THE FIRST WITNESS
THE TESTIMONY OF THE BAPTISTS
It is altogether necessary that the claims of Baptists be voiced because many, even of our own people, have not been grounded in Baptist history. Being unfamiliar with their own past, they are often adrift among the flotsam and jetsam of popular notions regarding "church history."
You may be amazed to read in this second chapter what Baptists have historically asserted as pertaining to themselves and their beginning. You may be disturbed as the truth concerning other "churches" becomes apparent. This may especially be so if you are not a Baptist. It will be demonstrated that mainline Baptists have consistently believed in the high antiquity of the Baptist churches. It will further be demonstrated that these Baptists affirmed that the Lord's true New Testament churches were to be found exclusively among those people known as Baptists. We are not saying that every "Baptist church" is a New Testament church, but we are saying that every authentic Baptist church is a New Testament church.
Many well-known Baptist preachers, living and asleep in Christ, could be subpoenaed to testify here. Prominent ministers of years gone by such as J.B. Moody, pastor and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention; B.H. Carroll, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas and founder of Southwestern Baptist Seminary; Jesse Mercer, leader among Georgia Baptists for whom Mercer University was named: J.R. Graves, pastor and publisher; J. Newton Brown, pastor, author and professor in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia; John A. Broadus, pastor, and leader in the Southern Baptist Convention; William Williams, pastor in New York; R.B.C. Howell, pastor in Nashville and for many years president of the Southern Baptist Convention; George C. Lorrimer who served Churches in Kentucky, New York, Boston and Chicago; A.C. Dayton of New Jersey, editor, author and corresponding secretary for an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention; T.T. Eaton, author and pastor of churches in Tennessee and Virginia; and a host of others could be cited. Many Baptist authorities as well-known and respected as these few mentioned could also be heard to testify to the apostolic origin of the Baptists.
While not all who held to the apostolic origin of the Baptists maintained strict Baptist practice, we insist that consistency demands our following these Biblical, historic Baptist practices. Those whom we shall call upon to testify were prominent in their day and highly esteemed among their peers. Their honesty was without question and their knowledge cannot be discounted.
While we are not given to the use of titles honoring men, we include some of the educational achievements of the following witnesses lest any claim that these were uneducated men. Letters following a man's name do not necessarily make him right, but do indicate he has completed a certain level in his studies.
The Testimony of John T. Christian, A.M., D.D., L.L.D.
Pastor and historian John T. Christian served as professor of history and librarian from 1919 to 1925 at the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Bible Institute of New Orleans (now New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary). He speaks as our first Baptist witness, representing Baptists of the early part of the present century. He wrote the following endorsement:
"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." 1
This apt and concise statement is the historic Baptist position regarding Baptist churches. Many so-called Baptists of our own day are either untaught concerning these things or have apostatized from this ancient position. Their departure in no way proves the old to be error, but rather speaks volumes concerning the sad spiritual state of our times.
The Southern Baptist Convention published Dr. Christian's two-volume history from its first edition in 1922 until they permitted it to go out of print after the non-Landmark or Protestant view took over their seminaries. The founders and many early leaders of the S.B.C. were sound Baptists - by that we mean "Landmarkers" - and men of good intention whose writings are a great help to Bible-loving Christians. Current leaders within the S.B.C. have almost unanimously repudiated its historic doctrinal position and historic "Landmark" Baptist practices. By dropping the publication of Dr. Christian's two-volume history, powers within the S.B.C. testify to their own departure from the Biblical faith and practice of their "Landmark" fathers.
The Testimony of T. G. Jones, D.D.
Let us step back several years into the nineteenth century and hear the testimony of another eminent member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Tiberius Gracchus Jones, as a teenager, was brought to repentance and faith in Christ and subsequently baptized by James B. Taylor, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia. When about eighteen years old, Jones entered the Virginia Baptist Seminary and was soon licensed to preach by the same church which authorized his baptism. After graduating as valedictorian at the University of Virginia and later graduating with the same honor from William and Mary College, he became pastor of the Freemason Street Baptist Church of Norfolk. Later he served as pastor of the Franklin Square Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. After the American civil war, Jones was recalled to pastor the Norfolk church where he remained until elected president of Richmond College (the new name for the Virginia Baptist Seminary). After several years, he was called a third time to the Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk. Later he was elected pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee where he remained for many years..
Consider some of T.G. Jones' achievements. While pastor of the church at Norfolk he was elected president of Wake Forest College, North Carolina, and a few years later, he was chosen to become president of Mercer University, Georgia. Both these appointments, however, he refused as he felt he must remain faithful to his pastoral responsibilities. Besides published addresses and articles in various periodicals, T.G. Jones wrote three small books. 2
Consider the following words of commendation by a man of his own time.
