CONFLICT WITH METHODISM AND
Dr. Graves is not to be charged with bringing on the conflict with Methodism. It cannot be said that he sought to shun it, but he could not have avoided it if he had so desired. There was the choice, either to accept the challenge or quit the field. Dr. Graves would have left the plumed knight of Methodism to go his own way when the Baptists were left with the same freedom, but when the proud champion “shook his javelin in challenge to personal combat,” this ruddy youth who had come to make his home in the West “laid his lance in rest and accepted the challenge.”
However, much their successors may deplore this combat, some things would inevitably happen. Here is how it came on. Dr. McFerrin, in The Christian Advocate, said that “Baptists believed that infants were lost because not baptized by them.” Dr. Howell, in The Baptist, indignantly denied this, averring that baptism had nothing to do with the salvation of anyone and that, in the case of adults, the saved were fit subjects for baptism. This has ever been the position of the Baptists. Dr. McFerrin said, in reply, that the Disciples taught baptismal regeneration and showed his proof by saying: “Are these men, when a Baptist urges upon believers the duty of baptism as the approved form by which the unholy assumes religion and as an expression of love and obedience to Christ, to exclaim, ‘Cambellism, Campbellism?’”
Dr. Howell responded that no Baptist believes that baptism is a saving ordinance or that the unbaptized are necessarily unsaved.
Things were in this shape when Dr. Graves, on becoming editor of The Baptist, took up this charge as well as the McFerrin denial that the Methodist taught Baptismal Salvation. Here are Dr. Graves’ ringing words: “Mr. Wesley says, ‘by water as a means – the water of baptism – we are regenerated and born again,’ that this teaching utterly denies that faith is the only condition or medium of justification is self-evident. It needs no argument. If baptism is ever in any case an instrument of justification, it is always so, for there is but one medium. If it is always by faith it is never by baptism – and if by baptism then it is always by baptism and never by faith.
“According to the above teaching (in the Methodist Advocate), no adult ordinarily can escape original sin or attain to justification or regeneration except in or by the water of baptism as a means. Is not this the old Roman dogma to all intents and purposes? Is it not a rejection of the vital doctrine, by all its far-reaching and powerful machinery, by its itinerary, its mammoth book concern and its capital, to subvert the gospel of Christ, to abolish from the land the great and only soul-saving doctrine of justification by faith?”
It was thus that Dr. Howell practically turned over the challenge of the Methodist to his young associate, who was, at the same time, really his pupil. Dr. Graves took up this defiant call. He wrote, lectured, preached to thousands all over Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, portions of Georgia and Kentucky in attack and defense before thronging multitudes. He, like a knight clad in full armor and grasping his glittering sword, stood in the arena ready to do battle with any who denied the truth. He debated over the whole territory with the champions of Methodism and turned the tide, we may say, in a way to an extent that no one in those states had previously done. And Methodism still remembers that Dr. Graves lived.