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The Anabaptists of the 16th Century and the Baptists of the 19th Century
By the Late W. T. Beeby, Esq. of London
      We this month commence the publication of a most valuable document from the pen of our lamented brother Beeby, who recently died in Calcutta, of Asiatic Cholera, during a commercial visit to India. The work has had a large circulation in England, and we print from the fourth edition. We are satisfied that the readers of our pages will be deeply interested with this excellent article. Mr. Beeby was for many years the financial agent in India of our American Board of Baptist Missions, and rendered most important services to the cause – One of the Editors of the Memorial will never forget the Christian kindness which he experienced during his visits to Mr. Beeby’s hospitable abode at Camber[blur] in 1836. Like our own beloved Cobb, brother Beeby was the Christian merchant, ‘fervent in spirit, diligent in business,’ and God blessed him and made him a blessing. -- Editor.

Part I.

      “The ANABAPTISTS, a turbulent and enthusiastic sect, arose in the time of Luther's Reformation in the 16th century.

      “They pretended to an extent of Divine influence which superseded the civil magistracy, and raised them above human control.

      “In 1532, Matthias and Buccold (a baker and a tailor) fixed themselves at Munster, in Westphalia, and by pretensions to inspiration and extraordinary sanctity, gained possession of the city, deposed the magistrates, confiscated the estates of some, seized the personal property of others, and threw the whole into the common treasury: they changed the name of the city to Mount Zion, and proclaimed the second coming of the Messiah, to establish a fifth and universal monarchy, which, in the meantime, they were to prepare for him.

      “Matthias was soon cut off; but Buccold had the address to get himself proclaimed king in Zion, assumed the honors of royalty, and more than the usual licentiousness of a king, (at least in Europe;) taking no less than fourteen wives, and committing many other excesses, which roused the princes of the empire. He was besieged by an army, and suffered the rigors both of war and famine. At length the city was taken by surprise; many were killed, and the rest taken prisoners. Buccold was loaded with chains, and after being carried from city to city, as a public spectacle, was taken back to Munster, where he suffered a cruel and lingering death, which he bore in a manner worthy of a better cause; and after having reigned about fifteen months, and thrown all Germany into alarm, died at the early age of twenty-six.”

      These, or somewhat similar, are the records that are now most commonly to be met with of the Anabaptists of Munster. It appears, however, by the writings of many old authors, that crimes were laid to their charge by their enemies, of which they were innocent; and that the insurrection had very much of a civil rather than of a religious character, arising from oppressions practised upon the rustic population (to which fact allusion is made in the Penny Cyclopædia, Art. Anabaptists; and Milner also says: “These rebellions arose from secular causes”; be this as it may, the inquiry does not affect the subject now to be considered. It may therefore, with reference to the account just related, suffice to remark, that when any people allow their passions to hurry them into the commission of excesses such as have been described, exceeding not only the bounds of true religion, but those of common morality, a disgraceful result may always be expected. Many persons who have taken no trouble to ascertain the truth, having however supposed the Christians of the present day called Baptists owe their origin to the Anabaptists of Munster, the purport of these pages is to exhibit a few facts in refutation of this erroneous idea.

      The compiler, from his own observation of what is occurring in the world, cannot believe otherwise than that the Spirit of God is bestowed on Christians of other denominations as well as on Baptists, therefore, he is not so bigoted as to imagine, that Baptists can alone be saved.

      “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned,” even though he be baptized. Therefore, while he regards every true Christian with affection, and would willingly unite with such in every good work and word, wherein both are agreed, he is convinced that it is the duty of every one, where circumstances admit of it, to connect himself in church-fellowship with those whose sentiments he conscientiously believes to be most in accordance with the word of God: to this he would appeal, and by this standard only he considers it the bounden duty y every Christian to be regulated.

      History may tend to confirm, but the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, must be the leading principle or guide, as to spiritual things: where the latter support the former, we have the strongest reason to believe the account related is correct; but where Scripture in no respect agrees with history or tradition, we must believe that worldly wisdom, or the corruption which accompanies it, has introduced errors which are not pleasing to the Divine Being, and that can only be expunged by the blood of Christ. Moreover, as where there is knowledge of error, there is wilful sin, it behoves every man to inquire and act for himself; since his own soul, and not that of another, is most concerned.

