Arhive pe categorii: Istorie baptista



Curtis Pugh

Poteau, Oklahoma


We are well aware that the popular notion today is that the church was born on the Day of Pentecost following the Lord’s ascension back to Heaven. Whether one believes in a universal visible church or a universal invisible church or only in local churches, this is the common theory prevalent today. Since the Lord Jesus promised “…I will build my church…” we think it better to believe Him rather than some theory of man that says the Holy Spirit built the church. (See Matthew 16:18). The Greek word for “build” transliterates as “oikodomeo” and means to “dome up” or complete a house or building. Further to the point, John the Baptist used the word “bride” of Christ’s congregation while He was on earth, saying “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29). The term “bride” is used consistently throughout the New Testament as a metaphor speaking of Christ’s Church, so it seems clear that John said that Christ had a Church prior to Pentecost!


Baptist elder S.E. Anderson in one of his books lists 21 things that Christ’s (local) Church had before Pentecost. Here is Bro. Anderson’s list.

1. Believers before Pentecost had the Gospel. (Matt. 4:23; Acts 19:4)


2. Believers before Pentecost were genuinely converted. (Luke 1:15-17; 19:1-10)


3. Believers before Pentecost were baptized after conversion. (Matt. 3:6-8)


4. Believers before Pentecost had Christ as their Head. (Matt. 23:8)


5. Believers before Pentecost were instructed in Church polity. (Matt. 18:15-20)


6. Believers before Pentecost were ordained. (John 15:16)


7. Believers before Pentecost were commissioned (Matt. 28:16-20)


8. Believers before Pentecost were organized enough for their needs. (John 13:29)


9. Believers before Pentecost had a missions program. (Matt. 10:1- 11:1)


10. Believers before Pentecost had the essentials of church-life. (Evangelism, service and worship, and the presence of Christ among them) (Matt. 4:9; 18:20)


11. Believers before Pentecost had qualified pastors. (John 21:15-17)


12. Believers before Pentecost had the Lord’s Supper. (Matt. 26:26-30)


13. Believers before Pentecost had the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)


14. Believers before Pentecost had Divine power to do Christ’s work. (Luke 9:1)


15. Believers before Pentecost sang “in the midst of the church.” (compare Heb. 2:12; with Matt. 26:30)


16. Believers before Pentecost had prayer meetings. (Acts 1:14)


17. Believers before Pentecost had business meetings. (Acts 1:15-26)


18. Believers before Pentecost had a membership roll. (Matt. 10:2-4; Acts 1:13-15)


19. Believers before Pentecost were united into a church in such a way that they could be “added unto.” (Acts 2:1 & 41)


20. Believers before Pentecost had Christ as their Foundation and Corner Stone (Matt: 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20)


21. Believers before Pentecost had Christ for a time as their pastor (“poimen”). Eph. 4:11 & John 10:14.


Now we raise this question: What did the church have after Pentecost that she did not have before Pentecost? She lacked one thing prior to Pentecost: The public testimony of God’s power. This was shown to all observers when Christ, the Divine Administrator, immersed His waiting Church into the Holy Spirit with demonstrable power as seen on that day of Pentecost. Prior to Pentecost she existed and lacked nothing that she gained on Pentecost other than that public testimony of Divine favor. So it was with the temple built by Solomon. It was complete and existed prior to the time the visible glory of the Lord filled the house. It was a real temple fitted for the worship and service of God, lacking only the visible Presence of God. (See 1 Kings chapter 8). And the Lord’s Church, prior to Pentecost, was a real, functioning Church, lacking only the manifestation of the glory and power of God which came on that Day of Pentecost.


IF a church of any kind was born or built or formed on Pentecost, why is the Bible silent on this matter? There is not a verse in the Bible that says that any kind of church came into being on Pentecost. And IF a church was established on Pentecost, she had to reach back into an old dispensation to get baptism, the Lord’s Supper and to get authority to make converts, baptize them, and teach them to observe what Christ commanded. Why do I say this? Because baptism, the supper, and the great commission were all entrusted to a body that existed prior to the church IF the church began on Pentecost. What body was this? So then, any church established after the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ has no ordinances and no commission or authority to act. And this is true for all churches which came into existence after Christ built His Church. What holes men dig for themselves when they leave off believing and following the Bible!



Reformatorii si copiii lor vitregi de Leonard Verduin

short description of Historic Baptists By Raul Enyedi

A short description of Historic Baptists
By Raul Enyedi
As the preservers of the doctrinal and practical simplicity found in the New
Testament, and having a continuous existence from the first Christian century until this
day, among the Baptists are to be found the original Christians. Our founder is not a
man, but the Savior Jesus Christ Himself.
In history we have been known under different names which were given to us due
to a certain characteristic or a certain leader or place. Novatians, Donatists, Paulicians,
Albigenses, Waldenses are just a few of these names. Generally we were known by the
deprecatory name “Anabaptists” (rebaptizers). This was because we did not recognize
acts performed by churches which we considered not authentic and baptized those who
were converted to our faith. However, we never acknowledged that name, because we
did not consider that we baptized the second time. Rather we baptized for the first time in
a correct, biblical way. In the course of time the prefix “ana” was dropped and we
remained known as “Baptists” (baptizers).
Our historic development is different than that of the traditional Churches. We did
not come out of the Protestant Reformation, nor from the Roman Church, nor from the
Greek. We did not identify with any of these churches and we are not like them. Sir
Isaac Newton, the great man of science, stated that he was convinced that the Baptists are
the only Christians “that have never symbolized with Rome.” Looking back in history,
we take this statement as a great compliment.
Being unjustly called “heretics” (Mircea Eliade, the great historian of religion, said
“the first Christian forms were closer to those who were classed later on as heretical”),
our forefathers were severely persecuted by both the ecclesiastic and secular authorities.
Many paid with their own lives for what was thought to be the ultimate guilt, that of
believing and practicing in their everyday lives the principles of the New Testament and
of asking for freedom for all people to serve God according to the dictates of their
conscience. Even though millions were martyred for their faith, in their turn they never
persecuted any other person. Nobody suffered persecution at the hand of the Baptists and
not even one drop of blood was spilled in the name of our religion!
The particularities after which our churches can be identified today, as well as in
any given time of Christian history are the following:
1. According to the biblical definition, the church is the assembly of baptized
believers in a given place – an organization centered on spiritual activities,
whose Founder, Head and Lawgiver is the Savior Jesus Christ. The church
is not a building and is not formed only of the clergy. We do not believe in
concepts like national or universal Church, these being in contradiction with the
2. Members of a church can be only persons who believed the Gospel and
whose lives have been visibly changed. To believe the Gospel means to
believe that man deserves death for his sins, and can be saved only by God, by
grace (that is, without deserving salvation) because of the fact that Christ
suffered the punishment for his sins. We believe that man cannot save himslef
by his works and cannot possibly cause God to be favorable toward him. Man
is totally dependent on God’s mercy.
3. The way to enter the church is by baptism (performed only by immersion)
based on the personal testimony of each candidate. This is the beginning of
the Christian life. From that moment follows obedience and faithfulness toward
all the teachings of the New Testament.
4. The church has only two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
These are symbolic. Nothing miraculous happens during these ceremonies.
They commemorate the death and the resurrection of the Lord and show our
identification with Him. These are not saving sacraments, therefore,
participation in them does not assure anyone’s salvation.
5. The laws and ordinances upon which the church functions are found
exclusively in the New Testament (even though we believe that the whole
Bible is the Word of God). The church is a New Testament institution.
Therefore, we do not accept other standards, viz. Old Testament Jewish forms
and practices, Church tradition, teachings of a modern prophet, etc.
6. There is no hierarchy or clergy in the church. The church has only two sorts
of servants. Pastors, who are also called bishops and elders in the Scriptures.
They have responsibility for the teaching and spiritual growth of believers; and
deacons, who take care of the natural duties of the church.
7. The church functions as a pure democracy. Every member is actively
involved in the life of the church and the decisions are made by the vote of the
majority. There are no differences between members, all being equal. We do
not have boards, committees or other ruling bodies.
8. The churches – local assemblies – are independent one from another in the
exercise of their laws and discipline, but cooperate one with another as equals in
different activities. No church has authority over another one. The association
of churches in different supra-church structures is unbiblical and harmful to
local churches.
9. We believe in the absolute separation between church and state. We pay
authorities what we owe them, as citizens of the state in which we live. We do
not demand concessions from the government. We believe that the expenses of
each church are not public expenses, but must be supported by the members of
that church.
10. We believe and maintain that every man has the right to religious freedom.
Nobody has the right to impose a religion by force, because every person is
responsible before God for what he believes and for the way he lives his life.
These ten particularities make us differ from many churches that are still called
“Baptist,” but they represent the doctrinal and practical skeleton by which a Baptist
church, can be recognized, whatever name it bore or historic period in which it existed.
Since all these principles are found in the Scriptures, we consider them all to be essential
characteristics without which a church cannot be an authentic church of Christ.
A few other characteristics are worth noticing.
We believe that the only intermediary between God and men is Jesus Christ.
Through Him we have free access to God, without needing the intercession of priests or
Our churches do not have holydays. What most people consider to be Christian
holydays are actually Jewish rituals, but even more often old pagan celebrations to which
were given Christian names. From these pagan celebrations the practices and sometimes
even the dates were kept. The celebration of Christmas, for example, is also called the
celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. But the Scriptures do not give an exact date of His
birth, but only the approximate period (end of September, beginning of October). If we
try to find in history the origin of the date and practices of Christmas we shall find them
as coming from paganism. Moreover, the Bible does not tell us that we must celebrate
His birth. These are sufficient reasons for us not to be involved in such holydays. For
the Christian, every day lived in obedience to God is a day of celebration, of rest for the
We believe that the purpose of the church is not that of granting salvation to men.
The principle “there is no salvation outside the church” is unbiblical. God is the one who
saves souls, not men. Men cannot save themselves and cannot save anyone else, whoever
they might be and whatever they might do. The purpose of the church is that of
representing Christ and His message before the rest of the world and of helping the
spiritual growth of believers. An authentic church is the place where God accepts the
worship and the service of believers.
Baptists always promoted the increase of knowledge and education among men.
The concept of blind faith is foreign to us. We do not have lists of forbidden books,
secular or religious, and we encourage true science. The Bible does not encourage
narrowness and ignorance. The saying “believe and search not” is not biblical, as many
believe. The Bible states the contrary: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
This is our principle.
We are not part of the ecumenical movement (the movement of unification of
churches) because, unfortunately, they do not return to truth, or to the spirituality of
original Christianity, or to the teachings and practices of the New Testament. On the
contrary, these are continually ignored. The doctrinal basis of ecumenism is the decrees
of the first ecumenical councils.
We are different and separated from Baptist churches that are involved directly or
indirectly, through the representatives of their ruling bodies, in the ecumenical movement
or have given up some of the fundamental Baptist principles.
Our purpose is not the conversion of the world or a certain nation to one ideology.
We do not use marketing strategies for development and do not seek financial success or
advantages. What we hope to accomplish, and that we shall do, if the Lord wills, is to
present the Gospel of Christ to as many people as we can and to convince them to read
the Holy Scriptures because there is found the way to eternal life. The rest depends on


David Benedict, the Baptist historian, was born in Norwalk, Conn., Oct. 10, 1779. His love for historical reading and investigation developed intself in early life. At twenty he made a profession of his faith in Christ. Religion did for him what is has done for so many thousands of others, –quickened his intellectual nature, and made him aspire after something elevating. He entered Brown University, where he graduated in 1806. Soon after he was ordained as pastor of the Baptist church in Pawtucket, R. I., where he remained twenty-five years. During all this time he had been busy in gathering, from every part of the country, the materials out of which to form a comprehensive history of the Baptist denomination, and had sent to press several volumes relating to the subject of his investigations. After retiring from his pastorate, he gave himself with great diligence to the work of completing the task he had undertaken. He felt it to be his special vocation to do this work, and he made everything bend to its accomplishment. Among his published writing are the following: „History of the Baptist,” 1813; „Abridgment of Robinsons’ History of Baptism,” 1817; „Abridgment of History of the Baptists,” 1820; „History of all Religions,” 1824; „History of the Baptist Continued,” 1848. „Fifty Years among the Baptist,” 1860. He wrote also a history of the Donatists, which was completed just before he was ninety-five years of age, and which, since his death, has been printed. All through his life he was in the habit of writing much for the public press. He took a leading part in the founding of various religious organizations in his denominations, in promoting the cause of education, in the formation of new churches, etc. He carried the habits of hard work, which he had formed in the maturity of his years, down to the close of life. He was remarkably favored with good eyesight, and his vision was unimparied to the last. At the time of his death he had been the senior member of the board of trustees of Brown University for sixteen years, and had been in the corporation for fifty-six years. Dr. Benedict died at Pawtucket, Dect. 5, 1874, having reached the great age of ninety-five years one month and twenty-five days.


Historical Sketches of North Africa, The Principal Country of the Donatists

Optatus Against the Donatists – The Origin of This Work

Persecutions of the Donatists

Extracts From the Writings of the Donatists

The Conference at Carthage, in Africa, Between the Catholics and the Donatists

The Second and
Third Days of the Conference

Closing Scenes of the Conference, Mostly by the Donatists

Various Matters Concerning the Above Named Convocation, Its Origin and
Chief Manager, with Comments by Different Parties

The Catholic Discipline Compared with That of the Donatists

Biographical Sketches of Donatist Authors and Distinguished Men

Denominational Character of the Donatists

The Donatists
were Accused of a Confederacy with the Circumcelliones

Evidence Against the Demoralizing Influence of the Conference of Carthage on the Affairs of the Donatists

Pope Gregory Against the Donatists

Du Pin’s History of the Donatists

Review of the History of the Donatists and the Last Days of Augustine

Historical Sketches of North Africa,
The Principal Country of the Donatists
For a number of centuries this country has been called the Barbary States, or simply Barbary, a term probably derived from the Barbary, who were long the ruling people of the country, and whose descendants are still numerously found among the fastnesses of the Atlas mountains. Under the Romans, at first this was one province; in the time of the Donatists it was divided into six; its divisions now are the empire of Morocco; Algeria, belonging to France for more than a third of a century; Tunis, under a Bey, who claims to be an independent sovereign; Tripoli, and the Desert of Barca. The last two belong to the Ottoman empire. In the time of the Donatists, the provinces most distinguished for this people were the Proconsular, in which were Carthage, Numidia, and the two Mauritinias. They cover a long and narrow strip of land extending about two thousand miles from the borders of Egypt on the east, to the Atlantic ocean on the west. Its average width is probably less than three hundred miles. It has the Mediterranean sea on the north, and the Sandy Desert on the South. Although this territory is situated in the temperate zone, mostly between the thirtieth and the thirty-seventh degrees of north latitude, the heat is often rendered exceedingly oppressive, during the summer months, by the proximity to the Great Desert, whose winds have a withering effect on the vegetables and animals of the country. The Atlas mountains extend great distances, running mostly parallel to the Mediterranean coast, and have several peaks and spurs, whose relations to the main chain are broken. The climate, soil and productions are exceedingly various. Some delightful spots are found among the mountains, whose coolness and verdure are a perpetual source of enjoyment. But the general aspect of the country is sad, bearing unmistakable marks of ruin and decay. Africa Felix, embracing an extensive district of North Africa, is described by old Roman writers as the granary of Italy, and the jewel of the empire; but it now seems, when seen under a July and August sun, but little better than a desert. Indeed, the desert is gradually advancing towards the sea, dispersing the population and producing a widespread solitude. Populous cities and flourishing fields that once greeted the traveler are now hard to find. Remarks on the Original Inhabitants of the Country Under Consideration This region, says Mr. Perry, in his history of Tunis and Carthage, was early settled by a primitive race, of whose name and character we have but feeble traces. Its history, he says, begins only with the arrival of the Phoenician colonists, ten or twelve centuries before the Christian era. From that time great and marvelous changes began to take place. The natives were absorbed by the more powerful colonists, and great cities and states were founded, the most important of which were Carthage and Utica. The former of these cities brought under its sway all its rivals upon the continent of Africa, including Cyrenaica, founded by the sturdy Greeks, who were finally overcome by intrigue rather than bravery. Carthage, launching her forces upon the Mediterranean for the conquest of Sardinia and Sicily, was met in the latter island by the soldiers of Rome, which was then just emerging from the period of infancy. We are now on the eve, or the commencement, of the long and bloody contests between Carthage and Rome.

The Three Punic Wars
These wars, in which the generals, Hannibal on the side of the Carthaginians, and Scipio, surnamed Africanus, on that of the Romans, were conspicuous, lasted nearly one hundred and twenty years, ending about a century and a half before the birth of Christ, with the ruin of Carthage and the reduction of her people and territory under the Roman rule. Under Rome, Carthage was rebuilt, and probably attained greater splendor and magnificence than when it was the capital of a mighty empire. As a Phoenician city, Carthage was the abode of princely merchants, intriguing politicians, and mighty warriors. As a Roman city, it was the resort and abode of learned men who cultivated the fine arts, and made theses African shores as distinguished for civilization and refinement, as they had been, at an earlier period, for military glory and commercial enterprise. But still it was notorious for the most horrible acts of idol worship, in the midst of which Christianity was introduced at an early period, at which time we are not informed, as we are of the persecutions of Christians by the heathen rulers; especially by Tertullian in his able defense of the Christian cause. It was in this country that Felicita and Perpetua, two noble females, suffered martyrdom while it was under the heathen rulers. But in process of time Christianity spread over the whole land. In this country, says Perry, where today the Koran reigns, arose innumerable churches, from Egypt to Tangiers, from the desert to the coast.

