Baptist History Homepage

Baptists in History
W. P. Harvey

Note: Many years ago this was published, along with "Why Baptists Are Not Protestants," as a booklet by Harold Sightler's "The Bright Spot Hour" in Greenville, South Carolina.


"Baptists in History" was published in 1892. The first issue of 5,000 copies was soon exhausted. The rapid sale of the second issue of 10,000 showed that Baptists took deep interest and pride in the history of their fathers, and led me to decide to revise and publish in a more permanent form.

Before I had done this the Whitsitt controversy began, and I waited to learn and to give my readers the benefit of anything new and true that might be brought to light. I have read many books, ancient and modern, in the course of my study of Baptist history, and they have only confirmed my confidence in the correctness of the position I took when "Baptists in History" first appeared.

by J. B. Moody, D.D.

Many are the issues that have grown out of the discussion of the subject. introduced by these few lines. All the Christian world believes that the promise of Christ to perpetuate his church has in some way been fulfilled. The different conclusions have grown out of the different meanings of the terms used. Those who hold to a "Holy Catholic Church" believe, that such a church, mainly "without form and void," has been perpetuated, and thus the promise has been fulfilled. The other extreme consists of Baptists who deny the holy catholic church theory, and claim that the congregational idea of the church comprehends all there is in the term. With this claim I am in hearty accord, but I would not in that sense attempt to prove "church succession," as well try to prove individual succession from Adam. Of course, the latter proposition is true, because perpetuity of the race could not have been otherwise. The question of legitimacy might be sprung, but if God in the beginning promised to perpetuate the race through lawful marriage we would have to content ourselves, without sufficient documentary evidence, with the belief that it has been done. The want of such proof should keep us from such an impossible undertaking, but we should not require God to prove his word by the testimony of men, nor should we fail to discourage all illegitimate propagation of the race. No one believes he can prove church succession in the congregational sense, hence the terms should never be used, and the effort should never be made by historical proof alone. Prophetic proof is sufficient for those who believe, but historic proof is not sufficient for those who believe not. Historic proof is sufficient to confirm the faith of the first class, but not sufficient to overcome the unbelief of the other class.

In the Scriptures I deny, with all Baptists, the denominational idea of the church, but in history we are compelled to accommodate ourselves to that idea, because that use of the word abounds in history. I believe a correct statement of the doctrine would go far towards harmonizing our contending forces. This I greatly desire to do in the following statement of the doctrine: First, the Scriptures teach not church succession, but church perpetuity. See Daniel 2:44, 45 and 7:14, 18, 21-28; Ps. 145:10-13; Hebrews 12:26-28; Luke 1:33; 1 Cor. 15-24-26; 2 Pet. 1: 11. All agree, as far as I know, that church and kingdom sustain some sort of relation which I cannot in these few lines discuss. The latter certainly includes the former. The following references on the church agree with those on the kingdom: Matthew 16:18; 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 10:17 with 11:26; Ephesians 3:10, 11 and 20, 21; 4:12-16; 5:23-32 with Acts 20:28; Col. 1:18, 24; 1 Timothy 3:5, 15; Hebrews 12:28, etc. Add such prophecies as Revelation 12:6, 14-17, etc. Also such figures as Bride and Bridegroom, Husband and wife, Head and body, and such parables as Matthew 13:24-30, 33, 46-49.

