THROUGH WELSH BAPTISTS, BAPTISTS HAVE A CONTINUITY FROM APOSTOLIC TIMES TO THE PRESENT.
Armitage quotes from Thomas' History of the Welsh Baptists: “The first Baptist church in Wales, AFTER the Reformation, was found at Ilston, near Swansea, in Glamorganshire, in 1649. …It was under the commonwealth that Vavasor PoweIl, Jenkin Jones and Hugh Evans formed the first Open Communion Baptist churches in Wales, and that John Miles formed the first Strict Communion churches there. The first Welsh Baptist association was organized in 1651.”1 These words, so carelessly chosen, have given an excuse for Baptist opponents to claim that this was the origin of Welsh Baptists. But, in connection with this statement, Armitage says: “Davis, Bishop of Monmouth, finds a wide difference between the Christianity of the ancient Britons and that of Austin in 596. The first followed the word of God, the other was mixed with human tradition. Dr. Fulk denied that Austin was the apostle of England, and charged him with corrupting the true Christianity which he found in Britain, by Romish admixture. Fabin, himself a Catholic, shows that he imposed sundry things upon the Britons, which were refused as contrary to the doctrine which they had at first received. Bede says that the Culdees followed the Bible only and opposed the superstitions of Rome. Culdee, from Culdu, is a compound Welsh word, cul, thin, du, black; and means a…
l Armitage's Hist. Bap., pp. 599-600.
…thin, dark man, as their mountaineers, who were noted for their godliness. The monks got possession of the Culdee colleges by degrees, and continued to preach without forming churches. Some claiming that the Welsh Baptists sprang from the sturdy stock; for individuals are found in Glamorgan, the Black Mountains, Hereford and Brecon counties, who walked apart from Rome before the Reformation. Stephens, the late antiquarian of Merthyr, thought that the bards of Chavi of
Glamorgan kept up a secret concourse with the Albigenses. This is probable, as some of them were conversant with the Italian poets.
“‘Holy Rhys,' famous in 1390, was learned, and his wife was of the 'new faith,' (Lollard), for his son, Ieuan, was expelled from the Margam Monastary for holding their opinions, or 'on account of his religion.' His grandson also was imprisoned by Sir Cradoe for being of the 'new faith' …The Lollards swarmed in Wales, where Old Castle hid for four years after escaping from the Tower. He was a native of the Welsh Cottian Alps, the Black Mountains, having been born at Old Castle about 1360.
“It is a disputed point as to where and when Baptists first appeared in Wales. There are presumptive evidences that individuals held their views from the opening of the seventeenth century, and some have thought that the first Baptist church was formed at Olchon, 1633. Joshua Thomas, of Leominster, perhaps the most reliable authority on the subject, doubts this. He leans to the belief that there were Baptists then at that date,” — and here comes in the quotation made in the beginning of this chapter.1
l Armitage's Hist. Bap., p. 509.
The reader will see that instead of Armitage dating the origin of Welsh Baptists in the seventeenth century, he says the “first after the Reformation” meaning the first of which we have a clear account of its origin, while he gives strong evidence of Welsh Baptists existing many centuries previous to the seventeenth century, leaving it a “disputed point as to when and where Baptists first appeared in Wales.” Considering that Dr. Armitage is so ready to slur “Succession,” this is no insignificant concession in favor of Church Perpetuity.
Considering that the Romish church has always opposed rendering the Scriptures into the language of the people and that she has done so only when forced by increasing light to do so; and, further, that such versions are exclusively the trophy of Baptists, the following, from Dr. Armitage, is presumptive evidence for Welsh Baptists having continued in Wales throughout the dark ages: “Portions of the Scriptures were translated into manuscript before the Reformation, but some of them were lost. Taliesin, a bard of note, in the sixth century, gave paraphrase in verse of a few passages, and it is said that there was a manuscript translation of the gospels in the thirteenth century in the library of St. Asaph's cathedral. In the thirteenth century it was already looked upon as old, and the Archbishop of Canterbury allowed the priests to exhibit it as a sacred thing.
