John Leland—Champion of Liberty in America
John Leland was born in Grafton, Massachusetts, May 14, 1754. At the age of eighteen he passed through an experience not unlike that of John Bunyan, coming out gradually into the liberty of the gospel. Within a month after his conversion, in June, 1774, he made his first attempt at public speaking. Having connected himself with the church in Mount Poney, Culpeper County, Virginia, he was ordained by the choice of the church. He preached from place to place, everywhere proclaiming “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Wonderful revivals everywhere followed the labors of Mr. Leland in Virginia. Hundreds came under the power of converting grace, and professed their faith in Christ. The summary of his labors during the fifteen years of his ministry in Virginia is thus recorded, — 3,009 sermons preached, 700 persons baptized, and two large churches formed, one of 300 members, and another of 200.
Having finished the work which he thought his Master had given him to do in Virginia, John Leland returned to his native State, and made his home for the most of the remainder of his life in Cheshire, Massachusetts. Here, and in the region about, the same power and the same success followed his ministry. He reports the whole number of persons whom he had baptized down to 1821 as 1,352. “Some of them,” he says, “have been men of wealth and rank, and ladies of quality, but the chief part have been in the middle and lower grades of life. Ten or twelve of them have engaged to preach.” Missionary tours were made in almost every direction, and multitudes crowded to hear him.
The story of the “mammoth cheese” sent by the people of Cheshire to President Jefferson belongs to this period. He was the bearer of the gift to Washington. “Mr. Jefferson,” remarks J.T. Smith, “treated him with much deference, among other things taking him into the Senate chamber.”
Year after year he went on doing that special work to which he believed the Lord had called him. “From seventy to beyond eighty years of age he probably averaged more sermons a week than most settled pastors.” And it is interesting to have the following recorded of him by one who could speak intelligently about him, “The large attendance on his preaching was as creditable to the hearers as to the preacher. A sensational preacher he was not, nor a mere bundle of eccentricities. The discriminating and thoughtful listened to him with the most interest and attention.” He was evidently “a born preacher.” The life of a settled pastor would have been irksome to him. He wanted freedom from all restraint, and to do his own work at his own time and in his own way.
In politics he was a Democrat of the Jeffersonian school, a hater of all oppression, whether civil or ecclesiastical. His warmest sympathies went out to his Baptist brethren in their efforts to secure a complete divorce of the Church from the State. Everywhere he pleaded with all the energy of his soul for civil and religious liberty, and he had the satisfaction of seeing it at last come out of the conflict victorious over all foes. Among the class of ministers whom God raised up during the last century to do the special work which it was given the Baptist denomination to perform, John Leland occupies a conspicuous place. We doubt if his equal will ever be seen again. Mr. Leland died January 14, 1841.
Cathcart, William—The Baptist Encyclopedia
P.N. Haycraft—A Baptist Preacher of the 1800’s
P.N. Haycraft was born near Elizabethtown, Kentucky on April 8, 1797. He grew up with his parents near Louisville, Kentucky where they lived in the wild forest, exposed to the cruelties of the savages and the hardships of the frontier life. Haycraft had three brothers and seven sisters, all of whom became Baptists and lived 54 years as a family circle unbroken by the hand of death.
In May of 1831, P.N. Haycraft found the Lord Jesus Christ an all-sufficient and willing Saviour. Then, in April of 1833, he was licensed to preach. It was not until 1835, when moved to Missouri, that his ministry began to flourish.
R.S. Duncan wrote of Elder Haycraft, “Desiring to do the will of God towards his family and towards sinners, he labored on his little farm through the day, studied at night by the firelight, and on Sunday preached where Providence seemed to open the way. Quite a portion of this time he labored as missionary in the bounds of Bethel Association, which at that time embraced all the northeast quarter of the state, and at other times for the General Association, through nearly all the counties north of the Missouri river, and between Illinois and Kansas.”
Elder Haycraft wrote, “In the winter of 1842 and 1843, there was a general revival throughout the northeast part of the state. I preached to Mound Prairie Church, 38 miles south of my home, and to North Wyaconda Church, 60 miles north, and at Gilead Church where my membership was. Four hundred were added by baptism that year to the churches in Northeast Missouri. I went the rounds once a month, baptizing every week. I have crossed the wide prairies, riding all day without the sight of a fire, when it was so cold that farmers were all housed. I have crossed the streams where the water would run over the back of my horse, carrying a rail on my shoulder to break the shore ice; sometimes swimming my horse, and riding all day in winter with wet clothing to meet my appointments.”
In the thirty-five years of labor in Missouri, Elder Haycraft constituted thirteen churches and ordained seventeen ministers. He preached seventeen years to one church, fifteen to another, and eight to another. As pay for preaching to a church sixty miles from home, he received sixteen dollars and thirty dollars from another thirty-eight miles from his house. His labors were not for personal gain, but for the salvation of souls.
Duncan, R.S., A History of the Baptists in Missouri
Five Friends of Freedom
In I Corinthians 9:19, we see a paradox that Paul presents to the Corinthians. He was free from all men while being bound to all men. His freedom related to his position as an apostle (I Corinthians 9:1- “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?”) and his nationality as an Israelite. Paul’s bonds referred to his obligation to preach the gospel and teach disciples the ways of the Lord. What a tremendous illustration this presents to believers of our day in the fact that while we enjoy the liberties of
Paul referred to his liberty in Christ several times throughout the epistles. However, he expressed the national liberty in this verse that we will focus on in this article. We should be thankful for the freedom that we enjoy in the
In the early beginnings of
Some of the “clerical” laws of the land seemed to be directed toward the Baptists. For example, in 1638 the Puritan clergy influenced
“If any person or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance…every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment.”
Even the first permanent colony in American history (
“…so offending shall remaine, the Gourernour shall cause the offender for the first time of refusal, to be whipt, for the second time to be whipt twice, and to acknowledge his fault vpon the Saboth day, in the assembly of the congregation, and for the third time, to be whipt every day, vntil he hath made the same acknowledgement, and asked forgiueness for the same, and shall repaire vnto the Minister, to be further instructed as aforesaid: and vpon the Saboth when the Minister shall catechise, and of him demand any question concerning his faith and knowledge, he shall not refuse to make answere vpon the same perill.” [sic]
Many other laws began to pass that made the Church of England (Anglican) the political and religious authority on American soil. For example, in 1643 a law passed in
“A levy of fifteen pounds of tobacco per poll was laid…upon all tithables; the surplus of which after paying the minister’s salary, was to be laid out in purchasing a glebe and stock for the minister.”
Through this law, the state ministers would be entitled to anyone’s tithes and all tithes were to be paid to them for their salary, land, and stock. What was a Baptist church member to do with their tithe? Were they to give it to a state church that did not preach the Word of God?
Further, in 1661, laws stiffened as the Church of England seized a firmer grasp on religion and worship in colonial
“In the year 1661, the supremacy of the church of England, was again fully established. The first nine acts of the session held in March 1661-2, are devoted to that subject. A church was to be built in each parish; and vestries appointed. Glebes were directed to be procured for the ministers, and convenient houses built thereon; in addition to which, their salaries were fixed at 801. per annum, at least, besides their perquisites. No minister was permitted to preach, unless he had received ordination from some bishop in
Through this enactment, it would now be a ruling not only to tithe to the state church, but also to be faithful to their services, ordinances, and practices. No one could preach unless licensed by the state church.
Then, in 1662, the government of
“Whereas many schismaticall persons out of their aversenesse to the orthodox established religion, or out of the new fangled conceits of their owne heretical inventions, refuse to have their children baptized, Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all persons that, in contempt of the divine sacrament of baptisme, shall refuse when they may carry their child to a lawful minister in that county to have them baptized, shall be amerced two thousand pounds of tobacco; halfe to informer and halfe to the publique.” [sic]
What should a Christians do under such severe indictments? Are they to obey the laws of the land, or are they to obey the Word of God? Peter, in
This act of devotion brought waves of persecution on our Baptist ancestors. Times heated up before the Revolutionary War as the Baptists in colonial
Lewis Craig, being the first to be arrested in
“May it please your worships, these men are great disturbers of the peace; they cannot meet a man upon the road, but they must ram a text of Scripture down his throat.”
On other occasions, Craig was indicted, tried, but not imprisoned. In
Many severe hardships awaited Baptists as they entered into
Samuel Harris, after his conversion, became a great soul-winner and church planter in
James Ireland, converted under the ministry of John Pickett and baptized by Samuel Harris, was also a great church planter. His ministry spread abroad as he traveled winning souls to the Lord. He even preached to the American troops during the Revolutionary War. However, the immense works and godly character he possessed did not stop his mistreatment. Ireland was jailed for preaching, and while there, the “authorities” tried to suffocate him with smoke in his cell, blow him up with gunpowder, and poison him with arsenic (along with his family). In addition, men made their water in his face.
Time would fail to tell the story of John Waller, but for illustration purposes, a sketch of his imprisonment will be given. For simply preaching the gospel, he was jailed in
Many other Baptist preachers were jailed in
John Alderson, Thomas Ammon, Joseph Anthony, Elijah Baker, Adam Banks, John Burrus, Thomas Chambers, James Chiles, Bartholomew Choning, John Clay, John Corbley, Elijah Craig, Augustine Eastin, James Goolrich, James Greenwood, Thomas Hargate, Edward Herndon, William Lovall, William McClannahan, William Mash, Thomas Maxwell, Anderson Moffett, Jeremiah Moore, John Picket, James Pitman, James Read, Nathaniel Saunders, John Shackelford, Joseph Spencer, Philip Spiller, John Tanner, David Tinsley, Jeremiah Walker, James Ware, Robert Ware, John Weatherford, William Webber, Allen Wyley, John Young
“John Waller’s ‘blood was spilt’ in this Caroline instance; Thomas Waford’s ‘blood was spilt’ at that spring in Middlesex County; Martin Kaufman’s ‘blood was spilt’ when he was clubbed with the butt end of a large cane, in Shenandoah County; Weatherford’s ‘blood was spilt’ when his hands were slashed by men of the ‘baser sort’ as he thrust them through the iron grates of Chesterfield jail; ‘much blood shed’ in Chappawamsick church when Charles Williams was trying to shoot minister, and so much ‘blood was spilt’ at another time in this same church ‘that the floor shone with the sprinkled blood the days following’.”
Keep in mind that
Our first friend of religious freedom is George Washington. He was born on
1. Military career began in French and Indian War, 1755-1763
2. Member, Virginia House of Burgesses, 1759-1774, and opponent of British Colonial Policies
3. Delegate to Continental Congress, 1774-1775
4. Assumed command of Continental Army,
5. Commander in Chief of Continental Army in Revolutionary War, 1775-1783
6. Defeated Cornwallis at
7. Presided over Federal Constitutional Convention, 1787
8. First President of the
9. As President,
Although George Washington lived most of his life an Episcopalian, he acknowledged the great accomplishments of the Baptists, helping them in their cause for freedom. In reply to the United Baptist Churches of Virginia, which expressed to him grave doubts about the security of religious liberty under the Constitution of the United States, just adopted, Washington wrote in May of 1789,
I request that you will accept my best acknowledgments for your congratulation on my appointment to the first office in the nation. The kind manner in which you mention my past conduct equally claims the expression of my gratitude.
After we had, by the smiles of Heaven on our exertions, obtained the object for which we contended, I retired at the conclusion of the war, with an idea that my country could have no farther occasion for my services, and with the intention of never entering again into public life: But when the exigence of my country seemed to require me once more to engage in public affairs, an honest conviction of duty superseded my former resolution, and became my apology for deviating from the happy plan which I had adopted.
If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical Society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the general Government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution—For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.
While I recollect with satisfaction that the religious Society of which you are Members, have been, throughout America, uniformly, and almost unanimously, the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering Promoters of our glorious revolution; I cannot hesitate to believe that they will be the faithful Supporters of a free, yet efficient general Government. Under this pleasing expectation I rejoice to assure them that they may rely on my best wishes and endeavors to advance their prosperity.
In the meantime be assured, Gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness.” [sic]
With such a testimony from the noblest patriot known to the human race, we may well bless God for our religious ancestors, who were among the most active builders of our country’s great temple of liberty. Not only did
We can easily see
William Cathcart, in giving a short biography of John Gano, wrote in his encyclopedia,
“Mr. Gano was deeply interested in the Revolutionary struggle, and when fighting began he entered the army as chaplain to Gen. Clinton’s
It was through these men’s efforts that General George Washington started seeing the Scriptural teaching of believer’s baptism toward the end of the Revolutionary War.
It would be hard for an individual to deny the influence that the Baptists had on George Washington. In addition, it would be difficult to refute the battles that
Our second friend of religious freedom is Thomas Jefferson. He was born in 1743 on the western frontiers of
1. Architect, political and social philosopher; Member, Virginia House of Burgesses, 1769-1775
2. Member of Continental Congress, 1775-1776
3. Author of the Declaration of
5. Author of Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, passed 1786
6. First Secretary of State, 1790-1793
7. Cofounder of Democratic-Republican Party, 1791
8. Vice President of
9. Third President of the
10. Doubled area of
Although Thomas Jefferson lived most of his life a Unitarian, he also acknowledged the great accomplishments of the Baptists. One of the most unknown, yet greatest documents
“Section I. Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, [sic] or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislators and ruler, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
Section II. We, the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.” [sic]
Now we know why so many opposed this bill. It completely rebuked all the wicked schemes of the state church and offered complete religious freedom to all.
We recognize Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence, but what influenced him to pen the words as he did in this great document? To answer this question we must look at a Baptist preacher unknown to most. His name is Andrew Tribble. This man of God should have some recognition for shaping our nation because of his influence on Thomas Jefferson. Lewis Peyton Little retells the story as thus.
“Andrew Tribble was the parson of a small Baptist church which held monthly meetings at a short distance from the
By this, we learn that from a little country church (
Because of Jefferson’s love for the Baptists, he made an address to the “General Meeting of the Baptist of Virginia” at
“In reviewing the history of the times through which we have passed, no portion of it gives greater satisfaction than that which presents the efforts of the friends of religious freedom and the success with which they were crowned. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the induction of his own reason.”
In this address, we see
Thomas Jefferson also reported the great revivals that the Baptists in
“In 1774, says Howison, the Baptists increased on every side. If one preacher was imprisoned, ten arose to take his place; if one congregation was dispersed, a larger assembled on the next opportunity. The influence of the denomination was strong among the common people. At the Revolution, Jefferson tells us that in
It is apparent that many of these invaluable historical facts are unknown, or are they? Rush Limbaugh, a prominent talk radio host in
“Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase ‘wall of separation between church and state’ in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, but it has been totally taken out of context and misused. He was actually talking about protecting religious liberty. Besides,
This is in reference to a 13-year-old caller that asked Mr. Limbaugh about her 8th grade social studies project. She pointed out the fact that the words “separation of church and state” are not in the Constitution. Limbaugh’s conclusion was that, “It’s a position the Founders never held.”
The reason for citing this is to reveal that even talk radio hosts are aware of some of the influences of the Baptists on our early leaders. Now, the only problem is why do members of our Baptist churches not know this great history?
Our third friend of religious freedom is James Madison. He was born in Port Conway, Virginia in 1751.
1. Architect of the Constitution at
2. Member of Continental Congress, 1780-1783, 1787-1788
3. United States Congressman, 1789-1797
4. Secretary of State under
5. Fourth President of the
6. Contributor to The Federalist papers, Leading advocate of Bill of Rights, Led nation during War of 1812
Although James Madison lived most of his life an Episcopalian, he also acknowledged the great accomplishments of the Baptists. Even in his youth, his father would take him to hear the Baptist preachers preach from the grates of the “gaols” in
“That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and, to their eternal infamy the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such purposes.”
Because the Baptists were being fined, whipped, imprisoned, and flogged, the political leaders of the republican movement began to speak out. By 1772, many had grown weary of the continuous mistreatment of the dissenters known as Baptists that they began to defend these victims of the state church.
A Baptist preacher influenced the ultimate task that
Although some debate this meeting took place, all evidences prove it credible. Governor Briggs wrote a letter confirming the gathering, which proved beyond doubt that this event occurred. In addition, the author spent some time researching in the Orange County Historical Society, Inc. and the records he found also proved this occasion. Further, in
Our fourth friend of freedom that we will meet in this article is Patrick Henry. He was born in
1. Led militant anti-Crown faction in
2. Gave the famous speech in
3. Governor of
4. Statesman of the Revolutionary War Period
5. He opposed the Constitution and campaigned for the Bill of Rights
Although Patrick Henry lived most of his life a Presbyterian, he acknowledged the great accomplishments of the Baptists. In fact, it would be Henry, a successful lawyer, which would defend many of the Baptist preachers imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Some of these were John Waller, John Weatherford (Henry paid his fine out of his own pocket and secured Weatherford’s release.), Jeremiah Moore, William Webber, Joseph Anthony, Lewis Craig, Joseph Craig, and Aaron Bledsoe. Robert Baylor Semple writes about Patrick Henry and his friendship toward the Baptists as thus,
“It was in making these attempts that they were so fortunate as to interest in their behalf the celebrated Patrick Henry. Being always the friend of liberty, he only needed to be informed of their oppression, when, without hesitation, he stepped forward to their relief. From that day until the day of their complete emancipation from the shackles of tyranny, the Baptists found in Patrick Henry an unwavering friend. May his name descend to posterity with unsullied honor!”
