THE ORIGIN OF THE BAPTISTS
By S. H. Ford
Pete de Brue
"History is composed of innumerable biographies." At least it should be. We love to tread the path beaten out by human footsteps, and lit up by imperishable deeds. Men and their acts are the waymarks which make the road familiar; the travelers and their footprints give all its interest to the moss-grown pathway.
From the Baptists of England, who were scourged and driven forth into the wintery fields to die, we ascend a step higher. Let us travel back the path they came. We shall let Dr. Wall, in his very opposition to Baptists, tell:
"William of Newburg, who lived then in England, describes some of these men by the name of Publicani, and by their being Gascoigners; and says, about thirty of them came out of Germany into England, under Henry II, about 1170, and being examined of their faith, they denied and detested holy baptism, the eucharist, and marriage. Foxe, out of Historia Gisburnensis, mentions the same men; and that the chief of them were Gerhardus and Dulcinus Navarensis. He gives no account of any opinion they had against baptism. But Holinshead says, they derogated from the sacraments such grace as the church, by her authority, had then ascribed to them." (Wall, his Infant Baptism, vol.ii, p. 264. As quotations from a multitude of authors confuse, I shall confine myself principally to Wall, Oxford edition, 1835, or new American edition,1860.)
Gascony was in the south of France, not far from the Pyrenees, those mountain walls which divide France from Spain. Here the same historian, Newburg, says: "These heretics were as numerous as the sands of the sea." They were called sometimes Albigenses, and sometimes Waldenses; this later word meaning simply, dwellers in valleys. Of these French Baptists, who passed from Gascony to England, Wall says:
"But the more exact accounts, and particularly Mr. Limborch's history of the inquisition, do distinguish the Waldenses from the Albigenses, both as to their tenets and their places of abode. And it is, I thin, only among the latter that any Antipedobaptists were found. As FRANCE WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY in Christendom were dipping of children was left off, so there FIRST ANTIPEDOBAPTISM BEGAN." (Wall, his Infant Baptism, vol. ii, p. 239).
Or more truly, according to this admission of a champion of infant baptism in France, whose emperor gave power to the beast, the superstition of infant sprinkling was first introduced, and "dipping left off." and, consequently, there the followers of Christ first displayed their uncompromising opposition to the corrupting rites. Yes, where sprinkling was first introduced, Antipedobaptists are first found. When was that? Not in apostolic days. Wall admits it was in beautiful, degraded France. When was it? Date it when you may, and then, and there, you must date the determined opposition to it in the land that gave it birth. These Albigeses, then so numerous in Gascony, were Baptists. But Wall shall speak again:
" First, one Evervinus, of the diocese of Cologne, a little before the year 1140, writes to St. Bernard a letter, (which is lately brought to light by F. Mabillon, Analect, tom.iii,) giving him an account of two sorts of heretics lately discovered in that country. One sort were, by his description, perfect Manichees. Of the other sort he says:
" 'they condemn the sacraments, except baptism only; and this only in those who are come to age, who, they say, are baptized by Christ himself, whoever be the minister of the sacraments. They don believe infant baptism. alleging that place of the Gospel: He that believeth and is baptized, etc. All marriage they call fornication, except that which is between two virgins,' etc.
"Then at the year 1146, Peter, abbot of Clugny, writing against one Peter Bruis, and one Henry, his disciple, and their associates. charges them with six errors, the first of which was their denial of infant baptism. The other five were:
" '2. That churches ought not be built; and if built, ought to be pulled down.'
"If we were to credit all the reports that come now from France, the Cevennois would seem to of this opinion, by their destroying so many churches; but I hope that those reports are not true.: (These are Wall's own words).
"He also says, that they were reported to renounce all the Old Testament, and all the New, except the four Gospels.' but this he was not sure of; and would not impute it to them, for fear he might slander them. So it appears that he did not certainly know what they held. Yet, to make his proofs unquestionable, he first proved the truth of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, by their agreement with the Gospels; and then the Old Testament by the New. And then out of the whole proceeds to refute their tenets, bestowing a chapter on each. the first of them was, as I said against infant baptism, and is thus expressed:
"The first proposition of the new heretics. They say:
" 'Christ sending his disciples to preach, says in the Gospel: Go ye out into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but e that believeth not shall be damned From these words of our Savior, it is plain that none can be saved unless he believe and be baptized; that is, have both Christian faith and baptism.
