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Baptists In All Ages: Chapter XIII PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.S. Newman   

Some thoughts on Baptist sucession. 

"The first regularly organized Baptist Church of which we possess any account is dated from 1607, and was formed in London by a Mr. Smyth, who had been a clergyman in the Church of England. It was formed on the principles of the General Baptists."--Benedict's History, p. 304.

The above quotation is relied upon by Campbellitic preachers and debaters, to prove that Mr. Benedict claimed that as the date of the origin of Baptists. Mr. Benedict quoted the above statement from "The Baptist Jubilee Memorial," p. 202. which give a "summary account of the Baptists in this kingdom from the earliest times." "And as far as it goes," says Mr. B., "It gives the heads of all I shall be able to say op this part of the English Baptists."

I will prove by the Campbellites themselves that 1607 is not the place that marks the origin of the Baptists. If I should prove there were Baptists prior to 1607, I will prove they were Particular Baptists, as 1607 is claimed by the Campbellites to be the time when the General Baptists originated. And before I make further quotations to prove that the Baptists did not start with John Smyth in 1607, I will ask the reader to turn back and reread chapter twelve and you will see that Campbell said that "the first church was organized A. D. 33. and was a Baptist Church." He also said that "the second and third churches were also Baptist Churches." This of itself is an eternal veto to the false claims of Campbellitic debaters.

Campbell said, "Justin Martyr's public defense of the Christians of the second century is a sufficient document to show that the Baptist sentiments at that time universally prevailed."--Campbell-Walker Debate, p. 265. Baptist sentiments could not have existed in the second century if there were no Baptists. There being Baptists, and Baptist Churches in the first and second centuries, they could not have originated in 1607. Campbell, in the same book, page 270, in speaking of the thirteenth century, says, "In this century Jacob Merningus says. 'That he had in his hand, in the German tongue, a confession of the faith of the Baptists, called Waldenses.'" From this we know that the Baptists must have been numerous in the beginning of the thirteenth century as they had a published confession of faith. Of the fourteenth century Campbell said. "The confession of the Thaborites. in the year 1431, confirms that in this century there were many Baptists. especially in Bohemia." In speaking of the fifteenth century. Mr. C. said, "In this century the Baptists spread amazingly."--Ibed. p. 270. In speaking of the Baptists, Mr. C. Says, pp. 276, 278, "Many suffered in 1528. Seven Baptists who came from Holland were imprisoned, and was of them burned at Smithfield." "In 1535, twenty-two Baptists were apprehended and ten put to death." "In 1539, sixteen men and women were banished for opposing infant baptism; and on their going to Delft, in Holland. were pursued and prosecuted for being Baptists and were put to death for the same: the men were beheaded and the women drowned."

Mr. Campbell further says, "Thus I have shown that even in England the Baptists have continued from the apostolic times to the present day, and also that there have been in every century advocates for Baptist principles."--Ibed. p. 278. Campbell did not believe that the Baptists started with John Smyth in 1607. If he had he would not have said. "Thus I have shown, that even in England. the Baptists have continued from the apostolic times to the present day." The Campbellitic preachers of our day have the littleness to see that Campbell meant that there had been bodies of people and individuals that held to immersion from the days of our Saviour. Mr. Campbell had reference to the Primitive Baptists. for he belonged to them at that time, and was defending them in joined discussion with the Presbyterians.

Jarrell, the historian, says, "The President of the Campbellitic College, at Bethany, Va., wrote me: 'The Baptists appeared first in Switzerland. W ho founded the first Baptist Church that ever existed, cannot be determined.'

"A. P. Cobb. pastor o/ the First Campbellite church, in Springfield, Ill., wrote me: 'Was there a Baptist Church when Luther began his, Reformation? Yes. in Switzerland. 1523. Large churches fully organized in 1523-30 in South Germany. Who originated the first Baptist Church? I cannot tell.'