The Rise of the Donatists
With the exception of the Novatians, who were in the field as dissenters from the main body of professed Christians, about half a century earlier, the Donatists were the largest community of the sound evangelical class, in early times. The circumstances of their origin, and events connected with it, I will relate in the language of Mosheim, although some of his statements may not altogether agree with other statements less tinctured with Catholic prejudices: „Mensurius, bishop of the Catholic church of Carthage, in Africa, died in the year 311; and the greatest part of the clergy and people chose in his place the archdeacon Caecilian, who, without waiting for the assembly of the Numidian bishops, was consecrated by those of Africa alone. „This hasty proceeding was the occasion of much trouble. The Numidian bishops, who had always been present at the consecration of the bishops of Carthage, were highly offended at their being excluded from this solemn ceremony, and assembling themselves at Carthage, called Caecilian before them, to give an account of his conduct. The flame thus kindled, was greatly augmented by certain Carthaginian presbyters who were competitors with Caecilian, particularly Bostrus and Celesius. „Lucilla also, an opulent lady, who had been reprimanded by Caecilian for her superstitious practices, and had conceived against him a bitter enmity on that account, was active in exasperating the spirits of his adversaries, and distributed a large sum of money among the Numidians to encourage them in their opposition to the new bishop. In consequence of all this, Caecilian, refusing to submit to the judgment of the Numidians, was condemned in a council, assembled by Secundus, bishop of Tigisis, consisting of seventy prelates, who, with the consent of a considerable part of the clergy and people, declared him unworthy of the episcopal dignity, and chose his deacon, Majorinus, for his successor. By this proceeding, the Carthaginian church was divided into two factions, and groaned under the contests of two rival bishops, Caecilian and Majorinus. „The Numidians alleged two important reasons to justify their sentence against Caecilian; first, that Felix of Aptungus, the chief of the bishops who assisted at his consecration, was a traditor, that is, one of those who, during the persecution under Diocletian, had delivered the sacred writings and the pious books of the Christians to the magistrates to be burnt; and that having thus apostatized from the service of Christ, it was not possible that he could impart the Holy Ghost to the new bishop. „A second reason for their sentence against Caecilian was drawn from the harshness and even cruelty that he had discovered in his conduct, while he was a deacon, towards the Christian confessors and martyrs, during the persecution above mentioned, whom he abandoned in the most merciless manner, to all the extremities of hunger and want, leaving them without food in their prisons, and hindering those who were willing to succor them, from bringing them relief. To these accusations they added the insolent contumacy of the new prelate, who refused to obey their summons, and to appear before them in council to justify his conduct.” The Donatists having brought this controversy before Constantine the Great, that emperor, in the year 313, appointed Melchiades, bishop of Rome, to examine the matter, and he named three bishops of Gaul to assist him in the business. In this case, said the Donatists, the bishops shut themselves up, and in a hurry passed sentence against them, refusing to hear their complaints. Similar meetings by the order of Constantine were convened in a number of different places, all ex parte, in all of which the Donatists were condemned. Instead of continuing the prolix and extended narratives of Mosheim on the subject under consideration, which are according to the version of the Catholics, with whom he appears to have been identified, I will give extracts from the descriptions of a secular author, who, as an outside observer, was not identified with either side. Previous, however, to introducing these extracts, I will relate this author’s report of the amount of money the famous Lucilla is reputed to have paid the Numidian bishops, toward advancing her servant, so called, Majorinus, to the bishopric of Carthage. The details are given in the note. As Majorinus is said to have been Lucilla’s reader or chaplain, this may account for the term servant being applied to him.

The Rise and Early History of the Donatists
By Gibbon
Although in the following descriptions we have not only Catholic versions, but also those of a changeable secular writer; yet, as some of the sentences are very appropriate, I will not omit those of different mold. „The complaints and mutual accusations which assailed the throne of Constantine, as soon as the death of Maxentius had submitted Africa to his victorious arms, were ill adapted to edify an imperfect proselyte. He learned with surprise that the provinces of that great country, from the confines of Cyrene to the columns of Hercules, were distracted with religious discord. The source of the vision was derived from a double election in the church of Carthage; the second, in rank and opulence, of the ecclesiastical thrones of the west. Caecilian and Majorinus were the two rival primates of Africa; and the death of the latter soon made room for Donatus, who, by his superior abilities and apparent virtues, was the firmest support of his party. „The advantage which Caecilian might claim from the priority of his ordination was destroyed by the illegal, or at least indecent, haste with which it had been performed, without expecting the arrival of the bishops of Numidia. The authority of these bishops, who, to the number of seventy, condemned Caecilian and consecrated Majorinus, is again weakened by the infamy of some of their personal characters, and by the female intrigues and bargains and tumultuous proceedings imputed to the Donatists in the council of the Numidians which condemned Caecilian.”

The above reproachful terms were evidently copied by Gibbon from Catholic history, as were all his descriptions of the kind. In the following passages we have specimens of unusual candor for a secular author of Mr. Gibbon’s class: „Both parties,” says Gibbon, „accused each other of being traitors. The controversy,” says he, „in which Constantine was concerned, improperly,” as he has elsewhere suggested, „lasted three years.” „As,” says this writer, „the cause of the Donatists was examined with attention, perhaps it was determined with justice; but perhaps their complaints were not without foundation, that the credulity of the emperor was abused by the insidious acts of his favorite, Otius.” This is a candid and sensible remark. „The rise of the Donatists, which scarcely deserves a place in history,” says Gibbon, „was productive of a memorable schism, which afflicted all the provinces of Africa above three hundred years, and was extinguished only with Christianity itself.” „The inflexible zeal of freedom and fanaticism,” continues our author of a two-fold dialect, „animated the Donatists to refuse obedience to the usurpers whose election they disputed, and whose spiritual powers they denied.” I will leave the above descriptions without comment at present. „Notwithstanding this irreconcilable aversion, the two parties, who were mixed and separated in all the cities of Africa, had the same language and manner; the same zeal and learning; the same faith and worship. Proscribed by the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the empire, the Donatists still maintained in some provinces, particularly in Numidia, their superior numbers, and four hundred bishops acknowledged the jurisdiction of their primate.” In the foregoing remarks, it is plain to be seen, this writer is partial and impartial by turns. While he had but little affection for the Donatists as a dissenting party of Christians, he had less for the Catholics as such, and as persecutors. His stigmas on the Donatists are merely repetitions of the language of their adversaries. What was said by Gibbon of the Donatists afflicting Africa, or, in other words, the Catholics, for above three hundred years, is in direct opposition, as to time, to all Catholic history on this subject, which allows them but about one hundred years. Gibbon’s date is doubtless correct; and what he says of their being extinguished only with Christianity itself, has reference to the Mahometan conquest and invasion of the country, which they have held for about twelve centuries. Du Pin’s Monumenta was Gibbon’s authority in general. My account of this work is given in Chapter XIV. The foregoing statements of the reputed facts concerning the doings and affairs of the Donatists are for the most part from the writings of Optatus, the earliest writer against this people. They have been quoted by authors generally with apparently full confidence in their correctness; while Friar Baldwin, a semi-modern Catholic writer, whose comments on some of the positions of Optatus, and also of Augustine, will be candidly criticized in these narratives, quite often convicts them of historical errors. Of one subject which he named, he said he doubted whether Optatus, secluded in a corner of Numidia, ought to have said anything whatever on the early affairs of the Donatists, of which he had no records, by his own account. A brief account of the different kinds of treatment of the Donatists, first and last, by the then newly proclaimed emperor Constantine, will now be given. This proclamation was made by the Roman army in 306. At this time the whole empire was full of the temples of idols, in whose worship the ruling powers and the great mass of the people were involved. As was stated by Gibbon, the newly proclaimed emperor did not gain control of the whole empire till after the death of his rival, Maxentius, which event happened in 312. Constantine now having control of the whole empire, and having openly professed the Christian religion, proclaimed freedom of conscience to all parties who professed it. Such was the fair prospect for dissenters from the main body of professed Christians, in the commencement of the reign of the first Christian emperor. But the new ruler, instead of pursuing a course so just and fair, in his attempts to reconcile the parties by meddling with their disputes, soon became a partisan himself, in opposition to the Donatists, and in his support of the dominant party, by splendid patronage and coercive measures. „From this time,” said Neander, „the whole matter took another turn; laws of the state now appeared against the party of Majorinus; they were deprived of their churches, and the places where they assembled were confiscated. They were treated as transgressors of the imperial laws. The forces by which it was sought to destroy them, as usually happens, only proved the means of giving them a new impulse, and pushed the spirit of enthusiasm already existing among them in the bud, into full development.” Majorinus, indeed, died in the year 215; but with him the schism, which had struck deeper root, by no means ceased. Besides, he had rather served to give an outward name to the party, than really constitute the head and soul of it. The latter had until now been Donatus, bishop of Casae Nigrae in Numidia, who stood in the same relation to Majorinus as, under similar circumstances, Novatus had done to Novatian at the beginning of the Novatian schism. But Donatus, the successor of Majorinus, was himself the head and soul of the sect. „When now the Donatists, in addition to what they had done already, transmitted to the emperor, in the year 321, a petition, in which they declared that nothing would induce them to enter into church fellowship with that scoundrel, his bishop (meaning Caecilian); that they would rather suffer everything he might choose to inflict on them; Constantine became convinced, doubtless, still more than ever, by the tone of this document, of the dangerous consequences which must follow, if violent measures for the restoration of the peace of the church were pursued any farther. „Experience led him to act according to the principles which, in obedience to the voice of reason and the spirit of Christianity, he ought to have pursued from the beginning. In a rescript addressed to the Vicar Verinus, in North Africa, Constantine granted the Donatists full liberty to act according to their own convictions, declaring that this was a matter which belonged to the judgment of God. To these principles Constantine remained firm to the end.” The persecutions above described continued about five years. Constantine died in 337, and for the last sixteen years of his reign the Donatists were not harassed by any persecuting laws. This was the first great temporal state ruler who embraced the Christian cause, and his bad example in dealing with the Donatists has been followed, and very often much surpassed, by countless numbers of professedly Christian rulers in all succeeding ages. While such a statement is highly discreditable to Christianity itself, that is still more so which places the clergy, in most cases, at the bottom of persecution. Temporal rulers always have enough of their own various affairs to engross their attention without meddling with religious controversies, which they generally as little understand as did Constantine the reason of the Donatists for dissenting from the Catholic church, or the difficulty of forcing them to return to it.

A Great Change in the Odious Business Of Persecution
By the Aid of the Secular Powers
In the early age of Christianity the persecution of Christians, by pains and penalties, was by the worshipers of the false gods of the heathen. Different parties had their controversies, but they could have no aid from the secular powers against their opponents, had they desired it; but no sooner was the first emperor, who professed himself a Christian, seated on the throne, than there was an entire change in the business of persecution, so far as its subjects were concerned. Formerly, it was the heathen persecuting the Christians; now, it was Christians persecuting their recusant brethren, who were worshipers of the same God. This bad example of the first Christian ruler, who was not naturally a persecutor, was doubtless through the influence of persecuting court bishops, of whom a countless number has existed in all nations, of every age. Events in the Early Operations of the Donatists. As some of these events will be referred to in our subsequent narratives, at present I shall have respect only to Donatus himself. He was not only condemned at Rome, but retained there, for what reason, or how long, we are not informed. It is said he was condemned by the council, so called, on his confession that he had rebaptized and reordained fallen bishops; „lapsed,” was then the term. This old story, which has gone the rounds of all church history, was not credited by Friar Baldwin, the Catholic historian before referred to.

Donatus At Rome
After the council at Rome, according to Fleury, the Donatists waited on the emperor and complained of not being heard in that meeting; that the few Catholic bishops shut themselves up, passed sentence against them in a hurry, and refused any examination of Felix, the ordainer of Caecilian. At length Donatus sought and obtained permission of Constantine to return to Carthage. Then, says the historian, Filumin, an officer of the emperor’s household, suggested that, for the sake of peace, Caecilian should be retained at a place called Brixia, which was accordingly done. At the same time the emperor sent two bishops, named Eunomius and Olympius, into Africa in search of the true church among the contending parties, which being done, they were to remove the two rival bishops, and place another in the episcopal chair. To abridge a long account, the two bishops spent forty days in Carthage on their mission without deciding which was the prevailing party; but being true Catholics, in the end their report favored that side, and of course they aided Caecilian in his contest for the episcopal seat. The inexperience of Constantine appears in his appointing two bishops of the same party to decide which side was the strongest. Du Pin, in commenting on the plan of Filumin to keep Caecilian away from Carthage while the search of the above named bishops was being made, says he was a partisan of Donatus. On this hypothesis he had a friend in Caesar’s household. This plan for the absence of Caecilian, on the part of the prudent Filumin, indicates a decidedly unfavorable opinion of the man; and the fact that the two bishops above referred to, after forty days’ search among the Catholics and the Donatists, could not decide which party prevailed, affords conclusive evidence of the multitude of the reformers in the populous city of Carthage, in the very beginning of their operations. Not only in Carthage, the seat of the controversy about ordaining Caecilian, did a numerous party arise, but the Catholics themselves say that from this ordination the whole of Catholic Africa was split into two parties, and in most of the churches a bishop was designated for each party. In all the accounts, the origin of the Donatists is wholly attributed to a disagreement in the choice of a new bishop at Carthage. That this was the occasion of the schism out of which the new party arose is very plain, but that the real cause of it may be traced to the opposition of the reformers to the old system of church building and management, and to a radical change in church discipline and purity, will fully appear in our subsequent narratives, especially in the last chapter.
1. This is an exparte story, and very doubtful.

2. The Latin traditor and the English traitor have the same meaning; the Latin term above is well defined as then used. But in this whole history we shall find the Donatists very often apply the term to their opponents in a more extended sense. „Our traitors and persecutors” was with them a very common expression. Traditores persecutoresque nostri was their language.

3. The amount was four hundred foles. Every foles contained one hundred and twenty-five pieces of silver, and the whole sum may be computed at about two thousand four hundred pounds sterling. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Vol. 1, page 314. Note. Harper’s Ed. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Vol. 1, pp. 436

4. Nullo modo se communicationes, antistiti ipsius nebuloni. Neander’s Church History, Vol. 2, p.193.

5. Ex hac ordinatione scissa est in duos parets universa Africa, constituti in plerisque ecclesias duo pro utraque parte episcopi. Op. August, in tomum nonum praefacio.

Optatus Against the Donatists–
The Origin of This Work
This work is described by Friar Baldwin. Although he was a firm Catholic of the legal profession, yet he was an unusually candid historian, and well acquainted with the history, both of his own people and of the Donatists. In his annotations on Optatus, which will be noticed hereafter, he gives brief descriptions of the early writings of both parties, according to which, Donatus himself wrote many works concerning his own sect, of which one Vitellius was a sharp defender, as was Parmenian, the successor of Donatus. In the meantime, says the Friar, the Catholics were almost dumb, as they certainly did not publish any works in their own defense; but at length Optatus, the Catholic bishop of Mileve, in Numidia, appeared against the Donatists in reply to the work of Parmenian against the Catholics. The production now to be examined was in Latin, in which language it still remains. By itself it is a small concern in the amount of matter; but with the notes and comments of various Catholic writers, it occupies about one-half of the folio volume which bears the name of the „Works of Optatus.” But although small in size, yet as it is wholly devoted to matters of controversy between him and his opponent Parmenian, I have found more facts in it pertaining to the complaints of the ordinary transactions of the Donatists, and of their inroads on the Catholics, than in Augustine or any other opponent of this ancient community. But these complaints were similar to those which are always made concerning a new party which arises in an old and lukewarm church. This earliest writer against the Donatists was severe and mild by turns; but his concessions to his opponents were quite unusual, as will hereafter be seen. In the midst of his Catholic zeal he claimed a brotherhood with the Donatists, and never branded them with the odious name of heretics. Optatus, says Du Pin, begins his first book with words full of charity. He complained that the peace which Jesus Christ left to his church was disturbed by the schism and the actions of the Donatists, yet he gives them the name and the title of brethren. Though they renounce us, says he, though all the world knows that they hate us and detest us, though they would not have us call them brethren, yet we will follow the command of the prophet in saying, nevertheless ye are our brethren, although ye are not good and kind to us. We have one spiritual nativity, but are different in our ways; therefore let no one wonder that I call them brethren since they cannot be otherwise, whether they will or not. Now, said Optatus to Parmenian, so often as I have shown that we are the children of the same mother, which you cannot deny, yet you continue your scandals against us. Finally, with you and with us there is the same form of discipline, we read the same scriptures, we have the same faith, the same rule of faith, and the same sacraments. These complaints by Optatus, which are scattered in different places in this work, I shall notice under appropriate heads. Against the rebaptizing of the Donatists. As both the Catholics and the Donatists practiced immersion in baptism, there could be no dispute between them on the mode of baptism. Optatus was in union with the Donatists in maintaining the requirement of faith before baptism. The repetition of the rite was the principal matter of dispute between the parties, except that Optatus, with his party, held to the salutary influence of baptism. Baptism, said he, makes a man a Christian, and how can he be made a Christian the second time? Baptism in the name of the Trinity confers grace, which is destroyed by a second baptism. The apostle Paul hath said there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. If, said Optatus to Parmenian, you still contend for the liberty of giving another baptism, then give another faith; if another faith, then another Christ; if another Christ, then another God; but, said, he, you cannot deny the unity of God without falling into the pit of the heretic Marcion. We, said Optatus, instead of rebaptizing Donatists, after the example of the Master, receive them with all humility; far be it from us, that we should recall them for a second washing. There are three things in baptism, said Optatus to his opponent Parmenian, which you can neither increase, nor diminish, nor omit. The first is the Trinity, without which no baptism was valid. The second is the believer. The third is the baptizer. But, says this author, they are not of equal weight. The first two he pronounced necessary; for the faith of the baptizer, he said there was only a quasi or sort of necessity. „Yes,” says the Catholic bishop Albaspin, in his notes on Optatus, „the person baptized ought to believe, he ought to have faith, which is not required of the administrator of baptism.” Because the Donatists required faith not only of the person baptized, but also of the baptizer, Optatus accused them of esteeming themselves more holy than the Catholics. Du Pin, in his closing remarks on this passage, said: Optatus endeavored to prove that the faith of him who receives baptism is necessary for the validity of the sacrament. This, he said, must be understood of adult persons only. Du Pin, in this case, spoke as a pedobaptist would have it, and in favor of his own practice, since there is nothing in the original to warrant the assertion.

On the Lawfulness or Unlawfulness Of rebaptizing
You, said Optatus to Parmenian, say it is lawful, while we say it is unlawful; and between your lawful and our unlawful, the minds of the people are wafted to and fro; none will believe you, and none will believe us, but they all regard us as a contentious kind of men. Trine immersion is supposed to have been referred to by Optatus when he said to the Donatists, we defend the union of baptism administered in the name of the Trinity. Not without reason, says an editor of Optatus, some may suspect those trine immersions are here referred to which were required in the 50th Canon of the Apostolic Constitutions, which reads thus: „If any bishop or presbyter do not perform three immersions in one baptism, which is given into the death of Christ, let him be deposed.”

