By T. T. Eaton
Dr. Christian has certainly rendered valuable service in bringing to light many facts bearing on the history of the English Baptists in the 16th and 17th centuries. He has shown a wonderful gift for unearthing facts. As if by instinct he knows which way to turn and where to go to get valuable information. Who but he, for example, would ever have thought of overhauling the wills recorded in the old Somerset House, London. Yet there he found the will of Henry Jacob, probated in April, 1624, showing that his death occurred before that date. This fact contradicted the statements of the Gould documents - the so-called "Kiffin" manuscript, the "Jessey Records," &c.
Dr. Christian has not only examined the material in the British Museum, and in the leading libraries, but he has gone into the civil and ecclesiastical court records; he has visited some of the oldest Baptist churches, founded long before 1641, and has brought to light many interesting and valuable facts. Even in his examination of the libraries he has uncovered what was before unknown. For example, he found the book of "R. B." to which writers of the 17th century referred, and which was claimed by those who hold the "1641 theory" to have been written by Richard Blunt. It turns out that "R. B." was not Richard Blunt at all, but "R. Barrow." His finding the testimony of Fox, which had been disputed, was a case of special interest. But there is no need to enumerate in detail the various interesting "finds" of Dr. Christian. The question is, what do they prove?
The claim has been made that the Anabaptists of England were in the uniform practice of pouring and sprinkling for baptism for nearly
all the 16th century and up to 1641 in the 17th. In 1641, it is said, one Richard Blunt was sent over to Holland to be immersed, and returning to London he immersed Samuel Blacklock, and these two immersed others. This is claimed as the first immersion of a believer in England for more than a century. It is claimed that about this time others began to practice immersion without reference to being in any sort of succession, and without regard to any baptized administrator. Such is the charge against our Baptist fathers in England, from which Dr. Christian has furnished a complete vindication.
WHAT ARE THE PROOFS?
What is the evidence brought forward in proof of this charge? One would suppose that the evidence would be clear and decisive; that cases would be cited of the practice of affusion by the Anabaptists of England, and records would be produced of the change from sprinkling to immersion by the Anabaptist churches. But we find nothing of the sort. Not a single instance has been cited where any Anabaptist in England practiced sprinkling or pouring, or where any Anabaptist church changed its practice. The remarkable claim is made that a practice was universal among a people, when not one of them has been shown to have observed any such practice!! What sort of history is that?
But because certain parties on the Continent of Europe are said to have practiced affusion for baptism, it is inferred that these Anabaptists of England must have done the same. This strained inference is the first part of the alleged evidence that the immersion of believers was unknown in England for more than a century before 1641.
The second part of this evidence is a statement found in an anonymous document, the so-called "Kiffin" manuscript. The oldest extant
copy of this document dates back only so far as 1860, less than 40 years ago. In this copy, now at Regents Park College, London, is an account of Richard Blunt's going to Holland to be immersed, of his return and of his immersing Samuel Blacklock, and of their immersing others. Along with this account occur the words, "none having then so practiced in England to professed believers." Even if it were conceded that this document were authentic and authoritative - which I by no means concede - all that could be claimed as proved by it, is that, so far as the writer knew, there had been no practice of immersing believers in England at that time. But this is a very long way from proving that there was no such practice in England. In 1850 Charles H. Spurgeon did not know that anybody practiced immersion in England. It was a surprise and a joy to him to find that there were people in England, whose existence he had not suspected, who observed the New Testament teaching in regard to baptism. He proceeded to become one of them, and soon he filled the world with his fame. He says of himself in this regard: "I had thought myself to have been baptized as an infant; and so, when I was confronted with the question, 'What is required of persons to be baptized?' and I found that repentance and faith were required, I said to myself, 'Then I have not been baptized; that infant sprinkling of mine was a mistake; and [to] please God that I ever have repentance and faith, I will be properly baptized.' I did not know that there was one other person in the world who held the same opinion; for so little do Baptists make any show, or so little did they do so then, that I did not know of their existence" (Sermon on God's Pupil. Ps. 71.17). If, then, a certain unknown man's not knowing of the practice of believer's immersion in England in 1640, proves there was no such
practice there at that time, how much more does Charles H. Spurgeon's not knowing of the practice of believer's immersion in England in 1850, proves there was no such practice there at that time. They had facilities of information in 1850 far beyond what they had in 1640.
