We have observed the persecution of truth, first of Israel and secondly of the church. Satan persecuted the churches of Jesus Christ first by the Jews. This persecution is recorded in the book of Acts. It is also mentioned in some of the Epistles of the New Testament.
Next, Satan used the Roman Empire to persecute the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were at least ten severe persecutions beginning with Nero and ending with Diocletian. We will devote space to these in the next chapter. These persecutions resulted in the death of a very large number of Christians.
Satan used the Roman Empire to persecute the Lord's churches while he was establishing a church of his own with which to oppose and persecute the true churches of Jesus Christ. Much of this Baptist History Notebook will deal with the development of Satan's church (the synagogue of Satan) and its persecution of the churches of our Lord.
Christ's Church Built
Doing this, we must begin with the church which Jesus built and observe how Satan sought to corrupt it from within which resulted in a separation by the pure churches from the corrupt churches.
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). The word "church" means assembly. The Lord said He would build "His" (My) church. This was to distinguish it from all other kinds of assemblies. He built His "kind" of assembly. That which distinguishes His from all the rest are the doctrines He gave to it. Those doctrinal peculiarities make it His kind of church.
What are those marks or doctrinal peculiarities? Dr. J. R. Graves in his book "Old Landmarkism" lists seven. Dr. Clarence Walker, in his introduction to the "Trail of Blood" (page 5) lists seven. Dr. D. B. Ray, in his "Baptist Succession"
lists seven. To these could be added or subtracted, depending on the historian and what his purpose might be. Where one would list two doctrines under one head the next may list them separately. I will list eight but treat primarily three in this Notebook.
(1) The church's Head and Founder is Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18; Colossians 1:18).
(2) Its only rule of faith and practice is the Bible (II Timothy 3:15-17).
(3) Its members are to be only saved people (Acts 2:41).
(4) Its government is congregational (Acts 1:23-26 - equality).
(5) Its teaching on salvation is that it is by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
(6) It has but two ordinances; Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and these are symbolic (Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 11:24).
(7) Its commission is inclusive (Matthew 28:16-20).
(8) It is independent (Matthew 16:19; Matthew 22:21).
Wherever, in history, in whatever age, you find churches teaching these doctrines, you have a Baptist church, no matter what name it may go by. It matters not if we cannot, from church to church, trace it back to the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem. The succession is there but records may hinder or stop our search. What it teaches is the important thing. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church so He guaranteed perpetuity.
Maybe this illustration will help us. Suppose we have a covered bridge one mile long. As we look at this bridge we see a wagon drawn by a mule enter one end of the bridge. The mule is black, broken down, long-eared, and thin with ribs showing. The wagon is of wood and is red. It also has white stripes on it. The wheels are blue with spokes. After the wagon and mule enter the covered bridge we wait about thirty minutes. We see the wagon and mule come out at the other end of the bridge that fits exactly the description of the ones we saw enter the bridge. One who has a sound mind
realizes that this is the same mule and wagon we observed earlier. This is like the church that Jesus built. In the Bible we have an accurate description of what the church looked like. As that church entered the covered bridge of time we wait and watch. If we look and see a church fitting the description of the one we saw earlier in the Bible we are forced to conclude that it must be the same church. As we watched the covered bridge earlier we may have seen several wagons drawn by mules come out of it. We looked and saw they did not fit the description of the one we saw earlier. They may have looked alike in many ways but if they are not exactly alike, we know they are different wagons and mules. So today, when we look at so called churches and see that they look a lot like the first one, let us look closely. If they do not meet the Bible description, conclude that they are not of the first church.
Thus we believe that Baptist churches are identified in history by their doctrines. It is where these "truths" or doctrines are stood for and taught that we will be able to observe the "Trail of Blood." The history of these "kind" of churches is written in blood. Here you will find outward manifestations of the battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan.
1. Church Government Changed
In developing his church Satan began by corrupting the doctrinal teachings of the Lord's church from within. He has his servants in all churches. The first corruption came in his seeking to change the form of church government that Christ gave. His subtility is seen in this.
