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CHAPTER V.  THE CLAIMS OF BAPTISTS.

Did Baptists spring from the Papal Church, or receive their Ordinations and Baptisms from the Man of Sin?

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.

I propose to do so, not by Baptist testimony, but by the united and concurrent testimony of Protestants and Papists.

It would be conceded by any judge or jury that my case was an incontestable one, should I sustain it, beyond a doubt, by the witnesses of my opponent!

1. It has been charged that American Baptists sprang from Roger Williams, and their baptisms from his informal and unscriptural one.

The facts are, that Roger Williams never was a member, much less a minister, of any Baptist Church in England or America. He was converted to, and advocated, their views of baptism and civil and religious liberty. It is true that he immersed Ezekiel Holliman, who, in turn, baptized him; and he again, ten or eleven others; and so formed a society; but he continued with it only four months, when he repudiated what he had done, and his society soon came to nothing. Cotton Mather, the contemporary of Williams, a distinguished Pedobaptist Puritan minister, (see Mather's History,) said it soon came to nothing.

It can not be shown that any Baptist Church sprang from Williams's affair.

Nor can it be proved that the baptism of any Baptist minister came from Williams's hands.

The oldest Baptist Church in America is the one now existing, with her original articles of faith, in Newport, R. I., and she was planted by Dr. John Clark before Williams was baptized. He received his baptism in Elder Stillwell's Church in London, and that Church received hers from the Dutch Baptists of Holland, sending over a minister to be baptized by them. These Baptists descended from the Waldenses, whose historical line reaches far back and connects with the Donatists, and theirs to the Apostolical Churches.

A writer in the Christian Review condenses the facts of history* into the following eleven

statements, which can be confidently relied upon:

[[*If any one wishes to see the documents themselves, let him send for a little work entitled "The First Baptist Church in Providence not the First Baptist Church in America,"]]

 

2. It has been charged that Baptists are the descendants of the fanatical Anabaptists of Munster.

But few now are so reckless as to make this charge, since it has been so clearly refuted by Baptists and admitted by so many candid Pedobaptist scholars. Only a certain class of Pedobaptists, the basest sort of their ministry, propagate this slander now. Merle D'Aubigné, a Presbyterian, and the distinguished author of the History of the Reformation, who had a perfect acquaintance with all the facts, and wrote upon the very ground, in the preface to his work published by the American Tract Society, says:

 

Fessenden's Encyclopedia (quoted with approbation by D'Aubigné) says:

 

The fact is, the Munster Anabaptists were many of them sprinklers, who were dissidents from Rome but not converts to the Lutheran or Genevan creeds, and therefore, equally obnoxious to the displeasure of Luther and Calvin. A writer has well said:

 

Now it is an act of the greatest injustice to call all these Baptists. Are we to be stigmatized for the doings of sprinklers? or to be blamed with the faults of infant baptizers? or to be held accountable for the misdemeanors of "mere political speculators and adventurers?" We never acknowledged any such thing in our Zion. They are anti-Baptists. Those, Anabaptists who were of "the genuine Baptist order," disclaimed all connections with the political religious mass. We must separate between those who were truly and properly Baptists, or as their enemies term them, Anabaptists, and all that impure and gross religious material, which is received as theirs by unfair and designing Pedobaptist historians. The Reformation deluged the Baptist Zion with hundreds and thousands who were scarcely cleansed from the polluting embraces of the mother of harlots. They were dragged from the cloisters, and convents, and confessionals of mystical Babylon by the magic names of Luther and Calvin; but they were only half awakened. Their notions were crude and ill-digested, and ready to be guided by any and every master spirit; and if, forsooth, they did not in every particular, subscribe the Lutheran or Zwinglian creeds, whether of Church or State they were straightway styled Anabaptists. Hence, we find almost all kinds of persons bearing this title. But a "portion of them were of the genuine Baptist order;" this was a little nucleus of true saints, around whose Zion both Protestants and Catholics "heaped their cast-off rubbish, as if the more easily to consume it with their fiery persecutions." But the genuine Anabaptists existed to repudiate the very first appearance and workings of the "Man of Sin." Before Luther protested, or the Papacy was, they are. They existed as a distinct people ages before these Protestant daughters of Rome were born. They were the only "salt of the earth," and the "light of the world," during the sixteen hundred years that preceded the Reformation. The Baptists alone supplied that host of martyrs, whose souls John saw under the throne, impatient for their names and testimony to be vindicated by the coming of the Son of God.

