Baptist History Homepage

"History and Principles of Baptists"
W. Carey Crane, Columbus, MS, 1845
      An Introductory Sermon, delivered before the Columbus Baptist Association, Mississippi, at its Session, September 13th, 1845, by Rev. W. Carey Crane, of Columbus, Miss. Published in accordance with a resolution of said Association.

     "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." -- Malachi iii:16.

      There is a book of remembrance, and a recording angel, ever in the presence of God. The book contains the history of our fallen race. It is now unfinished, but is progressing to its completion, on the last great day. Of such as "fear God and speak often one to another," it is said a "book of remembrance is written" before God. The historian of eternity is God. His angels perform but the subordinate part of gathering the tokens of his grace. If the history of eternity shall engage the thoughts and affections of the paradisiac world, surely, the less important and incomplete history of time must command the high consideration of man in his imperfect state. The history of God's people is but a detail of their trials and conquests over sin, and their spiritual foes. It is always a grateful task to gather the evidences of the faithful labors of our departed ancestry. From their self-denying exertions in the glorious cause of our heavenly master; from their successes in winning souls to Christ; from their undying adherence to the principles of sound, eternal truth, we may gather rich lessons of instruction. It is an old maxim, that "history is philosophy teaching by example." It is no less true, that christian experience is grace bringing forth its luscious fruit. In the spirit of these sentiments, it is our present intention to demonstrate that the history of Baptist principles, is a detail of lives consecrated

[p. 144]
to their truth, and furnishing illustrious examples of their force and influence. We are the sect every where spoken, against. Perhaps no people since the dawn of the christian era, have had more of obloquy and contempt cast upon them than the Bapiists. Now ihe object of persecution by Romanists; and anon, contemned as criminals and malefactors by Puritans; never the favorites of power, and always the scorn of kings and princes; held together by simple principles, we have maintained an existence despite of all opposition. The marvel now is, not that there are so many Baptists, but that there are any at all. Were it not for God and his word, there would not be one to contend for the "faith once delivered unto the saints." "Magna est veritas, et prevalebit." "Great is truth, and it shall prevail." The blood of the martyrs has indeed been the seed of the church. Romanism, Unitarianism, Universalism, Paedobaptism, Paganism, Deism and Infidelity, have all been arrayed against us. Long since must we have ceased to exist, had it not been that the Lord was on our side, and was stronger than all our foes. Tauntingly we have been often asked, who are the Baptists? What are the principles for which they are contending? Briefly let me on this occasion, endeavor to answer these questions, and plainly set foith our principles.

      I. Who Are The Baptists? In answering this question, I shall 1, speak of their name, origin and continuance; 2, of their existence in the four quarters of the globe; 3, of their persecutions; 4, of their eminent men, who have distinguished themselves as scholars, orators, philanthropists, and men of genius.

      1. Their name, origin and continuance. It is not pretended that always there have been a people, called Baptists. The name is nothing; we only maintain, that always have there been people who have cherished and practised Baptist principles. The Welch churches claim an unbroken continuity since the days of the apostles. It has been asserted, "that the Baptists originated in Germany, in the year 1522, at the beginning of the reformation." It is true, that no denomination of Protestants can trace the origin of its present name further back than about the time of the reformation; and most of them have originated since that period. And it appears to be true, that the name of Baptists, by which thia people have since been known, was then first assumed, probably