Dafydd Ddu, another bard, wrote a poetical paraphrase in the fourteenth century on a part of the Psalms, the song of Zecharias, the angels' greeting to Mary, and the song of Simeon, found in Luke's Gospel. Some other fragments of Scripture were given by others.”1
1 Armitage's Hist. Bap., p. 598.
The statement that there \vas no Bible in Wales at the time of the Reformation, except in cathedrals, in view of the foregoing and of the undoubted existence of evangelical Christians there and of their history being known only by occasional glimpses, should be taken with much allowance.
Including Wales, Bede says the Britains were converted to Christianity in the second century and that they “preserved the faith, which they had received uncorrupted and entire, in peace and tranquility, until the time of Diocletian, A. D. 286.”1
In the year 603, Augustine, called also Austin, was sent to convert the Welsh Baptists to the Romish church. Bede records that they met him, charging him with pride, contradicted all he said, and that he proposed to them: “You act in many particulars contrary to our custom, or rather the custom of the universal church, and yet, if you will comply with me in these three points, viz.: to keep Easter at the due time; to administer baptism, by which we are again born to God, according to the custom of the Roman Apostolic Church; and jointly with us preach the Word of God to the English nation, we will readily tolerate all the other things you do, though contrary to our custom.”2
Bede says: To this “they answered, they would do none of these things, nor receive him as their archbishop; for they alleged among themselves that 'if he would not rise up to us, how much more will he condemn us, as of no worth, if we shall begin to be under his subjection ?' To whom the man of God, Augustine, is said in a threatening manner, to have foretold, that in case they would not join in unity with their brethren, they should be…
1 Bede's Eccl. Hist., Book l. Chap. 4.
2 Idem, book 2, chap. 2.
…warred upon by their enemies; and if they would not preach the way of life to the English nation, they should at their hands, undergo the vengeance of death. All which, through the dispensation of divine judgment, fell out exactly as he had predicted.”1 But Bede states that fifty of their ministers “escaped by flight” from the slaughter of “twelve hundred” of their ministerial brethren.1 These were amply sufficient to propagate the true gospel; thus, preserving the perpetuity line to the Reformation.
Fabian, who died in the year 1512, states that Augustine's proposition to those Welsh Baptists was: “That ye give Christendom to children.” Thus read the editions of 1516, 1533,1542. The last edition, which is not so correct an edition, made in 1811, reads: “That ye administer baptism …as to the manner of the church of Rome,” as evidently meaning, as Danvers, Davye, Ivimey and “several Cambro Americans maintain” the game as to baptize infants.2
Of Augustine's time, Goadby says: “A large and flourishing body of British Christians were now living in Wales, whither they had sought refuge from the cruelties of the Saxons. Undisturbed in their liberties and their worship in the fastnesses of Wales, they had waxed stronger and stronger. At Caerleon, in the south, and at Bangor Is-y-Coed, in the north, large and flourishing monasteries, or, more properly speaking, missionary stations, were established. Bangor alone could number, in association with it, over two thousand 'brethren.' These societies had little in common with Romanish monasteries. The greater part of the 'brethren' were married laymen, who followed their…
1 Bede's Eccl. Hist., book l, chap. 4.
2 Evan's Hist. Early Eng. Bap., vol. 1, pp. 5-6.
…worldly callings, and those among them who showed aptitude for study and missionary work were permitted to give themselves to the reading of the Scriptures and holy services. All were maintained out of a common fund, and yet a large surplus was distributed in the shape of food and clothing.”1
Here Goadby follows with an account, substantially that of Bede and Evans, quoted in the foregoing.
Crosby says : “It was in the year 469 that the Saxons invaded England. They made a complete conquest, overthrew Christianity and set up the heathen idolatry. But those Christians which escaped fled into Cornwall and Wales, where they secured themselves and maintained the true Christian faith and worship. Jeffrey, of Monmouth, in his book, De Brittanorum Gestis, Lib. IV, cap. 4, as cited by Mr. Danvers, tells us that in the country of the Britains Christianity nourished, which never decayed, even from the Apostles' time. Amongst whom, he says, was the preaching of the gospel, sincere doctrine and living faith, and such form of worship as was delivered to the churches by the Apostles themselves; and that they, even to death itself, withstood the Romish rites and ceremonies.”2 Crosby strengthens this statement with the testimony of other authorities, too numerous and lengthy to here cite. Crosby, here, also repeats the foregoing account of Austin's attempt to convert the Welsh Baptists, of his bringing on them persecution, because they continued in the faith and of fifty of their ministers escaping from the massacre to continue the pure gospel.
