THE TRACING OF BAPTIST HISTORY
The people called Baptists have suffered much in their past history. The study of "Baptist Roots" is one mainly of persecution. Our history has been written in blood. Often Baptist history is studied under the heading of the Trail of Blood. We have not had a lot of historians to record our glorious past. Those who did write from among our ranks were martyred and their writings burned. Most of our history has been written by our enemies and written in blood. Therefore you may be sure that, whenever possible, the history has been changed by our enemies to seek to blacken our names. Dr. Clarence Walker, writing an introduction to The Trail of Blood says of J. M. Carroll: "He found much church history - most of it seemed to be about the Catholics and Protestants. The history of the Baptists, he discovered, was written in blood. They were the hated people of the Dark Ages. Their preachers and people were put into prison and untold numbers were put to death. The world has never seen anything to compare with the suffering, the persecutions, heaped upon Baptists by the Catholic Hierarchy during the Dark Ages. The Pope was the world's dictator. This is why the Ana-Baptists, before the Reformation, called the Pope the Anti-Christ."1
"This history of the ancient churches is very obscure. Much of the early recorded history was either lost or destroyed. A great part of the history that remains was changed to suit the interests of the Roman Catholic Church. All of church history has been involved in much controversy and was subject to the whims and fancies of each particular age."2
Baptists have a heritage for which they can be very thankful. One of the more discouraging features of the age in which we live is that preachers, young preachers, students do not have a love for the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ like they ought. Church members do not have a love for the Lord's church like they ought. The reason, or one of the reasons, is that they are unacquainted with the glorious history
of the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hopefully, the Baptist History Notebook will be used of the Lord to create interest in a study of Baptist History.
In order to study the history of the Baptists we need an introductory study of an underlying principle that has produced the outward malice toward the Baptists and the persecutions that caused the trail of blood. There is reason behind the twelve hundred years of the dark ages when millions of our Baptist ancestors sealed their testimonies by their blood. There is reason for the persecution, even unto death, of our Baptist brethren today in Communist countries.
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). From the beginning until the end of what we call time, a battle has been raging and will continue to rage. This has been, and is a battle between two kingdoms. These are the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. They are known as the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness; the kingdom of truth and kingdom of lies; the kingdom of good and the kingdom of evil. Even though these kingdoms are invisible they are none the less real. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). Manifestations of this invisible warfare are seen and experienced by people in the visible realm or in history.
What is Meant By Kingdom?
To understand what we are saying we must understand what is meant by "kingdom." The word, in its
Bible usage means "rule." Thus the kingdom of God is the rule of God. The kingdom of Satan is the rule of Satan. Thus, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink: but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 10:17), means that these three things will result in the lives of those with whom Christ rules in the heart. In the lives of those who are ruled by Satan, we see different results.
There are but two of these kingdoms, God's and Satan's. There is enmity between them and always has been. The people where the "kingdom of God is within" where the rule of God is seen in their lives, will be the people who experience the most outward manifestations of the spiritual warfare. It will be here that the Trail of Blood will be manifested for us to see in our search of history.
Israel in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament times, the most outward manifestations of the rule of God is to be observed in the nation of Israel. Certainly, I do not mean to say that no one outside of Israel was saved, for many were. Nor do I mean to say that all in Israel were saved, for they were not. What I do mean to say is that if any group of people in the Old Testament days would exhibit God's rule in their lives it would be Israel. "What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there in circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:1-2). Having the truth would draw Satan's concentrated efforts toward them. Hence, persecution for truth's sake would give Israel a Trail of Blood.