The Censures of Optatus of the Donatists
„Thou sittest and speakest evil of thy brother, and thou slanderest thy mother’s son. „Thou sawest the thief and didst run with him. „Thou hast thy portion with adulterers.” In justice to Optatus in the above censures, I will explain his meaning in the following terms: In Patristic writing, the term mother means the Catholic church; and she being accounted the spouse of Christ, all who left her for other lovers were termed adulterers. Running with a thief instead of stopping him was intended as a reproach on the Donatists, for what Optatus called their stealing the Catholic members. „God says seek peace and pursue it; and in the gospel we read of peace on earth and good will to men; but with you there is no peace nor good will with us. „Behold, says the Psalmist, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. But nothing of this, will you have with us, your brethren. „Peter was informed by Christ that he who had been well washed once, had no need of being washed again; but you, in your rebaptizing our members, give them another washing.” This finding baptism in feetwashing was often referred to by Optatus. In this case he was wise above what was written by his own confession, namely, in adding bene, well, to make it read well washed. This, with him, was Catholic baptism. „God says, touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm, yet how many of the anointed priests of God with us, have been spoiled of their priestly honors, with you. „Christ knows his disciples by their loving each other; but you will not imitate the apostles, by whom even Peter, the betrayer of his Master, was beloved.”

The Penitentiary System Among the Catholics
As much will soon be said by Optatus from a Catholic standpoint on the supposed degradation of the bishops and other officers of the dominant church who went to the Donatists, at this point I will give a brief account of the ancient penitentiary system. Penance is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic church, and penitents, instead of being candidates for church membership, are church members, and sometimes officers, in disgrace. Such, in the time of Optatus, was the punishment of bad bishops with the Catholics, and with men of this class he associated all who united with the Donatists, hence the sympathy he professed for his former brethren of the episcopal order, and of the other classes of converts by the Donatists, among whom Optatus seemed to suppose the penitentiary system was in vogue; whereas nothing of it appears in their history in all that is said of their church polity by Augustine and others. They turned out of their churches at once those whom the Catholics placed under penance. „The church,” said Optatus, „is divided into four classes, namely, bishops, presbyters, deacons, and the faithful, or the laity; not one of these classes, said this complaining writer to the Donatist bishop Parmenian, have you been willing to spare. God mourns over those sacrilegious acts of yours. You have found young men whom you have put under penance lest they should be ordained.” Those who were put under penance were disqualified from officiating in any office. „You have found faithful old men whom you have made penitents; acknowledge you have perverted their souls. You have found deacons, presbyters and bishops, whom you have made laymen; acknowledge you have perverted their souls. You have sharpened your tongues into swords for the death of our clergy, not of their bodies, but of their honors; you have slaughtered, not their members, but their names. The men still live in their members, but of what avail are they, but to bear about the funereal badges of their slaughtered dignity? Oh, the unheard of impiety, that the priests of God should be thus slaughtered among your penitents. You have committed a living homicide. God says, touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” The large accessions to the Donatists from the Catholic clergy are clearly indicated by the above complaints. All who continued in office in their new connection were of course rebaptized and reordained.

Optatus Complains of the Donatists for the
Divisions they Caused Among the Catholics
„You can remember,” said he, to his antagonist Parmenian, „how, not long since, by your proselyting measures, the members of the mother church were scattered. For you could not seduce a whole household at once. But either the wife went away, leaving her husband behind her, or else both parents were seduced, and the children were unwilling to follow them; or, it may be, the sister wandered away, and the brother remained at home.” Such, said Optatus, are the divisions of the persons and the families of piety by your unlawful persuasions. The censorious bishop reproached his opponents who made such inroads among his people with entering dwellings with the familiar salutation, „Peace to this house, peace be with you;” while, said he, like those of old, you cry, „Peace, peace, where there is no peace;” and this is because you esteem yourselves to be the only holy people. If you think you suffer persecution, say, said he, what do whole provinces of Catholics suffer from you? The great success of the Donatists in gaining adherents to their cause from the Catholic ranks, may be inferred from the foregoing complaints of Optatus.

Free Remarks of Optatus on the Proselytizing
Measures of the Donatists
For the most part he addressed them in the serious manner of the foregoing details, but occasionally his language was quite humorous and sarcastic. When the Donatists reoccupied their churches which had been used by the Catholics, they of course found some renovating measures needful, which the oversensitive bishop turned to a bad account against his own people, in the following terms: You, said he, have scraped the stones of the pavements, have whitewashed the walls of the churches, and have washed the baptismal baths and garments. Go on, said he, with your cleansing process, and wash the water itself if you can; why leave anything unwashed. Optatus continued his flings against his opponents by comparing them to skillful fowlers in the hawking system, in which captured birds catch the free, and dead birds kill the living ones. Such, said he to Parmenian, is your practice in rebaptizing and in penitence.

Optatus’s List of the Countries Where Christianity
was Spread in His Time, About 368
As the Catholics claimed special relation to all Christendom, the object in this case seems to have been to show their superiority over the Donatists. I will give the list as I find it in Optatus, without any chronological order. Africa, Spain, Italy, Gaul, three Pannonias, Dacia, Misia, Thrace, Achaia, Macedonia, all Greece, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Pamphylia, Phrygia, Cilicia, three Syrias, two Armenias, all Egypt, Mesopotamia, and innumerable islands, so numerous that they can hardly be named. Britain is not named in this list, for which no reason is given, although Christianity was planted there at an early period; but it was some time after Optatus before Austin with his forty monks was sent there to convert the Saxons. In none of the above named countries, said Optatus to the Donatist, Parmenian, are your people found, except in a corner of Africa. O, ungrateful and foolish presumption, said he, that you should attempt to persuade men that you alone have the true Catholic faith. In opposition to the assertion of the Donatists being confined to a corner of Africa, Optatus at another time decidedly implicated them in what was not then customary with the Catholics, of sending out missionaries not only to Spain and Gaul, but over the seas, to remote regions of other tongues. By a change of language Optatus addressed his opponent in the following pacific terms: We, said he, pray for you willingly, while you may pray for us unwillingly; so you see, brother Parmenian, the holy bonds of brotherhood between you and us cannot be wholly broken asunder; let human suspicion cease; let the assurance of each party be silent; who may be the transgressor God alone can judge.

The Donatists Settled in Rome
According to Optatus, by the request of some of this people who were settled in Rome, a bishop was sent from their brethren in Africa, to form them into a church of their own order. Victor was the name of the bishop thus sent from Africa. None of the circumstances of this transaction, nor the number of the church, are given. Victor, of course, was the first pastor. His successors, according to Optatus, were Claudian Lucian, Macrobius, Encolapius, and Boniface. The date of the organization of the church is not given, but if the pastors were but for short periods in office, it must have been soon after the rise of the Donatists in Africa. This is the only instance I have found of so many names of pastors, in succession, in any of the churches of the Donatist. At this time, according to Optatus, about 368, the Catholics had forty churches in Rome, but Friar Baldwin thinks they had a greater number. To belittle the Donatists in comparison with his own people, Optatus thus described their early efforts: „Victor, at Rome,” said he, „was a son without a father, a tyro without a principal, a disciple without a master, a follower without a leader, an inhabitant without a house, a guest without a lodging place, a pastor without a flock, a bishop without a people.” To these historical sketches from Optatus, I will add brief extracts from the comments of two able Catholic writers on his work. Some remarks on the Macarian war, by Optatus, will be given in the next chapter.

Observations of Optatus by Bishop Albaspin
This is a laborious work of a learned and unusually candid Catholic bishop, whose main object was to describe the errors and faults of the Donatists from his own standpoints. He begins with baptism. The fault on this subject was, that they washed again those who had been baptized; but, says the bishop concerning this matter, there are many things to be observed. „In the first place,” said he, „the Donatists, according to their institution and doctrine, did not rebaptize the Catholics, for they tenaciously held with them to only one baptism, and that Christians were to be only once baptized. „In the second place, the repetition of baptism was not the special and peculiar fault of this sect, neither did it originate with the Donatists, but it came from the divine Cyprian, who taught through all Africa, that heretics coming into the church must be rebaptized; and whatever he taught was held as a rule of faith.” The account of Cyprian’s council in support of his rebaptizing policy may be found in Chapter VIII. The fault of rebaptizing, says the bishop, was followed by that of reordaining. Of the abundance of errors and faults ascribed to the Donatists by bishop Albaspin, I will only refer to the following: They held that all Catholic churches of the east and west were infected and polluted by their connection with Caecilian and his successors. They held that the visible church of Jesus Christ does not, and ought not to, consist of any but the innocent and harmless, who are free from spots and falls. The Donatists made laymen of Catholic deacons, presbyters and bishops; and all who joined them of all clerical orders were immersed again in water.

Annotations on Optatus by Friar Baldwin
This is a work of about twenty folio pages; it is highly commended by bishop Albaspin, whose observations on Optatus have just been reviewed. Both of these authors concur in the opinion that Optatus had been much corrupted in former works, and Baldwin claimed to have taken much pains to ascertain the original text. In surveying this mass of historical facts, which abounds in the lore of ecclesiastical antiquities, which makes one wonder at the labor and researches of the author of the legal profession, I find but few statements except of a general character. This work will hereafter be more generally noticed, when extracts from it will be made. At present I will observe, in passing, that although Friar Baldwin was a decided Catholic, yet he criticized the positions of men of his own party with great freedom.

1. Unus Deus, unus Christus, una fides, una tinctio.
2. Duas enim video necessarias et unam quasi necessariam. Op. Opta., Liber Quintus, p. 102.
3. Tu rebaptizando iterum lavas. Op. Opta., Liber Quartus, p. 89.
4. Se Op. Opta., Lib. Tertius, p. 79
5. Omnes sive episcopi, sive presbyteri, denuo aquis immergebantur. Albaspin in Optatus, p. 172.

Persecutions of the Donatists

From the death of Constantine the Great to the reign of Julian was a period of about a quarter of a century, during which Constantine II., Constantius and Constans, sons of the founder of the dynasty, occupied the imperial throne. Of none of these reigns, so far as the Donatists were concerned, do I find so much information as of that of Constans, under whose administration of the empire occurred the Macarian war, accounts of which will occupy a considerable portion of this chapter. Although it is said that Constans at first did not seem disposed to engage in severe measures against the Donatists, to force them back into the church, yet under him, in the end, this people were most severely persecuted.

After Constantine the Great, the Roman empire was divided into two parts, which were called the eastern and western, from their geographical positions. The western portion, in which North Africa was included, fell to Constans, who, says Neander, instead of forcible measures in the early part of his reign, simply employed those means which were then frequently resorted to on the part of the court for the purpose of making proselytes. In the year 340, the emperor directed his two commissioners, Ursacius and Leontius, to endeavor by the distribution of money under the name of alms to win over the Donatist churches; and as the said emperor at the same time issued an edict whereby he called upon the North African Christians to return back to the unity of the church which Christ loved, it was the less possible that the object of these measures should remain concealed from the Donatist bishops. On the failure of this covert scheme for gaining the Donatists, forcible measures were the next resort. The Donatists now were to be deprived of their churches, and they were actually fallen upon by armed troops while assembled in them for the worship of God. Hence followed the effusion of blood, and the martyrdoms of which the Donatists so often complained of their adversaries. Those who fell victims in these persecutions, says Neander, were honored by their party as martyrs, and the annual celebration of the days of their death furnished new means of enkindling the enthusiasm of the Donatist party. In the times under consideration Gratius had succeeded Caecilian as bishop of Carthage. Both he and the emperor Constantius, says Robinson, persecuted the Donatists with great severity. At an early period this persecuted people entirely renounced the church and state policy, and, of course, „What has the emperor to do with the church?” was their reply to the offers of royal bounty. The evil spirit, before openly combated in the church, said they, was now a still more dangerous enemy, in its covert attacks, since it made a pretext of religion itself, and strove to insinuate itself into men’s hearts by flattery.

The Macarian War Against the Donatists, In 347
This followed the unsuccessful experiments with the royal bounty, which was rejected by the Donatists. This is the only case among all the severe persecutions of this people of which we have any detailed accounts; and in this case all the reputed facts are from the pen of Optatus, who had no records, but related what he had heard; and when the Donatists objected to only hearsay news, he retorted that it was all they had themselves. But, unhappily for the Donatists, nothing from them direct has been preserved. Almost the whole of the third book, or chapter, of Optatus is occupied with the war under consideration. The burden of his remarks consists in explanations and apologies of the course of Macarius in his treatment of the Donatists, although he admitted in the beginning of his work that in many ways they were very roughly treated. According to Mosheim, after the repulse of Macarius with the royal bounties, he no longer used the soft voice of persuasion, but that of authority; and from what was said by Optatus we may infer he appointed a time for his coercive policy; and as the news spread abroad, thousands collected to witness the operation. The scene to be described was in the town of Bagnai, in the province of Numidia, a place distinguished for the number of the Donatists from the first. As Macarius was without a military force, he sought one of count Sylvester, from whom he obtained a company of armed horsemen, who came equipped with the death-dealing arms of the age, that is, quivers filled with arrows. As the business on hand was not the work of a day, this military company must be provided with quarters and supplies; concerning these no small difficulty was encountered, both from the magistrates and the citizens. The eventful and fearful crisis has arrived. Macarius, surrounded with his military aid, proclaimed the Catholic union; in other words, he commanded the Donatists to go into the Catholic church, unite with them in worship, and adopt the Catholic faith. Then, said Optatus to the Donatist bishop Parmenian, you all ran away; you were all in fear, and fled with precipitation and alarm; then again, said he, the words of the Psalmist were verified by you, „They were in fear where no fear was.” Wherefore your bishops and their clergy all fled away, and some were killed. The most resolute and robust fled far away, where they were captured, and afterwards were sent into exile. The current language of historians, in their descriptions of this assault upon the Donatists, represents them as being a party to the war, whereas it was a war against them, not with them; and the frequent assertions of Optatus that all fled when the assault commenced upon them, is entirely against the idea of their fighting in their own defense. A people who suffer persecution, but do not persecute, was their stereotyped and cherished motto. This character for their community they everywhere proclaimed, and against everything warlike or coercive in religious concerns or with religious people, they always most earnestly contended. Excepting in their defense of church purity against the lax and corrupt system of the Catholics, there was no point on which they were more at variance with Augustine than on his coercive and persecuting policy. Nowhere in all church history can be found a more non-resisting people under the assaults of their enemies except by arguments. They were treated as rebels by Macarius, and his mission and policy were to bring them into the Catholic church, peaceably if he could, forcibly if he must.

Comments of Catholic Authors on the
Macarian War Against the Donatists
If, said Augustine, Macarius was unduly severe on the Donatists, and went beyond the Christian law for dealing with heretics, he had recourse to the law of the king, that he should fight for the Catholic union. I do not say, said he, that Macarius did nothing wrong, but your doings were much worse than his, against the Catholics through all Africa; say no more, brethren, of Macarian times; so far as our men were cruel, their acts were highly displeasing to us. Du Pin repeats a long list of the apologies by Optatus for Macarius’s treatment of the Donatists, some of which, in his opinion, were not very solid.

Optatus argued that the killing of the Donatists by Macarius in his war against them for heresy, was sanctioned by Moses killing three thousand for worshipping the golden calf, and Phinehas and Elijah for those they killed. Macarius, said Optatus, did not persecute like the heathen emperors, whose policy was to drive the Christians out of their churches, while that of Macarius was to drive the Donatists into the Catholic churches, where they might worship God together in the spirit of peace and unity.

The Following Remarks are From Protestant Writers
The opinion of Mosheim of the measures now under consideration is expressed in the following terms: „During the troubles with the Donatists in the reign of the emperor Constans, several steps were taken against this people, which the equitable and impartial will be at loss to reconcile with the dictates of humanity and justice, nor indeed do the Catholics themselves deny the truth of this assertion, and hence the complaints which the Donatists made of the cruelty of their adversaries.” Relative to the measures of Macarius, and also of those of other imperial commissioners, who sought to covert the Donatists to the Catholic faith, a remark of Neander will doubtless properly apply: „It cannot be exactly determined,” says he, „how much in all that was done, proceeded from the imperial edicts, and how much from the despotism, the passion, or the cruelty of individual commanders.”

Leontius, Ursacius, Macarius, Paulus Taurinus, and Romanus were the persecutors specifically named by the Donatist, in Numidia, and Bagnai is the principal town they have named for the effusion of their blood. But of none of their persecutors have they complained so much, as of Macarius; for the defense of whom all sorts of arguments have been employed by the Catholics, especially by Optatus and Augustine. How many of the Donatists were killed in this war, or were banished by the civil authorities, we have no information. In all Catholic descriptions there is apparently a studied silence on this subject. Optatus merely says some were slain, and others were banished. All the deaths doubtless were effected by the armed force above described. So notorious was this war that the Donatists referred to it simply naming it „Macarian times,” and those concerned in it, or upheld it, they called „Macarians.” These terms with the Catholics were exceedingly reproachful. Of this whole transaction we have no information from the Donatists themselves. None of their writings on this subject have come down to us, which would doubtless present a very different view of this cruel and terrible war. But, unhappily for the memory of this people, the true and real history of this ancient affair will never be made public.

Persecuting Measures of Augustine
I name these measures in this place for the purpose of describing them in connection with the scenes of the Macarian war, although they were put in operation about half a century later. They originated in the local councils or synods, as they were sometimes called, at one of which, in 403, a plan was proposed for a general conference with the Donatists for the discussion of the differences between them and the Catholics. To Augustine we are indebted for the history of these councils; in which, although young in the episcopal office, he was evidently their principal manager; and in all his reports of their doings it plainly appears that the magistrates of Africa were very remiss in executing the persecuting laws against the Donatists; one of which, he said, had not been enforced at all, except in Carthage. In the record of a council in Carthage in 404 we find the following statement: „It is now full time for the emperor to provide for the safety of the Catholic church, and prevent those rash men from terrifying the people, whom they cannot seduce. We think it is as lawful for us to ask assistance against them, as it was for Paul to employ a military force against the conspiration of factious men.” This is a new version of the conduct of the apostle Paul in the case here referred to.

A New Petition to the Emperor
Before the laws were sent into Africa, says Augustine, which compelled the heretics to come into the church, some of the brethren, among whom I was one, were of the opinion that although the madness of the Donatists raged everywhere, yet we should not petition the emperors to forbid any one simply to be of that heresy, by inflicting punishment on all who embraced it, but desire them to make a law to restrain them from offering violence to any that either preached or held the Catholic faith; which we thought might in some measure be dome after this manner. The Theodosian law which decreed a fine of ten pounds of gold against the clergy of all heretics was Augustine’s substitute in this case. This was a new idea; as thus far, as the Donatists denied being heretics, they had not been dealt with as such, and Augustine appears to have been the first who attempted to subject them to the penalties of the Theodosian code. To accomplish his plan he must have the authority of the imperial court, which was either at Rome or Ravenna; either of which was at a considerable distance from his residence in Africa. Before, says he, our legates could get to court, as new and grievous complaints against the Donatists had been made, the emperor, in his great piety, rather than suffer them to carry the badge of Christ against Christ, and err and perish, had published a new law against them. As soon as this new law, said Augustine, came into Africa, its influence was so great that the true mother received multitudes into her bosom, and only a hardened company retained their obstinate and unhappy animosity against her. The character of these new converts to the Catholic fold is thus described by the self-complacent bishop: At first, they maintained their new position by dissembling their opinions; but in process of time these dissemblers, by hearing the preaching of the Catholic truth, became true converts to the Catholic faith, especially after the conference at Carthage. This last position will hereafter be criticized by Augustine’s own party. The remaining part of this chapter will be occupied with descriptions of the changed condition of the Donatists, under different reigns, to the time of Theodosius the Great.

