Editor's note: The following essay is from a book titled The Convert's Guide to First Principles, or Evangelical Truth. The author, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Haven, Connecticut, held a successionism view of Baptist history.
"The Origin of the Baptists"
By Israel Robords, Pastor
The First Baptist Church
New Haven, CT., 1838
It was not the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, the Congregationalists or the Methodists, who endured the Romish persecutions; for none of these denominations existed earlier than A. D. 1560. Hence the oldest of these sects is but 318, and the last mentioned but 101 years old. From these unassailable facts you will perceive how vain it is for either of the above denominations to plead that they are the first true church. The Mormons or any other sect that has sprung up within five or ten years past, could as well attempt to trace the chain of their history to Christ and the apostles. Whenever they have attempted it, thay all uniformly acknowledge themselves the recent offspring of that church which they call the mother of harlots and enemy of God; and in attempting to prove their faith and practices correct, they quote her laws and usages as authority.
It is not expected that we should give a church history in this limited essay. All that will be done is to glance at the existence of the church in each successive century; and we shall only be able to notice where the true church flourished in one or two places at the same time. For instance, in giving the history of the Baptists in this century, it would be requisite, in order to a correct view of the denomination, to notice its existence and condition in Europe and Asia; but the limits of this work will only allow me to mention that of our own country. It is acknowledged that there is a people in America called Baptists, and that they have at present 409 associations, 7,135 churches, 4,160 ordained ministers, and that their additions by baptism in A. D. 1837, was 23,070, and that their present number of communicants is 518,126, and that the first Baptist church in America was organized by Roger Williams, in Providence, R. I., A. D. 1639. Since that time the Baptists have been well known; but in tracing their
history through preceding ages, we are obliged to learn their existence and condition mostly from the concessions of Roman Catholics, and other opposers; for, during the Pagan and Papal persecutions, which continued from A. D. 66, to A. D. 1700, it was the constant aim of the Catholics and their allies to destroy the writings, as well as the persons of the true church.
Owing to the different languages of those nations where the followers of Christ have lived. and to the asperities of their opposers, the church has been known by the name of Baptists. Anabaptists, Wickliffites, Lollards, Hugonots, Mennonites, Hussites, Petrobrusians, Albigenses, Waldenses, Paulicans,
imperfect imitators of the above named reformers.
In order to appreciate the writings of these pedobaptist authors, the reader should just consider how the Baptists in this age would be represented were our opponents (say Mr. Chapin,) to write a church history. Is it not evident that we should be wholly neglected or grossly misrepresented? And such has been the conduct of pedobaptist writers of past ages. To
obtain correct knowledge of the true church, I would refer you to the histories written by Perrin, Ivimey, Jones, Backus, Benedict, Robinson's Researches, and Moreland's History of the Waldenses, &c. As it can be proved that all the dissenting pedobaptist churches arose in and since the sixteenth century, they have made a mighty effort to fix our origin at about the same time. Hence their endeavors to make the unlearned believe that the Baptists had their origin in the Rustic war, or Munster rebellion. It is a fact that in A. D. 1524, there was much uneasiness among the German peasants because of the oppressions of the feudal system and Catholic tythes; and the Catholics of Saubia rebelled, but this was soon suppressed.
In A. D. 1520, Luther published, in the German language, a tract on Christian liberty, and during the winter of A. D. 1524-5 this tract was industriously circulated in Saubia, Munster, and vicinities; and the spirit of reformation had so kindled through Germany that in the spring of A. D. 1525, about 300,000 men, not exclusively Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists or nonprofessors, but of all sorts collectively, arose for liberty. One Thomas Muncer, a disciple of Luther, whom the people called Luther's curate, and Luther called him his Absalom, had now become a Baptist, and after the Munster revolt had been going on for some time, he drew up a memorial or manifesto for the revolutionists, which was a mild, pacific and religious document. That there were some Baptists engaged in that affair is evident, but "it is certain that the disturbance in Munster was commenced by Bernard Rotman, a Lutheran priest, and that several other Lutheran priests assisted in it for several months before Muncer visited the place." - Ivimey, p. 16.
