THE comparatively little interest taken by the world, and even by professed Christians, in Church History, is truly astonishing. In how small a proportion of the, not to say libraries, but houses of such can a book, purporting to be a Church History, be found! And in what profound ignorance of the history of Christianity is the world to-day! That non-professing men should take so little interest in Church History is indeed strange, that Christians should be indifferent to it is unaccountably so. An ancient historian justly remarks:
"Nothing can be more becoming a Christian than a general knowledge of Church History. It is a shame, that most of those who profess Christianity should be acquainted not only with the History of their own country, but even with that of the remotest nations, which only serves to satisfy their curiosity; and should at the same time know nothing of Church History, whence they may draw such light as may be conducive to their salvation. What advantage may not be reaped from it? It teaches us religion, it shows us what we are to believe and practice, what errors are to be rejected, what things we are to imitate; it furnishes us with abundance of examples of heroic virtue, and instructs in duty. It is a great abuse that the study of it is so much neglected. Men are very careful to instruct their children in profane history, which very often only serves to spoil their minds and corrupt their manners, and they leave them altogether ignorant of the history of Jesus Christ and his Church. Worldly people read the ancient and modem histories of nations and countries, without casting their eyes upon the Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, and those historians who have writ what have happened concerning religion."*
Excepting the study of the Bible, the life and teaching of Christ, the teachings and Acts of his Apostles, what study can or should be more delightful or more intensely interesting to the Christian than the study of the history of the churches which succeeded those planted in the days of the Apostles, and…
* Du Pin, vol. pp. 238-9.
…which have existed, preserving a pure faith and a pure practice through centuries of the fiercest persecutions and martyrdoms, unto this time? Are not Christians concerned to know whether that prophecy, concerning the Kingdom of Christ, spoken by Daniel 2:44, has thus far been fulfilled? If we understand the prophet he foretells the setting-up of a kingdom in the days of the kings of the fourth universal Empire the Roman—which was never to be broken in pieces—utterly disorganized—or given to another people, but to stand forever and ultimately fill the whole earth. Was there a kingdom set up in the days of the Caesars by the God of Heaven? Has that kingdom, or organizations in all respects similar to it, existed from the days of Christ until now? And has it been composed of the same class and character of people during all subsequent ages until this time?
Ought not Christians to interest themselves to learn the fulfillment of those promises of Christ himself concerning his Church and people? "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it," "lo, I am with you alway even unto the end." These promises certainly secure the integrity and perpetuity of churches of Christ in and through all subsequent ages, even unto the end of this dispensation. Says Dr. S. Miller, "This promise seems to secure to his people that there shall be, in all ages, in the worst of times, a substantially pure Church; that is, there shall always be a body of people more or less numerous, who shall hold just the doctrines and order of Christ's house, in some good degree, in conformity with the model of the primitive Church. Accordingly, it is not difficult to show that, ever since the rise of the 'Man of Sin' there has been a succession of those whom the Scriptures style 'Witnesses for God’-‘Witnesses for the truth,' who have kept alive 'the faith once declared to the Saints,' and have in some good degree of faithfulness, maintained the ordinance and discipline which the inspired apostles, in the Master's name committed to the keeping of the Church."*
The Christian who reads and so understands this promise, must feel a painful solicitude touching the history of his brethren—that company of faithful and true witnesses who have preceded him—and especially knowing as he does, that the powers of darkness and the gates of hell have ceased not in their attempts to prevail against them; that Apostate Rome, for nearly 1260 years, has employed armies and crusades, inquisitions and tortures, prisons, famine and the stake, to break in pieces this…
* Recommendatory Letter to Dr. Baird, p. 1.
…kingdom, and utterly exterminate these witness throughout the world:-to consummate that work which Pagan Rome attempted ages before him. Will not the Christian ask, who have been these suffering witnesses during the past eighteen centuries? In what lands of earth have they been fed for these twelve hundred and sixty prophetic days,—and by what countries has the bride or Christ been "nourished from the face of the serpent—in the mountains and caves, and forests of what wilderness," has she been securely hid by the Saviour from their hand?
Will not the Christian desire to know the gracious manner in which the Saviour has thus far fulfilled his promise to his followers in the fearful ages of persecutions past? Will not the questions rise within him, "How grievous were the trials, how merciless the persecutions, how intense the sufferings, how many and great the sacrifices which those who have kept the testimony of Jesus, have been called upon to undergo, since the days of the last Apostles,—and what have been the faith id patience of the Saints during them all?"
And having ascertained the sources from whence the history of such a people can be gathered, will he not be moved, owing to the present distracted state of Christendom and the conflicting claims of modern sects, to belong to the family of Christian churches, to inquire with great carefulness, "what were the peculiar doctrines which in every age distinguished this unbroken body of witnesses,—under what form of Church government did they exist, how did they observe the ordinances God's house,—did they admit of human traditions,—did they recognize human legislation in the churches,—and in what light did they regard, and with what measure of charity treat lose persons and powers that opposed them with human and worldly organizations, into which they sought to coerce men? The right answers to these inquiries would at once determine which one, of all the different opposing denominations in this our day, can claim kindredship with those two witnesses, and are therefore the legitimate and only surviving heirs to the promises of the "Lord Messiah," to his Church. Are not these en questions of paramount concern to all denominations—since, if not from the New Testament, certainly, from the history of these, the form, subjects, ordinances and doctrines of the true Churches of Christ can be learned?
