Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 19, 1964

A Principle Of Common Sense

James E. Cooper

While reading in Church Manual Designed for the Use of Baptist Churches by J. M. Pendleton, D.D., one will find some points made which are erroneous, and some which are correct. In the section dealing with the "Subject of Baptism" we find the following:

"It may he laid down as a principle of common sense which commends itself to every candid mind, that a commission to do a thing authorizes only the doing of the thing specified. The doing of all other things is virtually forbidden. There is a maxim of law, that the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another (Expressio unius est exclusio alterius). It must necessarily be so; for otherwise there could be no definiteness in contracts, and no precision in legislative enactments or judicial decrees. This maxim may be illustrated a thousand ways. Numerous scriptural illustrations are at hand. For example: God commanded Noah to make an ark of gopher wood. He assigns no reason why gopher wood should be used. The command, however, is positive, and it forbids the use of every other kind of wood. Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac for a burnt-offering. He was virtually forbidden to offer any other member of his family. Aye, more, he could not offer an animal till the order was revoked by Him who gave it, and a second order was given, requiring the sacrifice of a ram in the place of Isaac. The illustration of the Passover furnishes an illustration, or rather a combination of illustrations: A lamb was to be killed — not a heifer; it was to be of the first year — not of the second or third; a male — not a female; without blemish — not with a blemish; on the fourteenth day of the month — not on some other day; the blood was to be applied to the door-posts and lintels — not elsewhere." (pages 81, 82)

Pendleton's application of this principle was on the question of who is to be baptized. He says, "In application of the principle laid down and the law of maxim illustrated, it may be affirmed, that the commission of Christ, in enjoining the baptism of disciples, believers, prohibits, in effect, the baptism of all others. It will not do to say, we are not forbidden, in so many words, to baptize infants. The same may be said of unbelievers; aye, of horses, cattle, and bells." (Page 83)

The principle set forth by Pendleton is a good one which would do untold good if consistently applied in all matters of religion. Pendleton applied it to the action and the subject of baptism, but did not apply it to the design of baptism. If he had consistently applied his principle to the question of the design of baptism, he would have found that the scripture authorizes baptism "for the remission of sins" ( Acts 2:38). and thus excludes baptism "because sins are already remitted," as practiced by the Baptists.

It would do good if consistently applied to the question of what one is to confess before he is baptized. The eunuch Confessed to Philip: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." ( Acts 8:37) This has the effect of excluding the Baptist confession of "I believe that God for Christ's sake has forgiven my sins."

It would do good if consistently applied to the type of music to be used by Christians in the worship of God. The New Testament specifies singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16, etc.), and thus, in effect, excludes playing upon any kind of mechanical instrument as a substitute for, or in addition to, singing.

It would do good if applied consistently to the organization of the church. With regard to the aggregate of the redeemed, the church universal, there is no organization at all revealed in the scripture. New Testament congregations were independent and autonomous, with bishops (elders, pastors), deacons, and saints. (Phil. 1:1) Since each congregation was independent of every other congregation, and there is revealed no organization larger than the local congregation, this excludes all conferences, associations, synods, boards, councils, and societies.

It would do good if consistently applied to the matter of observing the Lord's Supper "on the first day of the week." (Acts 20:7) This specific excludes observing it on a Thursday night, or any other day or night of the week than the first day.

It would do good if consistently applied to the fact that the Word of God is profitable...."that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) This, in effect, excludes the Baptist Manual, the Methodist Discipline, the Book of Mormon, the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, and all other such uninspired appendages to God's Word.

It would do good if consistently applied to the matter of "speaking as the oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11) We would then be calling Bible things by Bible names. You would never hear churches called Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Campbellite, Lutheran, Catholic, etc. Neither would you hear of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Campbellites, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. All would be content to be simply "Christians." (Acts 11:26)

While we cannot commend everything Pendleton puts into his Church Manual, we certainly do commend your serious consideration of the common sense principle herein discussed: "A commission to do a thing authorizes only the doing of the thing specified."

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