"Dr. Jones is regarded as one of the finest pulpit orators of the nation, and highly esteemed by his charge in Nashville.
"He has been for several sessions one of the vice-presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, and is now first vice-president of the board of trustees of the Southern Baptist Seminary. He is possessed of a rare dignity of manners, fine scholarship, and a blessed record." 3
Hear what this eminent Southern Baptist pastor and scholar had to say about the origin of the Baptist Churches.
"...They the Baptists have always maintained that their churches are as ancient as Christianity itself. That their foundations were laid by no less honorable hands than those of Christ and his apostles. In all ages since the first, the Baptists have believed their denomination more ancient than themselves. The American Baptists deny that they owe their origin to Roger Williams. The English Baptists will not grant that John Smyth or Thomas Helwysse was their founder. The Welsh Baptists strenuously contend that they received their creed in the first century, from those who had obtained it, direct, from the apostles themselves. The Dutch Baptists trace their spiritual pedigree up to the same source. The German Baptists maintained that they were older than the Reformation, older than the corrupt hierarchy which it sought to reform. The Waldensian Baptists boasted an ancestry far older than Waldo, older than the most ancient of their predecessors in the vales of Piedmont. So, too, may we say of the Lollards, Henricians, Paterines, Paulicians, Donatists, and other ancient Baptists, that they claim an origin more ancient than that of the men or the circumstances from which they derived their peculiar appellations. If in any instance the stream of descent is lost to human eye, in 'the remote depths of antiquity,' they maintain that it ultimately reappears, and reveals its source in Christ and his apostles.
"Now we think that this singular unanimity of opinion among the Baptists of all countries and of all ages, respecting their common origin in apostolic and primitive times - a unanimity the existence of which might easily be established by numerous quotations from historians and other writers among them, is of itself a fact of no little value, as furnishing a presumptive argument of much force in support of the Baptist claim. In England and in the United States especially, the Baptists are now numerous, intelligent, and in every way as respectable as any denomination of Christian people. Among them are men, not only of unimpeachable moral and Christian character, but of profound learning and extensive historical research. And all these, as well as the humblest and most unlearned among them, believe that Baptists, (whether with or without the name, is a matter of indifference,) have existed 'from the days of John the Baptist until now.'" 4 Brackets mine: C.A.P.
Such plain words by so eminent a Southern Baptist cannot be lightly discounted. This writer could only wish that the successors of T.G. Jones might be as solid in their stand for the truth of the Lord's Churches. It is an incontestable fact of history that at one time the ministers as well as the rank and file in the Southern Baptist Convention were, almost to a man, sound in their church views. By that we mean that they held to the view that the true churches of Christ were to be found among those people known as Baptists and that Baptist churches of their day originated during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
It is noteworthy that this particular volume was published by the American Baptist Publication Society of Philadelphia as this indicates that these views were those held by Baptists in the North as well as in the southern United States. Indeed, such strong church views were once universally held among mainline Baptists, but lately have been cast aside by many.
The Testimony of Joseph Belcher, D.D.
Going back farther in time and across the Atlantic we consider Joseph Belcher who was born in Birmingham, England in 1794 and converted in 1814. In 1819 he was ordained as pastor in Somersham and later served other churches. He became pastor of a Baptist church in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1844 and after serving there for three years relocated to Philadelphia and the Mount Tabor Church.
Initially, we shall hear from Belcher's enormous work of more than a thousand pages which was praised by the secular and religious press of its day and by representatives of the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations for its honesty, fairness and comprehensiveness. Several of these testimonials are to be found toward the forepart of the volume, placed there as a matter of advertisement. Joseph Belcher wrote:
"In proceeding to sketch the History of the Baptist body at large, their writers rejoice that early historical documents are in existence which very materially aid them. They cannot, they say, but be thankful to Mosheim see glossary when he tells them that their origin is hidden in the depths of antiquity, because such a testimony, like that of Cardinal Hosius see glossary, when he says that the Baptists have furnished martyrs for twelve hundred years, goes to show that they are not so modern in their origin as some recent writers would pretend." 5 Brackets mine: C.A.P..
Again Dr. Belcher speaks of Baptist claims to exclusive perpetuity when he wrote:
"But as the Baptists lay claim to the highest antiquity, even to be the lineal descendants of the primitive church..." 6
We quote Belcher in a later work of a similar nature, where he testifies in the clearest of language.
