In historic times Phrygia comprised the greater part of Asia Minor. “Montanism” appeared there about the middle of the second century.
Montanism enrolled its hosts and was one of the greatest Christian influences throughout .the early Christian centuries. As there was at the time, when Montanism arose, no essential departure from the faith in the action, the subjects of Baptism, church government or doctrine, the Montanists, on these points, were Baptists.
Of the Montanists, Armitage says: “Tertullian and the Montanists denied that baptism was the channel of grace.”1
Kurtz says: “Its leading characteristics were a new order of ecstatic prophets, with somnambulistic visions and new relations; a grossly literal interpretation of scriptural predictions; a fanatical millenarianism; a self-confident asceticism; an excessive rigor in ecclesiastical discipline. Thus, without dissenting from the doctrinal statements of the church, Montanism sought to reform its practice. In opposition to the false universalism of the Gnostics, the Montanists insisted that Christianity alone, and not heathenism, contained the truth.”2
Schaff says: “ Montanism was not originally a departure from the faith, but a morbid overestimating of the practical morality of the early church.”3
1 Armltage's Hist. of the Bap., p. 177.
2 Kurtz's Ch. Hist. vol. 1, p. 131.
3 Schaff's Hist. Chr. Ch.vol. 1, p. 302.
Kurtz further says: “Still their moral earnestness and zeal against worldliness and hierarchism and false spiritualism rendered important service to the church, both in the way of admonition and warning.”1
Wadington concedes: “Another cause of the temporary fame of the Montanists was the severity of the morality inculcated by them.”2
Dorner says of the Montanists: “This is a form of vigor and widely influential significance. In it the original Christian feeling, the Christian people, the democratic basis of the church predominated against the Gnostic and against the hierarchal element.” Against “Gnostocism, Montanism was the shyest and most self-sufficient.”3 Gnostocism was, at that time, the great and dangerous enemy of true Christianity.
Another well-known historian says: “Among those hostile to the Alexandrian school, is to be numbered Montanus. His aim evidently was to maintain or to restore the scriptural simplicity, nature and character of the religion of the New Testament with a constant reliance on the promise of the Holy Spirit.” Guericke's crediting the statement, that the Montanists did not believe in any visible church, is refuted by Tertullian's statements on baptism and by their well known character. It is discredited by Schaff and other historians.4 Thus Schaff says of the Montanists: “Infant baptism only it seems to have rejected.”†
† Let this refute the statement of Augustine and Palagius, so often quoted, that infant baptism was universal in the early churches.
l Idem, p. 131.
2 Wadington's Ch. Hist., p. 78.
3 Dorner's Person of Christ, vol. l, p. 256.
4 See Schaff's Hist. Chr. Ch. vol. l, pp. 364, 365; Armiltage's Bap. Hist. p.176.
Guericke concedes that “they received the general truths of Christianity, as understood by the universal church.”1
Admit that the Montanists did have women teachers among them, and that some of them practiced trine immersion, since the position of women in the New Testament Church is a disputed point, and since both it and trine immersion are only an irregularity, neither of which is as bad as open communion, feet washing and non-cooperation in missions, they cannot invalidate those churches as New Testament churches. [Here read in Chapter IV of this book.] Their millenarian views, while they may have been extravagant, could but class them with the church of Thessalonica.2
Schaff charges the Montanists with believing in the celibacy of the clergy. But he admits they had no law or rule that forbade the marriage of ministers; and then concedes there are two sides to even the charge of discouraging their marriage. The explanation probably is: as owing to the persecutions of the Christians, Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, rather favored celibacy as a temporary thing, so did the Montanists as to their ministers.
The charge of believing in the continuance of inspiration, of ecstacies, inward experiences and that their leader claimed to be the Holy Spirit, are much what Campbellites charge against the Baptists of our age.