      The reader's attention is, therefore, directed to the following facts:

1st. That the English Baptists never had any connexion with the Munster enthusiasts.

2d. That they disprove, in toto, and unreservedly condemn the whole of their rebellious conduct.

3d. Of eight leading articles of faith which have been stated as forming the creed of this people, not one them is held by the English Baptists.

      In reference to baptism, the Munsterites, we are informed, administered it by sprinkling; and the reader is aware, the Baptists uniformly observe immersion. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says: “It must be observed, that the Baptists and Mennonites of England and Holland, are to be considered in a very different light from the enthusiasis (the Anabaptists) we have been describing; and it appears equally uncandid and invidious, to trace up their distinguishing sentiments, as some of their adversaries have done, to those obnoxious characters, and there to stop, in order, as it were, to associate with it the ideas of turbulence and fanaticism, with which it certainly has no natural connexion.”

      “Their coincidence with some of those oppressed and infatuated people in denying baptism to infants, is acknowledged by the Baptists; but they disavow the practice which the appellation of Anabaptists (viz. double or second baptism) implies, and their doctrines seem referable to a more ancient and respectable origin."

      “They appear supported by history in considering themselves the descendants of the Waldenses, who were so grievously oppressed and persecuted by the despotic heads of the Romish monarchy; and they profess an equal aversion to all principles of rebellion on one hand, and to all suggestions of fanaticism on the other.”

      It would be useless to lengthen this account by stating all the articles of faith held by the Anabaptists: as if it is proved that Christians holding the same sentiments as the Baptists of the present day existed long before this deluded sect arose, it must be quite evident, that Baptists are not descendants of Anabaptists. We will, therefore, proceed to examine some of the evidences of this fact.

      From the establishment of the anti-Christian power of the Roman Pontiff to the time of the Reformation, there intervened a gloomy period, emphatically and justly called “the dark ages.” Now, supposing, during this gloomy period, the apostacy had been so universal, that not a single person was to be found who held the truth once delivered to the saints; yet, if at the close of the period, some person should discover the nature of the prevailing errors, should renounce them, and embrace the truth, they are no more to be considered innovators, or founders of a new system or a new religion, (as it is sometimes called) than if they had been the immediate followers of the apostles, and taught the same truths: and this, we will show, may be said of the Baptists.

      It will, however, doubtless, be more satisfactory if we can ascertain that there were individuals, and still further so, if we find there existed communities, who, from the first until the present time, refused submission to, and held sentiments differing from the papal church of Rome, maintaining the faith originally delivered to the saints.

      1. In every age of this dark time, (says President Edwards) there appeared particular persons in all parts of Christendom, who bore testimony against the corruptions and tyranny of the church of Rome. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of witnesses through the whole time, in Germany, France, Britain, and other countries: as historians demonstrate, and mention them by name, private persons, ministers, magistrates, and persons of great distinction.

      2. But there were not only scattered individuals throughout the states of Europe, who appeared at intervals like glowing meteors in the night of Popery; but there was a small secluded and delightful district where the full glory of the sun, poured forth between the two tremendous clouds that overspread the east and west of Christendom, was long and delightfully enjoyed.

      Here, for a succession of ages, not a few, but myriads of persons possessed and reflected the light of divine truth.

      The five valleys of Piedmont between France and Italy, environed and defended by almost impassable mountains, fertile, fruitful, and secluded from surrounding nations, were secure: “as if the all-wise Creator had from the beginning designed that place as a cabinet, wherein to put some inestimable jewel; or in which to reserve many thousand souls which should not bow the knee to Baal.”

      This was the fact. In this place, and more or less in the neighborhood, for above a thousand years, a faithful remnant reserved to the Lord from corrupted Europe, continued to dwell.

      The Waldenses and others holding like opinions contemporary with or preceding them, were distinguished also by the names Albigenses, Vaudois, Paterines, Lyonists, Paulicians, &c.

