Baptist History Homepage
A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States
By A. H. Newman, 1898



CHAPTER. I. — Roger Williams and Liberty of Conscience

      The literature on the antipedobaptist movements of the medieval and Reformation times is too voluminous to be here given. A selection of a few of the more important works bearing upon the history of English Baptists is all that seems practicable. Most of the works referred to in the Bibliography of vol. iii. of the present series are of interest to the student of Baptist history. Colonial records are among the most valuable sources. For the later period, files of denominational newspapers and magazines, minutes of Associations, reports of denominational societies, State and national, and controversial pamphlets may be consulted with profit. Morton's "New England's Memorial"; Lechford's "Plain Dealing"; Winslow's "Good News from New England"; Willard's "A'c Suior ultra Crepidam"; Uhden's "New England Theocracy"; Chauncy's "Seasonable Thoughts"; and Edwards's works bearing on the Great Awakening, may be referred to in this brief way.

      The treatises on Systematic Theology, by Drs. A. Hovey, A. H. Strong, E. Dodge, E. H. Johnson, W. N. Clarke, J. P. Boyce, and E. G. Robinson, may be referred to as illustrating the unity and variety of Baptist doctrinal teaching. The controversial writings of Isaac Backus are too numerous to be referred to individually, but are of primary importance.



      The name "Baptist" was not a self-chosen one. In the early Reformation time those who withdrew from the dominant churches because of the failure of these churches to discriminate between the church and the world, between the regenerate and the unregenerate, and who sought to organize churches of believers only, laid much stress on the lack of Scriptural warrant for the baptism of infants and on the incompatibility of infant baptism with regenerate membership. Following what they believed to be apostolic precept and example, they made baptism on a profession of faith a condition of church-fellowship. This rejection of infant baptism and this insistence on believers' baptism were so distinctive of these Christians that they were stigmatized as "Anabaptists," "Catabaptists," and sometimes as simply "Baptists"; that is to saY, they were declared to be "rebaptizers," " perxerters of baptism," or, as unduly magnifying baptism and making it the occasion of schism, simply " baptizers." These party names they earnestly repudiated, preferring to call themselves Brethren, Christians, Disciples of Christ, Believers, etc

      Some of the distinctive principles of Baptists have already been referred to. The following enumeration may not be out of place.

      1. Baptists of all parties have, from the beginning, persistently and consistently maintained the absolute supremacy

of the canonical Scriptures as a norm of faith and practice. They have insisted on applying the Scripture test positively and negatively to every detail of doctrine and practice. It has never seemed to them sufficient to show that a doctrine or practice, made a matter of faith, is not contradictory of Scripture; it must be distinctly a matter of Scripture precept or example to command their allegiance or secure from them a recognition of its right to exist.

      2. The application of this principle that has done more than any other to put Baptists at variance with other evangelical Christians regards the matter of infant baptism. Baptists have failed to find Scriptural authorization, whether by precept or example, for the administration of baptism to infants. They have persistently maintained that this practice is not only non-Scriptural, but that it is distinctly contra-Scriptural; that it is not merely the introduction of a rite not authorized by Scripture, yet innocent and useful, but a complete perversion of one of the two ordinances that our Lord gave to his church for the symbolical setting- forth of the great truths of redemption. Believing that baptism merely symbolizes but does not bestow or condition regeneration, they have regarded it as preposterous that the symbol should antedate by years the thing symbolized; nay, that the symbolical rite should be bestowed without any assurance that the thing symbolized would ever occur.

      But not only have Baptists agreed in regarding infant baptism as without Scriptural warrant and as a perversion of an ordinance established by Christ, but they have always insisted that it is in a very high degree destructive of the true conception of the church as composed exclusively of regenerate persons. If baptism in unconscious infancy entitle a person to church-membership, in any

sense, and do not actually work regeneration, and if those who have been thus baptized are admitted to all the privileges of church-membership after a period of somewhat formal instruction, without evidence of change of heart, a large proportion of the members of such communions are sure to be unregenerate persons. Moreover, Baptists have regarded infant baptism as the almost necessary concomitant of a state church. If there be an established form of Christianity in any particular state, it must, according to the medieval conception, be coextensive in its membership with the population of the state. If membership in the church depended upon the conversion and the baptism on a profession of faith of each individual, such a coincidence of church-membership with population would be out of the question. Hence, apparently, the determination that the friends of church establishments have always shown to maintain infant baptism at whatever cost.

      3. No less prominent has been the contention of Baptists for regenerate membership. They have persistently maintained that the New Testament conception of the church universal is that of the entire body of those that have become personally partakers of the salvation of Christ; that the New Testament idea of a local church is that of a body of believers who have been regenerated and sanctified. This principle, far more than the rejection of infant baptism, or insistence on believers' baptism, or contention for the precise New Testament form of baptism, has always been fundamental with Baptists. The baptism of infants has been rejected not simply because it is non-Scriptural, but even more because of its incompatibility with regenerate membership.