Benedict says: “The Welsh Baptists have the fullest confidence that their sentiments always have lived in the…
1 Goadby's Bye Paths to Bap. Hist., pp. 3-4.
2 Crosby's Hist. Eng. Bap., vol. 2, pp. 14-15 of preface.
…mountainous retreats, from the apostolic age to the present time, although the people were not always congregated in churches. Their country, in their estimation, was another Piedmont, where the witnesses for the truth found shelter and concealment in times of universal darkness and superstition. …My impressions are very strong in favor of a high antiquity of the Baptist order in Wales. With the first dawn of returning light, long before the ecclesiastical changes on the continent, or England, we see the Welsh Baptists among the first reformers; and they did not appear to be novices in the business, but entered into the defense of their sentiments, and the carrying out of the usual operations of the denomination, as to churches and associations, like those who had been familiar with their principles.”1 In this connection Benedict mentions the churches which are so mentioned by Armitage as to be used by Baptist opponents to prove they were the first Baptist churches in Wales, he having mentioned them as “the oldest in Wales of whose origin any DISTINCT information has come down to us.”2
Speaking of Wales as a refuge of ancient Welsh Baptists, Armitage says: “The vale of Olchon is difficult of access, and there the first Welsh dissidents found the most ready converts, who sheltered themselves in the rocks and dens. The Barren Ddu, or Black Rock, is a terribly steep and rough place, in which the Baptists took refuge, rich and poor, young and old, huddled together.” 3
Davis' History of Welsh Baptists is an abridged translation of Thomas' History of Welsh Baptists, of
which Mr. Davis says: “We have collected all we deem necessary from every other author on the subject” and…
1 Benedict's Hist. Bap., pp. 344-345.
2 Idem. p. 345.
3 Armitage's Hist. Bap., p. 600.
…added it to it; and Armitage says: “Thomas is, perhaps, the most reliable authority on the subject.”1
Davis says: “About fifty years before the birth of our Savior the Romans invaded the British Isle, in the reign of the Welsh king, Cassibellan; but having failed, in consequence of other and more important wars, to conquer the Welsh nation, made peace and dwelt among them many years. During that period many of the Welsh soldiers joined the Roman army and many families from Wales visited. Rome, among whom there was a certain woman named Claudia, who was married to a man named Pudence. At the same time Paul was sent a prisoner to Rome and preached there in his own hired house for the space of two years, about the year of our Lord 63. Pudence and Claudia, his wife, who belonged to Caesar's household, under the blessing of God on Paul's preaching, were brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and made a profession of the Christian religion. Acts 28:30; II Timothy 4:21. These, together with other Welshmen, among the Roman soldiers, who had tasted that the Lord was gracious, exhorted them in behalf of their countrymen in Wales, who were at that time vile idolaters. …The Welsh lady Claudia, and others, who were converted under Paul's ministry in Rome, carried the precious seed with them, and scattered it on the hills and valleys of Wales; and since that time, many thousands have reaped a glorious harvest. …We have nothing of importance to communicate respecting the Welsh Baptists from this period to the year 180 when two ministers by the name of Faganus, and Damicanus, who were born in Wales, but were born again in Rome, and…