"The Catholics uniformly say that Luther's doctrine led to the rebellion, and that his disciples were the prime movers of it, and affirm that 130,000 Lutherans
fell in the Rustic war. This, they say, is the fruit of the new doctrine; this is the fruit of Luther's gospel." - Milner, vol. 5, pp. 320, 327.
It is thus evident, by referring to the Catholics, who equally hated the Lutherans and the Baptists, and, therefore, were impartial judges, that the Munster aflair did not originate the Baptists, or the Baptists the Munster affair; but, that it was an effort for Christian liberty, moved on by the Lutherans, - and, had they been successful, no doubt but Luther would have appeared at the head, for it is evident he was at the bottom of it. But, as it failed, and therefore was inglorious, Luther disclaimed his connection, and modem pedobaptists have attempted to charge it to the Baptists.
But, leaving this, as none but the ignorant can be made to believe that the Baptist church had its origin in the sixteenth century, we pass to notice that, in A. D. 1764, there was a history of religion published in London, in four volumes, in which it was written: - "It is clear from many authors that Wickliff rejected infant baptism, and that on this doctrine his followers agreed with modern Baptists." His followers were called Lollards, and Waldenses, and persecuted as heretics. In the eighteenth century we find John Howard, the philanthropist, and multitudes of others in England and Bother nations of Europe, decided Baptists. About A. D. 1655. the Duke of Savoy dreadfully persecuted the Baptists in the South of France and the vallies of Piedmont, whom he called Waldenses, Valdenses and heretics. At this time Oliver Cromwell was Protector of England, and John Milton, the poet, was Secretary of State. The intelligence of the Waldensian massacre reached London, May 20, A. D. 1655, upon which Milton wrote a thrilling sonnet, of which this first verse is a specimen:
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered sainis, whose bones,
Lie scat'ered on the Alpine mountains cold:
Even them who kept tby truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones."
That Cromwell and Milton favored the Waldenses, or Baptists, in sentiment, is equally evident from the letters which Milton wrote to the Christian Princes of Europe, (see Jones' Church History, vol. 2, pp. 319-336,) the influence of which moved the Duke of Savoy to stop the persecution; but he renewed it again A. D. 1663, and thus persecutions continued until A. D. 1686, when he issued orders to remove or kill all the Waldenses in his territory, which resulted in destroying many and removing more into Switzerland and other countries. See Burnett's Letters from Italy, Letter 1, pp. 57, 58.
But, as it is well known that the Baptists were numerous in all Europe and America in the sixteenth century, we pass to notice that, in this century Martin Luther, John Calvin and some others, broke off from the Catholics. Luther took with him the doctrine of consubstantiation, which is but another name for transubstantiation, and the doctrine of infant baptism, together with other errors; aud Calvin brought with him not only the doctrine of infant baptism, but the spirit of persecution, which was too manifest in the murder of Servetus and other acts of the kind. From A, D. 1250, up to A. D. 1400, the Waldenses suffered dreadful persecutions in France, Germany and Netherlands; and a small number of them fled to Calabria, where they formed a church and lived in the apostolic faith until A. D. 1560, when the Calabrian Waldenses formed a union with the Calvinists at Geneva, and so far conformed to the Romish religion that they baptized their infants. To this, with a few instances of the kind. modern pedobaptists refer, to prore that the Waldenses were not Baptists; but we
could as well say because one Baptist church in America became corrupt in faith, therefore they all had. The few individuals who were drawn into infant baptism and the like errors, by Luther and Calvin, are but slight exceptions.
