THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON OPPONENTS TO BAPTIST
CHURCH PERPETUITY. THE MATERIAL ON WHICH
THE HISTORIAN MUST DEPEND. THE DEGREE OF
1. The burden of proof is on opponents of Baptist Church Perpetuity.
Says Greenleaf, the standard authority on Evidence in all our courts of law: “Presumptions are founded on the experience or permanency, of longer or shorter duration in human affairs. When, therefore, the existence of a person, a personal relation, or a state of things, is once established by proof, the law presumes that the person, relation, or state of things continues to exist as before, until the contrary is shown, or until a different presumption is raised, from the nature of the subject in question. Thus, when the issue is upon the life or death of a person, once shown to have been living, the burden of proof lies upon him who asserts the death.”1
Whatley, an eminent authority on logic, in other words, makes the statement just quoted from Greenleaf: “There is a presumption in favor of every existing institution. No one is called on (though he may find it advisable) to defend an existing institution, till some argument is adduced against it.”2
Applying this law against infidelity, Whatley says: “Christianity exists, and those who deny the divine…
1 Greenleat on Evidence, vol. 1, p. 46, 47.
2 Whatley's Rhetoric, p. 138.
…origin attributed to it, are bound to show some reasons for assigning to it a human origin.”1
With the law, announced by Greenleaf and Whatley, to govern this investigation, those who claim the post-apostolic origin of Baptist churches are bound to show “some reasons for assigning them a human origin.”
Since all modern institutions, whether secular or religious, have a historical and well-known origin, whoever affirms the modern origin of Baptist churches must show where, when and by whom they were originated. Since “the law presumes that the person, relation, or state of things continues to exist as before, until the contrary is shown, or until a different presumption is raised, from the nature of the subject in question,” with a Baptist church existing in the first and the present centuries, in the language of Whatley, “we are not called upon to defend an existing institution” — Baptist churches — “until some argument is adduced against if — against their succession from apostolic churches. Reader and author may, therefore, join J. Wheaton Smith, D. D., of Philadelphia, in saying: “Why, sir, if between us and the apostolic age there yawned a fathomless abyss, into whose silent darkness intervening history had fallen, with a Baptist church on this side, and a New Testament on the other, we should boldly bridge the gulf and look for the record of our birth among the hills of Galileo.”2
This book shoulders the burden of proof because Baptist Church Perpetuity can be sustained without the help of this law of investigation.
2. The material for proving Baptist Church Perpetuity:…
1 Idem, p. 143.
2 Letters to Albert Barnes.
A well known historian says: “But the pagan priests wrought so effectually on the fears of Diocletian, as to obtain from him in 303, an edict to pull down the sanctuaries of Christians and to burn their books and writings.”
Lecky, an infidel historian, says: “No impartial reader can, I think, investigate the innumerable grotesque and. lying legends that were deliberately palmed upon mankind as undoubted facts, during the whole course of the middle ages; or can observe the complete and absolute incapacity the polemical historians of Catholicism so frequently display, of conceiving anything good in their opponents' ranks, and their systematic suppression of whatever can tell against their cause, without acknowledging how serious and inveterate has been the evil. Yet it is, I believe, difficult to exaggerate the extent to which this moral defect exists in most of the ancient and very much of the modern literature of Catholicism.”1
Buckle, another infidel historian, observes of these times: “There was, properly speaking, no history — men not satisfied with the absence of truth supplied its place with falsehood.”2
As an illustration, infidel writers and lecturers quote from an anonymous writing, called “Synodycon,” to prove the silly — unsupported by a shadow of history as well as contradicted by it — falsehood, that the New Testament canon was settled by the Council of Nice, and that, too, by putting all the books for which inspiration was claimed under the communion table, promiscuously, and asking the Lord that the inspired records should get upon the table, while the uninspired should remain beneath; and, that their prayer was thus answered.
1 History European Morals, vol. 2, p. 225.
2 History Civilization, vol. l, p. 222.
A document made probably by some lying monk, no one knows by whom or when. Its internal marks clearly prove that it could not have been written earlier than the latter half of the ninth century.
The False Decretals are another illustration of the unscrupulous forgeries of Roman Catholic writers: “About the middle of the ninth century a collection of canons and decretals appeared in the Frankish Empire, which bore the venerable name of Isidore, and embodied the so-called Isidoriana, but contained besides, also, a large number of spurious decretals. This was composed of the Fifty Canones Apostt., which was followed by fifty-nine forged decretal letters, professedly written by the first thirty popes from Clemens Romanus to Melchiades.”1
These forgeries were laws in the Romish church, not called in question, until the Magdeburg Centuriones exposed them, at the time of the Reformation. Turrianus, a Jesuit, in 1572, entered the list as their defender, only to be routed.