      4. Believing that faith is a matter between the individual man and God, Baptists have, from the beginning of their denominational history, regarded as an enormity any

attempt to force the conscience, or to constrain men by outward penalties to this or that form of rehgious belief. Persecution may make men hypocrites, but true Christians never. Their advocacy of absolute liberty of conscience has been due not simply to the fact that they have been the suffering parties, but is rather a logical result of their fundamental principles

      5. Insistence on immersion as the only allowable form of baptism should not be omitted from an enumeration of Baptist principles; neither should it have the prominent place that many opponents are wont to give it. The uncompromising position that Baptists have long held on this matter is a corollary of their maintenance of the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture as a norm of faith and practice, and their firm conviction that the outward act commanded by Christ and exemplified by Christ and his immediate followers was the immersion of believers in water. Anything short of complete immersion they have long been unanimous in regarding as an impertinent substitute for that which Christ appointed, and as voiding the ordinance of its true symbolical significance.


      While on the points of doctrine and practice already considered Baptists believe that they have occupied a position that has advantageously differentiated them from all other bodies of Christians, they rejoice to see that many of the principles for which they have stood in the past have become the common possessions of evangelical Christendom. The doctrine of the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture as a norm of faith and practice was professed by the great Protestant leaders of the sixteenth

century; but they were driven by observation of what seemed to them the ruinous consequences of the practical carrying out of this principle essentially to modify their statement of the doctrine. Most evangelical denominations of the present time profess to make the Scriptures supreme, yet, on grounds that seem to Baptists wholly inadmissible, many of them refuse to accept the findings of the best evangelical scholarship of the age as to the subjects and mode of New Testament baptism.

      Baptists have, for the most part, been at one with the Roman Catholic, the Greek CathoHc, and most Protestant communions in accepting for substance the so-called Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, not, however, because they are venerable or because of the decisions of ecclesiastical councils, but because, and only in so far as, they have appeared to them to be in accord with Scripture. Yet some Baptist parties have not merely repudiated all extra-Scriptural definitions of doctrine, but have interpreted the Scriptures in such a manner as to put themselves at variance with these ancient formulae.

      Their utter rejection of sacerdotalism, ritualism, and all forms of ceremonialism has put them out of harmony with all religious parties that stand for sacerdotal and ritualistic practices.

      As regards the set of doctrines on which Augustin differed from his theological predecessors, and modern Calvinists from Arminians, Baptists have always been divided. The medieval evangelical sects were all, apparently, anti-Augustinian, and the Baptist parties of the sixteenth century followed in the footsteps of their medieval spiritual ancestors in this and other important particulars. Those Baptist parties of modern times whose historical relations with the medieval evangelical parties and the antipedobap- tist parties of the sixteenth century are most intimate have

rejected the Calvinistic system; while those that owe their origin to EngHsh Puritanism, with Wiclifism[?] and Lollardism behind it and with the deeply rooted Calvinism of the English Elizabethan age as its leading characteristic, have been noted for their staunch adherence to Calvinistic principles, not, of course, because of any supposed authority of Calvin or of the English Puritan leaders, but because they have seemed to them to be Scriptural. Calvinistic and Arminian Baptists have both had periods of extreme development, the former sometimes scarcely escaping fatalism and antinomianism, the latter sometimes falling into Socinian denial of the deity of Christ and Pelagian denial of original sin. The great majority of the Baptists of today hold to what may be called moderate Calvinism, or Calvinism tempered with the evangelical anti-Augustinianism which came through the Moravian Brethren to Wesley and by him was brought powerfully to bear on all bodies of evangelical Christians.

      Baptists are at one with the great Congregational body and with most of the minor denominations as regards church government. Holding firmly to the universal priesthood of believers, they insist upon the equality of rights and privileges of all church-members, but follow the New Testament precept and example in so far differentiating the functions of the members as to bring into effectiveness the gifts and graces of each and to provide for the watch-care and edification of the entire body and for the extension of the kingdom of Christ through properly directed effort. The officers of the congregation not only owe their appointment to the vote of the entire church, but hold their positions only so long as seems good to the church. Some of the antipedobaptist parties of the sixteenth century, folhnving in the footsteps of their spiritual ancestors of the medieval time (Waldenses, Bohemian

Brethren, etc.), adopted a system of general superintendency, as did the Moravian Brethren and the Methodists in more recent times under similar influences. Regarding themselves as essentially a missionary church, and being under the stress of almost continuous persecution, they felt the need of strong administrative heads for the direc- tion of missionary effort, for administering the resources of the connection in times of persecution and distress, and for guarding the body from the inroads of error. But English and American Baptists have been from the first, with trifling exceptions, ardent advocates of independency, and this principle has at times been so overemphasized as to interfere seriously with concerted action of any kind, and with the growth of denominational spirit. It is only within the last hundred years that Baptists have come to realize the power there is in associated effort in home and foreign missionary work, in education, in publication, etc. Baptists believe that through their conventions, associations, advisory councils, missionary, publication, and educational boards, with their efficient administrative officers, they have secured, without in any way interfering with the autonomy of the individual congregations, most of the advantages of prelatical and presbyterial organization.

      The attitude of Baptists toward Christian union is often misconceived and adversely judged by their brethren of other denominations. Baptists earnestly desire Christian union, and believe that it will come in due time; but they insist that efforts for union, to be permanently effective, must be along the line of a better understanding of the word of God and more complete loyalty thereto, rather than along the line of compromise. They are themselves anxious to be instructed in the word of God more perfectly, and are ready to abandon any position that can be shown to be out of harmony with apostolic precept or example.