Abel's blood (Genesis 4:8) is the beginning of the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. The drowning of babies in Exodus 1:22 is actually Satan's hatred and persecution of truth. We see this manifestation in the contrast between Moses (who represents the rule of God) and Pharaoh (who represents the rule of Satan). The infamous act of Athaliah in II Chronicles 22:10-12, in the slaying of the royal seed (except Joash) was the attempt of Satan to prevent the coming of our Champion, the Seed of the woman, who would be Truth incarnate. This principle shows what was behind the
persecution of Israel by other nations and the persecution of Israel's prophets by some in Israel itself. It is Satan moving, behind the scene, to have his rule in the lives of people as opposed to them being ruled by the Lord. Thank God, we know the final outcome of this age long battle. One day "the earth shall be full of His knowledge and glory as waters that cover the sea."
The New Testament Trail of Blood
The Lord Jesus Christ built His church during His earthly ministry. To that church He gave the truth. "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15). Israel of the Old Testament was to be a priesthood to the nations. They failed and Jesus commissioned the church which He built to take His truth into all the world (Matthew 28:16-20). As they take the truth into the world they will be persecuted by Satan. That church will be the place where the rule of God will be manifested in outward life, which thing Satan hates.
This is not to say that only Baptists are saved for that is not true. All who trust the Lord Jesus Christ savingly are saved. Not all Baptists are saved. So we are not saying that all Baptist churches (by name or identification) will exhibit a Trail of Blood. We are saying we are most likely to find this manifestation of warfare between the two kingdoms in true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our search in the Baptist History Notebook will bear out this truth.
Victims of This Warfare
We should naturally and logically expect that those closely involved with this church Jesus built, and laboring in connection with it, would come under Satan's attack. So we are not disappointed as we check the record, to find out if this is so. It is true!
The first martyr to fall was John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12). Why John? He was the prophesied forerunner of Christ and the one who gathered the material out of which
Jesus built His church (Acts 1:20-22). The beheading of John was done by Herod because of Herodias. Yet all should be able to see Satan at work behind the scene. He hates the truth, so he hates the one who gathered material for the church which was to be the depository of truth.
Next to fall was Jesus, Himself. He was Founder of His church which He commissioned to preach the "truth" into all the world. It is still the battle of the two kingdoms manifesting itself where the truth is. Where there is no truth there will be no manifestation of a battle. It was in the crucifixion of Jesus that Jesus bruised the head of the serpent. It was there also that the serpent bruised His heel. This was the ultimate fulfilling of Genesis 3:15. Even though persecution of God's kingdom by Satan continues, Satan and his kingdom received the death blow when Christ died at Calvary. He arose from the dead and is in the process of overthrowing Satan's kingdom (governments and individuals who are ruled by Satan). This will be finalized at the second coming. Oh! What a happy day!
The next pool of blood came from Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). Why Stephen? He was a Baptist deacon affiliated with, and a member of, the Jerusalem Baptist Church where "truth" was (Acts 6:5). He told them, the Jews, that they did not propagate the message God gave them (Acts 7:53), so God is to use His church and, for this, he died. Who cannot see behind this visible manifestation of persecution the invisible hatred and malice of Satan?
The next blood shed was that of James (Acts 12:1-2). Why James? He had been one of the three closest men to the first pastor - Jesus. He died in Satan's opposition to the truth.
The "Trail of Blood" left by the Lord's churches is seen all through the New Testament. It begins slowly (Acts 4:13-21). It speeds up and up (Acts 5:17-18; 33-40). It gets worse and worse (Acts 8:1,3; 9:1,2; 14:19; 16:23-24; 18:12-17).
And thus it has been and shall be throughout history. Our "notebook" will bring this to light in the chapters that follow. There is no rest in this warfare. God has chosen you to be soldiers and to stand in the gap, contending for the truth. If it should become necessary for us to seal our testimony with
our blood, may God's grace strengthen us to our duty. As Baptists, we have a noble heritage and a rewarding future. Through we may be like sheep among the wolves let us be courageous, even into the end.
Notes on Chapter One
1 J. M. Carroll, The Trail of Blood, page 2.
2 Norman H. Wells, The Church That Jesus Loved, page 90.
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