Baptists have been known by many different names in the past. They have been called by the name of the place in which they lived. They have been called by the name of the powerful leader among them. In was not until the time of the Reformation that they were called "Baptists." If time stands, we may be called by another name. This first group of our ancestors which we shall study gets their name from a man.
A Word of Caution
Not everyone today who calls himself a "Baptist" would be a "Baptist" as we consider it. In "Baptist" seminars, there are so-called Baptists who teach that a man can "fall from grace." They teach that the Bible is not infallible. They teach that Baptists began with John Smyth. Some of them teach that Jesus Christ was only a man. They call themselves Baptists. They pastor churches which call themselves Baptist churches. Yet, they are not Baptists at all. They deny many (most) of the cardinal doctrines that make a "Baptist" church. They do not bear the marks or the doctrinal peculiarities that Christ gave to His church when He founded it. So, in reality, they are Baptists who are not Baptists.
We will find this in our study of the Montanists and all other groups that we shall study about. We will not try to maintain that every Montanist was a true Baptist any more than we would maintain and do maintain that "among" them were the churches holding the truth as Christ gave it to His church.
Much of the history we have of the Montanists was written by their enemies. There are many charges against them in the various church histories that are absolutely false.
If we use common sense in our investigation, this will be evident. When one person is writing about another person who believes differently, false charges are often made, consciously or unconsciously. Example: A Baptist would say that everybody who is going to heaven will go like a Baptist goes. A Methodist, hearing this, says the man who said it believes only Baptists are going to heaven. This is a false charge. Our ancestors, who refused the baptisms of the apostate churches, are charged as not believing in baptism. Since we do not believe baptism saves, the Campbellites say we do not believe in baptism. Many false charges against the Montanists and others have crept into histories by this line of reasoning.
It is my opinion that Mosheim and others relate certain charges against the Montanists because they follow the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. Eusebius was born about 275 A.D. and died about 339 A.D. He was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and is revered, by most, as the father of church history. He was a close friend to Constantine, the ruler of the Roman Empire who united false churches to the state power. It is believed by many that Constantine commissioned him to write this history and financed his travel and investigations. Knowing what Constantine did to our Baptist ancestors should make us leery of him. Knowing he was a friend of Eusebius should make us careful of Eusebius too.
Eusebius quotes authors whom we know nothing about, against the Montanists. "He had also transmitted to us what we know of Miltiades and his works, especially on the Montanists. Extracts from Apollonius of Rome, caused much zeal in refuting the pretended prophets. Serapion, bishop of Antioch, is cited on the same subject." 1
Eusebius gives: "Their combination, therefore, and the recent heretical severance of theirs from the church, had for its origin the following cause: - There is said to be a certain village of Mysia in Phrygia, called Ardaba. There, they say, one of those who was but a recent convert, Montanus by name, when Cratus was proconsul in Asia, in the excessive
desire of his soul to take the lead, gave the adversary occasion against himself. So that he was carried away in spirit, and wrought up into a certain kind of frenzy and irregular ecstasy, raving, and speaking, and uttering strange things, and proclaiming what was contrary to the institutions that had prevailed in the church, as handed down and preserved in succession from the earliest times. But of those that happened then to be present, and to hear these spurious oracles, and being indignant, rebuked him as one under the influence of demons and the spirit of delusion, and who was only exciting disturbances among the multitude. These bore in mind the distinction and the warning given by our Lord, when he cautioned them to be vigilantly on their guard against false prophets. Others again, as if elated by the Holy Spirit, and the gift of grace, and not a little puffed up, and forgetting the distinction made by our Lord, challenged this insidious, flattering, and seducing spirit being themselves captivated and seduced by him; so that they could no longer restrain him to keep silence. Thus, by an artifice, or rather by a certain crafty process, the devil having devised destruction against those that disobeyed the truth, and thus excessively honoured by them, secretly stimulated and fired their understandings, already wrapt in insensibility, and wandering away from the truth. For he excited two others, females, and filled them with the spirit of delusion, so that they also spake like the former, in a kind of extatic frenzy, out of all season, and in a manner strange and novel, whilst the spirit of evil congratulated them, thus rejoicing and inflated by him, and continued to puff them up the more, by promises of great things. Sometimes pointedly and deservedly, directly condemning them that he might appear also disposed to reprove them. Those few that were deceived were Phrygians; but the same inflated spirit taught them to revile the whole church under heaven, because it gave neither access nor honour to this false spirit of prophecy. For when the faithful held frequent .conversations in many places throughout Asia for this very purpose, and examined their novel doctrines, and pronounced them vain, and rejected them as heresy, then indeed they were expelled and prohibited from communion with the church."2
Eusebius, speaking so severely against them, makes me think they must have been Baptists. Guess we all have our bias.