[p. 145]
in opposition to that of Ana-baptists, with which their enemies were constantly reproaching them. It is not the history of a name, but the prevalence of principles, which is the just object of attention with the student of ecclesiastical history. "Their object," (the Baptists,) says Benedict, "is not to show what is not true respecting others, but what is true concerning themselves. They do not deny that Episcopalians can find bishops, the Presbyterians elders or presbyters, the Methodists and the Quakers inward light, among the primitive christians; neither do they doubt that the Congregationalists or Independents have good grounds for thinking that the apostolic churches were of their belief respecting church government. They only ask that terms should be explained. With most denominations, they find something with which they can agree, and their hearts cleave in love to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ." We are Episcopalians, as we hold that every church should have a bishop; but we differ with them upon the origin and jurisdiction of ecclesiastical power. We vest all power in the assembly of the believers, and they originate officers. We hold to apostolic succession, but it is an apostolic succession of principles, practices and adherants to the commands of the Savionr and his apostles. Episcopalians have three orders in the ministry, bishops, presbyters or elders, and deacons. We hold to one order in the ministry, a bishop, combining in himself the other characteristics of elder and pastor. The deacon with us, is an officer in charge of ecclesiastical temporalities, not of spiritualities. We are Presbyterians also, as we hold to the doctrine, that ruling and teaching elders are one and the same. We are Methodists, as we believe all good christians should be, zealously affected in a good work. We are Quakers too, as we cherish the hope that we have an inward light. Without reserve we hold also, that the following principles have always been maintained by a portion of christians: "l, that baptism commenced with the christian dispensation, and was peculiar, bearing no analogy to any previous institution, such as circumcision, nor in any sense derived from previous enactments, but revealed as a positive law of the kingdom of God; 2, that baptism is only scriptural as administered by immersion of the whole body in water; 3, that it cannot scripturally be administered to any, but on a profession of faith in Jesus Christ; 4, that as a
[p. 146]
command of the New Testament, it is obligatory on all who profess faith in Christ, and is intended to form a great line of separation between the church and the world." These propositions have appeared in prominent view, upon all the investigations of ecclesiastical history. Our principles originated with Christ; as he was baptized, so are we baptized. Were the first christians now living, the world, as at present disposed, would call them Baptists; and were the apostles now preaching, they would be regarded as Baptist preachers. Our name, Baptist, is not significatory of all we profess. Our generic name is christian, our specific name is Baptist. Our first book of church history is an antiquated narrative, called the "Acts of the Apostles," and sets forth, as say the Magdeburg Centuriatory, "that the apostles baptized only the adult and aged, whether Jews or Gentiles, whereof there are instances in Acts ii, viii, x, xvi, xix, but as to the baptizing of infants we have no example." The manner of baptizing was by dipping or plunging into water, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, according to Romans ii, and Colossians ii. The Encyclopaedia Americana says, that "the Baptists are a protestant sect, who maintain the necessity of immersion, from the signification of the word Baptizo, to dip, used by the sacred writers; from the performance of the rite in rivers in the primitive ages, and from the phraseology used in describing the ceremony." "There is that scattereth, yet increaseth." How true was this maxim, is manifest from the general diffusion of gospel principles. immediately succeeding the persecutions which commenced in the apostolic age. Clemens Alexandrinus, Ignatius,and Justin Martyr, who were cotemporaries of, or immediately succeeded the apostles, testify, that through the apostolic age, and a greater part of the second century, immersion only was known and practised. The investigations of modern times, among English and German theologians, confirm the declarations of the fathers. Neander affirms, "that it cannot possibly be proved that infant baptism was practised in the apostolic age." Prof. Lange, on infant baptism, remarks, "that it is totally opposed to the spirit of the apostolic age." Grotius, in his annotations on Matthew xix:14, states, that "in the councils of the ancients, we shall find no earlier mention of pedo-baptism, than in the council of Carthage." Bretschneider
[p. 147]
observes, "that all the earlier traces of infant baptism, are very doubtful; on the contrary, Tertullian is the first who refers to it,and he censures it; Origen and Cyprian defend it." It was in the third century that the most grievous errors originated. Infant baptism was the first of these heresies, and was chiefly confined to Africa. It originated in a misconception of our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus. On that discourse the strange dogma was constructed, that baptism could remove original sin and qualify for heaven. This change of views only respected the subjects, not the mode, of baplism. Out of it originated the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, a doctrine always popular with the minions of the papacy in succeeding ages. That this change only respected the subjects, and not the mode, is sustained by the testimony of the learned Dr. Whitby, of the Church of England, in his commentary on Romans vi:4. "Immersion was religiously observed by all christians for thirteen centuries, and was changed into sprinkling without authority from the author of this institution. It were to be wished, that this custom were again of general use." During succeeding centuries, protests were made against these innovations. In the fourth century, especially, Gregory Nazianzen earnestly opposed himself to the unwarrantable use made of sacred ordinances. That the mode of baptism was still immersion, and was held in high repute in the fourth century, is sustained by the fact, that five of the Emperors of Rome were immersed: Constantine, Constantius, Gratian, Valentinian II,and TheodosiusI; also, nine distinguished men in the Greek and Latin churches: Basil, Gregory of Nazianzen, Nectarius, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustin, Alypius and Adeodatus. From the fifth century until our time, infant baptism has been common among some who should have professed and practised a more primitive faith. This change has been a work of gradual progression. In the ancient days of christianity, men were modest in the expression of their views of apostolic practice. But as the world recedes in point of time from the eia of Christ, the "savans" of pedo-baptist christianity have become more bold and courageous in the expression of their sentiments. Says that theologocial gladiator, Rev. Nathan L. Rice, "my decided conviction is, that I have clearly proved, that baptism should always be performed by pouring or sprinkling."
[p. 148]
      2. The existence of Baptists in the four quarters of the globe. The first churches were established in the east, of which accounts are found in our first book of church history, the Acts of the Apostles, and in Jones, Mosheim, Eusebius and Gieseler's works on Ecclesiastical History. In Africa, the baptism of believers, and of such only, was a prominent and cardinal doctrine for a long time. Upon that foundation these churches continued lo rest, until spiritual Egyptian darkness spread over nearly all Africa, - the consequence of the apostacy of Rome. In Europe, persecution drove christian fugitives into an asylum among the "Waldenses," a people occupying the beautiful valleys of Piedmont, at the foot of the Alps, who, together with the Albigenses, in the south of France, received the gospel in the early part of the second century, a practice they never fully abandoned. What connexion there is between these ancient people and the adherents of primitive christianity now, is shewn by the testimony of Limborch, Professor of Divinity in the University of Amsterdam, and Mosheim, the author of the history, as quoted by Jones. The former says, "to speak candidly what I think, of all modern sects of christians, the Dutch Baptists most resemble both the Albigenses and Waldenses." The latter, notwithstanding the flimsy, confused, and, in many instances, the erroneous account which he has given of the Waldenses, yet has expressly owned, that "before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay concealed in almost all the countries of Europe, persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of the modern Dutch Baptists." England received the gospel in the days of the apostles. From its ecclesiastical history, we learn that thousands were baptized according to the primitive mode. Wales, the Gibraltar of the Baptist faith, always unconquered and unconquerable, received the gospel about the same time; and from her historians we ascertain, that from the introduction of the gospel, A. D. 63, until A. D. 600, the Welch people knew no other baptism but immersion, and no other subject but an avowed believer. When Austin, the emissary of Pope Gregory the Great, visited this country, (Wales,) about A. D. 600, he found a society of christians at Bangor, consisting of 2,100 persons, who were afterwards destroyed because they refused to baptize infants at the command of the Pope. Evans traces the remnant of the ancient faith, through the darkness
[p. 149]
of popery, to the year 1000, and Peter Williams, down to the year 1115. From the visit of the early English Baptist Reformers, it is clearly proved, that in the vales of Carleon and Olchon, Baptist churches were formed in these almost inaccessible fastnesses of mountains, which had existed from time immemorial. There is little doubt, therefore, that unbroken continuity has existed from the time of the apostles. During the reign of William the Conqueror, a considerable number of Baptists from France, Germany and Holland, came over to the British Isles, and so greatly prevailed, that Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a book against them. "In the twelfth century, the Baptists put forth a confession of faith, asserting, 'in the beginning of christianity, there was no baptizing of children; our forefathers practised no such thing. We do, from our hearts, acknowledge that baptism is a washing which is performed with water, and doth hold out the washing of the soul from sin.'" Peter Bruis, at that time a pastor among the Waldenses, publicly vindicated Baptism, and multitudes attached themselves to him, who were called Petrobrussians. Menno Simon, after whom the Dutch Baptists are called Mennonites, flourished about the year 1530. It is remarked by Thompson, (a British Baptist minister, in his Historical Sketch of the Baptist denomination, to which we are indebted for much herein contained,) "The christian fortitude of a Baptist named Snyder, who was beheaded at Lewarden, led Menno to examine the doctrine of baptism, and finally adopt it. Several persecuted Baptists soon rallied around him, whom he formed into a church; and, being a man of great genius and commanding eloquence, he succeeded in spreading his peculiar views through Holland, Guelderland, Brabant, Westphalia; through the German provinces that skirt the Baltic, and on to Livonia. He was hunted by his enemies at one period, a large reward having been offered for his life, but he survived all his dangers and died peaceably, after a course of great usefulness, A. D. 1561."

