Baptist History Homepage

Text: Psalm 48:12 and 13 verses - "Walk about Zion, and go round her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye tell it to the generation following."

Baptists in History
By W. P. Harvey

A Preface and Special Introduction by J. B. Moody


Reminiscence excites gratitude, inspires hope and stimulates to noblest achievements. With reverence and joy we recount the. deeds of heroes: who neither courted the favor of the world nor feared its frown; who fought not for an earthly, but for a heavenly crown; whose brave protests rang out with no uncertain sound through the ages against the encroachments of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny. When the bloody deeds of warriors are forgotten and their mighty empires have perished, and the dust of oblivion shall cover all their glory, then will the defenders of the faith, once delivered to the saints, the apostles of civil and religious liberty, shine brighter than the stars of the firmament. That some champions of Baptist perpetuity have displayed more zeal than knowledge we admit, that others in their ambition to appear "broad and liberal" have made concessions at the expense of truth, cannot be denied. Because some have claimed too much is no reason why others should claim too little. Far be a spirit of vain boasting from us, and God forbid that we should be unmindful
or underestimate the services of others in the great work of human redemption.

I. When Christ was on earth he promised to build his church. We mean by church a congregation of baptized believers. Matthew 16:18: "On this rock, I will build my church." "On this rock" interpreted by Romanists generally to mean Peter, by Protestants usually Peter's confession, or Christ. Whatever it may or may not mean, beyond doubt it does mean the foundation on which he said he, would build his church.

II. Theologians differ about the meaning of the word church. Romanists claim it means a hierarchy, while Protestants and some Baptists say it means "An invisible and universal spiritual assembly." Baptists generally believe it means a local and visible congregation. As far-fetched as the two former views may appear, they are no more so than some other positions assumed by many good men, viz.: That the New Testament teaches infant baptism, and that immersion is not essential to Christian baptism, and that "something else will do as well." The Master did keep his promise and he did build his church; e.g., speaking of offenses involving discipline, in Matthew 18:17 he said: "Tell it to the church." How could this be done if there was no local church? Whatever kind of a church he built, whether it was local and visible, or invisible, universal find spiritual, it was the one, and the only one, he built, and it is the one, and the only one, that he calls his own - "my church."
If the church built by Christ was not local and visible, there is no divine authority for such churches. If the church built by Christ was not local and visible, the Apostles and their followers misunderstood him, because they continued to build local and visible churches after his model. We are told that the invisible and universal church is composed of the elect of all ages, and that outside of it there is no salvation. If this was the kind of church built by Christ, will some advocate of the invisible church theory tell us what became of the elect from Adam to Christ? Were all lost? If the church built by Christ was invisible, the world had no such church for the first four thousand years. "I will build my church." Church, in Matthew 16:18, means local and visible. Because it is not reasonable to believe that Jesus used the word in an enigmatical or ambiguous sense. The word church, in Matthew 16:18, has the same meaning that it has in Matthew 18:17, and no one has ever questioned that the latter refers to a local and visible assembly. Dean Alford so declines. Stier says, referring to the word in both passages, "In the second, the expression obtains a more special significance, yet it evidently points back to the first, so that the fundamental idea can only be the same." Lanqe says, Matthew 16:18: "The word church alludes to the church as the organized and visible form." Expositor's Bible: Matthew 16:18: "It means an assembly called out." "Suggests the idea of separation so appropriate to the circumstances
of the little band of outcasts." Pulpit Commentary: "The word, translated church, 'ecclesia,' Matthew 16-18, is found the first time in the New Testament; it is derived from a verb meaning 'to call out,' and in classic Greek denotes the regular legislative assembly of a people. Ecclesia has been that which designates the Christian society, and has been in "all ages and countries." Liddell and Scott, the standard Greek lexicon with all scholars and in all colleges and universities, defines ecclesia, "An assembly of people called together," "an assemb1y called out." The ecclesia was common among the Greeks. According to Trench ecclesia was a lawful assembly of a free Greek city of those who were worthy and well qualified as citizens for the transaction of public affairs. Robinson's Greek lexicon: "The word ecclesia was familiar to the Jews as meaning a congregation, an assemb1y," Thayer, in his lexicon of New Testament Greek, "collates critically the usage of the word from Thucydides to the end of the New Testament period, and finds no support for the invisib1e theory. Take the entire range of Greek literature in all its dialects, secular and sacred, and there is not one passage in which ecclesia means an invisible and universal spiritual assembly."

Septuagint: "The word ecclesia is found in the Greek translation of the New Testament seventy-four times, and is always used in the translation of the Hebrew word 'kahal,' to call together. No other Hebrew word is so translated. Kahal is found
in Hebrew Scriptures one hundred and twenty-four times, and translated seventy-four times ecclesia, forty-seven times synagogue, twice Plethos, and once Sanhedrin."

Vitringa says: "Synagogue always means an assembly gathered together, but not necessarily joined by any bond of union. Ecclesia, kahal, always denotes some multitude which constitutes a people bound among themselves by law and obligations."