      Their extent as to number is given by one of their pastors, George Morrell, who says, there were in his time, A.D. 1530, above 800,000 persons professing the religion of the Waldenses. In the south of France, in Spain, Italy, and Germany, at certain so they were numerous; in Boemia alone, they were said to be 80,000 in A. D. 1315.

      In A. D. 1260, they had churches in Albania, Lombardy, Milan, Romagna, Vicenza, Florence, val Spoletino, Constantinople, Philadelphia, Sclavonia, Bulgaria, Diagonitia, and subsequently were in considerable numbers in Sicily, Livonia, Sarmatia, &c.

      We will now state, I. The leading principles of the Waldenses as a general body, and especially on the article of Baptism. II. The opinion entertained by several divisions of that body of this particular subject. And III. Some facts in the history of these various communities of Christians.

      I. The leading principles of the Waldenses are abundantly given by themselves in their confessions of faith and other writings, and by others, both friends and enemies, who have written of them. In A.D. 1544, the Waldenses, to remove unfounded prejudices entertained against them, transmitted to the French king a confession of faith in twelve articles, of which the following are the chief:

     II. 1. We believe there is but one God, Creator, and Father of all.

      2. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son and image of the Father. That in him all the fulness of the Godhead dwells.

      3. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

      4. We believe there is one holy Church, the whole assembly of the faithful.

      (As connected with our present inquiry, we will only further cite what relates to the ordinances.)

7. We believe that in the ordinance of baptism, the water is the visible and external sign, which represents to us renovation of the mind, by the mortification of our members, through Jesus Christ; and by this ordinance we are received into the holy congregation of God's people, previously professing and declaring our faith and change of life.

      8. We hold, that the Lord's Supper is a commemoration of our thanksgiving for the benefits we have received by his sufferings and death, &c. &c.

      Above 400 years before this, A.D. 1130, in another confession of faith, the Waldenses declared: “We acknowledge no sacraments as of divine appointment, but Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We consider the sacraments as visible emblems of invisible blessings. We regard it as proper that believers use these symbols: notwithstanding which, we maintain that believers may be saved without these signs, where they have no opportunity of observing them.” (So the Baptists affirm, 700 years after.)

      Among the writings of the ancient Waldenses, is a treatise concerning Antichrist, Purgatory, &c., dated 1120, in which they affirm:

      “Antichrist seduces the people from Christ, teaches to baptize children into the faith, and attributes to this the work of regeneration, thus confounding the work of the Spirit with the external rite of baptism.”

      II. Others have testified of them in accordance with the preceding. Chessanion, 1595, says: “Some writers have affirmed that the Albigenses approved not of the baptism of infants; others, that they entirely sighted this holy sacrament. The truth is, they did not reject this sacrament, or say it was useless, but only counted it unnecessary to infants, because they are not of age to believe, or capable of giving evidence of faith."

      Chessanion states further: “That they were not the first that were of this opinion;” and refers to Tertullian as an example, and gives divers instances of the practice of the ancients to the same purpose.

      Pope Pius II. declared the doctrine, taught by Calvin to be the same as those of the Waldenses.

      A.D. 1175. At a council held in Lombez, the good men of Lyons were condemned: one charge was, that they denied infants to be saved by baptism.

      A.D. 1179. Alexander III., in council, condemned the Waldensian or Puritan heresy, for denying baptism to infants.

      Mezeray, the historian of France, says, In baptism, in the twelfth century, they plunged the candidate in the sacred font, to show them what operation that sacrament hath on the soul.

      Favin says, “The Albigeois do esteem the baptism of infants superstitious.”

      The following writers not only refer to the principles of the Waldenses, but make them one with modern Baptists, viz.: Dr. Mosheim, Allix, Limborch (Professor of Divinity at Amsterdam,) Father Gretzer, a persecuter of the Waldenses, Montanus, Cardinal Hossius, Bellarmine, and others.

      To furnish anything like a particular chronological account up to the apostolic age, of the various communities of Christians who held the same sentiments as the Baptists of the present day, would far exceed the limit of these pages; a very brief summary of some .# the facts connected with their history, can, therefore, alone be attempted, and for a more extended and satisfactory account the reader is referred to the works enumerated at the close.