      The first regular Baptist church in London, was formed in 1607, under the auspices of a Mr. Smyth, formerly of the Establishment, upon general Baptist principles. In 1633, a particular Baptist church was formed. In 1650,associations were established and epistolary correspondence opened, including English, Scotch, Irish and Welch churches. In 1689

[p. 150]
the particular Baptists held an assembly and put forth the "Confession of Faith." By some it is supposed, that the first Baptist church in Scotland was formed by a Mr. McLean, in 1765. Others think that this is a mistake, as a church, was formed in 1763, out of portions of Cromwell's army, having epistolary correspondence between English and Irish churches. The history of the fortunes and successes of the English Baptists, is well delineated by the faithful Ivimey. The rise and progress of the denomination in America, are truly wonderful. Backus, Benedict and Sample have done us invaluable service, in their contributions to our historical literature. At a future day, some other mind will gather the fruits of all the labors of our fathers, and show forth in bold relief, our true origin and history. But the advocates and opponents of apostolic succession, equally agree in charging it upon us, that we have all descended from Roger Williams.

      The persecutions of Puritans against Quakers and Baptists, drove Roger Williams and his few friends to Providence, R. I. They contended for liberty, civil and religious, and contending for this liberty, they formed, says Backus, the first Baptist church in America. "Mr. Williams had been accused before of embracing principles which tended to Ana-baptism; and in March, 1639, he was baptized by one of his brethren, and then he baptized about ten more." We sustain his course, in thus proceeding to establish a church, by the unanswerable argument of Archbishop Whately, in his "Kingdom of Christ Delineated." "Suppose, for instance, a number of emigrants bound for some colony, to be shipwrecked on a desert island, such as afforded them means of subsistence, but precluded all reasonable hope of their quitting it; or suppose them to have taken refuge there as fugitives from intolerable oppiession, or from a conquering enemy, (no uncommon case in ancient times,) or to be the sole survivors of a pestilence or earthquake which had destroyed the rest of the nation; no one would maintain that these shipwrecked emigrants or fugitives, were bound or permitted, to remain -- themselves and their posterity -- in a state of anarchy, on the ground of there being no one among them who could claim hereditary or other right to govern them. It would clearly be right, and wise, and necessary, that they should regard themselves as constituted, by the very circumstances of their position, a civil community,

