The following will prove a very acceptable historical contribution to the masses of the people. It will be to history a sort of elementary work, yet replete with historic facts, and the biographies of the leading witnesses of Jesus in the darkest ages of the world. In this little work, the general reader will find, traced by a graphic pen, the bold outline of the history of the people now called Baptists. Like an experienced woodsman, the author has blazed the rough and bloody track of our people back into the wilderness, even into the "remotest depth of antiquity," but in these dark depths he loses not, like Mosheim, their "trail," but pursues it until it leads out into the unclouded light of the first century, where he finds the footsteps of the apostles and the Son of God himself, mingling with those of the first Christians, leading still back toward the banks of the Jordan, upon which the colors of the new kingdom were first unfurled, and a people to receive the coming Son were first prepared by his herald, John. Some may object to the mode selected by the author in pursuing his inquiry, and, because it is novel, regard it as unnatural and unphilosophical. Such an objection is not well founded. The author designed this for the outline of an original investigation of his subject, and he has therefore selected the more real and genuine method of procedure.
Says Rawlinson: "In every historical inquiry it is possible to pursue our researches in two ways; we may either trace the stream of time upward and pursue history to its earliest source, or we may reverse the process, and, beginning at the fountain-head, follow down the course of events in chronological order to our own day. The former is the more philosophical, because the more real and genuine method of procedure; it is the course which, in the original investigation of the subject, must, in point of fact, have been pursued; the present is our standing point, and we necessarily view the past from it, and only know so much of the past as we connect more or less distinctly with it."*
This work is timely, and we think will be gladly received by the masses, since it furnishes them, in a condensed form, with authentic historical facts, with which to meet the questions and charges every day cast into their faces by the descendants of those who murdered our ancestors: "Where did the Baptists come from?" "Baptists originated with Roger Williams, and their baptisms with his informal baptism." "Baptists at best are but the descendants of the fanatical Anabaptists of Munster, and have no history before their day," and other like charges. Multitudes of our people have never been furnished with the facts of history with which to disprove these charges. They have ever opened at the third of Matthew, and triumphantly pointed to a body of Baptists in Judea, gathered by "John the Baptist," and to the Church on the Mount of Olives, to which Christ gave the commission to the Church at Jerusalem, and to all the Churches planted by the apostles, all manifestly Baptist Churches; but the thick darkness of eighteen centuries, to the multitude, rolls between the apostolic period and the present. It should be a matter of devout thanksgiving to Almighty God, and be hailed as the harbinger star of near millennial
* Bampton Course, 1859, Lecture ii, p. 49.
day, that every year is pouring increasing light into that darkness, discovering to the inquiring gaze of the world who have been the true followers of Christ, and who "the witnesses of Jesus," contending earnestly for and maintaining with martyr courage the faith once delivered to the saints, and the ordinances as they were at first committed to the Church. The light that is pouring upon the obscurity that has so long rested upon the wanderings of the Bride of Christ, in the wilderness into which she has been driven by her bloody persecutors, may be the earnest of the fulfillment of the prophet's vision when he saw a woman, the symbol of the Church, coming up out of the wilderness, leaning upon the arm of her Beloved, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible, to her enemies, as an army with banners.
O, that the Lord would fulfill that vision in our day! We wait, we long for it as one who watcheth for the morning. Then shall be sung, in full vision, the song an oppressed and suffering Church has long sung in faith only:
Triumphant Zion, lift thy head
From dust and darkness and the dead!
Though jumbled long, awake at length,
And gird thee with thy Savior's strength.
Put all thy beauteous garments on,
And let thy excellence be known:
Deck'd in the robes of righteousness,
The world thy glories shall confess.
No more shall daring foes invade,
And fill thy hallow'd walls with dread;
No more shall hell's insulting host
Their victory and thy sorrow boast.
God from on high has heard thy prayer,
His hand thy ruin shall repair,
Nor will thy watchful Savior cease
To guard thee in eternal peace.
- Southern Psalmist.
- J.R. Graves
- Nashville 1860
[From: S. H. Ford, The Origin of the Baptists, 1860, republished by the Baptist Sunday School Committee, 1905 edition, pp. xi-xiii. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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