That the scholars of all denominations, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed, are so nearly in agreement as regards the leading features of the apostolic church, including the nature of church organization, the character and functions of church officers, the number and character of the ordinances, etc., and that the consensus of scholarship is so nearly in accord with the traditional Baptist interpretation of Scripture, is highly gratifying to Baptists, and encourages them to believe that the development of Christian life and practice will be in the direction of greater uniformity, and that the church of the future will more and more approximate the Baptist position. This they desire only so far as the Baptist position shall be proved by the best Christian scholarship to be the Scriptural position


      The claim of Baptists that their doctrine and polity are in substantial accord with the precept and example of Christ and his apostles would seem to make it incumbent on their historian to explain the early departure of the great mass of Christians from the apostolic standard. Christianity arose in the midst of religious ferment. The philosophies and theosophies of the East were never more active and aggressive than during the first three Christian centuries. Before the close of the apostolic age Gnosticism in some of its most dangerous forms was seriously threatening the life of the churches. Belief in the magical efficacy of external rites was a universal feature of paganism, and the corrupted Judaism of the early Christian age cooperated with theosophical paganism in fixing this feature on the early churches. Sacerdotalism goes hand in hand with ceremonialism, and the pagan idea of

the priest as a mediator between God and man and as the exclusive manipulator of magical religious ceremonies was not long in making its impression on the Christian churches. A careful comparison of the Christian literature of the second and third centuries with the New Testament writings cannot fail to reveal the transformation of the church in doctrine and life under pagan influence.

      Early in the second century the idea became prevalent that while instruction in Christian truth and morals, repentance, faith, fasting, and prayer must precede baptism, the remission of sins takes place only in connection with the baptismal act. Such is the teaching of the "Pastor" of Hernias (about A.D. 139) and of Justin Martyr (about A.D. 150). By the close of the second century the pagan view that water baptism possesses in itself magical efificacy begins to find expression. "Is it not wonderful, too," writes Tertullian, "that death should be washed away by bathing?" To justify such ascription of efficacy to water baptism he expatiates on the age and the dignity of water. "Water was the first to produce that which had life, that it might be no wonder in baptism if water know how to give life." "All waters, therefore, in virtue of the pristine privilege of their origin, do, after invocation of God, attain the sacramental power of sanctification." In the Gnostic "Pistis Sophia," Christ is represented as saying: "If any one hath received the mysteries of baptism, those mysteries become a great fire, exceeding strong and wise, so as to burn up all the sins," etc. The Ebionitic writer of the "Clementine Recognitions" thus represents the effects of baptism: "If, therefore, any one be found smeared with sins and lusts as with pitch, the fire easily gets the mastery of him. But if the two be not steeped in the pitch of sin, but in the water of purification and regeneration, the fire of the demons shall not be able to kindle in it.

With such passages, of which many more might be quoted, may be compared the following from the orthodox Cyprian: "For as scorpions and serpents, which prevail on the dry ground, when cast into the water cannot prevail nor retain their venom, so also the wicked spirits . . . cannot remain any longer in the body of a man in whom, baptized and sanctified, the Holy Spirit is beginning to dwell."

      Side by side with the idea of the efficacy of water baptism there had grown up among Christians the conviction that apart from baptism there is no salvation even for unconscious infants. This conviction seems first to have found expression in Gnostic and Ebionitic writings, but it had become pretty general before the middle of the third century. In the "Clementine Recognitions" (vi. 8, 9), Peter is represented as saying: "And do you suppose that you can have hope toward God, even if you cultivate all piety and all righteousness, but do not receive baptism? . . . When you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so at length you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible . . . . Betake yourselves, therefore, to these waters, for they alone can quench the violence of the future fire . . . . For whether you be righteous or unrighteous, baptism is necessary for you in every respect: for the righteous, that perfection may be accomplished in him, and he may be born again to God; for the unrighteous, that pardon may be vouchsafed him for the sins he has committed in ignorance.

      Infant baptism was the inevitable result of the twofold conviction that infants are so affected with the guilt of the race as to be subject to damnation in case of death without baptism, and that baptism possesses magical efficacy to secure salvation. At first it would naturally be confined

to infants in imminent danger of death; but those who had the keenest reahzation of the horrors of hell and the virtue of baptism were not content to run the risk of the sudden death of their offspring, and so the practice grew apace. It was somewhat impeded in its progress, however, by the rise and growth of another error, namely, that post-baptismal sins are irremissible. It was on this ground, and on this alone, that Tertullian pleaded so earnestly for the postponement of baptism until such a degree of maturity and stability should have been reached as would warrant the expectation that the candidate would be able to guard himself from the commission of mortal sins. On this ground some went to the opposite extreme of postponing baptism until near the end of life. Thus one could be assured of entering heaven with a clean score. The rigid view of Tertullian as regards the unpardonableness of post-baptismal sins gradually gave place to a more benignant view, and from the middle of the third century the church made such provision for the restoration of the lapsed that infant baptism came to be regarded by most as the safer thing.

      The Lord's Supper suffered a similar perversion, and, largely through Gnostic influence, ceased to be regarded as a memorial feast in which believers held communion with one another and with their risen Lord, and assumed the character of a mystic rite celebrated with elaborate ceremonial.

      The growth of sacerdotalism has already been referred to. The process by which the simple congregational church government of the apostolic time developed into the hierarchical government of the third and following centuries, when bishops claimed to rule by divine right and to be irresponsible, cannot here be detailed.

