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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Church That Jesus Built, 1923 (Chapter 10)
We saw in the last chapter that from the days of Christ and the apostles there have existed churches that held to the New Testament way of salvation and baptism. These churches I have shown to be, on essential points, Baptist churches. I wish for us now to spend a few moments considering the statements of historians of different denominations concerning Baptist origin and perpetuity. Some of these statements have been much used and often quoted. This, however, has in no wise affected their truth. Indeed they should carry greater weight, having stood the test of time and criticism.
The charge is sometimes made that even Baptist historians do not believe in Baptist continuity. In reply to this it may be said that some Baptist historians do not. Some are too "broad" to risk the charge of narrowness that would be hurled at them if they laid claim to perpetuity. Some have pedobaptist and even modernistic tendencies, and hold to the "invisible" Church theory. But it can be truly said that most Baptist historians are firm believers in Baptist continuity. And it is interesting to note that those who seek to discredit it are careful not to assert that Baptist continuity cannot be traced.
For instance, Dr. Vedder says: "One cannot affirm that there was not a continuity in the outward and visible life of the church, founded by the apostles down to the Reformation. To affirm such a negative would be foolish, and such…could not be proved." (S. Hist., p. 9) Vedder, however, takes the position that it was to the "invisible" Church that Christ promised perpetuity. He evidently expects the reader to accept this merely upon the authority of his word, without proof, biblical or otherwise. He offers no proof because none can be offered. As I have already shown, there is no such thing as an "invisible" Church. There has either been a continuity of visible churches, or else Christ's promise has failed.
The Baptist historian A. H. Newman disclaims belief in Baptist continuity, but he also is very careful not to assert that such continuity cannot be traced. Indeed, he goes so far as to admit that all did not go off into apostasy, for he says (History of Antipedobaptism, p. 28), "That there were hosts of true believers can by no means be doubted." I have shown that these "hosts" were Baptists, gathered into New Testament churches!
The Baptist historian McGlothlin, like Vedder and Newman, does not venture to assert that there was not a continuity of Baptist churches. His statement is (Guide, p. 29), "Anabaptists may have had some connection with earlier sects."
Among the better known Baptist historians of the past who were believers in Baptist perpetuity, may be mentioned Robinson, Crosby, Irving, Orchard, Jones, Backus, Benedict and Cramp. Of these historians Dr. Armitage says: "In the main their leading facts and findings have not been proven untrustworthy, and no one has attempted to show their general conclusions untenable…Their historical acumen is quite equal to that of other church historians" (Armitage's History, p. 11).
I want that we shall consider a few statements from noted Baptists themselves concerning their origin and continuity, after which we shall consider what historians of other faiths have to say about them.
The Baptist historian that is regarded by many leading Baptists as their greatest historian is John T. Christian. Dr. Christian's new Baptist History (Baptist S. S. Board, 1922) presents unassailable proof of the continuity of Baptists. I quote from the preface to his great work this ringing statement: "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."
Dr. Geo. Lorimer (The Baptists in History, p. 49), "That the Baptists are more likely the oldest, is generally conceded and grows more certain with the progress of scholarly investigation."
Dr. J. B. Moody (My Church), "Church perpetuity is scriptural, reasonable, credible, historical and conclusive."
Dr. J. L. Smith (Baptist Law of Continuity), "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."
Dr. J. W. Porter, noted author and editor says, "If Baptists have not perpetuity, then Christ's prophecy and promise have failed. This is unthinkable."
H. B. Taylor (Bible Briefs), "Baptist churches are the only institutions that are divine on this earth. Without them Matthew 16:18 has failed of fulfillment."
Dr. T. T. Eaton, "Those who oppose Baptist succession have no logical ground to stand on in organizing a church out of material furnished by other churches, and with those baptized by regular ordained ministers."
Dr. R. B. Cook (Story of the Baptists):
"Baptists are able to trace their distinctive principles to the apostolic age…When from the union of the church and state Christianity became 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."
Dr. D. B. Ray (Baptist Succession, p. 10), "Baptists have with one voice denied any connection with the Romish apostasy, and claimed their origin as a church from Jesus Christ and the apostles."
