THE NEGATIVE PROOF. BAPTIST CHURCH PERPETUITY, FROM THE APOSTOLIC AGE TO THE PRESENT, EVIDENT FROM BAPTIST OPPONENTS BEING UNABLE TO ASSIGN AND AGREE ON ANY HUMAN FOUNDER AND POST-APOSTOLIC ORIGIN FOR BAPTIST CHURCHES.
Answering my questions: When, where and by whom was the first Baptist church originated? I have
the following from Roman Catholic bishops, priests and Protestant scholars, given me A. D. 1893:
The priest of Shreveport got out of the difficulty by writing: “You have in Dallas two or three priests with valuable libraries. Interview them.” — J. Gentille, Shreveport, La. The Archbishop of Cincinnati wrote me: “I cannot get time to answer all my letters. These questions cannot be answered without explanations, which I have not time to make. And there is no reason why you come to me for them. You have men near you — priests and others — Who can do it better than I. — G. H. Elder.”
With more judgment, many other Romanists dropped my letters aside without so much as acknowledging their being received. With less judgment than any of the others, the following Romanists attempted to answer:
The bishop of New Orleans, answered: “In Germany, called Anabaptists, by Nich. Stork, 1522.”
Priest Jno. S. Murphy, of St. Patrick's Church, Houston, Texas, answered: “Stork, a short time after Luther proclaimed his heresies.”
It seems that the bishop of New Orleans, the Houston priest, and one or two Protestant writers, when they answered, must have had the same Romish, slanderous authority before them. But the Cincinnati archbishop, the Shreveport priest, and other scholars, either knew nothing of that authority, did not remember it, or did not think it reliable. Here comes the spokesman for Cardinal Gibbons, who contradicts the New Orleans bishop and the Houston priest, and, by his attempt to answer, without intending to do so, concedes the impossibility of assigning the origin of Baptist churches to any man or age since the first century. He writes: “Cardinal's residence, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 4, 1893. Your questions are not possibly capable of exact and very positive answers. The Baptist church of the present time seems to be the lineal descendant of the old Anabaptists of Reformation times. They have their most probable origin in the Mennonites or Dutch Baptists. These arose, as you know, after Martin Luther. The forefathers emigrated into England in the time of Henry the VIII, and of Queen Elizabeth. However, the first church known as the Baptist church seems to have been built in London in 1606. The year 1547 is about the earliest date set by reliable historians for the existence of a Baptist denomination. As a sect they can not go back to a more remote date than that. It is not sound history or good reasoning to try to connect them with an earlier sect or heresy; though you may find some similarity between their teachings and the teachings of the ancient Waldenses, or sects and controversies even earlier.” — C. F. Thomas, Chancellor. The reader will notice how Cardinal Gibbons, by using the word “seems” and such phrases as “not possibly capable of an exact and very positive answer,” concedes that no man can confidently fix a modern origin and on a modern originator for the Baptist church.
Turning to Protestant scholars, we find the same hesitancy and confusion. Prof. H. C. Sheldon, Methodist, Professor of History in Boston University, evasively wrote me: “A portion of the so-called Anabaptists who appeared in Germany in the third and the following decades of the sixteenth century, might be called Baptists.”
The Professor of Church History in the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, wrote me: The “Baptists were originated by 'some Swiss, about 1523.'“
H. M. Scott, Professor of Church History in the Congregational Theological Seminary, in Chicago, wrote: “It arose in Zwickau, Saxony, A. D. 1520, under the Zwickau prophets, Storch and others.”
A. C. Lewis, Professor of Church History in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Chicago, wrote me: “I regret not being able to give you the categorical answers you seem to anticipate…The questions as put do not admit of short and categorical answers…The first Baptist church was not formed or organized, but evolved out of Ana-Baptist antecedents.''
Professor L. L. Paine, of the Congregational Theological Seminary, of Bangor, Maine, wrote me: “When Luther begun his reformation 'there were so-called Ana-Baptists. But the Baptist denomination is later. The origin of the English Baptists is very obscure. They appear in the reign of Elizabeth, persecuted.'“
Professor John Clarke Ridpath, Methodist, of Du Paw University, evasively answered: “The answers of your questions turns upon the definition of the word Baptist…There is, therefore, a sense in which we should say that there was a Baptist church in the age of Luther. There is another sense in which we should have to deny the proposition... I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A. D. 100, though without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists.”