      No less destructive of the spirit of primitive Christianity

as the early intrusion of the doctrine of the meritoriousness of external works. Jews and pagans alike attached merit to almsgiving, fasting, and the utterance of fixed forms of prayer. By the middle of the third century leading churchmen like Cyprian did not hesitate to urge almsgiving as a means of securing the remission of sins and of purchasing an everlasting inheritance.

      Asceticism, also, was imported into early Christianity from paganism. The disposition to regard the body as intrinsically evil, and all natural impulses as worthy only of being trampled upon, is a well-known feature of pagan religions. Fanatical seeking for martyrdom, excessive fasting, and exaltation of virginity were the earliest forms of Christian asceticism. It was chiefly through Gnosticism and Manichseism that ascetical ideas found entrance into the church. By the fourth century they had become dominant.

      These facts are mentioned here to show that the perversion of the ordinances in the early church was no isolated phenomenon, and that Baptists are not presumptuous in rejecting ecclesiastical practices which can be traced back even as far as the second or third century.

      But, it may be asked, did the church as a whole succumb to these corrupting influences? Were there none that remained loyal to primitive Christianity among the tempted multitudes? Some Baptist writers have sought to find in the Montanists, Novatians, Donatists, Jovinianists, Vigilantians, Paulicians, Bogomiles, etc., who successively revolted from the dominant type of Christianity, and in the ancient British churches that long refused obedience to the pope, adherents to apostolic doctrine and practice and links in the chain of Baptist apostolic succession. It may suffice here to say that while some of these parties were more and some less evangelical than the church they

antagonized, no one of them can be proved to have held to Baptist views as to the nature and subjects of baptism.

      Was there, then, a failure of the assurance of Christ that the gates of Hades should not prevail against his church? Far be it! We are not able to prove, it is true, that from the close of the apostolic age to the twelfth century a single congregation existed that was in every particular true to the apostolic norm; but that there were hosts of true believers even during the darkest and most corrupt periods of Christian history does not admit of a doubt. That a church may make grave departures in doctrine and practice from the apostolic standard without ceasing to be a church of Christ must be admitted, or else it must be maintained that during long periods no church is known to have existed. In this admission there is no implication that an indiviciual or a church can knowingly live in disobedience to Christ's precepts without grievous sin, or can ignorantly disobey without serious spiritual loss. On the contrary, every departure, conscious or unconscious, from apostolic precept or example not only involves loss as regards the particular defection, but brings in its train other evils, which in turn bring others, until doctrine and practice become thoroughly corrupt.

      Not until we reach the twelfth century do we encounter types of Christian life that we can with any confidence recognize as Baptist. Among the dissenting parties which flourished at that time in the south of France we meet with Peter de Bruys and Henry of Lausanne, both of whom took a firm stand in favor of the restoration of primitive Christianity and for many years propagated their views with great success throughout extensive regions. Referring to the work of Peter de Bruys in a certain region, Peter the Venerable, a contemporary, wrote: "In your parts the people are rebaptized, the churches

profaned, the altars overthrown, crosses burned; on the very day of our Lord's passion flesh is publicly eaten; priests are scourged; monks are imprisoned and compelled by terrors and tortures to marry." The scourging and torturing are non-Baptist features, but the writer bears witness at least to the utter helplessness of priests and monks in the presence of Peter's fiery zeal. Elsewhere he sums up the errors of the evangelists under five heads. "The first article of the heretics denies that children who have not reached the age of intelligence can be saved by baptism, nor {sic) that another person's faith can profit those who cannot use their own, since our Lord says, 'Whosoever shall have believed and shall have been baptized shall be saved.' "He charges them, furthermore, with denying the real presence in the eucharist. The rest of the charges are in entire accord with the Baptist position. Peter labored from 1104 to 1128, and Henry from 1116 to 1148. The popularity of the latter was wonderful, and multitudes were turned by him from the dominant church.

      We have accounts of similar antipedobaptist movements in Breton, the Netherlands, and the Rhine region during the first half of the twelfth century. Evervin, in a letter to Bernard, refers to "certain other heretics in our land [the vicinity of Cologne], absolutely discordant from these [the Cathari], through whose mutual discord and contention both have been detected by us. These latter deny that the body of Christ is made at the altar.

      . . . Concerning the baptism of little children they have no faith, because of that passage in the gospel, 'Whosoever shall have believed and shall have been baptized shall be saved.' "It is probable that Arnold of Brescia, the great Italian reformer of the same century, rejected infant baptism. If so, his position was almost identical with that of Peter de Bruys and Henry of Lausanne, with whom

he may have come in contact. The statement of Otto of Freising, one of the best informed of his contemporaries, "He [Arnold] is said to have been astray with reference to the sacrament of the altar and the baptism of infants," is amply confirmed as to the first charge and uncontradicted as to the second.

      The early Waldenses (1178 onward) were believers in transubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, and infant baptism. Under the influence of more evangelical parties, most or all of them came to reject transubstantiation and consubstantiation alike, and some of them, probably a minority, became antipedobaptists.