In the Greek New Testament the word ecclesia occurs one hundred and fifteen times. In at least ninety-seven of these cases it is conceded that it means a local assembly; e.g., "Tell it to the church," "If he neglect to hear the church," "The church which was at Jerusalem," "Had gathered the church together," "Confirming the churches," "Unto the church of God at Corinth." By this it is evident that, according to New Testament usage, the word ecclesia means a local assembly. "The called out" Christians are represented as called out of the world. Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the CALLED according to his purpose." Again, 30th verse: "And whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also glorified." In an article recently published, J. J. Taylor, D.D., of Norfolk, Va., gives an account of his correspondence with the Greek Professors of all the leading colleges and universities in regard to the meaning of ekklesia, and without an
exception the distinguished specialists gave their testimony against the invisible church theory. Dr. Taylor also says:
"In the New Testament Jesus uses the word ekklesia twenty-two times; in twenty-one of these he clearly uses it in reference to the local, visible, corporeal assembly, and only a manifest violation of all linguistic usage could force a different meaning in the remaining case."
Rev. Dr. Henry M. Dexter, Congregationalist, says: "The weight of New Testament authority seems to decide that the ordinary and natural meaning of ecclesia is that of a local body of believers. "
"Now it is the plainest principle of sound interpretation that where the overwhelming usage in a book is plainly in favor of a certain meaning to a word, that meaning must be, given to it in every passage where it will make sense. We are at liberty to bring in another meaning only when the ordinary meaning would destroy the sense. Many claim that there is no passage in the New Testament where making ekklesia mean local assembly would mar or destroy the same. If this be true, then the word cannot rightly be interpreted anywhere as meaning anything else than the local assembly.

"Common sense declares that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time. Affirmative and negative statements each having the same scope, subject and term, cannot be true. An invisible company of the elect on earth, who are physical beings, cannot be used as material to build an invisible house. An invisible house cannot be built of physical material."

III. What Baptists generally believe in regard to their origin.

History points to the origin of the various denominations, and in regard to their respective founders
there is no controversy, but strange there is no recognized historic account of the origin of Baptists this side of the apostolic age.

The people now called Baptists have been known by different names in different ages and countries. We trace them not by any particular name, but by their fundamental principles. In more modern times they have been called "The baptized people," "The dippers," and "Anabaptists." The latter, Dr. Armitage says, "because they baptized those who came to them from other denominations." They did their own baptizing, and recognized no other. I quote from Dr. Armitage's History of the Baptists, page 329: "By custom their most friendly historians call them Anabaptists, yet many of their opponents speak of them as Baptists." It is no surprise to us that there are some modern historians among the destructive critics who question our apostolic origin. There are Protestant writers who exonerate the papacy from responsibility for the massacre of St. Bartholomew. There are so-called scientists who dispute the law of gravitation. The vain ambition to abandon "beaten tracks" and to pose as "original and advanced thinkers," does make some men reckless when dealing with what has been considered as "fixed." The more sacred, the more tempting to the self-complacent and destructive critic. According to Dr. Armitage and other writers, Anabaptists were called Baptists, and Baptists were called Anabaptists. That Anabaptists and Baptists are frequently spoken of as the
same people is abundantly supported by the greatest authors who have written on the subject. Most of their articles of faith that have come down to us are essentially Baptistic. When destructive critics prove that Napoleon Bonaparte was a myth, and that the Bible is not inspired; when Donnelly proves that Lord Bacon wrote Shakespeare, then some one may prove that there were no Baptists among the Anabaptists. My contention is that there were Anabaptists who held essentially to what are accepted generally as Baptist doctrines now. That those called Anabaptists differed among themselves, I do not question. The same is true of their descendants, the Baptists to-day; e.g., compare the Philadelphia and New Hampshire Confessions of Faith. Have we not missionary and anti-missionary Baptists? Calvinist and Arminian? Those who believe in final preservation, and those who do not? Those who receive alien baptism, and those who reject it? Those who believe in open communion, and those who do not? Those who believe that baptism is essential to salvation, and those who believe that salvation is essential to baptism? Those who believe in the plenary inspiration, and those who do not? Those who believe that immersion is essential to baptism and church privileges, and those who do not, as illustrated in open communion Baptist churches? Those who believe the church "built" by Christ is local and visible, and those who believe it is universal and invisible? Those who argue that because Anabaptists differed among themselves, and
that because some may have apostatized, therefore there were no Baptists among them, can, by the same mode of reasoning, prove that there are no Baptists now. Happily, it is not for me to decide how much or how little anyone had to believe in order to be stigmatized Anabaptist, or how much or little anyone must believe to be entitled to the honored name of Baptist. The English Baptists deny that John Smith or Edward Barber was their founder. The Welch Baptists claim that their ancestors were evangelized in the first century. While the Dutch Baptists claim apostolic origin, German Baptists maintain that they antedate the Reformation. Mosheim says: "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of the modern Dutch Baptists." Vedder's Short History of the Baptists, page 49: "One cannot affirm that there was not a continuity in the outward and visible life of the churches founded by the apostles down to the time of the Reformation." Page 50: "A succession of the true faith may indeed be traced in faint lines at times, but never entirely disappearing." On the title page of Dr. Armitage's History of the Baptists we find the following paragraph: "A history of the Baptists, traced by their vital principles from the time of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the year 1886." Rev. George B. Taylor says: "Baptist practices and Baptist principles have existed in all ages from the Reformation to apostolic times." Pengilly says:
"Our principles are as old as Christianity; we acknowledge no founder but Christ." Rev. Dr. Wm. Williams, once Professor of Church History Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says: "In my opinion Baptist churches are of divine origin, and originated in the first century under the preaching and founding of the apostles of our Lord." Rev. Geo. P. Gould, of England, is now editing a series of Baptist manuals. In 1895 he published one of Hansford Knollys, by James Curloss, M. A., D. D., ex-President of Bristol College. After stating that Hansford Knol1ys became Secretary, probably in 1631, he declares: "Had Baptists thought anything depended on it, they might have traced their pedigree back to New Testament times. The channel of succession was certainly purer, if humbler, than through the apostate church of Rome. But they were content to rest on Scripture alone, and as they found only believers' baptism there, they adhered to that." Baptist History Vindicated, pages 27 and 28.