Dr. Moshiem says, "The sect in England which reject the custom of baptizing infants, are not distinguished by the title of Anabaptists, but by that of Baptists. It is, however, probable, that they derived their origin from the German and Dutch Mennonites. From their confession of faith, which was published in A. D. 1643, it appears plain that their religions sentiments were the same then that they are at this day. - The true origin of that sect which acquired the denomination of Anabaptists, by administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion; and derived that of Mennonites from the famous man to whom they owe the greatest part of their present felicity, is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is of consequence difficult to be ascertained. - The modern Mennonites not only consider themselves as the descendants of the Waldenses, who were so grievously oppressed and persecuted by the despotic heads of the Romish church, but pretend, moreover, to be the purest offspring of those respectable sufferers. - The Mennonites are not entirely mistaken when they boast of their descent from the Waldenses, Petrobrusians, and other ancient sects, who are usually considered as witnesses of the truth in times of universal darkness and superstition. Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay concealed in almost all the countries of Europe, particularly in Bohemia, Morovia, Switzerland and Germany, many persons who adhered tenaciously to the following doctrines, which the Waldenses, and Wickliffites, and Hussites had maintained, some in more disguised, and others
in more open and public manner, viz: That the kingdom of Christ, or the visible church which he had established upon earth, was an assembly of true and real saints, and ought therefore to be inaccessible to the wicked and unrighteous, and also exempt from all those institutions which human prudence suggests to oppose the progress of iniquity, or correct or reform transgressors. - The religious opinions which still distinguish the Mennonites from all other Christian communities, flow directly from the ancient doctrine of the Anabaptists concerning the nature of the church. It is in consequence of this doctrine that they admit none to the sacrament of baptism, but persons that have come to the full use of their reason, because infants are incapable of binding themselves by a solemn vow to a holy life, and it is altogether uncertain whether or no in mature years they will be saints or sinners. Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay concealed in almost all the countries of Europe, persons who had adhered tenaciously to the principles of the Dutch Baptists." - Church History, cent. 16th, sec. 3, part 2.
In A. D. 1530, Bullinger, in the preface to his sermon on the Revelation. says, "for 400 years and more, in France, Italy, Germany, Bohemia and other countries, throughout the world, the Waldenses have sustained their profession of the gospel of Christ." - Perrin's History, chapt. 6.
A. D. 1533, Luther published the confession of faith of the Waldenses, with a preface of his own, in which he acknowledges them the true church of God. Beza, in his treatises of "the famous pillars of learning and religion," says, "as for the Waldenses, I may be permitted to call them the very seed of the primitive and pure Christian church." - Moreland's History of the Churches of Piedmont, p. 58.
Jacob Mehringus says "that he had in his possession
a confession of faith, in the German language, of the Baptists called Waldenses, which asserts that in thn beginning of Christianity there was no baptizing of infants, and that their forefathers practiced no such thing." - History, part 2, p. 738.
Limborch says, "To speak candidly what I think of all the modern sects of Christians, the Dutch Baptists most resemble the Albigenses and Waldenses." - History of the Inquisition, vol. I, chapt. 8.
A. D. 1530, George Morelund published a history of the Waldensian churches, in which he says that "at that time there were more than 800,000 communicants." See Moreland's Evangelical Churches, p. 224.
A. D. 1400, Henry IV., King of England, enacted a law for the burning of Waldensiun heretics, and from that time up to April 11, A. D. 1612, when Edward Wightman was burnt at Litchfield, there were multitudes who suffered imprisonment and death for refusing to believe infant baptism, and other Romish traditions. A. D. 1415, John Huss and Jerome of Prague, two famous Baptist ministers, and leaders of the reformation in Bohemia, were burnt, by order of the Popish council of Constance. Wickliff's writings were destroyed, and his bones dug up and burnt. William Sawter, Thomas Badby, and Sir John Oldcastle, and a number of the stars of the true church fell during this century, but still the Baptist church flourished and multiplied throughout the world. It was in A. D. 1365, that John Wickliff began to be popular as a reformer, and great multitudes followed him. During his labors nearly all England was awakened. He translated the Bible into English, and wrote many books. His followers were called Lollards, after Walter Lollard, a Dutch Baptist, who came from Germany into England, A. D. 1315. Lollard was so active, and blessed of God, that it was with much difficulty that the Catholics
kept the kingdom from a religious revolution. Dr. Kurd says, "it is pretty clear, from the writings of many learned men, that Dr. John Wickliff, the first English reformer, either considered infant baptism unlawful, or at least unnecessary." - Ivimey, Hist. p. 56.