      Peter Chelcicky, the spiritual father of the Bohemian Brethren, and one of the ablest evangelical thinkers of the fifteenth century, closely approached in his doctrinal system the position reached by the antipedobaptists of the sixteenth century. Like the later Waldenses, he rejected the doctrines of the real presence and baptismal regener-ation, and sought to make the New Testament the standard of his faith and practice. Any departure from the apostolic model, by way of addition or diminution, he considered apostasy. God's law is perfectly sufficient in every particular. Any union of church and state he regarded as fraught with evil. If the entire population of a state were Christian, there would be no need of civil government. A Christian state he regarded as anomalous. In the so-called Christian state there is no place for the true Christian except in the lowest ranks. All dominion, all class distinctions, are radically opposed to Christ's requirement of brotherly equality. No true Christian can be a king or a civil officer. Christians should avoid trade, as involving deceit in seeking advantages. He insisted on the freedom of the will, yet recognized the necessity of divine grace in regeneration. Oaths and capital punishment

he rejected with the utmost decision. As regards baptism, after quoting the great commission, he proceeds: "Open and clear is the word of the Son of God: first he speaks of faith, then of baptism; . . . and since we find this doctrine in the gospel we should now also hold fast to it. But the priests err greatly in baptizing the great mass, and no one is found, whether old or young, who knows God and believes his Scripture. . . . Baptism belongs to those who know God and believe his Scripture." It is rather disappointing to find him adding, "If such have children, baptism should be bestowed upon their children in their conscience."

      The Bohemian Brethren (Unitas Fratrum) practiced rebaptism in receiving members from the Roman Catholic and Hussite Churches until 1537, when they reluctantly abandoned it to escape the penalties to which Anabaptists were by law amenable. Like the Waldenses, the Bohemian Brethren were divided in respect to infant baptism. In an apology and two confessions addressed (1503-04) to King Wladislaus, they admit that some among them have rejected infant baptism.

      There is no decisive evidence that any party in England rejected infant baptism before the Reformation time, although a vigorous evangelical movement was carried forward there before and after the time of Wiclif.

      The medieval exangelical movements are of interest to the student of Baptist history not simply on account of the antipedobaptist features that appear in connection with the most important of them, but still more because of the type of life and teaching which was to reappear in nearly all its features in the antipedobaptist parties of the sixteenth century. The stress laid on the imitation of Christ and on the Sermon on the Mount, the maintenance of freedom of the will, insistence on holy living as a

necessary expression of true faith, rejection of oaths, warfare, capital punishment, and the exercise of magistracy on the part of Christians, are common to medieval evangelical parties and to the various antipedobaptist parties of the Reformation time.

      It is estimated that there were at the beginning of the sixteenth century between 300 and 400 congregations of Bohemian Brethren in Moravia and Bohemia, with a constituency of about 200,000. These had the support and protection of many of the most powerful noblemen. In the Alpine valleys of southeastern France and northwestern Italy the Waldenses (Vaudois) continued to exist in large numbers. It is estimated that they had at this period about 100 congregations, with a constituency of about 100,000. Scattered throughout the rest of Europe there were Waldensian congregations, the number of whose constituents may have reached 100,000 more.

      During the years immediately preceding the Lutheran revolt from the papacy, these evangelical Christians were active in the circulation of vernacular Bibles and other evangelical literature.


      The Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century had its roots in the evangelical parties of the middle ages, to which it owed its modes of thought, its type of Christian life, and its methods of work. To the peculiar circumstances of the time it owed most of the features that differentiate it from the earlier movements. The term "Anabaptist" was applied indiscriminately to all who, dissenting from the dominant forms of Protestantism and from Roman Catholicism, insisted on setting up separate

churches for the embodiment and propagation of their views. To the dominant parties, Thomas Miinzer, the mystical fanatic and socialistic agitator, who never submitted to nor administered rebaptism, who persisted in baptizing infants, and who sought to set up the kingdom of Christ by carnal warfare, the scholarly and soundly Scriptural Hubmaier, the intellectual and spiritual mystic, Denck, and the chiliastic fanatics of Minister, were all alike Anabaptists, and even the most Christ-like of these were treated as criminals of the deepest dye. There was some excuse for this confusion in the fact that most of those to whom the epithet was applied denied the Scriptural authorization of infant baptism, and made baptism on a profession of faith a condition of entering into their fellowship.

      The beginning of the sixteenth century was a time of unrest and expectancy. A spirit of revolution was abroad. Enough of evangelical light and enough of the spirit of freedom had been diffused among the oppressed masses to insure among them an enthusiastic reception for any movement that should give fair promise of relief from priestcraft and of social amelioration. When Luther denounced indulgences and afterward went on assailing, one after another, the corruptions and errors of the Roman Catholic Church, those who had come under the influence of the evangelical movements of the earlier time felt that now at last the day of deliverance had come, and rallied to his support. Luther's bold proclamation of the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures, of the universal priesthood of believers, and of the right of each individual Christian to interpret the Scriptures for himself, and his repudiation of "whatever falls short of, is apart from, or goes beyond Christ," must have produced a strong im- pression on those who had been long listening for such a

mighty leader to voice their sentiments. It was natural that when Luther began to draw back, in deference to the views of the civil rulers and from fear of disastrous revolution, the radical reformers that had taken him at his word should refuse to conform to his moderated scheme, and should set themselves in opposition to what they considered a temporizing policy. It was natural, also, that Luther, when he felt that the evangelical cause was jeopardized by the radicals, should have counseled their violent suppression.