Thomas Crosby, who wrote a history of the Baptists of England, 1738-40, mentions a manuscript "said to have been written by Mr. William Kiffin," which corresponds in many respects to the document in Regent's Park College, and no doubt the latter is a version of the document Crosby saw, but of which he gives the substance, with some quotations. It is remarkable that Crosby does not mention or refer to the words, "none having, then so practiced in England to professed believers," and it is questionable whether those words were in the manuscript Crosby had before him. That document, however, mentioned the story of Richard Blunt. But there is no other evidence of the story except this sole document, which is anonymous. The only witness in the case is unknown, both as to his name and his date. We find no trace of him till Crosby speaks of him a century after the alleged occurrence. Neale also speaks of Blunt, but does so solely on the authority of this same document. Indeed, outside that document there is no evidence that there was such a performance as Blunt's going to Holland to be immersed and of his immersing Blacklock and others. No writer of the period, or for nearly a century later, makes any reference to any such proceeding. The book written by "R. B." was supposed to furnish proof in regard to Blunt, but, as has been said, that book has been found, and turns out to have been written by "R. Barrow."
In 1643, only two years after 1641, the Baptist churches of London put forth their famous
confession of faith, which was signed by the leading Baptists of the city. It is significant that neither the name of Richard Blunt nor that of Samuel Blacklock appears. If they did what the "Kiffin" document says they did, their names should have headed the list. Dr. Joseph Angus knows more about English Baptist history than any other living man, and in ransacking that whole period he finds no evidence of the existence of Richard Blunt or of Samuel Blacklock, so that in his list of Baptist worthies their names are omitted. Dr. Cathcart, in this country, in the Baptist Encyclopedia gives no hint of the existence of such a man as Richard Blunt. The only evidence of existence I have been able to hear of comes from a lady, whose name I am not at liberty to mention, who has relatives by the name of Blunt in England. She says that Richard Blunt was a Baptist, that he left the o out of his name so as to distinguish himself from the Roman Catholic Blounts, and that he died in 1620. She gives as authorities for these statements, Alexander Cooke's History of the Blunts and Maj. Gen. Blunt of the British army. I have had no opportunity to examine this evidence. If it shall prove to be valid, while it will show that such a man as Richard Blunt really did live, it will not help the 1641 theory, since a man who died in 1620, cannot be depended on to have introduced immersion into England in 1641.
But Dr. Christian has clearly proved that these documents, the "Kiffin" ms., "Jessey Records," &c., are thoroughly unreliable. They abound in the grossest and most glaring mistakes. They get names wrong, titles of books wrong, and dates wrong. They represent women as being men, men as operating long after they were dead, or as actively engaged over the country when the court records show they were in prison. If such errors do
not prove a document to be unreliable, in the name of reason, what errors would prove it? The documents were evidently written long after the events, by parties who did not even dare to give their names, and who were in gross ignorance of the facts. The Epworth-Crowle document has been rejected on far less evidence than is produced against these Gould documents - so-called because the extant copies were made in 1860, under the direction of the Rev. George Gould. According to all the recognized principles of evidence, these Gould documents are utterly unworthy of credit. Yet in them is found the only direct testimony (?) to the "1641 theory." On such evidence (?) we are asked to rest our historic faith.
