The Origin and Perpetuity of the Baptists
The Baptist Examiner

The Testimony Of Representative
Baptists As To Baptist History


Of course, we could quote at great length from many Baptists, under this chapter’s heading. But we confine ourselves to the following:

Charles H Spurgeon, a name that needs no introduction, stated:

We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never come from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men. (From The New Park Street Pulpit, Volume VII, page 225).

Spurgeon again:

History has hitherto been written by our enemies, who never would have kept a single fact about us upon the record if they could have helped it, and yet it leaks out every now and then that certain poor people called Anabaptists were brought up for condemnation. From the days of Henry II to those of Elizabeth we hear of certain unhappy heretics who were hated of all men for the truth’s sake which was in them. We read of poor men and women, with their garments cut short, turned out into the fields to perish in the cold, and anon of others who were burnt at Newington for the crime of Anabaptism. Long before your Protestants were known of, these horrible Anabaptists, as they were unjustly called, were protesting for the "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism." No sooner did the visible church begin to depart from the gospel than these men arose to keep fast by the good old way. The priests end monks wished for peace and slumber, but there was always a Baptist or a Lollard tickling men’s ears with holy Scriptures, and calling their attention to the errors of the times. They were a poor persecuted tribe. The halter was thought to be too good for them. At times ill-written history would have us think that they died out, so well had the wolf done his work on the sheep. Yet here we are, blessed and multiplied; and Newington sees other scenes from Sabbath to Sabbath. As I think of your numbers and efforts, I can only say in wonder—what a growth! As I think of the multitudes of our brethren in America, I may well say, What hath God wrought! Our history forbids discouragement. (From The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1881, Volume 2, page 249).

John T. Christian, author of probably the greatest work on Baptist history ever written says: "I have no question in my own mind that there has been a historical succession of Baptists from the days of Christ to the present time" (A History of the Baptists, Volume 1, pages 5, 6).

Again: "The author believes that in every age since Jesus and the apostles, there have been companies of believers, churches, who have substantially held to the principles of the New Testament as now proclaimed by the Baptists" (Ibid., page 21).

And again: "Baptist Churches have the most slender ties of organization, and a strong government is not according to their polity. They are like the river Rhine, which sometimes flows as a river broad and deep, but at other times is hidden in the sands. It, however, never loses its continuity or existence. It is simply hidden for a period. Baptist Churches may disappear and reappear in the most unaccountable manner. Persecuted everywhere by sword and by fire, their principles would appear to be almost extinct, when in a most wondrous way God would raise up some man, or some company of martyrs, to proclaim the truth.

"The footsteps of the Baptists of the ages can more easily be traced by blood than by baptism. It is a lineage of suffering rather than a succession of bishops; a martyrdom of principle, rather than a dogmatic decree of councils; a golden chord of love, rather than an iron chain of succession, which, while attempting to rattle its links back to the apostles, has been of more service in chaining some protesting Baptist to the stake than in proclaiming the truth of the New Testament. It is, nevertheless, a right royal succession, that in every age the Baptists have been advocates of liberty for all, and have held that the gospel of the Son of God makes every man a free man in Christ Jesus." (Ibid., pages 22, 23).

J. R. Graves, an outstanding proponent of Baptist truth, wrote: "Baptists claim that they are successors to the ‘Witnesses of Jesus,’ who preserved the faith once delivered to the saints, and kept the ordinances as they were originally committed to the primitive churches. They claim to be the lineal descendants of the martyrs who, for so many ages, sealed their testimony with their blood. They claim that they can trace the history of communities, essentially like themselves, back through the ‘wilderness,’ into which they were driven by the dragon, and the beast that succeeded to him, and the image of the beast, by a trail of blood, lighted up by a thousand stake-fires, until that blood mingles with the blood of the apostles, and the Son of God, and John the Baptist. They believe that they never did, ecclesiastically, symbolize with the Papacy, but ever repudiated it as Antichrist, and withdrew from it, and refused to recognize its baptisms or ordinances, or its priests as the ministers of Christ. These are bold claims, we admit; yet if we can sustain them successfully against those of any other communion, it is not only our right, but our imperative duty to do so." (Trilemma, pages 119, 120).