A. D. 1382, July 12, Richard II., King of England, published an order for the bishops to seize and imprison all persons suspected of Lollardism; and, during this persecution, Hereford, Rapyngdon, Ayshton and many others suffered. Reinerius says that "in A. D. 1259. the Paterine (another nickname for true Christians,) church at Alba, had more than 500 members; and, that at Conebrezza, more than 1500, and many others were very large." A. D. 1254, the Popish council of Alba condemned the Waldenses as heretics, and because there were many of them in and about that place, they called them Albigenses. A. D. 1229, during the French persecution, the Waldenses spread themselves throughout Italy, and Reinerius says that about A. D. 1250 they had churches in Albinia, Lombardy, Milan, Romagna, Vencenza, Florence, &c., and in A. D. 1280, they were quite plenty in Sicily." - Perrin's History, book 2, cha/>t. 16.
A. D. 1215, the Bishop of Aries wrote to Pope Innocent III., complaining that his place was troubled with a great many Waldensian heretics, who said it was to no purpose to baptize children." - Opera Innocent, tertii tam 2, p. 776. A. D. 1110, Peter Bruis, and A. D. 1147, Henry wrote against the Catholics, and in reply, Peter, the Catholic Abbot of Clugny, wrote against the Petrobrusians and Henricians, and charged them with holding the following errors, "that infants are not baptized or saved by the faith of another, or that baptism, without their own faith, does not save, and that those that were baptized in infancy, when grown up, should be baptized again, - nor are
they then rebaptized, but rather rightly baptized." - Hist. Eccl. Mag. cent. 12, chapt. 5, p. 332.
Dr. Stennet quotes the following words from Cassanion's History of the Waldenses: "Some writers have affirmed that they approved not of the baptism of infants, and I can not deny that the greatest part were of that opinion; but the truth is, they did not reject the sacrament of baptism, but only accounted it unnecessary to infants, because they are not of age to believe, or capable of giving evidence of their faith." - Appendix to Stennet, pp. 81, 82.
Dr. Wall admits that the Waldenses were antipedobaptists. (See Wall's History of Baptism, p. 171.) As the Catholics baptized by immersion, the ancient Baptists had no difficulty with them about the mode. Hence, image worship, infant baptism, transubstantiation and the Pope's authority, were the chief subjects of contention; and, for opposing these they suffered persecution. A. D. 1166, thirty Waldenses suffered martyrdom at Oxford, England; and, during the persecution in the South of France, there were so many of them came into England, that in the reign of Henry III. the orders of the Friars Minorites were introduced, to suppress the Waldensian heresy." - Arch Bishop Uslter, in Ivimey, vol. 1, p. 59.
A. D. 1160, Peter Waldo was a famous Baptist preacher; and, some have supposed, the Waldenses derived their name from him, but it is evident that they were at first called Valdenses, from their being in the vallies of Piedmont, and that Valdenses was finally changed into Waldenses; and Reinerius Saccho. the Inquisitor, who wrote but 80 years after Peter Waldo, assures us that the Albigenses, or Waldenses had flourished more than 500 years before Waldo's time. See Dr. Rankin's History of France, vol. 3, p. 198-202.
A. D. 1160, and forward for about 20 years, Waldo
was persecuted by the Catholics; but yet as a faithful reformer, he preached boldly against Popish power, image worship, infant baptism and transubstantiation, in Dauphiny, Picardy, Germany, and finally in Bohemia, where he died, 1179. Wherever he preached multitudes were converted to God. The work of revival did not stop at his death, but extended into Bulgaria, Croatia, Dulmatia and Hungary, and multitudes of Baptist churches were planted, which flourished through the thirteenth century. In A. D. 1315, it is calculated there were not less than 80,000 of these antipedobaptist Christians in Bohemia. See Perrin's History, chapt. 1, 2.