The third part of the alleged evidence, that the immersion of believers was unknown in England for a long period before 1641, consists of certain expressions of writers after 1641, who speak of the Anabaptists as "new," "upstart," &c. These expressions are arrayed and paraphrased so as to conform to the "1641 theory," and interpreted as confirming the "Kiffin" manuscript. Even were these expressions all that is claimed for them, they would prove nothing except that the practices of the Baptists were new to those who were writing. There are millions of people in the United States to-day to whom the practices of the Baptists are unknown. It was not until after the war between the States that Gen. Robert E. Lee knew that there were any Christians in this country who rejected infant baptism. Does that prove that before 1861 the Baptists of our land practiced infant baptism? Prof. George F. Holmes, of the University of Virginia, who recently died, wrote: "The Baptists are a religious laity whose main belief is in the necessity of the Hindoo practice of purification by bathing" (University of Virginia
Bulletin for August, 1898). Dr. Holmes was one of the greatest scholars of the world. These are but samples from men who surely had abundant opportunity to know about the Baptists, but who had not taken the trouble to inform themselves. If, then, such men, who are not chargeable with hostility to the Baptists, and living in our own land and time, so utterly misunderstand our denominational beliefs and practices, shall we be surprised to find bitter enemies of the Baptists in the 17th century in England charging them with being "new" and "upstart?"
Let it be remembered that the persecuting courts of High Commission and Star Chamber went out of existence August lst, 1641, and that then the Baptists, who had been obliged to conceal themselves, came out of their hiding places and preached their doctrine boldly, and broadly, as they could not do before. This, of course, made a stir, and it was all new to many of the people of that day. What wonder, then, that these Baptists should be pronounced "new" and "upstart?" But it is grotesque to claim such expressions as proving that Baptists began their practices in England at that time. The very fact that they showed themselves so vigorously and preached their doctrines so boldly in 1641, as is conceded on all hands, just so soon as they could do so safely, proves that they did not then invent or adopt these practices. They came from their hiding places and advocated openly what they had been believing and practicing in secret all the time.
Now, so far, I have assumed that the expressions "new," "upstart," &c., in the writings of the 17th century meant all that is claimed for them, viz.: that the writers thought the people and the practices mentioned were "new" and "upstart." But an examination of the writings shows this not to be true. What
these writers denounce as "new" and "upstart," is not the practice of immersion. Not at all; for that was, up to the decree of the Westminster Assembly in 1643, regarded as the normal form of baptism. The "new" thing was the absolute refusal to admit that anything but immersion was valid baptism. These writers were used to the idea that while immersion was all right, affusion, especially in cases of sickness, was equally valid. It was the denial of the validity of affusion that gave offense, and which was denounced as "new" and "upstart." Those who had been sprinkled in infancy were now required to be immersed, and nothing but immersion would be accepted by these horrid Anabaptists. Dr. Featley in 1644 entered the lists against these "new upstart sectaries," and in his "Dippers Dipt or the Anabaptists Ducked and Plunged," &c., he served them up to the great satisfaction of their enemies. Dr. Featley clearly states the case when he says, p. 182: "Whatsoever is here alleged for dipping we approve of, so farre as it excludeth not the other two," that is, "washing" and "sprinkling." Dr. Featley made no objection to the practice of immersion, but only to the rejection of affusion. The same may be said of others who denounce the Baptists of that day as "new," "upstart," &c.
Great reliance has been placed on a statement of the anonymous writer, Mercurius Rusticus, and so it may be well in passing to quote his language in full, which those who throw him at us have carefully avoided doing. On pages 21 and 22, of "Mercurius Rusticus or the Countrie's Complaint of the Barbarous Outrages," &c., A. D. 1646, we find:
"Essex is a deep country, and therefore we have travelled almost two weeks in it, yet we cannot get out; we are now at Chelmerford which is the Shire towne, and hath in it two thousand communicants; all of one and the
same church, for there is but one church in this great towne, whereof at this time Dr. Michelson is parson, an able and godly man. Before this parliament was called, of this numerous congregation, there was not one to be named, man or woman, who boggled at the Common prayers, or refused to receive the sacrament kneeling, the posture which the church of England (walking in the foot-steps of venerable antiquity) hath by Act of Parliament injoined all of those which account it their happinesse to be called her children. But since this magnified Reformation was set this towne (as indeed most corporations, as we finde by experience, are Nurceries of Faction and Rebellion) is so filled with Sectaries, especially Brownists and Anabaptists, that a third part of the people refuse to communicate in the Church Lyturgie, and half refuse to receive the blessed sacrament, unless they may receive it in what posture they may please to take it. They have amongst them two sorts of Anabaptists: the one they call Old men, or Aspersi, because they have been but sprinkled; the other they call the New men, or the Immersi, because they were overwhelmed in their rebaptization."