Great Changes in Favor of the Donatists
Under a New Emperor of the Constantine Race
Julianus Flavius Claudius was his Latin name; he was the grandson of Constantine the Great, and the nephew of his second son, named Constantius, whom he succeeded as emperor in 361. I can say but little of the early years of this singular man, usually called the Apostate. In his younger days his life was often in danger amidst the jealousies of the Constantine family. I can find no reliable account of what led him to renounce Christianity in favor of the idol system, the religion of his ancestors. It is said he revolted from the intolerance of the established church, and hated its persecutions. On the other hand, it is alleged he persecuted those whom he blamed as persecutors. The Donatists Favored by Julian. On his accession to the throne the Donatist bishops transmitted to him a petition, in which they besought a ruler who required only justice, to rescind the unjust decrees that had been issued against them. There could be no difficulty, says Neander, in obtaining a favorable answer, since the petition perfectly agreed with the principles of the emperor. He therefore issued an edict, by which everything under the preceding reigns had been unlawfully undertaken against them was to be annulled. Optatus commented boastfully on the peace of the Catholic church in Africa, in the east, and beyond other seas, in the commencement of Julian’s reign. He also spoke reproachfully of the emperor as a ruler, and he frequently said to the Donatists, they ought to be ashamed to ask or receive their freedom from such an unworthy emperor; their exile, he said, was what they deserved, and the peace of the church was owing to their being in foreign regions. Then, said Optatus, there were no schisms in the church, neither was it lawful for the pagans to perform their sacrilegious rites, and a peace well pleasing to God was enjoyed by all Christian people. But, said he, the same edict which restored liberty to you opened the idol temples, and yet you were not ashamed to partake of the common joy. By the term common joy, I suppose we are to understand that many others besides the Donatists rejoiced in the decree of religious freedom for all parties. Then, said Optatus, in his address to the Donatists, you became rabid; then you became angry, tearing in pieces the members of the church, and by subtle seductions and savage slaughters you provoked the sons of peace to make war against you. The details of other charges by this author I will here omit. But the whole list of the worst impeachments of the Donatists in the writings of Optatus, which are utterly at variance with his former mode of addressing them, are found in the descriptions of Augustine, and also in those of Du Pin, Fleury, and other Catholic authors of the more candid class; and also by most Protestant writers, wholly on the authority of Augustine. That it would have been more commendable for the Donatists to have remained in the exile to which they were doomed by Catholic emperors, than to have gained their freedom by the ill esteemed Julian, seems the logical conclusion of their reasoning. But did the orthodox bishops reason thus who were banished by Arian rulers?

Julian Contrasts the Laws of the Catholics
With His Own, on Religious Freedom
I believe, said Julian in a letter to the inhabitants of Bostra, the leading men of the Gallieans would feel themselves more indebted to me than my predecessors in the government; for it happened under the latter that many of them were banished, persecuted, and deprived of their property; and indeed whole masses of heretics, as they are called, were swept off at a stroke; so that in Samosata, Cyzicus, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Galatia, and among many other races of people, entire villages were made desolate. But, under my government, the fact has been the very reverse; for the banished have been permitted to return, and their property is restored by our laws to those whose estates had been confiscated. Although the reign of Julian was but about two years, yet the favorable circumstances the Donatists enjoyed under it, continued under the short reign of his successor, Jovian; and nearly the same may be said of them under the Valentinians, Valens and Gratian, to the time of Theodosius the Great, whose reign of sixteen years included the four in which he was a colleague with Gratian. Although Theodosius was severe on all heretics, as the code which bears his name sufficiently shows, yet his most energetic measures were employed for the abolition of idolatry, and the destruction of the idol temples which were still numerous throughout the empire. Men, says Neander, of the ancient and noble families of Rome, ventured to raise their voice in favor of the religion of the eternal city. Among the advocates of the idol worship were magistrates and lawyers, the most eloquent orators and the most able writers. They claimed the same right to their temples as the Christians to their churches, and the same freedom for their worship. Theodosius died in 395. This was about the time that Augustine began to write against the Donatists, in which he attempted to expose them to the penalties of the Theodosian code against heretics, which character they always disowned, and which I do not find that Theodosius himself ever charged upon them.

Summary Description of Persecutions,
By Historian Waddington
„In the fortunes of this people,” says this author, „do we not trace the usual history of persecution? In its commencement, fearful and reluctant; and, as it were, conscious of its corrupt origin, it irritates without depressing; it next suspends the attack; then the object rises up and takes courage. „The same process is then repeated under circumstances slightly different with the same result. Then follows the passionate and sanguinary assault, which destroys the noblest of the recusants, while the most active and dangerous are preserved by hypocrisy and exile; and thus the sect spreads secretly and widely. „The exertions of Augustine against the Donatists have attached to the character of that father the stain of persecution.” This statement will be fully verified in the forthcoming descriptions of Augustine’s own accounts of the various measures he devised for suppressing and exterminating this people.

1. Neander’s Ch. Hist., Vol. II, p. 195. The name of Gregory, and also that of Paul, the companion of Macarius in measures against the Donatists, is omitted.
2. Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, p. 312.
3. Neander’s Ch. Hist., vol. II, p. 196.
4. The distance from Carthage to Rome is about three hundred and fifty miles; the time occupied in the voyage, according to Mr. Amos Perry, late Consul to Tunis, might be a few days or a considerable number, dependent on wind and weather.
5. Neander’s Ch . Hist., Vol. II, p. 196.
6. Optatus, p. 49.
7. Neander’s Ch. Hist., Vol. II, p. 52.
8. Waddington’s Church History, pp. 170-171 (Library of Useful Knowledge).

Extracts from the Writings of the Donatists

That this people had able defenders of their cause, will be evident from the selections from their writings which I am preparing to make. The works from which my selections are to be made have long been lost, and all that has been preserved of them is now found in the works of Augustine, who lived in the time of most of the writers which will be named. These passages are interspersed in the copious controversial writings against this people. They were originally quoted for the purpose of arguing against the sentiments they contain; and by this means there has been transmitted to us, by their adversary, a large amount of the veritable writings of these ancient and hitherto entirely neglected people, which otherwise we could never have seen. From the passages in Augustine’s writings the following extracts will be made. Strange as it may seem, no author, even of those who have shown some friendship to the Donatists, has ever, to my knowledge, made any reference to the writings under consideration, so creditable to the talents and religious sentiments of their authors, and which are so conspicuous, always in italics, amidst hundreds of the Latin folio pages of Augustine’s works, in his controversies with the Donatists. Some small works by Donatus, the first acting bishop of the Donatists at Carthage, have been referred to. Parmenian was his successor. By him the first large work against the Catholics was published. This was first answered by Optatus. Against Parmenian, Augustine published his first large work against the Donatists; and from what I find of the language ascribed to Parmenian, my extracts will be made.

This first treatise of Augustine against the Donatists was published but a few years after he was ordained a bishop. The work consists of three books or chapters. The main object of the author appears to have been the defense of his lax system of church discipline in opposition to the strict rules of his opponents, as on this point the parties were always at variance. In his caption he says: „In three books against the epistle of Parmenian, bishop of the Donatists of Carthage, the successor of Donatus, a great question I have discussed and solved.” This great question with this great church leader of his day among the Catholics was, „Whether, in the union and communion of the same sacraments, bad members would contaminate the good; and in what manner they would not contaminate them.” Another question which this ancient church manager was equally in earnest to discuss and solve was, „How the apostle is to be understood in what he said to the Corinthians about putting away an evil person from among themselves.” According to the Greek language, he said, it may be understood that the evil of their hearts was to be put away, instead of a bad member. All this kind of reasoning, which in different forms will appear in the following narratives, was intended to favor the lax system of discipline for which Augustine always and everywhere so earnestly contended.

Quotations From the Work of Parmenian
Against the Catholics
„Woe unto those who put evil for good, and good for evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. „Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that he cannot save, neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear. „But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. „For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue hath muttered perverseness. „None calleth for justice, nor pleadeth for the truth; they trust in vanity, and they speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. „Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. „The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings; they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. „Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. „Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out from the midst of her; be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. „I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. „I have hated the congregation of evil doers; I will not sit with sinners. „Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men, in whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.” The work of Parmenian does not contain so many passages suitable for these brief selections as those hereafter to be noticed.

Quotations From the Writings
of Pertilian Against the Catholics
These writings, like all other of the Donatists which have been preserved and have come down to us, are dispersed in the writings of Augustine, for the purpose of refuting them. The whole amount of matter thus preserved of the veritable writings of Petilian alone, would make a pamphlet of no inconsiderable size. They are without any order as to subjects, but I shall arrange my selections under appropriate heads, and will begin with the Subject of Baptism. They who throw against us a two-fold baptism under the name of baptism, have polluted their own souls with a criminal bath. He who accuses me of baptizing twice, does not himself truly baptize once. We by our baptism put on Christ; you by your contagion put on Judas the traitor. He who receives the faith from an infidel, receives not faith but guilt. Everything depends on its origin and root; trees are known by their fruit. The character of a baptizer must be well known. The apostle Paul says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; this one baptism we openly profess, and it is certain that they who think there are two, are insane. The most important article on this subject was the following: That Petilian, as he said, might fully discuss the baptism of the Trinity, he referred to the command of Christ to his apostles to teach the nations, and to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In contrasting the apostolic teaching and baptism with those of his opponents, the Donatist bishop addressed his Catholic adversary in the following pungent and pertinent terms: Who, O thou betrayer, dost thou teach? Him whom thou dost capitally condemn? Who, O thou betrayer, dost thou teach? Him whom thou dost slay? Finally, who dost thou teach? Him whom thou mayest have made a homicide? Thus far the business of teaching was the subject of discussion; that of baptism followed. How, said Petilian to his opponent, dost thou baptize in the name of the Trinity? Thou who canst not call God thy father, since Christ the Lord said: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Thou who hast not peace of mind, hast not God for thy father. But how dost thou baptize in the name of the Son, thou who betrayest him, and who dost not imitate the Son of God in any sufferings, nor in any crosses? But how dost thou baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon those apostles who had not been traitors? Since, therefore, God is not your father, nor are you truly born from the water of baptism, and no one of you is inwardly born; neither, O ye impious men, have you a church father or mother; as such, then ought I not to baptize you, although, just as the Jews, in their daily ablutions, as it were, baptize their bodies, you may wash yourselves a thousand times.

Petilian on the Persecutions of the Catholics
Ye progeny of vipers, how can you escape the judgment of Gehenna? David, in describing your race, says: ‘Their throat is an open sepulchre, and they flatter with their tongues. The poison of asps in under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, and their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have known; the fear of God is not before their eyes. The Lord Christ admonishes us to beware of false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are rapacious wolves. By their fruits you may know them. So, verily, O unprincipled persecutor, with whatever veil of goodness you may shroud yourself; with whatever pretense of peace upon your lips you may make war against us; and however much you may allure men with your false union, so far as you practice falsehood and deception, you are truly a son of the devil whilst you imitate the works of your father. Now, said Petilian to his opponent, it is not wonderful that you should falsely assume the name of a bishop, since it is the true custom of Satan to transform himself into an angel of light. Do you think to serve God by killing us with your own hands? Ye err, miserable men, if you think thus, for the ministers of God are not executioners. When you kill our bodies we have a two-fold baptism, but the second is of blood, like that which Christ endured. Be ashamed, be ashamed, O ye persecutors, that you make martyrs like Christ, with blood, after their true baptism of water. The law says thou shalt not kill. Cain killed one brother, but how many brothers have been killed by you? Did the apostles ever persecute any one? Did Christ ever betray any one? Christ in dying taught us how to die, not to kill. The apostle Paul tells us of the abundance of his own sufferings, not what he made others suffer. Christ taught us to suffer wrong, not requite it.

Petilian on the Beatitudes Against the Catholics
„Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You who are inflated with riches, pursue us with malicious fury. „Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” You savage men have lost heaven and earth together. „Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” You, our executioners, make many mourn, while you do not mourn yourselves. „Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Your righteousness consists in thirsting for our blood. „Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” When can I call you merciful, while you continue to punish just men? And whilst you do this, do you not pollute their souls with your most iniquitous communion? „Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” When will you see God, who, with foul malice, nourish blindness of heart? „Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” You frame peace in wickedness, and seek union with war. „Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You are not blessed, but you make blessed martyrs; with souls heaven is replenished, the memory of whose bodies flourishes in the earth. This peculiar article of the able and distinguished writer among the Donatists, was followed with the recital of all the woes pronounced by Christ against the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees. O, ye miserable traitors, ought not the scripture to be fulfilled in you? Paul, the apostle, in his account of the immense persecutions which he suffered by all nations, says the greatest were from false brethren. In the description of charity, this writer, after enumerating all its excellent traits of character mentioned by the apostles, says, it does not persecute, nor inflame the minds of emperors against their subjects, nor seize on the property of others, nor kill men whom it would rob. Behold, said Petilian, a most ample warning to all persecutors: „Put up thy sword into its sheath, O Peter, said Jesus, for they who take the sword shall die with the sword.” In confirmation of this doctrine he gave many examples of distinguished persecutors of the Donatists, who, in various ways, came to untimely ends. „The Lord God never delights in human blood.” „What have you to do with the king of this world?” said Petilian to his opponents. And in his comments on the injury which Christianity always reason to apprehend from the kingly race, an entire folio page is employed. „Where,” said he, „is the law of God, and what becomes of your Christianity, amidst the slaughters and deaths which you command and execute? „What is the reason, and wherein is the consistency, of your calling us heretics, although falsely, and yet of being importunate for our communion?” „Of the two characters ascribed to us,” said Petilian, „choose at length, in which you hold us. „If you say we are innocent, why do you follow us with the sword? „Or if you say we are criminal, why seek after us as though we were innocent?” „O, most subtle dilemma, or, rather, most impertinent loqua city,” said Augustine. Petilian, in the language of David, said to his opponent, „It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” We do not trust in man, said Augustine, but as much as we are able we admonish them to trust in the Lord; neither do we put confidence in princes, but as much as we are able we admonish princes to trust in the Lord; and if we ask of princes anything in aid of the church, yet we do not put our confidence in them. Neither did the apostle Paul put his trust in that tribune as in a prince from whom he obtained armed soldiers for a protection against a band of assassins at Jerusalem. This theory of Paul’s seeking an armed protection will appear hereafter, when it will be examined.

A Pointed Address of Petilian to His Opponents
Miserable men, indeed, I call you, who seek after our goods, instead of our souls, and are overwhelmed with fear respecting possessions thus obtained. We who are poor in spirit have no fear concerning riches, but fear them; but having nothing, we possess all things. We who live in the fear of the Lord have no fear of any punishments you may inflict upon us with the sword. Finally, the only thing we fear from you which we strive to flee from is your most injurious communion, with which you would slay our souls. The Lord himself has said, fear not those who kill the body, but fear him rather, who is able to send the body and soul into the Gehenna of fire.

Petilian’s Closing Address
Having expatiated quite freely on the errors of the Catholics, as he esteemed them, he thus addressed his own community: „Come to the true church, O ye people, and flee away from all traitors, if you are not willing to perish with them. „I baptize their members, as having an imperfect baptism, and as in reality unbaptized. „They will receive my members, but far be it from being done, as truly baptized, which they would not do at all, if they could discover any faults in our baptism. „See, therefore, that the baptism which I give you may be held so holy that not any sacrilegious enemy will have dared to destroy it.”

Cresconius Against the Catholics
This able defender of the Donatists was a grammarian, that is, a literary teacher, as that term was then understood; and although a layman, yet he appears to have been very thoroughly acquainted with the history and principles of his own people; and from his laborious work, which was reviewed by Augustine, my extracts will be made. Cresconius was probably a member of Petilian’s church in Constantina, whose work against the Catholics he ably defended. He and Petilian and Augustine were all in the field at the same time with large works.

Cresconius Against Augustine
„You,” said the Donatist to the Catholic, „with intolerable arrogance, have said that you alone can terminate a controversy which to others has appeared interminable, and must therefore be left to the judgment of God. You, single-handed,” continued Cresconius, „promised to finish a dispute which, after so many years; after the labors of so many judges and arbitrators; after the learned disputations of the bishops on both sides, before prominent men, could never be finished! „Since,” continued Cresconius, „you well know the thing in question cannot be finished by you, why do you assume a useless labor? Why enter upon an empty undertaking? Why encounter a vain and fruitless task? Do you not make a great mistake in thus proposing to do what you cannot accomplish?”

Neander, in commenting on this discussion, says:
„Cresconius was not so much out of the way when he censured the confidence of Augustine, who professed to be able to dispose, so easily, of a controversy, on which, for so long a time, so many things had been said on both sides.” Cresconius, like all authors of his party, had one Lord, one faith, one baptism, for his motto; and to this he added, an uncorrupted and true Catholic church. The claim of Catholic for their church was quite often made by the Donatists, which claim was very annoying to the Catholics. All the opponents of Augustine among the Donatists, whether of the clergy or laity, combated his lax system of discipline; generally, in a serious manner; but occasionally quite otherwise, as the following example will illustrate.

Sharp Comments of Cresconius on Augustine’s
Defense of the Validity of Baptism by Bad Ministers,
Who Were Known to be Such
There is no difference between a baptism administered by a drunken priest and that of an apostle, was the avowed doctrine of Augustine; a sentiment much like this, in his treatise against Petilian, was thrown at him by Cresconius. Forsooth, said Augustine, thou seemest to thyself to have found out where thou mightest spread out thy eloquence in reference to that which I laid down in my epistle to Petilian, namely, that all who are baptized, should place their hope in Christ, whether the baptizer be a man of faith or a perfidious man. After this comment on his own position thus referred to, Augustine proceeded, complainingly, to repeat the free and peculiar comments upon the said position, by his opponent, of which the following is a correct version: „O, said Cresconius, the excellent power of the Catholic priesthood! „O, the praiseworthy precepts of righteousness of the Good Father! „Thou mayest, says he, make no difference between a man of faith and a perfidious man; and a pious and an impious man may seem to thee the same. „And it is no profit to live according to good morals; because whatever is lawful for a righteous man, an unrighteous man also can fully perform. „What, inquired Cresconius, can be said more iniquitous than this precept? „Can a man of a spotted character purify another, a filthy character wash another clean, an impure man make another pure, a faithless man impart faith, and a criminal make another innocent?” This whole subject had been quite freely discussed by the parties previously, in detail; it was also topic of frequent and earnest discussion between other Donatists and the famous church leader of Hippo, who, in his correspondence with Rogatius, the head of the Rogatians, said: Perhaps, among your twelve bishops and their clergy, you have not one drunken priest. From the great corruption of the Catholic clergy, probably arose the policy, if not the necessity, of tolerating the loose clerical morals above referred to. Among the remarks of Cresconius in defense of the practice of the repetition of baptism, he referred to the baptism of the twelve disciples who had been baptized by John. Other Donatist writers did the same. All of them seemed to take it for granted that the twelve disciples were really baptized again.