A. D. 1154, a small society of these Waldensian Christians came into England, and William, of Neuburgh, a Monkish historian, says that "ihey came from Gostynen. (in Poland.) where they were as numerous as the sand of the sea, and that they had sorely infested France, Spain and Italy." Dr. Henry's history of England speaks of the dreadful persecution of this people, on page 338.
A. D. 1147. St. Bernard, in his letter to the Earl of St. Gyles, says that one of the errors of the Henricians was "that the infants of Christians are hindered from the life of Christ, the grace of baptism being denied them; [and he adds.] they laugh at us for baptizing infants."
A. D. 1140, Henry, an Italian Baptist, became very popular, and his followers were called Henricians. He sustained the sentiments of the denomination. and preached successfully in Switzerland, Mans, Bourdeaux, and A. D. 1147, in Toulouse. He was finally condemned at the Council of Rheims, and died in prison, A. D. 1158.
A. D. 1140, Evervinus, a Catholic priest of Germany, wrote to St. Bernard concerning a great number of heretics in his neighborhood, who cheerfully
suffered death rather than give up their doctrine; and, among other heresies, he said "they do not hold to the baptism of infants, alledging as a proof of their sentiments, Mark xvi. 16, he that believeth and is baptized, &c. These in our country we call Cathari, in Flanders they call them Piphles, in France Tisserands, and Egbert the Monk says they are increased to great multitudes, throughout all countries." See Dr. Allix's remarks. pp. 150, 152.
A. D. 1139, Arnold. of Brisca, roused the people of his charge to active opposition against the awful corruptions of the church of Rome, and Pope Innocent II. summoned the Latteran Council, and anathematized and condemned Arnold to perpetual silence, as a Waldensian heretic, because he preached against transubstantiation, infant baptism, &c. But, so far from being silent, he entered Rome and preached with such success that nearly all the city arose against Popery; and it is a well known fact that Pope Eugenius was consecrated in a fortress without the city, to escape the violence of the people, but by force of arms Arnold was finally taken and burnt, A. D. 1155. See Edinburgh Encyclopedia, article Arnold, and Dr. Allix; p. 169.
A. D. 1120, the Waldenses published a treatise concerning antichrist, which contains several sermons of their ministers of that age. In this work they prefer several charges against the Pope, as the antichrist, the third of which is "that he baptizes children." See Perrins' history, pp. 60, 62.
A. D. 1110, "Peter de Bruis labored with great success in the South of France, and multitudes became his disciples, who were called Petrobrusians. They strenuously advocated that baptism was to be administered only to adults." See Moshiem's Church History, cent. 12, part 2, chapt. 5.
A. D. 1110, "Peter de Bruis, and his disciple Henry,
taught that infants ought not to be baptized, and they made many converts." - Du Pin, vol. 3, p. 702.
A. D. 1100, "the Waldenses spread themselves through Poland and Lithuania, and ever since that they have been propagating their doctrine there, which differs but little from the modern Baptists." See Le Sieur de La Popeliniere, History of France.
A. D. 1006, William the Conqnerer ascended the throne of Britain, and during his reign many Waldenses from France, Germany and Holland, came into England. They remained in the peaceful possession of Christian liberty, and greatly multiplied, until A. D. 1218, when there was a Popish order sent to the Bishops of England to suppress the Waldensian heresy.
About 1050, Berengarins arose, and greatly opposed the Popish doctrines. He was principal of the Academy at Tours, in France. In A. D. 1055, a Council was assembled at Tours by Pope Leo IX., to examine the heresy of Berengarius, and another at Rome, A. D. 1078. But.after preaching successfully against image worship, infant baptism and Papal power, he died in peace, A. D. 1088. "During this century the Emperors of Germany and Kings of England opposed the Pope's dominion. - Vast numbers about Orleans. in France, and in Flanders, testified against transubstantiation, purgatory, penance, relics, traditions, &c. - And some good historians assert that almost all the French, Italians and English were infected with this opinion." - Brown's Bible Dictionary, p. 153.
