Are Baptist Protestants?
W. H. WYCKOFF, LL. D., one of the most scholarly and weightiest of men among the Baptists, and whose name is historic, in noticing the following paragraph in Benedict's History: "Historically and technically speaking Baptists are not Protestants; they had no share in any of the meetings and measures in which the name was derived," said editorially:1 "It must be evident on the least reflection that the appellation 'Protestant' would be improperly applied to any denomination that never had any connection with Rome. No one, for instance, would think of calling the Jews Protestants or of annexing the term to the Greek Christians. With as little reason can it ever be associated with the name of Baptist." He accompanied this with a strong historical article of considerable length, sustaining the foregoing, which was copied extensively by the Baptist press, and heartily approved by the denomination generally, sixty years ago.
1 The "Baptist Advocate," of New York, (of which he was editor) in the issue, March 10, 1841.
Dr. Howell, about the same time, in his able work on "Communion," speaks of the "recent disposition" to call Baptists Protestants, and condemns it emphatically, denying that Baptists are Protestants.
Far back of this, Danvers, of England, in 1660, distinguished between Baptists and Protestants, and this was common among writers of those day[s] of persecution. The term properly belongs to the so-called Reformed churches, beginning with the Lutheran. It was adopted by the "State Church" of England, and also by "the Protestant Episcopal Church of America." The origin of the term and the adoption of it is briefly thus: The Diet of Spier, a congress of princes ruling each a separate German State, and who elected the emperor, and were hence called electors, in 1526, passed a decree that the emperor be petitioned to call a general religious council, and that in the meantime "every prince should have the right to manage the religious concerns of his own territory."
This gave absolute power to these princes, who were governors of each separate State, to suppress or patronize public worship and individual profession. Under this decree the Lutheran princes, more indeed than the Romanist ones, pressed down, imprisoned, and banished, and in many cases put to death the Anabaptists.
A second Diet of Spier was convened three years after by the emperor. His brother Ferdinand presided
over this politico-religious legislature. At this session the former decree was reconsidered. In the words of Mosheim: "The decree granting to every prince the power to regulate religious matters in his own territory was revoked."
"These princes remonstrated against the revocation, or in the language of jurists, they protested against it and appealed to the emperor, hence originated the name 'Protestants.'"2
With this statement of Mosheim all historians of the Reformation agree. It will therefore be noticed: (1) The name meant a remonstrance against depriving those princes of the arbitrary power of managing the religious concerns of their States, in which protest no Baptist then or now could join. (2) It was a remonstrance or protest against the separation of Church and State. The Protestants were unanimous for a State Church. In such a protest against soul-freedom, against the inalienable right of the individual to worship God according to the convictions of his conscience, Baptists could not join. Baptists never were Protestants against the divine right. Its proclamation and its practice have ever distinguished them. (3) Protestants, or Remonstrants, protested but remained and submitted under some evasive forms or terms. These princes and their people remained in the Catholic Church, but reformed it. They acknowledged
2 John L. Mosheim, An Ecclesiastical History, 1834, Vol. II, Century 16, chapter 11.
it to be a true church and claimed to be branches of it. Baptists never submitted to its unscriptural pretensions. They did not remain under its influence. They denied that Romanism was the church or a church. They declared that it was the predicted apostasy. And if any of them had been in it they came out of it, not to reform it, but to abandon and denounce it as the "mother of harlots." Baptists hold, have ever held, the very opposite of these Protestant princes and the organizations called the Reformed churches. Baptists are intensely anti-Catholic, or rather anti-Romanist. Baptist are not Protestants, either historically, technically, or practically.
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
Return to Baptist Waymarks
Return to American Baptist Histories
Return to Baptist History Homepage