Feb 29, 2012

J. R. Graves on Church Succession

The following is excerpted from "Sketches Of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers" by J. J. Burnett. (see here)

"Dr. J. B. Gambrell's illustration of the "lost horse" gives the gist and relative merit of Baptist contention and Baptist differences on this point. "I do not place much stress," he says, "on historical succession — but the New Testament reads as though things were started to go on. Let me illustrate my idea of succession: A man lost a gray horse. He finds some horse tracks step by step for a hundred miles. Then he comes upon the horse — but it is a black horse. That is historical succession. Tracks are not worth a cent. If, on the other hand, you find the gray horse, it does not make any difference if you do not find any tracks. The whole business lies in the identity; we have the horse hunted for. So, the man who takes the New Testament and finds a church in his neighborhood or elsewhere like the one in the Book, has succession." This puts the main emphasis in the right place, while it may be thought to depreciate in a measure, at least inferentially, the value of a history of an ancient and "peculiar people" with whose fortunes have been bound up in an age-long conflict the fortunes of the kingdom of God. In this connection I may be permitted to say that while Dr. Graves was a successionist there is no evidence, I think, that he put undue emphasis on the fact of succession or on any sort of "mother-church" notion; he did emphasize church authority and with apostolic zeal contended for the recognition of the same."

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