"It will be seen that the Baptists claim the high antiquity of the commencement of the Christian church. They can trace a succession of those who have believed the same doctrine, and administered the same ordinances, directly up to the apostolic age." 7
Surely no clarification of this testimony is required!
The Testimony of William Cathcart, D.D.
Long time pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cathcart was born of Scotch-Irish stock in the north of Ireland in 1826. Brought up a Presbyterian, he was converted early in life and received Baptist baptism in 1846. His higher education was in the University of Glasgow, Scotland and in Rawdon College, Yorkshire, England. He arrived in North America in November of 1853 and in December that year became pastor of the Third Baptist Church of Groton in Mystic River, Connecticut. He was called to take the oversight of the Philadelphia church in 1857.
Cathcart wrote several books and was active in Baptist affairs. He edited an encyclopedia (a sizeable volume of more than 1300 pages). In this large work he obtained assistance from nearly seventy principal Baptist ministers in both Canada and the United States. Consequently his testimony can also be said to be the testimony of many other Baptist ministers as well. His article entitled, "Baptists, General Sketch of the" commences thus:
"The Baptist denomination was founded by Jesus during his earthly ministry. Next to the Teacher of Nazareth, our great leaders were the apostles, and the elders, bishops, and evangelists, who preached Christ in their times. The instructions of our Founder are contained in the four Gospels, the heaven-given teachings of our earliest ministers are in the inspired Epistles. The first Baptist missionary journal was the Acts of the Apostles." 8
Surely no person can read the foregoing and doubt that Cathcart believed that Baptist churches were the true churches of Christ! Those nearly seventy ministers in both Canada and the United States evidently held similar views to have contributed to such a work and to have their names connected with it.
The Testimony of Charles Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is said to be the most extensively read preacher since the apostles. His books and sermons have been reprinted numerous times both as collections and as individual pieces. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was converted during his teenage years and shortly thereafter began to preach. He was privileged to preach to multitudes both in rented auditoriums and in the meeting houses of his own church in London, England. Under Spurgeon's leadership this congregation built a meeting house known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle which would seat six thousand people. Whereas Mr. Spurgeon was not nearly as conscientious in church polity as we think consistent with Bible principles, he evidences a clear understanding of the origin of Baptist churches.
Before the congregation moved into the Metropolitan Tabernacle, while still meeting at the New Park Street location in 1860, Spurgeon preached these words:
"I am not ashamed of the denomination to which I belong, sprung as we are, direct from the loins of Christ, having never passed through the turbid stream of Romanism, and having an origin apart from all dissent or Protestantism, because we have existed before all other sects..." 9
During the next year, 1861, after moving to the new Tabernacle, Spurgeon proclaimed:
"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 came 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." 10
Later, that same year Spurgeon boldly proclaimed for all the world to hear:
"And now it seems to me, at this day, when any say to us, 'You, as a denomination, what great names can you mention? What fathers can you speak of?' We may reply, 'More than any other under heaven, for we are the old apostolic Church that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet; we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novatians, sic Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussites, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government. Our fathers were men inured to hardships, and unused to ease. They present to us, their children, an unbroken line which comes legitimately from the apostles, not through the filth of Rome, not by the manipulations of prelates, but by the Divine life, the Spirit's anointing, the fellowship of the Son in suffering and of the Father in truth." 11
Such evidence shows that Mr. Spurgeon was not backward about openly and frequently speaking out concerning the history of the people now called Baptists! This writer wishes all Baptist ministers were so forward in this matter!
In 1881, some TWENTY YEARS LATER, Spurgeon was still preaching the same things regarding the origin of Baptists. It is most significant that after twenty years of further study, ministry, and association with both Baptists and others, Mr. Spurgeon still believed in the apostolic origin and perpetuity of Baptist churches. He declared:
"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 A.D. 1154-1189 to those of Elizabeth 1558-1603 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.'" 12 Brackets mine: C.A.P..
Strangely, there are a good many so-called "reformed Baptists" (a creature we think to be an impossibility and a contradiction in terms) who glory in Mr. Spurgeon's sermons and writings regarding soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), but who utterly disregard these statements regarding ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). It is certainly worthy of note that Mr. Spurgeon did not date the Baptist origin as having occurred during, or subsequent to, the Protestant Reformation. In the last quote he specifically mentions Henry II whose reign was some four hundred years prior to the Protestant Reformation which was, of course, the date of the origin of Protestant churches.