"Amid the shocking ignorance and wickedness of the tenth century, numbers in Germany, France and Britain, still opposed the worship of images, &c. A. D. 909, the Council of Soissons, in France, published a confession, (of faith,) mostly the same in substance with those of the protestant churches. (The difference was that this confession disapproved of infant
baptism, which pedobaptists practice.) The Council of Rheims declared the Popes censurable if they did amiss. Many churches refused to part with the use of the Scripinres in their own language. Athelstan, King of England, caused them to be translated into the language of his Anglo-Saxon subjects. Heriger, the Abbot of Lobes, with Affric and Wulfin, of England, opposed transubstantation. Floris, Prudentius, Tricassin, Lopus, Servatus and other noted clergymen, opposed, &c." - Brown's Bible Dictionary, p. 153.
This century did not afford many reformations. The life and prosperity of the church, as to means, depended more on ibe influence of men in the preceding century, especially that of Claude. However, from A. D. 950, to A. D. 1050, the Baptist church was active; and, notwithstanding the persecutions, they continued to increase. Turin, the capital of Piedmont, was formerly the residence of the King of Sardinia, and in A. D. 1798, it had 100,000 inhabitants. A. D. 817, Claude was promoted to the See of Turin. He soon began to bear testimony against Romish pollutions, and continued his labors in Turin for about 20 years: and the vallies of Piedmont, which belonged to the bishopric of Turin, received their religion from him, — and it is abundantly proved that the churches in Piedmont, Milan, Turin, &c., held no communion with the church of Rome, but were of the same faith with the modern Baptists and ancient Paulicans.
"Claude, Bishop of Turin, in his numerous writings, maintained that all the apostles were equal to Peter - that Jesus Christ was the only head of the church - that the church is fallible, and no traditions ought to be regarded in religion - that no prayers ought to be made for the dead, nor images of saints or angels to be worshiped - that all superstitious pilgrimages
and penance ought to be laid aside - that the elements of the Lord's Supper are but means of representing the body and blood of Christ to believers." - Brown's Bible Dictionary, p. 152.
Claude may be properly called the Apostle of the reformation, while Luther and Calvin were but imitators of this great man; and, had they followed him fully, and left infant baptism and other Romish notions behind, they would have been greater blessings to the world. It is true that the ninth was a dark century, and that Romish doctrines greatly covered the world; but the reason why they did was because the Romans were powerful in arms, and when they subdued a nation or people, they compelled them to submit to their religion; thus infant baptism spread by physical and not by moral power. Meanwhile Nicephorus, Leo V., Michael III., Emperors of the East, with nearly all the Greek Bishops, opposed these Catholic innovations in religion; and Rhemigius, Bishop of Lyons, and Valentine and the Lingonensian, and Christians known by other names stood fast on apostolic grounds.
A. D. 726, Leo Isaurian, the Greek Emperor, who resided at Constantinople, but by right governed Italy as well as what is now called the Ottoman Empire, discovering that the church at Rome was beginning image worship, issued an edict against the practice. At this time Gregory II., who was Pope or Bishop of Rome, violently opposed the edict, and continued to do so until he died, A. D. 731 and Gregory III., partaking the spirit of his predecessor. excluded Leo, A. D. 732. The great majority of the inhabitants of Italy, agreeing with Gregory, were carried on by the tide of popular feeling, to embrace not only image worship and infant baptism, but sunk into other errors to which they had been strangers until this time. It was in this contest that the Italian provinces separated
from the Greek empire, and the Greek and Roman churches ceased to fellowship each other. Whatever defects may have characterized the Greek church in this age, it is evident that they maintained the substance of Scripture doctrines and practices, and were the very churches which had arisen successively out of those planted by the apostles; and that their number at this time was much larger than those that had followed Gregory. Among these Greek churches the Paulicans appeared as reformers, as the Waldenses did among the Romans.