      It has been mentioned that there were at the same periods, in different parts of Europe, large bodies of Christians holding the same opinions on the subject of baptism; but as it may not be generally known what caused these numerous communities to disappear, and why their sentiments were for some time subsequently but little heard of or known, a few words explanatory thereof may not be amiss, before tracing their history to the earliest ages.

      Ecclesiastical history affords ample evidence of the ceaseless persecution that conscientious individuals and bodies of Christians experienced from the first establishment of that antichristian power, the papal hierarchy. It is, however, needless to reser to earlier instances thereof for our present purposes, than to an account taken from Mezeray's French History, where it is stated:

      “In 1177, the kings of France and England, from a desire to stop heresy, resolved to attack the Albigenses by military force, but afterwards thought it would be more prudent to send preachers first; accordingly, the Archbishops of Berry and Narbonne, with Reginald, Bishop of Bath, and others of figure, appeared among these people. These preaching commissioners exacted an oath of the Catholics, that they should give information of and against the Albigenses. Great numbers were, in consequence, discovered, and on being cited before these Bishops, a confession of the Catholic faith was submitted to them, and they were required to swear to the belief of it; but the Albigenses refused to swear or take any oath. Consequently, the Albigenses, Paulicians, or Waldenses, in Gascogne or Provence, were excommunicated, and all persons under the fear of the Pontiff were forbidden to entertain them in their houses or country. The severity of these measures drove many into other kingdoms; others were led to abjure their opinions, and the rest the princes were requested to banish out of their dominions.”

      A.D. 1181. Pope Lucius III. held a council at Verone, at which the Albigensian sect and heresy were damned for teaching otherwise than the Church of Rome about baptism, and in the same year issued a decree confirmatory of former measures, in which was stated, “We declare all Catharists, Paterines, Poor of Lyons, Passignes, Josephists, and Arnoldists, to lie under a perpetual anathema.”

      A.D. 1193. Pope Innocent sent Guy and Renier, two legates, into France, with instructions to burn their leaders, confiscate their goods, and disperse their flocks.

      Notwithstanding these inhuman proceedings, as well in France as Spain, still in the year 1200, the city of Toulouse and eighteen other principal towns in Languedoc, Provence, and Dauphine, were filled with Waldenses and Albigenses.

      A.D. 1206. An order of preaching friars was established, whose ostensible business was to go through towns and villages to preach the faith; but secretly to obtain information as to the dwellings of those obnoxious to the Pope's vengeance. In a few years these missionaries were established in all towns suspected of heresy, whence originated the inquisition.

      A.D. 1209. An army consisting of, some say 300,000, others 500,000, was put in motion in France, to destroy the heretics, and in a few months 200,000 lives were sacrificed by barbarities practiced, before unheard of.

      These crusades continued year after year, when up to A. D. 1243, it is stated one million of inoffensive persons had been martyred, and the survivors scattered, forming colonies of various extent.

      For about 130 years from this period, they experienced a comparative degree of ease, though occasionally troubled by inquisitors. And about the year 1400, an attack was made upon such as inhabited the valley Pragela in Piedmont, by a Catholic party in the depth of winter; when those who escaped the sword, perished upon the mountains during the night, from the inclemency of the weather.

      It would be impossible even to mention here all the persecutions and cruelties that were perpetrated from tune to time; we must, therefore, be content to allude only to such as shall show that they were continued up to a period when the very race and names of these faithful followers of the Redeemer seemed to be exterminated.

      A.D. 1484. When another army marched into the Valley of Loyse, the inhabitants fled to their caves at the top of the mountains, carrying with them their children, and whatever valuables they possessed, as well as what was thought necessary for their support. The lieutenant, finding the inhabitants all fled, and that not an individual appeared with whom he could converse, had considerable trouble in discovering their retreats; when causing quantities of wood to be placed at the entrance of their caves, be ordered the same to be set on fire. The consequence of this inhuman conduct was, four hundred children were suffocated in their cradles, or in the arms of their dead mothers; while multitudes, to avoid death by suffocation, or being committed to the flames, precipitated themselves headlong from their caverns upon the rocks below, when they were dashed to pieces; if any escaped death by the fall, they were immediately slaughtered by the brutal soldiers. It appears more than three thousand men and women belonging to the Valley of Loyse perished on this occasion.