One of the most famous occasions that Henry defended a Baptist on trial was the instance of John Waller, and his companions, being confined in the
“ ‘May it please your worships, I think I heard read by the prosecutor, as I entered the house, the paper I now hold in my hand. If I rightly understood, the king’s attorney has framed an indictment for the purpose of arraigning, and punishing by imprisonment, these three inoffensive persons before the bar of this Court for a crime of great magnitude—as disturbers of the peace. May it please the Court, what did I hear read? Did I hear it distinctly,—or was it a mistake of my own? Did I hear an expression, as of a crime, that these men, whom your worships are about to try for a misdemeanor, are charged with,—with—what?’ Then in a low, solemn, heavy tone he continued—‘preaching the gospel of the Son of God?’ Pausing amid profound silence, he waved the paper three times round his head, then raising his eyes and hands to heaven, with peculiar and impressive energy, he exclaimed—‘Great God!’ A burst of feeling from the audience followed this exclamation. Mr. Henry resumed—‘May it please your worships, in a day like this,—when truth is about to burst her fetters,—when mankind are about to be aroused to claim their natural and inalienable rights—when the yoke of oppression that has reached the wilderness of America, and the unnatural alliance of ecclesiastical and civil power, are about to be dissevered,—at such a period, when liberty,—liberty of conscience,—is about to wake from her slumberings, and inquire into the reason of such charges as I find exhibited here today in this indictment,’—here he paused, and alternately cast his piercing eyes upon the Court and upon the prisoners, and resumed,—‘If I am not deceived, according to the contents of the paper I now hold in my hand, these men are accused of preaching the gospel of the Son of God!—Great God!’ A deeper impression was visible as he paused, and slowly waved the paper round his head. ‘May it please your worships, there are periods in the history of man, when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character, that man sinks under the weight of the oppressor’s hand,—becomes his servile, his abject slave; he licks the hand that smites him; and in this state of servility he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage. But may it please your worships, such a day has passed away. From that period when our fathers left the land of their nativity for these American wilds,—from the moment they placed their feet upon the American continent, from that moment despotism was crushed, the fetters of darkness were broken, and heaven decreed that man should be free,—free to worship God according to the Bible. Were it not for this, in vain were all their sufferings and bloodshed to subjugate this new world, if we their offspring must still be oppressed and persecuted. But, may it please your worships, permit me to inquire once more, for what are these men about to be tried? This paper says, for preaching the gospel of the Saviour to Adam’s fallen race.’ For the third time he slowly waved the indictment around his head, and lifting his eyes to heaven in a solemn dignified manner, and again looking at the Court, he exclaimed with the full power of his strong voice—‘What law have they violated?’ The scene now became painful,—the audience were excited,—the attorney was agitated,—the bench and bar were moved; and the presiding magistrate exclaimed, ‘Sheriff, discharge these men’.”
The Baptist preachers were set free and Patrick Henry won another victory in the fight for religious freedom! If it were not for Henry appearing that day the fate of these men could have been detrimental.
What a tremendous heritage we have as Baptists. We need to retell these lost facts so that our members are familiar with their godly legacy. There is a desperate need for young and old alike to become acquainted with their history because very soon we will lose it. So many churches today are taking Baptist off their name because they are afraid it may offend someone. However, we must never forget the price that was paid so that we could have our religious freedom. Woodrow Wilson once said,
“A nation that does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about…
The Bible…is the one supreme source of revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God and spiritual nature and needs of men. It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation.
Not only is this true for a nation, but it is also accurate for a church. When they begin to leave the fundamentals of the faith, they commence to go down the wrong track. Utter failure will be the result.
The Lord Jesus Christ
We now come to the fifth and final friend of religious freedom in this article. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. He was born about two thousand years ago so that we could be born again. The great accomplishments wrought in His life are innumerable, but to list a few:
1. He was born of a virgin
2. He lived a sinless life
3. He shed His blood on the Cross to obtain eternal redemption for us
4. He was buried, and on the third day arose from the dead
5. He is now seated on the right hand of the throne of God to make intercession for us
6. He is willing to save any sinner that comes to Him
We should be grateful for our tremendous Baptist heritage and their influence upon great political leaders. Certainly, it was the ideas of the Baptists that shaped our nation and advanced them into freedom. However, we should be more thankful for the liberties we have in Christ. It is these liberties that we must proclaim to every lost individual that they might have true freedom as well. Some of Christ’s liberties are:
1. The Freedom of His Salvation
2. The Freedom of His Scriptures
3. The Freedom of His Spirit II Corinthians - “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
4. The Freedom of His Spirituality
5. The Freedom of His Servitude I Corinthians 9:19- “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.”
In closing, if you are a sinner, you need to repent of your sins and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only in Him that you can experience true freedom and liberty. Then, if you are a believer, will you make yourself a servant unto all, that others will know the Lord as well?
 David Benedict. A General History of the Baptist Denomination. Vol. 1,
 Peter Force. Tracts and other Papers, Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement, and Progress of the Colonies in
 Lewis Peyton Little. Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in
 Little, page 4.
 Robert Baylor Semple. History of the Baptists in
 Little, page 6.
 Little, page 516.
 Semple, page 30.
 Little, pages 516-517.
 Little, page 517.
 Little, page 517.
 Little, pages 517-518.
 Little, page 520.
 Little, pages 516-520.
 Little, page 231.
 Bernard A. Weisberger. Family Encyclopedia of American History.
 John Rhodehamel. George Washington Writings.
 James R. Beller. The Baptist History Workbook.
 William Cathcart. The Baptist Encyclopedia. Vol. 1,
 Beller, page 219.
 Weisberger, pages 575-576.
 George B. de Huszar. Basic American Documents.
 Little, page 142.
 James R. Beller.
 William Cathcart. The Baptist Encyclopedia. Vol. 3,
 Weisberger, pages 673-674.
 Beller, page 245.
 Beller, page 269.
 Weisberger, pages 506-507.
 Semple, page 41.
 Little, pages 107-108.
Shubal Stearns and the Sandy Creek Revival
Revival is probably one of the most misunderstood topics among God’s children. We pray, fast, and search the Scriptures, and still the church continues on in apathy. What is revival? Why do we spend so much of our time in search of something that continually eludes us? Are we in desire of a real move of God, or do we want an emotional stir that never changes us?
Many of the “revivalists” that Baptists quote today do not believe in the same doctrines. Not only are there denominational barriers that separate us, but there are doctrinal issues as well. For instance, notice that D.L. Moody was a Congregationalist, Billy Sunday a Presbyterian, Sam Jones a Methodist, Gipsy Smith a Calvinistic Methodist, Charles G. Finney a Presbyterian and Congregationalist, Robert Sayers Sheffy a Methodist, and Peter Cartwright a Methodist.
D.L. Moody did not believe in believer’s baptism. Moody’s missions were not a local church effort. During his meetings he would have a question and answer session after the service. When anyone would bring up the subject of baptism by immersion, he would skip that question and go on to the next.
Several quote the American campmeeting as beginning under the ministry of James McGready and Barton W. Stone in 1802. However, Shubal Stearns was having these meetings in 1758.
By the way, James McGready and Barton W. Stone did not believe in salvation like the Scriptures teach. One would fall into a trance and stay in that condition for six to ten hours. When they came out of the trance, they claimed their salvation. This is not what the Bible teaches.
At these meetings people were seized with the “jerks”. Sometimes their head would jerk back and forth and from side to side, and then sometimes their whole body. They partook in “rolling exercises”, “dancing exercises”, “running exercises”, and “barking exercises”. In the “barking exercises” people would get down on all fours and bark like a dog until they grew hoarse.
Some even point to the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 as a real move of God. They read the book Invasion of Wales by the Spirit written by James Alexander Stewart. However, if you read this book you will find that Evan Roberts is a false prophet. All barriers of denominationalism were broken down in order that females might preach alongside of males.
Many allude to Duncan Campbell as the great revivalist of our time. They state that the Scottish Isle of Lewis Revival from 1949-1952 was one of the strongest moves of God in history. Unfortunately, when you study this “revival” you will notice that their salvation was achieved through trances. Duncan Campbell was a Faith Mission Preacher until he changed into a Presbyterian preacher. What is most fascinating about this movement is that Campbell did not use a King James Bible to preach to English speaking people. He used the Gaelic Revised Version.
It is the contention of the author that God will not lay aside His Word just for a stirring of the soul. If the Lord moves in “revival” it will be Scriptural and led by the Spirit of God, which will not contradict the doctrines of the Word of God.
After discovering the doctrinal errors of “revivalists” that have been proclaimed as patriarchs of the faith, it is rather discouraging. However, God has moved through a people that have not disregarded the teachings of the Bible. They were known as Baptists. They have held to one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. One of the greatest of the Baptists is Shubal Stearns. The author’s goal in this booklet is to reveal one of the greatest preachers in American history and to shed light on what true revival produces, which is church planting.
In 1755, a Baptist preacher by the name of Shubal Stearns saw a great need and yielded himself as a living sacrifice. With faith like a mustard seed, elder Stearns moved the mountains of tyranny, oppression, ignorance, and apathy. God used this simple, obedient man to flood America with the greatest revival in her history. In its wake was left a vast and strong “Bible Belt”. The course of our great nation was drastically changed by fervent and doctrinally sound Baptist churches whose converts were as drops of morning dew.
Shubal Stearns was born in the city of Boston, Massachusetts in 1706. The early years of his life have not been recorded, but about the year 1740 he began to emerge to the pages of history.
George W. Purefoy records,
“…an extensive revival of religion prevailed in the New-England states, through the instrumentality of George Whitefield and others. Owing to some peculiarities in the views and manner of the laborers in that work, they, with their followers, were called New Lights, and afterwards Separates. With this body of Christians Mr. Stearns connected himself, in the year 1745.”
Stearns would continue with the Separates movement until 1751. After examining the Word of God, he was convinced that he had neglected the most important commandment of the Lord, believer’s baptism. He was baptized by Wait Palmer in Tolland, Connecticut on May 20, 1751 and at the same time ordained into the ministry.
Many times during the “First Great Awakening”, God would shed light to new converts on the subject of believer’s baptism. As the Scriptures state, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” Stearns, along with several others, was guided into all truth. Looking back on the converts that decided to be immersed, George Whitefield made the comment that, “All of my chickens have turned into ducks.”
It was this baptism of Wait Palmer and Shubal Stearns that provides an interesting link between Shubal Stearns and John Clarke, the founder of the first Baptist church in America. This was accomplished in 1638 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Through the ministry of Clarke came Valentine Wightman. Valentine was the descendent of Edward Wightman, the last martyr to be burnt at the stake in England. Valentine Wightman married Susanna Holmes (granddaughter of Obadiah Holmes) in 1703 and in 1705 established the first Baptist church of any kind in Connecticut. Then, from 1712 to 1714, he helped to plant the first Baptist church in New York.
Valentine Wightman pastored the first Baptist church in Connecticut for 42 years. Then, his son, Timothy Wightman, pastored there for another 42 years. Furthermore, Timothy’s son, John Gano, pastored there for another 41 years. So, for 125 years in succession, father, son, and grandson pastored the first Baptist church in Connecticut.
Valentine was able to assist in another church plant in North Stonington, Connecticut. Wait Palmer would become its first pastor and remain there for 22 years. Therefore, we see an interesting succession between John Clarke and Shubal Stearns.
With the assistance of Wait Palmer and Joshua Morse, Stearns would pastor a newly formed Baptist church in Tolland, Connecticut. This took place on March 20, 1751. He would continue to labor in the New England states for two to three more years, until he received a letter out of North Carolina stating,
“…there was no established meeting within a hundred miles of them, and that the people were so eager to hear, that they often came forty miles each way, when they could have an opportunity to hear a sermon.”
This so gripped the heart of Shubal Stearns that he removed from New England and came into Guilford County, North Carolina. On November 22, 1755 he constituted the Sandy Creek Baptist Church from only sixteen people.
Word began to spread among settlers of this new territory. Stearns and the Separate Baptists found their new home in the perfect will of God and His blessings began to fall upon them. Lumpkin would write,
“Elder Stearns began to preach in his new meetinghouse as soon as its pulpit was set in place. The singing of the little congregation sounded far around. Soon people were coming from neighboring farms to hear the first preaching they had heard in months or even years. And they were quick to acknowledge that never in their lifetime had they heard such preaching as that of Shubal Stearns. They could not decide which was the more remarkable, the content or the delivery. Both were excitingly new.”
Baptist historian Robert Baylor Semple made a profound statement concerning the delivery of Stearns and his followers. He wrote,
“The Separates in New England had acquired a very warm and pathetic address, accompanied by strong gestures and a singular tone of voice. Being often deeply affected themselves when preaching...expressed by tears...and acclamations of grief and joy. All these they brought with them into their new habitation, at which the people were greatly astonished, having never seen things on this wise before. Many mocked...but the power of God attending them...In process of time, some of the inhabitants became converts, and bowed in obedience to the Redeemer’s sceptre.”
Another Baptist historian of credibility was Morgan Edwards. The Lord allowed Edwards to travel from New Hampshire to Georgia recording the history of the Baptists in those areas. His writings were a remarkable set indeed. He noted of Stearns,
“Mr. Stearns was a man of small stature, but of good natural parts and sound judgment. Of learning he had but a little share, yet was pretty well acquainted with books. His voice was musical and strong, which he managed in such a manner, as one while to make soft impressions on the heart and fetch tears from the eyes...All the Separate Baptists copied after him in tones of voice and actions of body; and some few exceeded him. His character was indisputably good, both as a man, a Christian, and a preacher. In his eyes was something very penetrating — there seemed to be a meaning in every glance.”
Tidence Lane was converted under the ministry of Stearns. He became a very useful Baptist minister and was the first Baptist preacher to establish a Baptist church in the colony of Tennessee. Lane served this church faithfully until the day of his death. In writing about his conversion under Stearns, he stated,
“When the fame of Mr. Stearns’s preaching had reached the Yadkin, where I lived, I felt a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival, I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach-tree, with a book in his hand, and the people gathering about him. He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I never had felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far. I walked about, sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased, and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking hands would relieve me; but it happened otherwise. I began to think that he had an evil eye, and ought to be shunned; but shunning him I could no more effect than a bird can shun the rattlesnake when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach, my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sunk to the ground [in repentance to the Lord].”
Yet another individual that was saved under the ministry of Stearns was Elnathan Davis. He was baptized by the famed Samuel Harris and labored faithfully in North and South Carolina. Notice his salvation testimony.
“Elnathan Davis had heard that one John Steward was to be baptized such a day by Mr. Stearns. Now this Steward being a very large man, and Stearns of small stature, he concluded there would be some diversion, if not drowning; therefore, he gathered about eight or ten of his companions in wickedness, and went to the spot. Mr. Stearns came, and began to preach. Elnathan went to hear him, while his companions stood at a distance. He was no sooner among the crowd than he perceived some of the people tremble...meanwhile one man leaned on his shoulder, weeping bitterly; Elnathan, perceiving he had wet his new white coat, pushed him off and ran to his companions, who were sitting on a log at a distance. When he came, one said, ‘Well, Elnathan, what do you think now of these people?’...He replied, ‘There is a trembling and crying spirit among them, but whether it be the Spirit of God or the devil, I don’t know; if it be the devil, the devil go with them, for I will never more venture myself among them.’ He stood awhile in that resolution; but the enchantment of Stearns’ voice drew him to the crowd once more...He continued in this situation some days, and then found relief by faith in Christ. Immediately he began to preach conversion work, raw as he was, and scanty as his knowledge must have been.”
It was through labors such as this that the work at Sandy Creek began to grow. In two years, the church grew from sixteen members to 606. Three years after their commencement they had over 900 members. The Sandy Creek Baptist Church became, in seventeen years, the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother to 42 churches from which sprang 125 preachers.
The Sandy Creek Baptist Church was able to plant the first Baptist churches in the Colonies of Georgia and Tennessee. By 1800, they had planted over 1,000 churches and by 1825, over 2,000.
As we might expect, spiritual success would be met by opposition. Although the beginning of Sandy Creek saw great accomplishments, things would begin to change in the spring of 1771. Governor William Tryon had a great hatred in his heart toward any Baptist within his jurisdiction.
By 1770, Governor Tryon of North Carolina had established 18 Anglican priests in the 32 parishes of North Carolina. This proves that Tryon was obviously an Anglican and not a Baptist. Also, it proves that he would not tolerate any Baptist in his colony.
Governor Tryon regarded the Baptists as a sect in no way tolerated by his government. He perceived the Baptists as, “…enemies to society and a scandal to common sense.” Also, Tryon stated that Baptist preachers were “rascally fellows”. Ultimately, Tryon wrote that he, “…detested Regulators and Baptists alike and purposed to crush them by use of military power.”