If the solutions of the above questions could be ascertained from the pages of Church history—and they undoubtedly can from one faithfully written—would they not immensely strengthen the faith of the Christian? Would they not tend to add immeasurably to their boldness "and the faithfulness of their testimony for Christ, to their zeal and sacrificing in the kingdom and patience of the Saints? Would not the unshrinking faith, the heroic virtue, and patient sufferings of his brethren, the martyrs, through such ages of inconceivable afflictions and wrongs, loudly reprove his own sinful luck-warmness, repinings and murmurings, when called upon to "endure but a little hardness as a good soldier of Christ?" When he has learned by the light of God's Word and the History of his people, that he is indeed a member of the same household, resting upon the same immutable rock upon which apostles and martyrs, so securely based, were grounded through ages of such fearful whirlwinds of Pagan enmity and Papal wrath, will he not feel indeed a thousand fold more confidence in the immutability of his foundation, and more confidently challenge the malice of devils, and the "gates of hell" to "shake his sure repose?" And will he not, from the mouths and lives of those whom Christ himself pronounces "faithful and true witnesses," learn how to testify against all informal and corrupt churches" in this our day—against human traditions, and mutilated and profaned church ordinances, and those who impiously presume to enact laws in place of Christ, and to change the order of his Church?
The study of the history and lives and testimony of those preceding us, who have been accounted "faithful and true," is certainly praiseworthy and of great advantage. Did not Paul recount the faith, and sufferings, and patience of the holy men and prophets who had lived before his day to animate the zeal of his brethren? Did he not intimate that they were, through their whole Christian race, being inspected by that "so great a cloud of witnesses" who, from their blissful seats, were gazing intently down upon them, and ready to receive the victors with triumphant shouts and acclaims of joy? Surely with advantage may we then study the history of the holy men and martyrs through whom the church of Christ, and its doctrines and ordinances, have been transmitted to us in their primitive integrity and purity; and with profit may contemplate their lives and their sufferings, their patience in trials and their triumphs in death—all having been made more than conquerors through him who was with them to the last.
Their history introduces us to the countries—not that they inhabited, not in which were their homes, but in which they were pilgrims and strangers, as it were—in which were their refuges and hiding places from the face of their pursuers. Who can imagine the feelings of the Christian traveler visiting those Alpine vallies in which the witnesses of Jesus were hid and nourished in those fearful times, descrying here and there the foundations upon which, traditions tell him, once stood their houses of worship, and from which they were driven by their enemies—and then gazing upward to the "munitions of rocks," the cloud-capped citadels of the everlasting hills to which they fled for refuge, as into the very bosom of their God! Or wandering through those mountains and deep forests, he enters, perhaps, the very caverns in which they hid, and which they made to echo—not with murmurs and complainings, but with the voice of worship, songs of praise, and "their hymns of lofty cheer." Cold and insensible must be that heart whose piety would not be rebuked, and whose zeal would not be energized by the contemplation of scenes hallowed by such memories! If a visit to the homes of the ancient patriots and philosophers of Athens, the rostrums from which they spoke, the groves in which they taught, and the tombs in which they slept, could so inflame the ardor of Cicero in the imitation of their virtues,* how must a visit to the vales of Piedmont, and the mountains of Wales affect the heart and influence the life of a Christian! And yet in all the pilgrimages of modern times, to scenes of sacred history, never do we hear of one to the valleys of Pragela, or St. Martins, of Perouse, Angrogne, or Luserne.
The little interest felt in, and the almost universal ignorance of Church history, are attributable to the unfaithfulness of those who have professed to write it. There ever has been more or less anxiety on the part of Christians to inquire into the history of the churches that have preceded them, but while they have asked for bread, they have received a stone, and a scorpion for an egg.
Seventeen centuries of the Christian era have passed, and the history of the Christian church is still unwritten; while a thousand works have been palmed upon the world for Church Histories. The only true history of Christian churches that has been extant during these centuries, are the Acts of the Apostles by Luke, and the prophetic history of the Church by John, the beloved disciple, and was this last but thoroughly understood, no other history would be necessary; unless to…
* "Movemur nescio quo pacto, locis ipsis, in quibus eorum quos diligimus, aut admiramur, adsunt vestigia. Me quidem apsae illae nostrae Athenae non tam operibus magnificis, exquisitisque antiquorum artibus delectas, quam recordatione summorum viorum, ubi quisque habitare, ubi sedare, ubi disputare solitus sit; studiosque eorum etiam sepulchra contemplor, &c. Cic. de Legibus.
…show the world with what particularity and faithfulness Christ has fulfilled its predictions. As we have said, tomes and epitomes of books, purporting to be Church Histories, have been written, and each year adds to their number, but still, not until within a few years past has a solitary effort been made upon the proper basis, or in the right direction. The Church Histories with which our book stores are crowded, were written by Paedobaptists, and they wear a falsehood upon their very title pages, as samples of their contents.
Do Paedobaptists regard the Romish Church as the Church of Christ, or the trunk or even branch of the true church? They certainly do not, if their standards are the exponents of their views.
Since this has lately become a question of vital importance with all Paedobaptist sects, we quote the language of Dr. Beman, in the Genl. Assembly of the N. S. Pres., Church, 1854, to establish our position.