D. B. Ray, in his Baptist Succession, says: "No point in history has yet been found, this side of the days of Jesus Christ on earth, where the Baptist denomination had its origin. Notwithstanding all the efforts of bitter foes, no break has yet been discovered in the chain of Baptist succession. There has been no point of time since the apostolic age, when it can be said, in truth, there were no witnesses for Christ on earth holding the faith and practice of Baptists. Every other professed Christian denomination, either admits a human origin in modern times, or claim its succession through the Romish apostasy. But as the Romish succession is the succession of Antichrist, therefore those churches whose history is identified with the Church of Rome, can lay no claim whatever to the true succession. The Baptists are the only people on earth who claim a succession from the apostolic age, independent of the Church of Rome; and as Jesus Christ has a church against which the gates of hell have never prevailed, which has existed independent of the Romish hierarchy, therefore the Baptists are really the only claimants to this succession. All others, by their own acknowledgments have no just claims to be the church established by Jesus Christ Himself, which has been perpetuated to the present time. We take it for granted, that every denomination is competent to give the leading facts of its own history. Even the most depraved denominations except the Catholics have sufficient candor and honesty to give a correct account of their own origin. The Romish Church herself, confesses that many of her rites and ceremonies have been introduced since the apostolic age. She acknowledges that she has changed the ordinances of Jesus Christ on the supposed authority of the keys. Even Rome herself with her present rites and ceremonies does not claim an apostolic origin. The Lutheran Church claims its origin from Martin Luther, about the year 1525. It has no succession beyond the sixteenth century, unless it was the Romish succession through Rome herself, yet she is compelled to look to King Henry VIII, about the year 1530, for her origin separate from the Romish, jurisdiction. The Presbyterian Church boldly claims the ‘godly-learned’ man, John Calvin, as its founder. Its succession extends no further back in history than the year 1541. The various branches of Presbyterianism are of still more recent date. The Methodist Church glories in John Wesley as her founder and head. She can not go beyond the year 1729, for the term of that system of ecclesiasticism known as Methodism. And it was not until the year 1784 that Methodism was rent off from the Episcopal Church. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church claims its origin from the fourth day of February, 1810. It has Messrs. Ewing, King, and McAdow as its founders. The Campbellite society, which makes higher pretensions than all the modern sects combined, boost of Alexander Campbell, of Bethany. Virginia, as the head of their religious movement. They claim the year 1827 as the date of their origin as an organized ecclesiastical body After all their claims to be the Christian Church, and their noise about Pentecost, they are forced to admit the humiliating fact, that as an organization, they are not yet one hundred and fifty years old; and that they fall short of the day of Pentecost nearly 1800 years.

"But the Baptists boldly claim Jesus Christ as their Founder and Head, and a continued succession through succeeding ages from the apostles to the present time. And if the Baptists do not give a correct statement of their own origin, they are the only denomination outside of the Church of Rome too dishonest to give the truth of their own history. But if Baptists are too dishonest to tell the truth as to their origin, then other denominations ought not to desire religious correspondence with them; but if their claims ore true, then. they are the only people who possess the true church succession" (Pages 406, 407).

George W. McDaniel: "To be born well is to enter life with advantages. Baptists are justly proud of their parentage—the New Testament. They have an ancient Scriptural origin. Certain characters in history are named as founders of various denominations—the Disciples of Christ began with Alexander Campbell, the Methodists with John Wesley, though Wesley never left the ‘Church of England,’ the Presbyterians with John Calvin and John Knox, the Lutherans with Martin Luther, and the Church of England with Henry VIII and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer in the reign of Edward VI. Not so with the Baptists. There is no personality this side of Jesus Christ who is a satisfactory explanation of their origin. The New Testament churches were independent, self-governing, democratic bodies like the Baptist churches of today. We originated, not at the Reformation, nor in the Dark Ages, not in any century after the Apostles but our Marching Orders are the Commission, and the first Baptist Church was the Church at Jerusalem. Our principles are as old as Christianity, and we acknowledge no founder but Christ" (The People Called Baptists; pages 7, 8).

S. H. Ford: "Where, then, did the Baptists come from?"

"When the learned Mosheim, after tracing the origin of every sect, come to the Anabaptists, or Mennonites, that laborious investigator paused and said:

‘The true origin of this sect is hidden in the depths of antiquity; and it is of consequence extremely difficult to be ascertained.’