Tryon was implementing unjust taxes and upheld the corruption of political leaders in the colony of North Carolina. He endorsed an unfair and unethical government that practiced extortion upon the people. By the spring of 1771, the entire colony of North Carolina was in protest.
Men formed together to oppose the grievances laid upon them by Tryon. They were known as the Regulators. Paschal writes that they were a “mob” of 700 strong. Their sole purpose was to try to regulate a government that was out of control.
The Governor decided that it was time to crush the Regulator movement, which he felt many were Baptists. He requested 2,000 soldiers that were well trained and disciplined in order to wipe out the rebels and insurgents. Paschal writes that, “He was making his campaign against the Regulators a crusade against the Baptists.” Tryon issued a mandate to be read throughout the colony ordering the Regulators to submit to his authority or be counted as traitors.
On May 16, 1771 Tryon dispatched 1,000 heavily armed militiamen to annihilate the ragtag group of liberty fighters known as the Regulators. The location was the Alamance Creek. It was a battle that lasted about two hours. Although numbers have been debated, there were about nine Regulators and nine militiamen killed. Others were wounded.
This was not the end of the battle. Notice what George Washington Paschal writes.
“But for Governor Tryon the war did not end with that battle. By winning it he had not smitten and crushed the Baptists which was probably one of his chief objects. After the Battle of Alamance, Tryon began his campaign through the Baptist neighborhoods to the west in which he used his entire force — more than twice as many armed soldiers as he had used at Alamance. To a greater extent than before he laid waste plantations; he made more captives and brought many more in chains to Hillsboro for trial as outlaws and traitors, and brought sorrow and grief to more wives and mothers, and brought about the greatest dispersal of Baptist populations of which there is record — a dispersal used by God to produce other Baptists of the same type, white and colored, in such numbers that today they count among their numbers more than half of the Baptists in the world.”
After leaving the battleground of Alamance, Tryon brought his troops to Sandy Creek Baptist Church and encamped on their church grounds. At the time, this was considered the Baptist center of the world. Tryon’s encampment here damaged the cause of religion in that region for over one hundred years. Leaving Sandy Creek, Tryon marched on to the Jersey Settlement (Baptists—John Gano), Bethabara (Baptists), and the churches of the Baptists along the Yadkin River.
Tryon would lead his army onward to the plantation of Captain Benjamin Merrill, just outside of Lexington, North Carolina. Merrill was a faithful Baptist deacon of the Jersey Baptist Church. This was two miles from the Jersey Baptist Church. It was here that Tryon ordered a bounty on the head of Joseph Murphy, prominent preacher in the Sandy Creek revival. Murphy was the best known and most successful Baptist leader in that section. The Governor believed that Murphy was the head of the Regulator movement. Squire and Sarah Boone, parents of Daniel Boone, were members of Murphy’s church. Some feel that Murphy hid out in their cave situated along the Yadkin River.
While camped out on the Merrill plantation, Tryon sent his cavalry troops out to the Baptist neighborhoods to forage, pillage, rob, and plunder their homes. According to the Bethabara Diary, several wives would fall at the feet of Governor Tryon and plead for their husbands and children. Tryon completely ignored their requests.
They brought to Hillsboro several prisoners to try on behalf of the Regulators. One of those men arrested was Captain Benjamin Merrill.
When Merrill was arrested, his own family did not know it. He was brought to Hillsboro and sentenced to death. Chief Justice Howard pronounced Merrill’s death sentence in these words:
“I must now close my afflicting duty by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law, which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place from which you came; that you be drawn from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive; that your bowels be taken out while you are yet alive and burnt before your face; that your head be cut off, and your body divided into four quarters, and this to be at his Majesty’s disposal; and the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
Tryon allowed Mrs. Merrill and her eight or ten children to watch the execution. Mrs. Merrill went blind after the viewing of her husband’s slaying. Some feel that her loss of sight was a result of her grief.
The final results of the Battle of Alamance were much like the persecutions that drove the early Christians from Jerusalem. There was a mass exodus of the Baptists from the colony of North Carolina. Morgan Edwards points this fact out as he states,
“It began with 16 souls; and in a short time increased to 606, spreading its branches to Deep River and Abbott’s Creek, which branches are gone to other provinces; and most of the members of this church have followed them, in so much that in seventeen years it is reduced from 606 to 14 souls, and is in danger of becoming extinct. The cause of the dispersion was the abuse of power which too much prevailed in the Province and caused the inhabitants to rise in arms, and fight for their privileges; but being routed, (May 16, 1771), they despaired of seeing better times, and therefore quitted the Province. It is said that 1,500 families departed since the battle of Alamance; and, to my knowledge a great many more are only waiting to dispose of their plantations in order to follow them. This is to me an argument that their grievances were real, and their oppression great notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary.”
Although some historians count this event as the first religious cleansing on American soil, God means all things well. For it was through this event that the Lord brought these Baptists into Tennessee. It would be there that God would establish a Baptist church that was pleasing in His sight. It was known as the Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church pastored by Tidence Lane.
This would not be the last time that the British would hear from these beleaguered Baptists. It was this same group of Baptists that would eventually defeat Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain. This defeat climaxed to a forced retreat that ultimately led to the surrender of Cornwallis to George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781. This topic will be further discussed in the next booklet titled “From This Zion”.
 Cloud, David W. Evangelicals and Rome. Way of Life Literature, 1999, page 217.
 Schumacher, Melinda. America’s Great Revivals. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2002, pages 40-49.
 Stewart, James A. Invasion of Wales by the Spirit. Asheville, North Carolina: Revival Literature, year unknown.
 Campbell, Duncan. The Price and Power of Revival. Unknown Binding, 1956.
 Taylor, James B. Virginia Baptist Ministers. Volume 1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott & Co., 1860, page 2.
 Purefoy, George W. A History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association. New York, New York: Sheldon & Co., Publishers, 1859, page 291.
 Taylor, James B., page 14.
 Grady, William P. What Hath God Wrought! Schererville, Indiana: Grady Publications Inc., 1997, page 104.
 Backus, Isaac. History of the
 Taylor, James B., page 14.
 Lumpkin, William L. Baptist History in the South. Shelbyville, Tennessee: Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation, 1995, page 31.
 Semple, Robert Baylor. History of the Baptists in Virginia. Lafayette, Tennessee: Church History Research and Archives, 1976, pages 15-16.
 Edwards, Morgan. Materials Towards A History of the Baptists. Danielsville, Georgia: Heritage Papers, 1984, page 93.
 Paschal, George Washington. History of North Carolina Baptists. Raleigh, North Carolina: The General Board North Carolina Baptist State Convention, 1930, pages 287-288.
 Edwards, Morgan., page 92.
 Beller, James R. America in Crimson Red. Arnold, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2004, page 195.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 361.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 42.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 61.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 363.
 Weisberger, Bernard A. Family Encyclopedia of American History. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1975, page 936.
 Paschal, George Washington., pages 63-64.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 64.
 Paschal, George Washington., pages 73-77.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 79.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 76.
 Paschal, George Washington., page 381.
The Story of John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes
One of the most touching stories in our nation’s history is that of John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes. It was the beginning of a struggle for religious liberty in America. Although Holmes was baptized in afflictions by the tyranny of state government and religion, he persevered to spark the desire for freedom throughout the newly settled land. In his own words he stated, “It is therefore the love of liberty that must free the soul.”
It all began with the birth of John Clarke in a quaint little town in Suffolk, England. The year was 1609 A.D. Clarke’s parents were Puritans and prepared him to become a medical doctor early in life. Kind providence allowed Clarke to come under the influence of a profound Baptist preacher in England, John Spilsbury. It was through this friendship that God allowed Clarke to sail to America to eventually found the first Baptist church in the colonies.
It was in November of 1637 that John Clarke and his wife landed in Boston, Massachusetts. Governor Winthrop immediately recognized the fact that Clarke was a physician and a preacher. Clarke’s Baptist faith would make Winthrop treat Clarke in a cold manner, and later in time, be hostile toward him.
Upon his arrival, he noticed that there were two groups in fierce opposition in the Massachusetts Bay colony. These were the Congregationalists and the Antinomians. They were titled Antinomians because they were breaking the laws of the Congregationalists by not adhering to their religious opinions. By 1631, Congregationalists were dominating the northern colonies and anyone in opposition to their doctrines was treated as criminals.
The Puritans believed in a covenant of works while the Antinomians adhered to a covenant of grace. Clarke, because of his Baptist faith, joined the struggle with the Antinomians. He had a conviction that any individual had the right to believe in what he wished and should not be forced to comply with doctrines that he did not agree with.
It was in 1631 that the Colony of Massachusetts General Court ruled that a prerequisite to the rights of full citizenship to the Bay area was to be a member of a Congregational church. Newcomers were given three weeks either to join the Congregational church or leave the Bay area. Clarke could not comply with the demands of the Congregationalists. Therefore, he took this minority group of Antinomians into Exeter, New Hampshire for the winter of 1637.
Finding it too cold there, they decided to go further south, and in the spring of 1638 traveled into Portsmouth, Rhode Island. It was here at Portsmouth that Clarke founded the first Baptist church in America. The date was 1638. John Comer also establishes this fact as he writes,
“Mr. Clarke was a preacher of the gospel, and was so engaged from the very first year of the settlement of the colony even until his death, during this long period serving the First Church as its faithful and devoted pastor.”
Not only did God use Clarke to establish the first Baptist church in America, but He also used him to author the Portsmouth Compact. This would be the first document in American history that would establish religious freedom to the citizens of the land. It was signed in Boston on March 7, 1638 and states,
“We whose names are underwritten, do here solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, incorporate ourselves into a body politic, and as He shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates, unto our lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of his, given us in His holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.”
This compact offered the right of self-government and religious equality as governed by the Bible. Its sole authority was not man, but God. The Portsmouth Compact served as the commencement of democracy in America.
In 1639, Clarke and certain followers moved from Portsmouth (on the northern tip of Aquidneck Island) to Newport (on the southern tip). The town of Newport progressed quickly, and the church flourished as well. This is where the continuation of the church can be found today.
John Clarke served his people as a physician, minister, theologian, pioneer, colonizer, statesman, attorney, patriot, author, scholar, philosopher, and philanthropist. Ill Newes from New England was written by him as well as a Bible concordance. He established the first free school and trust in American history. Clarke was able to bequeath land for the Newport Baptist Church to build upon, recognizing the fact that his main obligation was to be a preacher of the gospel. Asher wrote, “No evidence has appeared to indicate that Clarke ever wavered in either of his religious convictions or loyal service to Rhode Island…”
This tremendous man of God certainly accomplished a great deal for the glory of God, but his achievements still live on today. Wilbur Nelson wrote,
“This is not a story of the ‘dead past’ or one that need not have been written. It is a live record of a great idea that the freedom of the human spirit is an imperishable right beyond the power of autocracy to crush, or intolerance to belittle.
This great idea emboldened John Clarke to propose ‘a State where no constraint could ever be put upon the human conscience, no shackles upon the human spirit, and no limit to the freedom of human thought.’
Nearly 300 years ago, the altar flames of freedom were lit in the little State of Rhode Island. Those who may have forgotten that movement, which resulted in the guarantees of religious and political freedom, and those who would know at what cost that freedom was secured, should not fail to read this informative story of John Clarke, the hero of Aquidneck.”
Clarke had a church planting mentality and began to branch out of Rhode Island into other colonies. It was while he was in Massachusetts that he won William Witter to the Lord. Witter lived in Lynn, Massachusetts and was a member of the Salem Congregational Church at the time of his conversion. With this new light he received from his salvation and the Word of God, he began to protest against the false doctrines of the Congregational Church. In doing so, he was arraigned before the Salem court on February 28, 1644. The public records states,
“For entertaining that the baptism of infants was sinful, now coming to Salem Court, answered humbly and confessed his ignorance, and his willingness to see light, and (upon Mr. Morris, our Elder, his speech) seemed to be staggered. It was said he called ‘our ordinance of God a badge of the whore.’ The sentence was that ‘on some lecture day, the next fifth day being a public fast, to acknowledge his fault…and enjoined to be here next Court at Salem’.”
William Witter did not change his opinions and was brought before the court again at a later date. On December 18, 1645 Witter was brought before the court at Salem and the documentation states,
“William Witter of Lynn, was presented by the grand jury for saying that they who stayed whiles a child is baptized do worship the devil. Henry Collins and Nat. West dealing with him thereabouts, he further said that they who stayed at the baptizing of a child did take the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in vain, broke the Sabbath, and confessed and justified the former speech.”
Yet another instance where Witter wound up at the Salem court was on June 24, 1651. He was sentenced to answer at another session of the court for, “…absenting himself from the public ordinances nine months or more, and for being re-baptized.”
The authorities at Salem began to keep a close eye on Witter because of his “heresies” as a Baptist. Any wrong move that he made against the Congregationalists would bring him back before the court for another trial. Georgia Cooper Washburn wrote,
“At the time of the controversy between the Massachusetts Bay Colony authorities and the leaders of the Baptist movement, William Witter was one of those whose adherence to the Baptist tenets brought him into disagreement with the former. He was haled to Court more than once because of his opposition to infant baptism. He also gave offense because of his entertainment of the Baptist leaders, Obadiah Holmes, John Crandall, and John Clarke…”
It was this “entertainment of the Baptist leaders” that finally infuriated the authorities beyond measure. The 1638 law in the Massachusetts Bay Colony plainly stated,
“If any person or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance…every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment.”
William Witter allowed John Clarke, John Crandall, and Obadiah Holmes to come into his house and conduct a Baptist meeting. It was on the night of July 19, 1651. This was more than the authorities could handle, and, while these men were expounding the Scriptures, two constables broke in and arrested them.
They were confined in the ordinary that night and were considered as “thieves and robbers” by the officers. Then they were placed in the Boston jail.
John Clarke, John Crandall, and Obadiah Holmes were brought to a public trial on July 31, 1651. This was executed without a jury and entirely at the mercy of the magistrates. Governor John Endicott charged all three men for being “Anabaptists”. Then, the governor replied,
“…we denied infant baptism, and being somewhat transported, told me I had deserved death, and said he would not have such trash brought into his jurisdiction. Moreover, he said, You go up and down and secretly insinuate into those that are weak, but you cannot maintain it before our ministers. You may try and dispute with them.”
Clarke was about to speak but was suddenly stopped and brought back to prison. That was when Obadiah Holmes stepped forward and said, “I bless God, I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.” The Puritan pastor John Wilson cursed and hit Holmes for making this statement and said, “The curse of God or Jesus go with thee.”
The defense attorney appointed to defend these Baptist “dissenters” was John Cotton. Instead of supporting the preachers, he called for their death sentence stating that they were “soul murderers”.
Clarke was fined twenty pounds or to be “well whipped”. Crandall was charged five pounds or to be “well whipped”. Holmes was penalized thirty pounds or to be “well whipped”. Clarke and Crandall were soon released “upon the payment of their fines by some tenderhearted friends”. Holmes refused for his fine to be paid because he felt that he was guilty of nothing but preaching the gospel of the Son of God.
Holmes would remain in jail from July to September of 1651. This was a time of separation from his wife Catherine (whom he was married to for over 50 years) and nine children: Joseph, John, Hope, Obadiah, Samuel, Martha, Mary, Jonathan, and Lydia.
On September 5, 1651 Obadiah Holmes was brought before the old State house to be whipped. Although he could have accepted deliverance, he denied it. Gaustad wrote,
“As the strokes began to fall, Holmes prayed once more and in truth, he later wrote, I never ‘had such a spiritual manifestation of God’s presence.’ And though the executioner spat upon his hands, and laid the three-corded whip ‘with all his strength’ thirty times across the prisoner’s bare back, yet ‘in a manner [I] felt it not.’ When the whipping was finished and Holmes was untied from the post, he turned to the magistrates and said, ‘You have struck me as with roses’.”
Holmes certainly paid a price for his faith as a Baptist and his desire for soul liberty. He was beaten in such an unmerciful manner that Governor Jenckes wrote,
“Mr. Holmes was whipt thirty stripes, and in such an unmerciful manner, that in many days, if not some weeks, he could take no rest but as he lay on his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed whereon he lay.”
Because of this account John Clarke wrote a book titled Ill Newes from New England. In this publication Clarke stated, “That while old England is becoming new, New England is become old.” He further wrote,
“This tragedy being thus acted in the face of the Country, must needs awaken and rouse up the minds, and spirits of many, cause sad thoughts to arise in their hearts, and to flow forth at their mouths as men offended…”
The beating of Obadiah Holmes led to two major events. First, it prompted John Clarke to leave the colonies to sail to England. In doing so, he was able to attain the Royal Charter of 1663. Second, the First Baptist Church of Boston was established because of the sermons of Henry Dunster (the first president of Harvard University). Dunster was motivated to oppose infant baptism publicly because of the beating of Holmes.
The time had arrived that the Puritans and Pilgrims were no longer tolerant of the Baptists in their area as seen in the Obadiah Holmes instance. Also, King Charles I, who gave Rhode Island its original charter, was assassinated by Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth movement. This made the original charter null and void. Therefore, Rhode Island was subject to being absorbed by Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut, thereby losing religious liberty.