"Our standards declare the Pope to be Anti-Christ, and that his ministers must be excluded from the Christian ministry. Let us not shrink from the conclusion which flows from this principle; the Scriptures have declared this thing: Rome is the scarlet harlot, riding on the beast with seven heads and ten horns. This Church is drunk with the blood of saints." This is most unquestionably so; all Protestant sects so affirm. Now, if that Church has been manifestly Anti-Christ, since it has been under the jurisdiction of the Pope, then has it been Anti-Christ since the year 606, when the first bishop of Rome assumed the name of universal bishop, and for the first time begirt himself with both swords. But for full three hundred years before 606—from the time of the Pure Secession—this Church was a corrupt secularized hierarchy, without the least claims to be considered a Church of Christ. How then do these facts bear upon the subject before us? Evidently the history of this "Man of Sin"—this "Son of Perdition"—"THIS ANTI-CHRIST"—has been written and palmed off upon the world for the History of the Churches of Christ! Was ever any thing one-half so preposterous?
Historians acknowledge the New Testament to be an authentic history of the Church until its Canon closes, A.D. 100. Commencing with this date, they trace its history down for two centuries, when the first secession took place, when the Puritans—who maintained the primitive simplicity and integrity of church government and of the ordinances—repudiated the claims of the corrupt party to be considered a church, although assuming to be, par excellence, the Church Catholic.
This corrupt party, which called itself, so early as the fourth century, the Catholic Church, in 606 became the Roman Catholic Church, anathematizing all who dissented from it as heretics, and consigning them to destruction. All Pedobaptist historians have recognized the impious claims of the Catholics to be the Church, and have written their history for the history of the Church of Christ, down to the sixteenth century, and then reformed the churches of Christ out of the bosom of the Mother of Harlots! Examine the standard Church histories of our day, and mark, they all include the history of sixteen centuries; thirteen of which belong to the Catholic and Romish Church, and only two of the sixteen to the Church of Christ. It is no longer strange that the world is so profoundly ignorant of Church History. It is not strange that the people are disgusted with the books that purport to be Church Histories, and have "wondered after the Beast," with whose history they have been surfeited. Do not such histories wear a falsehood on their title pages? Dr. Beman, pursuing this same track, writes a history, and calls it a "History of the Church of Christ." His history includes sixteen centuries; you ask him as a historian, if his book is a correct history of the Church of Christ during these sixteen centuries, and he avers that it is. You ask him as a theologian, if this party, the history of which he has written from A.D. 300, to A.D. 1600, is the Church of Christ, and he answers you with great warmth and indignation;—"No, sir, it is Anti-Christ; it is the scarlet harlot riding on the beast with seven heads and ten horns; she is drunk with the blood of saints." Why then, sir, have you written the history of Anti-Christ, instead of the history of the Churches of Christ, for Church History? And what can Dr. Beman, or all the doctors of Presbyterianism in the world, answer? The question is involved in inextricable difficulties. It is a fearful question for them; it devolves awful consequences upon them.
A little history connected with the last N. S. Presbyterian General Assembly, which held its session in Buffalo, May, 1854, will illustrate this, and it ought not to be allowed to pass without improvement.
A query was introduced into that body to this effect:—Are Romish baptisms and ordinations valid? A Committee of junior and senior patriarchs, was sent out to report an answer. They failed to agree. The majority reported negatively. But there were sundry gray-haired doctors, who saw the logical consequences that lay behind such a decision, and indeed, any decision they as Pedobaptists could make; and those consequences would certainly be precipitated upon them by their Baptist friends and Catholic foes.
The reports were read in the Assembly, and a warm discussion ensued. Unfortunately, very little of that discussion has been given to the public; but the positions taken by the two parties were substantially these:
The majority reported that all ordinances at the hands of Romish priests were invalid, because the Romish Catholic Church was no Church of Christ, and no part or branch of Christ's Church; but manifest Anti-Christ—the scarlet harlot riding on the beast with seven heads and ten horns, drunk with the blood of saints; the baptism and ordinations of such an apostate body are null and void; and to pronounce them valid, is to pronounce the Romish Church the Church of Christ; and more, to involve Presbyterians and all Protestant sects in the guilt of schism, since they rent the body of Christ when they came out of Rome!
But the party who sustained the minority report, or were unfavorable to a decision, urged on the other hand:—If you deny the Church of Rome to be a true Church, and decide that her baptisms and ordinations are invalid, then do we to all intents and purposes unchurch ourselves, unless we can baptize the- ashes of Luther and Calvin, from whom we have received our baptisms and ordinations! If the baptisms and ordinations of Antichrist, of the Man of Sin, and Son of Perdition are invalid, then Luther and Calvin were unbaptized, as were all the members that composed the first churches of the Reformation! then were they unordained, and consequently had no authority to baptize their followers, or ordain other ministers to follow them; in a word, all Protestant societies are unbaptized bodies, and consequently no Churches of Christ, since a body of unbaptized persons, however pious, cannot be considered a Church; all Protestant ministers are both unbaptized and unordained , and consequently unauthorized to preach officially and administer the ordinances.
Thus we see the trilemma into which the query precipitated them.
To decide that "Antichrist," "the Man of Sin," "the Mother of Harlots" is a true Church of Christ, would be a monstrous solecism. But this would convict all Protestant sects of sin, and destroy at once every claim they could set up to be churches of Christ; for they confess themselves schismatics.
2. To decide that the Romish apostacy is not the true Church of Christ, is to decide that all her ordinances are invalid, and consequently that all Protestant societies are bodies of unbaptized persons, and therefore not churches of Christ, and all Protestant ministers are both unbaptized and unordained, and consequently unauthorized either to preach or administer the ordinances.