"The pastor of the First Campbellitic church, Ann Arbor, Mich.. wrote me: 'Was there a Baptist Church when Luther began his Reformation? The Baptists had large churches fully organized between 1520-30 in Switzerland. They were persecuted by both Zwingli and the Romanists. Who originated the first Baptist Church that ever existed? I do not know.'

"B. D. Dean. Professor o/ Church History in Hiram College, says, 'In Switzerland. in Germany, in Holland. it has been found impossible to decide when the Baptists first appeared, or which were the first churches o/ Baptists in those lands *** and it is quite difficult to decide the question about Baptists in England.' "--Jarrell's Church History, pp. 59, 60 and 61.

I feel sure that the president of the Campbellitic College at Bethany, the pastor of the First Campbellitic church in Springfield, Ill., the pastor of the First Campbellite church at Ann Arbor, Mich., and the professor of church history in Hiram College were well acquainted with Benedict's History,; and as they did not refer to the quotations at the head of this chapter, they did not understand the quotation to mean that to be the origin of the Baptists. Notice, reader, the questions asked in the above quotations.

"Who founded the first Baptist Church that ever existed?" Notice the answer of the president of Bethany College, "Cannot be determined."

Such perverters of Church History as Joe S. Warlick, J. W. Chism and C. R. Nichol say they can tell where, and by whom the Baptists originated. The pastor of the first Campbellitic church, in Springfield, Ill., says "there were large churches fully organized in 1520-30 in South Germany." In answer to the question, "Who originated the first Baptist Church?" he says "I cannot tell."

If these men had believed as the Campbellitic preachers in Texas say they do. don't you know they would have said the first Baptist Church was started by John Smyth in London in 1607. If B. P. Dean, professor of church history in Hiram College, believed that the Baptist Church started with John Smyth in London, why did he say, "And it is quite as difficult to decide the question about Baptists in England?" Reader, be not deceived. The Baptists are the only people on earth today that can be traced back to the apostolic age. I will prove from the article Benedict copied that there were Baptists prior to 1607, and that there was a Baptist Church in London prior to 1607.

"England undoubtedly received the gospel in the days of the apostles. *** Austin was sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great for the purpose of promoting the subjection of the British to the Papal Sea."--Benedict, p. 302. I will read from page 343: "The Baptist historian in England contends that the first British Christians were Baptists, and that they maintained Baptist principles until the coming of Austin. The church in this island was divided into two parts, the old and the new. The old or Baptist Church maintained their original principles. But the new church adopted infant baptism. and the rest of the multiplying superstitions of Rome." Austin was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to England A. D. 597. Benedict. p. 302, says: "During that interval (from 597 to the Reformation), many continental Baptists visited England, seeking refuge from the persecution which raged against them." This quotation is from an article the quotation at the head of this chapter is taken from, and shows beyond doubt that the writers thereof were not giving the origin of the Baptists.