There was a plurality of elders (preachers) in the early churches. "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church" (Acts 20:17). It seems that today we have a scarcity of preachers but not then. These elders were to be equal, one was not to lord it over another. "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder. . . . Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over
God's heritage (clergy), but being ensamples to the flock" (I Peter 5:1-3). See our Lord's instruction on equality (Matthew 23:1-12).
Early in history Satan led some away from that truth. Diotrephes is an example given in III John 9. We read in Revelation 2:15, "So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolatians, which thing I hate." Without being positive what this doctrine was, I think the meaning lies in the name. It comes from two Greek words. The first is nikaw which means "to conquer." The second is laos which means "people." So then it means to conquer the people or laity. Thus we have a ruling clergy. Thus developed an episcopal church government in place of a congregational one. What kind of government is this? "Episcopacy, Episcopal." These terms are derived from the Greek episcopos, meaning 'bishop.' They refer accordingly to that system of church government in which the principal officer is the bishop."1
Big Preachers - Big Churches
Thus, some bishops with big egos began to feel more importance attached to them than to others. Their strong personalities helped them "climb the ladder." Bishops of the larger city churches became known as Metropolitans. They began to preside over the smaller country churches. The development of this kind of church government was gradual. The result is what we see in Roman Catholicism in the past and today.
I will quote from the Lutheran historian, Mosheim, who is known as the father of modern church history:
"Let none, however, confound the bishops of this primitive and golden period of the church with those of whom we read in the following ages; for though they were both distinguished by the same name, yet they differed in many respects. A bishop during the first and second century was a person who had the care of one Christian assembly, which, at that time was, generally speaking, small enough to be contained in a private house. In this assembly he acted, not so much with the authority of a master, as with the zeal and
diligence of a faithful servant. He instructed the people, performed the several parts of divine worship, attended the sick, and inspected the circumstances and supplies of the poor. He charged, indeed, the presbyters with the performance of those duties and services, which the multiplicity of his engagements rendered it impossible for him to fulfill; but he had not the power to decide or enact any thing without the consent of the presbyters and people; and though the episcopal office was both laborious and singularly dangerous, yet its revenues were extremely small, since the church had no certain income, but depended on the gifts or oblations of the multitude, which were, no doubt, inconsiderable, and were moreover to be divided among the bishops, presbyters, deacons and poor.
"The power and jurisdiction of the bishops were not long confined to these narrow limits, but were soon extended by the following means. The bishops, who lived in the cities, had, either by their own ministry, or that of their presbyters, erected new churches in the neighboring towns and villages. These churches, continuing under the inspection and ministry of the bishops, by whose labors and counsels they had been engaged to embrace the Gospel, grew imperceptibly into ecclesiastical provinces, which the Greeks afterwards called dioceses. But as the bishop of the city could not extend his labors and inspection to all those churches in the country and in the villages, he appointed certain suffragans or deputies to govern and to instruct these new societies; and they were distinguished by the title chorepiscopi, i.e. country bishops. This order held the middle rank between bishops and presbyters.
"The churches, in those early times, were entirely independent, none of them being subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each governed by its own rulers and its own laws; for, though the churches founded by the apostles had this particular deference shown to them, that they were consulted in different and doubtful cases, yet they had no juridical authority, no sort of supremacy over the others, nor the least right to enact laws for them. Nothing, on the contrary, is more evident than the perfect equality that reigned among the primitive churches; nor does there even appear, in the first
century, the smallest trace of that association of provincial churches, from which councils and metropolitans derive their origin. It was only in the second century that the custom of holding councils commenced in Greece, whence it soon spread through the other provinces."2
Concerning the Doctrines and Ministers of the Church, and the Form of its Government.