IV. Concessions of Great Church Historians and Scholars to Baptist Antiquity.

Sir Isaac Newton, the celebrated philosopher, declared: "The Baptists are the only body of Christians that has not symbolized with the Church of Rome."
"The true origin of that sect which acquired the denomination Anabaptists by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion, and deerived that of Mennonites from the famous man to whom they owe the greatest part of their present felicity, IS HID IN THE DEPTHS OF ANTIQUITY, and is, of consequence,
extremely difficult to be ascertained." Church History, page 490.
Mosheim virtually admits that their origin cannot be found on this side of the New Testament age!

Hear Zwingle, the great Swiss reformer:
"The institution of Anabaptism is NO NOVELTY, but for 1300 YEARS has caused great disturbances in the church, and has acquired such a strength that the attempt in this age to contend with it appears futile for a time."
Take 1300 from 1530, that date at which Zwingle wrote, and have A. D. 230, a date reaching nearly the apostolic age, according to this reformer.

Ree, in his "Reply to Wall, page 20, says:
"The Anabaptists are a pernicious sect, of which kind the Waldensian brethren seem to have been. Nor is this heresy a modern thing, for it existed in the time of Austin."
The Roman Catholic Cardinal Hosius, President of the Council of Trent, in 1650, was forced as an impartial historian to delcare:
"If the truths of religion were to be judged of by the readiness and cheerfulness which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then in the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the Anabaptists (Baptists), since there have been none for the PAST TWELVE HUNDRED YEARS that have been more generally punished, or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone, and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts or punishment, than these people."
In 1819 the King of Holland appointed Dr. Ypeij, Professor of Theology in the University of Groningen,
and Rev. I. J. Dermout, Chaplain to the King, both learned men and members of the Dutch Reformed church, to prepare a history of their church. In the authentic volume which they prepared and published at Breda, 1823, they devote one chapter to the Baptists, in which they make the following statement:
"We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin.

"On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the apostles, and as a Christian society has preserved pure the doctrine of the gospel through all ages."

"Let it be remembered," says Dr. Wheaton Smith, "that these learned men were not Baptists, that they proclaimed the result of their diligent research in the ear of a King, who listened unwillingly to their conclusions.

"Let it be remembered that, as a result of their investigation, the Government of Holland offered to the Baptist. churches in the kingdom the support of the State, and, true to their principles, they declined it."

The testimony of Drs. Ypeij and Dermout in favor of Baptist perpetuity has been relied on as authentic by Baptists allover the world for over seventy-five years. But when worldly-wise men claimed to discover that Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch, and that Roger Williams was a mythological chief of the Narragansett Indian tribe, then came an assault on this superb evidence of Baptist antiquity. The following correspondence explains itself. Rev. George Manly, D.D., is an
A.B. graduate of Georgetown College, a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and also a graduate of the University of Berlin. He is now President of a college of languages in Berlin. There is no man more competent to investigate the subject under consideration.

LOUISVILLE, KY., Dec. 6, 1895.

Prof. George Manly, Berlin, Germany, Potsdamer Strasse 4:
My Dear Brother -- I write to get your opinion of the authenticity of a quotation often found in Baptist history. "In 1819 the King of Holland appointed Dr. A. Ypeij, Professor of Theology in the University of Groningen, and Rev. I. J. Dermout, Chaplain to the King, both learned men and members of the Dutch Reformed church. In the authentic volume which they prepared and published at Breda, 1819, they devote one chapter to the Baptists, in which they make the following statement: 'We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the apostles, and as a Christian society has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages.' This has been quoted by the great Dr. J. Newton Brown; and Prof. Toby, formerly of Bethel College, wrote an article quoting it in the old Baptist Review. Recently articles have appeared in some of our denominational papers denying that it had any reference to Baptists. I am now revising my tract, Baptists in History, and will publish your reply in connection with my letter to you.

Please favor me with your information at your earliest convenience. I wish you the largest success in your great work, and hope to see you again in the nicest city of the [world].

BERLIN, den 14, Jan. 1896.