      Measures equally ferocious were adopted against the inoffensive inhabitants of other valleys, and with a like cruel success. Sentences were publicly given against them in various churches. Innocent VIII, appeared as resolved at this period to free the world of these Dissenters, as Innocent III. had been in the thirteenth century, to rid Languedoc of the Waldenses. So effectual were the papal measures, that the inhabitants were wholly extirpated in the above named valleys. In 1487, scenes of barbarous cruelty awaited those long privileged people who inhabited other districts of Piedmont; and in the ensuing year, to complete the work of destruction, an army of 18,000 men marched into those sequestered parts.

      A succession of adverse circumstances attended the Waldenses.

      The inquisitors who lay in ambush, issued their processes daily against them; and as often as they could apprehend any of them, they were delivered over to the secular arm for punishment. The sanguinary proceedings of Rome seemed to have triumphed over its enemies. The heretics or Waldenses were destroyed or driven into obscurity.

      Similar atrocious persecutions having been carried on against these inoffensive people, holding the same religious sentiments, but bearing different names in Germany, Holland, and other countries, the survivors were obliged to conceal themselves, or fly from place to place.* Yet there were not wanting those who bore their testimony to the truth, by their sufferings from time to time.” Many, as the history of our own country witnesses, came to England.

* footnote: In the year 1500, there were 200 congregations of these people in Bohemia and Moravia; and as before mentioned, one of their pastors in Providence, estimated their numbers in 1530 at 800,000

      In 1528, some who came from Holland were apprehended and imprisoned, and two burnt at Smithfield. In 1535, twenty-two Baptists were put to death in England, and in 1539, one hundred and thirty that had fled from England, were put to death at Delft, the men beheaded and the women drowned.

      It cannot, therefore, be matter of surprise, if the particular religious sentiments of these people were for a period kept from public view; and when revived in after times by a people bearing a new name, amongst a generation emerging from a papal darkness, and ignorant of almost all scriptural truth, it is not wonderful that such apparently novel, because then uncommon semtiments, should be looked upon as a strange doctrine.

      Having commenced these pages by maintaining that the English Baptists of the 19th century, do not derive their origin from the Anabaptists of Munster, but justly claim descent from a more honorable stock that existed before the Munsterites, what has been stated may be considered sufficient proof of this fact; but to confirm this still further, we will now refer to a few more brief evidences in corroboration thereof.

      Fox, the Martyrologist, states, that in 1158, “two eminent Waldensian preachers, Gerherdus and Dulcinus, came into England to propagate the gospel,” “which sect,” says Sir W. Newbury, in his History of England, “were called the Publicani, and who, being as numerous as the sand of the sea, did sorely infest both France, Italy, Spain, and England.”

      Archbishop Usher, also, in his book on the succession and state of Christian churches, says, “The Berengarian or Waldensian heresy, had, about the year 1120, generally infested all France, Italy, and England.”

      We may next notice, as another proof of the existence of the Waldensian and Baptist sentiments, prior to the Anabaptists of Munster, the fact that our own, great Reformer, John Wickliff was born A. D. 1324, held the same scriptural sentiments with the Waldensians, as did also those persecuted people, who succeeded him, who were known as Lollards.

      In the History of the British Reformers, we find it stated that, “In the fourteenth century, true religion scarcely existed in England, and it may justly be said, that the days were evil. The papal usurpation of power over the consciences of men, was then at its height, for error and superstition had been advancing during the preceding centuries, till both the doctrines and precepts of our Lord, as declared in the scriptures, were no longer taught by those who professed to be his followers; and the little that remained of the truth was corrupted and concealed from view by the superstitions and vain traditions of men.”

      “John Wickliff was a distinguished member of the University of Oxford, where he rendered himself conspicuous soon after the middle of the fourteenth century, by his determined opposition to the Dominican and Franciscan friars, who then infested the kingdom, and especially that University.

