Baptist Churches In All Ages
BAPTISTS AND THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
The title, itself, circumscribes the outer limits of this article. The spiritual and secular forces that combined to bring about the reformation, as well as its admittedly lasting religious and political influence upon the present shape of Western Civilization, will become of interest to us, only as they are found to bear upon the subject.
This paper concerns itself with the Protestant Reformation only insofar as that historical event has bearing upon the history of the Baptist Churches.
Secular historians, with scarcely a backward glance at the evidence, have almost universally tended to classify all Christian churches as either Catholic or Protestant. For reasons that ought to be obvious this is the method of classification followed by Catholic Church historians. Protestant historians, either in ignorance of the available historical data or with deliberate calculation have followed the same procedure. Not a few Baptists have viewed the reformation as the mother of their denomination; and therefore have found no occasion to object to their being called Protestants. On the other hand, many Baptists hold a sharply contrasting view of church history; contending that their churches are the spiritual descendants, not of the Protestant Reformation, but of that church established by Jesus Christ during the period of His personal ministry on earth, Matthew 16:18.
Thus, we have raised three questions that require an answer: (1) Are Baptists a protestant denomination? (2). If so, then by what historical standard are they so classified? (3). Finally, are Baptists a protestant denomination, or that special, peculiar people described in the New Testament as the churches of Christ? The scope of this article, then, entails the answers to these three questions.
What Is A Protestant?
The repeated failure of those who speak and write upon the subject of Christian history to define with exactitude the terms, Protestant, and Protestant denomination, has resulted in no little confusion. Whenever the terms have not been defined with linguistic precision the question of a Baptist connection with the reformation has been no more than a futile exercise in semantics. If we are to say with historical finality that Baptists either are, or, are not Protestants, then we must arrive at a working definition of the terms, Protestant, and Protestant denomination.
We are eternally indebted to Dr. W. Morgan Patterson, of the church history department at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, for two authoritative historical definitions of the term, Protestant.
Writing in a recent article published in the Arkansas Democrat, Dr. Patterson points out that the term, Protestant, has both a definite historical definition, and a significant theological meaning.
"The term, ‘Protestant’ has a variety of meanings and applications. Its earliest use was by a group of German nobles who opposed the Catholic majority at the Diet of Speier in 1529. In reaction to certain Catholic threats, the Lutheran minority drafted a statement of ‘protest’ and thus became ‘protesters’ or ‘protestants." Its first use, therefore, was in a civil context.
Secondly, there is a real sense in which the word might be restricted to the Lutherans. It was the sympathizers of Martin Luther who in the 16th century became the first Protestants."
Are Baptists Protestants?
I digress to inquire, may Baptists be fairly said to be historical Protestants? Certainly not within the commonly accepted historical definition of that term. Dr. Patterson has told us that the term is applied historically to those German Princes who supported the rebellion of Martin Luther against the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, beginning with Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five "theses" to the door of Wittenberg castle, and ending with his formation of the Lutheran church, about the year 1530. Some of the German rulers supported his "protest" and were called "protestants." If Baptists are "protestants" within the historical, meaning of the word, then they may be as fairly called Lutheran. The obviously sharp contrast between the results of such reasoning and the truth as it is viewed by both Baptists and Lutherans, in the year 1964, is nearly too ludicrous to contemplate.
In one, and only one, sense of the word Baptists may be categorized as "protestants." Again, the words are those of Dr. Patterson:
"There is another sense in which the historian uses the term ‘Protestant.’ As he studies the development of Christianity in Europe and in this hemisphere, he discerns two major traditions: Catholic and Protestant. This is a convenient way to distinguish in general terms the two significant segments of Christianity. Within this division it is obvious where Baptists belong."
The position is now taken that. if the term "Protestant" and "Protestant denomination" are to be so defined, then Baptists are the original protestants. For centuries prior to the Protestant Reformation they "protested" the religions excesses and abuses of Rome.
Baptist Protestants Before Protestant Reformation
1. The Novatain Churches
Certain facts are so self evident as to be counted as axioms of truth. Any half-serious student of history will know that Rome, the political capital of the empire, gradually became the important center of the Christian religion.