Rev. W. P. Harvey, D.D., Louisville, Ky.:
My Dear Sir -- In reply to your favor of December 6, 1895, in which you inquire as to the authenticity of a passage quoted in Baptist histories, and now called in question by a prominent writer, I take pleasure in stating that the passage is genuine and the translation gives the thought correctly. It is found on page 148, vol. 1, of the work entitled: "Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Hervormde Kerk: door A. Ypeij, Doctor en Hoogleeraar der godgeleersheid te Groningen, en I. J. Dermout, Deereberis van de Algemeene Synode der Nederlandsche Hervormde Kerk en Rredikant te's Gravenpage. Te Breda, MDCCCXIX."
("History of the Dutch Reformed Church, by A. Ypeij, Doctor and Professor of Theology
at Groningen, and I. J. Dermout, Secretary of the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church, and Preacher at The Hague, at Breda, 1819.")

The passage is the following:
"Gezien hebben wij nee, dat de doopsgezinden, dis, in vooegere tijden, Wederdoopers, en in labere tijden Monnonieten genoemed werden, oorsponkelijk Waldenzen waren, die, in der geschiedenis der kerk, sedert lang altijd zulk eene welverdiende hulde hebben ontvangen Derhalve mogen de doopsgezinden beschouwd worden als van ouds her de eenige godsdienstgemeenschap, de bestaan heeft van de tijden der Apostelen af, als eene christelijke maatschappij, welke de evanvelische godsdienstleer rein bewaard heeft, door alle eenwen heen."
("We have now shown that the baptizers [the baptizing people], who were called Anabaptists in the earlier times and Mennonites in later times, were originally Waldenses, who, in the history of the church, for a long time have always received such a well-deserved honor. On this account the baptizers may be considered as from olden times the only religious community, which has stood from the times of the Apostles as a Christian society, which has preserved the evangelical religious doctrine pure which you have found elsewhere. I give "religious community" instead of "Christian community," but of course the author had in mind only Christian communities, and the thought remains unaffected. "Evangelical religious doctrine" can only be "doctrine of the gospel." The original work is in the Royal Library at Berlin.
                        Yours fraternally, 
                                     G. W. MANLY. 

The above letter I showed to Mr. Theodore Harris, President of the Louisville National Banking Company, and one of our leading and most intelligent Baptist laymen. He forwarded a copy to Miss Zuda Harris, his daughter, who has spent many years in Berlin. She is a celebrated pianist, and also highly educated, and has a certificate to teach German literature in any part of the empire. She took up the subject and made a thorough investigation, translating the Dutch into German and the German into English, and fully indorsed the testimony of Dr. Manly.

I now quote from Mr. Alexander Campbell, in his debate with McCalla, page 378:
"From the apostolic age to the present time the sentiments of Baptists and their practice of baptism have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every center can be produced."

V. Baptist Churches Are Identical With New Testament Churches.
1. New Testament churches were local and visible assemblies of baptized believers. In this respect are not Baptist churches like them? 2. Apostolic churches were not called the church of the particular country in which they were located; e. g., the Church of England, the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist or Methodist Church of Kentucky or of America. We do not read in the New Testament the Church of Judea, but "the churches of Judea." We do not read the Church of Macedonia, but "the churches of Macedonia." We do not read the Church of Galatia, but "the churches of Galatia." We do not read of the Church of Asia, but "the seven churches of Asia." In this respect are not Baptist churches like them?

I am reminded that Acts 9:31 teaches differently. "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, Galatia and Samaria, and "were edified." While the plural, churches, is the reading in some good manuscripts, we admit that the oldest and most valuable has the singular, "church," so has the revised version. According to Dr. John A. Broadus, who is quoted by Dr. George Clark in his commentary on this verse, "the word church in the text is limited in this passage to the origina1 church at Jerusalem. The members had been scattered throughout Judea, Samaria and Galilee, and held meetings where they were, but sti1l belonged to the original organization at Jerusalem." 3. Conditions of membership in New Testament churches: a. "Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." b. A public and credible profession. c. Scriptural baptism. This is according to the practice of Baptist churches. 4. The design of baptism. a. Not in order to the remission of sins, but because of the remission of sins. Baptism is not essential to salvation, but salvation is essential to baptism. Are not Baptist churches like them? 5. Scriptural baptism was prerequisite to membership in New Testament churches. Where there is no scriptural baptism, can there be a scriptural church? Baptist churches are like them. 6. The validity of baptism as practiced by apostolic churches was not questioned. This is true of baptism practiced by Baptist churches. Baptism administered by Baptists stands not only unchallenged, but indorsed, directly or indirectly, by all denominations. 7. There were two, and only two, ordinances in apostolic churches, viz,: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The officers consisted of pastors, bishops, or elders, and deacons. The same is true of Baptist churches. 8. New Testament church government, democratic or congregational. Each congregation as separate and independent of every other as if it were the only one on earth. This is all true of Baptist churches. Baptist churches are as much like apostolic churches as they were like each other, and as much as Baptist churches are like each other now. We affirm that between apostolic and Baptist churches there is no essential difference. If Baptist churches are not a continuity of apostolic churches, will some one tell us where and when the last of the apostolic churches died, and when and where Baptist churches began? Where is the harm in the continued existence of Baptists through all ages since the apostles? Why should any Baptist oppose such a belief? We do not understand how a man who does not want the Baptists to have existed continuously can really desire them to exist at all.