It is to be noted: 1. That this comes from an anonymous and a bitter royalist. The chief reliance of the advocates of the "1641 theory" is on anonymous documents. 2. He constantly confounded Anabaptists with Brownists and others, and denounced them all indiscriminately. Yet even here he does not claim that any who had been sprinkled in infancy were resprinkled, which must have been the case had the Anabaptists practiced sprinkling. The reasonable conclusion, even if this unknown writer be regarded as reliable, is that those who were converted from the state church and were immersed were the "Immersi," while those who broke from the state church without
being immersed were the "Aspersi." But such a venomous writer was not apt to get things straight, and his utterance gives only his opinion at best. Yet even he says nothing of Blunt's introducing immersion in 1641 or at any other time.
Another writer greatly relied on is Robert Baillie, and it may be deemed worth while to consider what he says. He was a Scotch Presbyterian minister in Glasgow, and of course he knew all about what the Anabaptists all over England were doing. He says in his "Anabaptisme," p. 163:
"Among the new inventions of the late Anabaptists, there is none which with greater animosity they set on foot, than the necessity of dipping over head and ears, than the nullity of affusion and sprinkling in the administration of Baptisme. Among the old Anabaptists, or those over sea to this day, so far as I can learn by their writs or any relation that has come to my ears, the question of dipping and sprinkling came never upon the Table. As I take it, they dip none, but all whom they baptize they sprinkle in the same manner as is our custom. The question about the necessity of dipping seems to be taken up onely the other year by the Anabaptists in England, as a point which alone, as they conceive, is able to carry their desire of exterminating infant-baptisme," &c.
It is to be noted that his special objection is not to the practice of immersion but to the advocacy of "the nullity of affusion and sprinkling." But how much Baillie knew of the people he was writing about, may be seen by reading further what he has to say of them. He tells of the origin of these Anabaptists, "unhappy men, Stock and Muncer, did begin to breathe out a pestiferous vapor, for to over-cloud that golden candlestick" (p. 3). He says further: The spirit of Mahomet was not more
hellish in setting foot most grosse errors and countenancing abominable lusts, nor was it anything so much hellish in making an open trade of bloodshed, robbery, confusion and Catholick oppression through the whole earth as the spirit of Anabaptisme. This great and severe sentence will be made good in the following narrative by such abundance of satisfactory testimonies as may convince the greatest favourers of these men among us" (p.3). He says of these Anabaptists "that whosoever refused to enter into their society to be rebaptized and to become members of their churches were without all pity to be killed" (p.5). He goes yet farther: "So great is the despight of divers Anabaptists at the person of Jesus Christ that they rail most abominably against His holy name, they not only spoil Him of His godhead, but will have His manhood defiled with sin, yea, they come to renounce Him and His Cross, though some of them, with a great deal of confidence, avow themselves to be the very Christ" (p. 98).
Once more he says that among these Anabaptists "the Scripture is denied to be the Word of God, and is avowed to be full of lies and errors, men are sent from the Word to seek revelations above and contrary to it" (p. 99).
In all fairness let it be asked what reliance can be placed in the statements about the Anabaptists of a man who writes this way about them? Yet these are probably the main citations relied upon to confirm the statement of the so-called "Kiffin" manuscript. It is only fair, though painful, to add, that many of the authors cited in favor of the "l641 theory" have been grossly misrepresented. For example, Ephraim Pagitt is represented as saying in his Heresiography that the "plunged Anabaptists" are the newest sort. He wrote in 1645, and this is urged as confirming the theory that
immersion had then been lately introduced. But the fact is, Pagitt says no such thing. I secured a copy of his book and read it through carefully twice (and others have read it), and the expression "plunged Anabaptists" does not occur in the book at all, and he draws no distinction whatever between the "plunged Anabaptists" and any other sort, nor does he intimate that immersion was new among them.