King Charles II had overthrown Oliver Cromwell and now was the time for Clarke to petition the new king for a new charter. Hopefully, they would be able to salvage the colony of Rhode Island and religious liberty. Clarke sailed to England in November of 1651 and petitioned King Charles II until July of 1663 for a new charter.
Clarke’s petition was for “…a lively experiment…” of full religious liberty. This was a dangerous objective for Clarke to attempt because, at the time, John Bunyan was still imprisoned for being a Baptist.
Through much thought, King Charles II granted this charter on July 8, 1663, and the world was appalled. It was the first document in the history of the world that established religious freedom to the citizens of the land. Now, the Puritans and Congregationalists had to leave the Baptists in Rhode Island alone and allow them to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience. Because of this freedom, Rhode Island had within its borders the first Catholic “church” and the first Jewish Synagogue in America.
Some have doubted whether or not John Clarke actually obtained the charter. Their belief is that Roger Williams acquired it. However, records indicate that Williams returned to America shortly after arriving in England. It was Clarke that remained twelve years to acquire the charter. Also, all one has to do is read the document to see that Clarke obtained it.
“Charles the Second…to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting: Whereas, we have been informed, by the petition of our trusty and well-beloved subject, John Clarke, on the behalf of…William Codington…Roger Williams…and the rest of the purchasers and free inhabitants of our island, called Rhode Island…”
This charter served Rhode Island for a little over 200 years. It was the forerunner to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. As a matter of fact, it served as a foundation for these two historical documents. Notice its contents.
“…that they, pursuing, with peaceable and loyal minds, their sober, serious, and religious intentions, of godly edifying themselves, and one another, in the holy Christian faith and worship, as they were persuaded…whereby, as is hoped, there may, in time, by the blessing of God upon their endeavors be laid a sure foundation of happiness to all America…”
“…And whereas, in their humble address, they have freely declared, that it is much on their hearts (if they may be permitted) to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained, and that among our English subjects, with a full liberty in religious concernments…”
“…Now, know ye, that we begin willing to encourage…our said loyal and loving subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise…of all their civil and religious rights…and to preserve unto them that liberty…which they have sought with so much travail…and because some of the people and inhabitants of the same colony cannot, in their private opinions, conform to the public exercise of religion, according to the liturgy, forms and ceremonies of the Church of England…”
“…That our royal will and pleasure is, that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences is opinion in matters of religion…but that all and every person and persons…have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments…”
Now we will pick up with the rest of the story. As stated previously, the beating of Obadiah Holmes led to two major events. First, it prompted John Clarke to leave the colonies to sail to England. In doing so, he was able to attain the Royal Charter of 1663. Second, the First Baptist Church of Boston was established because of the sermons of Henry Dunster (the first president of Harvard University). Dunster was motivated to oppose infant baptism publicly because of the beating of Holmes.
John T. Christian was persuaded that Dunster was converted to the Baptist faith after the terrible whipping of Holmes. This may be true because Jeremiah Chaplin also alludes to this thought in his book titled Life of Henry Dunster: First President of Harvard College. This was published in 1872 and bears a complete record of Dunster’s struggles with the Congregational church concerning infant baptism. Notice what Chaplin writes.
“While the conflict in his mind was yet going on, he would naturally ask himself, whether it could be a godly desire for peace, and not rather a cowardly dread of persecution, that would enjoin upon him a safe silence. Others, in defence of the same views, had been willing to ‘endure hardness;’ how could he, as a ‘good soldier,’ shrink from the trial? And he came to the conclusion that silence would be cowardice and hypocrisy; and from that moment he never swerved from his integrity. Though ever meek as a lamb, he was yet bold as a lion. Writing to the County Court in 1655, he nobly said: ‘I conceived then, and so do still, that I spake the truth in the feare of God, and dare not deny the same or go from it untill the Lord otherwise teach me’.” [Sic]
Henry Dunster was a rather influential man in the Bay colony. As the first president of Harvard, he was a profound scholar and an accomplished Congregational preacher. He was proficient in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. However, whenever someone is converted to the knowledge of the truth, all worldly credentials seem to melt away. After witnessing the display of three heroic Baptist preachers, he was thoroughly convinced that the Baptists were right.
This new persuasion led him to preach sermons against infant baptism. Thus being a defector, Dunster nobly stood for one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. It provoked Cotton Mather to make an interesting observation of Dunster. Mather stated of Dunster that he,
“unaccountably fallen into the briars of antipaedobaptism; and being briar’d in the scruples of that persuasion, he not only forebore to present an infant of his own unto the Baptism of our Lord, but also thought himself under some obligation to bear his testimony in some sermons against the administration of baptism to any infant whatsoever.” [Sic]
Because of Dunster’s bold stand, he was forced to resign as president of Harvard College. This took place on June 10, 1654. Upon his resignation, Dunster completely identified himself as a Baptist.
Jonathan Mitchell was the pastor of the church in Cambridge. After hearing the messages that Dunster preached, he started a series of sermons himself defending infant baptism. However, it was too late, because the gospel had been proclaimed and the truth was received. Dunster’s stand rallied others to embrace the Baptist faith. John T. Christian wrote, “The immediate cause of the organization of the church in Boston was a sermon Dunster preached there on the subject of infant baptism.”
On May 28, 1665, Thomas Gould was able to organize the first Baptist church of Boston. Gould would give his own account of its formation.
“Now after this, considering with myself what the Lord would have me to do; not likely to join with any of the churches of New England, and so to be without the ordinance of Christ; in the meantime God sent out of Old England some who were Baptists; we, consulting together what to do, sought the Lord to direct us, and taking counsel of other friends who dwelt among us, who were able and godly, they gave us counsel to congregate ourselves together; and so we did, being nine of us, to walk in the order of the gospel according to the rule of Christ, yet knowing that it was a breach of the law of this country; that we had not the approbation of magistrates and ministers, for that we suffered the penalty of that law, when we were called before them. After we had been called into two courts, the church understanding that we were gathered into church order, they sent three messengers of the church to me, telling me that the church required me to come before them the next Lord’s Day.”
As expected, the formation of this church created a major uproar in the Bay colony and throughout New England. Cotton Mather made the statement,
“Our Anabaptists formed a church…not only with a manifest violation of the laws of the Commonwealth, relating to the orderly manner of gathering a church, but also with a manifold provocation unto the rest of our churches, by admitting into their own society such as our churches had excommunicated for moral scandals, yea, and employing such persons to be administrators of the two sacraments among them.”
Opposition and persecution awaited these noble saints of the Lord. The authorities lay upon them fines, imprisonment, and ultimately excommunication. Although banished from the colonies, they still met together to worship the Lord. Christian wrote,
“…for over a half a century they stood alone, and bore the responsibilities and the whole weight of theological odium which rested upon the Baptist name and cause in the Colony of Massachusetts. They must have had, and did have, during the first seventy years of their experience, a painful sense of isolation. They were separated from their brethren in England. No sister churches were in the neighborhood. No Baptist associations, as now, with letters and delegates, pleasant countenances, and kindly words to cheer and sustain them.”
It even came to the point that the Court enacted a law that no one within the colony could erect a house for public worship without a license from the authorities. If anyone broke this law their house and land would be forfeited to the colony. However, these Baptist believers built a place of worship in spite of the decree.
On one occasion the Court nailed the doors of their church up and attached a note that stated they were ordered not to meet there without license from the authorities. What did these Baptists do? They simply erected a covering in the church yard and continued with their services.
The legacy of the first Baptist church of Boston lives on today. It was through this church that the first infant Sunday school in America was formed. Every time our young people attend Sunday school, our minds should go back to September 5, 1651 when Obadiah Holmes was beaten for his faith in Christ. Certainly the Word of God is true when it states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” For it was through this whipping that Henry Dunster was converted, the First Baptist Church of Boston was formed, and infant Sunday School was established in America. May God get all of the glory for the great works that He performs!
 Gaustad, Edwin S. Baptist Piety: The Last Will and Testimony of Obadiah Holmes. New York, New York: Arno Press, 1980, page VI.
 Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopedia. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 227.
 Asher, Louis Franklin. John Clarke. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 11.
 Asher, Louis Franklin, page 19.
 Asher, Louis Franklin, page 20.
 Comer, John. The Diary of John Comer. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 75.
 Bicknell, Thomas W. Story of Dr. John Clarke. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005, page 96.
 Asher, Louis Franklin, pages 115-116.
 Asher, Louis Franklin, page 36.
 Nelson, Wilbur. The Hero of Aquidneck: A Life of Dr. John Clarke. New York, New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1998, page 7.
 Christian, John T. A History of the Baptists. Texarkana, Texas: Bogard Press, Volume Two, 1997, page 52.
 Christian, John T., page 53.
 Washburn, Georgia Cooper. Witter Genealogy. New York, New York: The National Historical Company, 1929, page 15.
 David Benedict. A General History of the Baptist Denomination. Vol. 1,
 Christian, John T., page 379.
 Christian, John T., page 380
 Cummins, David L. This Day in Baptist History. Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 1993, page 275.
 Christian, John T., page 67.
 Christian, John T., page 380.
 Gaustad, Edwin S., page 29.
 Christian, John T., page 380.
 Clarke, John. Ill Newes From New-England. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 52.
 Callender, John. A Historical Discourse on the Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode Island. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2005, page 241.
 Callender, John, pages 241-261.
 Christian, John T., page 69.
 Chaplin, Jeremiah. Life of Henry Dunster: First President of Harvard College. Boston, Massachusetts: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872, page 118.
 Christian, John T., pages 69-70.
 Christian, John T., page 70.
 Christian, John T., page 381.
 Christian, John T., page 74.
 Christian, John T., page 76.
 Christian, John T., pages 78-79.
 Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopedia. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, pages 1121-1122.
Are Baptists Protestants? Did the Baptists come out of the Roman Catholic organization? Were they reformers of the Roman Catholics? Did they try to purify the “church” from within? These questions, and more, plague the minds of many that are trying to find the truth to their historical heritage. Certainly, the Lord has given us the answer to these questions through history and the Word of God.
Lutherans trace their beginnings to Martin Luther in
Who is the founder of the Baptists? The
How can we be sure that the right church is the Baptist church? The answer to this question is found in a word known as “distinctive”. Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, defines “distinctive” as, “That marks distinction or difference; as distinctive names or titles. Having the power to distinguish and discern.” The only way to detect if the
Did the apostles believe as we do today? This is the wrong question to ask. We should ask, “Do we believe like the apostles did?” Following the apostles’ doctrine (Acts ) is a distinctive of the church. What they taught is what we should teach today. Therefore, following the teachings of the Word of God will help to distinguish between the true church and the false.
Baptists have Scriptural distinctives that completely separate them from Protestants, Roman Catholics, and other denominations. This is proven both historically and Scripturally. These distinctives help define what is true and what is counterfeit. Many men have written concerning these distinguishing marks, of which some will be considered.
Dr. Don Green offers an acrostic of the word “Baptists” that present their distinctives:
1. B- Biblical Authority- II Tim. 3:16-17, Matthew 4:4, Psalm 119:9, I Timothy 3:14-15
2. A- Autonomy (self rule) of the local church- Col. 1:18, I Peter 5:1-2, Acts 20:17-28
3. P- Priesthood of every believer- Revelation 1:4-6, I Peter 2:5, I Peter 2:9
4. T- Two church Ordinances- I Corinthians 11:1-2
a. Baptism by Immersion (Dunking) Matthew 28:19-20, 3:16, Mark 1:4-5, Acts 8:26-39, Colossians 3:12
b. The Lord’s Supper I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-15
5. I- Individual soul liberty- Romans 14:5-12
6. S- Saved, Baptized Membership- Acts 2:40-41
7. T- Two Church officers, Pastor and Deacon- Ephesians 4:11-12, I Timothy 3:8-10
8. S- Separation of Church and State- Matthew 22:15-22
Dr. Ronnie Simpson, in his syllabus, provides several distinctives:
1. The Supremacy of the Scriptures
2. Baptist Origins
3. Regenerated Church Membership
4. Baptism by Immersion
5. The Lord’s Supper: Closed Communion
6. Two Offices: Pastor and Deacon
7. The Priesthood of the Believer
8. The Great Commission is the Work of the Church
9. Tithes and Offerings are the Finances of the Church
10. Separation of Church and State
11. Spiritual are the Weapons of the Church
12. Visible Assembly is the Nature of the Church
Dr. Phil Stringer suggests six distinctives:
1. The Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice
2. Independent, autonomous churches
3. Regenerated church membership
4. Baptism by immersion of believers only, and the Lord’s Supper as the two ordinances of the church
5. Priesthood of all believers and soul liberty
6. Separation of church and state
Pastor James R. Beller gives five distinguishing marks to the Baptists:
1. Independent churches
2. Regenerate church membership
3. Believer’s baptism
4. Baptism by immersion
Finally, Dr. Harold B. Sightler presents six in a message that he preached at the South Wide Baptist Fellowship in 1985:
1. The only non-Catholic and non-Protestant group in the Christian world
2. Being totally congregational
3. We are totally autonomous
4. We are evangelical- Our increase comes from our converts
5. We are missionary
6. We are non-Ecumenical (We are separated)
From these five views of the Baptist distinctives, we can conclude that, basically, there are eleven distinctives. Certainly, God’s church should be independent from and not subject to the control of others. It must be fundamental in the faith having the Bible as the basis for all doctrine. The church is to be missionary minded constantly propagating the gospel into the world. Baptist churches are to be autonomous, meaning that they should be independent in their government and possessing the right of self-government. Their goal is to plant other indigenous churches, which will give foreigners the right to worship God in their native land. All of these views are Scriptural and are Baptist distinctives. These are landmarks that are not to be removed (Proverbs ). Notice a further explanation of these ancient landmarks.
1. The Authority of the Scriptures
There are many erroneous views as to where humanity must get their authority for living. Humanists teach that man is his own authority and this power is based on consciousness or circumstances. Then, the Roman Catholic organization places authority within the church giving the Pope the right to render Biblical doctrines according to his interpretation. However, the Baptist place authority in the proper place. They look to the Word of God for their sole and final authority on anything. Scriptures offer the final “say so” on doctrine, living, practices, etc. Certainly, the mark of the Baptist is that of a loyalty to the Bible. It is the ultimate standard for faith and practice. Baptist believes that the only infallible words or thoughts are taken from Scripture, and not man. Dogmatically, Baptists confide in the Word as being inspired by God, infallible in content, and inerrant in its preservation. Apparently, this is one of the many distinctives that brought persecution on the Baptist.
2. The Origin of the
When was the commencement of the Baptist movement? Was it a part of the Roman Catholic organization and split off around A.D. 300? Did it begin with the Protestant Reformation? Could it have been created in
It began with John the Baptist (the forerunner of Christ) baptizing believers after they repented of their sins (Repentance was a requirement before baptism according to John, Jesus, the apostles, Peter, and Paul). John the Baptist baptized Matthew, John, James, Peter, and Jude in the
Jesus was the founder and Head of the church. Baptist are the only group that accept Jesus as their only Head, Founder, and Leader. They look to Him and His Word for direction and not the Pope, priests, headquarters, or any other thing.
He said that He would build His church (“my church”). Notice that “church” is not plural, but singular. There is only one church that Jesus will build, and that church is the Baptist church. Also, notice the continuation of the built “church” when Jesus said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This statement leads us to believe that there will be a continuation of the church that Jesus said He would build. This affirms the fact that there must be an unbroken line of the church.
The first members of this church was the apostles (I Corinthians ). They were the first “called out” people (Luke - “he called unto him his disciples”). This is the distinguishing mark of the church, or ekklesia (The called out assembly). Since the apostles, the Lord has been calling out people and adding them to His church daily.
Another element about the origin of the Baptist church that is not true about any other denomination is that
3. Regeneration: A Qualification for Church Membership
Regeneration before baptism and then church membership was another distinctive that made the Baptist face persecution and martyrdom. Scripturally, a person must repent of their sin and be born again before they meet the qualifications for water baptism and then church membership (Acts , Acts -39, and Acts -33). Repentance was an element that took place before a person believed (Mark - “repent ye, and believe”, Acts - “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”). There was no power to believe unless there was repentance first. Today, this is reversed (“believe and then repent”). Definitely, this is not the “custom” (repent and believe) for many denominations today and centuries prior.
Having a Biblical understanding of salvation will assist one in the chronological steps prior to church membership. In Acts chapter two, we see the day of Pentecost. Peter preached, sinners were pricked in their heart (conviction), they repented, were baptized, and then in verse 41 were “added” to the church at
With this settled, it leads us to our next thought. There are many heresies concerning baptism, church membership, and the Lord’s Supper. Where did the confusion begin? It started with
From this point, many other views of baptism arose. Infant baptism (Pedobaptism), baptismal regeneration, and proxy baptism (being baptized in the place of someone that is dead) began to immerge as “fundamental doctrines”. All of these practices are not Scriptural and are not found in the Bible. Keep in mind the typology of baptism. Baptism represents death, not life (Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 15:3-4, Colossians ). It is the burying of the old man that the new man might walk in newness of life. Those that believe that baptism is the “new life” distort the typological meaning of baptism.