[p. 151]
and should assemble to enact such laws and appoint such magistrates, as they might judge most suitable to their circumstances. And obedience to these laws and governors, as soon as the constitution was settled, would become a moral duty. * * * A similar rule will apply to ecclesiastical communities. * * * It really does seem, not only absurd, but even impious, to represent it as the Lord's will, that persons who are believers in his gospel should, in consequence of the circumstances in which Providence has placed them, condemn themselves and their posterity to live as heathens, instead of conforming as closely as those circumstances will allow, to the institutions and directions of Christ and his apostles, by combining themselves into a christian society, regulated and conducted in the best way they can, on gospel principles. And if such a society does enjoy the divine blessing and favor, it follows that its proceedings, its enactments, its officers, are legitimate and apostolical, as long as they are conformable to the principles which the apostles have laid down and recorded for our use." It thus manifestly appears that, according to the argument of an Episcopal author of eminence, apostolic succession was not necessary to constitute the first Baptist church in Providence a legitimate successor to the primitive churches. Apostolic practice was all that was required. Roger Williams being himself an Episcopalian, and having ordination from mitred heads and holy Episcopal hands, was, according to High Church argument, also fully empowered to administer baptism according to the provisions of the ancient copies of the Rubric. But it is sometimes contended, that because the Providence church was the first Baptist church, therefore all other Baptist churches in the United States originated from that church. If it could be proved that that was the only Baptist congregation which had a direct succession from British Baptists, the case would be clearly made out, if the discarded doctrine of succession were of any avail. It appears, however, that Mr. John Myles, a minister and inember of the Baptist church in Swansea in Wales, in 1662, was turned out of his place, as "the chief leader" of that ancient body, by a cruel act of Parliament, which turned two thousand teachers out of their places in one day, for refusing fully to conform to the Church of England. He then came over, with the book of church records which he had kept there, and it
[p. 152]
remains in our Swansea to this day. Thus writes Backus. "And at the house of John Butterworth, in Rehoboth, in 1663, John Myles, elder, James Brown and others, solemnly covenanted together as a church of Christ, to obey him in all his ordinances and commandments. Because, however, a Congregational church existed in the same town, Mr. Myles and his chureh were complained of, and a fine imposed upon them for it. But, in 1667, the court granted them the town of Swansea, where the church has continued by succession ever since, and is the fourth Baptist church in, America." All the circumstances attendant upon the formation of that other church in Massachusetts, which emanated from the preaching of President Dunster, of Cambridge, against infant baptism, attest that that church likewise originated, from a somewhat different source, from that formed at Providence. The church at Welshtract also, then under the government of Pennsylvania, but now under the State of Delaware, was formed chiefly of persons who came over from Wales, in 1701. The first Baptist church in the State of New York, was formed at Oyster Bay on Long Island, about the year 1741. The first Baptist church in the city of New York, was formed in 1762, under the ministry of John. Gano. The first Baptist church in Virginia, was formed in Prince George county in 1714, by Robert Norden, who then came from England, and was their pastor till he died, in 1725. It can, therefore, be shewn that a very large proportion of the Baptist churches in this country, were originally formed of emigrants from England, Ireland, Wales, or Holland; -- by persons who had already belonged to communities of our faith and order, in their mother country. From these humble beginnings, what hath not been wrought? Our numbers have doubled in a quarter of a century, and now, if our statistics were complete, we have over 800,000 communicants, over five thousand ministers, ten or twelve colleges, five theological seminaries, and a variety of periodicals and papers, besides efficient organizations for the diffusion of gospel truth, by means of oral preaching and the press. Here we raise our Ebeuezer. Hitherto hath the Lord blessed us.

      3. Persecutions of the Baptists. In 402, the Milevitan council ordained that they be anathematized who deny that children are saved by baptism. In 413, Honorius and

[p. 153]
Theodosius ordained that whoever was baptized, as well as the administrator, should be put to death. About the year 1049, Beringarius, a bold and faithful preacher of the gospel, was accused of denying baptism to little ones, and hundreds of his adherents were massacred, "for opposing infant baptism," and "for being baptized." In the Bishopric of Tryers, in Flanders and Germany, persecution was carried on with unmitigated severity against the Baptists, and one hundred and fifty thousand were cruelly put to death. Amid all these persecutions, Baptists did live; their preachers could travel through the whole German empire, and lodge every night at the houses of their fr lends. They were burnt, beheaded and drowned; "yet," says Moshiem, "there were, in 1160, 800,000 who professed this faith." "In 1022, fourteen persons of eminence were burnt at Orleans, in France, for professing Baptist sentiments; others were martyred on similar grounds, in Lower Saxony, under Henry III, the Emperor at Rome, in 1147; at Barenga and Parma; in the Bishopric of Toulouse, nineteen were burnt in 1232; at Maiseilles, under Pope John XXII; at Crema, in Austria, in 1315; at Aubiton, in Flanders, in 1373; at Montpelier, in France, in 1417; at Augsburg, in Germany, 1517; at Zurich, in 1527; and in the same year, Leonard Skooner, a Baptist minister, and seventy of his friends, were put to death at Rottenburgh, in Germany; finally, John Wouteriz was burnt at Dort, for being baptized, in 1572." Peter Bruis was put to death in 1130, for vindicating baptism. It was in the 600th year after Christ, that the monk Austin, the Pope's legate, met the Welsh Baptists on the borders of Herefordshire, when he made them three propositions, one of which was, that they should receive infant baptism. But it was promptly met by the reply, that "they would keep this ordinance, as well as all other things, as they had received them from the apostolic age." This prompt and decisive refusal so enraged him, that he exclaimed: "Sins ye wol not receive peace of your brethren, ye of other shall have werre and wretche." And setting the Saxons upon them, they murdered one thousand and two hundred of the ministers and delegates then present." In England, 1536, "the national clergy met in convocation, and declared the sentiments of the Baptists to be detestable heresies, utterly to be condemned." In 1538, a commission was given to Archbishop
[p. 154]
Crammer, of Canterbury, and others, to proceed against the Baptists, and burn their books; and on the 16th of Nov'r, of the same year, a royal proclamation and instructions were issued to the justices throughout England, directing them to see that the laws against the Baptists were duly executed. Brandt, in "History of Reformation," says, "thirty-one Baptists, who fled from England to Delft, in Holland, were put to death; the men were beheaded, and the women drowned." Bishop Latimer, in a sermon preached before Edward VI, speaks of the events which transpired during the reign of Henry VIII, and observes, that "Baptists were burned in different parts of the kingdom, and went to death with good integrity." Under the reign of Edward VI, an act of pardon for Papists and others was issued, excluding the Baptists; and in 1547, a fresh commission was decreed to search for all Baptists, under which Joan of Kent was burnt, on 2d of May, 1549. The reign of the Bloody Mary was signalized by its numerous acts of atrocity. David George, a Dutchman, was disinterred in St. Lawrence's church, three years after his deaih, and his body was burnt, because it was discovered he had been a Baptist. These persecutions extended into the reign of Elizabeth. A royal proclamation ordained, that Baptists should leave the land, and in the 17th year of that queen's administration, a congregation of them was found without Aldgate, London, of whom "some were banished, twenty-seven were imprisoned, and two were burnt to death in Smithfield." A churchman of distinction, Dr. Some, two years after this event, wrote a book against the Puritans, in which he inveighs against the Baptists; and complains, "that they had several conventicles in London and other places; that some of their ministers had been educated at the Universities, and that they held heretical opinions." As with the primitive christians, so with the persecuted Baptists, the intolerant opposition with which they contended; the intolerance of the overwhelming power of potentates and priests; served only to gain them strength and accelerate the progress of their principles. Thus we find, that in the reign of James I, they had acquired sufficient boldness, notwithstanding persecutions, to publish a treatise, justifying their principles of dissent; to petition the king for relief, and in 1618, to re-print a book translated from the Dutch, on baptism, "the first that was published on that subject, in the English language." The last martyr to Baptist
[p. 155]
principles burnt in England, was Edward Wightman, of Burton-upon-Trent. He was condemned by the Bishop of Licbfield and Coventry, and was burnt at Lichfield, April 11th, 1612. In the British empire, since the days of fiery persecution, Baptists have been permitted to live unmolested, and though subject to all the disabilities of dissenters, they have increased rapidly, and now exert a salutary influence.