Almost nothing is known of the origin of the church at Rome, save that it was surely a New Testament church in origin, doctrine, and practice. This too, is taken to be self evident, or else Paul would not, and could not have written the Roman letter to this church. This ought to be sufficient comment upon her New Testament origin.
It can be said, with near certainty, that the division of Christianity into two parties, Catholic and "protesters" began at Rome in the year 251 A. D.
In that year the church at Rome divided itself into factions in support of two candidates for the office of pastor of the church. The faction of Cornelius prevailed and he was declared elected; whereupon, the supporters of Novatain withdrew from the church at Rome. (A History of The Baptists, John T. Christian, Broadman Press, 1922, page 44)
Novatain’s protest was directed, only in a secondary sense, against doctrinal deviation; primarily, it was a protest against loose disciplinary practice, and the growing moral corruption of the church at Rome. (A Concise History of Baptists, G. H. Orchard, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky, republication, 1956, pages 53-57)
Novatain’s protest was broad in its sweep, and far reaching in its lasting consequences. Concerning the Novatain rupture, the historian John T. Christian says:
"Novatain carried many churches and ministers with him in his protest. The vast extent of the Novatain movement may be learned from the authors who wrote against him, and the several parts of the Roman Empire where they flourished." (Christian, John, A History of Baptists, Vol. I, p. 44, Broadman, Press.)
It seems abundantly clear that the Novatain churches were "protestant" only in so far as that term implies a "protest" against the Church at Rome. It will now be demonstrated that they were not "protestant" churches in the historical meaning of the term.
The Novatain churches cannot be called protestant churches, in the historical meaning of the word, for the following self-evident reasons:
(1). The Novatain movement, as a distinct line of protest commenced in the year 251 A. ID.; the Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther in the year 1517.
(2). The Novatain churches did not date their beginnings as a separate denomination at the Protestant Reformation; but, rather derived their separate, distinct denominational name from a member of the church at Rome. The church at Rome was organized during the life time of the Apostle Paul, long before the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
(3). In relation to their doctrine, the Novatain churches were far more Baptistic than Protestant. This is satisfactorily proven when reference is made to their instruction of candidates for baptism.
Concerning such instruction, pastor Orchard states:
"To remove all human appendages. the Novatains said to candidates, ‘If you be a virtuous believer, and will accede to our confederacy against sin, you may be admitted among us by baptism, or if any catholic has baptized you before by rebaptism.’" (Orchard, Ibid. p.55)
From Orchard’s statement it is inferred that the Novatains offered baptism to believers only. Beyond controversy this is a Baptist characteristic. It is plainly inferred also, that they rebaptized those candidates who came to them from apostate Roman churches. Does not this characteristic brand them as more Baptist than historical Protestant?
(4). In relation to their practice, the Novatain churches were far more Baptistic than historical Protestant. Cryspin, the French historian tells us that they held the following practice, among other things, in common with the Donatists, another protesting group:
"They both agreed in asserting the power, rights and privileges of particular churches, against anti~Chri5tian encroachments of presbyters, bishops, and synods." (Quoted in Baptist Succession, D. B. Bay, The E3ng’s Press, Rosemead California, 1949.) p. 198.
This is distinctly a Baptist trait, even today. It is not commonly known to be a Protestant characteristic. If Cryspin’s statement does not prove the Novatains to have been distinctly Baptist in practice, then is anything provable?
There is impressive historical authority for the proposition that the Novatain churches continued until the reformation.
"These churches continued to flourish in many parts of Christendom for six centuries. Dr. Robinson traces a continuation of them up to the Reformation and the rise of the Anabaptist movement. ‘Great numbers followed his (Novatain’s) example’ says he, ‘and all over the Empire Puritan churches were constituted and flourished through two hundred succeeding years. Afterwards, when penal laws obliged them to lurk in corners, and worship God in private, they were distinguished by a variety of names, and a succession of them continued till the Reformation." (Christian, Ibid. p.44-45)
The thoughtful reader is invited to ponder long over the plain inferences that can be drawn from this quotation of historical authority. It speaks of a movement begun in protest against the Roman church. It speaks of a movement of protest that endured until the very days of the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther. The Novatain churches were Baptist protestants before the Protestant Reformation.