The Testimony of John Ashworth
John W. Ashworth was pastor to the Baptist Church which met in George Street Chapel, Plymouth, England in A.D. 1879. In that year he preached both before his own church and before the Western Association of Baptist Churches two sermons on "Baptist Principles and History." These sermons with notes and appendix were "published by request" running at least to a third edition and twenty-five thousand printed copies. Elder Ashworth said,
"No such thing as Infant Baptism was known in England for the first six centuries."
"Going back to the time of William the Conqueror, A.D. 1066-1087 we find that the Baptists had spread so rapidly that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc seeing that many of the nobles as well as of the poor had adopted their sentiments wrote a book against them, in which he complained, as Archbishop Egbert did of the Cathari (Puritans) about the same time, that they were 'very pernicious to the Catholic faith; FOR THEY MAINTAINED THEIR OPINIONS BY AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE:' a great crime in those days, and still a great inconvenience, oft-times, to those who prefer the traditions and customs of men to the commandments of God! But the Baptists flourished, spite of the Archbishop's book; and therefore the King was induced to issue an edict, that 'those who denied the Pope should not trade with his subjects.'" 13 Brackets mine: C.A.P.
Ashworth identifies the Paulicians as Baptists when he cites Evan's Early English Baptists, vol. i, in his footnote and says in the text,
"In the twelfth century thirty Baptists, probably Paulicians, were put to death at Oxford."" 14
By identifying the Paulicians as Baptists Ashworth is saying that the Baptists had a continual existence although known at times by other nicknames. Incidentally, he mentions that during the reign of Charles II, Baptists suffered more than other groups because of their open stand for religious and civil liberty. He goes on to say,
"It was during that shameful reign that Bunyan John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress was imprisoned, and Keach was pilloried; and Abraham Cheare, the beloved Pastor of this Church, was 'done to death' on Drake's Island." Brackets mine: C.A.P.
With regard to religious groups other than Baptists Ashworth sums up with,
"And most of the 'other churches' are 'but of yesterday' compared with us. Neither the English Episcopal Church nor the Presbyterians can go back more than about three hundred years; the Independents trace their origin to the Brownists of the latter part of the sixteenth century; the Wesleyans began with John Wesley, about one hundred and forty years ago; and the Plymouthists, of every shade of opinion, are only of this generation."" 15
What more can be demanded? Here is clear testimony from associational Baptists in England as to the origin and continued existence of Baptists from the days of the apostles!
The Testimony of J.M Cramp, D.D.
John M. Cramp, was born in England, July 25, 1796. He served as pastor in London, the Isle of Thanet and Hastings, Sussex. He "took charge in 1844 of the Baptist college, Montreal, Canada; became president of Acadia College, Nova Scotia, in 1851, and retired in 1869 from that position."" 16
Published in Canada, the following statements by J.M. Cramp are to the point. While we may not agree with all Dr. Cramp's other conclusions, he declared,
"Christian history, in the first century, was strictly and properly Baptist history, although the word "Baptist," as a distinctive appellation, was not then known. How could it be? How was it possible to call any Christians Baptist Christians, when all were Baptists?"
And with regard to that group of Baptists referred to as Donatists, Dr. Cramp wrote the following clear testimony,
"In the fourth century the DONATISTS raised the reform standard. They constituted about one-half of the Christian population of Northern Africa. Purity was their main object; they also, as well as the Novatians, called themselves CATHARI - the PURE - PURITANS. Other men called them DONATISTS, after Donatus, whose leadership they followed. Robert Robinson, a learned writer of ecclesiastical history, in the last century, says they were 'Trinitarian Baptists.' The Rev. Thomas Long, Prebendary of Exeter, a Church of England clergyman whose 'History of the Donatists' was published in 1677, asserts that they 'were generally anabaptistical; for they did not only rebaptize the adults that came over to them, but refused to baptize children, contrary to the practice of the Church, as appears by several discourses of St. Augustine, (Page 103).'" Brackets mine: C.A.P.
Dr. Cramp points out that Augustine opposed Anabaptists in his day. Augustine lived from A.D. 354 to 430. Here we find Augustine serving as another witness, albeit an unwitting one, to the antiquity of the Baptists!
Speaking of his own times, Cramp likens Baptists of his day to those in the Baptist succession known by other names. He wrote,
"Every age brought to view champions for the true and right: and we Baptists are the Novatians, the Donatists, the Paulicians, the Petrobrussians of the nineteenth century."
