Dr. J. M. Pendleton, D.D. in 1867 wrote a book called “CHURCH MANUAL DESIGNED FOR THE USE OF BAPTIST CHURCHES” in which, being a church historian and minister, related his findings and research to the church. He related how not only we should conduct ourselves as a church, but also how the Baptist church had conducted itself through the 17 centuries preceding his manual. He wrote of the church:
- The inspired writers, as if to preclude the idea of a church commensurate with a province, a kingdom, or an empire, make use of the following forms of expression, “the churches of Galatia,” “the churches of Macedonia,” “the churches of Asia,” “the churches of Judea “; but they never say the church of Galatia, the church of Macedonia, etc. Wherever Christianity prevailed in apostolic times there was a plurality of churches.
- In answer to the question, What is a church? it may be said: A church is a congregation of Christ’s baptized disciples, acknowledging him as their Head, relying on his atoning sacrifice for justification before God, and depending on the Holy Spirit for sanctification, united in the belief of the gospel, agreeing to maintain its ordinances and obey its precepts, meeting together for worship, and cooperating for the extension of Christ’s kingdom in the world. If any prefer an abridgment of the definition it may be given thus: A church is a congregation of Christ’s baptized disciples, united in the belief of what he has said, and covenanting to do what he has commanded.
- In short he defined the church as a band of born again, baptized, believers in Christ Jesus as it has been since they were established by the Messianic missionaries such as Paul (Saul of Tarsus).
The greatest misconception of our day is our identity. How many of you, when asked what branch of the Christian Religion you belong to would answer with the dreaded words “We are Protestant”. If you believe Baptist people are protestant, then you are totally and unequivocally wrong. This is a dangerous misconception as even saying such opens the door to symbolizing, and even blending with the Roman Catholic church.
The ones who wanted to silence and even eradicate us are the ones who documented our history so well. While yet others, though not Baptist, wanted to honestly tell of our actual history. Let me quote a few well known names and what they said about who these Baptist people are in reality:
Sir Isaac Newton. I’ sure you’ve heard of him? (1643 – 1747) The prominent English scientist, philosopher, mathematician, historian, and student of the Scriptures said:
“The modern Baptists formerly called Anabaptist’s are the only people that never symbolized with the Papacy.”
The Roman Catholic Cardinal, Stanislaus Hosius (1504 – 1579) was president of the Council of Trent, which sent more Baptists to be burned at the stake than any other evil movement in history said this:
“If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and cheerfulness which a man of any sect shows in suffering, the opinions and persuasions of no sect can be truer or surer than those of the Anabaptists, whence there have been none for these twelve hundred years past that have been more grievously punished, or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people.”
And in another letter to his superiors in the Vatican, he wrote:
“Were it not that the Baptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years they would swarm in greater numbers than all the reformers.”
I want you to do the math if you will. Our arch nemesis Hosius takes the Baptist people back to at least 350 A.D. right after Constantine formed the secular government with the apostate church. That places us years before the institution of the Roman Catholic Church that Cardinal Hosius knew in his day.
Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss Reformer, (1484 – 1531) was a contemporary with Martin Luther and John Calvin. At the council meeting of the city of Zurich, Switzerland took action to decree death by drowning as the penalty for all those “who persisted in the heresy of Anabaptism.”
It is documented that he said “The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for thirteen hundred years has caused great disturbance in the church, and has acquired such a strength that the attempt in this age to contend with it appears futile for a time.”
If you do the math here also, you will see his admission that we were in existence at the beginning or middle of the second century A.D. Thanks Ulrich!
(Henry) Heinrich Bullinger, also a Swiss Reformer (1504 -1575), was one who hated the Baptists with a passion and yet charted our history well in his writings:
“Now, I think it not labour lost to speak somewhat of anabaptism. In the time that Decius and Gallus Caesar were Emperors, there arose a question in the parts of Africa of rebaptising heretics; and St. Cyprian, and the rest of the Bishops, being assembled together in the council of Carthage, liked well of anabaptism.
- Decius (201 A.D. to 251 A.D.) and was the first Roman Emperor to launch an organized persecution against Christians.
- Gallus Caesar (Gallerius) lived from about (201 A.D. to 311 A.D.) and was responsible for starting the persecution against Christians in 303 A.D.
- Saint Cyprian of Carthage, (230 A.D. ? to ? A.D.) was a famous Roman Catholic bishop & great orator of his day.
J. Cardinal Gibbons, Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in America, Patrick J. Healy, D.D., Catholic University of America; Theodore Roosevelt, LL.D., Associate Editor of, “The Outlook” and a former President of the United States of America; and several other distinguished scholars served as contributors to the book entitled Crossing the Centuries, copyrighted in 1912. This highly educated group of scholars gave the histories of various religious denominations in North America at that time. About the Baptists this book states:
“Of the Baptists it may be said that they are not reformers. These people, comprising bodies of Christian believers known under various names in different countries, are entirely distinct and independent of the Roman and Greek churches, have had an unbroken continuity of existence from Apostolic days down through the centuries. Throughout this long period they were bitterly persecuted for heresy, driven from country to country, disfranchised, deprived of their property, imprisoned, tortured and slain by the thousands, yet they swerved not from their New Testament Faith, Doctrine and Adherence.”
“The extreme conditions of the Reformation served to develop an organized denominational unity among the Baptists in Switzerland in 1523, which extended into Germany, then spread to Holland and other countries of Europe, also to England and Wales. The Baptist church of modern times may properly claim its “organized” denominational activities as beginning with the Switzerland movement.”
We also have had our own historians who boldly kept our history alive. Do you remember the name Charles Haddon Spurgeon? (1834 – 1892) Some called him the “Prince of Preachers”. It’s also said that he was one of the most authoritative preachers in history because of his extensive studies of the days of the Apostles. Everywhere you look in Christian circles his books and sermons have been reprinted numerous times both as collections and as individual pieces of reference.
In 1860, Spurgeon was quoted in a sermon as saying: “I am not ashamed of the denomination to which I belong, sprung as we are, direct from the loins of Christ, having never passed through the turbid stream of Romanism, and having an origin apart from all dissent or Protestantism, because we have existed before all other sects.”
The next year in 1861, Spurgeon said: “We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents.”
In 1881, 20 years later, Spurgeon was still preaching the same things about the origin of Baptists. It’s interesting to note that after twenty years more of study his belief had not changed one bit: “History has hitherto been written by our enemies, who never would have kept a single fact about us upon the record if they could have helped it, and yet it leaks out every now and then that certain poor people called Anabaptist’s were brought up for condemnation. From the days of Henry II (A.D. 1154-1189) to those of Elizabeth (1558-1603) we hear of certain unhappy heretics who were hated of all men for the truth’s sake which was in them. We read of poor men and women, with their garments cut short, turned out into the fields to perish in the cold, and anon of others who were burnt at Newington for the crime of Anabaptism. Long before your Protestants were known of, these horrible Anabaptist’s, as they were unjustly called, were protesting for the ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.”
All of these prominent preachers and scholars from the past few centuries knew how ancient we are. Historical testimonies are near endless and yet we have men today who are denying our very antiquity from Baptist pulpits around the world. The question is why. Is it ignorance of the facts or a want to meld in with the world religious community? Your guess is as good as mine.
My own personal observation and understanding of the history of the church is well rooted in historical fact. However, we didn’t spring from John the Baptist. He was the last of the Old Testament Prophets and was martyred before the church (ecclesia) was established. The first church without a doubt was the Messianic Church (the church made up of converted Jews) and the Baptist churches sprang from the evangelism of the Apostles missionary efforts.