Baptist Protestants Before Protestant reformation
2. The Paulician Churches
The history of the Paulician churches furnishes further proof that the Baptist "protest" and Baptist doctrine and practice antedates the reformation by centuries.
Apparently, these churches were dubbed "Paulicians" by their enemies because of their tenacious adherance to the writings of the Apostle Paul. (A History of the Baptists, John T. Christian, Broadman Press, 1922, p. 50)
The historian Orchard says that these churches came into notice in the east about the year 653. (A Concise History of The Baptists, Ibid. p. 127) If the year of their prominence were the date of their birth, then it would testify to the existence of protestants in the area of Armenia almost nine hundred years before the beginnings of Luther’s protest in Europe.
But it can be stated with near historical certainty that the Paulicians originated long before the seventh century. They claimed apostolic origin for themselves. Christian quotes from the "Key of Truth," an old book written by a Paulician author.
"Let us then submit humbly to the holy church universal, and follow their works who acted with one mind and one faith and taught us. For still do we receive in the only proper season the holy and precious mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Heavenly Father: to-wit, in the season of repentance and faith. AS WE LEARNED FROM THE LORD OF THE UNIVERSAL AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH, so do we proceed: and we establish in perfect faith those who (till then) have not holy baptism. (Margin, That is to say, the Latins, Greeks, and Armenians, who are not baptized); nay, nor have tasted of the body or drunk of the holy blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. THEREFORE ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF THE LORD, WE MUST FIRST BRING THEM INTO THE FAITH, INDUCE THEM TO REPENT, AND GIVE IT." (A History of the Baptists, Ibid. p. 49)
If it be observed that the Paulician claim to apostolic origin does not mean that they, in fact, had such origin; then let it also be observed that to deny is not to disprove their own assertion that they stood in direct succession to the New Testament church.
The renowned historian, Gibbon, sustains the Paulician claim to New Testament succession. "Through Antioch and Palmyra the faith must have spread into Mesopotamia and Persia; and in those regions became the basis of the faith as it spread into the Taurus mountains as far as Aarat. 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 he caught and maintained for centuries, as it were, a back-water from the main for centuries." (Bury’s edition of Gibbon’s History, Vol. VI, p. 543.)
If a protestant is to be characterized by protest against the fleshly excesses of the Catholic movement then the Paulicians can easily qualify as "protestants." "They had no orders in the clergy as distinguished from laymen by their modes of living, their dress, or other things; they had no councils or similar institutions. Their teachers were of equal rank. They strove diligently for the simplicity of the apostolic life. THEY OPPOSED ALL IMAGE WORSHIP WHICH WAS PRACTICED BY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. THE MIRAGULOUS RELICS WERE A HEAP OF BONES AND ASHES, DESTITUTE OF LIFE AND OF VIRTUE." (A History of the Baptists, John T. Christian, Ibid. p. 55)
It has been shown that the Paulicians were apostolic in origin, and protestant in character. It is now submitted that they were clearly Baptistic in doctrine and practice.
(1). They recognized no human authority over their churches. "These people were called Acephali, or headless." (Orchard, Ibid. p. 130) This could scarcely be said to be true of a Protestant denomination upon the face of the earth. It is a Baptist characteristic. Baptists call Jesus Christ the head of their churches.
(2). "They made constant. use of the Old and New Testaments." (A History of the Baptists, Ibid. p55). Baptists, today, regard the Bible, and the Bible alone, as their sole rule of faith and practice.
(3). They were decidedly Baptistic in the order of their keeping of the New Testament commandments. "They held that men must repent and believe, and then at a mature age ask for baptism, which alone admitted them into the church." (A History of the Baptists, Ibid. p. 55) Can it be fairly said of any Protestant denomination that they observe this order of the commandments? No, this is a Baptist characteristic.
(4) They were far more Baptistic than protestant in their administration of the ordinance of baptism. The following quote from historical authority speaks for itself.
‘It is evident,’ observes Mosheim, ‘they rejected the baptism of infants.’ They baptized and rebaptized by immersion. They would have been taken for downright Anabaptists." (Allix, The Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont, Oxford, 1821)
Let the fair-minded reader render the verdict. Were the Paulician congregations Baptist or Protestant in doctrine and practice?