      The first note of revolt in Germany was sounded at Zwickau, where Thomas Miinzer had become pastor of a leading church. Under the influence of Nicholas Storch, a master weaver, who had apparently come in contact with a chiliastic Bohemian party, and who possessed a wonderful knowledge of the letter of Scripture and knew how to interpret the prophecies with reference to his own time, Munzer was led to proclaim the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, with the overthrow of the existing order. Munzer, Storch, and a number of their followers regarded themselves as prophets, and claimed to be commissioned to lead in the establishment of a reign of righteousness and equality. After some iconoclastic procedures at Zwickau, a number of the prophets visited Wittenberg with the hope of winning to their support the evangelical leaders. Carlstadt, the rector of the university, and Cellarius, one of the leading scholars, recognized their claims and accepted their views. Melanchthon was powerfully moved, but turned to Luther, then in retirement at the Wartburg, for counsel. Luther left his retirement and by a mighty effort succeeded in checking the movement. The labors of Storch and Miinzer during the next few years, and the violent fanaticism of Miinzer and his followers, aided in arousing the social democracy of Germany to

revolt, and in convincing many that the kingdom of God would be set up by a mighty display of divine power in connection with the swords of the faithful. Storch rejected infant baptism and established several congregations of baptized believers. Munzer retained infant baptism, after declaring it to be unscriptural, and devoted his energies almost exclusively to arousing the masses to revolt. The part which he played in the Peasants' War, the massacre of his deluded followers, and his own subsequent execution are sufficiently familiar. Storch is to be regarded as the father of the chiliastic Anabaptist movement, whose later history was so fraught with disaster.

      This blending of antipedobaptist views with chiliastic reveries and with socialistic and revolutionary aims and procedures was most unfortunate, and caused antipedobaptists of all types to be regarded as the enemies of civil and religious order.

      A radical movement of a widely different type we meet in Switzerland from 1523 onward. Zwingli was an advanced humanist, and had no sympathy with the ascription of magical efficacy to external rites. His efforts at reform were directed largely against the superstitious practices of the Roman Church, and so general was anti-papal feeling in republican Switzerland that the reformation of idolatrous abuses met with little opposition. Cool-headed, clear-headed, a good scholar, an able theologian, a skillful debater, an adroit politician, he aimed at political and social reform almost as much as at religious. In a disputation with representatives of the Bishop of Constance in 1523, he set forth his views in sixty-seven articles, and overwhelmed his opponents. In the elaboration of the eighteenth article he called attention to the fact that in the early church catechetical instruction preceded baptism. He persistently denied that infants are saved

by baptism or lost through lack of it. Zwingli's type of reform rapidly spread over a large part of Switzerland and into the adjoining German and Austrian provinces. From 1521 onward, Balthasar Hubmaier, one of the ablest theologians and most eloquent preachers of the time, was chief pastor at Waldshut in the Austrian Breisgau, having left a highly influential position in Regensburg on account of his adoption of evangelical views. In 1523 he conversed with Zwingli on the baptism of infants, and Zwingli agreed with him in holding that it was without Scriptural authorization and ought in time to be abolished. Hubmaier kept his antipedobaptist views in abeyance for some time, and by his clear and strong evangelical teaching gained such an ascendency as enabled him to carry with him the influential elements of the population in the adoption of believers' baptism.

      In the meantime a radical party had appeared in the canton of Ziirich. Reformatory measures were pressed forward vigorously by Zwingli, but he was hampered by the civil authorities and dared not proceed as fast as the radicals demanded. These violated fasts and threw down images before they were authoritatively abolished. They refused to pay tithes and agitated for agrarian reform. A body of earnest Christian scholars had gathered around Zwingli, who sought to impress upon him the importance of completing the reformation of the church and the in- admissibility of allowing the measure of reform to be dictated by the ungodly magistracy. That the unregenerate should be admitted to the Lord's Supper along with the regenerate seemed to them contrary to apostolic precept and example. Zwingli admitted the desirableness of most of the reforms that they urged, but could not be persuaded to ignore the magistracy. Unable longer to have fellowship with a partially reformed church, and convinced that

Zwingli was sinfully temporizing, Grebel, Manz, Blaurock, and others withdrew, and organized a church of believers on the basis of believers' baptism (December, 1524). When Zwingli saw the connection of antipedobaptism with the setting up of separate churches and the dissolution of the ecclesiastical establishment, he at once became a zealous advocate of infant baptism. The antipedobaptist movement spread with great rapidity in the canton of Zurich, and thence to Schaffhausen, St. Gall, Berne, Basle, and the Graubunden. Severe persecution for a time seemed rather to further the movement than to hinder its progress. In St. Gall and its vicinity thousands were baptized in a few weeks (April and May, 1525).

      Hubmaier, with Roubli's help, introduced believers' baptism at Waldshut (about Easter, 1525), and the town authorities, supported by the people, incurred the wrath of the Austrian government by refusing to deliver him up. When obliged to leave Waldshut (December, 1525) he took refuge in Zurich, where with Zwingli's approval he was thrown into prison, and if not technically tortured (as seems probable), was subjected to the most distressing hardships. Exterminating persecution dispersed the Swiss antipedobaptists throughout Europe. Hubmaier took refuge in Moravia (July, 1526), where he won some noblemen to the support of his cause, and in about a year and a half (1526-27) built up a strong church and produced and published an extensive denominational literature.

      In Silesia, partly through the influence of Nicholas Storch, partly through the activity of Caspar Schwenckfeldt, an influential nobleman who had adopted antipedobaptist views, but was prevented by his mysticism from taking a strong position in favor of believers' baptism, and still more through the influence of the Swiss antipedobaptist movement, a large part of the population came to

reject infant baptism. Persecution drove Schwenckfeldt from the country in 1528, and Gabriel Ascherham (Scharding), one of the ablest and soundest of the antipedobaptist leaders, led thousands of his followers to Moravia, which had become the land of promise for the persecuted Anabaptist hosts.