The objective remarks of Augustine to free himself from the dilemma in which he found himself involved by the comments and the peculiar logic of his shrewd opponent are too long to be repeated. He complained that Cresconius used his own words for the purpose of constructing arguments against him. If this was so, the bishop was paid in his own coin, in his dealing with the Donatists. With respect to the deductions of Cresconius, whether real or fanciful, from Augustine’s positions, he said they did not wholly correspond with his sentiments or his writings.

Quotations from the Writings of Gaudentius
Against the Catholics
„All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. „The time will come when whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service. „Our enemies boast of being in peace and unity, but their peace is gained by war, and their union is stained with blood. „For the teaching of the people of Israel the omnipotent God sent prophets; he did not enjoin this service on kings; the Lord Christ, the Saviour of souls, sent fishermen, not soldiers, for the propagation of his gospel; he who alone can judge the quick and the dead has never sought the aid of a military force.”

On Man’s Free Will
„God created man free in his own image. How, then, am I to be deprived of that by human lordship which God has bestowed on me? What a sacrilege, that human arrogance should take away what God has bestowed on me, and idly boast of doing this on God’s behalf? „It is a great offence against God, when he is defended by men. „What must he think of God who would defend him with outward force? Is it that God is unable to punish offenses against himself? „Hear what the Lord says: Peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. „The peace of the world must be introduced among contending nations by arms and the force of war. The peace of Christ invites the willing, with wholesome mildness; it never forces men against their wills.” In reply to this eloquent and forcible argument of Gaudentius, in defense of a primordial principal of the Donatists, Augustine, with entire unfairness, reasoned in the following style: According to these most fallacious and most vain reasonings of yours, said he, the reins would be relaxed, and all classes of transgressors might sin with impunity, without restraint, and without correction; and the king would have no power or control over his kingdom, for the correction of any offenses; the general over his army; the judge in his province; the master with his servant; the husband with his wife; the father with his son. In the midst of this controversy, Augustine said to his opponent that he knew not the scriptures nor the power of God, which induced him to contend so strongly for man’s free will, and against coercion in religious concerns. The Ninevites, he said, were compelled to repentance against their wills by the power of their king. The term „compel them to come in” to the feast, in the parable of the supper, he held as available for his theory of coercion. His exposition of this parable was in the following terms: „By highways, we are to understand, heresies; by hedges, schisms. „But in this case,” said he, „we may be sure, highways signify diverse opinions, and hedges, mean perverse opinions.” I have thus given specimens of the writings of the prominent men amongst the Donatists, most of whom appear in the foregoing narratives. Enough of these writings has been copied to exhibit the ability of this people to defend their cause, and much is it to be lamented that so small a portion of their writings has been preserved. But scarcely any of all those from which I have made selections have hitherto been accessible to English readers, as they are in the Latin works of Optatus and Augustine; and although all that was published of the Donatists was intended by these men to operate against them, yet so far as their principles were concerned on church discipline, religious freedom, and whatever is connected with the confederacy of priests and princes, it was directly the reverse, and objectively they established the evangelical character of the Donatists. Augustine’s theory that the strict discipline of the Donatists would split the Catholic church into a thousand schisms, was a high commendation of the reformers, and thus, as it often happened, his censure was their praise. There was an early writer among the Donatists, Tichonius, all of whose writings were lost. He was a grammarian to whom Augustine ascribed a sprightly genius and copious eloquence. To this man Parmenian’s epistle was addressed.

1. Op. August., Tome 9, p. 10.
2. Op. August., Tome 9, p. 242.
3. Op. August., Tome 9, pp.206-336.
4. Augustine gave a paraphrase of the original.
5. Op. August., Tome 9, p. 494.

The Conference at Carthage, in Africa,
between the Catholics and the Donatists

We now enter upon the details, of considerable length, of one of the most singular and laborious transactions in the history of the Donatists. It was now about one hundred years since their origin as a separate community, during which time their churches were spread over all North Africa, amidst persecutions of various kinds. Their churches had often been taken from them by armed men, but now a plan was laid to gain possession of them for the Catholics, by a legal process. The bishop of Hippo, the contriver of the plan, was then in the full exercise of his episcopal powers over the whole country, in which Honorius, a son of the then late Theodosius the Great, occupied the imperial throne. This young emperor was a zealous Catholic, and Augustine easily obtained an edict for the conference, to be described, which was to be composed only of the bishops of North Africa, all of whom, both Catholics and Donatists, were included in the summons.

The Form of the Edict
Within four months the parties were commanded to meet at Carthage. Marcellinus, a friend of Augustine, was to preside in the conference, and to act as judge. He was appointed to this office in the edict, in which he was recognized as the special and confidential friend of the emperor. At this time the Donatists were numerous, and in a prosperous condition, notwithstanding the many persecutions to which they had been exposed, and the vexatious hindrances to their progress during the reigns of all the Constantine dynasty except that of Julian. Augustine valued himself on his logical skill, which having failed to induce the Donatists voluntarily to engage in what they deemed useless disputations, the present plan was devised, and to secure their attention, in the edict was inserted the following rule: „If the Donatist bishops, after being three times invited, still declined taking any part in the conference, their conduct should be interpreted to signify a consciousness of being unable to defend their cause, and their communities therefore should be compelled to unite with the Catholic church. On the other hand, any who might comply with the invitation, should at some future time receive again the churches of which they were then deprived.” This promise, says Neander, was shamefully violated. What conditions for what Augustine maintained was a free meeting by the request of the Donatists! But as the measure was by an imperial edict, the entrapped people, rather than hazard the loss of their churches, complied with the demand, and early in June, 411, there might be seen in Carthage two hundred and seventy-nine Donatist bishops, with two hundred and eighty-six bishops of the Catholics. This company comprised all the bishops of both parties except the aged and infirm, and those who were hindered on the way. It was a long time, however, before this singular meeting was organized.

The Overtures of the Catholics to the Donatists
These I will give according to Neander’s views, not my own. “Their bishops,” says he, „made overtures to the Donatists which were calculated to inspire their confidence.” All hollow, in my opinion. „These bishops declared they were ready to resign their bishoprics, and to surrender them into the hands of the Donatists alone, in case the latter gained the victory in the conference. Such a proposition, it may be granted, required but little self-denial, since, beyond doubt, they were well convinced that the case supposed could never happen. There was more in the other proposals, that if the cause of the Donatists was lost, and if their bishops would come over to the Catholic church they should be recognized in their episcopal character, and stand on the same level with the Catholic bishops in the exercise of their functions. But if the communities were not satisfied with this, both should resign their dignities, and the Donatists and Catholics, now united, choose a new bishop. ‘Be brethren with us in the Lord’s inheritance,’ said Augustine; ‘let us not, for the sake of preserving our own stations, hinder the peace of Christ.'” What would all this hollow talk amount to with the non-confiding Donatists? „Augustine preached in Carthage before the commencement of the conference, two discourses, in which he endeavored to inspire the Catholics there with love and gentleness towards the Donatists, and called on them sedulously to avoid everything which might be calculated to give offence to their excitable feelings, or to arouse their passions. `Their eyes are inflamed,’ said he; `they must be treated prudently and with forbearance. Let no one enter into controversy with the other–let no one at this moment even defend his faith by disputation, lest some spark from the controversy kindle into a great flame; lest occasion of offence be given to those who seek occasion. Do you hear reviling language, endure it; be willing not to have heard it; be silent. Do you say he brings charges against my bishop, and shall I be silent? Yes, be silent; repay not revilings with revilings, but pray for him.'” Let the bishops, said the president, signify to the people in their sermons to keep themselves quiet and be silent; I will publish my sentence, and expose it to all the people of Carthage. Thus far the whole company appears to have been merely an informal gathering from all parts of North Africa, who were engaged in quite free remarks on the business for which they had been collected together; many of them, we may suppose, had never before met each other face to face, and from Augustine’s efforts to hinder the parties from disputes, we may infer that he feared his whole project would be defeated. The most solemn preparations, says Waddington, were made by the people of Carthage to give dignity and weight to this great and unusual convocation. This, of course, was by the Catholics. The undignified and unpropitious character of this primary meeting is doubtless well described in the following terms: „Amidst such a multitude on both sides,” says Neander, „the transactions could hardly be conducted in a quiet and orderly manner.” But in what he terms „wearisome and fruitless disputes about matters relating to the form of transacting the business,” the greater part of the first day was spent. As yet no organization was formed, and the whole company of almost six hundred bishops, doubtless with many of their friends, were concerned in this promiscuous assembly.

The Order of the Conference Announced
This order, according to imperial command, Marcellinus announced was arranged according to the common mode of judicial proceedings, in which deputies were chosen by each of the parties in controversy, to act and to plead for them; accordingly, he said: „There shall be seven bishops on each side to manage the debates. There shall be seven other bishops on each side for their counsel if needed, on condition that they be silent while the first are speaking. There shall be four ecclesiastical notaries on each side, to make the records, who shall succeed each other by turns. For a further safety there shall be four bishops on each side, to observe the notaries and preserve the records.” Thus only forty-four bishops were retained of the whole number who came to Carthage. The names of the seven debaters on the Catholic side were Aurelius, Alypius, Augustinus, Possidius, Vicentius, Fortunatus, and Fortunatianus. On the Donatist side the debaters were Primianus, Petilianus, Emeritus, Deodatus, Montanus, Gaudentius, and Probatus. I have thus given the full Latin names of the principal debaters, and as they were selected each party for its own side, they were doubtless accounted among their most able men, for defending their causes. Augustine was the chief speaker among the Catholics, and Petilian with the Donatists. The distrustful Donatists, says Neander, who were prejudiced against the whole business, at first positively refused to enter into such an arrangement. They declared that the judicial mode of proceeding was not applicable to their spiritual concern. But at length, being compelled to yield, they chose their own men. At this point I will give a brief description of the manner in which it is supposed, from the history of these times, the records of this conference were made and preserved, about a thousand years before the art of printing was discovered. The scribes, or notaries, as they were called, made their entries in short-hand, somewhat like modern reporters. This was done with styles or gravers, on strips of boards waxed over for the purpose. These strips were called tables or tablets. The records thus made were afterwards transferred to parchment, the material for ancient books. When one set of tables was full, another was brought in with new notaries. As fast as these singular records were full, the tables, or books, as they were also sometimes called, were rolled up in wrappers and sealed, to preserve them from injury or corruption. All speaking was suspended while they were changing the notaries. „We have filled the books,” was the signal for the change.

The Enrollment of the Names of the Delegates To the Conference
This was a long and tedious business, which I will briefly describe. In the first place, there are no indications that those who came to the conference had certificates of their appointment, or that there were lists of the members on either side; but instead of this, they went promiscuously to the president, where their names were enrolled, and the places of their churches. The same was done with respect to the names of absent bishops, and the location of their churches. Besides answering to their names, the members on both sides often had much to say of their difficulties at their homes, on the same ground, and of their complaints of each other, of which the following sharp speeches may serve as specimens: Alypius, a Catholic, said he wished that in his place they might rejoice in their former union, as they rejoiced in other places. A bad union, said the Donatist Petilian, of innocence and crime, which cannot be in union. I have no traitors among my people, said a Donatist, meaning the Catholics. There have never been any Donatists among my people, said a Catholic. Because they have all been excluded by violence, said a Donatist. I call God to witness that is a lie, said a Catholic. Your holiness, said the president, will deign only to say whether there is a Donatist bishop now in your place. Among the complaints of the Catholics of the Donatists was that of their rebaptizing one of their bishops who was a nonagenarian. The accounts of these singular transactions preparatory to the full organization of this professedly religious convocation occupy about twenty folio pages of the „Works of Optatus,” in which they are recorded.

The First Session of the Conference
All the meetings now were held with closed doors, in a hall of one of the public baths of Carthage. With the company to manage the debates, there entered about twenty men of various ranks in the imperial government of Africa. This large company of state officials was in attendance according to the edict of the emperor, as coadjutors, if necessary, of the president, Marcellinus. In the opening of this first session of the conference, the president, by the order of the emperor, made a proposal to the Donatists in the following terms: If they wanted confidence in him, they were at liberty to choose another person of equal or superior rank to preside along with him. It is none of our business, said Petilian, to ask for another judge, since in fact we did not ask for the first. This business belongs to those who have been the contrivers of this whole affair. Petilian, in the next place, made an urgent request of the president for a definite statement of the subjects to be discussed in the debates, that they might understand what answers they ought to make. The only reply of the president to this very proper and reasonable request was, that the subjects for discussion would best be made known as the business went on. At this point Petilian commented with his usual boldness and freedom on the injurious effects of the imperial court’s decrees which called men from their quiet homes, and subjected them to the pains and privations of distant journeys from all parts of a wide-spread country. Although the Donatists had chosen their men, and had entered the hall with the company above described, yet they now made an effort to free themselves from their unwelcome position by pleading that the time was past in which the conference was to be finished, which was not yet begun. In reply to this argument, the president informed them that by a second edict the emperor had extended the time for the conference, if it should be found needful. Having failed in this effort, these reluctant men, who were thus shut off from all intercourse with their companions, again urged their request that the conference should be managed with open doors. If they must engage in the proposed verbal controversy, they desired that their companions, who were not permitted to take any part in its doings, and also the public, might have an opportunity to witness them, that they might judge of the principles and merits of the parties. The only argument of the Catholics against an open door was the danger of tumult and disturbance. For almost a whole day, said the Donatist bishop Emeritus, we have been together in an open and promiscuous assembly, and instead of any tumult and disturbance from us, prayer has been continually ascending to God and heaven from our hearts. There has not been, neither will there be, any tumult or disturbance on our side with open doors, said the Donatist bishop Petilian. But as the president favored the excluding system, the discussion of the subject was at once closed. The fear of danger to the Catholic cause, by a public exposure of their treatment of the Donatists, was probably at the bottom of the opposition to the open door for which the Donatists so earnestly contended. After a moderate amount of debating by the parties of a preliminary character, and the reading of a number of very lengthy documents by the Catholics to forestall their claim to an apostolic succession, the conference was adjourned for six days, that the notaries might put their records in order.

1. „Codices binos implevimus.” Opta. p. 90.
2. In the hall in which the Conference was held it is said that the famous Cyprian was condemned to martyrdom.

The Second and Third Days of the Conference

The same company of state officers entered the hall with the president, and soon after came in the parties to manage the debates, all of whom Marcellinus invited to take their seats as he took his own. This was done by the Catholics. But, said Petilian, we do not sit in the absence of our fathers, meaning those who were excluded from the conference, since, said he, it is prohibited by the divine law. Neither, again said he, can we be willing to sit with such adversaries. Neander supposes the divine law referred to in this case was the saying of the Psalmist, in Psalm xxvi. 4,9: „I have not sat with vain persons. Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men.” Since, said Marcellinus to the outspoken Petilian, your holiness has slighted my request for you to be seated, respect for so many bishops forbids me to be seated myself, and I will officiate standing; thereupon he caused his chair to be removed. The Catholic bishops at the same time arose from their seats, and thus for some time the bishops of both parties appeared in a standing posture. You do me much honor, said Petilian to the president. Nothing is said of the course of the large company of official statesmen; they probably remained in their seats, and viewed with amazement such a singular transaction by bishops in the opening scenes of a professedly religious conference. Petilian continued his remarks in the following terms: This whole business, said he to the president, is of your seeking, not of ours. We claim to be bishops of the truth of Christ our Lord, as it has often been announced in our public acts. We justly venerate the memory of our predecessor Donatus, a man of a martyr’s fame, and an ornament of the church over which he presided in this city. In reply to the assertion of Petilian that the Donatists claimed to be bishops of the truth of Christ their Lord, a Catholic said that this was a thing for them to prove, rather than to boast of it. In the free exchange of impeachments by the parties, when the Catholics accused the Donatists of causing delays in the business of the conference, they renewed an old complaint against them; of delaying to give up many of their churches, which they had been ordered to by an edict a long time ago. Most of this short session was occupied in hearing the reports of the notaries respecting the records of the first day. On this subject the main question was, how much time would be needful to put said records in order; and in the end the conference was again adjourned for six days.

The Third Day of the Conference
The same company of state officers as usual entered the hall with the president, who were followed by the debating companies of both sides. The records of this day would make a pamphlet of no inconsiderable size. Some portions of the arguments I shall refer to, while for the most part page after page is occupied with debates which would be of no sort of interest to readers at the present time. In the first place, the emperor’s edict for the conference was now again read by the request of the Catholics the third time, at the close of which the Donatists made comments in the following style: so it seems, said Petilian, according to the tenor of the edict, the name of the Donatists is to be erased and blotted out. This was a literal version of the document. Since, said Emeritus, the imperial rescript for this conference has been read, let the prayer of the petition for it also be read. To this very reasonable request the president replied: Your holiness, I think, must know that in pragmatic rescripts it is not customary to insert the prayers of the petitioners. In many of the following pages the main question of discussion between the parties was,

Who Petitioned for the Conference?
The measure had evidently become so unpopular that the Catholics labored hard to associate the Donatists with them in it, while they on their part most resolutely denied the charge of their adversaries, and in repelling it they charged them with downright lying to the emperor respecting them; and thus obtained the edict which they sought. The Donatists, in their familiar addresses to their opponents, said: „Now tell us when you sent your petition, by whom you sent it, and what you petitioned for.” „That in it you lied to the most clement emperor about us,” said Petilian, „Is sufficiently plain, since you now hesitate and refuse to make a full disclosure of the nature of your petition for this conference, and the names of the men by whom you sent it. But,” continued Petilian, „all people may have known, and all Africa may now know, that all your communications to the emperor respecting us were against us.” Petilian still further, in censorious terms, said to his opponents that all people might understand that being unwilling openly to expose their falsehood to the emperor respecting the Donatists about the conference, they devised delays, lest at length the truth might appear in spite of their juggling tricks and misty arguments. The burden of the complaint of the Donatists relative to the petition under consideration consisted in their full conviction that in it they were represented to the emperor as being desirous for the conference, which they most strenuously opposed from the first of the projected measure. All the accusations of falsehood on the part of the Catholics by the Donatists, in this complicated business, were made before all the members of the conference. But in no case did the accused party stand up in their own defense, nor were the Donatists called to order as false accusers. As the president, of course, favored the Catholics, they, in the end, proved their absurdity and injustice by pretending the Donatists joined them in petitioning for the conference, and refused them anything about their own petition.