"Baptists were afterward found in Herfordshire and South Wales. At the Reformation. the Baptists came to light again."--p. 303. All this is prior to 1607, and a part of the article heading this chapter, Here is some more of it: "Two circumstances connected with that period are prominent in }history of the Baptists, the publicity into which they emerged and the hostility which was evinced against them; these are exhibited in the extraordinary movements of the parties then in power. In 1536 the National Clergy met in convocation, declared the sentiments of the Baptists to be detestable heresies utterly to be condemned. In 1538, a commission was given to Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and others, to proceed against Baptists, and burn their books and on the sixteenth of November in the same year (1538), a royal proclamation was issued against them, and instructions sent to the justices throughout England, directing them to see that the laws against the Baptists were duly executed. Several were burned to death at Smithfield and of those who fled to foreign parts, it is recorded that some were martyred. Brandt writes thus in his history of the Reformation: "In the year 1529, thirty-one Baptists, that fled from England, were put to death at Delft, in Holland; the men were beheaded, and the women drowned. One conclusion is fairly deducible from these narrations that the Baptists of that period were not few nor insignificant. Bishop Latimer, in a sermon which he preached before King Edward VI., referring to the events of Henry's reign, observed Baptists were burned in different parts of the kingdom, and went to death with good integrity. The Reformation begun by Henry was carried on under Edward but to the oppressed Baptists of those times, no mercy was extended. Such was the furious bigotry with which they were pursued, that when King Edward passed an act to pardon Papists and others, the Baptists were excepted; and in the following year (1547). a fresh commission was issued to the Archbishop to search after all Baptists' and under that commission, the celebrated Joan of Kent who was a Baptist, was burned on the second of Mar. 1549. Several others shared the same fate. The reign of Mary is well known to have been cruel, even to ferocity. One circumstance in Baptist history accords with the spirit of that execrable reign. A man named David George, a Dutchman, was disinterred in St. Lawrence's church three years after his death, and his body burned because it was discovered he had been a Baptist. This relentless cruelty against the Baptists continued even under Queen Elizabeth. A royal proclamation was issued, in which it was ordained that all Baptists and other heretics, should leave the land; but they seemed to gather fortitude, for some formed themselves into separate societies; and in 1575, the seventeenth year of Elizabeth's reign, a congregation of them was found without Aldgate, London, of whom some were banished, twenty-seven were imprisoned and two burned to death in Smithfield. It was a peculiarly interesting characteristic of primitive Christians that notwithstanding the overwhelming power of potentates and priests against which it had to contend, opposition seemed but to augment its strength and to accelerate its progress; so it was with the persecuted Baptists. Two years after the event just referred to, Dr. Some, a churchman of great note in the reign of Elizabeth, wrote a book against the Puritans, in which he inveighs against the Baptists. stating in the language of complaint that they had several conventions in London and other places."--p. 303. have made these lengthy quotations to prove beyond question that the compilers of the "Jubilee Memorial," of which the quotation at the head of this chapter is a part, did not mean that 1607 was the origin of the Baptists.

I will now mention some of the reasons why the writers of the "Jubilee Memorial" did not believe or teach that the Baptists originated with John Smyth of England in 1607. (1) They were, Baptists, and as such did not believe 1607 to be the place marking their origin. (2) They believed England received the gospel in the days of the apostles, and they were Baptist preachers. (3) That during the interval between 597 and the Reformation, many Baptists visited England, thus preying that the Baptists were in existence during the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries in England. During the reign of William the Conqueror, a considerable number of Baptists came over from France, Germany and Holland; and so greatly did they prevail, that Lanframe, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a book against them. William the Conqueror reigned during the eleventh century; therefore, as the Baptists were in existence in France, Germany and Holland, and as the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a book against the Baptists in the eleventh century, it is absolutely true that the same people that recorded these facts did not say the Baptists started with John Smyth in London in 1607. (4) The Baptists were found in Herefordshire and South Wales This was before John Smyth's day. Notice the statement, ".found there." As the Baptists were "found there" before 1607, hence, the statement of Campbellite preachers is absolutely false.

Two circumstances connected with that period are prominent in the history of the Baptists. The writers of the above quotations were Baptists and were speaking of circumstances connected with Baptist history prior to 1607. The "two circumstances" connected with that period of history were: (l) "The publicity into which they emerged." (2) "And the hostility which was evinced against them," which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Benedict nor the writers of the "Jubilee Memorial" believed what the Campbellite debaters say they did. (3) "In 1536, the National Clergy met in convocation, declared the sentiments of the Baptists to be detestable heresies, utterly to be condemned." How could this be true if they started with John Smyth in 16077