In answer to those who allege that the aforementioned groups were all heretics of the worst sort, Dr. Cramp responds with,
"Some one starts up in dismay; - 'Sir! all those people were heretics and schismatics!' Hard words, these! But we have been used to them. They called our Lord himself a 'Samaritan,' and said that 'he had a devil.' The fact is, that the dominant part always assumed to be the orthodox, and bade the people believe that those who differed from them were heretics. Trinitarians were orthodox in the days of Constantine, and the Arians were banished. The Arians were the orthodox in the next reign, that of Constantius, and then the Trinitarians were banished. These alternations were continually taking place. And so it comes to this, that if you want to trace the true church of God, you must follow her down the line of those who have been stigmatized, and their names cast out as evil. Patriotism has been oftener found at the headsman's block than in kings' palaces."" 17
Clear words, indeed, from this Canadian Baptist who knew the origin of sound Baptist churches! Oh, that today's Canadian Baptists knew and stood with Brother Cramp.
The Testimony of Thomas Crosby
Going farther back in time we call upon another outstanding Baptist to give his testimony in this affair. While those previously quoted lived during or after the middle 1800's when "church truth" became a much disputed issue in some places, Crosby predates that period of debate by more than a hundred years! Let the words of another speak of the work of this man Thomas Crosby, who:
"...was a London Baptist of great influence in our denomination. He was married to a daughter of the celebrated Benjamin Keach and taught an advanced school for young gentlemen. Being a Baptist deacon for many years, he was selected to make the usual statement on behalf of the church when Dr. Gill was ordained the pastor of the church of which Mr. Crosby was a member.
"Mr. Stinton, the brother-in-law of Thomas Crosby, and the predecessor of Dr. Gill, had collected materials for a work on Baptist history, which was never published. These materials were given to Crosby..."" 18
It is worthy of note, as quoted above, that Crosby was a respected leader in his own church: a church of considerable distinction and whose leaders exercised much influence on Baptist life. Notice should also be taken that much material was gathered by Mr. Stinton and passed on to Mr. Crosby who published his FIRST volume of the History Of The English Baptists in 1738. Being criticized for using "secondary sources," Crosby then made original investigations and published other volumes. He wrote the following in his second volume after personal research and study.
"This great prophet John, had immediate commission from heaven, Luke iii 2, before he entered upon the actual administration of his office. And as the English Baptists adhere closely to this principle, that John the Baptist was by divine command, the first commissioned to preach the gospel, and baptize by immersion, those that receive it; and that this practice has ever since been maintained and continued in the world to this present day; so it may not be improper to consider the state of religion in this kingdom; it being agreed on all hands that the plantation of the gospel here was very early, even in the Apostles days." 19
Crosby candidly observes the beginning of Scriptural baptism and the perpetual existence of this ordinance since its beginning. Understanding that Baptists have historically held the ordinances to be church-ordinances, that is, that they are to be observed in and by a (local) church only, it follows that the perpetuation of the ordinances necessitates the perpetual existence of Baptist churches. Further, Brother Crosby testifies to the gospel being brought to Britain during the days of the apostles! This is an important consideration in the history of the Lord's churches.
The Testimony of Joseph Hooke
The next testimony from the Baptists themselves will be from the Englishman Joseph Hooke. Again it should be noted that these words were penned long before the dispute over church succession came along. Hooke's work, published in A.D. 1701, states:
"Thus having shewed negatively, when this sect called Anabaptists did not begin; we shall shew in the next place affirmatively, when it did begin; for a beginning it had, and it concerns us to enquire for the fountain head of this sect; for if it was sure that it were no older than the Munster fight... I would resolve to forsake it, and would persuade others to do so too. That religion that is not as old as Christ and his Apostles, is too new for me.
"But secondly, Affirmatively, we are fully persuaded, and therefore do boldly though humbly, assert, that this sect is the very same sort of people that were first called Christians in Antioch, Acts 11:26. But sometimes called Nazarenes, Acts 24:5. And as they are everywhere spoke against now, even as they were in the Primitive Times.
"And sometimes anciently they were called Anabaptists, as they have been of late times, and for the same cause, for when others innovated in the worship of God and changed the subject in baptism, they kept on their way, and men grew angry, and for mending an error, they called them Anabaptists, and so they came by the name, which is very ancient..."" 20
The undeniable fact is that Joseph Hooke and other English Baptists held to the view now known as historic "Landmarkism." The fact that Hooke lived more than 150 years before that nickname was coined proves that while the nickname "Landmarker" originated then, the historic "Landmark" view was not invented in the mid-1800's as some liberals contend. Historic "Landmarkism" holds the old view held by Baptists down through the centuries.
The Testimony of John Gill, D.D.