Debates on the Character of Caecilian
On this discussion the parties were led back about one hundred years, to the beginning of their controversy. Augustine, after stating his complaints of the Donatists for their censures of Caecilian and his party, made them the following proposal: If they would recede from their censures, he promised that the character of Caecilian should be examined and judged by divine testimonies, or, in other words, by scripture rules. If they would not recede, then the examination would be made with secular evidence, or the records of an old proconsular tribunal. To this proposal Augustine demanded a categorical answer. I cannot reply to your prolix oration, said Emeritus. Of course the secular mode was begun, although the proconsular records were wanting, and when a paper was presented, „Did the clerk draw it from the public desk or his own?” was the question. We shall soon see that Augustine was paid in his own coin, in his demand of a categorical answer.

Sharp Debates About Caecilian and the Ordainer of Augustine
Who is the manager of this cause, said the Donatist bishop Petilian; is it a son of Caecilian, or not? Call no man father on the earth, so we have heard, so we have read, and so we have preached to the people, said Augustine. Who are you, again said Petilian; are you a son of Caecilian, or not; and does the criminality of Caecilian adhere to you, or not? I am in the church of which Caecilian was the bishop till his death, said Augustine. At this point I would inform the reader that in Patristic language the terms father and mother are to be understood in an ecclesiastical sense. Whence was your origin and who was your father, for if you have denied your father you make yourself a heretic? said Petilian. We are in the church of which Caecilian was the bishop till the day of his death, again said Augustine. We recite his name at the altar. We commemorate his memory as the memory of a brother, not as of a father, or of a mother. Is Caecilian, in church relation, your father or mother? said Petilian. I say Caecilian was a brother; a good brother, if he was good; a bad brother, if he was bad; but if you wish for my opinion of him, I believe he was innocent, and that he was assailed with false criminations, which cannot injure the church, if, perhaps, they were true, which by no means, said Augustine, are you able to demonstrate. These are ambiguous words, said Petilian, and such as you have used through the whole day. Will you at some time at length expressly declare whether Caecilian is the father of your church, from whom its progenies have proceeded? For nothing can be born without a generator, nor begin without a head, nor grow without its own root. And, addressing himself to Marcellinus, your nobility, said Petilian, perceives that my opponent is more of a heretic than myself, since he has no father, and by his own decision he has disowned the father he once had. I have a head, said Augustine, which is Christ. Let it be more carefully demonstrated, said the president, whether Caecilian is your father or mother? I have a head, again said Augustine. Who ordained you as a bishop? said Petilian. Though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers, said Montanus, a Donatist. From the above request of Petilian for his antagonist to give the name of the bishop who ordained him to the episcopal office a long and singular discussion arose, in which numbers were engaged; the Catholics against, and the Donatists for, the disclosure of the name in question; while Augustine himself, after various evasive arguments, said the demand was superfluous, and was designed to expose him to reproaches with which his ears and his heart were well acquainted. From this we may suppose the unnamed bishop was then in bad repute, which he seemed to fear would be attached to him. Omitting further details of this controversy, I will say that he who so lately demanded a categorical answer from his opponents, by their importunity and the advice of the president was induced to give such an answer himself. Megalius, the primate of the Catholic churches of Numidia, he said, ordained him, who was then qualified for that office. Behold, said he to Petilian, I have answered your question. Now follow me with your prepared reproaches. Behold, I have named my ordainer. Now bring forth your calumnies. What a change in the language of the dogmatical bishop!

1. Mentitum te igitur Clementissimo Imperatori, sat constat, etc. Optatus on the Conference, p. 72.
2. Ecce respondi. Prosequere, profer quae praeparas, etc.
3. Ecce dixi ordinatorem meum, profer jam calumnias tuas. Optatus, p. 85.

Closing Scenes of the Conference mostly By the Donatists

In my first arrangement, the contents of this chapter were all embraced in Chapter VI, but on a second thought, as these contents are almost wholly occupied with the sayings and doings of the Donatists, I judged it suitable that they should be in a chapter by themselves, in which the reader may find a pretty full exposition of the scriptural and evangelical principles of this people, and also of their ability in defending them.

The Letter of the Donatists to the Conference
We are now approaching the close of this singular meeting. On the presentation of this letter, the following incidents occurred: The officiating scribe had hardly begun to read the document when Emeritus exclaimed, He does not read, he does not distinguish the sense. Let them read it themselves, said Augustine; we can concede to them what they were unwilling to concede to us. It is immaterial by whom the paper is read, said Marcellinus, the president. We do not doubt the fidelity of the reader, but we object to his pronunciation, said Petilian. I will read the letter, said Habetdeum, a Donatist bishop. Read it, said the president. The letter was addressed to the president, with his full name and title thus: „To the well beloved and distinguished man, Flavius Marcellinus, Tribune and Notary.” The signature of the letter was in the following peculiar style: „Januarianus and other bishops of the Catholic truth, which suffers persecution, but which does not persecute.” By this description the Donatists uniformly represented their community. They bespoke the fair dealing of the president by saying it was an evident sign of a just moderator when he would not deny to one party what he conceded to the other; and since, said they, he had heard the voluminous papers of their traitors and persecutors, they besought him to kindly receive their epistle; and that he would order it to be placed among the records; and after that, that he would deign to hear their cause. They began their arguments against their opponents with their favorite topic,

The Doctrine of Church Purity
Our adversaries, said they, by discursive testimonies, strongly urge against us the doctrine that it was predicted that the church which was to come was to consist of a mixture of good and bad members to the end of the world. We, on the other hand, said the Donatists, by more valid testimonies, show that the church of the Lord everywhere announced in the divine writings should be holy and pure.

Scripture Quotations on Church Purity
The version in use with the Donatist was probably that of Jerome. This may account for some variations from the English version. I shall endeavor to give a correct version of the Latin text of the Donatist quotations: „Arise, O Zion, says Isaiah, put on thy strength, O Jerusalem, the holy city; there shall not pass through thee the uncircumcised nor the unclean. „Say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold thy Saviour will come to thee, having his work and his reward before his face, and he will name thee a holy people, the redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called a desired city, not forsaken. „Then the eyes of the blind will be opened; the ears of the deaf will hear; the tongue of the dumb will be plain, and the lame will leap as a hart, since water hath broken forth in the desert, and a fountain in a thirsty land. „And the prophet hath added, A highway will be there, and a holy way it will be called. The unclean will not pass over this way, nor be found in it. No lion will be there. No evil beast will ascend this way, nor dwell there; but the chosen and the redeemed will walk therein. „In the Song of Songs the Lord hath said of his church, Thou art all fair, my sister; there is nothing reprehensible in thee.” What the apostle also said of the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and of his having espoused said church to one husband, that he might present it as a chaste virgin to Christ, this people repeated as in full agreement with the church model which they aimed to imitate. So many and so great, said they, are the testimonies which were announced through the Spirit, concerning the church, in disdain and contempt of the teaching of their opponents, namely, that bad men were to remain among the good in the church. This, said they, their adversaries improperly maintain from the parable of the tares, when the Lord, by his apostles, has interpreted this very parable to be of a very different import, in the following terms: „He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is this world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the tares are the children of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels,” etceteras. „The field, the Lord says, is the world, therefore not the church, but this world, in which the good and the bad dwell together till the harvest; that is, they are reserved till the divine judgment.”

The Donatists’ Comments On the Teaching of the Parable
This interpretation by the Lord, they asserted, could not be truly gainsaid; since, said they, if the apostles, the companions of the Lord himself, should have learned that the tares, that is, the children of the devil, springing up in the church by the neglect of discipline, were to be left in the communion of the saints, they never would have expelled from the thresholds of their churches, Simon, Erastus, Philetus, Alexander, Demas, Hermogenes, and others like them. Who they meant by the apostate named Erastus I cannot learn. Yes, indeed, said the reforming Donatists, the mixed policy of the Catholics would make void the whole of the public instructions throughout the divine writings pertaining to the separation of the wounded from the sound, the polluted from the clean. On this subject, in all its various forms, and by the numerous persons named, these assiduous men, in more than a folio page of their epistle, very earnestly expatiated. At length they came to what Moses said to the Israelites of Korah and his rebellious company, namely, „Depart ye from the tabernacles of these most obdurate men, and touch nothing of all that pertains to them, lest you perish with them in all their sins.” From Isaiah they quote on the same subject, „Depart ye, depart ye; go ye out from those men, be unwilling to touch an unclean thing; depart ye from the midst of them who bear the vessels of the Lord.” „Ye are the temple of the living God, saith the apostle, who of himself saith I will dwell in them, and I will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they also shall be my people. „Therefore, saith the apostle, depart ye from the midst of them, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and I will be your father and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Omnipotent.” Of their persecutions this people said they could accuse their adversaries of the savage cruelties with which they themselves, and their ancestors, without ceasing, had pursued with violence, and vexed both them and their fathers, for one hundred years or more. They furthermore asserted that their adversaries were not ashamed to shelter themselves under false arguments against them. Who, said these much injured men, does not know that these, our traitors and persecutors, from the very beginning of their condemned treachery, by all sorts of supplications and devices, have sought our deaths; and contrary to the divine command, by threats and proscriptions, have coerced us to their communion?

References to Distinguished Persecutors
At this time these oppressed people could not fail to speak of the amount of Christian blood which was shed in the wars against them by Leontius, Ursacius, Macarius, Paulus, Taurinus, Romanus, and other executioners, who had obtained favor with secular princes in the deaths of the saints, when very many venerable ministers were killed, others were sent into exile, and the sacred cause of Christianity was harassed far and wide; virgins were violated, the wealthy were proscribed, the poor were spoiled, and ministers who were fleeing from their own churches were taken in their flight. Thus far former times were referred to. In the close of their extended address to their opponents, still in the conference, such was their language: Now, in our own time, said they, our enemies have awarded exiles to our bishops, and precipices to those Christians who were fleeing from them; they have oppressed our people, they have robbed our clergy; they have invaded our churches, and beaten those who were unwilling to leave them. The great slaughter of lives in the Macarian war alone, was also referred to in the description of their persecutions, and although in this war so much blood had been shed, yet, said they, not being satiated, today they are thirsting for more. With a brief and friendly address to the president, this letter of the Donatists was closed. And not withstanding its great length, it was evidently composed during the meetings of the conference. This epistle, said the president, will be placed with the acts of the conference. Before this is done, said Emeritus, let testimonies be compared with testimonies, that your sublimity may judge of their respective merits. The discussion of the contents of this letter immediately followed, which was commenced and almost wholly managed by Augustine; but omitting all other subjects, he said: The main question in the epistle was, whether the church which was predicted by the prophets would have a mixture of good and bad members, or whether the members would be altogether good, all holy and unspotted in the world, even in that time, and till the final end of the world. This was Augustine’s strong language on this subject. Both these testimonies, said he, are divine, and well agree when rightly understood. On this discussion the parties now engaged in earnest, and also on the parable of the wheat and the tares. O, said he, if you would have patience with me until I can finish my argument. On resuming his discourse, Augustine observed that what he began to say had respect to the divine testimonies of the tares and the wheat. Without repeating the argument, which he went on to finish, it is sufficient to say, it was all embraced in his oft-asserted doctrine that we are to understand that the field means the church instead of the world. In the defense of this position, from which Augustine derived his principal support of lax discipline, in opposition to the strict system of the Donatists, almost a whole folio page was employed; but his unscriptural theory was undermined by his opponents, by the following scripture quotations. I will begin with the quotations by Emeritus: In the gospel it is said, the world hath not known God; therefore, on the theory in question, the church hath not known God. Again, it is said, That the whole world, that is, the whole church, may become guilty before God. Again, if ye were of the world, it would love its own, but since ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you and despiseth you. Again, they who are of the world, the world heareth them. In concluding their remarks on this very plain subject, What, said Petilian, is here meant by the church and what by the world, is most explicitly defined by the author and maker of this world, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made that was made. The Lord himself hath said the field is the world. Who, therefore, among men, dares to define the world, since the Lord himself, its framer and artificer, hath deigned to define it? At this point the president inquired what was meant by the world that God was reconciling unto himself? Man, said Petilian, is called the world in this case; for it was not beasts but men that God was thus reconciling. In the above details the reader may see the amount of labor of the Donatists in combating the novel exposition of a renowned theologian. The debates of the parties, so far as they have been preserved, were here closed. A portion of the records of this conference are said to be lost. But what was said by the notaries indicates that they expected the business would be continued. Since the dawn of day, said they to the president, we have filled two books, meaning the waxed tablets on which the records were made, and they requested that the other company of notaries might be called in, to take their places. Elsewhere we learn that this third session of this conference commenced at break of day, and now, after this long day in June, they were operating by torch-light. In this condition the debates of the parties were continued with unabated zeal, especially on the Donatist side. Soon, however, this protracted meeting, instead of being adjourned to another day, by the order of the president was abruptly closed, and on the spot his judgment was pronounced, which, says Neander, as was to be expected, was in favor of the Catholic church. The substance of this judgment will be given in the next chapter. The probable cause of this hasty proceeding of the president will be mentioned when I come to his ignoble death.

Recapitulation of the History Of the Conference of Carthage
In no English work have I ever seen any reference to this convocation in which the Donatists were not much concerned, and which imposed upon all their bishops so much of apparently useless labor their long and painful journeys. The council of Nice was held in 325. The conference at Carthage in 411. The differences in the objects and the manner of doing business in these large collections may be represented in the following terms: The whole design at Nice was against the Arians. That of Carthage was against the Donatists. The policy of Nice was openly proclaimed. That of Carthage was studiously concealed. At Nice they had an important question for discussion. At Carthage it was point no point. At Nice they did business on Christian principles. At Carthage they went by a rule of civil law. At Nice all could speak in the council. At Carthage only a few could speak or be in the conference. At Nice they chose their own president. At Carthage he was appointed some months beforehand by an exparte emperor. In these con vocations there were differences for which neither party was in fault. At Carthage all were Latins. At Nice all were Greeks but Constantine and Arius, from Spain, who were Latins. Arius was the only western delegate to the council of Nice. At the time of the conference the whole of the three days’ doings seemed useless; but at this late day its history has supplied important information of the principles of the Donatists, of the number of their churches and bishops, and other matters which can nowhere else be found.

1. Col. Cartha. Opta., p. 86.

Various Matters Concerning the Above Named Convocation, its Origin
and Chief Manager, With Comments by Different Parties

As Marcellinus was appointed by Honorius, the emperor, not only to collect the men of the conference and preside in it, but to act as judge, in its close we should naturally expect that before he performed this important service he would have recounted the arguments or the parties in their long debates, on both sides. But nothing of the kind was done in this case, and all the complaints of the Donatists of their many and cruel persecutions by their adversaries were passed over in silence, as were also their various and able arguments in defense of their scriptural doctrine of church purity. No reference was made to any of the debates of the conference, but the whole argument for his decision by which the Donatists were condemned was grounded on a very obscure account of the decision of a proconsular tribunal about one hundred years before, when Donatus was condemned and Caecilian was absolved.

The Form of His Judgment
The language of this document was rather that of advice and admonition than of judicial authority. It was addressed not so much to the Donatists themselves as to those who were supposed to be their abettors in their reputed heresy by favoring their measures, or, at least, in permitting them to occupy their premises. The original language of the judge may be given in English in the following terms: All men of rank, likewise the managers of farming estates, the agents and tenants of houses of divine worship, as also of private possessions, and the chief men of all the country, by the authority of the edict of the emperor, I admonish, that so far as they are mindful of the merit and value of the imperial laws, and of their own welfare and reputation, that they strive together to prohibit the conventicles of the Donatists in the cities and all other places. The term „conventicle,” in the time of the Donatists, as in later times, according to Webster, was contemptuously applied to the meetings of dissenters from the established church, for religious worship. With all dissenters from established churches, they are quite common in their more early operations. But this people had church edifices all over the land, which had often been taken from them and converted to Catholic use. This was formerly done by violence, which the contriver of this legal process evidently sought to avoid. The president, after his decision against the Donatists, for maturing his main business with them, addressed them in the following manner: „As the case now stands, the churches which, by my clemency and the command of the emperor, you have been permitted to occupy to the day of this sentence, it behooves you now to hasten without any delay to surrender to the Catholics, unless you choose rather to perish in the snares of so many imperial decrees, which you may certainly shun by consenting to the Catholic union.”

The Close of the Judgment
The conference being finished, said Marcellinus, it becomes the bishops of the Donatists, each one, to return to their homes without disgust or dissatisfaction, since it is determined by the legal power that they must either return to the one true church, or give satisfaction to the laws.

Threatening of the Judge
Those, said he, who mingle in their prohibited assemblies again, or return to their profane conventicles, must understand that they cannot escape the judgment of the imperial will. Finally, the judge cautioned the people whom he addressed, against placing any dependence for protection on the Circumcellians. On this subject he evidently spoke under the direction of a clerical adviser. Such was the display of authority towards the Donatists, as rebels against the established church, of the man who soon after was beheaded by the command of the emperor, under the charge of treason against the state.

Remarks on the Doings of Marcellinus as the President of the Conference
We have seen that he did not define the punishment of those he condemned; this was not his province, but to make them liable to the punishments enjoined in the existing laws; and a principal complaint of the Donatists against him consisted in his urging upon the authorities the more rigorous execution of these laws. His first and most important object was to gain possession of the Donatist churches for the Catholics, or, in other words, for his own party; and in the next place, to hold up before the bishops who refused to give up their churches, their liability to punishments of the following kinds: for each bishop a fine of ten pounds weight of gold, twelve ounces to the pound, or exile to the neighboring islands in the Mediterranean. Marcellinus must have been a new hand at presiding, according to more modern custom, since it is said he spoke almost six hundred times during the three days of the conference, that is, on an average about two hundred times per diem. He often spoke but a few words, which might pass for explanations, but quite a number of his speeches were of considerable length. He was compelled, say his advocates, thus often to speak to counteract the deceptive arguments of the Donatists in defending their errors, and to recall them to the subjects of the debate. The partisan character of these speeches all will well understand. In the main, this exparte president treated with due civility the people who were evidently prejudged, and who were as sure of being condemned at the beginning of the conference as at its close.