3. To say that we cannot decide a question so manifest, will arouse the attention of the people, and awaken their suspicion, at once, that there is a great wrong and a great failure about Protestant churches somewhere.
Finding that they could not extricate themselves from this labyrinth of fatal consequences, they moved an indefinite postponement of the question! Their membership which they have led into their societies, and the world which they are now using every possible effort to entice into their societies, should loudly and constantly demand of them to decide whether the Romish apostacy is a true Church of Christ or not, for let Protestant societies decide it affirmatively or negatively, according to their own admissions, they equally cut off all their own claims to be considered Christian Churches!*
It is "high time" for the history of the Church of Christ to be written. The world has quite long enough wondered after the Beast, and the Church of Christ left in the obscurity of the wilderness. One thing settled by the late discussion in the Presbyterian Assembly, is that no Protestant can write
the history of the Christian Church! Unless he writes the history of the Romish church, he has no church to write about for sixteen centuries,—until the Reformation of Luther. He may well be asked, Had Christ no church, no witnesses in the world during the roll of one thousand five hundred years? and if he had, why did not Luther and Calvin unite themselves and their followers to the then existing Christian churches, instead of setting up rival churches,—originating new and never before heard of, schemes of church governments, and thus distracting Christendom.
If the world is ever favored with a faithful history of Christian Churches, it will receive it from Baptists, and that history will rest upon a new basis, and will look after communities of Christians from the third to the sixteenth, and down to the nineteenth centuries, far different from Catholics of the former period or the Protestants of the latter.
During the last thirty years, several efforts have been made in the right direction. Robert Robinson, in his History of Baptism and Ecclesiastical Researches, aided in indicating the…
* Let all Baptists and Baptist ministers everywhere constantly call the attention of the people to this trilemma.
…direction such a work should take. Wm. Jones, with the light thrown upon his path by Paul Perrin, and Robinson, did still more, and left us, not a complete but a valuable church history.
But the most valuable chronological history of the Churches of Christ, now extant, and excepting Jones's, the only one passing over eighteen centuries, that deserves the name of Church History, now before the Christian world, is the one we now present to the American public for the first time, in a reprint. A full, philosophic history, it claims not to be, but it does claim to prove, by the most unquestionable authorities, the existence of large communities of Baptists, in the various countries of Europe, and a succession of them from the earliest ages down to the present time; and we think the author has been successful. It has been before the public in England for several years, and if its authority has been questioned we have the fact to learn.
It is a history especially needed by Baptists, to assist them in replying to the taunting interrogations of Paedobaptists, "Where were you before the days of Roger Williams, or before the days of Muncer?"
In the standard denominational publications issuing from their "Book Concerns" and Publication Societies, they teach the world that Baptists originated about the time of the Munster rebellion, and were the ringleaders and chief actors in it! It is time for the public to be so well informed, as to be able to give the retailers of such scandal the rebuke they deserve.
The reasons that induced the author to prepare this work—the sources from which he drew his facts—the directions in which he looked for the communities of Christians whose history he has compiled—the principles by which he has determined their religious character, and the unshaken confidence he has in his authorities, and the conclusions to which he has arrived, he has briefly set forth in an "advertisement," from which we make the following extracts:
"WHILE on a visit to a friend in Somersetshire, in 1823, a minister of the Independent persuasion panegyrized Dr. Carey to me and others, as the individual who raised the Baptists out of obscurity; and further remarked, that 'they had no existence before the days of the Commonwealth.' The respectability and age of the minister did not allow me, a young man, and unacquainted as I was with our history, to negative his assertion, only by a relieving hint, 'that from the days of John the Baptist, until now,' I believed our denomination had had an existence. I was resolved to be satisfied on this subject, particularly since this assertion has appeared in print; but there was no volume to which I could be directed, that would meet the inquiries and solicitude of my mind. Mr. Ivimey's work was of the English Baptists; Mr. Crosby's was of the same character; Mr. Danvers enters into
the question, but gives no historic connexion. I wrote to Mr. Jones, author of the History of the Christian Church, and his work (on his recommendation) I procured; and this valuable history gave me the clue to the church of God. I had now to ascertain the views the different parties advocated, which cost me very considerable application, and the result fully satisfied my inquiries. After some years' reading, and making extracts from authors, on the subject of my investigation, I resolved on throwing my materials into chronological order, to exhibit the feature of a connected history. This done, I became fully satisfied; and established the proof of what Robinson conjectured, that 'the English Baptists, contending for the sufficiency of Scripture, and for Christian liberty to judge of its meaning, can be traced back, in authentic documents, to the first Nonconformists and to the Apostles.'
"In the course of my reading, materials so accumulated on my hands as to enable me to furnish facts sufficient to make a compendious history of the Baptists in various provinces; from their rise to their being scattered or extinguished; and which facts are submitted in the following pages. Nor do I fear contradiction, since I have taken the most accredited historians, and have preferred, in most instances, the testimonies of men hostile to our communion*
"The ensuing facts, with many more, were selected to satisfy my own inquiries; but when I had placed them in a connective form, I thought they might be useful to others similarly circumstanced, conducing, perhaps, to the removal of a portion of that visible ignorance, as to the early features of our denomination; particularly, since it has been said, that 'the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the times of the Apostles; and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages.' This statement we consider to be proved in the following pages, where authors are quoted, supporting these facts.