This is one reason why a Baptist church should not accept the baptism of other “churches” that are not Baptist. Other baptisms are known as “alien baptisms” and should be rejected. Since baptism identifies an individual with Christ and the Church (performed as a complete immersion in water), it is useless if not performed correctly. Baptism performed by another denomination identifies that individual with the denomination’s doctrines.
The Lord gave the authority to baptize to the local church (the
4. Baptism by Immersion
Out of all the Baptist Distinctives, probably the distinctive that has caused more persecution of the Baptists is the doctrine of baptism. Because of an unwillingness to compromise the Biblical truth about baptism, millions of Baptists have faced martyrdom by the hands of Roman Catholics and Protestants (approximately 50 million during the Dark Ages). Certainly, those that are faithful unto death will wear a crown of life in heaven (Revelation ). Because of their uncompromised stand, and their faithfulness in winning souls, they will shine as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
What was the uproar about baptism that brought tremendous slaughter to the Baptists? Unscriptural baptism started from
Does the Bible teach infant baptism? Absolutely not! There is not one place in the Word of God that teaches the church to baptize babies. Contrary, the Scriptures inform us that there is no means of works that can offer salvation (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9). In every account of the conversion of a sinner, salvation came before baptism. Not one verse teaches a sinner to be baptized. Baptism is a requirement for a saint of God, not a sinner!
What is the Scriptural method of baptism? In every instance, baptism is representative of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 15:3-4, Colossians ). Baptism is a picture of the death of the old man and the resurrection of the new man. When a believer submits to baptism, it is an outward profession of an inward possession.
Is sprinkling the proper way to perform baptism? If baptism is a type of burying the old man, then how many burials have taken place where the funeral directors sprinkled dirt on a casket and left it at that? Apparently, when a person is Scripturally baptized, then that person is placed entirely under water fulfilling the typology of a burial. This idea is depicted in the baptism of Jesus and the eunuch (Mark , Acts -39). Both times they came “up out of the water”.
The only way to administer the correct baptism is, first, a sinner must be convicted and drawn by the Holy Ghost (John , Acts , Acts 9:5). Secondly, that sinner must repent and then believe (Mark , Acts ). Thirdly, the new saint must express a desire to be baptized and join the local New Testament Church (Acts , 47, Acts -39, Acts 18:8). Then, the church gives their pastor the authority to completely immerse the new convert in water, which will identify the new believer with Christ, and then the church (Matthew 16:18-19, Matthew 18:16-18, Mark 1:10, Acts 8:38-39). Finally, that person is a member of the church and is to win others to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:20). This is the correct method of salvation and baptism.
5. The Biblical Interpretation of the Lord’s Supper
According to the Bible, there are only two church ordinances, which are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is another Scriptural doctrine in which the Roman Catholic and Protestant organizations have corrupted. A careful study of the Word of God will reveal that unless a person is converted, baptized, and a member of a local New Testament (Baptist) Church, then they are not qualified to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Sinners are dead in their sins, and how can a dead man eat?
The Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:7-20) is a picture, or type, held in remembrance of the Lord’s death until He comes back for His church in the rapture. It consists of only two items. In Matthew 26:17 it is unleavened bread (a type of the body of Christ- Mark ) and in Matthew 26:29 it is the fruit of the vine (a type of the blood of Christ- Mark -24). Since leaven is a type of sin in the Word of God, then only unleavened bread can be used. The bread is a type of the body of Jesus Christ. Jesus knew no sin (II Corinthians ), did no sin (I Peter ), was without sin (Hebrews ), and in Him was no sin (I John 3:5, Hebrews ). This is the reason that it is important to use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. Then, the second element used is a drink known as the fruit of the vine. Not one passage referring to the Lord’s Supper uses the word “wine”. A corruption process takes place in order to produce fermented wine. Using fermented wine, in typology, depicts that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was corrupt. According to I Peter 1:19, the blood of Christ is “precious” and “without blemish and without spot”. This is the Scriptural interpretation of the Lord’s Supper.
Roman Catholics and Protestants have changed the original intention of the Lord’s Supper and construed a false interpretation of it. Catholics teach an erroneous theory known as transubstantiation. William Cooke Boone defines transubstantiation as, “The substances of the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.” This idea led to it being the official doctrine of the Catholics in 1215 A.D. Then, the Lutherans and other Protestants teach another counterfeit theory known as consubstantiation. According to Dr. Simpson, it teaches, “there is a union between the wine and the bread and the actual body and blood of Jesus. Instead of it completely becoming the body and blood of Jesus totally, it is a mixture.” Both of these fictitious ideas are not found in the Word of God. Certainly, the Baptists have the right interpretation and have been tortured for it.
Another factor that brought attention to them is that they refuse to serve others that are not saved and a part of the local New Testament Baptist Church. There are three views as to the provision of the Lord’s Supper. Open communion teaches that anyone from any denomination or “church” can freely take the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, close communion implies that anyone that has been baptized and is a member of a “church” can partake. Thirdly, closed communion instructs that the Lord’s Supper is a restricted observance and is only to be administered within the local New Testament Baptist Church.
Baptist believes that not every individual present can partake of the Lord’s Supper. There are some qualifications before one is served in the Baptist church. A person must be saved, baptized, and a member of that local church before they can partake. Paul gives five more prerequisites in I Corinthians 11:18-29. First, only those in one accord can participate. He stated in verse 18, “I hear that there be divisions among you”. Those “dividers” of the church were not allowed to join in the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, heretics were refrained from practicing this communion as found in verse 19 (“there must be also heresies among you”). Thirdly, those that were drunken and excessive gluttons could not play a part as seen in verse 21 (“another is drunken”). Fourthly, those that were unworthy (not serious or reverential) could not partake as described in verse 29 (“he that eateth and drinketh unworthily”). Finally, those that did not search their heart and were ignorant of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper were forbidden in verse 29 (“not discerning the Lord's body”). The judgment of God on those believers that partook unworthily was sickness and death as seen in verse 30.
How often is the church supposed to observe the Lord’s Supper? It seems as if the early church performed it weekly since they met weekly (Acts 20:7). Although this may be true, there is not one passage that commands us to observe it weekly. Certainly, it is up to the local church to decide how often they partake. This decision should be under the pastor’s discretion since he is the leader of that church.
6. Two Offices of the Church: Pastor and Deacon
According to Philippians 1:1, the three positions in the local church are saints (“saints”), shepherds (“bishops”), and servants (“deacons”). The word “saint” is a New Testament term applying to a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a title, but a description of a convert’s new standing in Christ. Pastors, or shepherds, are to perfect the saints, perform the work of the ministry, and edify the body of Christ (Ephesians ). He is to guide the flock faithfully (I Corinthians 11:1 I Thessalonians 1:6, II Thessalonians 3:7), give the flock food fervently (I Peter 5:1-4), guard the flock forcefully (John -15), and govern the flock foundationally (Acts , Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews ). Then, the deacons are to be servants of the church attending to the daily ministration of the Scriptural widows and poor (Acts 6:1-3, James ). According to the Word of God, which is the foundation for the Baptists, pastors and deacons, are the only two offices of the church. The Bible has much to say about the pastor and somewhat to say about the deacon.
The New Testament applies six titles to the position of the pastor. These names are pastor, elder, bishop, preacher, man of God, and minister. Pastor is only found once in the New Testament in the form “pastors” in Ephesians 4:11. However, the interpretation is found in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 23:2 (“Therefore thus saith the LORD God of
Not everyone is qualified to be a pastor of a church. These qualifications are found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Since everything rises and falls on leadership, it is imperative that the church have qualified men filling the pulpit.
Deacons are given to serve the church and assist the pastor in the ministry (Acts 6:1-3, I Timothy ). He also has qualifications that he must meet before he is placed in the office of deacon (I Timothy 3:8-13). They must have an honest report, be full of the Holy Ghost, and have wisdom. There is not one instance in the Bible where there was a board of deacons or chairman of the deacons established. This is a misconception about the office of the deacon. In many churches, the deacon is the authority instead of the pastor. Once again, deacons are for service, not the final authority (or any authority) in a church.
7. The Priesthood of the Believer
Another Baptist distinctive that separates the
The Roman Catholic organization has robbed this Bible doctrine from its members. They have established Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests to be a “mediator” between man and God. This is the doctrine of the “Nicolaitans” discussed in Revelation 2:6 and . Strong’s defines “Nicolaitans” as “victor of the people” or “destruction of the people”. It divides the “church” into the “priests” and the “laity”. Therefore, it places the “priests” on a higher level than the “laity” making them “more important” than the people within the assembly (Are we not all equal in the body of Christ? Galatians 3:28). Seemingly, it makes them “lords over God's heritage” (I Peter 5:3). Apparently, doing so would create a division in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:25, I Corinthians 12:12-27). God is not the author of confusion or division (I Corinthians ).
8. The Great Command: Evangelize, Baptize, and Stabilize
Evangelizing the world with the gospel was the major thrust of the Baptist forefathers. Their desire to fulfill Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16 kept them from hiding when persecution fires were ablaze. Evidently, their goal was to reach the world with the good news from glory, the gospel. Establishing other local New Testament Baptist churches around the globe was a compelling force that motivated them to continue when nothing else would. They understood that they were debtors (Romans ), so they made themselves ready (Romans ) to not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans ). Although this meant martyrdom, they would not deny their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Mark ). Their only comfort while facing maltreatment was the promise of the Saviour in Matthew 28:20 (“and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”). Baptists walked through the doors of death and found the deliverance that God promised to believers in Psalm 22:4 (“Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.”). Therefore, without any fear, they committed themselves to God as seen in Hebrews 13:6 (“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”).
9. The Separation of the Church and the State
One of the greatest infringements in history on the Baptist church was by the state. This is one of the reasons that the Baptists believed in the separation of church and state. Separation of the church and state means that the state should stay out of the church affairs, not the church out of the state affairs. Certainly, the church is a spiritual organism and should be governed spiritually. The state is a secular organization and should hold no ties to the church. God has ordained both and intends for both to be separate.
This is not to say that the state is not Scriptural. According to the Word of God, God has ordained the state and intends humanity to adhere to the laws (Romans 13:1-10). Without the state and its laws there would be complete anarchy. The state is important and God intended it to be for the good of the land. Therefore, the state and its leaders are to be prayed for, paid attention to, and paid. Even Jesus paid His taxes when the time came (Matthew 22:17-21, Mark 12:14-17, Matthew 17:24-27).
The separation point is when the state interferes with the church affairs. God’s children are to obey the laws of the land until they contradict what God has commanded in His Word (Acts ). When a state makes a certain denomination the mandatory religion, and persecutes anyone that does not adhere to the state church, then it strips the freedom to worship God according to man’s dictates. Many times, when this is the case, wicked men are placed in positions of leadership, and sin is prevalent in the government. This is one reason why the church should not take money from the state because it gives them the right to dictate the affairs of the church, since they are sponsoring the church. The trouble is in placing fallible men in a position of sinlessness and letting them govern the church according to their own corrupted reasoning.
Absolutely, the church and state cannot walk “hand in hand”. Even the Bible declares, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” If the state desires to go contrary to the Scriptures, how can the church endorse them? Contrary to Roman Catholic beliefs, the church should be regulated from within the assembly. God intends for the church to solve their own problems, elect their own officers, and maintain the finances without the interference of the state. Therefore, we must conclude, that both the church and the state should have complete liberty and freedom.
10. The Toleration of the Baptists Toward Other Denominations
According to history and Baptist beliefs, the Baptists are the only group that has never persecuted anyone. Apart from the American Revolutionary War, Baptists has never picked up arms to defend them (and keep their freedom to worship God as the Bible directs). This is another Baptist distinctive that deserves accreditation.
Jesus warned His disciples that they would face persecution because they were not of the world (John , Mark 10:29-30, Matthew 10:16, I Peter 4:12, John 16:33, Matthew 10:39). It seems as if, the only thing that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants could agree on is the persecution of the Baptists. This was their uniting factor against the Baptists.
Why did the Baptists not retaliate? They had an understanding that they were in a spiritual warfare, not a carnal one. Apparently, they tried to fulfill what Paul stated in Romans 12:18 (“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”) Therefore, instead of vengeance (Romans ), the Baptists allowed the fiery trials of persecution to cause their candles to burn brighter.
Local church autonomy and local church governance is another distinctive of the
There is a difference between the
Local church autonomy gives the church the right to govern itself according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (independent from any other church, denomination, or organization). This authority gives them the right to accept its members according to the Bible, make its own decisions, discipline its own members, and govern their own finances.
Where the Roman Catholic and Protestant organizations have erred is accepting the “universal church” theory. The basis for their argument is in I Corinthians 12:13 (“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”). This passage teaches that both Jew and Gentile are baptized into one local church “body”.
Roman Catholic’s (“catholic” meaning “universal”) falsely teach the “universal visible church” idea and the Lutherans train their members to erroneously accept the “universal invisible church” theory. Even among their own congregations, these doctrines were not accepted for several years. Why then do they not receive invisible tithes from their invisible congregation to pay their invisible preacher while having purchased their invisible property? This is Ecumenicalism at its best.
These views (distinctives) lead to the massive persecution of the Baptists. They faced many hardships and afflictions because they were not willing to compromise the fundamentals of the faith. We owe many thanks to the determination and consistency of our forefathers in the faith! Remove not the ancient landmarks! Notice what our Baptist forefathers faced as they stood for these distinctives.
The Bloody Theatre
By Thieleman J. Van Braght
OF THE UNHEARD-OF CRUELTIES OF NERO
PRACTICED IN SLAYING THE PIOUS
CHRISTIANS…IN A.D. 66
“Touching the manner in which the Christians were tortured and killed at the time of Nero. A. Mellinus gives the following account from Tacitus and other Roman writers: namely, that four extremely cruel and unnatural kinds of torture were employed against the Christians:
Firstly, that they dressed them in the skins of tame and wild beasts, that they might be torn to pieces by dogs or other wild animals.
Secondly, that they, according to the example of their Saviour, were fastened alive on crosses, and that in many different ways.
Thirdly, that the innocent Christians were burned and smoked by the Romans, with torches and lamps, under the shoulders and on other tender parts of their naked bodies, after these had been cruelly lacerated with scourges or rods.
Fourthly, that these miserable, accused Christian martyrs were used as candles, torches, or lanterns, to see by them at night.
Of those who were burned, some were tied or nailed to stakes, and held still by a hook driven through the throat, so that they could not move the head when the pitch, wax, tallow, and other inflammable substances were poured boiling over their heads, and set on fire, so that all the unctuous matter of the human body flowing down made long, wide furrows in the sand of the theatre… And thus human beings were lighted as torches, and burned as light for the wicked Romans at night.
Juvenal and Martial, both Roman poets, and Tertullian, state this in a different manner, namely, that the Romans wrapped them in a painful burning mantle, which they wound around their hands and feet, in order to melt the very marrow in their bones…those mantles, that they made were made of paper or linen, and having been thickly coated with oil, pitch, wax, rosin, tallow, and sulphur, were wrapped around their whole body, and then set on fire.
For this spectacle Nero gave the use of his gardens, and appeared himself among the people in the garb of a charioteer, taking an active part in the Circusian games…”
One final thought will be taken from James R. Beller in his book, The Baptist History Workbook (page 8). This reveals the great persecution on the early church and their stand for the gospel. There is a trail of blood that we need not forget!
Baptists of Antiquity
When did the church begin? Which church is the right church? What kind of church did Jesus belong to? These questions may fill the mind of some, but not for Charles Hadden Spurgeon. He stated,
“We care very little for the historical argument, but if there be anything in it all, the plea ought not to be filched by the clients of Rome, but should be left to that community which all along has held by one Lord, one faith, and one baptism…It would not be impossible to show that the first Christians who dwelt in the land were of the same faith and order as the church now called Baptist…The time will arrive when history will be rewritten.”
Keep in mind that Jesus said, “I will build my church”. Church is singular. Therefore, there must be a perpetual line of this church. The Baptists are the ones that fall under the category of following apostolic doctrine. Hence, they are the church Jesus said He would build. A suggested outline of their presence throughout the centuries is as follows:
Name Time Place
Novatians 150 AD Rome, Italy
Montanists 170 AD Asia
Donatists 311 AD North Africa
Waldensians 500-1500 AD The Alps in Switzerland
Paulicians 660 AD Asia
Albigenses 700 AD France
Henricians 1116 AD France
Petrobrussians 1126 AD Southern France
Arnoldists 1155 AD Europe
Lollards 1330 AD Northern Germany—Netherlands
Anabaptists 1520 AD Germany—Holland—Switzerland
From this panoramic view of the succession of the Baptist church throughout the centuries, we will now turn our attention to them. It should be noted that Baptist congregations were labeled after their leader’s name. Although some were not titled “Baptist”, they were in their doctrine and practice. However, we do find the use of Anabaptist and Baptist in the fourth century. Even better than that, we see its use in the Gospels. W.A. Jarrel offers several other views of this point in his book, Baptist Church Perpetuity.
