STUDIES IN BAPTIST DOCTRINES

AND HISTORY

by

D. N. Jackson

(Revised Edition, 1974)

[The following article, used by permission, was a publication of İBaptist Publishing House, P. O. Box 7270, Texarkana, TX 75505-7270]

Lesson IV(1)

THE CHURCHES

ACROSS THE CENTURIES

Outline

I. Testimony of the Scriptures
A. Assurance of Christ the Founder
B. The immutable foundation
C. The pre-eminence of the Head of the church
D. Preservation by the Head
E. God's purpose to get glory in the church
F. Christ's tender love of His church
G. Backed by the Great Commission

II. The Testimony of History

A. The Bohemian line
B. The Welsh line
C. The Anabaptist line

III. The Testimony of Scholars

Perpetuity of the church is a doctrine which is cherished by Missionary Baptists. By perpetuity is meant that there has never been a day since Christ founded His church when there was no Scriptural church upon earth. The church shall continue in existence until He shall come again. Church "succession" is another term which denotes perpetuity, implying that churches have succeeded in all ages the one founded by Christ. Baptists believe in a succession of churches -- not of the apostles, as taught by the Roman doctrine of "apostolic succession." Roman Catholics hold that their bishops are the successors to the apostles.

In this chapter appeal to the Scriptures, to history, and to the testimony of some scholars, is made in support of the doctrine of church perpetuity.

I. The Testimony of the Scriptures

A. The assurance of Christ the Founder

". . . I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," Matthew 16:18. The Greek pronoun translated "it" is in the feminine gender. It would be more nearly correct to refer to the church as "her." The "gates of hell," suggestive of death, shall never be powerful enough to destroy or kill the church. Death is the opposite of life; the church will continue to live, if death cannot effect her end. "Will build" is in the future tense, meaning, in that instance, that Christ will continue building or enlarging the church. The church had already been founded when Christ made that promise. The work of the church shall go on through the centuries because all the Satanic intrigues, even in the heinous forms of inquisition, the thumbscrew and rack, the auto-de-fe, the Smithfield flames, and the sufferings like those in Piedmont Valley, cannot destroy the church of the living God. The "old ship of Zion" moves on in face of dungeon, fire, and sword.

B. The immutability of the church's foundation

1. It is the immovable Rock of Ages. "Upon this ROCK I will build my church." The church is not built upon the Apostle Peter, nor his confession, nor mere truth as such, but upon Christ Himself. "Thou art Peter." The name "Peter" is from the Greek Petros, meaning a stone that could be moved. It was metaphorical of Peter whom Satan threw around, yet was he never crushed. The Greek word for rock upon which the church is built is petra, meaning a large and immovable rock.

2. It is a sure foundation. "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that helieveth shall not make haste," Isaiah 28:16. The sure foundation was declared by Paul to be Christ. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," I Corinthians 3:11. That brings to one's mind the illustration which was used by Christ (Matthew 7:24-27). He spoke of two houses being built. One was built upon a rock by a wise man; it stood the severest tempests and floods. The other was built upon the sand by a foolish man; it perished under the mighty impact of winds and floods. The church has stood through all the centuries despite the storms and floods of persecutions.

C. The pre-eminence of the Head of the church over all enemies and powers

God the Father set Christ "Far above all principality, and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put an things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all," Ephesians 1:21-23. The headship that Christ maintained over the church while He was on earth (Mark 12:10) He took with Him to heaven, where He sits supreme in dignity and power over His church upon earth. Being supreme He will never capitulate before the forces of darkness and allow His church to be destroyed.

D. The preservation of the church by the Head

". . . The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the saviour of the body," Ephesians 5:23. The original word in that passage from which "saviour" was translated means "preserver," declaring Christ to be the preserver of His body. According to Ephesians 4:4, "There is one body," meaning one of a kind -- not a universal church. The term, "body," is used in an abstract or institutional sense. Christ gave His life to preserve that one kind of body throughout all ages. That affirms that the church shall be preserved, or kept from decaying -- not merely the principles of the church. Neither the church nor her principles shall ever perish from the earth.