* Free admission to the extensive libraries of Earl Spenser and the Duke of Bedford is gratefully acknowledged;—from which sources the writer has drawn some portion of the denominational materials now submitted.
"It is stated in the most satisfactory manner, that all Christian communities during the first three centuries were of the Baptist denomination, in constitution and practice. In the middle of the third century, the Novatian Baptists established separate and independent societies, which continued till the end of the sixth age; when these communities were succeeded by the Paterines, which continued till the Reformation. The oriental Baptist Churches, with their successors, the Paulicians, continued in their purity until the tenth century, when these people visited France, resuscitating and extending the Christian profession in Languedoc, where they flourished till the crusading army scattered, or drowned in blood, one million of unoffending professors.
"The Baptists in Piedmont and Germany are exhibited as existing under different names, down to the Reformation; these churches, with their genuine successors, the Mennonites in Holland, are connectedly and chronologically detailed to the present period, for proof of which, see the body of the work.
"The ground of unity and denominational claim to the people whose Christian characters are detailed, is not the harmony of their creeds or views; this was not visible or essential in the first age: but THE BOND OF UNION, among our denomination in all ages, has been FAITH IN CHRIST; and that faith PUBLICLY EXPRESSED, by a voluntary submission to his authority and doctrine in baptism. Wherever this conduct is evident, we claim the disciple as belonging to our communion and of primitive character, at the same time leaving his mind in the full enjoyment of his native and purchased freedom; and in establishing this association, we feel no difficulty or dishonor, since almost every denomination has, from their honorable and holy characters, claimed affinity to them in faith and practice, though such claims are not supported by family likeness.
"Most modern historians have been of the Paedobaptist persuasion. These writers have, in a general way, suppressed in their details those evidences of believers' baptism, which abound in early writers. This omission in their histories was intended, that the modern practice may not be disturbed, and themselves condemned as innovators, by the records and practice of early churches. These writers, from the pope to the peasant, have united in suppressing and extinguishing part of the truth; consequently, it was necessary to collate writings, histories, and documents, before the dawn of the German Reformation, in order to get at the whole truth; and strange to say, while ministers of religion, for party purposes, have suppressed certain denominational features, Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, and other infidel with deistical writers, have in these respects faithfully and openly recorded events, and have been more impartial in their details than many modem divines.
"The author has found it necessary to use the specific names of the denomination more frequently in this history than might be agreeable to some readers. The reluctancy of some moderns to allow of the early and reputable existence of this class of Christians, made it necessary that the terms Baptist, Anabaptist, &c., should be often mentioned, to prevent misconstruction, and the more fully to establish the object the writer had in view.
"He has also kept unadorned facts prominently forward. These are the stubborn materials of history. In many instances, he has copied the language of able historians, and here he acknowledges his obligations to Mr. Jones's invaluable writings on the Church of Christ. On controverted points he feared to alter statements or clothe ideas in his own language, lest cavilling readers should doubt his veracity. If more verbosity had been given, the work would have been more agreeable to some, but the writer feared weakening the evidence of his work, and of making a large book; he has, therefore, preferred crowding the materials together, to make his compilation, a reference book in triumph, rather than its contents should be questioned from any accommodating aspects. In its character, it may be considered a rough rampart, planted round the visible camp of the saints, within which fortification they may feel safe, while at the same time, they are furnished with those means of repelling attacks, made with antiquated weapons.
"A refutation we do not rear; this would be a difficult task, since controverted facts are generally given in the words of the historian, and so far as the writer could, a Paedobaptist's testimony has had the preference. References could have been increased to a considerable extent, but the support of the statement by one respectable name was deemed sufficient.
"Whatever inadvertence or errors there might be, the writer's best efforts are here offered to the society of which he stands an unworthy member, and if he realizes their approbation, he shall consider it next to the smiles of his Master, and feel remunerated for fifteen years' labor; at the same time, his desire, prayer, and efforts, are for the promotion of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and his hope is, that this heavenly principle will soon universally prevail: then the precepts of men, traditionary services, and compulsory religion shall be swept away; truth then, in all its legitimate and unrestrained influence, shall have free course, unadorned by human fancy, unchecked by human laws, unaided by human device; then, reinstated in its native dignity, truth shall be found like the beams of the sun alighting and regulating the inhabitants of the world, dispelling darkness and ignorance, conferring on the benighted the blessings of a gospel day, exhibiting their moral condition, awakening new sensations, requiring the north to give up, the south to keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; then shall we see eye to eye, Jerusalem shall be the joy of the whole earth, and our God shall bless us."
For more than one century our enemies, conjointly, have made one continuous effort to depreciate the claims of Baptists to an ancient origin. Like the animal in the manger, that, not being able to eat the hay himself, was determined the oxen should not; so they, satisfied that they cannot claim an origin prior to the days of .Luther, they seem determined that no one shall believe that Baptists have a valid claim to a more ancient origin. They allege that the madmen of Munster were Baptists; and that Baptists as such, were the authors of the rebellion and all the excesses of that period; and they point us to Munster, when we speak of our origin and history, and sneeringly say:—"That was your origin and that your early history."