I bring forward here Mosheim, one of their bitterest enemies, a distinguished Lutheran historian, whose work is universally a standard. He so hated the faith of the Baptists, as to stigmatize it as "a flagitious and intolerable heresy." Yet this historian, while he could trace each existing Protestant, and Papist sect back to the very day of its birth, and to the spot of its origin, and give the name of its father and founder, and give us every year of its history showing that no wilderness-like obscurity, no hiding, could be predicated of them--yet he was forced to admit that the origin of the Baptists was of no modern date, but hidden in the remote depths of antiquity:

 

Again:

 

This is a frank admission that the Waldenses, as well as the Wicliffites, were opposed to infant baptism and Church membership, since they admitted none but "real saints," into the visible Church, and that they--as Baptists have ever been--were opposed to a religion of force and persecution.

We would be willing to rest the claims of Baptists to the highest antiquity, and to Scriptural orthodoxy, upon this testimony alone.

Now let a Presbyterian testify concerning the antiquity of Baptists. We ask Zwingle, the celebrated Swiss reformer, who was contemporary with Luther, Munzer, and Stork:

 

This carries our history back to A. D. 225! Zwingle, may well say that Anabaptism had acquired great strength in his day.

In the little State of Bohemia alone, Baptists numbered eighty thousand.

One of the Waldensian bards, George Morell, stated that in his day, 1533, there were more than eight hundred thousand persons professing the faith of the Waldenses.*

[[* See Orchard, vol. 1, page 286.]]

Lemborch, professor of divinity in the University of Amsterdam and who wrote a history of the Inquisition, in comparing the Waldenses with the Christians of his own times, says:

[[Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, p. 311]]

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. 1650,) the most, learned and powerful Catholic of his day. Hear him testify:

 

Austin was born A. D. 854. This gives Baptists a high antiquity; and the fact that Austin was not baptized in infancy, and yet was born of Christian parents proves that Pedobaptism was not in existence, or, at least, not very general, in this century. That infant baptism was a new thing in this early age, is proved by the additional facts that neither Basil, Bishop of Nicene, nor Chrysostom, nor Jerome of Strydon, nor Theodore, the Emperor, nor Gregory Nazienzen, nor Ambrose, nor Polycrates, nor Nectaries, nor Constantine the Great, were baptized in infancy, though born of Christian parents.*

[[*See Robinson's History of Baptism, chap. xiii, sec. 5, and Wall, vol. iv.]]

We add the following from Orchard, vol. i, p. 49:

[[*Since these names, with others which could be recorded are some of the most distinguished for respectability, in the annals of history, one plan evidence enforces itself upon our attention, that Pedobaptism was unknown among royalty, courtiers, and respectable persons in Europe, at the period of these eminent men's births.]]

[[+Danver's Treat., p. 72. Daille's Use of the Fathers, b. 2, ch. 6, Reas. 6, p. 149.]]

[[*History of Inf. Bap., p. 2, § 16, p. 42. We admit sprinkling to be more ancient than John, Jesus, or Moses (See Robinson's Hist. of Bap. c. 6, pp. 39-42.)]]

We conclude this chapter with the words of Curcelleus:

[[*Stennett's Ans., etc., P. 87.]]

But we have yet the crowning testimony of two Pedobaptist historians, that should convince the most incredulous of our candid opponents.

In the year 1819, Dr. Ypeij, Professor of the University of Gunningen, and Dr. J. J. Dermout, chaplain to the King of Holland, distinguished Pedobaptist scholars, published a history, in four volumes, entitled, "History of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands"--of which Church they were members--in which work they devote a chapter to the history of the Dutch Baptists. I have space for only the frank statement of the conclusion to which their impartial investigation led them:

 

That Dermout and Ypeij are not unsupported by historical authority, in their statements respecting the difference between the Anabaptists and the Baptists, will appear from an article in "The New Royal Encyclopedia." This great work, by Wm. H. Hall, Esq., with other learned, ingenious gentlemen, was begun in London in 1788 and completed in three large folio volumes. In the article "Anabaptists," after recounting the excesses of Muntzer, Matthias, Borkholdt, and others during the sixteenth century, in Germany, the Encyclopedia proceeds:

 

We have thus indicated, but by no means exhausted, our sources of proof, in establishing the claims of the Baptist denomination to be the community established by Christ as his visible Church. The Welsh Baptists trace their unbroken descent from apostolic times; and from Wales came many of our earliest Churches in America.*

[[*Those who wish to be satisfied with the strength of our claims will do well to read, after the New Testament, Orchard's Chronological History of the Baptists, vols. i. and ii.; Robinson's History of Baptism, and Ecclesiastical Researches, vols. i. and ii.]]

