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Written by Lemuel Potter   


This is the third time we arise to address you on the communion question, and, as I have previously remarked, I say now that I do not wish to be understood to intentionally wound the feelings of any, for I regard the feelings of all religious people, no matter how much they may differ from me on the subject of religion.

What I say on the subject now before us is purely in self defense. We have been assailed by our opponents on the communion question, which we think makes it necessary, in justice to ourselves, to try to give our reasons for our practice.

I do not undertake the work simply because I think myself able to champion the issue, neither do I wish to be understood as a schismatic. I should have been better pleased to have heard the other side represented, so the people could have heard both sides, but I could not have it so, and so I am here to give my own side as well as I am capable of doing.

I entertain no opinions or sentiments on the subject of religion that I am ashamed of or that I am afraid to tell.

As we have seen that baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper, and that immersion is the only mode, and that adults on a public profession of their faith, the only gospel subjects, I now wish to notice the design of baptism for a moment.

The intention for which we are baptized may be as important to the validity of our baptism as any thing else.

As Dr. Owen observes: "There is nothing in religion that has any efficacy for compassing an end, but it hath it from God's appointment of it for that purpose. God may, in his wisdom, appoint and accept ordinances and duties unto one end, which he will refuse and reject when applied to another. To do anything appointed unto one end, without aiming at the end, is no better than not doing it at all, and in some cases much worse."

The design of baptism, therefore, as taught in the New Testament, ought to be thoroughly investigated by both ministers and people, in order that they may know and comply with the revealed intention of God in its appointment.

The Primitive Baptists do not believe that baptism is essential to regeneration, and, if that is its appointed and scriptural intention, then we baptize for another purpose than that intended by the Lord in its appointment, and in that case our baptism is invalid. Even if we were immersed, and that on a profession of our faith, we have still missed a gospel baptism, for our intention was not what God appointed the ordinance for.

But if we are correct as to the design, then those who are baptized in order to be born of God are not correct, and their baptism is not valid. The object we have in view certainly has something to do with the acceptability of our action.

As there is much said on the subject of infant baptism, I wish, first, to pay some attention to that subject. I have already argued, and I think proved, that it was not an apostolical practice; but, as our Pedobaptist brethren think that the apostles taught and practiced infant baptism, I wish to notice their arguments to some extent.

I will notice a Methodist writer or two - not because I have a great antipathy to the Methodist people, but because I have the authors present, and quote them as representatives of the Pedobaptists.

In order to learn how they prove that infant baptism was practiced by the apostles, I will read the following:

Infant baptism has been practiced in the church from the apostles to the present time. If so, then baptism must have taken the place of the old Jewish token of the covenant. To see the truth of what is here alleged, we have but to examine the commission given to the disciples in Matthew 28: 19. Here baptism takes the place of circumcision by the express appointment of God. The disciples were, therefore, authorized to extend the right of baptism to all who believe in Christ, everywhere, and also to their children.

"Jesus, kind inviting Lord,
We with joy obey Thy word, And in earliest infancy,
Bring our little ones to Thee."

But to see the truth of our proposition, in the light of the history of the church, we consult the testimony of the early christian fathers. The first that we shall name is Origen, who flourished about A. D. 300. He says: "Infants are baptized for the remission of sins," and, again, he says, "The church hath received the tradition from the apostles, that baptism ought to be administered to infants."

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, who was contemporary with Origen, says that "sixty-six bishops being convened in Carthage in a council, having the question referred to them, 'Whether infants might be baptized before they were eight days old,' unanimously decided that no infant is to be forbidden from the benefit of baptism, although just newly born."

Mark the testimony of sixty-six bishops. It ought to go very far in settling the question of the right of infants to baptism, and, especially, when it was given in so short a time after the apostles, and when every practice in the church was proved by Apostolic useage.

Gregory Nazianzen, who died in A. D. 389, testified in his discourse on baptism: "That infants are to be baptized."

In the fifth council of Carthage, held A. D. 401, it is declared in canon 72 that children ought to be baptized, when there is no proof or testimony that they have been already baptized."

And Saint Augustine, who flourished A. D. 410, says: "Infant baptism the whole world practices; it was not instituted by councils, but was ever in use."

Thus we see that certainly four hundred years after Christ there was a universal consent that infant baptism should be practiced.