"In 1538 a commission was given to Cranmer *** to proceed against Baptists and burn their books." Again I ask, how can this be true if there were no Baptists prior to 1607? "Proceed against a people that did not exist; and not only so, but absolutely burned the books of people that did not exist. It may suit Campbellite preachers to thus pervert church history with the book before them. (4) "In the year 1539 thirty-one Baptists that fled from England were burned to death at Delft, in Holland. " From this we learn that there were Baptists in England before John Smyth's day. How could they have "fled from England," and how could "thirty-one of them have been put to death in 1539" if there were none of them prior to 1607, as Campbellite preachers say? In speaking of the period from 1538 to 1549, we learn that "the Baptists of that period were not few nor insignificant." Bishop Latimer, in a sermon he preached before King Edward VI, "observed Baptists were burned in different parts of the kingdom, and went to death with good integrity." Again, "But to the oppressed Baptists of those times, no mercy was extended. King Edward passed an act to pardon Papists and others, the Baptists were excepted." In the following year, 1547, "a fresh commission was issued to the Archbishop to search after all Baptists, and under that commission the celebrated Joan of Kent, who was a Baptist, was burned on the third of May, 1549." With these facts before us, how can we believe that Benedict said the Baptists started in 1607? (5) "David George, after he had been dead three years, was disinterred and his body burned, because it was discovered he had been a Baptist." A proclamation ;vas issued during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, "in which it was ordained that all Baptists, and other heretics, should leave the land." In 1575 *** a congregation of them were found without Aidgate, London." I ask once more, how could this be true if they started in 1607? "Dr. Some wrote a book against the Puritans, in which he inveighs against the Baptists, stating in the language of complaint, that they had several conventions (churches) in London and other places.***

On page 309, Benedict says: "The only account of any church of the Baptist order existing at this period in England, is thus given by Mr. Ivimy: There is a remark in Robinson's dissertation in public preaching prefixed to Claude's essay, which refers to a period forty years after this and proves that the demon of persecution was at that time neither dead nor chained. 'I have,' says he, 'before me a manuscript register of Gray, Bishop of Ely, which proves that in the year 1457 there ;vas a congregation of this sort in this village, Cesterton. where I live, who privately assembled for divine worship, and had preachers of their own who taught them the very doctrines we now preach.'" Here was a Baptist Church 250 years before John Smyth organized his so-called church, and yet Campbellite preachers unblushingly tell us that Benedict said the first Baptist Church was organized m 1607. I will now let Mr. Benedict say whether the Campbellites are telling the truth on him. In speaking of the John, Smyth church, he says on page 329: "This appears to have been the first Baptist Church composed of Englishmen, after the Reformation. It was formed about 1607 or 1608." Benedict did not say or believe that Baptists started in 1607. Hear him again, "From all the fragments of history, I am inclined to the belief that Baptist churches, under various circumstances, have existed in England from the time of William the Conqueror, four or five centuries prior to those of which any definite accounts have come down to us; and that the more the history of the dark ages is explored, the more this opinion will be confirmed. Baptist churches in persecuting times are merely household affairs, which must, of necessity, be hid from public view. More than three centuries had elapsed before any of the Baptists in England had any knowledge that a church of their order once existed in Chestertown, in 1457."--p. 337.

Benedict, I repeat, did not believe that the Baptist Church started with John Smyth. We will let Benedict speak for himself: "I had intended in my closing remarks to show that the Baptists as a body, in all ages and countries, have literally adhered to the grand primordial principle of all churches in Christendom, national or dissenting."--p. 5 of preface. Again he says: "The history of foreign Baptists, as I have arranged it, embraces a period of fifteen centuries, from the introduction of Christianity till the Reformation, in the early part of the sixteenth century."--Benedict, p. 1.

"The churches of England, Scotland, Holland, Switzerland, or the Helvetic church, and the Reformed church of Germany, or Calvinists, all come under the head of National churches: they all seek protection and support from the civil power, and are zealous advocates for the old doctrine of Union of Church and State, which the Baptists in all ages have reprobated and condemned as fraught with absurdity and harm."--p. 2. "The first three centuries, I shall omit the recital of the common arguments of the Baptists in favor of their cause from all that appears in the New Testament, and in the histories of the primitive times, and will only say that I have always considered their appeal to the records and commands of the great Christian Law-giver, the bulwark of their defense for their defense for their departure from the Pedobaptist system." ..... p. 2.

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