One last reference of this sort: Mosheim, in speaking of what he calls sects of this time period, says, "These sects, which we have now been slightly surveying, may be justly regarded as the offspring of philosophy. But they were succeeded by one in which ignorance reigned, and which was the mortal enemy of philosophy and letters. It was formed by Montanus, an obscure man, without any captivity or strength of judgment, and who lived in a Phrygian village called Pepuza. This weak man was so foolish and extravagant as to imagine and pretend that he was the paraclete, or Comforter, whom the divine Saviour, at his departure from the earth, promised to send to his disciples to lead them to all truth."3 Mosheim follows Eusebius and his unknown sources here.
I must give here a quote by Archibald Maclaine, the translator of Dr. Mosheim, given at the same place of the above quote in a footnote. "Those are undoubtedly in an error, who have asserted that Montanus gave himself out for the Holy Ghost. However weak he may have been in point of capacity, he was not fool enough to push his pretensions so far. Neither have they, who inform us that Montanus pretended to have received from the same spirit or paraclete which formerly animated the apostles, interpreted with accuracy the meaning to observe here, that Montanus made a distinction between the paraclete promised by Christ to his apostles, and the Holy Spirit that was shed upon them on the day of Pentecost."4
I think most Baptists see the difference between the Holy Spirit dwelling in a believer and in the Holy Spirit empowering the church on the day of Pentecost. It seems to me that Montanus felt he was a teacher in the true church, empowered in a special way to teach the truth. Churches (true churches) have the Holy Spirit in a special way. True churches have the truth, so the best place to hear the truth is in a true church.
Montanists: Origin and Beliefs
Sylvester Hassell writes of these people: "The chief opposition to the Alexandrian School and to Gnosticism and to the substitution of philosophy for Christianity was, in the second century, made by those called the Montanists, of whom Tertullian became, in the third century, the ablest writer. They took their name from Montanus, a native of Phrygia in Asia Minor, and were hence also called Cataphrygians, and Pepuzians, from Pepuza in Phrygia. They sought to emphasize the great importance of the spirituality and purity of the church and especially the absolute indispensability of the work of the Holy Ghost and the dispensableness of human philosophy."5
Who cannot see herein, men of Baptist principles? A spiritual and pure church speaks of a regenerated church membership. This opposed to infant baptism and to baptismal regeneration. This is a Baptist distinctive. Baptists have always preached that the power of the Holy Spirit is needed in the salvation of sinners and the building of churches. Others believe that human wisdom can accomplish these things. It seems, to me, that these folks believed what true churches believe.
Benedict has the following to say about the Montanists:
"Montanists - According to the representations of most writers, this sect took its name from Montanus; others suppose they were so called from their dwelling in the mountains, to avoid the persecutions of their enemies.
The Montanists were in a flourishing condition towards the latter part of the second century. They began in Phrygia, and spread abroad throughout Asia, Africa, and a part of Europe. The severity of their doctrines, says Mosheim, gained them the esteem and confidence of many who were far from being the lowest order."
With this party the famous Tertullian united, about A.D. 200, and wrote many books in defense of their sentiments. It is proper here to remark that heresies in
abundance were attributed to this people, relative both to their faith and practice; but when we consider that such a man as Tertullian, with many other eminent characters, became their associates and defenders, it seems to relieve in a measure the gloomy picture which many have drawn of their ignorance and fanaticism.
As the first church of this sect was formed at Pepuza, in Phrygia, as also Quintilla, a famous lady, was a prophetess among them, from all these circumstances these early dissenters went by the name of Cataphrygians, Quintillianists, and Pepuzians, as well as Montanists. These people will be referred to in the narratives which will follow. After the Donatists arose they were often called by that name."6
We have all of Tertullian's writings available in the Anti-Nicene Fathers, volume 3 and 4. When Benedict here identifies them with the Donatists, he states they were Baptists. We will see something of the Donatists in a future chapter in this Notebook.
John T. Christian
In his most excellent history, Dr. Christian writes: "The first protest in the way of separation from the growing corruptions of the times was the movement of the Montanist churches. This Montanus, the leader, was a Phrygian, who arose about the year A.D. 156. The most distinguished advocate of Montanism was Tertullian who espoused and defended their views. They held that science and art, all worldly education or gay form of life, should be avoided, because such things belonged to paganism. The crown of life was martyrdom. Religious life they held to be austere. Against a mortal sin the church should defend itself by rightly excluding him who committed it, for the holiness of the church was simply the holiness of the members. With such principles they could not fail to come in conflict with the popular Christianity of the day. The substance of the contentions of these churches was for the life of the Spirit. It was not a new form of Christianity; it was a discovery of the old, the primitive church set over against the obvious corruptions of the current Christianity. The old church
demanded purity; the new church had struck a bargain with the world, and had arranged itself comfortably with it, and they would, therefore, break with it." (Moeller, Montanism in Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, III, 1562)
Their contention was not so much one of doctrine as of discipline. They insisted that those who had "lapsed" from the true faith should be rebaptized, because they had denied Christ and ought to be baptized anew. On this account they were termed "Anabaptists," and some of their principles reappeared in Anabaptism (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, II, 427). Infant baptism was not yet a dogma, and we know that it was rejected by the Montanists. Tertullian thought only adults ought to be immersed. The Montanists were deeply rooted in the faith, and their opponents admitted that they received the entire Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments, and they were sound in their views of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Epiphanius, Hoer, XLVIII, 1). They rejected episcopacy and the right of the bishop's claim to exercise the power of the keys.
