Editor's note: John T. Christian was pastor of East Baptist Church, Louisville, KY. He later became Professor of Church History at Baptist Bible Institute, the forerunner of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, (Louisiana). He spent two summers in Europe researching Baptist history. The following is taken from his preface. - Jim Duvall
A History of the Baptists
By John T. Christian, 1922
Many examples might be introduced to show that some of these parties might not be recognized by some Baptists now-a-days. The Montanists, the Novatians, and the Donatists held diverse opinions, not only from each other, but from the teachings of the New Testament; but they stressed tremendously the purity of the church. It is possible that the Paulicians were Adoptionists. There have always been different views in regard to the birth of Jesus. Some of the Anabaptists held that Jesus was a man, and that he did not derive his manhood from Mary, but passed through her as a channel. The Adoptionists held that Jesus was endowed with divinity at his baptism. Most modern Baptists hold that Jesus became incarnate at his birth. There were some Baptists who held the vagaries of Hoffmann and other Baptists who followed the more sane and rational course of Hubmaier. No effort is here attempted to minimize, or to dismiss as trivial, these variations. Perhaps absolute and unconditional uniformity is unattainable. Such uniformity was never, perhaps, more vigorously pressed than it was by Archbishop Laud, with a dismal failure and the tragic death to the prelate as the result.
The wonder, however, is not that there were variations in these diverse conditions, but that there could be any homogeneity or unity. Through all of the variations, however, there has been an insistence upon some great fundamental truths. There has ever appeared the vital necessity of a regenerated life; a church pure and separate from the ungodly; believers' baptism; a simple form of church government; the right of free speech and soul liberty; and the permanent and paramount authority of the New Testament. Whatever may have been the variations in any or all of these parties, on the above or kindred subjects, the voice of the Baptists has rung out clear and distinct.
The testimony here recorded has been taken from many sources. I doubt not that diligent search would reveal further facts of the highest value. As a matter of fact I have a great accumulation of material which would extend into several volumes. In my judgment a Commission should be appointed with ample means to make a thorough search in the Archives of Europe.
I am well aware of the imperfections of this book, but it presents much data never before found in a Baptist history. I have throughout pursued the scientific method of investigation, and I have let the facts speak for themselves. I have no question in my own mind that there has been a historical succession of Baptists from the days of Christ to the present time. It must be remembered that the Baptists were found in almost every corner of Europe. When I found a connection between one body and another that fact is stated, but when no relationship was apparent I have not tried to manufacture one. Straight-forward honesty is the only course to pursue. Fortunately, however, every additional fact discovered only goes to make such connections probable in all instances.
[From John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists "Preface," pp. 5-6. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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