     The whole history of the "mad fanatics of Munster," is one of intolerance, viewing the extravagancies of that deluded section of Anti-paedo-baptists, in whatever light we may. An impartial historian informs us, that the "insurrection of those times in Germany, (1533,) ought not to be attributed to religious opinions, but to civil dissensions respecting government, and national and personal liberty." It is evident also, that of the 100,000 persons who fell by the sword, all were not Baptists, which is further proof, that this insurrection was not so much against religious, as against civil polity. But it is beautifully remarked, by a gifted minister of our faith, who has no superior in our own ranks, "thousands of educated christians even, are to this day fully persuaded that we derive our origin from the mad fanatics of Munster. The increase of intelligence and candor is altering, indeed, the tone of the higher class of historians on this theme. For the excesses of the body who converted Munster into a den of ravening beasts, our churches are no more responsible, than are the Huguenots of France for all the extravagancies and impostures of the Camisards and the French prophets, - than is the established church of Scotland for all the ravings of Irvingism, or that of England for the delusions of the many of her communion, who believed in Joanna Southcate, - than are the Methodists of England for the Anna Lee, who sprung up and gathered her first proselytes in one of the Methodist societies. The fifth monarchy men of London, who rose for 'King Jesus,' and threw the metropolis of England into consternation, were, in all other matters, regular and orthodox Paedo-baptists; but as Baptists we have never imputed to the body of Paedo-baptists, the obnoxious tenets and the fanatical conduct of this handful of incendiaries. Yet, unjust and cruel as is the prejudice which would fasten upon our denomination the burden of the Munster fanatics, it is a prejudice still widely spread and deeply rooted; one of those vulgar errors, which it often costs science and truth centuries of toil to eradicate."

[p. 156]
     Our own country has not been altogether free from fierce bigotry and unrelenting persecution. Our New England ancestors of Plymouth rock memory, condemned at one and the same time, innocent men and women, convicted of the impossible crime of witchcraft; poor Baptists and simple minded Quakers, who had fled from Holland and England to the new world, as unto an asylum for the oppressed. Whether English Puritans or French Huguenots, it was all the same, banishment was by them decreed against all nonconformists. Liberty of conscience was construed into licentiousness of life and debauchery of manners. Roger Williams, the modern apostle of civil and religious liberty, was ''decried, thwarted, misrepresented and exiled from the colony of Massachusetts." He had "broached and divulged divers new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates, as also writ letters of defamation both of the magistrates and churches." The head and front of his offending was his belief and the publication of such belief, that the civil magistrate should not restrain or limit the conscience of man, in religious matters. The colonial history of Virginia, too, abounds with incidents of the most reckless persecution. Could a Harris, an Ireland, a Weatherford, a Lunsfoid, a Bledsoe and a Craig arise from their graves, they would speak in tones of inconceivable horror of a pampered, godless priesthood; the cock-fighting, gaming gentry of the mother country, sent over because their fathers had. no estates to bestow upon them at home, to enlighten his majesty's subjects of the "ancient dominion;" they would tell us of cruel persecutions, of prison walls, of harangues to eager multitudes, from grated windows, and of lawless force to crush the " Plebian sect." That history is incorporated in "Semple's Virginia Baptists," and the "Lives of Virginia Baptist Ministers," and interwoven with all the revolutionary recollections of our ancestors.