We know something of the numerical strength of the Paulician movement from the number of their martyred dead. Orchard puts the number at one hundred thousand. (Orchard, p. 137).
But wave upon wave of popish persecution did not inundate these ancient witnesses. "From the blood and ashes of the first Paulician victims, a succession of teachers and congregations repeatedly arose." (A Concise History of Baptists, Ibid. p. 135).
"‘From Italy,’ says Mosheim, ‘the Paulicians sent colonies into almost all the other provinces of Europe, and formed gradually a considerable number of religious assemblies, who adhered to their doctrine, and who realized every opposition and indignity from the popes. It is undoubtedly certain, from the most authentic records, that a considerable number of them were, about the middle of the eleventh century, settled in Lombardy, Insurbia, but principally at Milan; and that many of them led a wandering life in France, Germany, and other countries, where they captivated the esteem and admiration of the multitude by their sanctity. In France, they were denominated Bulgarians, from the kingdom of their emigration, also Publicans, instead of Paulicians, and boni homines (good men); but were chiefly known by the term Albigenses, from the town of Alby, in the Upper Languedoc.’" (Orchard, p. 138)
Thus, we have traced the Paulician churches from their apostolic origin in the regions of Turkey and Bulgaria in the east to their settlement in Europe around the year 1017, five hundred years before the Protestant Reformation. Thus it is established that at least one community of Baptist sentiments flourished long before the days of Martin Luther.
It cannot fairly be said that the Paulician movement died. By other names it lived for five hundred more years before the reformation, as -Ana-Baptists they survived the reformation, and the sentiments of the Paulicians are alive and treasured in the Baptist churches of today.
Baptist Protestants Before Protestant Reformation
3. The Waldenses
A study of the pre-reformation period that did not take into account the history of the Waldensian churches would be a superficial treatment of church history.
Their remote antiquity is established at the mouth of many witnesses, Catholic, Protestant and Baptist alike.
The editors of Life Magazine say: "The Waldensians, the oldest Protestant denomination, were persecuted for several centuries before allying themselves with the Reformation in 1532." (The World’s Great Religions, By the Editors of "Life," Vol. III, p. 258).
Theodore Beza, the sixteenth century reformer, voiced the same sentiment, when he said:
"As for the Waldenses, I may be permitted to call them the very seed of the primitive and purer Christian church, since they are those that have been upheld, as is abundantly manifest, by the wonderful providence of God, so that neither these endless storms and tempests by which the whole Christian world has been shaken for so many succeeding ages and the Western part so miserably oppressed by the Bishop of Rome, falsely so called; nor those horrible persecutions which have been expressly raised against them, were able so far to prevail as to make them bend, or yield a voluntary subjection to the Roman Tyranny and idolatry." (The Churches of the Valley Of Piemont, Sir Samuel Morland, Baptist Sunday School Committee Edition, page 6).
Dr. A. W. Mitchell, a Presbyterian historian; writing in the year 1853, gave a remarkable testimony concerning the antiquity and the evangelical purity of the Waldensian churches.
In the preface of his book, "The Waldenses," Dr. Mitchell writes:
"The Waldensian Church is the ‘Burning Bush’ of Christendom. The history of that people presents to us little else than a series of ferocious persecutions, endured with the most heroic constancy. Planted in the valleys of Piedmont, almost within the shadow of the Papal throne, their scriptural faith and order have been a perpetual and most significant protest against the corruptions of that colossal Hierarchy. Everything pertaining to them has contributed to give point and pungency to this testimony. In age, they antedate the usurpations of the Roman See. Their uncontradicted traditions run back nearly to the Christian era, and warrant the presumption that their church was founded either by the apostles or their immediate successors. They have authentic documents dating many hundred years before the Reformation, from which it appears, that they never acknowledged the supremacy of the Popes—that they rejected from the beginning the monstrous dogmas and superstitious mummeries which Rome has baptized with the sacred name of Christianity—that they have steadfastly adhered to the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice—and that their doctrine and polity have, from the first, been precisely what they are now. Such a Church must needs have been persecuted. It was a standing memento of the great apostasy—a living testimony against its abominations, which Rome could not be expected to tolerate." (The Waldenses, A. W. Mitchell, M. D., Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1853)
The remote antiquity of the Waldensian churches, having been attested by standard authorities, is now taken for granted.