      In Styria and the Tyrol antipedobaptist views met with the most eager acceptance, and, notwithstanding the persistent efforts of the Austrian authorities to exterminate them. Anabaptists long carried on a vigorous propaganda in these provinces. One of the most famous of the Tyrolese preachers was Jacob Huther, who became a leader of the chief Moravian party, but afterward suffered martyrdom in his native land. These Austrian provinces had been nurseries of evangelical life during the later middle ages, and the very localities where Waldenses had flourished became centers of Anabaptist activity.

      Augsburg was one of the chief commercial centers of the sixteenth century, and was a refuge for persecuted Anabaptists from 1525 to 1530. In no locality was there a greater aggregation or a greater variety of Anabaptist life. Chiliasts of the Storch and Munzer type and Swiss Anabaptists were both alike early on the ground; but the first to attempt an organization of the heterogeneous Anabaptist mass was Hans Denck, who may be regarded as, next to Hubmaier, the most important of the early Anabaptist leaders. Closely associated with him in evangelistic work and in oriental studies and Bible translation was Ludwig Hatzer. Under Hubmaier's influence, organization was effected in the summer of 1526. Denck left Augsburg after a few months, and the leadership fell upon Hans Hut, a disciple of Munzer and a chiliast of the most pronounced type, who, however, had been baptized by Denck. The activity and influence of Hut are

astonishing. Making Augsburg his center, he labored in Moravia, upper Austria, and throughout southern Germany. So irresistible was his influence over the oppressed masses that a few hours' stay in a place often resulted in the establishment of a community pledged to his principles. There can be little doubt that he encouraged the people to expect in the near future a mighty manifestation of divine power for their deliverance, and gave secret instructions to his followers to be prepared to smite the ungodly when the appointed time should come.

      Denck's type of teaching was perpetuated in Augsburg by Eitelhans Langenmantel, a member of one of the chief patrician families, who published largely in defense of antipedobaptist principles and against the corrupt practices of the time.

      Denck returned to Augsburg about September, 1527, and once more placed his strong hand on the helm. There are said to have been at least eleven hundred Anabaptists in the city about this time. Shortly after Denck's return a great gathering of Anabaptist leaders is supposed to have occurred in Augsburg. Persecution of a violent type soon followed. Denck departed, and died soon afterward at the house of his friend CEcolampadius. Hut died in prison, and a number of executions followed. In Swabia, Bavaria, and Franconia, exterminating measures were enacted in February, 1528. The sanguinary imperial edict of Speier followed in April, 1529.

      The Strassburg authorities were even more tolerant than those of Augsburg, and the city has been called an Eldorado of the persecuted. The evangelical ministers were exceptionally liberal. Bucer for some time declined to persecute those who quietly rejected infant baptism; Zell could never be induced to repudiate or refuse hospitality to any man who recognized Christ as his Lord and

Saviour; while Capito could scarcely be restrained from becoming an avowed antipedobaptist. Every type of antipedobaptist life had its representatives in this center. During 1526 vast numbers of persecuted Anabaptists from all parts of Alsace, southern Germany, and Switzerland streamed into the city. Here also Denck and Hatzer resided for some months, and produced a marked impression. Among other noted leaders may be mentioned Jacob Gross, a disciple of Hubmaier; Michael Sattler, one of the ablest and most amiable of the antipedobaptists of the Swiss school; Wilhelm Roubli, one of the earliest and most zealous evangelists of the time; Jacob Kautz, a brilliant preacher who went beyond Denck in the mystical character of his teaching; Pilgram Marbeck, a Tyrolese engineer, whose social position and whose devotion to antipedobaptist principles were of the highest value to the cause; and Melchior Hofmann, a Swabian furrier, whose influence was to prove disastrous.

      After the issuing of the edict of Speier the Strassburg authorities felt obliged to take measures for the suppression of the deeply rooted antipedobaptist movement. Many were banished, some were tortured, but the Strassburg authorities were strongly averse to shedding innocent blood.

      The Landgrave Philip of Hesse was, with all his moral delinquencies, by far the most tolerant of all the princes of Germany. In spite of the entreaties and remonstrances of such neighboring princes as John George of Saxony, and of such Protestant leaders as Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer, he steadfastly refused to deal severely with the people everywhere spoken against. It is remarkable that of the two thousand or more Anabaptists executed up to 1530, not one had suffered in Hesse. In 1529, in response to a remonstrance from the elector of Saxony, he wrote:

"Wc are still unable at the present time to find it in our conscience to have any one executed with the sword on account of his faith." Even after the Munster catastrophe, when other princes were slaughtering Anabaptists indiscriminately, he insisted on making a distinction between fanatics and evangelical advocates of believers' baptism." To punish capitally . . . those who have done nothing more than err in the faith cannot indeed be justified on gospel grounds," he wrote at this time.

      The most noted and influential leader of the Hessian Anabaptists was Melchior Rink, a man of splendid scholarship and noble character, but unfortunately involved in the millenarian errors of Storch and Munzer. He was many times arrested, and his life was demanded by the Saxon princes and theologians, but Philip had strength enough to protect him from his enemies.