     Of Lewis Craig, it is said, that he was arrested, with others, by the sheriff of Spottsylvania, and brought before "three magistrates, in the yard of the meeting-house, who bound him and others, in the penalty of two thousand pounds, to appear at court two days after." The prosecuting attorney said of them, " may it please your worship, they cannot meet a man upon the road but they must ram a text of scripture down his throat." For refusing to give security

[p. 157]
that he would preach no more in the county for twelve months, he was sentenced to close confinement in the jail. As he and his companions passed on to prison, through the streets of Fredericksburg, they united in singing the lines --

"Broad is the road that leads to death."

He remained in confinement one month, and then visited Williamsburg in behalf of his persecuted brethren. The following extract from a letter written by the deputy governor, John Blair, will show in what light he regarded these Baptists:
"I am told they administer the sacrament of the Lord's supper, near the manner we do, and differ in nothing from our chinch, but in that of baptism, and their renewing the ancient discipline, by which they have reformed some sinners, and biought them up to be truly penitent; nay, if a man of their's is idle, and neglects to labor and provide for his family as he ought, he incurs their censures, which have had good effects. If this be their behaviour, it were to be wished we had some of it among us."
There is on record, a memorable speech made on behalf of Lewis Craig and others, by Patrick Henry, on or about the 4th of June, 1768. It was on the occasion above cited, when the prosecuting attorney made the charge of their zeal in quoting Scripture. That speech thus closes: - "May it please your worships: There are periods in the history of man, when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character, that man sinks under the weight of the oppressor's hand, and becomes his servile, his abject slave; he licks the hand that smites him; he bows in passive obedience to the mandate of the despot, and in this state of servility, he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage: -- But, may it please your worships, such a day has passed away! From that period, when our fathers left the land of their nativity for settlement in these American wilds, - for liberty, - for civil and religious liberty, - for liberty of conscience, - to worship his Creator according to his conceptions of heaven's revealed will; from the moment he placed his foot on the American continent, and in the deeply imbedded forests sought an asylum from persecution and tyranny, - from that moment, despotism was crushed; her fetters of darkness were broken, and heaven decreed that man should be free, - free to worship God according to the Bible. * * * * But may it please your
[p. 158]
worships, permit me to enquire once more, for what are these men to be tried? This paper says, 'for preaching the gospel of the Son of God.' Great God! For preaching the gospel of the Saviour to Adam's fallen race." And in tones of thunder he exclaimed, "What law have they violated?" The scene, now grown so intensely exciting, was closed by a mandate from the presiding justice, - "Sheriff! discharge those men."

     Of Samuel Harris it is said, "that having served his country as a valiant soldier, he was even more valiant as a soldier of Jesus Christ." In court, a Captain Williams vehemently accused him as a vagabond, a heretic, and a mover of sedition everywhere. Mr. Harris made his defence. But he was ordered not to preach again in the county for twelve months, or be committed to prison. He was dismissed upon his representation, that he would not probably trouble them again in a year. But a short time afterwards, while "certain young men were preaching, the word of God began to bum in his heart." When the young men had finished, he addressed the congregation as follows: "I partly promised the devil, a few days past, at the courthouse, that I would not preach in this county again in the term of a year; but the devil is a perfidious wretch, and covenants with him are not to be kept; and therefore, I will preach." He was not disturbed again by the court. On another occasion, in Orange county, he was pulled down as he was preaching, and dragged about by the hair of the head, and sometimes by the leg.

     James Ireland, was imprisoned for twelve months and a day, in the county jail of Culpeper, for the "crime of preaching the gospel of Christ." He was accompanied to prison amid the abuses of his persecutors, and while incarcerated in his cell, not only suffered by the extreme inclemency of the weather, but by the personal maltreatment of his foes. They attempted to blow him up with gunpowder, but the quantity obtained was only sufficient to force up some of the flooring of his prison.

     Lewis Lunsford was distinguished beyond most men of God, of his times. "He was a man of enlarged views and feelings. He corresponded with Isaac Backus, of New England and Dr. Rippon, of London. With the Presbyterian ministers of his neighborhood he maintained the most intimate and friendly intercourse." Yet, such a man did not

[p. 159]
escape persecution. "A clergyman appointed a day to preach against the Ana-baptists. Crowds attended to hear him. He told stories about Jack of Leyden, and Cromwell's round heads; but he could not by such tales stop the gospel current, now swelling to a torrent. When Mr. L. preached again in those parts, they attacked him again by more weighty arguments." One constable empowered to arrest him, refused because of his fascinating powers. Another tremblingly served the warrant. He was held in a recognizance to appear at court. The court found him guilty of a breach of good behavior, and he gave security not to preach again in the county, under the expectation of obtaining a license to preach. This was not obtained; and he often, thereaftei, regretted that he did not go to prison. This occurred in Richmond county, Va.

     Of John Weatherford, who was imprisoned through the instrumentality of the rulers of the established church, in Chesterfield co., in 1773, it is said, that he preached from the floor of the prison, as long as he was allowed the privilege, and when refused that poor boon," he preached through the grates of the window."