The scope and nature of the Waldensian protest is readily apparent upon examination of their treatise on the subject of Antichrist. The text of this document was corn-piled in the year 1120 A. D. The treatise may be examined in its entirety in the book, "The Churches of the Valley of Piemont," Sir Samuel Morland, page 132-144.
The Waldenses speak for themselves concerning the works of Antichrist:
(1), (He) "perverts the worship properly due to God alone, by giving it to Antichrist himself, and to his works, to the poor creature, reasonable or unreasonable, sensible or senseless; to the reasonable as to man, male or female saints deceased, and unto images, carcasses, or relics, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist, which he adoreth as God, and as Jesus Christ, together with the things blessed and consecrated by him, and prohibits the worshipping of God alone."
(2). "The second work of the Antichrist is, that he robs and bereaves Christ of His merits, together with all the sufficiency of Grace, of Justification, of Regeneration, Remission of Sin, Sanctification, Confirmation, and Spiritual Nourishment, and imputes and attributes the same to his own authority, to a form of words, to his own Works; unto Saints and their Intercession, and unto the Fire of the Purgatory; and separates the people from Christ, and leads them away to the things aforesaid, that they may not seek those of Christ, nor by Christ; but only in the works of their own hands, and not by a lively Faith in God, nor in Jesus Christ, nor in the Holy Spirit, but by the will and pleasure and by the works of Antichrist, according as he preacheth, that all salvation consists in his works."
(3). "The third work of Antichrist consists in this, that he attributes the Regeneration of the Holy Spirit unto the dead outward work, baptizing Children in that Faith, and teaching, that thereby Baptism and Regeneration must be had, and therein he confers and bestows Orders and other Sacraments, and groundeth therein all his Christianity, which is against the Holy Spirit."
(4). "The fourth work of Antichrist is, that he hath constituted and put all Religion and holiness of the people in going to mass, and hath patched together all manner of Ceremonies, some Jewish, some heathenish, and some Christian: and leading the congregations thereunto, and the people to hear the same, doth thereby deprive them of the spiritual and sacramental manducation, and seduceth them from the true Religion, and from the Commandments of God, and withdraws them from the works of compassion, by his offerings, and by such a mass hath he lodged the people in vain hopes."
(5). "The fifth work of the Antichrist is, that he doth all his works so that he may be seen, that he may glut himself with his insatiable avarice, that he may set all things to sale, and do nothing without (money)."
(6). The sixth work of the Antichrist is, that he allows of manifest Sins, without any Ecclesiastical Censure, and doth not excommunicate the Impenitent."
(7). "The seventh work of Antichrist is, that he doth not govern nor maintain his unity by the Holy Spirit, but by Secular Power, and maketh use thereof to effect spiritual matters."
(8). "The eighth work of the Antichrist is, that he hates, and persecutes, and fears after, despoils, and destroys the Members of Christ."
Thus, did the Waldenses, in the year 1120 A. D., lift their pen in protest against a corrupt Roman Catholic Church. They labeled that body "Antichrist." More than this, one could scarcely protest.
The 1120 broadside issued by the Waldenses against Antichrist was issued contemporaneously with a confession of faith, dated the same year, which indicates that they were not only "protestant," but Baptistic as well.
Dr. Mitchell listed the Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1120 A. D., article by article, as follows:
"We believe and firmly hold all that which is contained in the twelve articles of the symbol, which is called the Apostles Creed, accounting for heresy whatsoever is disagreeing, and not consonant to the said twelve articles."
"We do believe that there is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
"We acknowledge for the holy canonical Scriptures, the books of the Holy Bible, viz.:—" (Note, here follows the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible according to the Authorized Version of 1611).
"The books aforesaid teach this, that there is one God, Almighty, all-wise, and all-good, who has made all things by his goodness; for he formed Adam in his own image and likeness, but that by the envy of the devil, and the disobedience of the said Adam, sin has entered into the world, and that we are sinners in Adam and by Adam."
‘That Christ was promised to our fathers who received the law, that so knowing by the law their sin, unrighteousness and insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ, to satisfy for their sins, and accomplish the law by himself."