Dr. D. C. Haynes (The Baptist Denomination, p. 21), "The Baptist church is the primitive church—there has never been a time when it was not in being."
Dr. Geo. W. McDaniel (Churches of the New Testament), "There is no personality this side of Jesus Christ is a satisfactory explanation of their origin."
I could go on almost indefinitely with quotations from n Baptists, showing that great and representative men of faith, after investigation and thought, have been firm belief in the perpetuity of Baptist churches. Some of these have ten books that offer conclusive proof on this point. I mention as examples:
To the books I referred to are to be added many historical works by men whose names I have made no mention of.
So much for the beliefs of Baptists relative to the continuity of their own churches. Let us now see what historians and great men of other faiths have to say about Baptist origin and perpetuity. I begin with those who have been the bitterest enemies and persecutors of Cardinal Hosius, the president of the Council of Trent. He says:
"If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness 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 the Anabaptists, since there have been 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 punishment than these people." (Quoted from Christian's History)
Cardinal Hosius wrote in A. D. 1554. He dates the history of Baptists back twelve hundred years. This is an important concession. Date them back to 354 A. D. and we have little trouble following them the rest of the way.
Zwingli, the Swiss reformer, co-worker with Luther and Calvin in the Reformation of 1525 and bitter enemy of the Baptists says, “The institution of the Anabaptists is no novelty, but for thirteen hundred years has caused great trouble to the church."
This admits the existence of Baptists in the year 225 A. D. Mosheim, Lutheran historian of great note says, "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of the modern Dutch Baptists." (Inst. of Eccl. History)
Robert Barclay, Quaker, says, "There are also reasons for believing that on the continent of Europe small hidden Christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists, have existed from the time of the apostles." (Inner life of the Societies of the Commonwealth, pp. 11, 12)
John Clark Ridpath, Methodist, author of that monumental work, Ridpath's History of the World, in a letter to Dr. W. A. Jarrell (Baptist Church Perpetuity, p. 59), says, "I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A. D. 100, though without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists."
Alexander Campbell, founder of the Campbellite or "Christian" church says, "From the apostolic age to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced." (McCalla-Campbell Debate on Baptism, pp. 378, 379)
Sir Isaac Newton, learned English philosopher, student of the Scriptures and of history, says, "The Modern Baptists, formerly called Anabaptists, are the only people who have never symbolized with the Papacy." (Quoted from Baptist Law of Continuity, p. 39)
Edinburg Cyclopedia, "It must have already occurred to our readers that the Baptists are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described under the appellation of Anabaptist. Indeed, this seems to have been their leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present time." (From N. T. Church, p. 22) Tertullian was a Montanist. He was born about fifty years after the death of John the apostle.
I quote next from Crossing the Centuries, by W. C. Kin having as associate editors some of the great men of America such as former President Roosevelt, President Wilson, Davis Starr Jordan, Lyman Abbott, and a number of presidents an professors of leading universities. Of the Baptists it has this to say:
"Of the Baptists it may be said that they are not reformers. These people, comprising bodies of Christian believers, known under various names in different countries, are entirely distinct and independent of the Roman and Greek Churches, have an unbroken continuity from apostolic days down through the centuries. Throughout this long period they were bitterly persecuted for heresy, driven from country to country, disfranchised, deprived of their property, imprisoned, tortured and slain by the thousands, yet they swerved not from their New Testament faith, doctrine and adherence." (From The N. T. Church, p. 25)
The Dutch Baptist historians all claim apostolic origin for the Baptists, according to Dr. J. T. Christian, who has given much study and thought to this question. Such is the claim of Herman Schynn (Historia Christianorum), while Blaupont Ten Cate says (Christian's History, p. 95): "I am fully satisfied that Baptist principles have in all ages, from the times of the apostles to the present, prevailed over a greater or smaller portion of Christendom."