"The form of ecclesiastical government, whose commencement we have seen in the last century, was brought in this to a greater degree of stability and consistence. One inspector, or bishop, presided over each Christian assembly, to which office he was elected by the voices of the whole people. In this post he was to be watchful and provident, attentive to the wants of the church, and careful to supply them. To assist him in his laborious province, he formed a council of presbyters, which was not confined to any fixed number; and to each of these he distributed his task, and appointed a station, in which he was to promote the interests of the church. To the bishops and presbyters, the ministers or deacons were subject; and the latter were divided into a variety of classes, as the state of the church required.
"During a great part of this century, the Christian churches were independent with respect to each other; nor were they joined by association, confederacy, or any other bonds than those of charity. Each Christian assembly was a little state, governed by its own laws, which were either enacted, or at least, approved by the society. But, in the process of time, all the Christian churches of a province were formed into one large ecclesiastical body, which, like confederate states, assembled at certain times in order to deliberate about the common interests of the whole. This institution had its origin among the Greeks, with whom nothing was more common than this confederacy of independent states, and in the regular assemblies which met, in consequence thereof, at fixed times, and were composed of the deputies of each respective state. But those ecclesiastical associations were not long confined to the Greeks; their great
utility was no sooner perceived, then they became universal, and were formed in all places where the gospel had been planted. To these assemblies, in which the deputies or commissioners of several churches consulted together, the names of synods was appropriated by the Greeks, and that of councils by the Latins; and the laws that were enacted in these general meetings, were called canons i.e. rules.
"These councils of which we find not the smallest trace before the middle of this century, changed the whole face of the church, and gave it a new form: for by them the ancient privileges of the people were considerably diminished, and the power and authority of the bishops greatly augmented. The humility, indeed, and prudence of these pious prelates, prevented their assuming all at once the power with which they were afterward invested. At their first appearance in these general councils, they acknowledged that they were no more than the delegates of their respective churches, and that they acted in the name, and by the appointment of their people. But they soon changed this humble tone, imperceptibly extended the limits of their authority, turned their influence into dominion, and their counsels into laws; and openly asserted, at length, that Christ had empowered them to prescribe to his people authoritative rules of faith and manners. Another effect of these councils was the gradual abolition of that perfect equality which reigned among all bishops in the primitive times. For the order and decency of these assemblies required, that some one of the provincial bishops, meeting in council, should be invested with a superior degree of power and authority; and hence the rights of Metropolitans derive their origin. In the mean time the bounds of the church were enlarged; the custom of holding councils was fallowed wherever the sound of the gospel had reached; and the universal church had now the appearance of one vast republic, formed by a combination of a great number of little states. This occasioned the creation of a new order of ecclesiastics, who were appointed, in different parts of the worlds as heads of the church, and whose office it was to preserve the consistence and union of that immense body, whose members were so widely dispersed throughout the nations. Such were the nature and office of the patriarchs,
among whom, at length, ambition, having reached its most insolent period, formed a new dignity, investing the bishop of Rome, and his successors, with the title and authority of prince of the patriarchs."3
"The face of things began now to change in the Christian church. The ancient method of ecclesiastical government seemed, in general, still to subsist, while, at the same time, by imperceptible steps, it varied from the primitive rule, and degenerated toward the form of a religious monarchy; for the bishops aspired to higher degrees of power and authority than they had formerly possessed, and not only violated the rights of the people, but also made general encroachments upon the privileges of the presbyters; and that they might cover these usurpations with an air of justice, and an appearance of reason, they published new doctrines concerning the nature of the church, and of the episcopal dignity, which, however, were in general so obscure, that they themselves seemed to have understood them as little as those to whom they were delivered. One of the principal authors of this change, in the government of the church, was Cyprian, who pleaded for the power of the bishops with more zeal and vehemence than had ever been hitherto employed in that cause, though not with an unshaken constancy and perseverance; for in difficult and perilous times, necessity sometimes obliged him to yield, and to submit several things to the judgment and authority of the church.