It is claimed that Thomas Crosby, the Baptist historian who wrote in 1738-40, favored the theory that immersion had ceased to be practiced in England, and was started afresh in 1641. But the claim is without valid warrant. Crosby does unhesitatingly speak of restoring immersion, but that does not mean to convey the idea that immersion had ceased to be practiced, is manifest by his point blank declaration to the contrary. A practice can be restored without having entirely ceased to exist. When the abolition of the persecuting courts (High Commission and Star Chamber) in 1641, left Baptists free to publicly preach their doctrines and observe their practices, there was, as a matter of course, a revival of both. There was a decided Baptist movement, largely among Pedobaptists, and the mistake is made of thinking that these Pedobaptists who adopted Baptist views were the first in England, for over a century, to hold those views. Crosby, however, does not put the revival or restoring of immersion in 1641, but back at the beginning of the century, for he speaks of John Smyth as one of those who restored the ordinance in England, and Smyth died in 1609 or 1610. Crosby believed that the immersion of believers had been practiced in England from the earliest times, and that it had been kept up in the world since the days of John the Baptist. Hear him:
"The English Baptists adhere closely to this principle, that John the Baptist was by divine
command, the first commissioned to preach the Gospel and baptize by immersion those that received it, and that this practice has been ever since maintained and continued in the world to this present day (Preface, Vol. II, page ii.)
Crosby gives a sketch of the preservation of immersion from the days of Christ to the beginning of the 17th century. He nowhere intimates that any Anabaptist church in England ever changed their practice from sprinkling to immersion. He assumes throughout that the Anabaptists from whom the Baptists largely sprang, had all along practiced immersion. He is at pains to point out how the Anabaptists in continental Europe practiced immersion from the beginning of the Reformation. He tells of the decree at Zurich in the year 1530, "making it death for any to baptize by immersion; upon which law some called Anabaptists were ty'd back to back, and thrown into the sea, others were burned alive, and many starved to death in prison." He reminds his readers how Pomeranius, a companion of Luther, explained that "plunging was restored in Hamburg" in 1529. Speaking of Arnoldus Meshovius and others about 1522, as opposed to infant baptism, Crosby says (Vol. I., p. 21, Preface): "'Tis still more evident that these first reformers looked upon sprinkling as a corruption of baptism." This historian believed that immersion had been continuously practiced in England since the time "the Gospel was preached in Great Britain soon after our Saviour's death" (Vol. II., p. ix). He says (Id. p. xlvi.), in speaking of Wickliffe's opinions: "I shall now only further observe that the practice of immersion of dipping in baptism, continued in the church until the reign of King James I, or about the year 1600." By "the church" he evidently means the Church of England, for on the very next page
he says: "That immersion continued in the Church of England till about the year 1600."
HOW SPRINKLING CAME
The reign of James I. was the turning point, so far as the Church of England was concerned. James came from Scotland, where the Protestant divines on returning from their stay in Geneva, when Elizabeth ascending the throne made their return safe, had established sprinkling. Hence James began to introduce sprinkling and to root out immersion from the Church of England.