E. The purpose of God to obtain glory in the church throughout all ages

"Unto him be glory In the church by Christ Jesus throughout ail ages," Ephesians 3:21. The rendering of that verse in the American Standard Version is quite emphatic: "Unto Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen." Based upon that divine assurance of the perpetual life of the church, we might as well expect Christ to cease to live as to expect the death of the church. While He was with His church upon earth, He said, "Because I live, ye shall live also," John 14:19. The church must continue to live, since God is to get glory in her "throughout all ages."

F. Christ's tender, loving care over His church

". . . No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourished and cherisheth it even as the Lord the church," Ephesians 5:29. "Nourish" is a translation from an original word, meaning "to maintain, to support, to bring up." The word which is translated "cherish" means, "to warm, to keep warm, to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care." The word is also used In I Thessalonians 2:7: ". . . We are gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children." Because of His nourishing and cherishing the church, some day Christ shall present "it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," Ephesians 5:27. So great is that loving care that Christ the true Shepherd, testified that He would give His life for the protection of the sheep (John 10:11). The sheep of His flock were told not to fear (Luke 12:32). The life of Christ is pledged for the protection of the sheep of His flock.

G. The guarantee in the Great Commission

"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen," Matthew 28:20. That definite promise of the Master's unceasing presence with His church, "even unto the end of the world" (age), is as sure as any promise found in the Word of God. One might as well doubt His promise of salvation, or His promise to return the second time, as to doubt His promise to be with His church throughout the age. That being true, the church must exist throughout the age.

II. The Testimony of History

Despite the persistent efforts of the pagans in the first three centuries of the Christian era, and of the Catholics in the Dark Ages, to destroy not only the witnesses of the truth which was contrary to their views but also every vestige of history favorable to those witnesses, "footprints" of Baptists may be found in every century. In their forays of spoilation and death, the enemies of the Baptists unwittingly left testimony of the existence and some of the work of those people. Only a summary of that testimony is presented as lines of descent of Baptists across the centuries.

A. The Bohemian Line

In the first century the general region out of which modern Bohemia was carved was called Illyricum and Dalmatia (Romans 15:19; II Timothy 4:10). It lay across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and northwest of Greece. There Paul preached the gospel in the first century. In that region was the famous Hercynian Forest, where many first-century Christians dwelt.

Primitive Christianity survived in that area. The inhabitants fled there to escape the yoke of Rome. According to Mosheim, Baptists were found there before the rise of the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

When those people learned of the stand of Erasmus of Holland (1467-1536), the learned scholar who bucked Roman Catholicism, they wrote him a letter, commending him for his outspoken opposition to the rule of the Pope and informing him that they had avowed such principles as his for all the preceding centuries. They later sent a delegation to confer with him, but he refused their overtures and branded them as "Anabaptists."

Every word of those people's letter to Erasmus showed that they were Baptists. (1) They owned no authority in ecclesiastical matters other than the Scriptures. (2) They rejected the Pope and all forms of Catholic worship. (3) They practiced believer's baptism and rejected alien immersion. (4) Along with other Romish practices, they refused the auricular confession, prayers for dead saints, and the "deified" wafer.

In later centuries, the descendants of those first-century Baptists spread over other parts of Europe and mingled with the Waldenses. They were among the forerunners of the Reformation. Were they in existence today as a group, Missionary Baptists could give them the hand of fellowship.

B. The Welsh Line

The true Baptists of America are able to boast of a line connecting them with the Welsh Baptists.

John Miles, a Baptist minister, and others came from Wales. They organized a church at Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

"In 1663, John Miles came over from Wales, and began the church which was continued to this day . . . Some of Mr. Miles' company came over with him, and at the house of John Butterworth, in Rehoboth, they, to the number of seven, united in a solemn covenant. Their names were: Elder John Miles, James Brown, Nicholas Truenr, Joseph Carpenter, John Butterworth, Eldad Kingsly, and Benjamin Alby" (History of the Welsh Baptists, by J. Davis, page 39).

The Penepek Baptist Church came over from Wales in a body and settled in Pennsylvania in 1701.