"This change in the form of ecclesiastical government, was soon followed by a train of vices, which dishonored the character and authority to those to whom the administration of the church was committed; for, though several yet continued to exhibit to the world illustrious examples of primitive piety and Christian virtues, yet many were sunk in luxury and voluptuousness, puffed up with vanity, arrogance, and ambition, possessed with a spirit of contention and discord, and addicted to many other vices that cast an undeserved reproach upon the holy religion, of which they were the unworthy professors and ministers. This is testified in such an
ample manner, by the repeated complaints of many of the most respectable writers of this age that truth will not permit us to spread the veil, which we should otherwise be desirous to cast over such enormities among an order so sacred. The bishops assumed, in many places, a princely authority, particularly those who had the greatest number of churches under their inspection, and who presided over the most opulent assemblies. They appropriated to their evangelical function the splendid ensigns of temporal majesty; a throne, surrounded with ministers, exalted above his equals the servant of the meek and humble Jesus; and sumptuous garments dazzled the eyes and minds of the multitude into an ignorant veneration for this usurped authority. An example which ought not to have been followed was ambitiously imitated by the presbyters, who, neglecting the sacred duties of their station, abandoned themselves to the indolence and delicacy of an effeminate and luxurious life. The deacons, beholding the presbyters thus deserting their functions, boldly invaded their rights and privileges; and the effects of a corrupt ambition were spread through every rank of the sacred order."4
I realize this is a long quote but one that is necessary. This will be one area where the history of the Baptists and the history of the synagogue of Satan separates. For those who would like to further study this changing of church government by Satan, please read Agustus Neander. Volume 1, pages 179-201. For a most interesting statement of the development of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, read Dowling's History or Romanism, pages 36-64.
NOTE: It is to be remembered that hundreds of churches kept to the original plan of church government given by our Lord. They did not follow the ungodly form of Episcopal Church Government devised by Satan. These churches, keeping to the original form were the true Baptist churches.
2. Plan of Salvation Changed
Those of Jewish background had always emphasized rites and ceremonies. Whole of Jewish religion laid stress on ceremony. The same can be said of the pagan world. Both Jews and Gentiles (apart from Christianity) upheld the shadows more than the substances. It is easy to understand why they might be tempted to place too much or give over importance to baptism which is a rite or ceremony. Their reasoning (because of their background) ran something like this: Much is said about baptism; hence it must have some saving ability. So many in our own day place their reasoning above the revelation God has given (the Bible).
D. B. Ray, in his great book on Baptist Succession tells us:
"The second leading error which originated in this period is the doctrine of baptismal salvation. This doctrine was based upon the false interpretation of those Scriptures which speak of baptism for remission of sins; and especially John, where they made born of water, mean baptism. It is admitted that baptism represents the washing away of sins. The same principles of Scripture interpretation which gave birth to baptismal salvation also gave birth to transubstantiation. Of this defection from the truth on the part of some, Miall remarks: "In the ante-Nicene period, sin was regarded much more in its overt demonstrations than in its spiritual destructiveness; repentance had degenerated into penance; regeneration into baptism; justification by faith, into just what the ninetieth number of 'The Tracts for the Times' declare it to be; and sanctification was lost in the names of sacred persons, sacred things, and sacred places. All this was before the Papacy had begun to blazon its triple crown, or to set its feet upon the necks of kings." It is difficult to ascertain at what precise point of time the error of baptismal salvation was first advocated; it is certain, however, that it was advocated by a large number as early as the middle of the third century; and it is likely that some embraced this view as early as the close of the second century. Baptismal salvation was an innovation brought in, in some places, along with the change of the form of church government to a hierarchy. Neander and Waddington both testify that baptismal salvation was a departure from the original doctrine of the design of baptism. And when this superstitious error concerning baptism was
established, it opened the way for other superstitions, which tended to clothe the baptismal ceremony with a mysterious grandeur and importance which excited the admiration of the people. Among the attending superstitions added to baptismal salvation, may be mentioned the sign of the cross, blowing in the mouth of the candidate, the use of crism, and the giving of the new baptized persons milk and honey, as a symbol of the new life."5
Almost all the historians agree that baptism, at first, was for adults who expressed faith in Jesus Christ. This is believer's baptism. Hence, to baptize someone in order to get them saved is a departure from truth. All of this was, and still is, a clever invention of Satan to build for himself a false church with which to persecute the true churches of our Lord.