In vindication, we point them to the pages of Mule. D'Aubigne:—
"One point it seems necessary to guard against misapprehension. Some persons imagine that the Anabaptists of the times of the Reformation, and the Baptists of our day are the same. But they are as different as possible." Fessenden's Encyclopedia (quoted with approbation by D'Aubigne) says:—
"ANABAPTIST. The English and Dutch Baptists do not consider the word as at all applicable to their sect." "It is but justice to observe that the Baptists of Holland, England and United States, are to be essentially distinct from those seditious and fanatical individuals above mentioned; as they profess an equal aversion to all principles of rebellion, or the one for the enthusiasm of the other."—Pref. to His. Ref. p. 10.
We point them to Mosheim, himself a Lutheran, who lived upon the soil, though a bitter enemy to Baptists: he was conversant with all the facts. Does he say that the Baptists had their origin at Munster? Hear him:—
"The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion, and derived that of Mennotists from that famous man, to whom they owe the greatest part of their present felicity, is HID IN THE REMOTE DEPTHS OF ANTIQUITY, and is consequently extremely difficult to be ascertained."—Vol. iv. p. 427.*
We ask Zuingulius, the celebrated Swiss Reformer, who was cotemporary with Luther, Muncer, and Stork, "Is anabaptism a novelty; did it spring up in your day?"
"The institution of anabaptism is no novelty, but for 300 years has caused great disturbance in the Church, and has acquired such a strength that the attempt in this age to contend with it appeared futile for a time." This carries our history back to A.D. 2251
But have we not been persecuted and worn down for lo! these twelve hundred years,—has not the Apocalyptic "WOMAN" during all this time, been drunk with our blood and heaven filling with our martyred brethren? We appeal to Cardinal Hosius, President of the Council of Trent, (A.D. 1560) the most learned and powerful Catholic of his day. Hear him testify;
"If the truth of religion were to be judged of by the readiness and cheerfulness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of Anabaptists [Baptists] since there have none for these twelve hundred years past, that have been more generally punished, or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people." This carries our history back to the fourth century.
We appeal to the most eminent scholars and historians of Europe, to the matured verdict rendered by Dr. J. J. Durmont. Chaplain to the King of Holland, and to Dr. Ypeig, professor of Theology in the university of Groningen—who were especially appointed by the king to ascertain if the claims of the Dutch Baptists had any foundation in the facts of history. These distinguished men did go into the investigation; and what did they report to the king?—That Baptists originated at Munster—as we are charged by authors, whose works are now published and sent broad cast over this land by the "Methodist Book Concern?" This is what they reported; which has never been disproved, or attempted to be disproved.
"The Mennonites are descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into…
* This is from the Edition of 1811.
…various countries; and who during the latter part of the twelfth century, fled into Flanders and into the provinces of Holland and Zealand, where they lived simple and exemplary lives—in the villages as farmers, in the towns by trades, free from the charge of any gross immoralities, and professing the
most pure and simple principles, which they exemplified in a holy conversation. They were, therefore, in existence long before the Reformed Church of the Netherlands."
Again, "We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses; and who have long in the history of the Church, received the honor of that origin. ON THIS ACCOUNT THE BAPTISTS MAY BE CONSIDERED THE ONLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WHICH HAS STOOD SINCE THE APOSTLES; AND AS A CHRISTIAN SOCIETY WHICH HAS PRESERVED PURE THE DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL THROUGH ALL AGES. The perfectly correct external economy of the Baptist denomination tends to confirm the truth disputed by the Romish Church, that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary; and at the same time goes to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics, that their communion is the most ancient."—Encyclopedia Rel. Knowl.
It is an interesting fact that as a consequence of this, the government of Holland offered to the Mennonite churches the support of the State. It was politely but firmly declined, as inconsistent with their fundamental principles.
Finally, and with still greater triumph, we now appeal to the pages of this history, upon which, not our enemies only, but the credulous and fearful of our own brethren may see the clearest and most satisfactory proof, that not in one country alone, but in many kingdoms, successions of Baptist communities have come down to us from the apostles, all striped and scarred and blood covered—a line of martyrs slain by prisons, by fire, and by sword—we hail these as the faithful and true witnesses of Jesus during those fearful ages, when the Man of Sin-
Sat upon the Seven Hills,
And from his throne of darkness ruled the world;
And we may well be proud to be able to claim these as our brethren; would that we were worthier to bear their name.
Our history is now redeemed from reproach; but are Baptist principles obnoxious to the censure of Americans or of republican Christians anywhere? Through the influence of our religious principles, and the example of our form of Church government. Republicanism and republican institutions have already been bequeathed to half the world, and are now rocking the other half to its centre, crumbling the thrones of its tyrants, and arousing and energizing oppressed humanity, to assert its rights, and overthrow its oppressors.
We appeal to the opinion of Jefferson, the most eminent of American statesmen, touching Baptist church government. The following facts were communicated to the Christian Watchman, several years ago, by the Rev. Dr. Fishback, of Lexington, Kentucky.
"Mr. Editor—The following circumstance, which occurred in the State of Virginia, relative to Mr. Jefferson, was detailed to me by Eld. Andrew Tribble, about six years ago, who since died when ninety-two or three years old. The facts may interest some of your readers.
Andrew Tribble was the pastor of a small Baptist Church which held monthly meetings at a short distance from Mr. Jefferson's house, eight or ten years before the American Revolution. Mr. Jefferson attended the meetings of the church several months in succession, and after one of them he asked Elder Tribble to go home and dine with him, with which he complied.
Mr. Tribble asked Mr. Jefferson how he was pleased with their church government? Mr. Jefferson replied that it had Struck him with great force, and had interested him much, that he considered it the only form of pure democracy that then existed in the world, and had concluded that it would be the best plan of government for the American colonies. This was several years before the Declaration of Independence."