From those churches, other churches and ministers of like faith have come to be in America. True Baptists of America, therefore, have direct connection with the Baptists of Wales, where Baptists have lived, at times in the mountainous retreats, since the year A.D. 63. On the title page of Davis' ancient book is this long caption:

"History of the Welsh Baptists from the Year Sixty-Three to the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy."

According to Davis' history, among the several visitors to Rome from Wales were Pudens and his wife Claudia. Those two came under the influence of the Apostle Paul who was then a prisoner at Rome, "about the year of our Lord 63." Pudens and Claudia were converted to the Christian faith. They were among Caesar's official household. Soon thereafter they returned to Wales and planted the gospel in their native land. On page 7 of his history Davis said:

"The Welsh lady, Claudia, and others, who were converted under Paul's ministry in Rome, carried the precious seed with them, and scattered it on the hills and vallies of Wales; and since that time, many thousands have reaped a most glorious harvest."

When Davis came to the year 180 he reported an event that took place among the Welsh Baptists. "We have nothing of importance to communicate respecting the Welsh Baptists, from this period (A.D. 63) to the year 180, when two ministers by the names of Faganus and Damicanus, who were born in Wales, but were born again in Rome, and there becoming eminent ministers of the gospel were sent from Rome to assist their brethren in Wales" (Ibid.).

There were Baptists in Wales from the year 63 to 180.

Davis gave an account of Baptists' suffering persecution in Wales in the year 300.

"About the year 300, the Welsh Baptists suffered most terrible and bloody persecution, which was the tenth pagan persecution under the reign of Dioclesian. Alban had the pain, and honor, to be the first martyr on the British shore" (Ibid., page 8).

David Benedict, in his General History of the Baptist Denomination, page 343, quoted Josiah Taylor, an early English historian, as saying: "From 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 superstitutions of Rome."

Austin (also called Augustine) came to the British Isles in 597, being sent there as a missionary by Gregory the Great, Catholic bishop of Rome. He divided the Christians and persecuted those who rejected his overtures. The true Baptists, who rejected his new doctrines, were considered old, as a church group, as early as 597. There were no Catholics in those islands before the coming of Austin.

Connecting the early Baptists of Wales with those of modern times, Benedict went on to record:

"The Welsh Baptists contend that Baptist principles were maintained in the recesses of their mountainous principality all along through the dark reign of popery" (Ibid., page 344).

True Baptists of America are thus connected with the Apostle Paul at Rome, and with the first church in Palestine from the first century, through the Bohemian and Welsh lines.

C. The Anabaptist Line

The Anabaptists were dubbed with that name because they rejected the baptism of others. The prefix, "Ana," means "again" or "over." They were charged with baptizing again people who came to them from other faiths, but they contended that those who came to them from other groups had not in reality been baptized. The people who held to that doctrine, along with other Baptist views, were called Anabaptists as early as the second century, but the movement made prominent under that name was distinguished for its work in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They were among the forebearers of Baptists today.

There was a fanatical group, whom the enemies of Baptists called Anabaptists, who had no common ties of faith and worship with the regular Anabaptists. That group arose and disappeared during the German Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Dr. John A. MacKay, for some time president of Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote:

"The Baptists, who are the successors of the Anabaptists of pre-Reformation times, have stood for the necessity of personal religious commitment as the prerequisite for Christian baptism. They constitute the largest body of Protestant Christians in the United States ad have been marked, especially in the South, by great evangelistic fervor" (The Great Religions of the World, edited by Edward J. Jurji, page 347).

Dr. MacKay connected Baptists of America with the Anabaptists who lived before the Reformation but who continued through that period and were absorbed into the English Baptist movement in the seventeenth century, when the prefix, "ana," was dropped. The English Baptists were never connected in any essential way, in respect to their distinguishing marks, with the fanatical group whom Catholics and Protestants alike called Anabaptists. Most of those were dissenters from the Catholics, but the original line of Baptists, called Anabaptists, never had any organic connection with the Catholic Church. From the Anabaptists line we shall give a brief account, step by step, from Palestine to America. Bear in mind that the names which Baptists have borne through the centuries were imposed upon them by their enemies. The Baptist lineage from the first century is more distinctly traced by the earmarks of doctrine and practice than by names.