Gloomy and Perilous Condition of Almost Three Hundred Bishops,
and With Them, Doubtless, Many of Their Brethren of the Lay Order
They had been drawn from their homes against their wills, from the whole region of North Africa, where are now the Barbary States. Here they were in the night season suddenly dismissed, in the midst of their efforts to defend their cause. The judgment was rendered June 26, 411. The tiresome journeys which these much injured men had so lately performed were now to be retraced, generally on foot, the then common mode of travel; and that these men travelled in this way may be inferred from the fact that in many cases they were hindered on the way by sore feet. But amidst all their painful labors in traveling, there was this to console them: although the distances to and from Carthage varied from a small number to a thousand or more miles, they could often find stopping places among their own people, so thickly were they settled all over the country. Why did they go to the conference at all? may be asked. They had no choice, since by the edict they must go, or forfeit their churches to the Catholics.

Comments on the Emperor’s Edict
This edict, like others of the kind, was doubtless formed under clerical dictation, since we may say of it as Neander said in another case, it was too theological for an emperor. After expatiating quite freely on the reputed faults of the men of depraved minds, and saying that formerly he had commanded that their superstition should be abolished now, by the same authority, he decreed that the surreptitious system should be destroyed. As the emperor, but about a year before, had, by an edict, secured entire freedom to the Donatists for their religion, now, he said, for a worthy cause, the said edict, by the same authority, was annulled. The circumstances under which the edict for the conference was granted, the emperor himself has thus described; it confirms what was lately said by the Donatists: A legation of venerable bishops, who, he says, he freely admitted, earnestly desired that the Donatist bishops should be collected with those of the Catholics for the manifest intention of refuting their superstition by disputations. Then a long list of directions is given for collecting the bishops and for the management of the conference. Friar Baldwin was one of the few Catholics who could see both sides of a controversy, and occasionally he noticed mistakes of his own party; he was against dragging religious disputes before secular tribunals; and he said it was more becoming Christian bishops to take the prophets and apostles for their guides. The Friar had little faith in the benefit to the Catholics in the Carthaginian conference which was so often on the lips of Augustine; and he criticized with his usual freedom the argument of his favorite bishop for compelling the Donatists to attend that conference, and then refusing to attend a similar meeting of a general character of the Pelagian, not long after. The argument to which the Friar objected was stated by Augustine himself, namely: „To crush the immodesty and to curb the audacity of the men whose madness had so overrun all Africa that the Catholic truth could not be preached in many places.” The Friar compared the dispute of Augustine with the Donatists, with the more subtle and important one of Basil with the heretic Photinus. In this case, said the Friar, Photinus denied the head of the church, that is, Christ himself; whereas the Donatists only denied the church. Again, said the Friar, the dispute in question with Augustine was mixed with the ordination of Caecilian by Felix. Again, said the same author, I believe that the emperor Honorius was willing his friend Marcellinus should be protected with an armed force in the conference. The reason for such an unusual measure for a professedly religious meeting, composed altogether of Christian bishops, was devised from the slanderous reports of the bad character of the Donatists. The Friar, in the course of his comments on the positions of the Donatists, observed that they claimed to be Catholics themselves, and that they were bishops of a Catholic church, and defenders of the truth. Here, said the Friar, came up a question of fact rather than of law, which was the more difficult to solve, because the Donatists appeared to retain the Catholic Doctrine of faith, neither had they been accused of apostasy of any kind.

The Friar Sides with the Donatists Against Augustine in History
The Donatists, said he, were right in saying that Elijah and Elisha never communicated with the altars of Samaria; and I wonder, said he, at the answer of Augustine to the contrary of their assertion. Again, said the Friar, Augustine was wrong and the Donatists were right in what they said of the prophets Hosea and Amos, respecting their not communing with the Israelites. The Friar made special mention of their defense of church purity against the lax system of the Catholics. While on this subject he repeated the famous passage in Isaiah, so often refereed to by the Donatists: „Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from the midst of them; be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.” Interspersed in what was said by the Friar on the controversies between the Catholics and the Donatists we often find a repetition of the following pertinent questions of the reformers: What has the emperor to do with the church? What have bishops to do at the palace? What has Christianity to do with the kings of this world? I confess, said the Friar, that Augustine was more nervous and explicit in his writings against Petilian than in his speaking in the conference; because, said he, in writing, no one interrupted him, as they did when speaking. Rather a lame apology for such a controversialist as was the bishop of Hippo. Augustine’s Abridgment of the Conference at Carthage The author of this professedly friendly and religious, but in part political and sectarian measure, published two articles of considerable length respecting it; the first was an abridgment of the original records; the second an address to the Donatists after the conference. Both articles are found in Augustine’s works. The abridgment was designed for those readers who would not be inclined to examine the multitudinous details of the original records. It is also a paraphrase of those records, of a decidedly sectarian character, in which facts are often distorted to favor his own side.

The Address After the Conference
Why, O ye Donatists, said this unwearied adversary, are you still seduced by your bishops, whose dark fallacies have been dispelled by the clearness of the light, whose error has been made apparent, and whose obstinacy has been overcome? Why do you give credit to your conquered bishops, when they say the judge was corrupted with a bribe? In continuing his address to his opponents, Augustine crossed his path by representing them as shut up in a prison by the judgment against them; but soon after he addressed them in the following terms: Behold, the conference has been held and the disputations of the parties have been had. Behold, your falsehood has been proved. Why now do you shun the Catholic union? Why is our charity still despised? Why are we still in different parties and under different names? One God hath created us. One Christ hath redeemed us, and one Holy Spirit ought to unite us. In reply to the comments of the Donatists of being judged in the night, cannot, said he, the truth be spoken in the night? Paul once preached till midnight. The Psalmist hath said the Lord hath commanded his loving kindness by day and declared it by night. Now, said he, let the name of the Lord be honored; and now let your brethren see how good and how pleasant it will be to rejoice with you in Christian union. Now at length let the devil be conquered in your hearts.

1. Recte Donatistae aiunt Eliam et Elisaeum, etc. Recte rursus ** Osea et Amos, etc. Col. Cartha. Opta., p. 131.

The Catholic Discipline Compared With That of the Donatists

As one of the principal differences between Augustine and the Donatists had respect to this subject, as readers may have observed in the foregoing narratives, especially in the close of Chapter VII, that all may judge whether this people had valid reasons for their leaving the Catholics, I will describe their discipline according to their own writings in Bingham’s Antiquities: „As to the practice of the Catholic church in Africa,” says Bingham, „Augustine freely owns he was forced many times to tolerate the tares among the wheat, when they were grown numerous, and it was dangerous to eradicate them by the rough measures of severe discipline, for fear of overturning and destroying the church unity by dangerous schisms, and of scandalizing more weak souls in that way than they could hope to gain by the other.” It was so in Cyprian’s time, he says, and it was so in his own. He often repeats that famous passage of Cyprian, in his book De Lapsis, concerning the fallen, where, speaking of the reason of God’s visiting the church with the terrible persecution under Decius, he plainly intimates that members, both of the clergy and the laity, had so corrupted their morals that good men could do nothing more than mourn and keep themselves as well as they could from partaking of their sins.

The Famous Passage of Cyprian
All men’s minds were set upon augmenting their estates, and forgetting what the first Christians did in the times of the apostles, and what they ought always to do, they, by an insatiable ardor of covetousness, only studied to increase their fortunes. There was no true religion or devotion in the priests; no sincere faith in the ministers; no mercy in their works; no discipline in their morals. Many bishops who ought to have been both monitors and examples to the rest, forsook their divine calling and rambled about other provinces, seeking such business as would bring them gain and advantage. In the meantime they suffered the poor of the church to starve, whilst they minded nothing but the heaping up of riches and the getting of estates by fraud and violence, by usury and extortion. Cyprian, says Bingham, here plainly intimates that in such a corrupt state of affairs the discipline of the church could not be maintained or be rightly put in execution. But he was forced to endure those colleagues of his who were covetous, rapacious, extortioners, deserters, fraudulent and cruel. This mode of reasoning, says Bingham, was very often employed by Augustine in his disputes with the Donatists when he maintained that the church in his day followed the example of Cyprian in this matter. When, said he, we are not permitted to excommunicate offenders for the sake of the peace and tranquillity of the church, we do not therefore neglect said church, but only tolerate what we would not, to obtain what we would, have. In his book against Parmenian, Augustine treats this subject at large. Who can blame the Donatists for separating from such a church?

The Rebaptizing System of Cyprian, and the Use
Made of It by the Donatists for Rebaptizing
We come now to a strange event in Catholic history, which for some time produced no little disturbance in a large portion of the Catholic church. In the business now to be briefly described, the Donatists took no part, only in their comments on the new practice of rebaptizing by their opponents, who, by Cyprian’s rule, baptized heretics anew for the same reason that they rebaptized Catholics, to wit, the reputed invalidity of the first baptism.

Cyprian’s Council for rebaptizing Heretics
By this distinguished bishop of the metropolitan church of Carthage, the council under consideration was collected near the close of his life. As rebaptizing was contrary to Catholic custom both then and now,1 a violent dispute arose on the subject between Cyprian of Carthage, and Stephen, then bishop of Rome. Each in that age was of equal episcopal power, in the respective locations. The council under consideration was held at Carthage in 256. It consisted of upwards of eighty bishops. The only business of this convocation appears to have been to decide the question of the rebaptizing of the heretics who came into the church, on the principle that their first baptism was null and void; or whether it should be held as valid, if administered in due form, in the name of the Trinity. As immersion was then the practice of all parties, whether heretic or orthodox, there was no dispute on the mode of baptism, nor the subjects of the rite, especially in the controversy now under review. The whole council was evidently pledged to sustain their leader in his anabaptistical enterprise. They all spoke more or less on the subject, but in most cases their speeches were quite brief. The following may serve as specimens. The reader may notice that the speakers were all careful to make of no account the former baptism of heretics: „I,” said one, „believe that every man who comes into the church from the heretics is to be baptized. „They who approve of the baptism of heretics make the baptism of the church void. „The baptism of heretics and schismatics is false. „If the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch together; and so if a heretic baptizes a heretic, they together fall into death. He who is baptized for the dead, what doth his washing profit him? The same question may be asked respecting those who are „ab haereticis tinguuntur,” baptized by heretics. „If the church omits the baptism of heretics because they are said to be already baptized, then the heretics stand first with the orthodox.” „Christ instituted the church, the devil heresy. Can a synagogue of Satan have the baptism of Christ? „Since a true baptism can be administered only in the Catholic church, it is manifest that none can be truly baptized outside of the boundaries of that church; therefore all who have been „tinctos”, baptized, in heresy or schism, when they come into the church, in my judgment, ought to be baptized. „There is but one baptism, which is by the church; where there is no true church there can be no valid baptism. „It is written, there is one God, one Christ, one church, and one baptism. How can any one be baptized in a place where God, and Christ, and a church are not? „A man who is a heretic cannot give what he has not; much more may this be said of a schismatic, who has lost what he had. „Without cause, indeed falsely and invidiously, they impugn the truth, that may presume to say we rebaptize heretics, when the church does not rebaptize, but she baptizes them.” I have endeavored to give a literal version of what was said by the above speakers. The sameness of their remarks in some cases may be accounted for from their appearing to speak without much preparation. The speech of Cyprian to his council, of about two folio pages, I shall wholly omit. I have thus given to the reader more or less of the speeches or remarks of about one-eighth of the members of Cyprian’s council, on what, in the language in which they spoke, was termed „rebaptizationes”, in English re-baptisms. Of these fourscore speakers, not one but the last referred to, ever used the term „re” in connection with baptism; and it is somewhat amusing to see how carefully they all avoided it. This practice, it is said, prevailed somewhat extensively, and caused much trouble among the Catholics in Africa and the east, after Cyprian’s death by martyrdom, two years after this council, that is in 258.

Remarks on the Details of the Foregoing Narratives
In this baptismal controversy immersionists may derive a valid argument from the fact that the numerous speakers in Cyprian’s council almost uniformly, in their references to baptism, employed the verb „baptiso”, and the nouns „baptisma” and „baptismus”, when it is certain that immersion was the ordinary mode of baptism with all parties, whether Catholics or dissenters. The other terms, which were seldom used by these speakers, were „tingo” and „lavo”. Augustine complained of the Donatists for so often reminding him of Cyprian’s rebaptizing policy. Why, said he, do you assume Cyprian’s authority for your schism? No longer, said he, quote Cyprian’s writings and council for the repetition of baptism, but rather follow Cyprian’s example for the preservation of Christian union, by remaining in the church.

Divisions Among the Donatists
This numerous and widespread community, in its progress, divided into parties, like the English Puritans, which appellation, as a term of reproach, was often applied to them. The Maximianists was the first of these divisions. This party, according to Augustine and Du Pin, arose in the following manner: A deacon of the Donatist church of Carthage in some way offended Primian, then the pastor of said church, and in the end was excommunicated; and under his management the new party was formed, which took its name from that of the deacon, its founder, which was Maximianus. But whatever names the new parties took, they all bore the general name of Donatists. This was the only party which went out from the original company, which, according to both Augustine and Du Pin, through their whole history, was the main body of this people. This first division began with twelve bishops, but it soon increased to one hundred; but it is doubtful if it held its own, as we read of some coming back to the main body. Of the cause of the first division I can only learn by Du Pin, that it was something about baptism. More is said on this subject by Du Pin in his historical sketches of the Donatists. As I shall refer with emphasis on the important position and services of the main body of this people in the chapter on their denominational character, compared with the minor parties, I will now only refer to the small division from the Maximianists. The Rogatians were so called from Rogatus of the province of Mauritania. As in the time of the Donatists there were two provinces in North Africa of this name, which together constituted a large part of the country, and in them the Donatists appear to have been numerous, why the bishop whose name indicates a Roman pedigree was specially referred to as a native of the province, I do not understand. On what point Rogatus differed from the party from which he separated I am not informed.

Augustine’s Letters to Different Donatists and to
Catholic Statesmen Concerning this People
Macrobius was a Donatist bishop in the city of Hippo, in which this people were quite numerous, and in which Augustine had very lately been ordained a Catholic bishop, and being full of zeal for his party, as Macrobius was about to baptize a Catholic sub-deacon for the purpose of making him a deacon with the Donatists, Augustine, in two epistles, entreated his beloved brother in the Lord, not to take from his people one of their sub-deacons. One of these epistles occupies five folio pages.

To Maximinus, also a Donatist bishop, Augustine sent an epistle of considerable length to hinder him from rebaptizing a Catholic deacon. He had previously sent him an epistle of more limited contents, on the same subject. It was to this Donatist bishop, Maximinus, and in one of these epistles, that Augustine proposed a compromise with the Donatists by which they and the Catholics should cease reproaching each other of their reputed bad men on each side. This account will be given in remarks on the Circumcellions. By Augustine, Crispin was warned of his danger of the fine of ten pounds of gold, according to the Theodosian code, for rebaptizing about forty Catholics. This baptism, like all others of those times, according to the Latin note, was by immersion. Crispin’s case will be more fully noticed in connection with Du Pin’s History of the Donatists. Severus, a kinsman of Augustine, was importuned by him to desert the wicked and impudent Donatists. To Donatus, a Donatist presbyter, Augustine sent an epistle of a peculiar character, in which he said if he could witness his solicitude for his salvation he would, perhaps, have pity on his soul. You, said he, maintain that no one ought to be coerced, even to that which is good, because God has given a free will to man. Donatus was a very common name with the Roman descendants in Africa. Du Pin has a list of almost thirty on both sides, in the conference at Carthage, in his Monumenta. To Donatus, a proconsul, and Festus, a magistrate in Africa, Augustine gave instructions respecting the amount of punishment they should inflict on the Donatists. Marcellinus, who became the president and judge in the Carthaginian conference, was a very frequent and confidential correspondent of Augustine, to whom he gave instructions how to arrange the manner of conducting that iniquitous meeting. But to the old warrior, Boniface, Augustine sent his largest treatise about punishing the Donatists, not so much for heresy, as he admitted to the count that they had nothing in common with the Arians, but for their impious dissension from the Catholic church. This epistle was of fifteen folio pages. The count was cautioned to spare the lives of the offenders. In the latter part of the ninth volume of Augustine’s works we find a list of small works by him, consisting of letters, sermons and tracts, to the number of about one hundred, addressed directly to the Donatists or to Catholics of almost all classes of the clergy and the laity, respecting them. From such a variety of efforts to oppose the prevalence of this enterprising people, the reader may form an opinion of their number and their influence. In the celebrated council of Nice we do not find any of the Donatists. One of the Novatian bishops was invited to attend it by Constantine, but neither he, nor any dissenter, met with the Nicene Fathers.

Comparison of the Novatians and the Donatists
The Novatians arose about half a century earlier than the Donatists. The first party had its origin in Rome; the other in Carthage. While the Donatist party had their principal seat in Africa, the Novatians spread extensively in almost all parts of the Roman empire into which Christianity had spread. Each of these communities became quite numerous, and were distinguished for their evangelical principles; the one in their fixed location in Africa, the other as missionaries in widespread regions.

Wherein Did These People Differ?
I cannot find any material difference between them but in that part of their church discipline which had respect to excommunicated members. While the Donatists readmitted them on evidence of repentance, under no circumstances would this be done by the Novatians. As this party arose while the Catholics had much trouble in their church with apostates in the Decian persecution, this might have had an influence in the adoption of their severe discipline. Both the Donatists and the Novatians rebaptized those who came to them from the Catholics. They were also equally reproached as Puritans, because it was said they pretended they were more religious than their neighbors. And, different from the established church, they held that the visible church of Jesus Christ does not, and ought not to, consist of any but sound members, who were not contaminated with spots and falls. In this early age the Catholics adopted the absurd custom of freeing themselves from all blame in the punishing of those they condemned by throwing it on the secular powers. This mode of reasoning was well exposed in the Spanish Cortes by the eloquent Castellar in reply to what was said on this subject by father Manterola in the same Cortes. The venerable Manterola says that he condemns all religious persecutions. We do not put the persecuted ones to death, says he; it is the civil power that executes them. Ingenious defence! It is exactly as the assassin said, It is not I who killed this victim, it was my sword. But do not all know as well as I, said Castellar, that the inquisition was the sword of the church? Optatus did not appear well pleased with the persecutions of Macarius, which he admitted were very severe on the Donatists in the Macarian war, yet, said he, in all the scenes of that bloody war, nothing was done by our desire, nothing by our counsel, nothing by our knowledge, nothing by our assistance. All this was said in the face of the well known facts, that the emperor Constans, a zealous Catholic, sent count Macarius into Africa to fight the Donatists into the Catholic union, and that the count himself was a member of the Catholic church.

1. I inquired of a Catholic pastor if this ancient custom of not requiring re=baptism still prevailed in his church. He said it did. But, said he, to avoid any mistake, we say, „If thou hast not been baptized, I baptize thee,” etc.
2. Et de tinguentibus loquitur.
3. Ubi mergeret homines in profundum. Op. August., Tome 9, p. 228.