NOTE: It is to be remembered that hundreds of churches did not go off after the "baptismal regeneration" heresy. They continued preaching that baptism is a symbol - not substance. Thus they were the true Baptist churches keeping pure the doctrine as our Lord had given it to them.
Before passing from this point, let us hear from a couple of church historians. J. M. Cramp says, "The figment of baptismal regeneration, one of the earliest corruptions of Christianity, was an outrage on morals and religion. It encouraged men in sin, and bolstered them up with a false hope, substituting the outward form for repentance, faith and a changed heart and life."6
Dr. John T. Christian writes, "One of the earliest and most hurtful errors was the dogma of baptismal regeneration. This error, in one form or another, has marred the life and colored the history of all the Christian ages. It began early and the virus may be traced to this day, not only among ritualists, but likewise in the standards of evangelical Christians. Tertullian was influenced by it to oppose infant baptism, and under other conditions it became the frightful origin of that heresy."7
3. Infant Baptism
The third great error, introduced by Satan in the primitive churches was that of infant baptism. It is very easy
to see how this would rapidly follow the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. If baptism washes away sin and regenerates, should it not be applied as early as possible was the reasoning. People die because of sin. Babies die. Babies must have sin. Baptize them quick to wash that sin away so they will go to heaven if they die. This is the reasoning Satan placed in the heads of many, then and now.
This error began, probably at the start of the third century, to be taught by some. In this area of church history we are blessed with several worthy histories of infant baptism. Check the bibliography at the end of this notebook for a partial listing. The historians (most of them) are in agreement that this practice originated about the third century.
G. H. Orchard writes, "We conclude this chapter with the words of Curcellus, 'Paedobaptism was not known in the world the two first ages after Christ; in the third and fourth it was approved by few; at length, in the fifth and following ages, it began to obtain in divers places; and therefore, we (paedobaptists) observe this rite indeed, as an ancient custom, but not as an apostolic tradition. The custom of baptizing infants did not begin before the third age after Christ, and that there appears not the least footstep of it for the first two centuries.'"8
This doctrine is of the devil and its evil is beyond description. D. B. Ray quotes J. Newton Brown (from Baptist Martyrs). "Infant baptism is an error from beginning to end; corrupt in theory, and corrupting in practice; born in superstition, cradled in fear, nursed in ignorance, supported in fraud, and spread by force: doomed to die in the light of historical investigation, and its very memory to be bathed in all future ages by a disabused church. In the realms of despotism it has shed the blood of martyrs in torrents: that blood cries against it to heaven: and a long suffering God will yet be the terrible avenger. The book before us is a swift witness against it."9
NOTE: Many, many churches opposed this error from the start. Not all churches were carried away by the satanic invention of infant baptism. These who stood firm were the true churches of our Lord. In the history we are to study we will see that these three errors which the true
churches stood against brought them much persecution and death. It is my opinion that the Roman Catholic Church is built upon this unholy trinity of doctrine: episcopal government, baptismal regeneration, and infant baptism. These errors have led to hundreds more. We detest and protest these doctrines. We cry out against them as the arsenal of antichrist. Our Baptist ancestors died crying out against them! Can we do less?
Notes on Chapter Two
1 Baker's Dictionary of Theology, page 184 - Article by Leon Morris.
2 Mosheim's Church History, pages 22-23.
3 Mosheim's Church History, page 41.
4 Mosheim's Church History, pages 63-64.
5 Baptist Succession, pages 306-307.
6 Baptist History, page 47.
7 A History of the Baptists, volume 1, page 28.
8 A Concise History of the Baptists, page 50.
9 Baptist Succession, page 311.
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