Step I -- The Scriptures support the declaration that the Christians of the first century were Baptists. Dr. John Clarke Ridpath (a Methodist), historian of DuPaw University, said: "I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A.D. 100, though without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists" (Church Perpetuity, by Jarrell, pages 58, 59).

Step II -- Baptists were called Montanists in the second century. The name originated in Phrygia from a prominent leader named Montanus who avowed the Christian cause that had spread over Asia Minor and other regions of the Roman world before the close of the first century. "The Montanist churches were Baptist churches" (Church Perpetuity, by Jarrell, page 76). The great Tertullian identified himself with those people.

Step III -- In the third and fourth centuries Baptists were dubbed Novatians, from Novatian who rose against the corruptions of the church at Rome. Fusing with Montanists, the Novatians extended throughout the Roman Empire.

"The Novatians demanded pure churches which enforced strict discipline, and so were called Puritans. They refused to receive the 'lapsed' back into the churches, and because they held the Catholics corrupt in receiving them, they re-immersed all who came to them from the Catholics. For this reason alone they were called 'Anabaptists,' although they denied that this was rebaptism, holding the first immersion null and void, because it had been received from corrupt churches" (History of the Baptists, by Armitage, page 178).

Step IV -- In the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries Baptists were called Donatists. That name originated in A.D. 311. It was taken from a prominent leader, Donatus of North Africa, who both denounced Catholicism and defended the purity of the faith.

Fuller, an Anglican historian of England, said: "The Anabaptists are the Donatists new dipt."

Osiander testified: "Our modern Anabaptists are the same as the Donatists of old."

Bullinger wrote: "The Donatists and the Anabaptists held the same opinion."

The Montanists, Novatians, and Donatists held the same fundamental beliefs and enjoyed fellowship in places where they met. In all essential respects they were Baptists.

Step V -- The name Paulicians was applied to Baptists in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries because they earnestly contended for the teachings of the Apostle Paul.

Dr. John T. Christian declared: "The Paulician churches were of apostolic origin, and were planted in Armenia in the first century" (A History of Baptists, page 49).

The Paulicians became prominent and powerful in Armenia in the middle of the seventh century. They taught doctrines held by Baptists of today. Brockett said: "The Armenian Paulicianists were clearly Baptists" (Jones' Church History, page 245).

Step VI -- From the tenth to the middle of the thirteenth century Baptists were called Albigenses, deriving that name from the small city of Albi in Southern France, which became the center for those people. Some historians hold them to be descendants of the Paulicians who came from Armenia to settle in France and Italy. Other historians have found traces of them which show that they had been "in the valleys of France from the earliest ages of Christianity. They were a people of reputable character and were very numerous, numbering eight hundred thousand in the twelfth century" (A Concise History of Baptists, by Orchard, page 188). They taught doctrines now held dear by Baptists,

Step VII -- The appellation of Waldenses was also applied to Baptists from the twelfth century to the Reformation of the sixteenth century. Apostolic in origin, the Waldenses were found in the second century in the Piedmont Valley of Northern Italy. From "Valdenses," meaning valley dwellers, they got their title. By the twelfth century they had grown to be numerous and powerful, spreading over France and into all the countries of Europe. Because of their sterling character and fidelity to the simple gospel faith, the Waldenses suffered dreadful persecutions. Orchard, after saying their views were one with those of the Baptists, declared: "The Waldenses were, in religious sentiments, substantially the same as the Paulicians, Paterines, Puritans, and Albigenses" (Ibid., pages 258, 259).

Dr. Armitage quoted Mosheim and Limborch as marking the likeness of the Waldenses and the Baptists of the sixteenth century.

Limborch said, "To speak candidly what I think, of all the modern sects of Christians, the Dutch Baptists most resemble both the Albigenses and Waldenses" (History of the Baptists, by Armitage, page 304).

The Waldenses were the predecessors of the true line of the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century and the people now called Baptists.