We appeal to Judge Story, the most eminent of American jurists:
"To Roger Williams belongs the renown of establishing in this country, in 1636, a code of laws, in which, 'we read for the first time, since Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars, the declaration that 'conscience should be free, and man should not be punished for worshipping God in any way they were persuaded He required.' "
We appeal to Bancroft, the most eminent of American historians:
"Roger Williams was then but little more than thirty years of age; but his mind had already matured a doctrine, which secures him immortality of fame, as its application has given religious peace to the American world."
We turn to the old world—to Germany, the land of scholars and historians—and ask if the character of Baptist principles and their influence upon the world, have not been seen and felt?
Gervinus, the most astute and philosophic historian of this age, in his work entitled, An Introduction to the History of the Nineteenth Century, says:
"In accordance with these principles, Roger Williams insisted in Massachusetts upon allowing entire freedom of conscience, and upon entire separation of the Church and the State. But he was obliged to flee, and in 1636 he formed in Rhode Island a small and new society, in which perfect freedom in matters of faith was allowed, and in which the majority ruled in all civil affairs. Here in a little State, the fundamental principles of political and ecclesiastical liberty practically prevailed, before they were even taught in any of the schools of philosophy in Europe. At that time people predicted only a short existence for these democratical experiments— universal suffrage, universal eligibilty to office, the annual change of rulers, perfect religious freedom—the Miltonian doctrines of schisms. But not only have these ideas and these forms of government maintained themselves here, but precisely from this little State have they extended themselves throughout the United States. They have conquered the aristocratic tendencies in Carolina and New York, the High Church in Virginia, the Theocracy in Massachusetts, and the monarchy in all America. They have given laws to a continent and formidable through their moral influence, they lie at the bottom of all the democratic movements which are now shaking the nations of Europe."
Here we might be satisfied to rest, was it not to do justice to the memory of the pastor of the first Baptist Church in America,—Dr. John Clarke. The fame that justly belongs to, or at least should be divided with him, has been bestowed upon Roger Williams, whose name has been sounded round the whole world as the first great champion of civil and religious freedom. He was indeed a brilliant light in thick darkness; but his was only borrowed light, and he himself but a reflector. The Baptists of England and of the Continent advocated the glorious principles of soul liberty, centuries before R. Williams was born; as they did during the reigns of James I. And Charles I. when he was in his boyhood.—
"That Roger Williams cannot be said—in the language of Bancroft—to have been 'first in modern Christendom to assert in its plenitude the doctrine of freedom of conscience,' would seem to be evident from the very fact that the arguments against persecution, prefixed to Roger Williams' 'Bloody Tenet' which called forth an answer to them from Mr. Cotton, are entitled by Mr. Williams, 'Scriptures and Reasons written long since by a witness of Jesus Christ, close prisoner in Newgate, against persecution in cause of conscience.' It was added that this prisoner in Newgate was a Baptist; and that the 'humble supplication' which he drew up in 1620, and addressed to King James, from which the arguments prefixed to Roger Williams' book are taken, was subscribed 'your Majesty's loyal subject, not for fear only; but for conscience's sake, -falsely called Anabaptist.' "*
The History of the Life and times of Dr. J. Clarke, and of the organization and rise of the first Baptist Church in America, is now in course of preparation, when the proper distinction will be made between the labors and merits of R. Williams and Dr. J. Clarke. †
But we are not limited in looking for our brethren to those countries, alone, which Mr. Orchard has explored with such rich results. Could not a Baptist be heard of in Africa, in Spain, in Italy, in Piedmont, Bohemia, or Holland; yet it can be shown upon the most unquestionable authorities, that there has been a succession of Baptist churches in England and Wales, from the days of Paul until now, and it is an established fact that a majority of the churches planted in America, from the year 1645— 1730, were organized by Welsh Baptists, and constituted upon articles of faith, brought over with them from the mother churches. Mr. Orchard informs us in an advertisement at the end of his book, that he is preparing for the press a history of the Baptists of England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and America, which will be immediately reprinted so soon as it can be obtained. In the meantime we submit the following facts:— A.D. About fifty years before the birth of our Saviour, 63 the Romans invaded the British Isle, in the reign of 180 the Welsh king, Cassibellan; but having failed, in consequence of other and more important wars, to conquer the Welsh nation, made peace with them 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 of the name of Claudia, who was married to a man named Pudens. 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.‡ Pudens and Claudia…
* J. Dowling, Author of His. Romanism.
† This History is now being prepared by Eld. S. Adlam, Pastor to the Newport Baptist Church, R. I., which is the first Baptist Church in America.
‡ See Acts of the Apostles, 28: 30.
…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.* These, together with other Welshmen, among the Roman soldiers, who had tasted that the Lord was gracious, exerted themselves on the behalf of their countrymen in Wales, who were at that time vile idolaters.