A. D. 660, the Paulicans arose, in the town of Mananalis, in the vicinity of Somosata. Here lived a man by the name of Constantine, who entertained at his house a deacon of a church in Syria, who had been carried away captive by the Mahometans, and was now on his return. From this passing stranger Constantine received a copy of the New Testament, in the Greek language. He studied it with care, and began to publish its contents, and soon a Christian church was collected. In a little time several individuals arose among them qualified for the ministry, and many churches were collected in Armenia and Cappadocia. Their public appearance attracted the notice of the Catholic party, who immediately began to persecute them, calling them Manicheans and Paulicans. Constantine continued his labors, and Pontus and Cappadocia, and all Asia Minor to the west of the Euphrates, had pure religion revived again. As they increased and spread to the west, they were often identified with the Waldenses, because they opposed image worship, infant baptism and the power of the Pope, which were the common characteristics of both. We can trace the history of the church by the persecutions which they suffered under the name of Paulicans, to A. D. 810. - Jones' Church History, vol. 1, pages 384-387.
But why should we stay to trace the history of the Baptist church in that age, by the sufferings of Christians bearing one name. "There have been whole nations of martyrs, who, after witnessing a good confession before men and angels, have been sacrified by thousands to the blind rage of superstition. - It would be an unpardonable omission to pass entirely unnoticed that venerable and primitive people, who were the depository of Christian truth during so many ages, when darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people. The Paulicans in ihe East and the Waldenses in the West, divide this praise. The Paulicans preceded the public appearance of the Waldenses. - They appeared in Cappadocia and Armenia about the middle of the seventh century, and the name of their founder was Constantine. - He became a preacher of righteousness, and was soon surrounded by a numerous band of disciples, who endeavored in all things to conform themselves to scriptural precepts. This sect, in general, received the name of Paiilicans, from the great veneration which they professed for the epistles of Paul. Their progress was rapid, and the light of truth had nearly spread over Asia Minor, when the fearful storm of persecution descended upon them. - These Christians, now generally called Waldeuses, were scattered through different countries, and were known by various names in different situations, though a general agreement of doctrine and practice prevailed amonuf them." - Christian Martyrs, by the American S. S. Union, pp. 102-106.
In many instances, in this and succeeding ages, the Baptist church was charged with Ariaism, because they did not admit that the consecrated wafer was the real body of Christ; and modern pedobaptists, adopting the language of the Catholics, still continue to
stigmatize those true disciples with the same opprobrious epithet.
We have hastily glanced at the existence of the church through successive ages, until we have arrived at the time when the church of Rome assumed her antiscriptural power, and properly became the mother of harlots and the abomination of the earth. We could here leave our cause, believing that every candid mind would be satisfied that from this time down to the apostles, the churches were generally built on Scriptural grounds. But to do justice to his character, and show that the Romish church had become corrupt even earlier than this. I would remark that A. D. 251, Novatian separated himself from the corruptions of the church of Rome, and established a church on apostolic principles. "Novatian was an elder in the church of Rome, a man of extensive learning, holding the same doctrine as the church. His address was eloquent, and his morals irreproachable. In seasons of prosperity many persons rushed into the church; in times of persecution they denied the faith; when the squall was over they came again to the church. The Bishops, fond of proselytes, encouraged all this, and also began to exchange the Christian virtues for a vain show at Easter. Cornelius, who had often countenanced such practices, was nominated for Bishop at the death of Fabian. Novatian being unreconciled to their half paganism and half Judaism, opposed his election; and when Cornelius was finally elected, Novatian and many others, withdrew and established a church by themselves. Great multitudes followed his example, and all over the empire puritan churches were constituted, which flourished throughout the succeeding two hundred years. Tertulian had left the church at Carthage near fifty years before this, for the same reasons: and Privatus, and several more had repeatedly remonstrated against
the alterations taking place in the church. The Roman Catholics charge Novation with being the parent of an innumerable multitude of congregations of puritans, all over the empire." - Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, p. 126.