Mosheim took up these charges and credited Montanus, their great leader, with calling himself the Comforter. But his translator, in a foot note, corrects him and says: “Those are undoubtedly mistaken who have asserted that Montanus gave himself out that he was…
1 Guericke's Ch Hist., vol. 1, pp. 191-93.
2 See 2 Thess. 2:2, 3.
…the Holy Ghost.”1 Hase says of Tertullian, one of the great Montanist leaders: “He placed a high estimate upon that consciousness of God, which he contended might be found in the depths of every soul, but he was fond of contrasting with proud irony the foolishness of the gospel with the wordly wisdom of his contemporaries, and the incredibility of the divine miracles with ordinary understanding of the world. His writings are partly controversial…and partly devotional. They are, however, so written that the devotional element constantly appears in the former, and the polemic in the latter, in behalf of strict morality and discipline.”2 Hase says of Tertullian's writings: “The Montanistic spirit is perceptible in them all, but in the earliest of them it holds up the simple, noble nature of Christian morality in opposition merely to an effeminate form of civilization, gradually it proceeds to severer demands, and shows an increasing consciousness of its pneumatic nature in opposition to those who were merely physical Christians; and, finally it was especially hostile to the Romish Church, in proportion as the latter ceased to favor Montanism. For it was not so much Tertullian as the Roman bishop who changed his views with reference to that system… Tertullian, to whom the Paraclete was rather a restorer of apostolic order than an innovator, and religious ecstasy was rather a theory than a principle, became so prominent that he was looked upon as the model for Latin theology. This theology was rather disinclined to philosophical theories respecting divine things; it spoke of Athens and the Academy as irreconcilable with Jerusalem and the church and turned its…
1 McLean's Note, p. 188, vol. l, of Mosheim's Ch. Hist.
2 Hase's Hist. Chr. Ch., p. 88.
…whole attention to questions respecting the condition of the church, and things essential to salvation.”1
Of Tertullian, Moller says: “To him the very substance of the church was the Holy Spirit and by no means the Episcopacy whose right to wield the power of the keys he rejected.”2 Thus, in Church Government they were Baptists. In the following, we have this yet more explained: Says Neander: “Montanism set up a church of the Spirit, consisting of spirateles homines in opposition to the prevailing outward view of that institution. Tertullian says: ‘The church, in the proper and prominent and sense, is the Holy Spirit in which the Three are One, — and next, the whole community of those who are agreed in this faith (that God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are One,) is called after its founder and consecrator, (the Holy Spirit,) the church. † The Catholic point of view, expresses itself in this — viz., that the idea of the church is put first, and by this very position of it, made outward; next, the agency of the Holy Spirit is represented as conditioned by it, and hence derived through this mediation. Montanism, on the other hand, like Protestantism, places the Holy Spirit first, and considers the Holy Spirit first, and considers the church as that which is only derived*… The gifts of the Spirit were to be dispensed to Christians of every condition and sex, without distinction… They were thus led to give prominence once more to the idea of the dignity of the universal Christian calling, of the priestly…
* Christian reader; decide which of these. In the light of the Bible, Is the
t Nam et ecclesia proprie et principaliter ipse est Spiritis, in quo est trinitas unius divinitatis. Illam ecclesiam congregat, quam Dominus in tribus posuit, (where two or three are gathered together in his name) atque ita exiude etiam numerus, qui in hanc fidem conspiraverint ecclisae ab auctore et conscratore consetur. L. C.
2 Schaff-Herzog Ency., vol. 2, p. 1562.
…dignity of all Christians, which had been in a measure suppressed.”1
Tertullian defines the ecstatic condition thus: “In spiritu homo constitutus, praesertim cum gloriam Dei conspicit, vel cum per ipsum Deus loquitor, necesse est excidat sensu, obumbratus scilicit virtute divina” — probably meaning only what David meant, when he said: “my cup runneth over;” or, as the poet, in describing the ecstasy of the young convert — “on the wings of a dove I was carried above.”