1 Armitage's Bap. Hist., p. 599.
…became eminent ministers of the gospel, were sent from Rome to assist their brethren in Wales. In the same year, Lucius, the Welsh king, and the first king in the world who embraced the Christian religion, was baptized. …About the year 300, the Welsh Baptists suffered most terrible and bloody persecution, which was the tenth persecution under the reign of Dioclesian. …Here, as well as in many other places, the bipod of martyrs proved to be the seed of the church.”1
Of A. D. 600, Davis says: “Infant baptism was in vogue long before this time in many parts of the world, but not in Britain. The ordinances of the gospel were then exclusively administered there according to the primitive mode. Baptism by immersion, administered to those who professed repentance † toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Welsh people considered the only baptism of the New Testament. That was their unanimous sentiment as a nation, from the time that the Christian religion was embraced by them in the year 63, until a considerable time after the year 600. …They had no national religion; they had not connected church and State together; for they believed that the kingdom of Christ is not in this world.”2 Here Davis gives the account quoted in the foregoing, of Augustine's attempt to convert them to infant baptism and to the Romish church and of the persecution ensuing from his failure to do so. From this persecution Davis says: “The majority of the Welsh people submitted to popery; at that time more out of fear than love. Those good people that did not submit, were almost buried in its…
† They were not Campbellites; but they followed the New Testament in putting repentance before faith.
1 Davis' Hist. Welsh Bap., pp. 6-9.
2 Idem, p. 14.
…smoke; so that one knew but little of them from that time to the Reformation.”
“Since the above was written we find that Theopholis Evans, in his Drych y prif cesoedd, or Looking Glass of the Ancient Ages, could see the remnant of the Welsh Baptists through the darkness of popery, to the year 1,000. And Peter Williams, a Methodist preacher, who wrote an exposition of the Old and New Testaments in Welsh, has followed them through thick clouds till they were buried out of sight in the thick smoke, in the year of our Lord, 1115. However, it is a, fact that cannot be controverted, that from this time to the Reformation there were many individuals in Wales whose knees had never bowed to Baal of Rome”1
“The vale of Carleon is situated between England and the mountains of Wales, just at the foot of the
mountains. It is our valley of Piedmont, the mountains of Merthyn Tydfyl, our Alps; and the crevices of the rocks, the hiding places of the lambs of the sheep of Christ, where the ordinances of the gospel to this day have teen administered in the Primitive mode, without being adulterated by the corrupt church of Rome. It would be no wonder that Penry, Wroth and Erbury, commonly called the first reformers of the Baptist denomination in Wales, should have so many followers at once, when we consider the field of their labors was the vale of Carleon and its vicinity. Had they, like many of their countrymen, never bowed the knee to the great Baal of Rome, nor any of the horns of the beast in Britain, it is probable that we should not have heard of their names; but as they were great and learned men, belonging to that religion, (or rather irreligion) established by law, and particularly as…
! Davis' Hist. Welsh Bap., p. 15.
…they left that establishment and joined the poor Baptists their names are handed down to posterity, not only by their friends, but also by their foes, because more notice was taken of them than those scattered Baptists in the mountains of the Principality. As this denomination has always' existed in this country from the year 63, and had been so often and severely persecuted, it was by this time an old thing. …The vale of Olchon, also, is situated between mountains almost inaccessible. How many hundred years it had been inhabited by Baptists before William Erbury ever visited this place, we cannot tell. …It is a fact that cannot be controverted that there were Baptists here at the COMMENCEMENT of the Reformation; and no man on earth can tell where the church was formed, and who be fan to baptize in this little Piedmont. Whence came these Baptists? It is universally believed that it is the oldest church, but how old now can tell. We know that at the Reformation …they had a minister named Howell Vaughn, quite a different sort of a Baptist from Erbury, Wroth, Vavasor Powell and others, who were the great reformers, but had not reformed so far as they should have done, in the opinion of the Olchon Baptists. And that was not to be wondered at; for they had dissented from the church of England, and probably brought some of her corruptions with them, but the mountain Baptists were not dissenters from that establishment. We know that the reformers were for mixed communion, but the Olchon Baptists received no such practices. In short, these were plain, strict apostolical Baptists. They would have order and no confusion — the word of God their only rule. The reformers, or reformed Baptists, who had been brought up in the established church, were for laying on of hands on the baptized, but these Baptists whom they found on the mountains of Wales were no advocates of it. …The Olchon Baptists …must have been a separate people, maintaining the order of the New Testament in every generation from the year 63 to the present time.”1 “But a Baptist has not the least trouble about what is called a lineal or apostolical succession. His line of succession is in faithful men, and it is a matter of indifference with them, when or where they lived, by what name they were called, or by whom they were baptized or ordained.”2
1 Davis' Hist. Welsh Bap., pp. 19-20.
2 Idem, p. 171.