"Never was truer statement penned. All up the stream of ecclesiastical history he had tracked them—up to its main spring he had gone, and found them there. Amid the scenes of apostolic labor, in the purest ages of the church, he traced their existence, but not their origin. Further up into the light of inspired history he would not pass. Their origin was hidden in those remote depths of antiquity. It could be found in the Epistles and Acts of the Apostles, and in the testimony of Jesus. But here he would not seek for their origin, and so he proclaimed that it was lost. It is not hid in those remote depths. It stands forth in unadorned simplicity on the shores of the Jordan, amid the scenes of the Pentecost, and the cities of Greece, while the New Testament flings a flood of historic light over the whole subject. Here, then, is our ancestry—of whom we are proud—the origin of our denomination—for which we are grateful." (The Origin of the Baptists, pages 103, 104).

H. B. Taylor, Sr.: "The church which the Lord Jesus built was not only a Baptist church, but He promised that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. He kept that promise."

"The only church on this earth that was founded at the right time—during the personal ministry of Jesus Christ: at the right placePalestine: by the right personthe Lord Jesus: of the right materialthe born again, which brought forth good fruit before their baptism, and to which the Lord Jesus promised unending perpetuity, was the first Baptist Church, which Jesus built out of the material made ready by John the Baptist. Baptist Churches are the only churches on this earth, whose baptisms like a gold dollar are worth one hundred cents to the dollar the world around. The only church on this earth that Jesus could join if He were here, on His baptism, is a Baptist Church, for all others say John’s baptism is invalid. Baptists say the only baptism that is valid is John’s baptism: for it is the only one that came from Heaven. Baptist Churches are the only churches on this earth, that will not be plucked up by the roots, when Jesus comes, for He said: ‘Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up’" (Matthew 15:13). (Why Be a Baptist?, page 41).

W. A. Jarrell: "All that Baptists mean by church ‘Succession,’ or Church Perpetuity, is: There has never been a day since the organization of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine church of the New Testament existing on earth." (Baptist Church Perpetuity, page 3).

J. W. Porter: "But we do believe that Baptist Churches were instituted by Jesus Christ, and that they have had a continuous existence ever since and will continue to exist as long as time shall last. We do emphatically affirm the succession of Baptists, in spite of imprisonment, blood and fire, as witnesses for the truth, and that He who hath preserved them, will continue to be with them till the end of the age." (The Baptist Debt to the World, page 84).

Again, "With the exception of the Baptist Churches, it is a comparatively easy task to ascertain the year in history, when each of the various denominations had its origin. It may be announced as the incontrovertible verdict of history that each of them had its origin several centuries this side of the Apostolic period. In fact, nearly all of the denominations frankly admit their human origin. In truth, the only denomination, apart from the Baptists, that has even the semblance of claim to any early origin is the Roman Catholic, and this church, by the common consent of Protestant Christendom, has neither the birth-marks, nor ear-marks of a Scriptural church. Their present faith and policy, when tried by New Testament faith, conclusively show the lack of Scriptural origin or teaching. Nor do they need, in accordance with their faith, any Scriptural origin, for; with an infallible pope and council they have the right to change, subtract, or supplement any portion of Scripture, or any doctrine of the church. If, then, it be true that Christ did start a church, and the church He started has had a continuous existence; if it be further true that the human origin of all other denominations can be proven and the origin of Baptist Churches cannot be proven, then it must follow that the Baptist Churches were instituted by Christ, and have enjoyed the unbroken existence promised them by the Head of the churches." (Ibid., page 88) .