Augustus Toplady, author of the well-known hymn "Rock Of Ages," among others, gave this testimony to our present witness: "If any one man can be supposed to have trod the whole circle of human learning it was Gill." 21 This comment on the scholarship of John Gill takes on a whole new light when it is remembered that Toplady was a well-known and pious Church of England priest who thought so much of Gill's learning to attend "frequently at a week-night lecture of Dr. Gill's!" 22 When a Church of England clergyman goes often to hear a Baptist preach, that's news!
John Gill produced a voluminous commentary on the whole Bible and A Body Of Doctrinal And Practical Divinity, as theological works were then known, as well as other writings. He served as pastor to the London church which was earlier served by Benjamin Keach and later by C.H. Spurgeon. He wrote the following concerning his understanding of the churches of Christ hidden away in some European mountains.
"...I should think the valleys of Piedmont, which lie between France and Italy, are intended, where God has preserved, and continued a set of witnesses to the truth, in a succession, from the beginning of the apostacy sic to the present time, living in obscurity, and in safety, so far as not to be utterly destroyed..."" 23
No one who is even slightly aware of the history of that branch of our Baptist forefathers kept hidden away in the valleys of the Piedmont, can doubt that Gill here speaks of Baptist succession as being continual from the days of the apostles. No other inference can be drawn from his statement! Had "church truth" been a problem and an issue in Gill's day, he would have doubtless had more to say.
The testimony of these Canadian, American and English Baptists prove that historic "Landmarkism" was not a view restricted to some minor segment of Baptists. These views did not originate with - nor were they limited to - an insignificant number of Baptists located primarily "down south" in the United States as has sometimes been charged.
The "Landmark" view - by that we mean the historic Baptist view - asserts that Christ founded His church during His earthly ministry from persons prepared by John the Baptist. The historic view is that churches issuing out from that first church and of the same sort as that church have existed in succession ever since the first one. Sadly, some of these men whom we have called upon to testify were not always consistent in all their practice with this historic view, but the fact remains that they held to such a view! (This fact should spur modern Baptists toward being consistent!)
Of course the reason quasi-Baptists and Protestants reject this view is that to admit its veracity would "unbaptize" and "unchurch" them. It would require them to submit to "the baptism of John," the only baptism authorized by God and therefore recognized in the Scriptures as valid. Many are too proud to admit error and abandon man-made churches because of the social stigma attached to strict Baptist practice. Thus many are unwilling to submit to the "baptism of John." There were some religionists in Jesus' day, like those of our own, who would not submit to John's baptism at the hands of Christ's apostles. It was said of these that they "rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him" (Luke 7:30).
CONCLUSIONS DRAWN FROM BAPTIST CLAIMS
The conclusions at which all must arrive, if our witnesses are correct, are these:
(1) among the people now called Baptists are to be found the true churches of Christ:
(2) all other religious groups have too recent a beginning, were founded by some man and consequently are not churches of Christ at all:
(3) all other religious groups lack Divine authority to perpetuate the ordinances or to carry out the commission. Therefore the baptisms of all other religious groups are null and void of any Heavenly recognition though they may carry much weight with religiously inclined people of this present time.
A narrow and bigoted view, you say? Indeed, in our day of looseness, liberalism and religious inclusiveness, it may seem so. This historic Baptist view is the very view so hated by the religionists of days gone by. It is just as detested by many in today's man-made churches. The unwillingness of Baptists to concede that man-made churches are just as good as the church that Christ built brings down the wrath of those who think their organization as good as Christ's. Surely every true Christian will admit that a church which follows the Bible is better than one which does not. (By that we do not mean that the people are "better," but that it is better to obey God's Word than to discard it.) This "narrow and bigoted" view is the view held by our "anabaptist" fathers of bygone days and is the view held consistently by significant numbers of Baptists of all generations.
Example 1: Abraham Booth
Long before healthy Baptists were nicknamed "Landmarkers" we find Baptists writing and speaking in defense of the old historic view which is now so hated. In A.D. 1778 Abraham Booth, an English Baptist, wrote a volume entitled, A Defense for the Baptists in Which They Are Vindicated from the Imputation of Laying an Unwarrantable Stress on the Ordinance of Baptism and Against the Charge of Bigotry in Refusing Communion at the Lord's Table to Pedobaptists. While such lengthy titles are no longer in vogue, this one speaks volumes to our point. Baptists in 1778 thought Scriptural baptism to be essential to church fellowship. They would not admit that baby baptizers were baptized. Therefore they would not admit them to membership in Baptist churches based on their infant "baptisms" and consequently would not allow them to partake of the Lord's Table in Baptist churches.