"True, Tertullian advises the delay of infant baptism, but this was because of his peculiar notion of baptismal regeneration. And there was one Gregory who practiced such delay in the baptism of his own children; but there was no society of men nor church that entertained any doubt as to the propriety of infant baptism." - Jimeson's notes on the 25 articles, pp. 180-182.

Now if the witnesses quoted by this writer do not establish the apostolic authority for infant baptism, then they cannot prove it at all. All Pedobaptist authors prove infant baptism by the early Christian fathers, as this one has done, and argue that, if the apostles had not practiced it, it would not have been so universally practiced so soon afterwards.

But to show you that this is their method of proving it, I wish to quote another one or two. Listen:

"'Testimony of the early Christian fathers.' We allude not to their testimony for the purpose of proving a point of doctrine, but for the purpose of showing what was the practice of the early Christians in regard to infant baptism, and we consider this testimony valuable, so far only as it proves that infant baptism was the practice of the Christian church from the time of the apostles, and, if so, it is morally impossible that it should not have been practiced during the time of the apostles.

'Tertullian, born A. D. 150 - but a few years after the death of the apostle John - speaks of infant baptism as being the practice of the church. Justin Martyr, born near the close of the first century, speaks of those who were members of the church, sixty years old, who were made disciples to Christ in their infancy. Iraeneus, Origen, Cyprian, and others, in their writings, all prove the practice of infant baptism in the earliest age of the church; and can it be supposed that a practice should become so general in the course of a single century after the apostles? If so, it was something entirely new and unscriptural. The supposition is perfectly unreasonable. From these and other considerations it appears that the 'baptism of young children ought to be retained in the church,' according to the article." - History M. E. Church, by Douglas Gorrie, pp. 175-176.

You see how satisfactory he convinces himself that infant baptism was the practice of the apostles, by quoting, not the apostles, but the early Christian fathers. But, to show you that they all prove the practice in the same manner, I will give you one more witness. Listen to Mr. Wesley:

"What I apprehend very much strengthens the truth of infant baptism, that it is of a divine original, is this: About one hundred and fifty years after the death of Saint John, the apostle, there was an assembly of sixty-bishops, who spoke of infant baptism as a known, established and uncontested practice. One Fidus questioned whether infants were to be baptized so soon as two or three days after their birth, and whether it would not be better to defer their baptism till they were eight days old, as was observed in circumcision, which scruples he proposed to this assembly, and in which he desired their resolution, which they sent in a letter to him, part of which I shall transcribe. 'Cyprian, and the rest of the bishops who were present at the council, sixty-six in number, to Fidus, our brother, greeting: 'We read your letter, most dear brother, but as to the case of infants, whereas you judge that they must not be baptized within two or three days after they are born, and that the rule of circumcision is to be observed, so that none should be baptized and sanctified before the eighth day after he is born, we were all in our assembly of the contrary opinion.'"

We judge that no person is to be hindered from obtaining the grace of God by the law that is now appointed, and that the spiritual circumcision ought not to be restrained by the circumcision that was according to the flesh; but that all are to be admitted to the grace of Christ, since Peter, speaking of the acts of the apostles, says: 'The Lord has shown me that no person is to be called common or unclean.' This, therefore, dear brother, was our opinion in the assembly: that it is not for us to hinder any person from baptism and the grace of God, who is merciful and benign, and affectionate to all; which rule, as it holds for all, so we think it is more especially to be observed in reference to infants newly born, to whom our help and the divine mercy is rather to be granted, because by their cries and tears at their first entrance into the world they do imitate nothing so much as that they implore compassion." - Doctrinal Tracts, pp. 279-280.

I have now given you three distinguished authors who advocate infant baptism, and by this time I presume you are able to see the sort of evidence they rely on for the proof of their position, that infant baptism was practiced by the apostles. All of them make the same point, by the same course of reasoning, and from the same early Christian fathers.

I have taken the pains to quote all of them, so you can see how infant baptism is sustained by them.

As regards those sixty-six bishops, they, according to Mr. Wesley, not only taught that infants were to be baptized, but that their baptism was essential to their salvation. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration is as easily proved by the same early Christian fathers as the practice of infant baptism is.

About the same account of the council of Carthage is given by Wesley as is given by Neander, vol. 1, p. 313, and it is unmistakably true that the fathers quoted by our authors taught baptismal regeneration.