      “The following description of the Lollards is given by a Roman inquisitor of those times,” who says, “The disciples of Wickliff are men of a serious, modest deportment, avoiding all ostentation in dress, mixing little with the busy world, and complaining of the debauchery of mankind. They maintain themselves wholly by their own labor, and utterly despise wealth, being fully content with bare necessaries; they follow no traffic, because it is attended with so much lying, swearing, and cheating; they are chaste and temperate, are never seen in taverns, or amused by the trifling gaieties of life; you find them always employed either learning or teaching; they are concise and devout in their prayers, blaming an unanimated prolixity; they never swear, speak little, and in their public preaching lay their chief stress on charity: they never mind canonical hours, because they say that a paternoster or two, repeated with devotion, is better than tedious hours spent without devotion; they explain the Scriptures in a different way from the holy doctors, and church of Rome; they speak little and humbly, and are well-behaved in appearance.”

      Milner, in his History of the Church of Christ, with reference to the fourteenth century says, “Real Christians were still to be found, either only among the Waldenses, or else they worshipped God in obscurity, under the unspeakable disadvantages of the general corruption.

      “The term Lollard was affixed in general to all those who professed, whether on solid principles of godliness or not, a greater degree of attention to acts of piety and devotion, than the rest of mankind. Of these, Walter Reynard, a Dutchman, was apprehended and burnt at Cologne. This is he whom I have already called Reynard Lollard in the account of the Waldenses, and from whom the Wickliffites are supposed to have acquired the name of Lollards.

      “The Church of God, therefore, considered as an outward society, seems only to have existed among the Waldenses.

      “Terms of reproach have in all ages been applied to real Christians. Lollards, the name given to the followers of Wickliff, is to be considered as as one of them.

      “The sufferings of the Lollards, during the established governments of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., were even greater than they had been during the civil wars. Neither age nor sex were spared. Fox has collected from the registers of the diocese of Lincoln for the year 1521, a most shocking catalogue both of the accusers and of the victims who suffered under the grievous persecution of Bishop Langland, the king's confessor."

      We shall now only add a few words more to this part of the subject, to exhibit that Wickliff's sentiments on baptism were taken from Danver's work on Baptism, published in 1674, who quotes as follows, from Wickliff's Trialogues.

      “As to children’s estate, as to salvation or damnation, he can say nothing what God will do with them.” “But for those who make baptism the thing to save them, and the parents' omission thereof, to damn them, he utterly denies; because, as God hath not appointed baptism to work grace or to regenerate, so it would be unreasonable to charge damnation upon little ones, for the parents' neglect.” - Trialogues. 12.

      “In the eleventh chapter of his Trialogues, he also states that believers are the only subjects of baptism.”

      And, although not exactly relevant to the subject immediately under consideration, we must add the following words of Milner, viz.: “Let the reader remember that Wickliff not only published an English Translation of the Bible, but also pleaded in a very spirited and sensible manner the right of the people to read the Scriptures. All this tended the more to provoke the clergy, and to increase his popularity with the laity.”

      We have thus clearly shown --
      1. That the Baptists of the nineteenth century did not originate from the Anabaptists of Munster.

      2. That they have good reason to consider themselves the descendants of the Lollards, Wickliffites, Waldenses, Albigenses, and others, who held the same opinions with themselves.

      3. That those from whom they claim descent, did exist long before the Munsterites, and are recorded in well-accredited histories, as the only communities of Christians that did keep alive the knowledge of the gospel truth for many centuries.

      4. That the English Baptists of the nineteenth century are not schismatics or separatists, as they have sometimes been called; as from what has been already cited, it is evident that they are descendants of Christian churches, which existed for several hundred years before any one of the now existing Christian churches in England, none of which can date their appearance as distinct religious communities to a period prior to the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

      The evidence produced may be regarded as conclusive with respect to Baptists, justly referring their origin to a more ancient and more worthy ancestry than the Anabaptists of Munster; but as in addition to this, they claim descent from Christians of even a still greater antiquity than the earliest period at present mentioned, both through the Waldenses and other churches, as also from a distant community that existed in Britain from the time of the apostles.

To be Continued.
[Continued here.]

[The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, February, 1843, pp. 33-42; via Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.].

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