Example 2: John Spittlehouse and John More
In A.D. 1652, more than 125 years previous to Abraham Booth's writing, two English Baptists, John Spittlehouse and John More published a volume entitled A Vindication of the Continued Succession of the Primitive Church of Jesus Christ (Now Scandalously Termed Anabaptists) from the Apostles Unto this Present Time." 24 Here we have another lengthy title according to the style of the day, but which witnesses clearly concerning historic Baptist belief about themselves and their churches.
While modern Baptists would not agree, perhaps, with some interpretations of prophecy held by Spittlehouse and More, ten important points were clearly maintained by them in this little volume. They vigorously held:
1. That the true or Primitive Church of Jesus Christ was extant in their day (A.D. 1652) in England and was then slanderously nicknamed "anabaptist."
2. That Christ's Churches have never been a part of nor in communion with the false churches.
3. That Christ's Church has had a continual succession and therefore a continual existence since He founded it.
4. That true Churches are visible societies of saints following the practices, patterns and teachings of the apostles.
5. That these true Churches have preserved the ordinances (baptism and the supper) of Jesus Christ since He gave them.
6. That Catholicism and Protestantism originated from the same source.
7. That Roman Catholicism is the Harlot and Protestant Churches are the Daughters of the Harlot, neither being Churches of Christ.
8. That Catholic priests and Protestant ministers have no valid ordinations and are not ministers of Christ.
9. That the "Protestant Reformation" was not of God, but resulted in false churches being formed and that these false churches were compromised in doctrine and practice with Rome.
10. That there was no need for a "Reformation" inasmuch as Christ's Churches never all went into apostasy.
Surely no one can be aware of such writings as this and honestly maintain that mainline Baptists have thought themselves to be a Protestant sect originating during the so-called Reformation. Sound Baptists have continually maintained that it is among themselves that the true churches established by Christ are to be found! Baptists in every generation since the apostles have consistently maintained that their origin was older than themselves!
The evidence is clear: Baptists of earlier times recognized that individuals in other churches might be saved, safe and going to Heaven, but they refused to recognize these other religious groups as churches of Christ. They would not accept their immersions as Scriptural. It is important that the reader realize that Baptists of days past took issue with other groups not over the mode of baptism but over the matter of which church had authority from God to baptize.
The historic leaders of all major religious groups agreed that immersion was the original mode of baptism." 25 Even John Wesley (1703-1791) refused to sprinkle babies unless they were "weak or sickly," but rather insisted on immersing them according to the Church of England rule of his day! Obviously, then, the contention with Baptists was not over mode, but authority! This cannot be stated too strongly. The facts are these. All mainline Protestant and Catholic groups historically immersed except in instances of sickness, etc., hence they called sprinkling "clinic baptism" (on those few occasions when allowed). The old Baptists took issue with Catholics and Protestants alike, not because they sprinkled - for they seldom did - but rather because, they viewed the Catholics as apostates and the Protestants as man-made organizations. Old Baptists held that neither could be a true church of Christ and therefore refused to recognize their "administrations," i.e. ordinances, as valid, regardless of mode.
The Baptists of days gone by counted the members of both Protestant and Catholic groups as unbaptized! This is the view and practice of a multitude of Baptist churches of our own day and, we believe, the Scriptural view.
Baptists maintain that a view, be it ever so narrow, is not bigotry IF that view is true according to Scripture. Thus sound Baptists have always held to the Scripture as the ONLY rule of faith and practice. May it ever be so!
Let no one say that this "narrow" view was a minority view held only by a few Baptists. Baptists maintain, and have ever maintained, that they have Christ as their Founder. They maintain they have perpetually existed since He built the first church. They insist that they have remained separate and pure from all man-made "churches." This uniqueness can be the only foundation for their continued existence.
To teach that Baptists are merely a sect within Protestantism is to sow the seeds of Baptist annihilation. Indeed, if Baptist churches are merely man-made organizations, let them cease their separate existence and join with the Protestant "evangelical" churches. If Baptist churches are merely a sect within Protestantism there is no valid reason for Baptist separateness. If, however, their existence is apostolical and their faith and practice Biblical, let them continue to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
1John T. Christian, A HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS (Texarkana, Bogard Press, 1922), Vol. 1, p. 5, 6.
2 T. G. Jones wrote the following books: THE DUTIES OF PASTORS TO CHURCHES, (Charleston, Southern Baptist Publication Society): THE BAPTISTS: THEIR ORIGIN, CONTINUITY, PRINCIPLES, SPIRIT, POLITY, POSITION, AND INFLUENCE. A VINDICATION, (Philadelphia, American Baptist Publication Society); THE GREAT MISNOMER, OR THE LORD'S SUPPER RESCUED FROM THE PERVERSION OF ITS ORIGINAL DESIGN, (Philadelphia, Griffith & Rowland Press).