Mr. Campbell, in his Christianity Restored, quotes the very same early Christian fathers to prove his design of baptism, and he argues that for four hundred years after the apostles, baptism was taught as he teaches it, and that it must, therefore, have been taught by the apostles.

Pedobaptists say now that Mr. Campbell is wrong in his notion that baptism is essential to salvation, but yet he proves it by the same witnesses that you prove infant baptism by, and if you will tell me how to get around his argument for baptismal regeneration, I will tell how I will get around your argument for infant baptism. I tell you the very same witnesses and arguments that are used to establish one will establish the other just as well.

If those witnesses do not prove that baptism is essential to salvation, neither do they prove infant baptism, and if they do prove baptismal regeneration, as Mr. Campbell says they do, then they also prove infant baptism.

Mr. Campbell says Pedobaptists are wrong on infant baptism, and they say he is wrong on his design of baptism, and I say you are both wrong, for if one is wrong so is the other.

They both go together, and were always understood so until recently; let us see what Mr. Wesley says baptism is for:

"As to the grounds of it: If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism, seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved unless this be washed away by baptism. It has been already proved that this original stain cleaves to every child of man, and that hereby they are children of wrath and liable to eternal damnation. It is true the second Adam has found a remedy for the disease which came upon all by the offense of the first. But the benefit of this is to be received through the means which he hath appointed; through baptism in particular, which is the ordinary means he hath appointed for that purpose; and to which he hath tied us, though he may not have tied himself. Indeed, where it cannot be had, the case is different, but extraordinary cases do not make void a standing rule. This, therefore, is our first ground. Infants need to be washed from original sin, therefore they are proper subjects of baptism." - Doctrinal Tracts, p. 251.

This was the original design of infant baptism, and the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is older than the practice of infant baptism. The North African churches first began to teach that baptism is essential to salvation, and soon after that infant baptism began to be practiced.

But our Pedobaptist brethren now say they do not believe that baptism is essential to the salvation of infants. Then why baptize them? I want to hear some good reason for baptizing infants if it does nothing for them. If it does not effect their salvation, nor change their nature, nor make them any better, and they would be saved as well without it as with it, why baptize them at all?

I say infant baptism is an evil. Only a few days ago I was in conversation with a young man and he told me he was baptized in infancy. I asked him if he felt like he had ever been baptized, and he said he did not. I said to him, you do not feel, then, that you have obeyed the command of the Savior that says "be baptized." He said he did not. I will say to you, my friends, this young man is not a Baptist, and he is not inclined to be a Baptist that I know of. If he ever satisfied his conscience on the subject of baptism, he will have to leave his church and join some other, or else his church must violate her rules. I find many such cases in my travels over the country, and I set it down, on that ground, that infant baptism is an evil. It is not necessary to their salvation, so it does them no good, and yet it deprives them the liberty of their own conscience when they become adults.

But let us hear what Mr. Wesley says of the baptism of adults. Suppose a stranger would come into this country and begin to preach, and you did not know what denomination he belonged to and he would say, "By baptism we, who were by nature the children of wrath, are made the children of God." What would you call him? Do you not think he would be branded as a Campbellite? I will say to you this doctrine was taught long before Mr. Campbell was born. He was not the originator of that doctrine; it is too old for that.

It was Mr. Wesley that said,

"By baptism we, who were by nature the children of wrath, are made the children of God. And this regeneration which our (Episcopal) church, in so many places ascribes to baptism, is more than barely being admitted into the church, though commonly connected therewith, being grafted into the body of Christ's church, we are made the children of God by adoption and grace. This is grounded on the plain words of our Lord, "Except a man be born again of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." - John 3: 5.

By water then as a means, the water of baptism, we are regenerated or born again, whence it is also called by the apostle, "the washing of regeneration." Our church, therefore, ascribes no greater virtue to baptism than Christ himself has done. Nor does she ascribe it to the outward washing, but to the inward grace, which, added thereto, makes it a sacrament. Herein a principle of grace is infused, which will not be wholly taken away, unless we quench the Holy Spirit of God by long continued wickedness. In consequence of our being made children of God, we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. If children, as the apostle observes, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Herein we receive a title to, and an earnest of, a kingdom which cannot be moved. Baptism doth now save us, if we live answerable thereto, if we repent, believe and obey the gospel, supposing this, as it admits us into the church here, so into glory hereafter." - Doctrinal Tracts, pp. 248, 249.