“Geo. B. Taylor, D.D., a late writer, says: ‘Baptist principles and Baptist practices have existed in all ages from the Reformation back to apostolic times. I humbly claim that we originated not at the Reformation, nor in the dark ages, nor in any century after the Apostles, but our marching orders are the commission, and that the first Baptist church was the church at Jerusalem.’
Pengilly: ‘Our principles are as old as Christianity. We acknowledge no founder but Christ.’
Dr. Peck: ‘Baptists in every age from the Apostles remained true to the kingdom which Christ came to establish.
Dr. Howell: ‘I assert that from the days of John the Baptist to the present time the true Baptist church has ever been a missionary body.’
Mr. Orchard: ‘I have demonstrated so far 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.’
John A. Broadus, D.D., LL.D.: ‘And it would seem to be entirely possible and very probable that the patient research of generations to come may gather material for a much nearer approach to a continuous history of Baptists than is now practicable.’
Many years ago Dr. Benedict, a Baptist historian, wrote: ‘The more I study the subject the stronger are my convictions that if all the facts in the case could be disclosed a very good Succession could be made out.’
Dr. Joseph Belcher: ‘It will be seen that Baptists claim the high antiquity of the Christian church. They can trace a succession of those who believe the same doctrine and administer the same ordinances directly up to the apostolic age.’
The late William Williams, D.D., when Professor of Church History in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, refuting a statement that he taught that Baptists originated with the Reformation, wrote September 5, 1876: ‘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 our Lord.’
The lamented Charles H. Spurgeon wrote: ‘We care very little for the historical argument, but if there be anything in it all, the plea ought not to be filched by the clients of Rome, but should be left to that community which all along has held by one Lord, one faith and one baptism…It would not be impossible to show that the first Christians who dwelt in the land were of the same faith and order as the church now called Baptist…The time will arrive when history will be rewritten.’
Geo. C. Lorimer, D.D.: ‘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 Spire, 1529, in which this now famous name originated, their existence antedates it by many centuries.’
Dr. Buckland: ‘Have Baptists a history? Prejudice and passion have always answered, no…From the time when Christ walked the earth down to the present there has not been a period in which they have not suffered persecution. From the age of John the Baptists to the massacre in Jamaica, bigoted religionists have not ceased first to slaughter and then to slander them…We cannot accept a place in the catalogue of sects or broken schismatical fragments of God’s church.”
Therefore, we conclude that the Baptist church has existed in every century from the times of Christ until the present. God’s Word is true, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Now we will look at this succession.
The first “name calling”, apart from John the Baptist, is the instance that occurred at
“And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
They were labeled this title because of their lifestyle that was like Christ. Instead of being identified as Baptist, now they were branded as Christians.
Montanists appeared in
Montanists rejected baptismal regeneration and believed in purity within the church, even to the point of church discipline. Separate from the soon to arise Catholics, they believed in a visible church. They were democratic in their government and completely relied on the Holy Spirit to lead their congregation.
One of their most well-known preachers was Tertullian. During the third century, he preached in
In 250 A.D., the Lord saved Novatian, a pagan philosopher, at Rome. After his conversion, he became one of the most distinguished theologians (at
Novatians held strict discipline within their assembly and believed in a spiritual church. They rejected baptismal regeneration and believed in baptism by immersion. Salvation did not consist of church membership, according to them, but was in the Lord Jesus Christ. Although Novatian has been slanderously reported, he (and the people he led) was Baptist in his government and procedures, demanding purity in the church. Finally, Novatian would end up a martyr.
Donatists arose in 311 A.D. in the Barbary States of North Africa. Later, their nucleus would form in
This group of believers formerly titled “Donatists” believed in church purity and spirituality. Like others, they held to strict church discipline. Concerning their baptism, they rejected the new wave of infant baptism and practiced complete immersion for their method of baptism.
In Baptist history, the Paterines were called Cathari, meaning pure ones. Roman Catholics titled them Paterines as a means of reproach toward them. They derived from
Paterines were law-abiding citizens that did not believe in infant baptism, despite the persecution. They followed only the Bible as their authority (believing both the Old and New Testaments) and confirmed that it was the Spirit’s power in conversion. Their morality was interesting in that they did not attend saloons and theatres. Church discipline was practiced amongst their congregations. They would continue, known as Paterines, until the time of the Reformation.
One of the most distinguished groups of Baptists was the Waldenses. It is said that the Waldenses joined the Catharists (Paulicians and Albigenses). They arrived before the Reformation and lasted after the Reformation. David Burcham Ray explains how they arose.
“The name Waldenses was originally applied to the inhabitants of the valleys of the Alps, but, in after times, it was applied to that class of Christians, everywhere, who embraced the same views with the inhabitants of the valleys. This name has sometimes been applied, by the Roman Catholics, with such latitude as to embrace all the sects which opposed the doctrines of Rome. Therefore, in the perusal of the pages of history, we find the term Waldenses applied to parties of almost every denominational cast. And a failure to observe the proper distinctions in the use of this name has led some historians to very incorrect conclusions as regards the doctrine of the Waldenses.
It is claimed by some, that the Waldenses derived their name from one Peter Waldo, a merchant of Lyons, who lived in the twelfth century. But this position is now almost universally abandoned. It is a historic fact, fully made out, that the name Waldenses was applied to the inhabitants of the valleys, as a religious community, long before the time of Peter Waldus. Mr. Jones, the historian, says: ‘It is also proved from their books, that they existed as Waldenses before the time of Peter Waldo, who preached about thee year 1160.’ And upon the same point Mr. Waddington remarks: ‘That we may not fall into error of Mosheim, who ascribes the origin of that sect to an individual named Waldus’.”
This would explain the discrepancy of the doctrines of Waldenses that Mosheim described in his writings. Actually, Waldenses in
Nonetheless, ancient Waldenses were a spiritual people that only believed in regenerated church members. They rejected baptismal regeneration and practiced baptism by immersion. Their confessions of faith were that of the Baptists and they believed that salvation was by grace through faith. In addition, we see that the Lollards were actually Waldenses.
Albigenses were a company of Baptists that dwelt in southern
“They arose in Southern France early in the eleventh century and were first known as Publicani; but at last took their name from the city of Albi, the center of the Albigeois district. They were first called Albigenses by Stephen Borbone, 1225. It is difficult to get at their exact tenets and practices, but they were generally numbered with the Cathari, and had many things in common with other sects so known. They rejected the Romish Church, and esteemed the New Testament above all its traditions and ceremonies. They did not take oaths, nor believe in baptismal regeneration; but they were ascetic and pure in their lives; they also exalted celibacy. They increased so rapidly that they drove the Catholic priests from their churches, of which they took possession, forming schools and congregations of their own.”
The blessings of God on the Albigenses were soon met with the threatening of Satan and his church, Roman Catholicism. The tyrant hand would move again on those who believed Baptist doctrine.
“Innocent III offered the prelates and nobles all the blessings of the Church for the use of their sword and the possessions of the heretics as an additional reward. Their own prince, Count Raymond VI, was compelled to slaughter his subjects, and the pope summoned the King of Northern France with all his nobles to the same bloody work. Half a million of men were gathered, four Archbishops joined the invaders with twelve Bishops and countless nobles. Towns were sacked, seven castles surrendered to the pope, and five hundred villages, cities and fortresses fell.
Barons, knights, counts and soldiery flocked like eagles to the prey from all directions. Their superstition was fed by the promise of two years’ remission of penance, and all the indulgences granted to the invaders of the Holy Sepulcher; and their cupidity was fired by the tender of the goods and lands of the heretics, as well as the right to reduce them to Mohammedan slavery. They followed the lead of Arnaud, the legate of the Holy See, bearing the cross and pilgrims’ staves, from the adjacent countries, French, German, Flemish, Norman. They first attacked Beziers, which was strongly fortified and garrisoned; but it was taken by storm and thirty thousand were slain. Seven thousand had taken refuge in the Church of St. Magdalene, and the monk Peter tells us with the most ferocious coldness that they ‘killed women and children, old men, young men, priests, all without distinction.’ There were many Catholics in the town, and the ‘Holy Legate’ was asked how these should be spared, when he commanded: ‘Kill them all, God will know his own!’ Lest a heretic should escape they piled all in an indiscriminate heap, and the Chronicle of St. Denis gives the whole number as sixty thousand.”
Such were the persecutions and afflictions of the Albigenses. Because of their pure lives and fundamentals of the faith, some 60,000 faced a martyr’s death. Great were the Albigenses!
Paulicians were a collection of Baptists located in the Taurus mountain range. Their lineage traces back to the apostle Paul and his teachings. Through the planted ministries of the apostles, the “Paulicians” would settle down in
“The Paulician churches were of apostolic origin, and were planted in Armenia in the first century. ‘ Through Antioch and Palmyra the faith must have spread into Mesopotamia and Persia; and in those regions become the basis of the faith as it is spread in the Taurus mountains as far as Ararat. This was the primitive form of Christianity. The churches in the Taurus range of mountains formed a huge recess or circular dam into which flowed the early Paulician faith to be caught and maintained for centuries, as it were, a backwater from the main for centuries’. The earliest center of Christianity in Armenia was at Taron, which was the constant home and base of operations of the Paulicians.”
The Paulicians believed in all parts of the Bible, marriage, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. They boldly rejected infant baptism and baptismal regeneration. Their church government was that of the Baptists.
Henry was the leader of the Henricians in the twelfth century. He resided at Clugny, where he preached purity of doctrine, against the clergy, in opposition to the worshipping of saints, opposed infant baptism, and against works as a means of salvation. As a result, revival broke out and God used him across Europe. Henry was imprisoned, released, and then imprisoned again. This time it was for life. Cathcart describes his character.
“He was endowed with extraordinary powers of persuasion, and with a glowing earnestness that swept away the greatest obstacles that mere human power could banish, and he had the grace of God in his heart. He denounced prayers for the dead, the invocation of saints, the vices of the clergy, the superstitions of the church, and the licentiousness of the age, and he set an example of the sternest morality.”
Petrobrussians were titled after their leader, Peter de Bruys (an excellent evangelist and revealer of Roman Catholicism). They were located in southern
“Peter and his followers were decided Baptists, and like ourselves they gave a fresh baptism to all their converts. They reckoned that they were not believers when first immersed in the Catholic Church, and that as Scripture baptism required faith in its candidates, which they did not possess, they regarded them as wholly unbaptized; and for the same reason they repudiated the idea that they rebaptized them, confidently asserting that because of the lack of faith they had never been baptized.”
Such were the strong beliefs that brought them persecution and, eventually, the burning of their leader. One thing is certain about the Baptists, when an earthly leader perishes under tyranny, they are certain that their heavenly leader remains intact.
Petrobrussians also believed in the Trinity, the entirety of the Bible, were persuaded that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were only symbols, and regeneration was only by the Holy Spirit. They were immersionists that denied baptismal regeneration and infant baptism.
After his conversion, Arnold of Bresica adopted Baptist distinctives and started a campaign for religious freedom (separation of the state from the church). Subsequent to his exile from one country to another,
John T. Christian offers more on the history of
“Arnold of Brescia was born in the beginning of the twelfth century and died about A.D. 1148. He was a student of Abelard, in Paris, and returned with lofty notions of reformation in Italy. From one country to another he was driven by persecution. He finally returned to Rome and led a patriotic attempt for the freedom of the country against the pope. He was taken prisoner, hanged, his body burned, and the ashes thrown into the Tiber.”
Concerning their beliefs, Arnoldists opposed union of state and church. They rejected infant baptism, transubstantiation, and “riotous conduct”. Arnoldists were considered Baptists.
The noted leader of the Lollards was Walter Lollard. In 1315, Lollard became known as a great preacher and herald of the faith. God began to use him mightily as He used him to bring revival to the Albigenses. He also influenced the Waldenses, bringing their doctrines into
“Walter Lollard, a Dutchman, of remarkable eloquence, came, according to Fuller, into England, in the reign of Edward III, ‘from among the Waldenses, among whom he was a great bard or pastor.’ His followers rapidly increased so that Abelard declared ‘our age is imperiled by heretics, that there seems to be no footing left for the true faith.’ Knighton, the English chronicler, says: ‘More than one-half of the people of England, in a few years, became Lollards’.”
Lollard performed believer’s baptism, thus denying infant baptism. Fox, stating one of their articles of faith, said that, “faith ought to precede baptism”. The Lollards merged with the Anabaptists, seeing that they were identical.
Anabaptists and Baptists
During the Reformation, the term “Anabaptist” would now apply to all groups of the Baptist faith.
“The name ‘Anabaptist’ was a derogatory name given by the enemies of the movement. Literally, Anabaptist or Anabaptism meant ‘one who rebaptized’ or ‘re-baptism.’ Since those of the sacral society movement insisted on infant baptism, converts to Anabaptist churches from the RCC or Protestantism would need to be baptized ‘again’ in believer’s immersion for entrance into Christ’s My Church movement. Hence, the Anabaptists were the ‘again-baptizers,’ the ‘re-baptizers’ or the ‘ana-baptizers.’ In time the ‘Ana’ dropped off and the movement became known as ‘Baptists,’ signifying the importance of the doctrine of baptism commanded in the Great Commission.”
The Anabaptists would see great preachers and strong leaders begin to emerge from their ranks. The following is a brief list of some of these leaders. It is not thorough, but might produce an appetite for further study. Most of the leaders never had their names recorded on the pages of history, but great is their reward in heaven!
- Conrad Grebel (1498-1526) His end would be imprisonment and death from the plague.
- Felix Manz (1498-1527) His end would be a sentence to death for preaching believer’s immersion. Manz’s death sentence was drowning in the Limmat River. His last words were, “into thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”
- Michael Sattler (1490-1527) His end would be a sentence of the “third baptism” (death by drowning). Instead, they burnt him at the stake.
- Balthasar Hubmaier (1480-1528) His end would be torture on the “rack”, imprisonment, and death at the stake.
Many were the afflictions and tortures of the Baptists throughout the ages. However, they withstood the test of time and maintained the purest form of doctrine. Certainly, there was a trail of blood left behind that we can trace! John T. Christian describes some of these events. A decree passed in Switzerland on
“…the leaders of the Catabaptists shall be cast into the Tower, in which they formerly lay, and allured by bread and water diet until either they give up the ghost or surrender. It is also added that he who after this is dipped shall be submerged permanently…”
Because Baptists immersed in water, they were drowned in water (known as the “third baptism”). Gastins, referring to a decree by the Senate of Zurich, said, “They like immersion, so let us immerse them.” Yet another instance of torture is as follows.
“The edict of March 7 was ratified
Lastly, we will look at the aforementioned Felix Manz. Observe his sentence of death on
“As he came down from the Wellinberg to Fish Market and was led through the shambles to the boat, he praised God that he was about to die for the truth; for Anabaptism was right and founded upon the Word of God, and Christ had foretold that his followers should suffer for the truth’s sake. And the like discourse he urged much discussing with the preacher who attended him. On the way his mother and brother came to him and exorted him to be steadfast, and he persevered in his folly to the end. When he was bound upon the hurdle and was about to be thrown into the steam by the executioner, he sang in a loud voice, In manus tuas, Domine, eommendo spiritummeum, ‘In thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit,’ and herewith was drawn into the water by the executioner and drowned.”
It was through this form of death that many died. It has been recorded that, “At Vienna many Anabaptists were so tied together in chains, that one drew the other after him into the river, wherein they were all suffocated.”
These are the untold stories of the trials that many of our Baptist forefathers faced. Why is no one telling what happened? Do we have to study Protestant history and accept that the Baptists were “put on the shelf”? Did God only use the Protestants in revival? It is the desire of the author that these truths will be known and that people will realize Baptists have always existed from the times of Christ to the present! God did use them in revival and churches were planted everywhere they went!
 Spurgeon, Charles Hadden. The Metropolitan Tabernacle: Its History and Work. Page 7.
 Jarrel, W.A. Baptist Church Perpetuity. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, pages 40-41.
 Christian, John T. A History of the Baptists. Texarkana, Arkansas—Texas: Bogard Press, Year Unknown, pages 43-44.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 69-76.
 Stringer, Phil. The Faithful Baptist Witness. Haines City, Florida: Landmark Baptist Press, 1998, page 64.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 77-88.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 89-106.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 129-130
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 129-139
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 159-160.
 Ray, David Burcham. Ray’s Baptist Succession. St. John, Indiana: Larry Harrison, Year Unknown, page 209.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 159-181.
 Armitage, Thomas. A History of the Baptists. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, pages 278-279.
 Armitage, Thomas, page 279.
 Cramp, J.M. Baptist History. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 71.
 Christian, John T., page 49.
 Beller, James R. The Collegiate Baptist History Workbook. Arnold, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2005, page 95.
 Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopedia. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 518.
 Beller, James R., page 96.
 Cathcart, William, page 912.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 140-148.
 Stringer, Phil, page 91.
 Stringer, Phil, page 95.
 Christian, John T., pages 66-67.
 Jarrel, W.A., pages 149-158.
 Beller, James R., pages 110-111.