The movement spread rapidly through Asia Minor and North Africa and, for a time, in Rome itself. It appealed very powerfully to the sterner moralists, stricter disciplinarians, and more deeply pious minds among all Christians. Montanism had the advantage of claiming divine revelation for stricter principles. Montanism had made so much stir in Asia Minor, before the close of the second century that several councils were called against it, and finally the whole movement was officially condemned. But Montanism continued for centuries, and finally became known under other names (Eusebius, The Church History, 229, note 1 by Dr. McGiffert). In Phrygia, the Montanists came in contact with the Paulicians. We know that they were still in existence in the year 722 (Theophanes, 617. Bonded).7
While many churches were becoming corrupt by the doctrines of church government and baptism regeneration, these churches stood firm for truth. They accepted the Scripture as their guide.
Henry C. Vedder
Dr. Vedder, though not too highly favorable to perpetuity, says the following things about their beliefs:
"First, they clearly apprehended the fundamental truth that a church of Christ should consist of the regenerate only. As a result of the doctrine of sacramental grace, large numbers were becoming members of the church who, in the judgment of the most charitable, could not be regarded as regenerate. This was true of the adults baptized on profession of faith, and the case became continually worse as the practice of infant baptism extended. Montanus advocated a return to the principle of the New Testament - a spiritual church. His immediate followers called themselves "spiritual" Christians, as distinguished from the "carnal" who were found in the Catholic Church in great numbers. The Spirit of God has not only regenerated every Christian, they taught, but dwells in an especial manner in every believer, even as Jesus promised the Paraclete (John 16:13)."8
Concerning the second coming of Christ, Vedder says, "The second of the chief features in Montanism was a belief in the speedy coming of Christ to reign with his saints a thousand years. The fragmentary says of their prophets that have come down to us, the writings of Tertullian, and the testimonies of the Catholic writers against Montanism combine to make this certain."9
You know, that sounds Baptistic to me. Vedder also writes: "Of course the Montanists immersed -no other baptism, so far as we know, was practiced by anybody in the second century. There is no evidence that they baptized infants, and their principle of a regenerate church would naturally require the baptism of believers only."10
This historian, though against church perpetuity, says the following: "The one prime idea held by the Montanists in common with Baptists, and in distinction to the churches of the third century was, that membership in the churches should be confined to purely regenerate persons; and that a spiritual life and discipline should be maintained without any affiliation with the authority of the State."
Again: "They believed in the literal reign of Christ upon the earth, and longed for his coming, that he might hold his people separate by the final overthrow of sin and sinners, and then his saints would reign with him in his glory."11
W. A. Jarrel
Jarrel's chapter on the Montanists is very good. He quotes from various writers whose works we do not possess but would like to. He writes: "In historic times Phrygia comprised the greater part of Asia Minor. 'Montanism' appeared there about the middle of the second century. Montanism enrolled its hosts and was one of the greatest Christian influences throughout early Christian centuries. As there was at the time, when Montanism arose, no essential departure from the faith in the action, the subjects of Baptism, church government or doctrine, the Montanists, on these points, were Baptists."12
He quotes Moller as saying of Tertullian, "To him the very substance of the church was the Holy Spirit and by no means the Episcopacy whose right to wield the power of the keys he rejected."13
He quotes Dr. Dorner, "Montanism may be styled a democratic reaction on the part of the members of the church, asserting their universal prophetic and priestly rank against the concentration of ecclesiastical dignities and rights in the episcopate. In this respect, Montanism was a reaction of the substantial, real principle against the formal unity of the episcopate, which entrusted to the unworthy, and those who were destitute of the Spirit, power over those who were filled with the Spirit."14
Final Notes on the Montanists
Many of them suffered. Tertullian tells of many who were martyred. As in our quote from Dr. Christian, "The crown of life was martyrdom." This would not have been said unless many of them died. The Martyrs Mirror records some of their persecutions.
Some of them, no doubt, held to some things we would shy away from. That is true of some Baptists today. They were for the most part, churches of like principles with us today. We claim them in the line of our heritage.
Notes on Chapter 4
1 Ecclesiastical History, Introduction page VII.
2 Ecclesiastical History, pages 196-197.
3 Church History, pages 55-56.
4 Church History, page 56, footnote A.
5 History of the Church of God, page 367.
6 History of the Baptists, page 4.
7 A History of the Baptists, volume 1, pages 43-44.
8 A Short History of the Baptists, page 58.
9 A Short History of the Baptists, page 60.
10 A Short History of the Baptists, page 62.
11 The History of the Baptists, pages 175-176.
12 Baptist Church Perpetuity, page 69.
13 Baptist Church Perpetuity, page 73.
14 Baptist Church Perpetuity, page 76.
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