While this book was published by order of the General Conference, it is due to the Methodists that I should state that I see a foot-note here exonerating them from the charge of endorsing Mr. Wesley in the foregoing quotation. It reads as follows: "That Mr. Wesley, as a clergyman of the Church of England, was originally a high churchman, in the fullest sense, is well known. When he wrote this treatise in the year 1756 he seems to have used some expressions, in relation to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which we, at this day, should not prefer. Some such, in the judgment of the reader, may be found under this second head. This last sentence, however, contains a guarded corrective. It explains also the sense in which we believe Mr. Wesley intended much of what goes before to be understood."

I leave you to judge, from what I have now read from Mr. Wesley and others, what they understood baptism to be for. It is a plain case that they understood baptism to be essential to salvation, and that this was their grounds for infant baptism.

I will give you one more witness on this subject.

"The Council of Carthage, A. D. 418, finally condemned, in its second canon, the doctrine concerning such an intermediate state for children, that none could enter into the kingdom of heaven without baptism; that unbaptized infants would be exempt from punishment on the ground that nothing could be conceived as existing between the Kingdom of God and perdition. But, then, too, according to the doctrine of this council, the eternal perdition of all unbaptized infants was expressly affirmed, a consistency of error revolting to the natural sentiments of humanity." - Neander, vol. 2, p. 669.

We now have proved that the design of baptism, as essential to eternal salvation, has been advocated by Pedobaptists - not only in the case of adults, but infants as well; and, while our Pedobaptist brethren say they do not endorse that doctrine now, we say they cannot give an intelligent reason for baptizing infants.

Mr. Campbell and his brethren still teach the same design of baptism, but deny the doctrine of infant baptism. I claim that he has the same proof for his design of baptism that Pedobaptists have for infant baptism, for he proves it by the very same witnesses.

I repeat, that if that is the design of baptism, then I and my brethren have not the right baptism, and, if we have, then they who baptize in order to be born of God have not, even if they have been immersed on a public profession of faith.

To have a gospel baptism we must be baptized for the same purpose for which the Lord appointed baptism.

It will not do to say that our intention in the act of baptism has nothing to do with its validity, for, if it has not, then a man may be baptized with no intention, and his baptism would be just as good.

So while we teach that gospel baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper, we cannot receive to our communion those who have been baptized in order to the remission of sins, for we do not believe such baptism to be valid.

Now, as we have seen that baptism is a prerequisite to the communion, and that the mode of baptism is immersion, we claim that all unimmersed people are unbaptized, and, therefore, we cannot commune with them.

We have also seen that no person is a gospel subject of baptism but adult believers, so if persons have been even immersed in their infancy, we do not regard it as gospel baptism, and therefore we could not commune with them.

We have also seen that there are more intentions than one for which persons are baptized, and we hold that the design of baptism has to do with the validity of baptism.

But there is one thing more essential to the validity of baptism, and that I wish to notice next. It is the administrator.

Who has a right to administer the ordinance of baptism? In answer to this question I will call on a good Methodist brother, simply because I have him before me, and he gives the answer just to suit me. He says: "The sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper are duly administered, not by any and every person choosing to administer the same, but by those who are called by God and His church to the sacred work of the ministry." - History M. E. Church, p. 164.

I presume this to be the position of all churches in this age of the world, and it is just what we Baptists claim, that baptism is to be administered by those who are called of God, and ordained by the church to perform the functions of a gospel minister. To this point let us pay some respect for a few moments.

I wish, first, to notice the General Baptists on their authority to baptize. I hold in my hand a book, entitled General Baptist History, by D. B. Montgomery, of Owensville, Indiana, and I presume you all know him. I do not, but I presume this book is good General Baptist authority. Let us read:

"They evidently fail to present the object of Crosby in making this statement. Thomas Wall had charged John Smith with having baptized himself, and that he afterwards baptized Mr. John Spillsbury, the first minister of the Particular Baptist Church, and that he (Spillsbury) transmitted this same baptism to the English Baptists by succession of baptism. This Crosby was endeavoring to show was false, and that the English Baptists did not receive their baptism by succession from any minister, either General or Particular, from John Smith or John Spillsbury. That while most or all of John Spillsbury's church had received baptism from a church in the Netherlands, through Mr. Richard Blount, the greatest number and the more judicious English Baptists had received their baptism just as John Smith had received his, received it through an unbaptized person." (pp. 45, 46.)