VI. We predicate the continuity of apostolic churches and churches like them on the promise of Christ: "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
In Matthew 18:17, Jesus, in speaking of offenses between brethren, says: "Tell it to the church." If there has been a day since he uttered these words when there was no church to tell anything to, for that day this passage was of no effect, and his word failed. We do not regard it necessary to prove an unbroken visible and historical continuity of New Testament churches from Christ and his apostles until now. We hold that any church that bears the genuine apostolic stamp, if constituted yesterday by those duly authorized, is in direct historical descent from New Testament churches. The question is not, Can we trace the history of his church and those fashioned after its divine model? but the question is, Has Christ kept his promise?

VII. We predicate perpetuity of New Testament churches, and the identity of Baptist churches with them, upon Christ's prophecy that has been fulfilled in our history.
"If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you." The forerunner, John the Baptist, was beheaded. The Master was crucified. The apostles suffered martyrdom. Saul of Tarsus made havoc of the church at Jerusalem. Over three hundred years of Jewish and Pagan persecutions followed. In the early part of the fourth century, Constantine, contending for no less a prize than the throne of the Caesars, chose the Christians for allies, and by their valor he triumphed. To the conquerors the spoils were awarded. Christians suddenly emancipated from legal disabilities and social ostracism, and elevated tb positions of honor and trust, were tempted beyond their power to resist, and the many for the sake of peace suffered themselves to be betrayed into a compromise with Judaism and Paganism, which in the course of time crystallized into Romanism. This event marked the first great halt in the evangelization of the world. The consummation of the unhallowed union of church and State was followed by an intellectual and spiritual eclipse that lasted one thousand years, known as "the dark ages." No doubt the apostasy was quite general, but it would be presumptuous to infer that it was universal. Elijah thought the apostasy of Israel under the reign of Jezebel was universal. In despair and bitterest anguish he exclaimed, "I only am left." He was mistaken, because God said there were in Israel seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. According to Bryce's Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy claimed that, as God ruled the heavens, therefore His vice-gerent, the Pope, ought to rule the earth. To enforce conformity of worship, for twelve hundred years the sword, the stake and all forms of torture were employed to exterminate those who bravely withstood Popish innovations. Who were the victims? Surely Romanists did not persecute each other. They were those who heard the voice of God above the voice of Cresar. Those who obeyed God rather than men. "The sect everywhere spoken against."

In the sixteenth century, when Luther heralded to the world, "The just shall live by faith," he headed a revolution that threatened the existence of Romanism. To welcome the glorious Reformation Baptists emerged from their hiding places, hoping that the day of their deliverance had come, but they were doomed to disappointment. While Romanists and Protestants hated and persecuted each other, they united to exterminate the Baptists, because they regarded them, on account of their opposition to church and State, as worse than traitors, and looked upon them as arch heretics, because they opposed baptismal regeneration and infant church membership. Mosheim, p. 505: "There were certain sects and doctors against whom the zeal, vigilance and severity of Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists were united, and in opposing whose settlement and progress, these three communions, forgetting their dissentions, joined their most vigorous councils and endeavors. The object of this common aversion were the Anabaptists." The Elector of Hesse, Germany, commended in the following language the zeal of King Henry VIII., who had banished Baptists, giving them twelve days to leave his kingdom on pain of death if they disobeyed: "There are no rulers in Germany, whether they be Papists or Protestants, that do suffer these men. If they come into their hands all men punish them quickly." To justify the slaughter of the Anabaptists in the Netherlands, they are accused of the abominations of Munster and held responsible for indiscriminate bloodshed. The greatest authorities have exonerated the Anabaptists. Kurtz's Church History, page 243, says: "The leader was Thomas Munger, formerly a Roman Catholic priest, but now a Lutheran pastor of the church at Zurick." Kellar, in his late work on the Reformation, page 370, says: "That Cornelius has shown that in the chief points Munger was opposed to the Baptists." Dr. Schaff says: "It is the greatest injustice to make the Anabaptists responsible for the extravagances that led to the Munster tragedy." In reply to the old Munster slander, Dr. J. Newton Brown said:

"It is now too late in the day to confound these primitive people with the Munster sect, because both were called by their enemies, Anabaptists. As well confound the Baptist of the United States with the Mormons of Salt Lake. I thought it proper to note this, although no man of intelligence and candor believes that Baptists so originated. The Baptists had been in existence full fifteen hundred years when Bockhold, Mathys and their frantic followers commenced their career of folly and crime. Munster was a German forest where the Saxon chased the fierce wild boar, when the Master and his disciples laid the foundation of our history. The blood of Caesar who drive Ariovistus to the Danube was not yet extinct in the veins of Nero, when Baptists were clustering in the vales of Thessaly and Tempe, and among the hills of Rome. The fading light of letters and of art still played in lingering beauty on the marble steps of the Acropolis, when hundreds of Athenians and Corinthian believers were buried with Christ in baptism."

Mosheim, p, 493: "In almost all countries of Europe an unspeakable number of these unhappy wretches preferred death in its worst forms to a retraction of their errors. Neither the view of the flames that were kindled to consume them, nor the ignominy of the gibbet, nor the terrors of the sword could shake their invincible, but ill-placed, constancy, or make them abandon tenets that appeared dearer to them than life and all its enjoyments."