     Those dark ages of persecution have passed away, and with them. that civil and religious despotism which, prior to, and during our revolutionary era, blooded over this fair land. But even now, from Protestant, Lutheran, Sweden and Denmark, innocent people are imprisoned for preaching and practising Baptist sentiments. If persecution in the primitive days of christianity attested its truth, then surely, it must be a good argument in favor of " the faith once delivered unto the saints," at this time.

     4. The eminent men who have been Baptists. In citing distinguished names, we only imitate our friends of different principles. It is our cardinal principle, that the gospel must be preached to men, without distinction of color or condition in society. With this principle we have been blessed by God. It is the remark of Macaulay, in his Miscellanies, that "though there were many clever men in England, during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds; one of these minds produced the "Paradise Lost," and the other, the "Pilgrim's Progress." Says Dr. Williams, "we would append to this magnificent eulogy on Milton and Bunyan, the remark, that the one was a Baptist preacher, and the other a full convert to our views

[p. 160]
of the christian church and its ordinances." Milton, while Latin secretary to Cromwell, distinguished himself by writing letters in behalf of the persecuted Waldenses, who, as Jones, in his Church History, well declares, "brought up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but they neither sprinkled nor immersed them, under the notion of administering christian baptism, - they were, in a word, so many distinct churches of Anti-paedo-baptists." The most beautiful of the many memoirs of English history, was written by a Baptist, -- "the Memoirs of Col. Hutchinson, one of the judges of Charles I, is the work of his widow, the pure, the devout and high-souled Lucy Hutchinson." It is the character of a Baptist minister, whom Pope had in his mind, when he penned the lines --

"Let modest Foster, if he will, excel
Ten metropolitants in preaching well."

     Even Dryden, who bitterly satirized the poor Ana-Baptists, while himself engaged in prostituting his genius to lust, in the shameless courts of Charles II, sprung, it is supposed, from a Baptist family. Sir Henry Vane, at one time governor at Boston, and known in the history of the Pequot war, was a member of Parliament when Roger Williams made an application for a charter for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and being himself a member of a Baptist church, he exerted himself in procuring the charter. General Harrison, who, with Vane, was living and active in the scenes of Cromwell's Protectorate, was also a Baptist. About the same time lived Thomas De Lanne and Benjamin Reach, "immortal names, illustrious men." In later times, that prince of good men, great John Howard, the philanthropist, is supposed to have been a Baptist in principle, if not in practice. Of pulpit orators, have we not reason for gratulation when we call to mind Robert Hall, the favorite of Sir James Macintosh, and the object of Lord Brougham's admiration: who, like "Bishop Taylor, had the eloquence of an orator, the fancy of a poet, the accuteness of a schoolman, the profoundness of a philosopher, and the piety of a saint;" Christmas Evans, whose untutored genius kindled anew the holy enthusiasm of the Welch Baptists; Jonathan Maxcey, the accomplished and eloquent President, successively, of Brown University, R. I., Union College, N. Y., and South Carolina College; William Staughton, the discriminating
[p. 161]
and classic editor of Virgil's AEneid, and the first President of Columbian College, O. C.; Samuel Stillman, the gifted pastor of the first Baptist church in the "Athens" of America, and Robert B. Semple, Jesse Spencer, Stephen Gano, Henry Holcombe, William T. Brantley, Jeremiah Chaplin and Stephen Chapin, all of whom equally deserve the proud distinction of being devoted to the first principles of Christ's kingdom; all true Baptists. Of theologians, too, are there not some names worthy of a place on the enduring tablet of undying history? Andrew Fuller, whose works "have profiled the evangelical church of our country, and of every other where the English language is spoken;" Abraham Booth, Abraham Carson, John Foster, Joseph Ivimey and John Ryland. Among missionaries and translators of the scriptures, "the name of William Carey, at least, will not be easily eclipsed by any later luminaries. His was the name of one of those men whose doings go to make history, if they do not write it." The future historian will find no difficulty, from our present times, in selecting such names, lay and clerical, as now adorn our ranks, whose talents would be an honor to any assembly of believers in christendom. We come now to a brief statement of

     II. What Are The Principles For Which We Are Contending?
     1. Sound doctrine. The pure dialect of the gospel is an element of all real truth. It is not for phrases we contend. But it is for the truth of scriptural phrases. Baptists in England are divided into general and particular. Here there is no such distinction, except in isolated cases. We are generally agreed to meet and labor upon a common platform, whatever may be our interpretations as to the nature and extent of the atonement; all agreeing in the capability and sufficiency of the atonement, "to cleanse from all sin." The pivot of our faith is sovereign grace, manifested through the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ. Whatever views of truth which do not derogate from this pivot, nor deny the trinity and a future state of rewards and punishments, are allowed, though not always encouraged or sustained.

     2. Pure practices. We maintain, that history, sacred and profane, philosophy, sacred and classical, logic and reason, all teach that Christ was immersed, and that the only correct rendering of Baptizo is to immerse. We simply contend,

[p. 162]
that that practice which Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Chalmers, Bloomfield and Macknight, Doddridge and Campbell, say was the primitive practice, should now be followed strictly, in obedience to divine command. If baptism be a qualification for communion, and baptism be only administered by dipping the whole body under water, then it is no less true, that only those who are baptized can commune together, which scripture principles and the law of self-preservation demand.

     3. The voluntary discharge of duty. Always, and every where, have Baptists defended the doctrine, that no human force should compel them to bow the knee in prayer: to attend upon an established service: or to support a pensioned ministry. That reason and revelation alone should decide man's duty; that man should be amenable to God and his word, and is punishable only after a fair hearing before his peers, for any infraction of scripture requirements.

