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History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism
By J. H. Grime

Chapter III.
English Baptists

      In discussing this question in connection with English Baptists, it should be remembered that the titles Baptist and Ana-baptist, were much of the time used interchangeably, referring to the same people. As long as their enemies were able to control the matter, they persisted in dubbing them as Ana-baptists, notwithstanding the Baptists have always protested, claiming that they were not Ana-baptists, but simply Baptists.

      Baptists have, through the ages, been great sufferers on account of persecution, but some of the bitterest persecution known to history, was inflicted on the Baptists of England during the century following the Reformation.

      It would take a great stretch of credulity to believe that these persecuted Baptists would recognize their persecutors as proper channels for the administration of the ordinances of God’s House.

      Of the Ana-baptists, who operated in England following the Reformation, Owen says (Works, volume 13. p. 184): “The Donatists rebaptized those who came to their societies (churches) because they professed themselves to believe that all administration of the ordinances not in their assemblies was null, and that they were to be looked upon as no such thing. Our (English) Ana-baptists do the same thing.” - William Jarrell, Church Perpetuity, p. 343.

      It will be seen here that the whole matter turned upon the authority of the administrator; no other point being referred to. The mode was not controverted, for it is a matter of open history that the Church of England immersed for the first hundred years after the Reformation.

      It is admitted that the facts connected with John Smyth are not altogether as clear as we would like. (We may say, that this author seriously doubts the story of his baptizing himself.) But whatever the facts may be, it is an undisputed fact, that he and the Brownists had a heated discussion over the validity of administrations performed by the Church of England. Thomas Armitage records the following:

“When the Brownists left the English State Church , they objected to its hierarchy, liturgy, constitution and government, as anti-Christian. Smyth, therefore, broke with them on the issue, that if that church was apostate, as a daughter of Rome , then its clergy were not qualified to administer Christ’s ordinances. The Brownists, however, considered them valid, and called the English church their ‘mother’, while they denounced her as ‘harlot’, and ‘Babylon’; but Smyth, having been christened in her pale, concluded that he was yet unbaptized. Bishop Hall caught this point keenly, and was severe on the Brownists when he opposed Smyth. He wrote:

“ ‘You that cannot abide a false church, why do you content yourselves with a false sacrament? (baptism), especially since our church (Episcopal) not being yet gathered to Christ, is no church, and therefore her baptism a nullity! . . . . He (Smyth) tells you true; your station is unsafe; either you must forward to him, or back to us…You must go forward to Ana-baptism, or come back to us. . . . All you rabbins cannot answer that charge of your rebaptized brother. . . . If our baptism be good, then is our constitution good. . . . What need you to surfeit of another man’s teacher? . . . . Show you me where the apostles baptized in a bason!’

“Smyth having rejected infant baptism also on its merits as a human institution, Ainsworth said, in 1609 A. D., that he had gone over to the abomination of the Ana-baptists.” - Armitage, p. 158.

      Whatever may be said about immersion in England (and it is not the purpose of these pages to discuss this feature only as it affects this question), it is clearly apparent, that the Baptists of England made the validity of baptism rest largely in the administrator. Armitage says: “And there are many reasons for believing that this is a similar case, and that these fifty-three members of the same congregation declined to accept immersion from what they considered an unauthorized administrator.” - Armitage, pp. 165-166. Hence they sent Richard Blunt to Holland to secure regular baptism at the hands of the Dutch Ana-baptists. “He was immersed by the Collegiants at the hands of their teacher, Mr. John Batte. Upon his return he immersed Samuel Blacklock and the two immersed the rest (of the fifty-three) in 1641.” - A Review of the Question, p. 57.

      Governor John Hutchinson and his wife, Lucy Hutchinson, were leading Baptists of England in the seventeenth century. To show how they stood on this question, we quoted the words of Crosby:

“The former of these (methods) was, to send over to the foreign Ana-baptists, who descended from the ancient Waldenses in France or Germany, that so one or more receiving baptism from them might become proper administrators of it to others. Some thought this the best way and acted accordingly, as appears from Mr. Hutchinson’s account in the epistle of his treatise of Covenant and Baptism.”
      Hutchinson says: “The great objection was the want of a proper administrator; which, as I have heard, says he, was removed, by sending certain messengers to Holland whence they were supplied.” - English Baptist Reformation, p. 84.