"That Christ was born in the time appointed by God the Father. That is to say, in the time when all iniquity abounded, and not for the cause of good works, for all were sinners; but that he might show us grace and mercy as being faithful."
"That Christ is our life, truth, peace and righteousness, also our pastor, advocate, sacrifice, and priest, who died for the salvation of all those that believe, and is risen for our justification."
"In like manner, we firmly hold, that there is no other mediator and advocate with God the Father, save only Jesus Christ. And as for the Virgin Mary, that she was holy, humble, and full of grace; and in like manner do we believe concerning all the other saints, viz: that being in heaven, they wait for the resurrection of their bodies at the day of judgment."
"We believe that after this life, there are only two places, the one for the saved, and the other for the damned, the which two places we call paradise and hell, absolutely denying that purgatory invented by anti-Christ, and forged contrary to the truth."
"We have always accounted as an unspeakable abomination before God, all those inventions of men, namely, the feasts and the vigils of saints, the water which they call holy. As likewise to abstain from flesh upon certain days, and the like; but especially their masses."
"We esteem for an abomination and as antichristian, all those human inventions which are a trouble or prejudice to the liberty of the spirit."
"We do believe that the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, or visible forms of the invisible grace, accounting it good that the faithful sometimes use the said signs or visible forms, if it may be done. However, we believe and hold, that the above said faithful may be saved without receiving the signs aforesaid, in case they have no place nor any means to use them."
"We acknowledge no other sacrament but Baptism and the Lord’s Supper."
"We ought to honour the secular powers by submission, ready obedience, and paying of tributes."
—Source, (The Waldenses, Presbyterian Board of Publication, A. W. Mitchell, pp. 376-378.)
The position is taken, without qualification or equivocation, that this is a Baptistic confession of faith dated more than four hundred years before the Reformation. Only a Baptist church could or would endorse all fourteen articles; there is not a Protestant body, (using the term in its historical sense), on the top side of the earth that would dare do so.
Protestant and Catholic historians alike have declined to do battle upon the question of the apostolic origins of the Waldenses. The extent of their protest against Rome has been duly noted. As the brightest, most shining example of protesting Baptists, living centuries prior to the Protestant Reformation, they are truly "the burning bush" of Christendom.
The Baptists and the Reformers
Baptist churches and Baptist sentiments flourished continuously for fourteen hundred years from the personal ministry of Jesus Christ to the Protestant Reformation. This proposition has been more than sustained by appeals to the histories of the Novatain, Paulician, and Waldensian churches. In each case an apostolic, or near apostolic origin was first alleged, and then demonstrated. If it were required the number of witnesses could be multiplied. An historical affinity could be shown between the Novatainists, Paulicians, Waldensians, Montanists, Albigenses, Bogimils, Petrobrusians, Henricians, Arnoldists, and many others. It is scarcely necessary. It is abundantly evident that while Baptists have always been protestants where Rome was concerned, they have never been reformers, as the legitimate successors of ,Jesus and the apostles their religion has never required reformation.
It is candidly conceded that no succession can be made out for the name, "Baptist." If Catholic and Protestant historians will concede that Baptist doctrine and Baptist practice, (under any name whatever), has endured since the time of Jesus and the apostles, then Baptists will concede that there is no proof of succession for the name "Baptist" itself.
There were Baptists, (by sentiment if not by name), at the time of the Protestant Reformation. History reveals that they did not react toward it with any degree of uniform opinion.
Not a few of the ancient witnesses lent their support to the reformation, merged their identity with it, and became protestants.
The historian, John T. Christian says:
"Every institution has its vicissitudes and after progress comes decline. On the eve of the Reformation everything was on the decline—faith, light, life. It was so of the Waldenses. Persecution had wasted their numbers and had broken their spirit and the few scattered leaders were dazed by the rising glories of the Reformation. THE LARGER PORTION HA]) GONE WITH THE ANABAPTIST MOVEMENT. Sick and tired of heart in 1530 the remnant of the Waldenses opened negotiations with the Reformers, but a union was not effected till 1532. Since then the Waldenses have been Pedobaptists."
—Vol. I, Broadman Press, 1922, Ed. P. 82
As Dr. Christian suggests the dawn of Reformation day brought the pre-reformation Baptist protestants to a parting of the way. Many went with the Reformation party. Many more did not. These became the Anabaptist movement, soon to drop the pre-fix "Ana" and become simply "Baptist."