Had received it how? Through an unbaptized person, this writer says. But who was this John Smith? He was the founder of the General Baptist Church, that is so overly anxious that we should commune with her.

John Smith had been an Episcopalian minister in England, but he laid down his salary in that church and went over into Holland among the Brownists, and began to preach among them and divided them, and with his party of them he started the General Baptist Church. As he had never been baptized, he received baptism by an unbaptized person. This is the origin of the General Baptist church, and this is their authority for baptizing. What is their authority for baptizing? Simply none at all. Hence they are not entitled to the communion. It is the case, sometimes, that men will make a greater noise about what they are not entitled to than they would if it really belonged to them.

But let us read again:

"Now, as Ivemy and Crosby, who were members of the Particular Baptist churches, and were unprejudiced and faithful historians, they, as English Baptists, are as well qualified to tell their origin as any others. We will let them speak. We will hereafter see, from Crosby, particularly, that while most or all of the members of the first Particular Baptist church, which came out of the Independent Pedobaptist church, that the greatest number and the more judicious of the English Baptists received their baptism just as John Smith and his church, the Baptists in Leicestershire, the Tunkers or German Baptists, and Roger Williams and his church did, by an unbaptized person baptizing and so beginning a reformation." (p. 48.)

It is very common when people are in trouble, and feel unable to show good reasons for it, to console themselves by saying others are just as bad. This historian, having to admit that the founder of the General Baptist church was not regularly baptized, would have us believe that we are also in the same predicament. This, however, we deny, but he admits it in the case of the General Baptists, and tries to argue that baptism is valid when administered by an unbaptized person, and undertakes to prove that that is the doctrine of the Baptists, by showing that such was Benedict's opinion. The Baptist doctrine is not simply the opinion of any one man - it is not the opinion of men at all. Even if it was the opinion of Benedict, he is not the Baptist church. It is evident that the General Baptists, and the Tunkers, and Roger Williams' church all originated by an unbaptized person administering the ordinance of baptism, and Benedict thinks Williams' church would have been classed with the General Baptists of England.

We deny the right of an unbaptized person to administer baptism, and, while we do, we claim that the General Baptists have no valid baptism. If baptism is valid when administered by an unbaptized person, why ordain a minister to do that work? Why call on a number of presbyters, and arraign a candidate before them, and require him to give them an evidence of his call to the ministry, and then lay hands on him and solemnly invoke the blessing of God upon him, if, when it is all done, he has no more authority than a man who has never been baptized.

We cannot commune with the General Baptists because they are not baptized, and we claim that baptism precedes the communion.

We now wish to notice the Freewill Baptists and see what sort of baptism they have.

"The founder of this denomination (Freewill Baptists) was the Rev. Benjamin Randall. He was originally a preacher connected with the Calvinistic Baptists. Having embraced Arminian views, and being disowned by his brethren as being unsound in the faith, he organized a church in New Durham, N. H., on the 30th day of June 1780. Soon after this other churches were formed on the same plan, and these churches united together and constituted the New Durham quarterly meeting." - Religious Denominations of the World, p. 144.

Thus we see that the Freewill Baptists were founded by a man that we had excluded from us. If he had ever been authorized to administer baptism, that authority was taken from him when we excluded him. So the Freewill Baptists have no baptism.

We excluded him from us for heresy, and in obedience to the apostles' advice, and we certainly did right to exclude him for heresy, for Paul says: "The man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition, reject." Now for us to practice open communion would force us to commune with him, and recognize his baptism, after we had excluded him and taken his authority from him. I charge that open communionists cannot be consistent, for they will exclude their members for heresy and then commune with them afterwards.

If I was a member of Brother Yates' church, and would preach as I do, and fight him on the "Foreign Mission" question, and oppose his infant baptism, and his sprinkling and pouring for baptism, he would exclude me for heresy.

Mr. Yates, "Yes, sir, I would exclude you for heresy." (Mr. Yates is the Cumberland Presbyterian minister in charge at Owensville, Indiana.) But then after you had excluded me, you would commune with me if I would join some other church, or get up one of my own, as Randall did.

If that is the order of God's house, I see no consistency in the whole thing.

But as we have quoted from a Methodist and found that they do not believe that the ordinances are to be administered except by those who are called of God and His church to the work of the ministry, let us take a view of the Methodist church, and see if they have any authority, according to their own doctrine, to administer the ordinances.