The President of the Campbellite College, at Bethany, wrote me: “The Baptists appeared first in Switzerland” Who founded the first Baptist church that ever existed, “cannot be determined. There were no Baptist churches before the beginning of the sixteenth century though immersion was practiced from the beginning.”
A. P. Cobb, Pastor of the First Campbellite Church, in Springfield, Ill., wrote me: “Was there a Baptist Church when Luther began his Reformation? Yes. In Switzerland, 1523. Large churches fully organized in 1525-30 in South Germany. Who originated the first Baptist church? I cannot tell.”
The Pastor of the First Campbellite Church, Ann Arbor, Mich., wrote me: “Was there a Baptist Church when Luther began his Reformation? The Baptists had large churches fully organized between 1520-30 in Switzerland. They were persecuted by both Zwingli and the Romanists. Who originated the first Baptist Church that ever existed? I do not know.”
The Professor of Church History in the Campbellite College, at Irvington, Ind., indorsed the following quotation — which he enclosed with his letter — from the Journal and Messenger, of Cincinnati: “Baptists believe that the churches founded by the Apostles were essentially Baptist. That they believed and practiced what Baptist churches believe and practice today. They also believe that persons holding these essential doctrines were found all along down through the centuries, from the days of the apostles until now. But they do not fix upon any particular time when the first Baptist church of modern times came into existence. They find that such churches existed in Switzerland in the early part of the sixteenth century — the days of Zwingli and Luther. They find that about the same time such churches were to be found in Holland and the Low Countries; and that soon after they were to be found in England. They find that as early as 1640-44 they were existing in various parts of our own country, and that their founders for the most part came from England or Wales. Not to speak of Roger Williams, it is found that Hanserd Knollys founded a little Baptist church in New Hampshire; that a similar church was founded in New Jersey, another in Pennsylvania and others in the Southern States, in the seventeenth century. No one church in this country can be called the mother church of Baptists.”
His words are: “As it did not seem possible to answer in the brief space of your card, the reply has been delayed. In the meanwhile the enclosed extract from the Journal and Messenger… sets forth all the facts in the case, as given in church history.”
B. D. Dean, Professor of Church History in Hiram College, wrote me: “Was there a Baptist church when Luther began his Reformation? No, not under that name. Baptist churches sprang up simultaneously in different countries as the result of the Reformation. I know of no Baptist churches calling themselves Baptist churches prior to 1600.” Professor Dean, in his letter, indorses the following statement: “In Switzerland, in Germany, in Holland, it has been found impossible to decide when Baptists first appeared, or which were the first churches of Baptists in those lands…and it is quite as difficult to decide the question about Baptists in England.”
Had I asked any of the foregoing scholars: Who was the first President of the United States? When and by whom was the Methodist Church originated? The Presbyterian? The Lutheran? The Campbellite? The Episcopal? In a half dozen words they could have answered. Yet, in answer to when and by whom Baptist churches originated, we see they spend more time refusing to attempt an answer, than would be necessary to tell the name and the date of the origin of Baptist churches if they were of modern and of human origin; or, they evade the question; or, they annihilate each other's answers by their contradictions of each other; or, they admit the impossibility of answering my questions; or, they indirectly, without intending it, concede Baptist churches are neither of human nor of modern origin.
Closing these answers is the following, which I received when I received the others just quoted, from Prof. Walker, Professor of Church History in Harvard University: “As you are probably aware, your questions relate to one of the most disputed points in church history. Whether the Baptist movement can be traced back of the Lutheran Reformation or not, is a question which has been much debated of late…Some men of weight in church history, and notably the German scholar, Ludwig Keller, of Munster, would find a continuous relation between the Anabaptists of the Reformation period and individual sects like the Waldenses, and through them a line of free and possibly evangelical churches, back to the early days of the church.”
In view of these statements of representative scholars — to which an almost unlimited number can be added — that HISTORY DOES NOT ASSIGN TO BAPTIST CHURCHES A HUMAN FOUNDER AND A POST-APOSTOLIC DATE OF ORIGIN IS SETTLED BEYOND DOUBT.