Thus church perpetuity is clearly a Bible doctrine, and we should believe it, proclaim it, repeat it, and never deny it. But does history confirm this faith in the Bible doctrine of church perpetuity? How? I would proceed in the following way: Show from the Scriptures the definition, doctrines, offices, and other characteristics of the church. Then show from history that these features were maintained to the third century. Then sprang up congregational episcopacy in large city churches. This episcopacy fought for greater power and latitude, until it culminated in the papacy in the seventh century. The awful persecutions of Jews and emperors were reinforced by the episcopacy until the papacy swallowed them all in the seventh century, but these did not prevail in extinguishing the true churches. Here proof is ample. When the civil and ecclesiastical powers were combined in the po pe, the true witnesses were still contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. In Maclain's translation of Mosheim we find on page 151, seventh century, part II., chapter 2, these statements concerning the true and false witnesses: "When the bishops of Constantinople maintained that their church was not only equal in dignity and authority to that of Rome, but also the head of all the Christian churches, this tyrant (Phocas engaged by Boniface, 111.) opposed their pretensions, and granted the pre-eminence to the church of Rome: AND THUS
[p. 2]
WAS THE PAPAL SUPREMACY FIRST INTRODUCED." (Emphasis mine.) On the same page he says of the others: "Multitudes of private persons expressed publicly, and without the least hesitation, their abhorrence of the vices, and particularly of the lordly ambition of the Roman pontiffs; and it is highly probable that the Waldenses or Vandois had already, in this century, retired into the valleys of Piedmont, that they might be more at liberty to oppose the tyranny of those imperial prelates." Is not this the church fleeing into the wilderness? Were they not persecuted for opposing the corruptions of the apostolic doctrines? Call them by what names you please, they constituted the line of true witnesses to this time, and according to prophecy they were driven into the wilderness. These persecutions continued till the Reformations. The Catholics were then joined by the Reformers in the bloody work."

The persecuted were anti-Catholics, and in a large measure anti-Protestants, for whatever of catholicism was incorporated in the Reformations was protested against by the Baptists, who were then called Anabaptists. Mosheim says the Baptists were in other times and places called Anabaptists, and these in other times and places were called Mennonites, and that these descended from "the W aldenses, Petrobrusians and other ancient sects, who are usually considered as witnesses of the truth in the times of general darkness and superstition." According to Mosheim, page 291, the Vandois or Waldenses derived their name from the valleys of Piedmont, into which we found they were driven in the seventh century. These Waldenses, or Leonists, were the Waldenses whom the bloody inquisitor Reinerus Sacco said had flourished above 500 years before Peter Waldo, and mentions authors of note who make their antiquity date back to the apostolic age. The note closes thus: "When the papists ask us where our religion was before Luther, we generally answer, In the Bible, and we answer well. But to gratify their taste for tradition and human authority we may add to this answer, and in the valleys of Piedmont. "

John Wesley says in his Revision and Notes, seventh edition, on Revelation 13:7: And it was given him to make war with the saints - "With the Waldenses and Albigenses. It is a vulgar mistake that the Waldenses were so called from Peter Waldo of Lyons. They were much more ancient than he; and their true name was Vallenses, or Vandois . . . This name Vallenses, after Waldo appeared, about the year 1160, was changed by the Papists into Waldenses, on purpose to represent them as of modern origin."

Thus it is clear that the Baptists are the continuation of those who have come down from the apostles through persecutions, which is one of the chief characteristics of the true church. Now we are told by some who deny church perpetuity that we have principle perpetuity. That our doctrines in the main have been held by these persecuted peoples. Well, does not that include doctrines concerning the church? Christ said his church should not be prevailed against, and to the church were committed the doctrines and the ordinances, and that Christ should have glory in the church "throughout all ages," and that the church is the "pillar and ground of the truth," and by the church should be made known unto principalities and powers, etc.

If the church of Christ died in the wilderness or anywhere else, during the persecution or any other time, show us the place and time in history. Who or what was it that prevailed against the church? In what mortuary report can we find a record of its death? What historian chanted its obsequies? The bride of Christ dead! Where is the place of her inhumation? I would go and weep there.

Who saw the dismal glare of the funeral pyres
And sung the requiem by the sullen fires?
Had she funeral rite or curfew's tolling dirge?

Produce the supposed dead body of Christ, and grant an autopsy, and I will prove that it is neither dead nor sleepeth. Will not the wife at the marriage supper of the Lamb be the bride that he betrothed?

But for a skillful and satisfactory refutation of opposers' arguments (?), I am proud to refer the reader to the work of our dear brother, W. P. Harvey, in the pages following. (Hot Springs, Ark., March 15, 1896)
[This document provided by Pastor Steve Lacrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More American Baptist Histories
Return to Baptist History Homepage