     4. Religious toleration. Never having had power, Baptists were never intolerant; always the subjects of persecution, they have ever hated and dreaded its exercise. Liberty of conscience has been their watchword. Though designated as a plebian sect, by the historian and statesman Bancroft, we have always maintained the maxim, and practised its teaching, of "the greatest good of the greatest number." In the only colony or territory over which our ancestors have ever had control, we have scorned persecution for opinion's sake, and have permitted Catholic, Jew, Quaker, Mohametan and Infidel, to worship or not to worship, as conscience dictated. How different was the treatment exhibited towards us by the Reformer Zuinglius. "When the magistrates of Zurich consulted him on the fate of some poor Baptists, 'drown the dippers,'" said the Reformer. "Our churches, in a mass, were at one time known and denounced iu Great Britain, as the advocates of religious toleration, -- a claim once denied by the wisest statesmen and the most distinguished divines, as an impracticable delusion and a most pestilent heresy. Even in that period of their history which has been most exposed to misrepresentation, the share which, with other and Paedo-baptist sects, they took in the Peasant war of Germany, it was from their love of freedom that they erred, if an error it were, when they rose against the grinding exactions of the privileged classes. And so much was the love of liberty an element in that movement, that Madame

[p. 163]
de Stael pronounces the Ana-Baptists in that war, rather a political than religious sect. Voltaire declares, that the manifesto in which the hard-handed peasants told their grievances, was one that a Lycurgus might have signed, such was its justice. Luther's own mind seems to have felt the force and truth of many of their complaints against their rulers; and that acute and learned investigator, Nabuhr, the historian of Rome, lately deceased, declared that 'the right in the beginning was undoubtedly with them.' To have toiled and suffered thus in the cause of civil and religious freedom, might well entitle our community to a more liberal and just award than they have yet received at the hands of the popular literature in their own and our times."

     5. A republican form of government. Independent and congregational is our present form of church government. We desire to perpetuate this form, as nearest resembling the ancient model. The officers are few in number, and their duties simple. In all matters of discipline, the assembly of believers is the final appeal; and associations and conventions are regarded merely as advisory councils or executive committees. The word of God describes the qualifications of officers, and the proper mode of settling all disciplinary cases. Our form of government has been called "democratic republican." If this title be correct, it is not borrowed fiom the political world, for it is the current opinion that Thomas Jefferson derived his first conceptions of our present form of civil government, from the mode of transacting ecclesiastical business in a Baptist church. For such a government, civil and religious, we have always contended.

     Such is a plain statement of the prominent points in our history and principles. It will, therefore, plainly appear, that we are not followers, either of Maitin Luther, of Germany, or of John Calvin, of Geneva, or of John Wesley, of England, or of Gregory XVI, of Rome. We were never Reformers, and are not now protestants, as that term primarily was used. For the "writers of the established church of Holland, allow the remote antiquity of our sentiments in that country, as running down to an earlier date, by far, than that of the Reformation." And Sir James Macintosh, in his "Cabinet History of England," speaks of the Baptists as being composed of a "variety of sects, -- some of ancient, though unascertained origin, and who have been confounded with the Munster Ana-Baptists." We disclaim the title of

[p. 164]
protestants, not "because we have any fellowship with the errors of the church of Rome, - against which different national religious establishments protested, - but because we claim to be the representatives of the primitive churches, and never have been in any other relation to the great Apostacy since its rise, than that of martyrs."

     In the constitution of a Baptist church, conversion is essential to membership. No child can be born a Baptist, and no adult can be admitted to commune until the christian character is formed. Membership, therefore, is matter of choice. This unfettered freedom of judgment and will exists in the appointment of officers, and in the modes and seasons of public worship. With these no external power can interfere, -- no general standard is recognized. So that a wide difference is seen between the churches of Rome and of England, and the Baptist church. Against all laws and formularies, courts of inquisition, and acts of uniformity, the Baptists have always protested; and the Lord grant, that they may ever contend for their ancient faith. Whether among the rocks of Piedmont, or hidden in the valleys of Wales; whether in the death waves of "fair Zurich's waters," or in a cold and cheerless Virginia prison; whether hunted down and burnt at the stake by monks or archbishops, or governing the free and tolerant colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; whether cursed, hated and anathematized by popes and kings, or favored only by the independent and magnanimous great men of the world, it has mattered not. Our banner has been unfurled to every breeze, in every region, where an advocate of our principles could be found. On the one side has been inscribed, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," and, on the other, "God and Liberty." Amen!

     Note. -- Free use has been made, in writing out this discourse, of whatever Baptist books or treatises, on ecclesiastical history, were in the speaker's possession, and he has taken pains to place the proper marks of quotation. He may say, however, that the following works have been consulted: Jones' Church History, Gieseler, Backus, Hinton, Taylor's Lives of Virginia Baptist Ministers, Bancroft's History of U. S., Macaulay's Miscellanies, Baptist Library, Baptist Triennial Register, 1836, Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Americana Encyclopedia, and others.

[From Henry Keeling, editor, THE BAPTIST PREACHER, Volume V. August, 1846, No. 8, (Richmond), pp. 143-164 - via Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

More American Baptist History
Baptist History Homepage