These Protestant divines had fled from the persecution of Bloody Mary, and had gone to Geneva. There, under the tuition of John Calvin, they adopted sprinkling as the normal act for baptism; and when on the accession of Elizabeth they returned (as the Edinburgh Encyclopedia tells us), they thought they could not do their church a greater service than by introducing a practice suited to their Northern clime and sanctioned by the great name of Calvin. Thus sprinkling was established in Scotland, and James, coming from Scotland, believed in sprinkling and sought to make it the general practice. And just here Dr. Christian has rendered valuable service in enabling us to trace the growth of sprinkling in England. He has personally examined copies of the Articles of Visitation sent out to the clergy by the Archbishops, every year from the beginning of James' reign to the triumph of sprinkling in 1643. The high functionaries of the Church of England resisted the efforts of the Court to substitute the "bason" for sprinkling, instead of the "font" for immersion. In these Articles exhortations abound to keep the "font" in its place and to keep out the "bason." Thus the struggle went on until when the Westminster Assembly met the Presbyterian view prevailed, and that
body in 1643 voted immersion down by a majority of one.
So far from immersion's beginning in England in 1641, it was not far from that time that sprinkling began. And the very fact that immersion was voted down in this Assembly by a majority of only one in 1643, is positive proof that immersion did not begin in England only two years before. It is incredible that a religious rite, introduced anew by poor and obscure people, and opposed to the practice and prejudice of those in power (as immersion must have been, according to the "1641 theory"), should in two years have taken such hold of the members of that Assembly as that the rite could be voted down by only one majority. Yet without an atom of positive evidence, we are asked to believe that just that took place.
ABSENCE OF RECORDS
During the times of persecution before 1641 (the year the persecuting courts were abolished), the Baptists could not safely keep records. To have done so would have been to furnish their enemies with facilities for identifying them and imprisoning and killing them. The persecutors sought for records that they might learn the names and locations of these "pestilent heretics;" and the existence of records would have been a constant peril. The Baptists were too wise to furnish their adversities with such easy means of identification. Necessarily, therefore, the evidence of the existence and practices of the Baptists of those times, consists of what the court records tell us, of what writers chose to say of them, and of occasional utterances of the persecuted ones themselves, when they could safely write. It could not be expected that their enemies would do them justice. In certain obscure places, where they could safely meet, they
might venture to build a house for worship. Such a house is found at Hill Cliff, where there is now a Baptist church which traces its existence back to 1522; and it is believed there has been a church there since the earliest times. Dr. Christian saw there a tombstone, lately exhumed, with the epitaph of a pastor of that very church, and bearing date l357. The ruins of an old baptistery have also been lately uncovered. This obscure and inaccessible place was a safe retreat in times of persecution. How many such there were in the land, there are no means of determining.
There are to-day 27 Baptist churches in England which antedate 1641. No one denies that these churches have been in existence during the time they claim; but it is cooly assumed, in the absence of any evidence, that prior to 1641 these churches practiced sprinkling. The reason for assuming this is that the exigencies of the "1641 theory" demand it.
From 1641 on, the material is abundant, just as we would expect. And if the Anabaptist churches of England did really change their practice in 1641 from sprinkling to immersion, there is no reason there should not be records of such a change. From 1641 on, it was safe to keep records, save during a brief space, when persecution was renewed to some extent after the restoration of Charles II. So while we see abundant reason for the absence of records before 1641, we can see no reason why there should be no record at all of any of the Anabaptist churches adopting immersion in 1641 and after, if they did adopt it.
Still we are not without positive evidence of the existence of believer's immersion in England before 1641. Dr. Christian gives a good supply of such evidence, much of which is new to the public. We note a very few of these.
The quotation from John Fox (Book of Martyrs, Alden Ed.) had been called in question. It was admitted that it was decisive, if genuine; but its genuineness was denied, and so Dr. Christian omitted it in the second edition of "Did They Dip?" because he could not verify the passage in the old editions of Fox's "Acts and Monuments." But when in England last summer he found the book of Fox, whence that quotation, changed somewhat, was no doubt originally derived. The title of the book is Reformatio Legun Ecclesiastuarum, &c., A. D. 1517. In this book Fox says (in Latin which is given in full by Dr. Christian): "But while we are plunged into the waters and rise again out of them, the death of Christ first, and his burial is symbolized, and next his resuscitation, indeed and his return to life, &c."