Step VIII -- Even though Baptists were called Anabaptists as far back as the second century, because they re-immersed all who came to them from any irregular or alien group, it was in the sixteenth century that their cause was made prominent under that name. It was a great evangelical movement. The genuine Anabaptists were the same people as the Waldenses.

Step IX -- In parts of Europe the Anabaptists were called Mennonites, a name derived from Menno Simon who was converted to the Baptist faith from the Catholics in 1531. Turning from the Catholic priesthood, he drew a great following of Baptists after him, whom his enemies called Mennonites. Those Baptists were the predecessors of the English Baptists.

Orchard wrote: "It was in 1536, under Menno, that the scattered community of Baptists were formed into a regular body and church order, separate from all Dutch and German Protestants, who at that time had not been formed into one body by any bonds of unity . . . The Mennonite Baptists consider themselves as real successors to the Waldenses, and to be the genuine churches of Christ" (Op. cit., 368).

From the British Isles, Baptists came to America in the early part of the seventeenth century. There is a clear succession of Baptists from Palestine to America.

Some other names by which Baptists have been known through the centuries are Cathari, Bogomils, Paterines, Petrobrussians, Henricians, Arnoldists, Berengarians, and Catabaptists.

III. The Testimony of Scholars

Mosheim, a Lutheran historian, in 1755, said: "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin there lay concealed in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of the Dutch Baptists" (Cent. 16, Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 3).

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) said: "The modern Baptists, formerly called Anabaptists, are the only people that never symbolized with the papacy" (Life of Whiston).

Cardinal Hosius, a Roman Catholic, said in 1524: "Were it not that the Baptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during these past twelve hundred years, they would swarm in greater numbers than all the Reformers."

That one testimony takes the Baptists back to within nearly two hundred years of the apostolic era.

T. R. Burnett, who was a well-known minister of the Disciples' Church, or "Campbellite Church," said: "The Baptists have connection with the apostles through their line of succession, which extends back three hundred and fifty years, where it connects with the Waldensian line, and that reaches to the apostolic day. This is not a Baptist line but the Baptists have connection with this line, and through it have connection with the apostles" (Christian Messenger, December 8, 1886).

Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples' Church, said: "The Baptist denomination in all ages and in all countries has been, as a body, the constant asserters of the rights of man and the liberty of conscience. They have often been persecuted by Pedobaptists; but they never politically persecuted, though they have had it in their power" (A. Campbell on Baptism, page 409, editions of 1851 and 1953).

W. C. King, whose associate editors were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, David Jordan, and Lyman Abbott, declared: "Of the Baptists it may be said that they are not reformers. These people are entirely distinct and independent of the Roman and Greek Churches and have an unbroken continuity from the apostolic days down through the centuries" (Crossing the Centuries).

Doctors Ypeig and J. J. Dermont, historians of the Dutch Reformed Church, said: "We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses and have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrine of the gospel through all ages" (History of the Dutch Reformed Church, Volume 1, page 48).


1. Define the term, "church perpetuity."

2. Give seven Scriptural reasons for church perpetuity.

3. Explain the three lines of historical testimony, favoring church perpetuity.

4. Discuss the nine steps used in establishing the Anabaptist line.

5. What is meant by "ana," as a prefix to the Baptist name? (Note: That and several other names were given the Baptists through scorn by their enemies.)

6. Give the significance of the testimony of scholars, favoring the apostolic origin of Baptists.


Return to Home Page for Philip R. Bryan

Go to:

Preface Lesson I
Lesson II Lesson III
Lesson IV Lesson V
Lesson VI


4/24/01

Endnote

1. Lesson IV is contained on pages 54-69 of the "hard copy" edition. The current electronic version of the book follows the formatting of the original document as much as possible, especially in the method of documentation and use of bold characters. The original use of indentions at the beginning of paragraphs and in certain other places is not followed. The current document was scanned. Hence, typographical errors associated with such a process are no doubt present. The editor, Philip Bryan, will certainly appreciate readers who notify him about such errors and he asks that they do so.

Since the book was published in 1974 some of the information is not current, and the reader is asked to be cognizant of that fact.