It is said, I believe, that Wesley ordained Coke, and Coke ordained Asbury; but who ordained Wesley? If he was not called by God and His church to the work of the ministry, he could not administer the ordinances. If he was ordained, he must have been ordained by the Episcopalians; but where did the Episcopalians get their authority? If they had any authority, they must have gotten it from the Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics, then, is a church of Christ, or the Methodists have no authority to administer the ordinances, according to their own doctrine.

The Presbyterians, Lutherans, and all other Pedobaptists are in the same predicament. What right had Calvin, or Luther, or Henry VIII, or Wesley, to start up a church? Who ever read of Jesus Christ giving any man authority to start a church? If I were to leave the Baptist church, and they were to exclude me from their fellowship, would I not be out of the church? Suppose, then, I go out and begin a new enterprise, and soon have a congregation organized, and call it a church, would I have a right to claim to be recognized as a church? Deny me that right, and then tell me what is the Methodist church, or the Lutheran, Presbyterian, or any other that asks us to commune with them?

I tell you it is a body that feels as if their claim to the name of a church of Christ is somewhat doubtful, that, as a rule, makes so much ado about the communion question. They wish to be recognized as a church is about what the trouble is.

I am aware of the fact that Regular Baptists are called selfish, and bigoted, because we do not commune and mingle with others, but we have made our character here, and I feel it is a credit to me to be called an old Baptist, for I have never seen the time, and I presume these old fathers in the ministry, Elders Hume and Strickland, can say as much, that the Old Baptists were so low down in the estimation of the religious world that all others would not have gladly married us if we would have had them.

But, after they court us awhile, and find that we will not marry, then they seem to get angry with us, and want to kill us, and, being unable to do that, they do not know what to do with us.

But now let us look for a people that have existed from the apostles to the present. It cannot be expected that in a few minutes we could do justice to such a subject, but let us try for a few moments. Let us read:

"There was no difference in point of doctrine between the Novatianists and other Christians. What peculiarly distinguished them was their refusing to readmit to the communion of the church those who, after baptism, had fallen into the commission of heinous crimes, though they did not pretend that even such were excluded from all possibility or hopes of salvation. They consider the Christian church as a society where virtue and innocence reigned universally, and none of whose members, from their entrance into it, had defiled themselves with any enormous crime; and, of consequence, they looked upon every society which readmitted heinous offenders to its communion as unworthy of the title of a true Christian church. It was from hence, also, that they assumed the title of Cathari, that is, the pure; and what showed still a more extravagant degree of vanity and arrogance, they obliged such as come over to them from the general body of Christians to submit to be baptized a second time, as a necessary preparation for entering into their society." Mosheim, century 3, part 2, chapter 5, sec. 18.

The people mentioned in this quotation separated from the Catholic party A. D. 251, and while Novatian was the most conspicuous among their ministers, and the people were called after his name, it is often the case that he is said to be the founder of his sect, and that it started up at the time before mentioned, but the fact that when he withdrew there were churches and ministers scattered over the whole country at the same time, it is evident that he was not the founder of the sect called Novatianists, but these these churches which had kept the ordinances and the doctrine pure from the apostles until the time of the separation, simply refused to follow the Catholic party into the thousand and one new things she was beginning to indulge. We are not dependent on Novatian or any other one minister for a succession of baptism, for, at the time of the separation, there were many ministers and churches for baptism to have come through to us.

But let us hear the same historian again, who, by the way, is not a Baptist, but a Lutheran. He says:

"Among the sects that troubled the Latin church during this (12th) century, the principal place is due to the Catharists, whom we already had occasion to mention. (Then he refers us to the same we have just read.) This numerous faction, leaving their first residence, which was in Bulgaria, spread themselves throughout almost all the European provinces, where they occasioned much tumult and disorder; but their fate was unhappy, for, wherever they were caught, they were put to death with the most unrelenting cruelty." Mosheim, century 12, part 2, sec. 4.

He says these were the same people he had already mentioned, and then refers us back to the quotation we first made, so that we cannot be mistaken if we say they have come down from the third to the twelfth century, and are known by our historian as the same people. Their doctrine was that no persons, whatever, were to be admitted to baptism before they were come to the full use of their reason.

We also find them in the eleventh century under the name of Paulicians. They reject infant baptism.