That Novation, and the puritans of that age, had the same views of a gospel church and the subjects of baptism that the Baptists have now, is too obvious to admit of debate. Indeed, the Roman Catholics themselves, notwithstanding all oiher corruptions, had not yet introduced infant baptism. It remained for after and darker ages to originate this antiscriptnral practice, as we shall presently show. We have not introduced the puritans of that age because the true church was confined to them, but simply to show that the church of Rome rarly became so corrupt that good men fled from her influence. It is a well known fact, that during the third, fourth and fifth centuries, there were multitudes of churches beside those who were the immediate followers of Novatian, in nearly all the kingdoms of Europe and a great part of Asia, that still kept the ordinances as the apostles had delivered them. With regard to the first two centuries after the apostles, there can be no doubt that the churches were purely Baptist. Dr. Moshiem, a violent opposer of the Baptist denomination, admits that "the sacrament of baptism was administered publicly twice every year, at the festivals of Easter and Pentecost, or Whitsunday, by the Bishop or Presbyters, in consequence of his authorization and appointment. The persons that were to be baptized, after they had repeated the creed, confessed and renounced their sins, and particularly the devil in his pompous allurements, were immersed under water, and received into Christ's kingdom by a solemn invocation of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the express command of our blessed Lord." - Eccl. Hist. cent. 2, sec. 13.
Again, "The sacrament of baptism was administered in this century without the public assemblies, in places appointed and prepared for the purpose, and was performed by immersion of the whole body in the baptismal font." - Mosheim's Ecc. Hist. cent. I, part 2, sec. 8.
We have thus hastily traced the church down to the apostolic age, and find that although we are now surrounded by many denominations, yet they are of so recent origin, that previous to the rise of Lutheranism, A. D. 1517, it was vastly different; and as we approach the apostolic age, their number appears still less, until we arrive at A. D. 325, when the first general division took place at Alexandria, respecting the doctrine of Arius. From that time, down to the organization of the first church at Jerusalem, A. D. 33, there was but one denomination, which has since been called by various names: First, Disciples, then Christians, and in after ages several nicknames, as we have seen; and at present it is known by the name of the Baptized Church, to distinguish it from those churches which merely sprinkle. Thus evident it is, that the Bible and impartial history sustain our claim to apostolic church origin; and that not only John Huss, Jerome of Prague and John Wickliff, were martyrs of our church, but equally demonstrates that Ignatius, Irenaeus, Polycarp, and the multitudes who have sealed their fuith with their blood since them, were Baptists.
We should keep in mind that nearly every question has two sides; and while the controversy between us and the pedobaptists respects church origin, we are happy to have their full concession that they are recent dissenters from the Roman Catholics; and that the Baptist church is not only the true church of God, but that for her "it is easy to trace a succession of
witnesses for Jesus Christ against His rival at Rome. - Brown's Bible Dictionary, p. 152.
There are four kinds of Baptists in the United States, and the American Almanac for 1839 gives the following statistics:
Regular Baptists, 452,000 communicants; Free-will Baptists, 33,876; 7th day Baptists, 4,500; Six-principle Baptists 2,117: - Total population. 4,300,000.
Regular Presbyterians, 274,084 communicants; Cumberland Presbyterians, 50,000; Associate Presbyterians, 16,000; Reformed Presbyterians, 3,000; Associate Reformed Presbyterians, 12,000: - Total population. 2,176,000.
Congregationalists, 160,000 communicants: - Population, 1,400,000
Episcopal Methodists, 650,103 coimnuuicints; Protestant Methodists, 50,000: - total population, 3,000,000.
======[From Israel Robords, The Convert's Guide to First Principles, or Evangelical Truth, 1838, pp. 78-98. The document is from Google books. Thanks to Steve Lecrone for locating this essay. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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