 Christian, John T., pages 183-184.
 Christian, John T., page 187.
 Beller, James R., page 131.
 Strouse, Thomas M. I Will Build My Church: The Doctrine and History of Baptists. Newington, Connecticut: Emmanuel Baptist Theological Press, 2001, page 92.
 Strouse, Thomas M., pages 95-96.
 Christian, John T., page 122.
 Christian, John T., page 123.
 Christian, John T., pages 123-124.
One of the most amazing and bloodiest stories of all times is the chronicles of the church. The church of the living God, in every century, has faced more persecutions, afflictions, martyrdoms, and hardships than any other group on planet earth. When Jesus said that the world would hate the church, He was right!
“Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”
John penned the words down that revealed the future trials that the church would face for the cause of Christ. “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
Despite the great persecution that continually rages against the local church, Jesus is still fulfilling His promise found in Matthew 16:18. When He said that He would build His church, He meant it. When ruthless tyrants try to stomp out the fires of the church, they just spread. One authority, concerning the imprisoned Baptists in America, said, “These heretics make more converts in jail than they do out.” Certainly, genuine men of God rejoice in the fact that they were counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
Our studies lead us to one question and that is, “Who is the church?” In the days we are living, there are so many different denominations, cults, and religions. Each teach a different gospel and the way to heaven. They vary in their doctrine and usually contradict each other. However, in the midst of this religious chaos, we must remember that Jesus said, “I will build my church”. According to this statement (since “church” is singular and not plural) there is only one “church” that Jesus will build. There must be perpetuity in the succession of the church that Jesus said He would build.
The only way to trace the pure lineage of the church is to find out what their doctrines and practices were in the New Testament. Once this is accomplished, you can see the series of believers that hold to the “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts ). The question is not, “Did the apostles believe like we believe today?” On the other hand, the question should be, “Do we believe like the apostles believed?” The apostles got their doctrine from Jesus, who got His doctrine from God the Father. “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.”
When we view the various religions, sects, cults, and organizations throughout the pages of history, we must conclude that there is only one group of people that hold to the doctrines of the Word of God. Today, this body of believers is known as the Baptists. Despite the assaults launched against them, they have withstood the test of time and maintained purity in their doctrine, morality, and testimony.
From the times of Jesus to the present, the Baptists have always existed. They are the only group that can trace their commencement under the ministry of Christ. It is the conviction of the author that the church that Jesus said that He would build in Matthew is the Baptist church.
Why did Jesus go to John the Baptist to be baptized (Matthew - “Then cometh Jesus from
Even Catholic and Protestant writers have always traced Baptist history (the story of the church) back to the early New Testament churches. The Baptists have always been a group of people that have rejected the teachings of man and accepted what the Scriptures state. As studied previously in Baptist Distinctives (the separation of the church), we see their uncorrupt doctrine that has been preserved from century to century as they stood against heretical tyrants. It is the desire of the author to look at the perpetual line of the Baptists and the story of the church in a way that J.M. Carroll titled it, “The Trail of Blood”.
Before we view Baptist history, we should first note what is not Baptist. Many have confused Baptists with Protestants. This is a false and erroneous view. There are only three views in our day about “Christian” religions. These are Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. However, there are four, which are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Baptist. Each is separate and distinct from each other.
We must remember the union that took place in Revelation 2:20-21. Ahab, the king of Israel, married Jezebel to strengthen his kingdom just as Constantine, the Roman Emperor married the church to strengthen the Roman Empire. In type, and as seen in Revelation 2:23, Jezebel (the Roman Catholics) had children (the Protestants).
It will help to do a study on the beginning of these organizations (Catholic and Protestant). Doing so will reveal the corruption in their doctrine and how they are completely separate from the Baptist. The following is a brief outline of the development of the Catholics and Protestants, which we will look at to an extent. This outline was formulated from the charts that J.M. Carroll and W.A. Jarrel offered in their books.
- Hierarchy (Early 300 A.D.)
- Catholic (Middle 600 A.D.)
- Greek Catholic (Division in 869 A.D.)
- Roman Catholic (Division in 869 A.D.)
(Protestants—Leader Zwingli in Zurich)
- Lutherans (1530 A.D.)
- Church of England/Episcopal/Anglican (1531 A.D.)
(1) Methodist (1785 A.D.)
- Presbyterians (1541 A.D.)
(1) Cumberland (1810 A.D.)
(2) Disciples (1812 A.D.)
- Congregationalists (1602 A.D.)
The major doctrines, along with several others, that separate these Catholic and Protestant organizations from the Baptists are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Teaching baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and proxy (substitute) baptism, as the means of salvation, is what branded these denominations heretics in the sight of God and the Baptists. All of these associations have the same common heresy concerning baptism.
Before we look at these individually, let us notice what their founders taught about baptism. Charles Hodge of the Presbyterians (John Calvin was the founder) stated, “Baptism is not only a sign and a seal, it is a means of grace.” Referring to infant baptism he said, “It assures them of salvation if they do not renounce their covenants.” John Wesley (the founder of the Methodists) said, “By baptism, we, who are ‘by nature the children of wrath’ are made the children of God.” Certainly, these statements reveal the false doctrine of salvation that was promoted amongst these blinded individuals.
Hierarchy and the Catholics
The Catholic organization had an unusual development. It almost seems as if they evolved throughout the centuries as new doctrine began to prevail. Nonetheless, we will try to see its original concept and the leaders that shaped this diabolical force, the Catholics denomination.
Its concepts began with Greek philosophers as they influenced the region of
“The Gnostics were a sect of philosophers that arose in the first ages of Christianity, who pretended they were the only men who had a true knowledge of the Christian religion. They formed for themselves a system of theology, agreeable to the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato, to which they accommodated their interpretations of scripture. They held that all natures, intelligible, intellectual and material, are derived by successive emanations from the infinite fountain of deity. These emanations they called oeons. These doctrines were derived from the oriental philosophy.”
These doctrines were believed and maintained as true. Therefore, this would pave the way for the false views of Catholicism.
Plato, in his writings, emphasized the contrast between the particular and the universal. This concept led to catholicity. Catholicity was the product of Pantheism.
Later, Ignatius would take this idea and build upon it. He merged the idea of catholicity with the church. He stated, “wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Ignatius further said, “apart from these [Deacons, Bishop, Presbyters], there is no church”.
Cyprian advanced this thought in the third century. Strouse states,
“Cyprian (AD 200-258) advanced the necessity of this external, catholic institution with his famous expression extra nulla salus ecclesiam (‘outside the church there is no salvation’). His concept established the connecting link between soteriology and ecclesiology in the thinking of the Patristics. Berkof states, ‘Thus Cyprian was the first to bring out clearly and distinctly the idea of a catholic Church, comprehending all true branches of the Church of Christ, and bound together by a visible and external unity.’ By the end of the 4th century the concept of ‘catholic church’ was firmly fixed in ecclesiastical writings and practice.”
From this point, it is the teachings of Cyprian that shaped the Catholics into a “church”. Again, this concept would develop even more with
Constantine, in the fourth century, had a very unusual apparition. He professed that he saw a cross in the sky. After his “vision”, he made certain that his army was baptized into his state church, which was the Roman Catholic Organization. This act created the doctrine that the way to become a member of the “church” was to be baptized first.
Then, Augustine began another development of the Catholic organization. Evolution played a major role in the growth of the Catholics and their doctrine. Strouse further explains this idea.
“Augustine (AD 354-430) was a Neo-platonist whose work ‘represents the climax of Platonic spirituality.’ Augustine’s controversy with the Donatists helped shape catholic ecclesiology for centuries to come. The Donatists criticized the ‘visible church’ because of its lack of a pure membership, asking if the church was actually split into two churches, the mixed church of the present and the pure church of the future. In seeing the Donatists’ legitimate criticism of the impure ‘visible church,’ Augustine was forced to couple his concept of the predestination of the elect with his Cyprianic concept of the catholic Church. Berkhof sums up Augustine’s position by stating ‘the real unity of the saints and therefore of the church is an invisible one. At the same time it exists only within the catholic Church, for it is there only that the Spirit works and that true love dwells.’
His theological ingenuity had a two-fold effect. It not only helped Augustine to neatly sidestep the Donatists’ objection, but it also was the source for later ecclesiological error. Although Augustine did not use the term ‘invisible’ with catholic Church, he did originate the concept of ‘invisible catholic church’ out of theological necessity. So by the 5th century there were at least two different concepts to ‘church.’ To the Augustinian catholic, the true church was within the visible, catholic institution entered into by baptism and maintained by the sacraments. To the Donatist, the true church was the assembly of immersed believers in a particular locale, Christ’s My Church.”
Therefore, we have the development of the Catholic organization. It was nothing more than a mishap of their evolution. Further developments of the Catholic’s doctrines are as follows:
Dogmas Introduced into Roman Catholicism
Prayers for the dead—A.D. 330
The sign of the cross—A.D. 330
Worship of Mary/Using title “Mother of God”—A.D. 431
Latin language used exclusively in worship—A.D. 600
“Pope” officially given to the Bishop of Rome—A.D. 610
Kissing of pope’s feet—A.D. 709 (Pagans by custom kissed the emperor’s feet. The Bible forbids this in Acts 10:25, 26; Rev. ; 22:9)
Temporal power of popes—A.D. 750 (When Pepin, the usurper of the throne of France, invaded Italy and conquered the Lombards, he gave the city of Rome and surrounding territory to the Pope. Jesus forbids such a thing and refused worldly kingship (Matt. 4:8, 9; , 26; John )
Adoration of saints—A.D. 788
Adoration of the cross, images, and relics—A.D. 788
Blessing of bells—A.D. 965
Fasting: Lent, Advent, and Fridays—A.D. 998
Fabrication of holy water—A.D. 1009
Marriage of priests forbidden—A.D. 1070
Rosary beads invented—A.D. 1090
Sale of Indulgences—A.D. 1190
Sacrifice of Mass officially recognized—A.D. 1215
Transubstantiation of bread—A.D. 1215
Articular confession of sins to a priest—A.D. 1215
Adoration of the water—A.D. 1220
People forbidden from communion wine—A.D. 1414
Purgatory proclaimed—A.D. 1438
Tradition held equal with the Bible—A.D. 1545 (By tradition is meant human teachings. The Pharisees believed the same way, and Jesus condemned them, for by human tradition, they annulled the commandments of God (Mark 7:1-13; Col. 2:8; Rev. 22:18)
Apocryphal books added to the Bible—A.D. 1546
Immaculate conception of Mary made official—A.D. 1845
Infallibility of the pope made official—A.D. 1870
This would be the organization that birthed other false churches. People began to perceive the double standards and heretical teachings of the Catholics and began to protest against them. Therefore, we have the Protestant Reformation that began after the Dark Ages (500-1500 A.D.).
The Catholic “church” would dominate during the Dark Ages. If anyone opposed their doctrines or practices, they were severely persecuted or martyred. Because of their state church mentality, the Catholics seized control of the European nations. This was achieved under the leadership of Pope Innocent III (He was anything but innocent!). Dr. Phil Stringer describes this political autocrat.
“He has been called the most powerful man who ever lived, and maybe he was. Innocent III threatened to condemn to Hell all the citizens of a nation if the ruler of that nation did not obey him! This was called placing a nation under interdict. The pope’s power to do this was so widely believed that no king could oppose him. Eighty-five times he threatened kings with interdict, and all eighty-five times they gave in to him! The Pope forced one king to sign the entire nation over to him.
Innocent III was very aware of the independent churches and, at least twice he attended independent church services without those congregations knowing who he was. From his description, at least one of these churches was Baptist. At first, Innocent III ordered numerous missions to preach to the independents. When this was unsuccessful, he ordered all nations to execute all non-conformists and to close all independent churches. He also ordered vicious campaigns against the Jews. He threatened to place any country under interdict which did not destroy its independent churches.”
Because of this ruling, Christians would face one of the bloodiest times of all. No other persecution would be seen in the world as severe as this one until Adolph Hitler arrived on the scene.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century,
“Brave individuals still continued to raise a voice for religious freedom, but their cry was to go largely unheeded until the Sixteenth Century. During the early years of the Reformation, the independents often joined hands with the Reformers to overthrow the Catholic state churches. In those early days, most of the Reformers advocated religious freedom. Many of Zwingli’s early soldiers were Anabaptists. Even Luther cooperated with the German Anabaptists during his first few years as an outcast from Roman Catholicism. It is easy, however, to be opposed to the idea of a state church when you are not in power. Wherever the power of Romanism was broken, other tyrants soon rose up to take their place. Soon Luther in Germany and Zwingli in Switzerland promoted their own form of state churches, and they attacked those with whom they had once joined in the struggle for religious liberty.”
Therefore, the Reformation Era only gave religious liberty to the Protestants. Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin would continue the onslaught to the Baptist believers. Baptists would now face opposition from two sides, the Catholics and the Protestants. In their own eyes (Judges 17:6- “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”), Protestants believed that the Catholic “church” was the genuine “church”. Their intentions were not to separate from them, but to purify it from within. However, how can you bring a clean thing out of an unclean (Job 14:4- “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.”)? Protestants title the Catholics as a “good movement gone bad” and believed that it only needed to be reformed. However, Catholicism was not a “good movement”, but a gruesome tyrant. There was not a need for reformation, but for regeneration.
Many promote Zwingli as a great “Christian” and a friend to the Baptists. They say that he “was used of God” in the beginnings of the Reformation (One of these is Beka Horton in Book of the Revelation: Church History and Things to Come on page 45). However, Armitage (and other Baptist historians) presents a different view of this infidel. We must keep in mind that not everyone that professes Christ knows Christ. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
“At first, Zwingli and the Council were content with the fine and imprisonment of their victims, but when this failed to cure them they were loaded with chains. On
Martin Luther began his life early in the Roman Catholic organization. In his youth, he enrolled in an Augustinian monastery and consecrated himself to be a Roman Catholic monk. The following year (1507), he became a priest. He began to teach at the
To some, Luther is a great hero. However, before we put him on a pedestal, we should continue to study his life. The thesis that he wrote started a new way of thinking. Strouse describes this new theory.
“Later, in Wittenberg, where the Reformation started, men began to emphasize man’s rationalist thinking over and above the Bible, and Rationalism was the outcome of this emphasis on man’s head. Rationalism had its heyday through the 17th-19th centuries. Thus the shift from Platonic Catholicism to Aristotelian individualism led to man’s emphasis on his hands (Renaissance), to his heart (Reformation), and finally to his head (Rationalism).”
Attempts by the Roman Catholics were made to stop Luther and his new light. Charles V introduced the Edict of Worms in 1521 in opposition to Luther. Then, in 1526, Charles V annulled this edict with the Diet of Speyers, which provided some religious toleration (for Protestants). This was a "scratch me on my back and I will scratch yours" deal. The deal was toleration for military assistance by the Lutheran princes in
What about the character of the “great” reformer, Luther? After viewing his life, practices, and doctrines, it is not understood how a Baptist could embrace this heretic. Following his liberation from the strongholds of the Catholics, Luther began to practice a little persecution himself.
“In the OT, those who did not conform to the commandments of the Lord received capital punishment in the form of stoning. Likewise, the sacral societies of Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, and Methodism practiced persecution, and to a certain extent, capital punishment on theological dissidents in their respective sacral societies. In contrast however, the NT does not teach the persecution of doctrinal heretics, but the church discipline of heretics and evangelism of the heathen. Christ’s My Church movement did not persecute theological enemies but evangelized them.”
Concerning Luther, we might need to look at the edict that came from the council at
“It is important to note that some of these persecutions came from authorities who acknowledged the Roman Catholic Church, others from those who recognized Lutheran Leadership. Both Lutheran and Roman Catholic leaders took the same position with respect to dealing with Baptists and others who taught religious liberty. In 1529, Charles V, Emperor of Germany, dealt with the rise of the Anabaptists. His edict following the church council at Spires reads in part:
‘…clearly ordained that all and every Anabaptist, or rebaptized person, whether male or female, being of ripe years and understanding, should be deprived of life, and, according to the circumstances of the individual, be put to death by fire, sword, or otherwise; and whenever found should be brought to justice, indicted, and convicted; and be no otherwise judged, tried, or dealt with, under pain of heavy and severe punishment.’
The results of this decree led to the deaths of thousands of Baptists; however, the movement continued to spread. In many German states there was massive persecution of Anabaptists.”
Even the men assigned under the leadership of Martin Luther had absolutely no toleration for the Anabaptists of that region. Melanchthon, the chief assistant to Martin Luther, severely persecuted the Anabaptists with the approval of Luther.
“Baptists were also protected in the German town of Wassenburg by a local ruler named Werner von Pallant. Under the leadership of Johannes Campanus, a local preacher, the church in Wassenburg determined to use their freedom as a base for sending missionaries throughout Germany. This so angered Melanchthon, Martin Luther’s chief assistant, that he pressed for persecution of the Baptists in the region. Campanus was arrested and spent 20 years in prison, dying there. Most of the missionaries ordained by his church were also executed. Hubmaier was arrested and burned at the stake. Three days later his wife was drowned.”
