living things beget after their kind they say churches must beget churches of exactly the same kind and in the same way. The appeal is made to Ge 1:21. From this they then assume a sort of ecclesiastical biogenesis of churches organically connected all the way back to Jordan, necessarily so.[653] The problem with this analogy is that churches do beget churches quite unlike themselves, sometimes willingly, sometimes unwilling. The Primitive Baptists came from Missionary Baptists, or if the reader prefer, vice versa. The Seventh Day Baptists came from the Particular Baptists. Are they the same? There are many other examples. The analogy is flawed.

Perpetuity.Perpetuity is preferable to the phrase Church Succession.” “All that Baptists mean by church Succession, or Church Perpetuity, is: There has never been a day since the organization of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine church of the New Testament existing on earth.”[654] Cf. Link chain succession.

Positive institution. Positive law. All the essential laws relative to the constitution of a church, or its ordinances are positive institutions or laws. The Positive Law is contrasted with the moral law. Moral Laws are commanded because they are right. Positive laws are right because they are commanded. No man can obey, nor is he responsible to obey, any positive law unless it is revealed. No man was responsible to take the Lord’s Supper before Christ instituted it and commanded it. Where there is no revelation of a positive law, there is no duty to obey that law.[655] There is no positive law for EMDA.

Recorded Baptist history. By this term is meant Baptist History from 1600 to the present. We have few records before 1600. But since 1600 we have a considerable amount of church records, manuals, confessions, sermons and histories by Baptists.

Ripe. Ripe is used in the sense of ready, usually in reference to church constitution. This judgment was usually by churches left to the discretion of elders who would examine the saints desiring to be a church. Those so described were considered to be in gospel order as to doctrine, practice, and stability and thus ripe or ready for constitution.

Self-constitution. Self constitution refers to the action of a group of baptized disciples in gospel order who believe it is for the greater glory of God for them to form themselves into a separate church by a covenant and thereby to carry out the will of Christ. They believe the authority for this action comes directly from Christ according to Mt 18:20; II Cor. 8:5. These who seek to constitute often invite other churches and pastors to send helps in this important work of constitution but they do not believe these churches or ministers are essential or that these churches or pastors convey any authority to the work. Cf. Divine Constitution. EMDA churches also use this term in reference to their constitutions but they believe they must have a mother church before they can constitute and that the authority to do so comes from a mother church. A.C. Dayton refutes EMDA and gives the correct view. He says:

He made every one a priest and a king. He invested every member with the right to execute his laws, but only when assembled with the brethren. As many as could conveniently unite came voluntarily together and by mutual consent were constituted an ‘ekklesia, or official assembly, of Christ. It was subject to his laws: it acted by his authority: it used his name to give a sanction to its acts; and as he had authorized it, and conferred on it all its authority, so he promised to be in its midst by his Spirit, and to ratify in heaven what it did upon earth.[656]

Succession. See Perpetuity also. Succession and EMDA are not the same thing but are often used interchangeably by EMDA writers. Succession means there has never been a day since the organization of the first church when there has not been a church in existence, Mt. 16:18; Eph. 3:21. Some EMDA advocates use this term to mean organic succession from one church to another via EMDA. This use of the term is not supported by Baptist writers before modern times.


[636] Cf. Wendell Holmes Rone. A Short History of the Davies–McLean Association, 1968, p. 126 a.

[637] Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed.

[638] Robert I. Devin. Hist. Of Grassy Creek Church, P. 75, 1977 reprint.

[639] See Mark Fenison’s article Baptistic Churches Versus the N.T. Church, posted on Historic Baptist Symposium, 3-22-04, hosted by Elder John Kohler,

[640] The Baptist Confession of 1646 quoted in William Cathcart. The Baptist Encyclopedia, p. 223. Cf. Jarrel, Church Perpetuity, p. 13. Not one of the old Landmarkers ever put EMDA in his definition of the church. Cf. D.B. Ray. Baptist Succession, p. 10.

[641] Mark Dever. Polity, p. 328. Dever is here quoting J.L. Reynolds from his Church Polity.

[642]Op. cit., p. 96.

[643]Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed.

[644] Cf. Liddell& Scott on kallaw.

[645]B.R.White. Association Records of South Wales to 1656, p. 11.

[646] For example, Cf. Spencer. History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol II, p. 18 with 655-656.

[647]Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed.

[648]Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words: Join.

[649]J.L. Reynolds. Church Polity, 1849. Quoted in Dever, Polity, p. 336.

[650]Cf. J.R. Graves. Old Landmarkism.

[651]W.A. Jarrel. Baptist Perpetuity, p. 2, 3.

[652]Cf. W.A. Jarrel’s Baptist Church Perpetuity, p. 1.

[653]Cf.Davis Huckabee. Church Truth, vol. II, p. 661.

[654]W.A. Jarrel. Baptist Church Perpetuity, p. 2, 3.

[655] Cf. Polity, p. 364; J.R. Graves in A.C. Dayton’s Alien Immersion, p. vi; Davis Huckabee, Studies on Church Truth, Vol. I, p. 174-175.

[656] A.C. Dayton. Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II, p. 115.