But again:

"The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion, and derived that of Mennonites from the famous man, to whom they owe the greatest part of their present felicity, is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is, of consequence, extremely difficult to be ascertained. This uncertainty will not appear surprising, when it is considered that this sect started up all of a sudden, under leaders of different talents and different intentions, and at the very period when the first contests of the Reformers with the Roman pontiffs drew the attention of the world and employed the pens of the learned in such a manner as to render all other objects and incidents almost matters of indifference. The modern Mennonites not only consider themselves as the descendants of the Waldenses, who were so grievously oppressed and persecuted by the despotic heads of the Roman church, but pretend, moreover, to be the purest offspring of these respectable sufferers, being equally averse to all principles of rebellion on the one hand, and all suggestions of fanaticism on the other." Mosheim, century 16, part 2, chapter 3, sec. 1.

If this witness was a Baptist, he might be accused of being partial; but as he is not, he is not very likely to be anxious to show that the Baptists have existed ever since the apostles.

I wish to hear him again and will read from the same chapter.

"For it must be carefully observed that, though all those projectors of a new, unspotted and perfect church, were comprehended under the general name of Anabaptists, on account of their opposing the baptism of infants, and their rebaptizing such as had received the sacrament in a state of childhood in other churches, yet they were, from their very origin, subdivided into various sects, which differed from each other in points of no small moment."

From this we are to learn that there were other sects during the dark ages that opposed the Roman Catholic church that differed very materially from our people, yet they were frequently classed with them on account of their opposition to the Catholic church. It is in this way, no doubt, that our people have been often misrepresented as being guilty of all the doctrines and practices that were entertained during their history, when, as Dr. Mosheim observes, they differed from others on those points.

I now introduce another witness, who is by no means a Baptist, and his testimony must be good. It is Bishop Newton, and he, in his work, is not writing a history, but is proving the authenticity of the scriptures by the fulfillment of the prophesies. He says:

"But the true witnesses, and, as I may say, the Protestants of this age (12th century) were the Waldenses and Albigenses, who began to be famous at this time, and, being dispersed into various places, were distinguished by various appellations.

Their first and proper name seemeth to have been Vallenses,
or inhabitants of the valleys; and so one of the oldest writers, Ebrad, of Bethune, who wrote in the year 1212: "They call themselves Vallenses, because they abide in the valley of tears, alluding to their situation in the valleys of Piedmont. They were called Albigenses from Alby, a city in the southern part of France, where also great numbers of them were situated. They were afterwards denominated Valdenses, or Waldenses, from Peter Valdo or Waldo, a rich citizen of Lyons, and a considerable leader of the sect. From Lyons, too, they were called Leonists, and Cathari from the professed purity of their life and doctrine, as others since have had the name of Puritans. As there were a variety of names, so there might be some diversity of opinion among them; but that they were not guilty of Manicheism and other abominable heresies, which have been charged upon them, is certain and evident from all the remains of their creeds, confessions and writings." (pp. 513-514.)

I am glad Bishop Newton said this, for if he had been a Baptist, he might have been partial, but, being a Pedobaptist, he cannot be accused of being prejudiced in favor of the Waldenses. It is sometimes said by our opponents that the Waldenses were not free from some very grievous errors, but this writer exonerates them.

But let us read from him again:

"Much hath been written in censure and condemnation of this sect, both by enemies and friends, by Papists and Protestants. If they have been grossly misrepresented and vilified on one side, they have been amply justified and vindicated on the other; but I will only produce the testimony of three witnesses concerning them, whom both sides must allow to be unexceptionable, Reinerious, Thuanus, and Mezeray. Reinerious flourished about the year 1254, and his testimony is the more remarkable, as he was a Dominician, and inquisitor general. "Among all the sects, which still are or ever have been, there is not any more pernicious to the church than that of the Leonists. And this for three reasons. The first is, because it is older, for some say that it hath endured from the time of Pope Sylvester; others from the time of the apostles. The second, because it is more general, for there is scarce any country wherein this sect is not. The third, because when all other sects beget horror in the hearers by the outrageousness of their blasphemies against God, this of the Leonists hath a great show of piety, because they live justly before men, and believe all things rightly concerning God, and all the articles which are contained in the creed; only they blaspheme the church of Rome and the clergy, whom the multitude of the laity is easy to believe." (pp. 515-516.)