E. T. Hiscox: "Baptists have a history of which they need not be ashamed—a history of noble names and noble deeds, extending back through many ages, in which the present generation well may glory. From the days of John the Baptist until now, a great army of these witnesses for the truth, and martyrs for its sake, has illumined and honored the march of Christian history. The ages since Christ have known no purer, nobler lives, no braver, more faithful witnesses for the Gospel, of Christ, no more glorious martyrs for its sake, than many of those who honor us by being called ‘our fathers in the faith.’ They were true to conscience and to principle, and loyal to Christ, at a cost to which we are strangers. They went gladly to prison and to death in defense of the Gospel which they loved. Social ostracism, bonds and imprisonment, confiscations, and fines, whippings, drownings, and burnings at the stake, not only in solitary cases, but by hundreds and thousands, are certified to, even by their enemies. Christian martyrology has no bloodier and no brighter page than that which tells, however imperfectly, of the persecutions and sufferings for conscience’s sake of Baptist confessors, received during the past ages, not from pagan barbarians so much as from professed fellow-Christians. It is an equal honor to their record that, while they endured persecution for the truth’s sake, then never persecuted others for conscience sakenever! How could they, when one of their cardinal principles was, and is, entire freedom of conscience and liberty of faith and worship, without interference by any? And the one priceless heritage they have given to the world, with which the world’s religious life of today—and its secular life as well—has become imbued; is that of entire religious liberty of faith, speech and worship, and entire separation of Church and State." (The New Directory for Baptist Churches, page 492).

G. H. Orchard: "I have demonstrated, so for as human testimony is allowed to prove any fact, that the Baptist church, as the church of Christ, has existed from the day of Pentecost to this privileged period." (A Concise History of Baptists, Vol. 2, page 11).

George C. Lorimer: "There are reasons for believing that the Baptists are the oldest body of Christians who dissent from the assumption of the Romish church. Historically they are not Protestants, for while they sympathize with the protest offered by the reformers at the Diet of Spires, 1529, in which this now famous name originated, their existence antedates it by many centuries." (Quoted in Baptist Church Perpetuity by Jarrell, page 40) .

J. B. Moody: "Baptist principles were committed to Baptist men, to be kept by them. The commission converts them to principles. Make disciples (or men), baptize THEM, teach THEM to keep safely all things whatsoever I have commanded YOU, and lo! I am with YOU alway, even to the end of the world. This is all we claim, but this much we demand. Here is perpetuity of principles, held by MEN in organic capacity, for in no other sense had he, or could he have been with THEM to the end of the world. Evil powers prevailed against individual saints, but the gates of Hades have not against His church. Christ came not only to teach principles, but he also built a church. You may boost of blood-bought principles, of blood-bought men, but the Word of God tells also of the blood-bought church." ("My Church," pages 186, 187).

J. M. Carroll: "Into the ‘dark ages’ went a group of many churches which were never in any way identified with the Catholics. Out of the ‘dark ages’ came a group of many churches, which had never been in any way identified with the Catholics." (The Trail of Blood, pages 54, 55).

R. J. W. Buckland: "From the time when Christ walked the earth down to the present there has not been a period in which they (Baptists) have not suffered persecution. From the age of John the Baptist to the massacre in Jamaica, bigoted religionists have not ceased first to slaughter and then to slander them." (Madison Avenue Lectures, page 312).

J. Wheaton Smith: "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 Galilee." (Letters to Albert Barnes).

William Williams: "I now hasten to reply that it is not the teaching of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary through its Professor of History, that the origin of Baptists is to be traced to the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century . . . The Baptist Churches, in my opinion, are of divine origin, and originated in the first century under the preaching and founding of the Apostles of the Lord." (Quoted by Jarrell, Baptist Church Perpetuity, page 40).

S. E. Tull: "Now; we come to the Baptist denomination. Who organized the first Baptist Church? What was the date of its establishment? Who formulated its articles of faith? In answer to these questions. I assert that the first Baptist Church was organized by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, during His personal ministry on the earth." (Denominationalism Put to the Test, page 16).

J. H. Grime: "All true Baptist Churches are legitimate successors of the first church constituted by Christ Himself; just as every man now living is the legitimate successor of Adam, the first man." (Catechism of Ecclesiastical History, page 9).

J. L. Smith: "We have submitted the testimony of more than forty of the world’s best historians—not one of them a Baptist—who expressly and clearly point out the movement of these Baptist people through the long centuries back to the apostolic days." (Quoted by Mason in The Church That Jesus Built, page 105).

R. B. Cook: "Baptists are able to trace their distinctive principles to the apostolic age . . . When from the union of the church and state Christianity become generally corrupt, there still remained, in obscure places, churches and sects which maintained the pure doctrines and ordinances of Christ, and hence it is certain that these churches and sects held substantially the same principles which are now held as the distinctive views of the Baptists." (Ibid., page 105).