Further studies on the life of Luther can be seen by the Baptist historian Thomas Armitage as he portrays the wicked character of Luther. This should be enough information to reveal to any reader that Luther was not the friend of the Baptists. James R. Beller states, “He wrote a violent booklet against the Jews, as well as booklets against the papacy and the Anabaptists.” Not only did he hate the Baptists, but the Jews were also at the top of his list.
Church of England (Anglicans)
The Church of England was created under the headship of Henry VIII. Phil Stringer offers the history of the formation of this new “church”.
“Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine (whose nephew, Charles V, was the leading supporter of the Pope in Europe and who was, herself, a devout Catholic). Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn who was from an evangelical family. Henry applied to the Pope for permission and, for six years, the Pope refused to give Henry a decision either way. Henry had been no friend of the Reformation, having been trained as a Catholic theologian. He had also written a book against Luther, and the Pope had awarded Henry the title, ‘Defender of the Faith.’ But now Henry rebelled against the Pope, declared himself to be the head of the Church of England, divorced Catherine, and married Anne. Protestants and Catholics competed for influence in the newly organized Church of England.”
This newly formed “church” was never stable in their doctrine. Their teachings would change with the feelings of Henry VIII. Shortly, he executed Anne Boleyn and married four more women. Therefore, there was constant turmoil concerning morality and dogma within the “church”. Along with the other Protestants, the Church of England persecuted the Baptists as well.
From the Church of England sprouted the Methodist movement headed by John Wesley in the 18th century. Although they shared several views of the Baptists, they still did not completely turn away from the Catholic and Church of England mentality. Stringer describes their practice.
“Methodism was based upon the basic fundamentals of the evangelical Christian faith and union together in a church system. Methodist churches and individuals were left to decide many things for themselves. Most of them accepted the Bible as the final authority for faith and practice. (They could not accept it as the sole authority because they also had the authority of their church system.) Methodist churches have always been allowed more independence than most churches in a denominational system, but the final church authority still remains with the denomination. Most Methodist churches baptize infants and admit them to church membership. Most of their churches practiced immersion, sprinkling, and pouring, leaving the choice to the individual. A few Methodists have been known for holding to baptism by immersion of believers only. Historic Methodists usually hold to only two church ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
John Wesley was Arminian in his views. Noah Webster defines “Arminian” as:
“One of a sect or party of Christians, so called from Arminius or Harmansen, of Holland, who flourished at the close of the 16th century, and beginning of the 17th. The Arminian doctrines are,
1. Conditional election and reprobation, in opposition to absolute predestination
2. Universal redemption, or that the atonement was made by Christ for all mankind, though none but believers can be partakers of the benefit
3. That man, in order to exercise true faith, must be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit, which is the gift of God; but that this grace is not irresistible and may be lost; so that men may relapse from a state of grace and die in their sins.”
This flowed into the Methodist movement.
Two men, John Calvin and John Knox, headed the Presbyterian Protestants. Calvin led the movement in
John Calvin, formerly a student for the priesthood, “accepted Christ” after reading the writings of Martin Luther. This “conversion” led him to a Protestant camp in 1533. After dissimulation there, Calvin eventually came to
1. T- Total Depravity of Man
2. U- Unconditional Election
3. L- Limited Atonement
4. I- Irresistible Grace
5. P- Perseverance of the Saints
Calvin was not a friend to the Baptists nor was he tolerant of them. John T. Christian records his attitude toward the “dissident” Baptists.
“The influence of John Calvin had begun to be felt in English affairs. His books had appeared in translations in England. He was responsible in a large measure for the demon of hate and fierce hostility which the Baptists of England had to encounter. He advised that ‘Anabaptists and reactionists should be alike put to death’. He wrote a letter to Lord Protector Somerset, the translation was probably made by Archbishop Crammer, to the effect: ‘These altogether deserve to be well punished by the sword, seeing that they do conspire against God, who had set him in his royal seat’.”
It was through the “ministry” of John Calvin that sprinkling for baptism would be introduced to
“During the persecution of Mary, many persons, most of whom were Scotchmen, fled from England to Geneva, and there greedily imbibed the opinions of that church. In 1556 a book was published in that place containing ‘The Form of Prayer and Ministration of the Sacraments, approved by the famous and godly learned man, John Calvin,’ in which the administrator is enjoined to take water in his hand and lay it upon the child’s forehead. These Scotch exiles, who had renounced the authority of the Pope, implicitly acknowledged the authority of Calvin; and returning to their own country, with Knox at their head, in 1559, established sprinkling in Scotland. From Scotland this practice made its way in the reign of Elizabeth, but was not authorized by the established Church. In the Assembly of Divines, held at Westminster in 1643, it was keenly debated whether immersion or sprinkling should be adopted; 25 voted for sprinkling, and 24 for immersion; and even this small majority was obtained at the earnest request of Dr. Lightfoot, who had acquired great influence in that Assembly. Sprinkling is therefore the general practice of this country. Many Christians, however, especially the Baptists, reject it. The Greek Church universally adheres to immersion.”
Different times John Calvin would try to write to the Baptists and “help them” with the subject of baptism. “Calvin thus speaking of his own times declares that if the opinions of the Baptists prevailed the rivers would not suffice for their dippings.” Calvin, mocking the baptism of the Baptists, wrote, “Truly so much ignorance deservedly requires another baptism, if for ignorance they should be rebaptized again.”
Therefore, we must conclude that John Calvin and the Presbyterians are nothing more than heretical children of the Catholic organization. Certainly, this is not the church Jesus said He would build. Unfortunately, Calvin’s influence would continue for several years, yea, even to the present time. Even his notes in the Geneva Bible would sail over with the Pilgrims as they came to
The father of the Congregationalists is known as Robert Browne. He arose during the reign of Queen Elizabeth in
The Puritans would be another class of Protestants that would persecute the Baptists for their unwavering stand for Biblical authority and doctrine. Following the teachings of John Calvin, they split off the Church of England. Concerning Baptist history, Puritans are better known in the Plymouth (as Pilgrims) and Massachusetts Bay colonies located in New England.
Who were the Puritans in
Due to their desire for independence, they conflicted with the Church of England.
The Roman Catholic Church began to lose power in
Some of the Separatists blended in with the Pilgrims. Once they arrived in
Although many do not realize it, Baptists were persecuted on American soil during the time before, during, and after colonial
Much of the intolerance of the Baptists started in
“If any person or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance…every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment.”
Such were the afflictions and punishments on our Baptist ancestors. John Cotton was the major thrust to this new wave of persecution that would soon flow into other states. Soon, maltreatment of the Baptists would be evident and endorsed in every colony in
What was the major accusation used for maltreatment of the Baptists? It was a charge placed upon them for simply preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Preaching the gospel without a state license was a crime that was punishable, in some instances, nigh unto death. Missing the services of the state church, assembling a people in order to preach to them, and speaking against infant baptism were other “crimes” that these “rebellious” Baptists would commit.
Such were the persecutions of the Baptists in colonial
What ties did the Pilgrims have with the Puritans? The Pilgrims landed in
It seemed as if the judgment of God was on the first settlements in
Roger Babson gave some light on this issue as he conversed with the president of
It is true that the Pilgrims had their battles and hardships, but we can clearly see the providential hand of God guiding them throughout their voyage and settlement. From the first, the ships were not able to sail, and even one had to retire. This delay did not thwart the determination of the Pilgrims, for they committed themselves to God. During the trip across the Atlantic, they saved the ship from disaster by Brewster’s screw taken from a printing press aboard the Mayflower. The only one to perish during the journey across the great ocean was a crewmember that boasted about the death of the Pilgrims.
Amazingly, when the Pilgrims did arrive, they were completely off course. Their planned destination was hundreds of miles away. Therefore, they drew up the Mayflower Compact to act as a written form of their desired civil government. This kept anarchy from reigning on the new land.
When they started their adventures on land, God watched over them. Four years prior, the Lord wiped out one of the most dangerous Indian tribes, which dwelt in the area where the Pilgrims landed. They were known as the Patuxet Indians.
Their first winter was harsh and nearly took half of the lives that settled there. However, right on time, God sent them Squanto to teach the Pilgrims how to work the land, hunt, and other survival skills that they needed. Their first harvest ended up in a feast of thanksgiving, which we still celebrate today.
Through the Pilgrims, we can see the hand of God birthing a nation that would provide religious freedom to those that desire it. Many thanks may be given to the men that were not as others! May we never forget John Robinson (pastor of the Separatists congregation in Scrooby and Leyden), Robert Cushman and John Carver (for receiving a patent from the Virginia Company), William Brewster (John Robinson’s assistant and teacher which lead the Pilgrims to America and instrumental in the writing of the Mayflower Compact), and William Bradford (the Pilgrim’s historian and second governor in Plymouth). Samoset, Massasoit, and Squanto (previously of the Patuxet Indians) need recognition for their assistance to the Pilgrims. In addition, we need to remember Christopher Jones (the less spiritual), captain of the Mayflower.
Keep in mind, that although the Pilgrims were blessed of God, they were still Protestants. They still held to infant baptism and other Catholic doctrines. One explanation for God’s blessings on them is that God was getting a land ready for the Baptists to rest (in spite of the Catholics and Protestants). Because of the tyranny, Baptists could not be the first to settle
Menno Simmons was the founder of the Mennonite organization. Before he was “converted”, he was a priest in the Roman sacral society. In 1526, Simmons would begin to question Catholicism and transubstantiation. Then, in 1536, he renounced the Roman Catholic “church” and joined with the Anabaptists. As a result, he is known as the “Father of the Dutch Anabaptists”. He would begin to plant churches in that region and write several articles. Through time, they dropped the name Anabaptist and began to call themselves Mennonites.
Simmons should not be praised yet. After his “conversion”, he continued as a Roman Catholic priest for five years before joining with the Anabaptists (What about John 16:13- “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…”—Why was not Simmons guided into becoming a Baptist after his “conversion”?). In his later ministry, the Baptists separated with Menno Simmons because of pacifism and their new doctrines teaching works for salvation. Stringer states, “By the Eighteenth Century, the Mennonite churches no longer practiced baptism by immersion of believers only and were no longer considered part of the Baptist movement.”
George Fox would be the founder and head (Jesus Christ is the Head of the church—Baptist belief) of the Quaker movement. The Quakers were Protestants as they protested against Catholicism and the Baptists. Although Fox had parents that were Baptist, he disputed their Scriptural views of baptism (immersion) and the sole authority of the Word of God. However, he did promote separation of the state from the church and independent churches, which led to several martyrs within the Quaker movement.
Jacob Ammann would be the head of the Amish Protestants. Ammann was a former Mennonite teacher that branched off from them leading his people into legalism. Their strong belief of separation from the world would soon overbear their doctrine of salvation. This idea leads to a “works” salvation, which they still believe today. They focused their “Christianity” on the outside, and forgot about the heart on the inside. Nonetheless, unless a sinner repents and turns to Christ as their Saviour, no amount of separation will save them.
These are the more renowned Protestant groups. As we saw, they were only the offspring of the Roman Catholic organization. In closing, we must always remember that the distinguishing mark of every Catholic and Protestant is infant baptism.
 Grady, William P. What Hath God Wrought! Schererville, Indiana: Grady Publications Inc., 1997.
 Jarrel, W.A. Baptist Church Perpetuity. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, introduction page.
 Carroll, J.M. The Trail of Blood. Lexington, Kentucky: Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 1995, cover page.
 Jarrel, W.A., page 481.
 Strouse, Thomas M. I Will Build My Church: The Doctrine and History of Baptists. Newington, Connecticut: Emmanuel Baptist Theological Press, 2001, pages 54-55.
 Webster, Noah. American Dictionary of the English Language. San Francisco, California: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1998.
 Strouse, Thomas M., page 55.
 Strouse, Thomas M., page 56.
 Strouse, Thomas M., pages 56-57
 Horton, Beka, page 33.
 Stringer, Phil. The Faithful Baptist Witness. Haines City, Florida: Landmark Baptist Press, 1998, page 85.
 Stringer, Phil, pages 85-86.
 Armitage, Thomas. A History of the Baptists. Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Year Unknown, page 350.
 Horton, Beka, page 41.
 Strouse, Thomas M., pages 86-87.
 Strouse, Thomas M., page 90.
 Stringer, Phil, pages 152-153.
 Stringer, Phil, page 153.
 Beller, James R. The Collegiate Baptist History Workbook. Arnold, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2005, page 130.
 Stringer, Phil, page 140.
 Stringer, Phil, page 45.
 Webster, Noah.
 Stringer, Phil, pages 43-44.
 Beller, James R., page 137.
 Horton, Beka, page 46.
 Christian, John T. A History of the Baptists. Texarkana, Arkansas—Texas: Bogard Press, Year Unknown, page 198.
 Christian, John T., page 294.
 Christian, John T., page 113.
 Stringer, Phil, page 165.
 Stringer, Phil, page 166.
 Grady, William P., page 86.
 Grady, William P., page 110.
 Grady, William P., page 47.
 Grady, William P., page 51.
 Grady, William P., page 54.
 Strouse, Thomas M., page 97.
 Stringer, Phil, page 157.
 Stringer, Phil, page 159.
 Stringer, Phil, page 141.
Our Baptist Heritage's Recommended Books for Reading
1. Family Encyclopedia of American History, by The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
2. America’s Providential History, by Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell
3. The Spirit of America, by William J. Bennett
4. America’s God and Country, by William J. Federer
5. The Signers, by Dennis Brindell Fradin
6. One Nation Under God, by David C. Gibbs
7. Understanding the Constitution, by David Gibbs, Jr. and David Gibbs III
8. How Satan Turned America Against God, by William P. Grady
9. What Hath God Wrought, by William P. Grady
10. The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution, by J.T. Headley
11. The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel
12. From Sea to Shining Sea, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel
13. Sounding Forth the Trumpet, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel
14. Great American Statesmen and Heroes, by Catherine Millard
15. The Rewriting of America’s History, by Catherine Millard
16. American History Stories—Volumes 1 and 2, by Mara L. Pratt
17. The 5000 Year Leap, by W. Cleon Skousen
Ø Keep in mind that most of these authors ignore our Baptist heritage. Also, they try to “Christianize” apostates such as the Pilgrims and the Puritans.
The Civil War
1. A Defense of Virginia and the South, by R.L. Dabney
2. Lincoln Unmasked, by Thomas J. Dilorenzo
3. The Real Lincoln, by Thomas J. Dilorenzo
4. The Conduct of Federal Troops in Louisiana, by David C. Edmonds
5. Southern By The Grace of God, by Michael Andrew Grissom
6. Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson, by Mary Anna Jackson
7. The Gray Book, by Arthur H. Jennings
8. Life and Letters of Gen. Robert Edward Lee, by J. William Jones
9. Christ in the Camp, by J. William Jones
10. The South Was Right, by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy
11. Myths of American Slavery, by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy
12. Reclaiming Liberty, by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy
13. The Uncivil War: Union Army and Navy Excesses in the Official Records, by Thomas Keys
14. The Civil War Day by Day, by E.B. Long
15. The Real Lincoln, by Charles Minor
16. Southern History of the War, by Edward Alfred Pollard
17. The Southern Tradition at Bay, by Richard M. Weaver
1. A History of the Baptists, by Thomas Armitage
2. History of the New England Baptists, by Isaac Backus
3. America in Crimson Red, by James R. Beller
4. The Collegiate Baptist History Workbook, by James R. Beller
5. A General History of the Baptist Denomination, by David Benedict
6. The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror, by Thieleman J. Van Braght
7. The Trail of Blood, by J.M. Carroll
8. The Baptist Encyclopedia, by William Cathcart
9. A History of the Baptists, by John T. Christian
10. The Story of the Baptists in All Ages and Countries, by Richard B. Cook
11. Baptist History, by J.M. Cramp
12. This Day in Baptist History, by David L. Cummins
13. Materials Towards A History of the Baptists, by Morgan Edwards
14. Baptist Church Perpetuity, by W.A. Jarrel
15. Imprisoned Preacher and Religious Liberty in Virginia, by Lewis Peyton Little
16. Baptist History, by G.H. Orchard
17. Ray’s Baptist Succession, by David Burcham Ray
The King James Bible
1. Inspiration and Interpretation, by Dean John William Burgon
2. Answers to Your Bible Version Questions, by David W. Daniels
3. Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?, by David W. Daniels
4. Look What’s Missing, by David W. Daniels
5. Which Bible, by David Otis Fuller
6. True or False, by David Otis Fuller
7. Counterfeit or Genuine, by David Otis Fuller
8. Gipp’s Understandable History of the Bible, by Samuel C. Gipp
9. The Answer Book, by Samuel C. Gipp
10. Final Authority, by William P. Grady
11. The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills
12. A Charted History of the Bible, by James C. Kahler
13. Hazardous Materials, by G.A. Riplinger
14. In Awe of thy Word, by G.A. Riplinger
15. New Age Versions, by G.A. Riplinger
16. A Testimony Founded For Ever, by James H. Sightler
17. Defending the King James Bible, by D.A. Waite
A good way to find these books is on the internet under “bookfinder.com”.