      Thomas Crosby, who wrote in England one hundred years after Hutchinson, in the eighteenth century, says of this same event: “So those who followed this scheme did not derive their baptism from the aforesaid Smyth, or his congregation at Amsterdam, it being (from) an antient congregation of foreign Baptists in the Low Countries to whom they sent.” -Ibid., p. 85.

      These statements are not only important to show the facts they record, but they also show how these leading Baptists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries stood on this question. Whatever may be said about immersion earlier than this date referred to, it is a fact, if these historians are to be relied on, that Richard Blunt went all the way to Holland, by church or congregation action, to be baptized, and the remainder of the congregation awaited his return, simply upon the ground that they would not receive immersion at the hands of an administrator about whom there was the least doubt as to his qualifications.

      (This Blunt affair is of doubtful authenticity. Whether authentic or not, it proves that this was a live question in England, and that English Baptists stood for regular baptism by a legal administrator, or such question never could have been raised.)

      We come now to the doctrinal statement of the English Baptists as found in their Confession of Faith. We take the first (1643) and last (1689) of the Calvinistic Confessions of the seventeenth century. The first of these has this to say upon this point: Art. 41 - “The person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the scripture holds forth to be a disciple, it being nowhere tied to a particular church officer or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them as considered disciples, being men able to preach the gospel.”

      The latter of these (1689) says:

Art. 28 – “Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ.”
      The former of these was adopted by seven Baptist churches in London; and the latter by more than one hundred “Baptized” (Baptist) churches in England and Wales.

      If language has any meaning it seems apparent that in both of these articles the administration of baptism is confined to the pales of the church, and must be performed by the authority of the same. In the first, it must be a disciple and also it must be a man capable of preaching the gospel. In the latter it confines it not only to the church, but to those called and set apart for that specific purpose. The seeming difference may be explained in this way: When the first Confession was adopted the clergy, of the State Church, had made themselves very obnoxious, and had assumed such authority as to create a prejudice with the Baptists against anything that savored of clerical domination. This article, no doubt, was intended to assert church authority on the one hand and rebuke an arrogant clergy on the other. When the latter Confession was put forth matters had changed up, and assumed a somewhat normal attitude. It would be hard to get stronger and plainer language than is found in the Confession of 1689. But the question comes back: “Did the framers of these Confessions intend to confine the administration of baptism to the authority and agency of Baptist churches? Were they Baptists of the strict type?” This must be answered in the affirmative. There was a living link which binds the two Confessions together.

      The name of William Kiffin is appended to both these Confessions. He was the first to sign the Confession of 1643, and the second to sign the one of 1689. He was a leader of Baptist thought in his day. When you would learn the doctrinal standing of William Kiffin and Hansard Knollys, you would know the doctrinal caste of the Baptists of England in the seventeenth century. Concerning Kiffin we find the following in Cramp’s Church History: “The young man (Wm. Kiffin) became an independent inquirer, prepared to follow the leadings of truth regardless of consequences. Observing that some excellent ministers had gone into voluntary banishment rather than conform to the Church of England, he was induced to examine the points in dispute between that church and her opponents. He had been five years a member of the Independent church, then under the care of Mr. Lathrop, when, with many others, he withdrew and joined the Baptist church, the first in England of the Particular Baptist order, of which Mr. Spilsbury was pastor. Two years after that, in 1640, a difference of opinion respecting the propriety of allowing ministers who had not been immersed to preach to them - in which Mr. Kiffin took the negative side- occasioned a separation. Mr. Kiffin and those who agreed with him seceded, and formed another church, which met in Devonshire Square. He was chosen pastor, and held that office until his death, in 1701 (sixty-one years), one of the longest pastorates on record.” - Baptist History (Cramp), p. 447, and Thomas, Both Sides, p. 22.

      Such was the type of the Baptists who framed the London Confession of Faith. He and his church did not only reject the administration of the ordinances at the hands of unbaptized ministers, but made the preaching to them of such a minister a test of fellowship, sufficient to create a division in the church. Can any one conclude for one moment that such Baptists would tolerate alien immersion? or frame a Confession of Faith in any way favorable to it? or that they would even wink at it?