The witness just quoted was once a member of the Waldensian church, and apostasized from it, and became one of their most violent persecutors. His testimony is good, as he is an enemy, and from what he says, no doubt this people have existed from the apostles to the present time, and that they were what is now denominated "Hardshell" Baptists.

If this be true, then we have had no founder of our church but Christ and the apostles, and we have had a connection of baptism all through the dark ages until now.

They have been known by many different names, at different times and in different localities, but it is very evident that they were the same people all the time. Let us see if history will bear us out in that idea.

"These Puritans, being exposed to severe and sanguinary persecutions for dissent, from age to age, were compelled to shelter themselves from the desolating storm in retirement; and when at intervals they reappear on the page of contemporary history, and their principles are propagated with new boldness and success, they are styled a new sect, and receive a new name, though in reality they are the same people." Religious Encyclopedia, p. 1147.

This is, no doubt, a correct statement concerning them, and it corroborates other historians on the same subject.

But I wish to read again from this same writer. On the next page he says:

"Hence it is hardly to be wondered at that the Waldenses, like the scriptures, have been resorted to by all parties of Protestants in defense of their peculiar sentiments. The Papists accused the Protestants of being a new sect, whose principles had no existence till the days of Luther. This charge they all denied, and each party sought to find predecessors, and to trace a line of succession up to the apostles. The perversions of heresy on the one hand, and the corruptions of popery on the other, left no alternative but to find that succession among the Waldenses."

It seems from this statement that all Protestants, until recently, claimed that the Waldenses were their predecessors, and were willing to claim that they had an existence from the apostles. I now wish to introduce Bishop Newton again on this subject. He says:

"Here only some of the principle instances are selected; but this deduction, short and defective as it is, evidently demonstrates, however, that there hath not been that uninterrupted union and harmony which the members of the church of Rome pretend to boast to have been before the Reformation, and at the same time it plainly evinces that they betray great ignorance, as well as impertinence, in asking the question, 'Where was your religion before Luther?' Our religion, we see, was in the hearts and lives of many faithful witnesses; but it is sufficient if it was nowhere else, that it was always in the Bible." (p. 526.)

You see how the Bishop agrees with our former witness, that Protestants claimed that their religion, before Luther, was among the Waldenses. And he says the members of the church of Rome betray great ignorance and impertinence when they ask where our religion was before Luther. It is very evident that Bishop Newton, although a High Churchman, believed that the Waldenses have existed from the apostles.

But we are often told that those people were not Baptists, for among all the names they had, they were not called Baptists before the Reformation.

Let us see if that is true. Listen at us read:

"But here again it was a Roman Bishop, Stephanus, who, instigated by the spirit of ecclesiastical arrogance, domination and zeal without knowledge, attached to this point of dispute a paramount importance. Hence, toward the close of the year 253, he issued a sentence of excommunication against the bishops of Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Galatia, and Cilicia, stigmatizing them as Anabaptists, a name, however, which they could justly affirm they did not deserve by their principles, for it was not their wish to administer a second baptism to those who had already been baptized, but they contended that the previous baptism, given by heretics, could not be recognized as a true one." Neander, vol. 1, p. 318.

You see, then, that they were called Anabaptists long before the Reformation.

Now, from the sketches I have quoted to you, and many others that I might refer to, I claim that there has been a people all along, from the apostles, that have preserved the ordinances of the church. I claim that they are our people, and that it is easy to trace them through the dark ages by their blood. I know the Lord did set up a church on earth, and I know, if his word is true, it still exists, for the prophet said it should never be destroyed, but it should stand forever.

They have always baptized those who came to them from other sects. We do the same yet, for the same reasons that they did.

I have now shown you that baptism, in the order of the gospel, must precede the Lord's Supper; and that immersion is the only gospel mode of baptism; and that believers are the only gospel subjects; and that, having all these, it is necessary to valid baptism that we have the gospel design; and that we may have all these and yet, for want of a proper administrator, we may not have gospel baptism.

I believe that Christ has a church in the world, but I do not believe he has forty-seven different churches. I do not believe any man has the right to start up a church and call it the church of Christ. If he has not, then, if he should set up an institution and call it a church, it is not, and, if it is not, it has no right to administer baptism. Therefore we do not receive the baptism of any. If any other church on earth has the right to baptize, we have not, for Christ only has one church.

As no other has the right to baptize, we cannot commune with others, while we think none but baptized persons have a right to the communion.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 November 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.