Baptists not only can lay a just claim to the highest antiquity of any acknowledged Christian community, but to them belongs the distinguishing honor of having been the first, and for nearly eighteen centuries the only, assertors of civil and religious liberty. In whatever land the inestimable right is to-day enjoyed, it was planted there by Baptist hands, and watered by Baptist blood. Not only against the Popes of Rome, but against the Reformers, Luther, Zwingle, and Calvin, did the Baptists maintain this doctrine.

Not to Luther, or his Church, does the world attribute the principle, that the conscience of no one should be constrained or coerced in religious matters: for, as an opposer and persecutor of the Anabaptists, he had no equal in his day--stirring up the princes of Germany to annihilate them from their dominions, as he did by his letters and prodigious numbers were devoted to death in its most dreadful forms.*

[[*Mosheim, Vol. iii, p. 79.]]

Not to Zwingle, the Swiss Presbyterian, who instigated the cantons of Switzerland to pass such murderous laws, which devoted to cruel death so many Baptist men and women; not to Zwingle, who pronounced the death sentence, and its form upon the noble Hubmeyer, "his old friend, the companion of his earlier studies," who, in the sacred relations of friend and fellow-student, had known his doubts on baptism, and had himself felt their force. This man, the father of Swiss Presbyterianism, "is reported by Brunt " to have pronounced the Anabaptist's sentence in the few words scarcely less impious than unfeeling: "Qui iterum mergit mergatur."

Not to Calvin does the world owe the idea or the practice of religious liberty, or even toleration for "he instigated the persecuting laws of Geneva, and he it was who had arrested, condemned, and, roasted, in a slow fire of green wood, the martyr SERVETUS!"

Mosheim, a Lutheran himself, confesses "there were certain sects and doctors, against whom the zeal, vigilance and severity of Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists were united. The objects of their common aversion were the Anabaptists." And it has been so from that day to the present.

The sentiments of the Baptists, which were then so disliked by statesmen, clergy, Protestants and Papists, and for which Baptists are to-day everywhere persecuted and oppressed by Protestants and Papists, are thus stated by Orchard:

 

We claim that Baptists were the first assertors of the principle of religious liberty in England. Mr. Williams, in speaking of the times of Cromwell, and the events of that period, says:

 

We maintain, what authentic and received history so abundantly affirms, that Baptists were the first assertors of religious liberty in New England or on the American Continent. The first blood shed on these shores for religious liberty was Baptist blood, and it followed the excoriating lash, driven by Pedobaptist hands, by the order of a Pedobaptist court, under the direction of a Protestant State Church in New England. The last persons imprisoned in America for preaching the Gospel were Baptists. We maintain that Baptists, singly and alone, and in face of the bitter opposition of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists, severed the Church and State in Virginia, and abolished all laws oppressive to the conscience, and thus secured in the Old Dominion the triumph of civil and religious liberty. We maintain that America is indebted solely to Baptists, first, for the idea of a pure Democratic form of civil government, and then for having prepared the popular mind by the molding influence of their principles to receive such a government, as well as for its present strength and sole hope of its perpetuity.

The following facts were communicated to the Christian Watchman, several years ago, by the Rev. Dr. Fishback, of Lexington, Ky.:

 

Gervinus, the most astute and philosophic historian of his age, in his work entitled, "An Introduction to the History of the Nineteenth Century," says:

 

In his historical "Memoirs of the English Catholics," Charles Butler makes allusion, as follows, to our Baptist fathers:

 

We take a sincere pride in the fact that Baptists were the earliest witnesses for soul-freedom. Others have but followed in their track. They led the way and made it clear to the vision of trampled nations, by pouring out their own blood to make it. This noble blow, struck before all others, in the warfare against spiritual despotism should live for them, in the mind of the world, an enduring monument of hopeful and emulative remembrance. Yet, for our principles, we have been everywhere spoken against. Says Underhill:

 

Says Shelden & Willard:

 

Papists and Protestants have united in the destruction of Baptists.

 

Baptists are still prosecuting their great mission in England and Europe, remonstrating against the iniquitous union of Church and State, and pleading with Protestants to grant universal liberty of conscience in religion.

The British Banner, of July 10, 1850, states that a petition was presented from one hundred and twenty ministers and delegates of the Associated Baptist Churches of Yorkshire, praying for the separation of Church and State, and that the national property, hitherto engrossed by a few sects might be devoted to secular and really useful purposes.

Let monarchists and Papists hate and sneer at Baptists, but, with these facts before their eyes, how can true-hearted American republicans and patriots? With such a history, honored and pre-eminently illustrious as is the very name of Baptist by the glories of such principles and such heroic achievements under such sacrifices, Baptists can afford to bear the odium attempted to be cast upon them by the descendants of those who shed their blood.

 

I can say, in closing this brief review of our principles and history, with a brother "Anabaptist:"

 
 
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