      At Nikolsburg in Moravia, Hubmaier labored for a year and a half with astonishing success. The Counts Leonard and John of Lichtenstein accepted his views and received baptism at his hands. The principal evangelical preachers in the territory of the Lichtensteins, including one who had been a Roman Catholic bishop, were also convinced of the truth of Hubmaier's teaching, and became his coadjutors. A printing-press was established and Hubmaier's works were widely circulated. Hut soon appeared on the scene and won some to his millenarianism and his rejection of magistracy and warfare. Communism was championed by Jacob Wiedemann, and after Hubmaier's martyrdom (1528) became the dominant type of Anabaptist teaching in Moravia. Notwithstanding frequent bitter persecution, the Moravian Anabaptists by their skill and industry made themselves indispensable to the Moravian nobles, and their strong communistic organization enabled them to husband their resources for

aggressive work in the neighboring countries, and even in times of severe persecution to hold together. The disadvantages of communism need not here be dwelt upon. Under Jacob Huther (1529 onward) the communistic element became dominant, and the party soon came to be known as Hutherites. At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War (1618) they numbered about 70,000, and were highly prosperous. War and the Jesuits nearly wrought their extermination. In the latter part of the eighteenth century a few families removed from Transylvania to Russia. In 1874 the entire community emigrated to America and settled in what is now South Dakota. They have five congregations, with a membership of 352. (See vol. i. of the present series, p. 213.)



      To Roger Williams belongs the distinction of being the first in America to introduce believers' baptism and to organize a church on Baptist principles. He was probably born in London about 1600."- Under the patronage of Sir Edward Coke, the famous jurist, he was educated at Sutton's Hospital and at the University of Cambridge, proceeding Bachelor of Arts in 1627. Whether during or shortly after the completion of his university course, he was led to adopt rigorous separatist principles. The England of 1630 was no place for nonconformists. In December of that year he set sail for New England, hoping there to be permitted to enjoy a measure of soul liberty denied him at home, and not without expectation of being able to exert some wholesome influence on the development of the New World.

      "Truly it was as bitter as death to me," he wrote some years later to the daughter of Sir Edward Coke," when Bishop Laud pursued me out of this land, and my conscience was persuaded against the national church and ceremonies and bishops, beyond the conscience of your dear father. I say it was as bitter as death to me, when I rode Windsor way to take ship at Bristol, and saw Stoke House, where the blessed man was, and I then durst not acquaint him with my conscience and my flight."

      There can be no doubt but that he made considerable sacrifice, not in sentiment alone, but in position and prospects as well, in thus loyally following the dictates of con- science. "God knows," he wrote forty years afterward, "what gains and preferments I have refused in universities, city, country, and court in Old England, and something in New England, to keep my soul undefiled in this point, and not to act with a doubting conscience." He was not only an accomplished scholar (he was familiar with the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, and French languages), but he had a dignity of bearing, an eloquence and persuasiveness of tongue and pen, and a force of character, that, apart from his influential connections, would have commanded for him the highest positions at home or abroad.

      Landing in New England in February, 1631, an attractive opening almost immediately presented itself. The pastor of the Boston church was returning to England and Williams was invited to supply his place. Did he accept the invitation? Far from it. The Boston church was "an unseparated church," and he "durst not officiate to" it. He was prompted to give utterance, while in Boston, to a conviction, formed no doubt long before - familiar and common place now, startling and revolutionary then and the magistrate may not punish any sort of "breach of the first table," such as idolatry. Sabbath-breaking, false

p. 61
worship, blasphemy, etc.; and he had thus succeeded in convincing" the leading- men of the colony that he was an impracticable and dangerous man - all the more dangerous because of his splendid gifts and his unswerving loyalty to conscience. It was only what might have been expected, when the Salem church a few months later invited him to be their teacher, that six of the leading men of Boston should have sent a joint letter of warning to Governor Endicott of Salem. Thus prevented from settling at Salem, he betook himself to the older and more thoroughly separatist Plymouth colony, where he was cordially received, and soon became associated as teacher with Ralph Smith, pastor of the church. Here he remained about two years. According to Governor Bradford, "his teaching was well approved, for the benefit whereof I still bless God, and am thankful to him even for his sharpest admonitions and reproofs, so far as they agreed with truth." According to Brewster, elder of the church, toward the close of the period Williams began to "vent" "divers of his own singular opinions," and to "seek to impose them upon others." "Not finding such concurrence as he expected, he desired his dismission to the church of Salem," which, with considerable reluctance on the part of some, was granted. It is certain that the influential people of Boston were industriously fostering any spirit of dissatisfaction action that may have arisen. During his stay at Plymouth he spent much time with the Indians, and succeeded in so far mastering their language as to be able to converse freely with them and afterward to write " The Key into the Language of America," which he hoped might prove an important aid in the evangelization of the natives of the entire continent. His friendship with the Indians was afterward of incalculable advantage not only to himself but to his fellow-colonists. "My soul's desire," he wrote p. 62

      Williams's banishment in the midst of winter, January, 1636. Befriended by the Indians, after much hardship he reached Narragansett Bay, where he secured land from the Indians and established a colony on the principle of absolute lib-

Early Colored Baptist Membership in the U. S.
by A. H. Newman

[From A.H. Newman, A history of the Baptist churches in the United States, 1898, pp. 464-465. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Baptist History Homepage