Speaking of Baptists burned at the stake in England, Froude, the historian says:
"The details are gone - their names are gone. Poor Hollanders they were, and that is all. Scarcely the fact seemed worth mention, so shortly is it told in a passing paragraph. For them no Europe was agitated, no courts were ordered into mourning, no royal hearts trembled with indignation. At their death the world looked on complacent, indifferent, or exulting. Yet here, too, out of twenty-five poor men and women were found fourteen who by no terror of stake or torture, could be tempted to say they believed what they did not believe. History for them has no word of praise; yet they, too, were not giving their blood in vain. Their lives might have been as useless as the lives of most of us. In their death they assisted to pay the purchase-money for England's freedom."

In England, acts of general pardon were published in 1538, '40 and '50. Thieves and vagabonds shared the royal favor, but Baptists were excepted. Under Bloody Mary a large portion of the blood that flowed was from Baptist veins. Queen Elizabeth followed the example of her wicked father, and like him banished Baptists, giving them twenty days to leave her realm. For two hundred years, according to the records of the courts, Baptists were persecuted in England. It has been asserted that "immersion was founded, discovered and invented" in 1641 in England. W. H. King, D.D., of London, England, as the correspondent of the Westem Recorder, spent several months in the London Museum, and after a thorough research said in the Recorder of June 4, 1896: "I can affirm with the most unhesitating confidence that in these volumes there is not a sentence or hint from which it can be inferred that the Baptists generally, or any section of them, or even any individual Baptist, held any other opinion than that immersion is the only true and scriptural method of baptism, either before the year 1639 or after it."

"In 1526, death by drowning and at the stake was the common fate of Baptists in Switzerland. Those who were not arrested escaped to Moravia, where for a season they were tolerated. Finally King Ferdinand was persuaded to banish them, and only a few days were given them to leave his dominions.

"It was summer; harvest was near, and the vintage would follow soon; and humanity would have dedicated that even if justice demanded the banishment of these men, they should have opportunity of gathering the produce of their labors, and so be provided with the means of sustenance for their families during the approaching winter. But they were ordered to leave in three weeks and three days on pain of death." - Cramp, page 267.

"Without leaving one murmur on record, in solemn, silent submission to the Power that governs the universe, and causes all things to work for good, they packed up and departed.

"In several hundred wagons they conveyed their sick, their innocent new-born infants at the breast of their weeping mothers, and their decrepid [sic] parents, whose work was done, and whose silvery locks told everyone that they wanted only the solace of the grave. At the frontier they filed off, some to Walachia, and others to Transylvania, Hungary and Poland. Greater far greater, for their virtues than Ferdinand for all his titles and all his glory."

The Word of God declares: "For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known." When Sir Isaac Newton announced "that all bodies that reflect light are combustible," scientific men challenged his statement, and triumphantly demanded that he demonstrate by burning the diamond. Frankly, be replied, "the diamond is an exception, but I base my observation on the uniformity of nature's laws, and I believe the time will come when the diamond will be burned." Long ago the chemist with his blow pipe verified the philosopher's prediction. This is an age of tireless research. To the interrogation of an imperative curiosity the rocks have rendered an account of themselves. The leaves that fell before the flood have told their story. Not a time-worn mark or hieroglyphic found that is not deciphered. Not a crumbling monument or a buried city but has been reproduced on the canvas of living history. Nothing will escape the sleepless and persevering antiquarian; with his pick and spade. Investigations now being made by Kellar, the great church historian, and others, are lifting the clouds and dispelling the shadows that have so long obscured our history.

Roger Williams, who was raised in the Church of England, and a graduate of one of the colleges of the chief University, arrived in Plymouth Colony 1631, and became a minister of the Established Church. Soon he commenced preaching Baptist doctrines, for which in 1636 he was excommunicated and compelled in midwinter, in order to avoid imprisonment, to flee through the snows of the wilderness. After forty days of perilous journey, not knowing what bed or bread did mean, he found refuge among the Narragansett Indians, where as a token of his gratitude to God he founded the city of Providence, R. I. Williams was a pious man, and by reading his Bible he became dissatisfied with his baptism. He became impatient waiting for a Baptist minister, and finally he was baptized by Ezekiel Holliman. In regard to the act I have no doubt it was immersion. 1. Protestants and Romanists have never disputed that the act was immersion. "One year before, in 1638," Dr. Newman, in the Examiner of May 13, 1896, tells us: "Rev. Chas. Chauncey (afterward President of Harvard College) arrived at Plymouth from England. He became assistant pastor at Plymouth." Referring to him, Gov. Bradford says: "But there fell out some difference about baptism, he holding it ought to be by dipping ye whole body under water; and that sprinkling was unlawful." 2. The testimony is overwhelming. Rev. John Stanford's History First Church, Providence, R. I. (vol. 4, p. 495: An. Register), says, speaking of Roger Williams and his companions: "They were convinced of the nature and design of baptism by immersion." Dr. W. H. Whitsitt, "Question in Baptist History," page 163, argues that Roger Williams was not immersed, and says: "Benedict, who claims to have followed the records closely, employs the word baptize and says nothing of immersion." Rev. H. M. King, D.D., of Providence,. R.I., in reply, said, in Watchman of November 18, 1896: "The truth is, that Benedict quotes Stanford's language verbatim, immersion and all, when he gives an account of the First Church at Providence. Vol. 1, p. 475." Dr. King continues: "To say that Mr. Stanford does not mention immersion is simply a confession that he never has seen Stanford's history," and adds: "If he had not referred to the edition, volume and page, we should be compelled to conclude that he had never seen Benedict either. As it is, we do not know what to conclude." Dr. A. H. Newman, in the Examiner of May 13, 1896, says: "Roger Williams was immersed," and adds: " Dr. Dexter, to whom I wrote in 1882, was of the opinion that Roger Williams practiced immersion." Prof. H. C. Vedder, in the Examiner of May 21, 1896, says : "Roger Williams was immersed," and adds: "In fine, anybody who asserts that anything but immersion has been practiced from the beginning among American Baptists assumes the burden of proof, and ingenious guesses about Mark Lucar, and things of that sort, are not proofs. They may satisfy the guesser, but he cannot fairly ask that anybody else should be satisfied with them." 3. For anyone who claims to be a Baptist to "infer," or presume, that when Baptists use the word "baptize," they of course must mean sprinkling, and not immersion, is manifestly unfair to his own people. 4. No man of Roger Williams' intelligence would have become dissatisfied with immersion and sought relief in sprinkling or pouring.