Admitting the Montanists did run to the extreme as to visions and prophecies does not affect the validity of their churches, for Neander, describing the visions of one of their prophets, says: “The matter of her visions corresponded to what she had just heard read out of the Holy Scriptures, what was said in the Psalms that had been sung, the prayers that had been offered;” there are things, in our best churches, more harmful than that extreme. ††
Gieseler admits that “the Montanists had not an uninterrupted series of prophets.”2 Thus, whatever was this extreme, it was not permanent or continuous.
Armitage: “The one prime idea held by the Montanists in common with Baptists, and in distinction to the churches of the third century was, that the membership of the churches should be confined to purely regenerate persons; and that a spiritual life and discipline should be maintained without any affiliation with the authority of the State. Exterior church organization and the efficacy…
†† Tertulllan thus narrates this: “Jam vero prouet scrlpturae leguntur, aut Psalmi canuntur, aut allocutiones proferuntur, aut petitiones delegantur, ita inde materiae visionibus subministrantur.” Translated; But truly according as the Scriptures are read, or Psalms are sung, or addresses are delivered, or prayers are offered, thence, from that medium are materials by which we are assisted by visions.
1 Neander's Hist. Chr. Ch., vol. 1, pp. 518.61B.
2 Gleseler's Bed. Hist., vol. 1, p. 141.
…of the ordinances did not meet their idea of Gospel church existence without the indwelling Spirit of Christ, not in the bishops alone, but in all Christians. For this reason Montanus was charged with assuming to be the Holy Spirit, which was simply a slander.” Yet, from superficial examination, Armitage gives too much importance to the charge of “visions” and “revelations” against them.
The sum of these answers I give in the words of one of the highest authorities in church history:
Says Wm. E. Williams, D. D.: “The Comte de Champagny, who has written, though an ultramontane Catholic, so eloquently and eruditely on the early history of Christianity and the collision of it with Judaism on the one side and Paganism on the other side, has said of the Montanists, that it was hard to find any doctrinal errors in their views; that they were rather like Jansenists or Methodists in their high views of religious emotion, and experience. They were accused of claiming inspiration, when they intended, probably only, like the early followers of Cameron among the Covenanters, or Wesley among the English Methodists, the true experience of God’s work in the individual soul.”2
Again, says Dr. Williams, of the Montanists: “They insisted much upon the power of the Spirit, as the great conservator and guardian of the life of the Christian church. Now, as far back as the days of Montanism, this was offensive to Christian churches, which became, under the power of wealth and fashion, secularized and corrupted.”3
1 Hist. Bap., p. 175.
2 Williams' Lect. Bap. Hist., p. 129.
3 Idem, pp. 118,129.
Says Dr. Dorner: “Montanism may be styled a democratic reaction on the part of the members of the church, asserting their universal prophetic and priestly rank against the concentration of ecclesiastical dignities and rights in the episcopate.” “In this aspect, Montanism was a reaction of the substantial, real principle against the formal unity of the episcopate, which entrusted to the unworthy, and those who were destitute of the Spirit, power over those who were filled with the Spirit.”1
Again, says Dorner: “If now Montanism implicitly reproached the church with hitherto possessing too little of the Holy Ghost, it is evident that, dogmatically viewed, the charge implies, that however much the church might have spoken concerning the Son, or the Logos, and the Father, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit had been hitherto kept in the background.''2
The central power of Montanism was — I am word and spirit and power, which it represented as its conception of the Holy Spirit in His relation to the church. The character of the Montanists and their being the original church is thus clear.
Moller says: “But Montanism was, nevertheless, not a new form of Christianity; nor were the Montanists a new sect. On the contrary, Montanism was simply a reaction of the old, the primitive church, against the obvious tendency of the day, to strike a bargain with the world and arrange herself comfortably in it.”3
That the Montanist churches were Baptist churches is the only legitimate conclusion from their comparison with the facts in this chapter.
1 Dorner's Per. of Christ, vol. 1, p. 363.
2 Idem, p. 398.
3 Scbaff Herzog Ency., vol. 2, p. 1562.