Turning to other denominations, we see there was nothing with the distinctive marks of the Romish church until many centuries after the first. The blasphemous title of “Universal Bishop” was conferred on Boniface the III, A. D. 606. This was the origin of the Pope and of the Romish church — originated by the Emperor Phocas. In A. D. 756 the Pope became temporal sovereign.1
See Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. 2, p. 1651-1675, for a most scholarly and conclusive demonstration of the post-apostolic origin of Popery; and with it, vol. 1, p. 209, demonstrating the non-apostolic origin of the hierarchy. †
By consulting Bergier's Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 488; Dollinger's First Age of the Church, pp. 318, 319; Darra's History of the Christian Church, p. 350; Alzog's Universal History, p. 105, it will be seen that Baptists are Scriptural as to baptism while Romanism is an apostasy. Thus, Darra concedes that in the first age of the church, “baptism was conferred by immersion.” Dollinger concedes: “Like that of St. John, by immersion…
† That there was no hierarchy, of any kind, in the apostolic churches, the reader may see by consulting Doddridge, Bloomfield, McKnight, the Bible Commentary, Olshausen, Barnes on 1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Cor. 2:6; or Jacobson on Acts 20:17, 18; Tit. 1:5; or Meyer Baumgarten, Olshausen, Doddridge, Hackett on Acts6:2-5, or Schaff- Herzog Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 294; Coleman's Apostolic and Primitive Church, Davidson's Ecclesiastical Polity, p. 157; Kurtz's Church History, vol. 1, p. 67; Mosheim's, vol. 1, chap, 2, sec. 8; Schaff’s, vol. 1, p. 134; Wadington's, p. 41; Neander's Plant., tr. p. 149; Fisher's, p. 37; Smith's Bible Dictionary, vol. 1, p. 310; Conybeare's and Howson's Life and Epistles or Paul, vol. l, p. 465; Kitto's Cyclopedia, article Bishop; Ulman's Reformers before the Reformation, vol. 1, p. 124; Thayer's N. T. Lex., p. 536. Nothing is more certain from exegesis, lexicography and history than that the apostolic church was, in its government, Baptist.
l Dowling's History of Humanism, p. 55.
…of the whole person, which is the only meaning of the New Testament word. A mere pouring or sprinkling was not thought of. St. Paul made this immersion a symbol of burial with Christ, and the emerging a sign of resurrection with Him to a new life.”
Dollinger further concedes: “There is no proof or hint in the New Testament that the Apostles baptized infants or ordered them to be baptized. When the baptism of households is spoken of it is left doubtful whether they contained children and whether, if so, they were baptized.”1
The same thing is true of transubstantiation, confession to priests, of giving only the bread to the laity, of purgatory, of penance, of image worship, of burning candles before the altar, of every distinctive feature of the Romish church. Thus, nothing is more certain than that, instead of the Romish church having the Christian Succession, it has the succession of being spewed out of Christ's mouth.2 But Dr. Duncan says: “That when Gesenius, the great German Hebraist and Biblical critic, first learned what Baptist churches were, he exclaimed: 'How exactly like the primitive churches.'“3
The Lutheran church was originated by Martin Luther, A. D. 1525, in Germany.
The Episcopal, from a Romish church, became the “Episcopal church,” A. D. 1534, by Henry the VIII forcing the Romish clergy to proclaim him the “supreme head of the Church of England.”
The Presbyterian church was founded especially by Zwingli and John Calvin, A. D. 1516-1530, in Switzerland.
1 First Age of the Church, pp. 318,319. These are Romish historians.
2 Rev. 3:15-18.
3 Hist. Bap., p. 71.
The Methodist church was originated by John Wesley, A. D. 1729, in England.
The Campbellite church was brought into complete existence by Alexander Campbell, A. D. 1829, in the United States of America.
These are but illustrations of the recent and human origin of all non-Catholic churches, except the Baptist.
Except the Episcopal — and that, we have just seen, has not so much as a shadow of claim to be in the Apostolic Church Perpetuity line — only the Baptist church even pretends to be as old as Christianity. We have just demonstrated that history points to no human or post-apostolic date of origin for Baptist churches.
In a case a millionaire dies and leaves his estate to a man whom the will mentions as John Wilson, and, as having been born A.D. 1849, and there are, and have been, but four of that name in all the world, three of whom were born after 1849, that only the one born at that date can receive the estate is beyond question. As history agrees that all churches, excepting the Baptist, came into existence after the apostolic church was founded; and, as the apostolic church, by its very purpose of organization, mission and direct promise of the Scriptures, is assured of preservation until the second coming of Christ, that the Baptist is the only one that has the Church Perpetuity is certainly true.