July 20, 1651, Elders Holmes, Clark and Grandall, Baptist preachers of Concord, R.I., while assisting Eld. Witter in a meeting near Lynn, Mass., were arrested and imprisoned in the Boston jail. Holmes was fined $150, Clark $100 and Grandall $25. The fines of the two latter were paid. Holmes was publicly and cruelly flogged. Rev. Henry Dunston, first President of Harvard College, because he preached a sermon against infant baptism was removed from his position. Two students of the col1ege were expelled because during vacation they attended a Baptist meeting. In 1655, Thomas Gould, of Charleston, Mass., refused to have his body sprinkled, for which he was censured by his church and prosecuted in the courts for over seven years. In connection with others, he organized a Baptist church in Boston. Magistrates, hearing of it, issued warrants requiring them to attend the Established Church. The General Court disfranchised them and imprisoned them, and for three years they pursued them with fines and imprisonment. In May, 1668, the General Court sentenced Thomas Gould, William Turner and John Forman to be banished, and because they did not flee they were put in jail for about one year. In 1676, the first Baptist meeting-house was built in Boston. A law was at once passed confiscating it, if they did not cease to meet in it. In 1680, the doors were nailed up by order of the court. In 1718, fourteen were imprisoned in Boston because they refused to pay the salary assessment for the parish minister. Such instances were general throughout what is now known as New England. In the colony of Virginia there was a law that required dissenters to report, and if they refused, the first time the penalty was, to be whipped. For the second offense, to be whipped twice and publicly acknowledge their fault on the Sabbath day in the congregation. Third offense, to be whipped every day until obedience was secured. Baptist preachers were arrested as vagrants and cast into jails for no cause but their religious opinions. Rev. Wm. Wickenden preached the first Baptist sermon in New York in 1669. He was arrested, convicted and put in jail for three months. In North Carolina there was a law prohibiting Baptists from building meeting-houses in cities. The Georgia Legislature once refused to charter a Baptist institution of learning. In 1774, Rev. Isaac Backus, a Baptist preacher, chairman of a committee appointed by Warren Baptist Association of Rhode Island, was the first committee to appear before the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, asking for religious liberty. The elder Adams sarcastically told Mr. Backus, "You might as well try to change the evolutions of the heavenly bodies as to dissolve the union of church and State." He was mistaken. That Baptist committee was instrumental in engrafting the following clause in the Federal Constitution: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." In 1775, the Baptists of Virginia organized a crusade against the Established Church. After their triumph was complete, Hawks, the historian, says: "The Baptists seem to have known no relenting; their hostility never ceased for twenty-seven years." Again he says: "The Establishment was finally put down. The Baptists were the principal promoters of this work, and in truth did more than any other denomination in its accomplishment." Virginia and Rhode Island were slow in adopting the Constitution of the United States, and to conciliate them the following amendment was made to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Brethren, were the millions of martyred heroes misguided, and did they suffer in vain? Yes, if one religion is as good as another. Yes, if it matters not what a man believes, so he is sincere. Yes, if believers are not the only proper scriptural subjects of baptism, and if immersion is not essentia1 to Christian baptism. Yes, if Christ did not build a church. Yes, if he did "build" his church and the gates of hell prevailed against it. We have followed the Baptists through the pages of history, written not by themselves, but by opponents. We have learned of their struggles and afflictions in their helplessness. We have seen them without secular allies and worldly advantages, contending valiantly "against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places." The sculptor with his chisel hews the marble block, and makes the beautiful statue. The furnace separates the gold from the dross. Veterans who win great battles are made by constant drilling, long marches and rigid discipline. As the Captain of our Salvation was made perfect through suffering, so God in his providence has brought Baptists through many trials and tribulations.