That the gospel was extensively spread in Britain during this period, we learn from Tertullian and Origin. In the year 130 there were two ministers by the names of Faganus and Damianus, who were born in Wales, but were born again in Rome, and there becoming eminent ministers of the gospel, were sent from Rome to assist their brethren in Wales, †
During this year, Lucius the Welsh king was baptized, and the first king in the world who embraced the Christian religion. During the next century Christianity made rapid progress in the island, as is evident from the testimony of Tertullian, and from the multitudes of martyrs who suffered in the tenth pagan persecution under Dioclesian, which took place about the year 300 three hundred. The Saxons in 469 invaded England, 469 overthrew Christianity, and burnt the meeting houses, and drove all who would not submit to them into Cambria, which is now called Wales. During this century the British Christians suffered greatly at the hands of their Saxon foes. Yet we find there were several eminent and faithful ministers among the Welsh Baptists at this period; among whom were, Gildas, who was a man of learning, Dyfrig, Dynawt, Teilo, Padaru, Pawlin, and Daniel.
Infant Baptism was not known to the Welsh Christians 600 until A. D. 596 or 600, when Austin was sent by Gregory, Bishop of Rome, to convert the Saxons. In this he was successful, and according to Fox, he baptized ten thousand in the River Swale. He sought and obtained a conference with the Welsh Baptists, near the border of Wales. The main point was that these primitive Christians should acknowledge the usurped authority of the Church of Rome. Fabian, an ancient historian, relates the final demand of Austin in these words, "Sins ye wol not assent to my hests generally, assent to me specially in III. things: the first is, that ye keep Ester day in due forme and tyme as it is ordayned. The Second, that ye give christendome to children; and the thirde is that ye…
* 2 Tim. 4: 21 Fox's Acts and Monuments, p. 137. See also Dr. Gill and Matthew Henry, on 2 Tim. 4:21. Godwin's Catalogue. Crosby's History of the English Baptists, preface to vol. 2. Drych y prif oesoedd, p. 179.
† Dr. Haylin's Cosmography, lib. pp. 257, Crosby vol. ii, p. 13, Welch Bap. by Davis.
…preache unto the anglis the word of God as aforetimes I have exhorted you, and all the other deale, I shall suffer you to amende and reforme within yourselves." But these Baptists utterly refused to practice the traditions of Rome for the commands of Christ, when this emissary of Rome threatened them in this wise, "sins ye wol not recave peace of your brethren, ye shall of other receave warre and wretche." The Saxons shortly after invaded Wales, it is thought through the influence of Austin, and slaughtered incredible numbers. While infant baptism and the traditions of the son of perdition were enforced by the sword upon the low country, and the rich and more fertile portion of the island, Welsh Baptists contend that the principles of the gospel were maintained pure and unalloyed in the recesses of their mountainous principality, all through the dark reign of popery.
"God had a regular chain of true and faithful witnesses in this country, in every age, from the first introduction of Christianity to the present time, who never received nor acknowledged the pope's supremacy: like the thousands and millions of the inhabitants of the vale of Piedmont, residing on green and fruitful meadows, surrounded by high and lofty mountains, separated from other nations, as if the all-wise Creator had made them on purpose, as places of safety for his jewels that would not bow the knee to Baal."*
"Dr. Richard Davis, Bishop of Monmouth, said 'there was a vast difference between the Christianity of the Ancient Britons, and that mock Christianity introduced by Austin into England, in 596; for the Ancient Britons kept their Christianity pure, without any mixture of human traditions, as they received it from the disciples of Christ, and from the church of Rome when she was pure, adhering strictly to the rules of the word of God.' "
"President Edwards of America, said: 'In every age of this dark time, (of popery,) there appeared particular persons in all parts of Christendom, who bore a testimony against the corruptions and tyranny of the church of Rome. There is no one age of Antichrist, even in the darkest times, but ecclesiastical historians mention by name, those who manifested an abhorrence of the pope and his idolatrous worship, and pleaded for the ancient purity of doctrine and worship. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of many witnesses through the whole time, in Britain, as well as in Germany and France; private persons and ministers; some magistrates and...
* See doctrine of Baptism, by Benjamin Jones; P. A. Mon. p. 149; and Sir Samuel Moreland.
...persons of great distinction. And there were numbers, in every age, who were persecuted and put to death for this testimony.' "*
"The faith and discipline of the Scottish churches in Ireland, were the same with the British churches, and their friendship and communion reciprocal. The ordinances of the gospel in both islands, at this time, were administered in their primitive mode. The venerable Bede says, that the supremacy of Rome was unknown to the ancient Irish. The worship of saints and images was held in abhorrence, and no ceremonies used which were not strictly warranted by Scripture. All descriptions of people were not only allowed but desired to consult the sacred writings as their only rule of conduct."
"In short, from what we have stated, and the evidence produced by the learned archbishop Usher, quoted by the Rev. William Hamilton, 'we have the strongest reason to conclude that these islands enjoyed the blessings of a pure enlightened piety, such as our Saviour himself taught, unembarrassed by any of the idle tenets of the Romish Church.'"
"When we cast our eyes on King Henry the second, advancing towards this devoted nation, bearing the bloody sword of war in one hand, and the iniquitous bull of Pope Adrian in the other, we have one of the strongest arguments to prove that this was not originally an island of popish saints, and that the jurisdiction of Rome unquestionably was not established here.'"†
With the above authorities I submit with confidence the subject of Primitive Church Constitution to all candid men.
* Edwards's History of Redemption, p. 205.
† Bede, Vita S. Columbi. Bede, Hist. Gent. Angl. lib. 3, c. 27. Brit. de Hibemi, p. 703. Vide a curious treatise of Archbishop Usher on the religion of the Ancient Irish. Vide Harding's Chron. c. 241. Also Hamilton's Letter, p. 38 and 43. Also Bishop Lloyd's Historical Account.
J. R. G.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. 1855.