The claim of Dutch Baptists to apostolic origin was thoroughly investigated in the year 1819. The King of Holland appointed J. J. Dermout, his chaplain, a scholarly man, and Dr. Ypeij, professor of theology in Groningen, both members of the Dutch Reformed Church, to write a history of the Dutch Reformed Church and also investigate the claims of Dutch Baptists. They prepared the history, and in it they devote a chapter to the Baptists. A portion of what they have to say about the Baptists reads as follows:
"The Mennonites are descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into various countries; and who during the latter part of the twelfth century fled into Flanders; and into the provinces of Holland and Zeeland, where they lived simple and exemplary lives, in the villages as farmers (in 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.
"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 history received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages…
“The perfectly correct external and internal 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 denomination is the most ancient." (History of the Dutch Reformed Church, by A. Ypeij and J. J. Dermout, Vol. 1, p. 148)
Other authorities could be cited, and quotations could be multiplied, but it is unnecessary to go on indefinitely with these. I shall offer only two more ere I close the chapter. Enough has already been written, however, and sufficient proof has been produced to convince the open, unbiased, teachable mind that Jesus founded a Church, that that church was the local assembly; that He promised its perpetuity, and that His promise is seen fulfilled in the churches today known as Baptist churches. I submit the following from Dr. J. W. Porter's book, Random Remarks, concerning Dr. John Clark, who was pastor of the first Baptist church in America, located at Newport, R. I.
Dr. Porter says:
"Dr. John Clark received his baptism from Rev. Stillwell's church in London, and this church received the from Holland, and the Holland Baptists from the Waldenses, and the Waldenses from the Novatians, and the Novatians from the Donatists, and the Donatists receive their baptism from the apostolic church, and the apostolic church from John the Baptist, and John the Baptist from heaven."
In 1921 or 1922, I clipped an article that appeared in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, and simultaneously in several other denominational papers of the South. This article dealt with the ancestry of the Baptist church at Dyer, Tennessee. It shows a continuity of Baptist church life from the present to the days of Jesus. I am not informed as to the one who made the research, neither have I had at my command all the books necessary to enable me to verify each historical reference given. I give the article in full below for the consideration of the reader:
BAPTIST SUCCESSION BACK TO CHRIST
1. Link One: The Baptist church at Dyer, Tennessee, was organized by J. W. Jetter, who came from the Philadelphia Association.
2. Link Two: Hillcliff Church, Wales, England. H. Roller came to the Philadelphia Association from The Hillcliff Church. See minutes of Philadelphia Association, book 3, item 1.
3. Link Three: Hillcliff Church was organized by Aaron Arlington, A. D. 987. See Alex Munston's Israel of the Alps, p. 39.
4. Link Four: Lima Piedmont church ordained Aaron Arlington in 940. See Jones' Church History, p. 324.
5. Link Five: Lima Piedmont church was organized by Balcolao, A. D. 812. See Neander's Church History, vol. 2, p. 320.
6. Link Six: Balcolao came from the church at Timto, Asia Minor. See Neander's Church History, vol. 2, p. 320.
7. Link Seven: Timto church was organized by Archer Flavin, A. D. 738. See Mosheim's History, vol. 1, p. 394.
8. Link Eight: Archer Flavin came from the Darethea church, organized by Adromicus, A. D. 671, in Asia Minor. See Lambert's Church History, p. 47.
9. Link Nine: Adromicus came from Pontifossi, at the foot of the Alps in France. See Lambert's Church History, p. 47.
10. Link Ten: Pontifossi church was organized by Tellestman from Turan, Italy, A. D. 398. See Nowlin's Church History, vol. 2, p. 318.
11. Link Eleven: Turan church was organized by Tertullan from Bing Joy, Africa, A. D. 237. See Armitage's Church History, p. 182.
12. Link Twelve: Tertullan was a member of the Partus church at the foot of the Tiber, that was organized by Polycarp, A. D. 150. See Cyrus' Commentary of Antiquity, p. 924.
13. Link Thirteen: Polycarp was baptized by John the Beloved or Revelator, on the twenty-fifth of December, A. D. 95. See Neander's Church History, p. 285.
14. Link Fourteen: John was with Jesus on the Mount. Mark 3: 13-14; Luke 6: 12-13.