THE ORIGIN OF THE BAPTISTS
By S. H. Ford
"...the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Tim 3:15)
The following will prove a very acceptable historical contribution to the masses of the people. It will be to history a sort of elementary work, yet replete with historic facts, and the biographies of the leading witnesses of Jesus in the darkest ages of the world.
In this little work, the general reader will find, traced by a graphic pen, the bold outline of the history of the people now called Baptists. Like an experienced woodsman, the author has blazed the rough and bloody track of our people back into the wilderness, even into the "remotest depth of antiquity," but in these dark depths he loses not, like Mosheim, their "trail," but pursues it until it leads out into the unclouded light of the first century, where he finds the footsteps of the apostles and the Son of God himself, mingling with those of the first Christians, leading still back toward the banks of the Jordan, upon which the colors of the new kingdom were first unfurled, and a people to receive the coming Son were first prepared by his herald, John.
Some may object to the mode selected by the author in pursuing his inquiry, and, because it is novel, regard it as unnatural and unphilosophical.
Such an objection is not well founded. The author designed this for the outline of an original investigation of his subject, and he has therefore selected the more real and genuine method of procedure.
Says Rawlinson: "In every historical inquiry it is possible to pursue our researches in two ways; we may either trace the stream of time upward and pursue history to its earliest source, or we may reverse the process, and, beginning at the fountain-head, follow down the course of events in chronological order to our own day. The former is the more philosophical, because the more real and genuine method of procedure; it is the course which, in the original investigation of the subject, must, in point of fact, have been pursued; the present is our standing point, and we necessarily view the past from it, and only know so much of the past as we connect more or less distinctly with it." (Bampton Course, 1859, Lecture ii, p. 49.)
This work is timely, and we think will be gladly received by the masses, since it furnishes them, in a condensed form, with authentic historical facts, with which to meet the questions and charges every day cast into their faces by the descendants of those who murdered our ancestors: "Where did the Baptists come from?" "Baptists originated with Roger Williams, and their baptisms with his informal baptism." "Baptists at best are but the descendants of the fanatical Anabaptists of Munster, and have no history before their day," and other like charges. Multitudes of our people have never been furnished with the facts of history with which to disprove these charges. They have ever opened at the third of Matthew, and triumphantly pointed to a body of Baptists in Judea, gathered by "John the Baptist," and to the Church on the Mount of Olives, to which Christ gave the commission to the Church at Jerusalem, and to all the Churches planted by the apostles, all manifestly Baptist Churches; but the thick darkness of eighteen centuries, to the multitude, rolls between the apostolic period and the present. It should be a matter of devout thanksgiving to Almighty God, and be hailed as the harbinger star of near millennial day, that every year is pouring increasing light into that darkness, discovering to the inquiring gaze of the world who have been the true followers of Christ, and who "the witnesses of Jesus," contending earnestly for and maintaining with martyr courage the faith once delivered to the saints, and the ordinances as they were at first committed to the Church. The light that is pouring upon the obscurity that has so long rested upon the wanderings of the Bride of Christ, in the wilderness into which she has been driven by her bloody persecutors, may be the earnest of the fulfillment of the prophet's vision when he saw a woman, the symbol of the Church, coming up out of the wilderness, leaning upon the arm of her Beloved, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible, to her enemies, as an army with banners.
O, that the Lord would fulfill that vision in our day! We wait, we long for it as one who watcheth for the morning. Then shall be sung, in full vision, the song an oppressed and suffering Church has long sung in faith only:
Triumphant Zion, lift thy head
From dust and darkness and the dead!
Though jumbled long, awake at length,
And gird thee with thy Savior's strength.
Put all thy beauteous garments on,
And let thy excellence be known:
Deck'd in the robes of righteousness,
The world thy glories shall confess.
No more shall daring foes invade,
And fill thy hallow'd walls with dread;
No more shall hell's insulting host
Their victory and thy sorrow boast.
God from on high has heard thy prayer,
His hand thy ruin shall repair,
Nor will thy watchful Savior cease
To guard thee in eternal peace.
Nashville 1860 J.R.G.
WHERE DID THE BAPTISTS COME FROM?
Milestones by the Track of Time
This is an age of inquiry and tireless research. To the questionings of an imperative curiosity the very rocks have rendered an account of themselves, and the leaves that fell before the flood, have been made to tell their story. Not a time-worn mark, or hieroglyphic, but has been cleared from the dust of centuries and deciphered. Not a crumbling monument, or a buried city, or perished people of the dead, past, but has been reproduced on the canvas of living history. Naught escapes the sleepless eye, the persevering industry of modern research. Now, there is a class of people in our midst, numbered by hundreds of thousands - found, indeed, wherever soul-freedom is, and the gospel is, a people marked and peculiar, whose principles and influences have told, and must still tell on the character and destiny of society. This people are called BAPTISTS.
Their distinguishing peculiarities are, an uncompromising avowal and advocacy of soul-liberty, enlightened, and guided, and governed only by the Eternal King. That earthly priests, and kings, and governments, ranged hierarchies and mitered fathers, are but as those "that peep and that mutter." "To the law and to the testimony," is their watchword; "if any man speak not according to these things, it is because there is no light in him," that no mortal has the right to decide the church relations of any human being. In a word, that Christianity demands voluntary obedience; and to forestall, control, or fetter this, is antichristian. This is the prominent peculiarity of the people of whom we speak. And the profession of this voluntary surrender to the Lord of life is avowed by a burial by baptism into his sacred name.
Now, this people, so well known and so rapidly increasing among us, as a distinct class, originated somewhere. Some spot witnessed their beginning; some period in the march of time noted the birthday of these Baptists. Can the place of their nativity be found? Can the record of their origin be traced? Is the energy of human research, with all its triumphs, to pause breathless here, and acknowledge itself baffled and defeated? NO, no! The question can and must be answered, or history is a dead, a dumb thing. Let its voice but be heard as it tones distinctly through the mists of ages, and it will be forever decided - WHERE DID THE BAPTISTS COME FROM?
But in vain shall we seek among the authoritative records of the past, for one kind word concerning them. Crushed beneath a powerful and persecuting hierarchy; few, feeble, and what the world calls unlearned, yet lifting up their voice in defiant tones above the storms of execration and violence; protesting, in the name of truth and freedom, against the universal domination of the State Church, and a proud, tyrannical clergy; sounding out through the grates of filthy prisons the joyous notes of redeeming mercy, and melting the hearts of those that mockery attracted to the spot; scattered defenceless, without State patronage, or the prestige of noble names, or great leaders; with no earthly head, or strong central government to give direction to their aims; with the Word of God their only guide; yet rising in the strength of God above the crested waves, battling with the storm, steadily, steadfastly, onward, upward, until now, in the words of the eloquent Chalmer:
"Let it never be forgotten of the Baptists, that they form the denomination of Fuller, and Cary, and Ryland, and Hall, and Foster; that they originated one of all missionary enterprises; that they have enriched the Christian literature of our country with an authorship of the most exalted piety, as well as of the first talent, and the first eloquence; that they have waged a noble war with the hydra of Antinomianism; that, perhaps, there is not a more intellectual community of ministers, or who have to their number put forth a greater amount of mental power and mental activity in the defense and illustration of our common faith; and what is still better than all the triumphs of genius and understanding, who by their zeal and fidelity, and pastoral labour among the congregations which they have reared, have done more to swell the lists of genuine discipleship in all the walks of private society, and thus both to uphold and extend the living Christianity of our nation." (Dr. Chalmers's Lectures on Romans.)
Such are the people whose origin we would trace, and whose origin surely can be found.