      We would not undertake to say that there were not some individuals in England who held connection with Baptist churches that would tolerate alien immersion. And that they have grown more loose during the last century is admitted. What we mean to say is that the Baptists of England and Wales during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as a denomination, stood unflinchingly against all such innovations as alien immersion and mixed communion.

Chapter IV.
American Baptists

      In transferring this discussion from England to America it changes location and environments, but virtually has to do with the same people. The Baptists of America, at first, came from England and Wales, with possibly a few from other countries. It has been repeatedly stated, however, that the Baptists of this country owe their origin to Roger Williams, who, with a small company, started a church of their own by baptizing each other without any previous authority.

      All Baptists delight to honor Roger Williams, and we with each other to perpetuate his name as one of our greatest Americans, and one who did much to establish Baptist principles, especially “Religious Liberty.”

      What we deny is, that Baptists of America are indebted to his irregular church for the administration of baptism, or owe their origin as a denomination to him. We might state just here, by way of parenthesis, that a number of churches, in church capacity, emigrated to this country and settled here with the same constitution formed in the old world. We might state also that Roger Williams himself was too good a Baptist (as will be seen later) to try to impose such an administration upon the denomination.

      Baptists on coming to America were still dubbed as Ana-baptists by their persecutors. Nich Ayres, a Baptist preacher, of New York , was given legal license on January 23, 1721, in which he was denominated an “Ana-baptist”. Semple’s History of Virginia Baptists, p. 444.

      The first Baptist church (Kioka) ever planted on the soil of Georgia, was incorporated as an “ Ana-baptist Church”. History of Baptists of Southern States, p. 32. They were everywhere dubbed as Ana-baptists by their persecutors.

New England Baptists.

      We will begin with Roger Williams. Prof. W. J. McGlothlin tells us: “Roger Williams reached conviction that only immersion of a believer was baptism, was baptized by E. Holliman, and he baptized Holliman and others.” Guide to Church History, p. 212. This was irregular proceeding, and is often held up before us by the advocates of alien immersion.

      “Richard Scott, who was a Baptist with Williams at providence, but who afterward became a Quaker, writing against Williams thirty-eight years afterward, says: “I walked with him in the Baptists’ way about three or four months…in which time he broke from his society, and declared at large the ground and reason for it; that their baptism could not be right because it was not administered by an apostle.” Armitage, p. 279.

      Later, in a letter to Winthrop , he repudiated his baptism on the ground of “authority”. It is clear to be seen that Williams first took this rash step, but after mature thought he repudiated this irregular baptism as being invalid, and never did again adhere to it.

      Henry S. Burrage quotes S. L. Caldwell thus: “But Williams remained only a few months in connection with the church. He had doubts in reference to the validity of his own baptism and the baptism of his associates on account of the absence of ‘authorized administrators.’ For him there was no church, and no ministry left. The apostolic succession was interrupted and apostolic authority had ceased. It was the baptizer, and not the baptism, about which he doubted. He was a high church Ana-baptist.” History New England Baptists, p. 23.

      “The General Association of Connecticut, in 1745, put on record the declaration that ‘if Mr. Whitfield should make his progress through this government, it would by no means be advisable for any of our ministers to admit him into their pulpits, or for any of our people to attend upon his preaching and administrations.” History New England Baptists, p. 63. Here is the General Association of this New England State taking this high landmark ground. They advise against pulpit affiliation with the great Whitfield, and go so far as to advise the people to not even hear him preach, or look upon his “administrations,” much less receive them. This was exactly one hundred years before the coming of J. R. Graves to Tennessee .

      This clearly shows how the denomination stood in New England. That some individuals broke faith with the denomination at large was true then, is true now, will always be true.

      G. D. B. Pepper in an address (“Baptists and the National Centenary”): “There have been individuals, in some instances prominent ministers, who have believed, thought, and practiced, in some respects, contrary to the common faith. Some churches have been led to place themselves, at least for awhile, in opposition to the general belief. But the denomination has been wise in its action in such cases. When possible it has allowed dissent and dissenters to remain within it… A break or schism has taken place only when dissent has so made issue with the denomination that without the break the doctrine of the dissent must be endorsed… Such has been its practice hitherto. It has thus far stood together in doctrine a compact body.” History New England Baptists, pp. 286-287


[J. H. Grime, History of Alien Immersion and Valid Baptism, 1909. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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