This language does not tell of an ancient custom, long disused, but of a present practice which the writer and his readers observed — "while we are plunged into the waters," &c, Moreover, Fox speaks of the Anabaptists of his day in a way which clearly shows that they practiced immersion. The quotation is given in full in the body of the book, and need not be repeated here.
Coming on down, we are furnished with numerous testimonies (Jewell, 1609; Busher, 1614; Hieron, 1614; Rogers, 1638, and others), both as to the practice of immersion in general, and as to its practice by the Baptists particularly, until we come to Edward Barber, who in 1641 was answering objections to the immersion of believers; which proves the practice to have existed before. Barber in this same "treatise," declares that the practice of immersing believers was older than the name Anabaptist, which name no one denies was current in the reign of Henry VIII., over a hundred years before.
Barber says (p. 7):
"In like manner lately, those that professe
and practice the dipping of Christ, instituted in the Gospel, are called and reproached with the name of Anabaptists," &c. The late thing is the name Anabaptist, which was applied as a reproach to those who all along had been professing and practicing "the dipping of Christ." This does not prove that the practice was really older than the name, but that Edward Barber believed it to be so. That he wrote this in 1641, proves that the practice of immersing believers did not begin at that time in England, since it ran back beyond his recollection, certainly. Had immersion been a "splinter new" thing in 1641, he could not then have believed that it was older than the name Anabaptist.
Similarly, the account given by John Taylor in 1641 of the immersion of Samuel Eaton, by John Spilsbury, shows the practice of immersion in England previous to 1641. For the court records show that Sam Eaton (and there can be no question about his being the same man) died Aug. 25th, 1639, and that he was constantly in prison from May 5th, 1636, till his death. Hence his immersion and his immersing others must have taken place before May 5th, 1636.
The testimonies of Fuller, Busher, Featley and others are given fully by Dr. Christian, and need not be repeated here.
We have, then, briefly, the following conditions:
1st. It is admitted that there were Anabaptists in England before 1641, who were very strict in their belief and interpretation of the Bible, and were ready to die for their faith. But it is denied that any of them ever saw their duty in the Bible in regard to baptism till 1641, and then they all saw it at once and began to practice it.
2nd. It is admitted that these Anabaptists were constantly reminded of immersion by the rubric of the state church and by the writings of the commentators and scholars of the period. Yet it is denied that any of them took the hint till 1641, and then they all took it and adopted immersion.
3d. There is no account of any Anabaptist church's [sic] having practiced sprinkling and changing to immersion, and the absence of any such account cannot be explained on the "1641 theory."
4th. The only direct evidence offered in favor of the "1641 theory" is the statement of an anonymous document, the oldest extant copy of which is less than 40 years old, which is not, confirmed by any writer of the period, and which has been proved to be full of gross mistakes -- names wrong, dates wrong, titles wrong and facts wrong.
5th. The other evidence offered is circumstantial, and is, moreover, not to the point. The other testimonies cited to prove the "1641 theory" say nothing about 1641, but speak of these Anabaptists as "new and upstart," &c., which we would naturally expect when we remember that in 1641 the abolition of the persecuting courts left them free to publicly preach and practice their beliefs as they could not do before.
6th. We have actual documentary and monumental evidence of the practice of believers' immersion in England before 1641.
7th. It is claimed that "distinguished historians" have adopted the "1641 theory." Four names have been mentioned, but qualifications should be used in citing these names. On the other hand, it were [was] easy to cite scores of names of eminent historians who reject the "1641 theory." Not a single man in England has adopted it, so far as known, and many of them have distinctly rejected it. Surely historians
in England can be supposed to know the facts of the history of England better than those in other lands. And, moreover, equally distinguished historians, and more of them, too, in this country distinctly reject the theory.
The reader, by examining the evidence produced, can judge for himself whether immersion was "splinter new" in England in 1641.
T. T. EATON. ===========
[From John T. Christian, Baptist History Vindicated, Published by Baptist Book Concern, Louisville, KY, 1899, pp. i-xx. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Go to chapters 1-3
Baptist History Vindicated Index
Baptist History Homepage