3 William Cathcart, THE BAPTIST ENCYCLOPEDIA, (Philadelphia, Louis H. Everts, 1881), reprinted by The Baptift Standard Bearer, Paris, AR., 1988 pp. 620, 621.
4 T. G. Jones, THE BAPTISTS: THEIR ORIGIN, CONTINUITY, PRINCIPLES, SPIRIT, POLITY, POSITION, AND INFLUENCE. A VINDICATION. (Philadelphia, American Baptist Publication Society, n.d.), pp. 23, 24, 25.
5 Joseph Belcher, THE RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES, New and Revised Ed., (Philadelphia, John E. Potter, 1861), p. 120.
6 Belcher, ibid., p. 124.
7 Joseph Belcher, RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS IN EUROPE AND AMERICA, p. 53, quoted by J.R. Graves, OLD LANDMARKISM, Second Edition, Texarkana, Bogard Press, 1881, p. 86.
8 William Cathcart, op cit, p. 74.
9 C.H. Spurgeon, NEW PARK STREET PULPIT, Vol. 16, 1860, (Pasadena, Texas, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint), p. 66.
10 C.H. Spurgeon, METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT, Vol. 7, 1861 (Pasadena, Texas, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint), p. 225
11 Spurgeon, ibid., Vol. 7, p. 613.
12 Spurgeon, ibid., Vol. 27, p. 249.
13 John W. Ashworth, BAPTIST PRINCIPLES AND HISTORY (London, Yates & Alexander, 1880), pp. 6, 7, 8.
14 Ashworth, ibid.
15 Ashworth, ibid.
16 Cathcart, op cit, p. 286.
17 J.M. Cramp, D.D. THE CASE OF THE BAPTISTS, STATED AND EXPLAINED, ADDRESSED TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, (Halifax, N.S., "Christian Messenger" Office, 1873), pp. 3-5, 10.
18 Cathcart, op. cit., pp. 296, 297.
19 Thomas Crosby, A HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS, Vol. II, p. ii.
20 Joseph Hooke, A NECESSARY APOLOGY FOR THE BAPTIZED BELIEVERS, (London, 1701), p. 66.
21 THE BIBLICAL AND HISTORICAL FAITH OF BAPTISTS ON GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY, (Ashland, KY., Calvary Baptist Church, n.d.), p. 24.
22 Cathcart, op. cit., p. 454.
23 John Gill, GILL'S EXPOSITOR, (London, Matthews & Leigh, 1809), Vol. VIII, p. 691: quoted in the Berea Baptist Banner, Mantachie, Mississippi, November & December issues, 1987.
24 Spittlehouse and More, A VINDICATION OF THE CONTINUED SUCCESSION OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST (NOW SCANDALOUSLY TERMED ANABAPTISTS) FROM THE APOSTLES UNTO THIS PRESENT TIME, (London, Gartrude Dawson, 1652).
The only original copy of this volume known to exist is located in the Samuel Colgate Memorial Library, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, New York.
A VINDICATION OF THE CONTINUED SUCCESSION..., in modernized spelling and format, is included in the back of this present volume as APPENDIX II.
25 Bow, op cit, p. 27, furnishes the following information.
"John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian church, in its present form, said: 'The very word baptize, itself, signifies to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was observed by the ancient church.'
"Commenting on the baptism of the eunuch, he Calvin says:
'Here we perceive how baptism was administered among the ancients, for they immersed the whole body in water.'
"John Wesley, founder of Methodism, on Romans 6:4, says,
'We are buried with him, alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion.'
"Martin Luther says:
'For to baptize in Greek is to dip, and baptizing is dipping. Being moved by this reason, I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped into the water, as the word doth express, and as the mystery doth signify.' (Works. Wittemb. Ed., vol. 2, p. 79.) For political reasons, no doubt, Luther changed his mind and went along with Rome.
"Cardinal Gibbons, Roman Catholic, says:
'For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity, baptism was usually conferred by immersion, but since the twelfth century the practice of baptizing by affusion has prevailed in the Catholic church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than baptism by immersion.' - Faith of Our Fathers, p. 275.
"The Encyclopedia Britannica, in the article 'Baptism,' vol.3, p. 351, says:
'The usual mode of performing the ceremony was by immersion... The council of Ravenna, in 1311, was the first council of the Roman Catholic church to legalize sprinkling by leaving it to the choice of the officiating minister.'"
[Brackets mine: C.A.P]
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