Take the history of the Paulicians, who figure so prominently in the Baptist perpetuity line, as another illustration. Until recent discoveries — and they are very limited — “The only authorities whence we derive any knowledge of their sentiments are. Photius and Peter Siculus, who wrote against them with great bitterness, and on that account cannot be considered as worthy of entire credence. Photius was archbishop of Constantinople, and died A. D. 890, and Peter Siculus, a learned nobleman, died a few years later.”2
Of the Paulicians, Jones, quoting Peter Siculus, says: “To their excellent deeds the divine and orthodox emperors added this virtue, that they ordered the…
1 Kurtz's Church History, vol. 1, p. 340, old edition.
2 Baptist History by Cramp, p. 71-72.
…Montanists and Manichaeans (by which epithets they chose to stigmatize the Paulicians) to be capitally punished; and their books wherever found to be committed to the flames also; that if any person was found to have secreted them he was to be put to death and his goods confiscated.”1
Of another important section of the Baptist perpetuity line says Dr. Armitage: “Early Bohemian books were burnt on suspicion or brand of heresy, and some individuals boasted that they had burnt 60,000 copies of their sacred literature.”*
Of the German Baptists, another important link in the chain, Armitage says: “The Jesuits attempted to blot this book ('Reckoning of Their Faith') out of existence and nearly succeeded. No copy is known to remain of the first edition, and but two of the second, one of which is in the Baptist Seminary at Morgan Park, Illinois.”2 “Their enemies distributed forged articles of faith, called 'Nicholasburg articles.'”2
Of the early records of the Welsh Baptists — they are in the perpetuity line — Davis says: “Many of the Welsh writings, which were far more important than gold, were destroyed about the year 285.”3 “Diocletian's strict orders were to burn up every Christian, every meetinghouse and every scrap of written paper belonging to the Christians, or anything that gave any account of their rise and progress.”4
Modern misrepresentations and slanders of Baptists illustrate the sifting necessary in taking the accounts of ancient Baptists as given by their enemies. Thus, in a letter from Leipsig, Germany, January 4, 1881, Prof. D. …
* History of the Baptists, p. 32.
1 Jones' Church History, p. 244.
2 Idem, p. 384.
3 Davis' History of the Welsh Baptists, p. 18.
4 Idem, p. 9.
…G. Lyon, of Harvard University, wrote: “Closely akin, indeed, another form of persecution, is the social ostracism which Baptists here must endure. They are regarded as the lineal descendants of the Anabaptists of Luther's time, and the word 'Wiedertauser' † is the German synonym for all that is low and evil. Persons who have social standing would lose it by visiting Baptist churches. A lady who attended a Baptist Sunday-school festival in Hanover, two weeks ago, was not willing for her name to be known. She had heard that it was there customary to turn the gas off and indulge in general kissing. In another place a lady whose husband intended visiting a Baptist meeting was fearful lest he should be won to Baptist views. When he persisted she warned him not to drink any of the coffee — which is sometimes served — evidently supposing that the coffee contained some secret winning power.” |
If in scholarly Germany such slanders are now made and credited against the Baptists, what of the ages of darkness preceding!
If the reader asks: “Why the difficulty of tracing a succession of Baptist churches from apostolic time to our own?” in the destruction of records, the forgeries and the slanders of Baptist enemies he has the answer to his question.
3. The degree of proof necessary to historically prove a continuity of Baptist churches from the apostolic age to the present.
Prof. Haeckel, an infidel and an eminent scientist, says: “What do we know of the essential nature of
electricity, or the imponderables generally, whose brief existence is not proved? What of ether, upon which our science of light and optics is founded; and what of the…
† From wieder, meaning again, anew, and tauser, meaning baptizers— Re-baptizers.
…atomic theory on which our chemistry is built? We do not certainly know these things.” Yet what scientific man would question these sciences? Who can prove the present animal and vegetable world, by every link, to have descended from the creation? Who can prove the facts, link by link, in the doctrine of the correlation of forces and the conservation of energy? Who can prove his descent from Adam? More: Who can prove his genealogy ten generations back — even five? Yet who would deny these things until historically proven, year by year? Yet, strange to say, the demand upon Baptists is not simply to show that there were Baptist churches in the first century, and that we have glimpses of them as they occasionally appear in the past centuries, but that unless we can clearly see them in continuous line for the past eighteen centuries, they did not exist unceasingly during that time!
What reasonable man questions the Biblical canon because of the scarcity of the records for its history? Who denies the discovery of America because the time and the name of its discoverer are unsettled?
Greenleaf says: “In all human transactions, the highest degree of assurance to which we can arrive, short of the evidences of our own senses, is that of probability.”1
I, therefore, close this chapter with the remark. Strict conformity to this rule, laid down by Greenleaf, which governs our courts of law, is all that the Christian apologist asks of the infidel and all that this book asks of the opponents of Baptist Church Perpetuity — not whether there is any room for doubting Baptist Church Perpetuity, but whether there is a historical “probability” of its being true.
1 Test. of the Evangelist, p. 45.