CHURCH PERPETUITY A BAPTIST POSITION
1. That Church Perpetuity is a Baptist position is inevitable from it? being a Bible position. (See Chapter 2. of this book.)
2. Notwithstanding that Dr. Armitage has denounced Church Perpetuity, in a letter to the author of this book, dated January 31, 1886, after his “History of the Baptists” was published, he virtually destroys his denunciation when, he says: “For nearly fifty years I have been feeling after that land with perpetual disappointment so far as the trend of ecclesiastical history is concerned. As is natural with every honest Baptist, there is a good instinct in his loving soul which feels after the links of a holy chain, which binds him to the apostolic age. … No person living would be more thankful than myself, if you will show by unquestionable facts that since the Holy Spirit established the church at Jerusalem there never has been a time when the church did not repeat itself in living and organic bodies of Christians.” If Church Perpetuity is “a bulwark of error” and “is the very life of Catholicism,” why did Dr. Armitage so long after proof for it, and why did he say that the belief in it “is natural with every honest Baptist?”
Geo. B. Taylor, D. D., a late writer, says: “Baptist principles and Baptist practices have existed in all ages from the Reformation back to apostolic times.” “I humbly claim that we originated not at the Reformation, nor in the dark ages, nor in any century after the Apostles, but our marching orders are the commission, and that the first Baptist church was the church at Jerusalem.”1
Pengilly: “Our principles are as old as Christianity. We acknowledge no founder but Christ.”2
Dr. Peck: “Baptists in every age from the Apostles remained true to the kingdom which Christ came to establish.”3
Dr. Howell: “I assert that from the days of John the Baptist to the present time the true Baptist church has ever been a missionary body.”4
Mr. Orchard: “I have demonstrated so far as human testimony is allowed to prove any fact that the Baptist church, as the Church of Christ, has existed from the day of Pentecost to this privileged period.”5
John A. Broadus, D.D., LL. D.: “And it would seem to be entirely possible and very probable that the patient research of generations to come may gather material for a much nearer approach to a continuous history of Baptists than is now practicable.”
Many years ago Dr. Benedict, a Baptist historian, wrote: “The more I study the subject the stronger are my convictions that if all the facts in the case could be disclosed a very good Succession could be made out.”6
Dr. Joseph Belcher: “It will be seen that Baptists claim the high antiquity of the Christian church. They can trace a succession of those who believe the same doctrine and administer the same ordinances directly up to the apostolic age.”7
1 The Baptists, pp. 5,8,35- published by the American Baptist Publication Society.
2 Baptist Manual, p. 82.
3 Religious Denom., p. 197.
4 Letters to Watson.
5 Orchards' Baptist History, vol. 2, p. 11.
6 Benedict's Hist. of Baptists, p. 51.
? Religious Denom., p. 53.
The late William Williams, D. D., when Professor of Church History in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, refuting a statement that he taught that Baptists originated with the Reformation, wrote September 5, 1876: “I now hasten to reply that it is not the teaching of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, through its Professor of History, that the origin of Baptists is to be traced to the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century. …The Baptist churches, in my opinion, are of divine origin, and originated in the first century under the preaching and founding of the Apostles of our Lord.”
The lamented Charles H. Spurgeon wrote: “We care very little for the 'historical argument,' but if there be anything in it all, the plea ought not to be filched by the clients of Rome, but should be left to that community which all along has held 'by one Lord, one faith and one baptism.' …It would not be impossible to show that the first Christians who dwelt in the land were of the same faith and order as the church now called Baptist. The time will arrive when history will be rewritten.”
Geo. C. Lorimer, D.D.: “There are reasons for believing that the Baptists are the oldest body of Christians who dissent from the assumption of the Romish church. Historically they are not Protestants, for while they sympathize with the protest offered by the reformers at the Diet of Spire, 1529, in which this now famous name originated, their existence antedates it by many centuries.”
There has probably never been a superior in Baptist history to the late, lamented Dr. Buckland, Professor of Church History in Rochester Theological Seminary. Just before his death he wrote me that he was a strong believer in Baptist Church Perpetuity and that he was, at that time, preparing to prove it from history. In his Madison Avenue lectures Dr. Buckland says: “Have Baptists a history? Prejudice and passion have always answered, no.”1
On the next page he says: “From the time when Christ walked the earth down to the present there has not been a period in which they have not suffered persecution. From the age of John the Baptist to the massacre in Jamaica, bigoted religionists have not ceased first to slaughter and then to slander them.” On page 314 he says: “We cannot accept a place in the catalogue of sects or broken schismatical fragments of God's church.”
To this could be added like statements from Drs. A. C. Dayton, T. T. Eaton, J. M. Cramp, J. Newton Brown, J. Wheaton Smith, J. R. Graves, D. B. Ray, William R. Williams, T. J. Morgan, S. H. Ford, both W. W. Everts, William Cathcart, T. G. Jones, D. D. Swindall, etc., etc., etc. Indeed, Armitage, indirectly conceded his position not in harmony with Baptists, when he says, at the conclusion of an assault on Church Perpetuity: “The principles above set forth are not generally adopted in Baptist history.”2
1 Madison Ave. Lect., p. 311.
2 Armitage's Bap. Hist., p. 8.