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Friday, February 10, 2006

"Martinism" -- a Mississippi Controversy

For history lovers: Bits on "Martinism" -- a Mississippi Controversy

Martinism was "[a] controversy which arose about 1893 within the bounds of the Mississippi Baptist Association over the doctrinal views of Matthew Thomas Martin...Briefly, his views were: (1) Men are dead in trespasses and sins and 'made alive' by the Holy Spirit, which process is generation. (2) Under proper conditions a sinner is enabled by the Spirit to repent and believe (simultaneously) and then is 'regenerated' by the 'engrafted Word of God,' which process is regeneration. (3) Thus being completely saved by grace...the believer is to submit to believer's baptism. (4) The Christian has within himself the witness of full assurance, which depends...on God to keep His word. (5) The true Christian never doubts his assurance of full and eternal salvation. (6) If a professed Christian has doubts that his experience of grace was real, he is still is the bonds of sin. (7) If under favorable conditions the professed Christian has a blessed experience, accompanied by the joys of salvation, this is to be regarded as a genuine experience of grace (...regeneration), and the individual should submit to believer's baptism." - From the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Vol. II, p. 825.

This controversy was centered in Mississippi, but affected other areas of the deep south where Martin had been influential as a preacher. Part of Martin's influence outside of Mississippi was due to his living in Texas and Georgia for about twelve years, and being the business manager of the Mississippi Baptist Record, paper of the Mississippi State Convention. According to writers from the Mississippi Baptist Association, both during and after the controversy, Martin was "a man of fine mental attainments...He has a wonderfully logical turn of mind, and when once his premises are admitted, one is led on step by step almost irresistibly to his conclusions...a man of...courageous convictions." - Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association for One Hundred Years (1806-1906) by T. C. Schilling. The Mississippi Baptist Association was a local association, and should not be confused with the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

1893 Mississippi Baptist Association minutes: "Immediately after the sermon (by M. T. Martin, rlv) forty persons came forward and said that they then had peace with God and full assurance for the first time." Martin had just preached from the text Romans 1:16, and had preached a day or two before from II Thess. 2:13 and discussed "Election, work of the Spirit in preparing the heart, faith or belief of the truth, and good works as the fruits of faith." Perhaps the chief conflict came not from the doctrine itself, but from the proliferation of rebaptisms of these Baptists in their own churches. Martin preached before the Association again in 1894, but in 1895, the association would pass this resolution: "Whereas, it has come to the knowledge of this Association that rebaptism is practiced by the Galilee Baptist church (Martin's church, rlv) to an unlimited extent, unwarranted by the Scriptures, and, Whereas, there is no diminishing of this heresy -- on the contrary, a growing increase; therefore, be it Resolved, That this Association enters her solemn protest against any further practice of this heresy within her bounds, and we do solemnly declare our nonfellowship for it." It should be understood that the Mississippi Baptist Association was landmarkist and did practice "rebaptism," so the resolution was directed particularly at the "rebaptisms" caused by Martinism.

In 1896, the doctrinal views of Martin were discussed quite extensively, numerous resolutions were offered from varying angles, but most were tabled. Two were passed. First, to ask the editor of The Baptist Record to allow M. T. Martin and a representative brother from the other side to discuss all the points of the doctrines in question. R. A. Venable, of Meridian, MS, was selected to rebut Martin, but the discussion never materialized. The second resolution that passed stated: "Resolved, That, on the question of rebaptism of one who was formerly baptized in unbelief, it is the right of each church to act in her sovereign capacity." Evidently all were not satisfied, because in 1897, the association resolved that Martin's teachings were out of line with regular Baptist teaching and withdrew fellowship from him and his church. They also warned that any church that might call him as pastor would forfeit membership in the association. It seems for the most part, at least in Texas, Martinism had died down by the coming of the 20th century.

Have the doctrinal elements of "Martinism" survived among any group of Baptists, or among Baptists in a particular region?

1 comment:

JLS said...

I know of none in the south of MS.