The Ana-Baptist attitude toward the reformers and the Reformation is a matter of historical record. See "A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World," by David Benedict, 1848 ed, page 79 and following.
Concerning the Ana-Baptists and the Protestant Reformation, Benedict says:
"We have now come to a very important epoch In the ecclesiastical affairs of the Christian world, concerning which very different judgments have been formed by the two great parties, which from that period have been known by the name of Catholics and Protestants."
As Luther was the most prominent actor in this great movement, his name at first was applied to all who dissented from the church of Rome, and at the present time the Lutheran church embraces a very large portion of the protestants of Europe. The Catholics also apply his name to dissenters generally without distinction, especially in the missionary fields in the east.
Calvin came on the stage a short time after Luther; under him and his coadjutors a distinct party arose, which at first bore his name; but in process of time his followers became distinguished by the name of the Reformed church or churches; they prevailed mostly in Switzerland, but spread into France and other parts of Europe.
I shall not attempt to give anything like an abridged account of the rise and progress of the Reformation; all I have in view is to show how it was considered by the Baptists of that age, and ever since, and what effect it had on them and their principles. What little I shall attempt to say on these points may be summed up under the following heads:
(1). They were highly elated with the bold stand which was made by Luther and his associates against the overgrown power of the Roman pontiffs, which for ages has been exercised so cruelly against them.
The multitudes who lay concealed in almost all parts of Europe, hailed with joy the dawn of that day which should relieve them from the persecuting power of the despotic heads of the Roman church. But soon they found themselves mistaken in their expectations, became entirely dissatisfied with some of the principles on which the reformation was conducted, and so far as their voice could be heard they entered their decided protest against the protestants, and believed then, as they have ever since, that the Reformation needed reforming.
(2). They protested against the union of church and state, and the employment of secular force to revulate the affairs of religion, or control its operations, as they soon found that the reformers were the decided advocates for a national form of Christianity—were as assiduous in securing the favor and protection of earthly princes, as were the leaders of that church whose communion they had adjured, and whose power they had set at defiance.
(3). They soon found that the reformers were cautious and temporizing on some important points; that they showed a disposition to retain some of the worst parts of the old repudiated church, and that the infant system was to be maintained, whereas an unconditional abandonment and abjuration of every thing pertaining to that system was with them a sine qua non, an absolute contradiction, without which all the trimmings and modifications of the reformers were in their opinion futile and useless.
It was of no consequence to them whether the church was made up of members which came in under the twenty two ceremonies of the church at Rome or of the single one of the protestants. They peremptorily challenged the right of all persons whatever to membership, only on a credible profession of their Christian faith.
(4). On the mode of baptizing, the old Baptists soon fell out with the reformers, whether Lutherans or Calvinists. Although in their public creeds and confessions they generally provided for dipping, except in cases of sickness or weakness, yet in practice they all went against the dippers; disputes ensued; public debates were held, and books on both sides were published; but as the opponents had the power in their hands, if they could not overcome them with arguments, they could with the sword.
(5). The Baptists took the old ground of taking the Bible for their rule of faith, and claiming the right of private judgment uncontrolled by the dogmas of the church or the schools, and unmoved by the statutes of the state. The reformers began on this principle, but did not carry it through.
(6). On the practice of re-baptizing the reformers were down upon the Baptists with tremendous power, and herein they followed the steps of the old Catholic persecutors.
(7). On the principles of religious freedom and toleration the two parties were as opposite as the poles, and not much less so were they as to the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ."
David Benedict has delineated seven broad areas of disagreement between the Ana-Baptists and the Protestant Reformation party. If modern day Baptists are to be numbered, without question, with the Protestant denominations, then surely more rapport than has been found, must be shown between their Ana-Baptist forefathers and the original founders of historic Protestantism.
The questions once raised are now answered. Baptists, as a separate denomination, find their genesis far, back of the Protestant Reformation, on the pages of the New Testament. Therefore, Baptists cannot be fairly called "protestants" in the historical sense of that term. In so far as the term "protestant" implies a protest against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, Baptists are, as it has been observed, "the first to qualify."