Baptist doctrines, once so unpopular that it cost the life of a believer to avow them, have taken deep root in the institutions of the land. We no longer stand alone for civil and religious liberty, for separation of church and State, and self-government in each. Our principles laid the ax at the root of the Upas tree, the one-man power, and sounded the death-knell of all forms of absolutism and priest-craft. In great religious movements God has highly honored us by giving us leadership. It was Wm. Bordie Gourney, a Baptist preacher, who inaugurated, in 1805, the voluntary Sunday-school plan, when the Robert Raikes movement of hired teachers and endowed schools was doomed to die. Wm. Hughes, a consecrated Baptist layman, founded the first Bible society. In 1793, God chose Wm. Carey, ironically called the consecrated cobbler by Dean Swift, to be tlie Apostle of Modern Missions. Roger Williams, influenced by his Baptist principles, was the forerunner in the establishment of civil and religious liberty. The Declaration of Independence was denounced by the tyrants of Europe as "an Anabaptist document." Baptists were among the first and bravest to enlist in the Revolutionary war. So distinguished were their services that General Washington made most honorable mention of their sacrifices and valor in the glorious struggle for independence. To-day civil and religious liberty is no dearer to us than to many other denominations. Cordially we acknowledge that in our struggles we have had the prayers and fraternal aid of many who were not Baptists. We only claim what history accords, that we were the pioneers who blazed the way, and that to our lot has fallen the hardest of the fighting. We have furnished more martyrs than any other people. When the Lord Chancellor of England proposed to award John Locke the honor of being the author of religious liberty, he proclaimed to the world the following: "The Baptists were the first propounders of absolute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty." Chief Justice Story, speaking of the Baptist settlement of Rhode Island, says: "In the code of laws established by them in Rhode Island we read for the first time since Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars, the declaration that conscience should be free, and men should not be punished for worshipping God in the way they were persuaded he requires."

Schaff says of the English Baptists: "For this change of public sentiment, the chief merit is due to the English nonconformists, who in the school of persecution became advocates of toleration, especially to the Baptists and Quakers, who made religious liberty (within the limit of the golden rule) an article of their creed, so that they could not consistently persecute, even if they should ever have the chance to do so." Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1, page 803.

Herbert S. Skeats, "A History of the Free Churches of England, London," page 24, says: "It is the singular and distinguishing honor of the Baptists to have repudiated, from their earliest history, all coercive power over the consciences and actions of men with reference to religion. No sentence is to be found in all their writings inconsistent with these principles of Christian liberty and willinghood which are equally dear to all the free congregational churches of England. They were the proto-evangelists of the voluntary principle."

In a foot note the author says: "The author is not connected with the Baptist denomination, and has therefore, perhaps, greater pleasure in bearing this testimony to undoubted historic fact."

Bancroft, our great American historian, says, vol. 2, page 66: "Freedom of conscience, unlimited freedom of mind, was from the first the trophy of the Baptists."

In 1790 there were 65,000 Baptists in the United States. In 1800 there were 80,000. Now there are not less than 4,250,000, and about 15,000,000 under our influence. One hundred years ago we had one communicant to every sixty of the population, now we have one to every eighteen. We have become in the South about one-ninth of the population. In 1800 the population of the United States was 7,000,000. It is now about 75,000,000. The Baptists are sixty-two times as many as they were in 1800, while the population is only ten times what it was then. In other words, the Baptists have multiplied these ninety-nine years fifty times more in proportion than the population. Phenomenally has our numerical strength increased, and more so has been our gain in wealth, learning, and social power. The greatest preacher of the century was a Baptist, Charles H. Spurgeon. The richest man in the world is a Baptist, and to his honor, and the honor of his Baptist faith, he is the most 1iberal rich man of the age. God is abundantly b1essing our labors in home and foreign fie1ds. The Father has given us much, and much fruit will He require. Whether I reflect about our marvelous past and present obligations, I tremble. The children of Israel have left a history not richer in great lessons than our own. After hundreds of years of Egyptian bondage God delivered them. Before them He divided the waters. He gave them a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Water from the rock and manna from heaven, but they forgot God's mercies and murmured, and wandered forty years in the wilderness, a journey that could have been made in twenty-four hours. At Cadesh Barnea they heard the report of the spies, and, lacking faith, they turned back and perished in the wilderness.

Epictetus had these ringing words for his motto, "Know an opportunity." This is the molding and golden age of the world. Men read, think, and for themselves interpret God's word. Shackles forged by arrogant tyrants in church and church and State, and fostered by superstition, have been broke. God, the giver of all light, commands us to let our light shine. The organic laws of our republic, supported by enlightened public opinion, are our allies. This country is our earthly Canaan. This is the jubilee epoch in our history. We are not only free to worship God as our conscience dictates, but free to propagate our principles. The Father has given His Son "the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession." In the language of Caleb, "Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are able to overcome it." The Baptist denomination is neither an apology nor reminiscence. It glories in its past, rejoices in the present, and, in the words of the great Neander,

"The Baptists have a future."

"For truth with tireless zeal they sought,
In joyless paths they trod,
Heedless of pain or blame they wrought,
And left the rest with God.

"But though their names no poet wove
In deathless song or story,
Their record is inscribed above,
Their wreaths are crowns of glory."

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord."


[From Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy or Defenders of the Faith, 1900, pp. 406-440. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

American Histories Index
Baptist History Homepage