""'It is therefore and idle and vain thing for you to wash persons with water, at such a time when you may indeed cleanse their kin from dirt in a human manner, but not purge their souls from sins. But we do stay till the proper time of faith; and when a person is capable to know his God, and believe in Him; then we do (not as your charge us, rebaptize him, but) baptize him.'
"This is, as to the practice, perfectly agreeable with the modern Antipedobaptists; but, as Cassander observes, it is upon quite contrary grounds. For the Antipedobaptists now do generally hold, that all that die infants, baptized or not, of Christian or of heathen parents, are saved; and so it is needless to baptize them; whereas, these held that, baptized or not, they could not be saved; and so it was to no purpose to baptize them. And this writer does accordingly spend most of the chapter, which is in answer to this tenet of theirs, proving that infants, as well as grown men, are capable of the kingdom.
" ' Abate,' says he, 'of that overmuch severity which you have taken upon you, and do not exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven, of whom Christ says, Of such is the kingdom of heaven.'
"It is to be noted," continues Wall, "that this author speaks of this opinion as then lately set on foot; and says, it might have seemed to need or deserve confutation, ' were it not that it had now continued twenty years. that the first seeds of it wee sown by Peter de Bruis,' (who was living when the book was written, but put to death before it was published, of which mention is mad in the preface). It was first vented in the mountainous country of Dauphine, and had there some followers; from whence, being in good measure expelled, it had got footing in Gascony, and the parts about Toulouse, being propagated by Henry, who was a Disciple and successor of the said Peter.
"This writer aggravates this charge of novelty by urging that if baptism, given in infancy, be null and void, as they pretend, " 'Then all the world has been blind hitherto, and by baptizing infants for above a thousand years, has given but a mock baptism, and made but fantastical Christians, etc. and, whereas, all France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and all Europe, has had never a person now for tree hundred or almost five hundred years baptized otherwise than in infancy, it has ad never a Christian in it.'"
It must be remembered that the foregoing citations were mad by Wall writing against the Baptists, and are quoted from Papist persecutors, who wrote for the purpose of arousing the vengeance of the church against these water heretics. No wonder that the rejection of infant baptism was slanderously construed into a denial of infant salvation, when the Papist joined the two together as inseparable. but that these heretics believed in a converted church membership, in believers' baptism only, and in local church independency, is most evident from the character of the reproaches and calumnies of their foes, which is and must be recognized by all who regard his word. It has been the question of the ages; it is pre- eminently the question of this age.
If any proof were needed, it is abundant. These men were Baptists. The Jesuit Gretzer after describing this ancient sect, says: "This is a picture of the heretics of our own day, especially the Anabaptist." "to say honestly what I think," writes the celebrated Limborch, of all the modern sects, the Dutch Baptists most resembles the Albigenses and Waldenses." "The Baptists are not entirely in error." says Mosheim, "when they boast their descent from the Waldenses, petrobrussians , and other Ancient sects, who are usually considered witnesses for truth in the time of general darkness and superstition."
No, we are not entirely in error, even according to our ancient and present foes. "Witnesses for the truth in the times of general darkness," our elder brethren have ever been. Noble brotherhood! Poor, simple down-trodden were ye; but boldly, amid gloom and blood, ye stood forth, witnesses for the truth. Baptists they have an ancestry around whom associations cluster, eclipsing the triumphs of all earth's chivalry. Baptists, O! that the earnest, death-defying devotion of their forefathers still were theirs.
The Baptists who came from the regions of the Pyrenees to England, were called Wickliffites and Lollards. We have traced them to Gascony, where they were called by the names already given from Wall, Henricians, Petrobrussians, and Arnoldists. Of these men we shall now speak.
WHAT IS BAPTISM? Has this word no meaning to it? Why, then, is not that meaning discovered and its requirement followed? What a blessing to the world were this question settled, and put forever at rest.