Biographical Sketches of Donatist Authors And Distinguished Men

Almost all the facts under this head of a biographical character have been selected from the works of Augustine, in his controversial writings against the Donatists. A few of these facts, which are under the head of fragments of Donatist history, are from the works of Optatus. Of but few of the men whose names appear in the details of this work can I find materials for this article, as no information is recorded of their early lives, nor connected accounts of them on the stage of action. Of Donatus himself, who gave name to this people, all that is said at first is, that he was one of the seventy Numidian bishops who engaged in the measures out of which the Donatists arose; that his place at home was Casae Nigrae, which, according to Perry’s translation, meant the „Black house” and that he published many books pertaining to his heresy. Secundus, another of these seventy bishops, was the primate of Numidia, which name answers to that of archbishop with the Catholics in later times; by him all new bishops of the province were ordained. This is all we have of the early history of this distinguished man as a Catholic, and such were the whole seventy bishops when they went to Carthage; and we find but little more of Secundus as a Donatist, except that he is said to have been the president of the council which deposed Caecilian and ordained Majorinus, of whom we have no information except that he was a deacon of the Catholic church of Carthage, in which, by the new party, he was suddenly advanced to the episcopal chair.

Of Parmenian, one of the able defenders of the Donatist cause whose writings have been preserved, there is almost an entire absence of facts pertaining to his early history and of his subsequent labors among his people.

The same may be said of Cresconius, the grammarian, the very learned and able defender of his persecuted brethren, who wrote about half a century after Parmenian, and others of whose writings we have less information. Different from my anticipations, my proposed biographical sketches must be confined to Petilian, Emeritus and Gaudentius, and a few of less note.

Of his native place we are not informed. It is said he was born of Catholic parents, that he was a Catholic catechumen until he became a Donatist, at which time he was a forensic advocate. The strange account of the manner in which a full grown man, in the execution of a civil office, was taken from the Catholics by the Donatists, is related by Augustine in the following terms: „When,” said he, „the Donatists were predominant in Constantina, (the ancient Cirta) they seized with violence Petilian, our catechumen; when he fled away they sought him in his flight; they found him concealed; they drew him out fearing; they baptized him trembling, and they ordained him against his will.” „Behold”, said Augustine, „what violence they used against a member of our church. And while they snatch men to death, do not we draw them to salvation?”

This story was told as a veritable fact in Augustine’s sermon for the conversion of Emeritus, which event will soon come under review. Such is the absurdity of this story that it requires no neutralizing comments. It was told to a large Catholic audience, by whom it was doubtless believed as were other fabulous accounts, which were designed to operate against the reformers. That Petilian was originally a Catholic is not improbable. He first appears in the history of the Donatists as the bishop of a large church of this people in the city of Constantina, then the capital of Numidia, in which place much has been said of him in our former narratives, as there also has been in the details of the conference at Carthage, where he and Augustine were the principal speakers on their own sides. The most of the able writings of Petilian which have been preserved may be found in the extracts from these writings in Chapter IV, against Augustine. These two prominent men in their parties were of about the same age, and through most of their lives they were in conflict with each other, which began about a century after the rise of the Donatists. Through the whole of the debates of the Carthaginian convocation they met each other face to face, and it was after this meeting that Augustine gave the above account of the forcible conversion of his brother Petilian, as he usually called him, to the party which through all his life he so ably defended. His ability as a writer is shown in his exposition of the principles of his own community, and in all that pertained to the church and state system, the coercive measures, and the lax discipline of the Catholics. It was stated above that Petilian and his life-long opponent were about of the same age. Augustine, at the time of the conference, was 57. In that meeting, the term most venerable2 was applied to Petilian by his opponents. About ten years later we find him in a council of thirty Donatist bishops in consultation about their denominational concerns. The abundant labors and the great influence of Petilian among the Donatists appear in their history during his time.

This eminent bishop was of the seven debaters in the conference, where he was very active, and, according to Augustine himself, was an able defender of the Donatist cause. We also find his name often mentioned in all the controversies of his people with their opponents, but I do not find any account of his early life, or of the circumstances connected with it. After he was somewhat advanced in years he was exposed to a vexatious assault, which I have deemed worthy of being briefly described. He was the pastor of a large Donatist church in the city of Caesarea, in the province of Mauritinia, where he appears to have continued for seven years after the conference; at the close of which, this church, with all others of the Donatists, by the decision of the judge, would be lost to them unless they consented to the Catholic union. At the period under review, which was in the year 418, Emeritus, in the midst of his peaceful pursuits, was beset by Augustine, not for his church but for himself, as a convert to his own faith, as by a false rumor he had heard that his brother Emeritus was about ready to go over to the Catholics. Acting upon this rumor, the zealous bishop engaged in laborious efforts for maturing such a desirable event. The whole story as related by himself occupies about eight folio pages. In it was a sermon professedly for the purpose; an account of a meeting in a church full of Catholics, and many speeches and remarks by the projector of the measure, which he thus described. Sometime after the conference at Carthage, there arose a necessity of his going to Caesarea, where Emeritus, as yet, was the bishop of the Donatists. The distance, according to Butler’s atlas, was a few hundred miles. As this was the home of his brother Emeritus, for whom he expressed a most ardent affection, after mutual salutations, by Augustine’s persuasions he went with him into the metropolitan church of the Catholics, and having thus freely entered it, „we thought,” said he, „he would not refuse the Catholic communion.” Thus suddenly the unsuspecting Donatist bishop found himself the observed of a crowd of observers, who evidently had collected to witness his profession of the Catholic faith; instead of which, the report soon went out that he was still in heretical perverseness. What was said in the church by Augustine and his coadjutors fills a number of folio pages, while Emeritus was almost wholly silent. Augustine now went back to their debates in their conference seven years before, and challenged the claim of Emeritus of being then victorious. To this he replied, „the records will decide that question.” The exparte character of the conference, in the view of the Donatists, by the concessions of Augustine, was thus referred to: „I know,” said he, „you maintained that the president was under a bribe, and that we bought his judgment against you. I know,” said he, „what you said of the judge being of our communion, and for that reason you opposed him without restraint. I know that you gave out that you was put down by power, not by the truth. All these things,” said Augustine to his brother Emeritus, „were thrown abroad by you or those of your communion after the conference; but since you have well known that victorious truth is against you, why do you still shun the Catholic union?”

We are near the close of this singular measure, when the proselyting bishop changed his style of addressing his brother Emeritus. „Since you still shun the Catholic union, why have you come here?” said the disappointed bishop. „I came at your request,” said the resolute Emeritus. „You came only to deceive us,” said the uncivil Augustine. Augustine lived about ten years after this event, but, probably, he never heard the last of it from the Donatist party.

This able defender of the Donatists, and their distinguished sentiments, was also one of the seven speakers on their side in the conference at Carthage, and although he and his church were exposed to the same judgment of the president as Emeritus, yet we find him at his post nine years after said judgment was pronounced. Some extracts from the very able writings of Gaudentius may be found in Chapter IV. Some brief sketches of his history will now be given. I find no account of his early life or of his writings except the portions which are found in the works of his decided adversary, Augustine. He was the pastor or bishop, as all pastors were then called, of an important church, and his defence of their cherished sanctuary, and the circumstances of that defence, embrace the substance of the information I have obtained of this much persecuted man. In the year 420, that is, nine years after the far-famed conference, Dulcitius, a military tribune, was sent into Africa to gain possession of Donatist churches, of which that of Gaudentius was early sought. Preparatory to this undertaking the tribune addressed epistles to Gaudentius, and also to Augustine; the first to give due notice of his mission, the other for advice respecting it. Augustine advised the tribune to proceed with severe measures, since, said he, it is better that some should suffer by their own fires than that the whole body should suffer in the everlasting flames of gehenna. This cruel advice was not at all followed by the tribune, but he opened a friendly correspondence with Gaudentius about the church in question, in which two letters passed between the parties. Some of their contents will be disclosed in what will appear in our remarks on this subject. In this case we have a rare instance of condescension of a high state officer in his dealing with a reputed violator of state laws. The letter of Dulcitius to Gaudentius, and his to the imperial commissioner, were all reviewed in a quite lengthy treatise by Augustine, from the contents of which it is evident the persecuting church manager was much annoyed with the different turn of this business from that he advised; especially with the mild language of the tribune in addressing Gaudentius, and in his recognizing the religious character of the tribune. Augustine’s Remarks on this singular transaction. In the first place, said he, we do not undertake to defend the language of the tribune, but our aim is to refute the heretics. What though a layman of the military order of our communion has been too incautious in addressing Gaudentius, who of us cannot overlook his fault? Who of us will prejudge the words of the tribune? Augustine being unwilling to have anything reported in favor of Gaudentius by the tribune, said he did not read in his letters concerning him, that he was a man of prudence and innocence, but that he had heard this from others. Again, said Augustine, the tribune being a military man, he was not well acquainted with the proprieties of language for his mission. But far be it from me, said the objecting adversary, that I should insinuate that Gaudentius was deceived by flattery. As the tribune was on the spot, and knew all that passed, Augustine was in a rather critical position. Behold, said he, this tribune Dulcitius, who is of our communion. Nevertheless, said he to Gaudenius, according to your testimony he is not superstitious, but sincerely religious; and according to your exposition, he is not a false, but a true worshiper of God. If, therefore, thou hast an entire affection for the tribune, wherefore dost thou contemptuously refuse to hold with him the unity of Christ? And by rendering evil as it were for evil, dost thou not long to rebaptize him whom thou dost account thy persecutor?

Gaudentius closed both his epistles to the tribune by wishing him prosperity in the administration of the affairs of the republic, and that he might retire from the causing of disquietude to a Christian people. We can do the same, said Augustine, but we do not desire the tribune to cease from the correction of heretics. In one of the epistles of Gaudentius to the tribune he said: You persuade me to flee from my post to avoid the demands of the laws. Hear, said he, what the Lord said of the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, and what of the hireling who, by fleeing, left the sheep a prey to the wolf. The fleeing policy was highly commended by Augustine, on which he made extensive comments, quoting the example of Paul at Damascus, and what Christ said of fleeing from one city to another. As he greatly desired the peaceable possession of the Donatist churches for his own people, it is easy to comprehend the reason of the wily manager in this case.

The Charge of Threatened Suicide by Gaudentius, by Augustine
In his correspondence with Dulcitius, he was requested to surrender his church to the Catholics. In reply to this request the resolute bishop addressed the tribune in these terms: „In this church, in which the name of God and his Christ is always invoked in truth, as you yourself also have admitted, we will permanently remain as long as it may please God for us to live.” This is the whole of the threatened suicide of Gaudentius. The story which has gone the rounds of church history originated in the perverted language of Augustine. „You,” said he to Gaudentius, „declared, with other words, I grant, that you would burn your church, with yourself and people in it.”

The most I can learn of this Donatist author is found in a small work which he published against the Catholics, in defense of his own people. In this work are many scripture quotations, mostly from the evangelical prophets, who described the church of the coming Messiah, and who foretold that this church should consist of a separate and holy people. He maintained, with the decision of his party, that believers were the only subjects of Christian baptism. He was also very severe on the persecutions of the Catholics, and on their lax and corrupt discipline.

He was the only author among the dissenting parties from the main body of the Donatists of whose writings I have gained any information. To him Augustine addressed an epistle of great length, from which the following extracts are made: You, said Augustine, think that none are to be compelled to the gospel. Did not the Master say, compel them to come in–to the feast? In defence of retaliation of injuries Augustine addressed Vicentius in the following terms: Pharaoh oppressed the people of God with hard labor. Moses afflicted impious Pharaoh’s people with severe chastisements. Jezebel killed the Lord’s prophets. Elias killed the prophets of Baal. The Jews scourged Christ. Christ scourged the Jews. The impious killed the prophets. The prophets killed the impious. Men delivered the apostles into the hands of the civil magistrates. The apostles delivered men into the power of Satan. No example can be found, said Vicentius, in the gospels or in the apostolic writings, that anything whatever was ever sought from earthly rulers for the church against their enemies. This fact was admitted by Augustine, but he said it was to be the result of prophecies not yet fulfilled. It was to Vicentius that the bishop of Hippo gave the memorable description of his conversion of the Donatist, not by arguments, but in the manner soon to be described. This account was given in reply to the arguments of Vicentius against compulsion in religious concerns. The then persecuting church manager admitted to Vicentius that at first he was of the same mind with him, and was against forcing men into the church lest it should be filled with false Catholics, and that his mind was changed by the arguments of older men who referred to the effect of coercive measures in favor of the Catholics, and also by his own experience in church management, which he thus defined: „When I first came to Hippo, I found the city full of the Donatist party, who were all opposed to me, but they were converted to the Catholic union by the fear of the imperial laws.” How decidedly is this statement opposed to the common theory of historians that the Donatists were converted to the Catholics by the logical powers of Augustine, a power, says Robins, he himself did not claim, although he was never backward in sounding his own praise. Vicentius belonged to the Rogatians, but he appears to have been a firm supporter of the primordial principles of the original Donatists.

Fragments of the History of Donatist Martyrs
In Africa, Datinus, Saturnus, Felix Amplius and Others
These fragments are found in the works of Optatus, and are said to have been written by an unknown Donatist, who said the Catholic editor displayed the impudence of his sect in his calumnies of Mensurius and Caecilian. The censures of these men consisted in their cruelty to the martyrs in prison in the Diocletian war, in leaving them without food, and hindering others from supplying them. This complaint is related in detail by Mosheim: „Who,” says this writer, „who is instructed in the knowledge of the divine law, is endued with faith, is eminent in devotion, holy inreligion, and is mindful of God his judge, cannot discern truth from error, separate perfidy from faith, show the difference of a false from a well grounded holiness, distinguish between the standing and the fallen, the wounded and the whole, the criminal from the just, the condemned and the innocent, the betrayer from the keeper of the law, the denier from the confessor of the name of Christ, the persecutor from the martyr of the Lord; and can he esteem as one and the same, a church of martyrs, and the conventicles of traitors? No one, verily; since they are as contrary, and opposed to each other, as light to darkness, life to death, a holy angel to a devil, Christ to antichrist.”

The Character of the True Church according to the Unknown Donatist Author
It is holy, united and truly Catholic; from this church have proceeded the martyrs by whom the divine testimonies have been preserved. This church alone hath defeated the hostile assaults of its foes, to the effusion of blood, and hath rescued the law of the Lord. In this church the aids of the Holy Spirit are continually present; baptism from the Savior’s example is performed, and a divine life is perpetually renewed; for God is always propitious to his own people. The Lord Christ takes delight in his own church; the Holy Spirit, as a conqueror, rejoices among the confessors, and is triumphant among the martyrs.

The Closing Scenes with the Martyrs
At last, worn out with an atrocious famine, these blessed martyrs, by degrees, day after day, departed to the celestial realms, with the palm of martyrdom, to our Lord Jesus, who, with the Father, in endless ages reigns. Amen.

1. Pars Donati * * Petilianum scrutatus est fugientem invenit latentem, extraxit paventem, baptizavit trementem, ordinavit nolentem–S. Augustine Sermon, p. 624.
2. Vir grandissimus.
3. Op. August., Tome 9, p. 638.
4. In hoc autem ecclesia inquit, in qua nomen Dei et Christi Ejus, ut etiam ipse dixisti, in veritate semper est frequentum, nos ant vivi quamdia Deo placuerit permanemus, etc. Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 637.
5. Nam primo mihi opponebatur civitas mea, quae cum tota esset in parte Donati, ad unitatem catholicam tirnore legum imperialium conversaest. Op. Aug., Tome 21, p. 237
6. Op. Opta. Fragment Dona. Hist., p. 103. „Ad sidera regna cum palma martyrii migraverunt, praestante Domino nostro Jesu qui cum Patre requat in saecula saeculorum, Amen.

Denominational Character of the Donatists

In the first place, although from the earliest times the foulest stigmas have rested on this people, when their true character is developed they may well compare with any evangelical people of this or of any age or denomination, so far as their morals and evangelical principles were concerned, all that has been published of them to the contrary notwithstanding. My position as to the discussion of the question of the denominational affinities of the Donatists when I engaged in their history, is stated in the early part of this work, where may also be seen the description of the unexpected development of facts which induced me to forego my non-committal position, so far as the baptistical affinities of this people were concerned. According to my knowledge, the Episcopalians and the Baptists are the only communities who have claimed the Donatists as denominational kindred. The Episcopal claim on the score of the Donatist diocese will be examined in treating of the nature of the early dioceses at large. To the ordinary Baptist claim of agreement in baptism, and other matters of faith and practice, we now may add the rejection of infant baptism. In this stage of this discussion it may be proper to notify the reader that not only the Donatists, but all others then, whether Catholics or dissenters, practiced immersion in baptism; and the practice also was prevalent with all parties of requiring faith before baptism. Augustine is the only exception I find in all the writings now under review. The early subjects of baptism will soon be described. The trinity and the believer were two essential things with Optatus for a valid baptism.

No Infant Baptism in Primitive Times, Says Neander
„Baptism,” says he, „was administered at first only to adults, as men were accustomed to conceive baptism and faith as strictly connected. We have all reason for not deriving infant baptism from apostolical institution, and the recognition of it which followed somewhat later as an apostolical tradition serves to confirm this hypothesis. In the last years of the second century, Tertullian appears as a zealous opponent of infant baptism, a proof that the practice had not as yet come to be regarded as an apostolical institution; for otherwise, he would hardly have ventured to express himself so strongly against it. But if the necessity of infant baptism was acknowledged in theory, it was still far from being uniformly recognized in practice. As the church of North Africa was the first to bring prominently into notice the necessity of infant baptism, so, in connection with this, they also introduced the communion of infants.” In the above quotations we have a general, and doubtless a correct, view of infant baptism in the early ages, as they are from one of the best church historians, who was himself very intimately connected with the system, being a member of the Lutheran church, the largest body of Protestant pedobaptist. But we should bear in mind that it is quite common for German theologians, both the orthodox and the liberals, to reject the doctrine of the apostolical origin of infant baptism.

Various Matters Pertaining to Infant Baptism,
from the Writings of Augustine Against the Donatists
The best historians trace the first baptism of infants to Africa. We have seen above that Tertullian of Carthage was the first who opposed the practice. Nothing is said of it among the Donatists for almost a century from their origin, pro or con, when we read that Augustine, in his controversy with the Donatists on baptism, published some books concerning the baptism of little ones.

Augustine’s Description of Infant Baptism in His Time
The universal church, said he, holds that when little infants are baptized, who certainly, not yet, can believe with the heart unto righteousness, and with the mouth make confession unto salvation, but otherwise, by weeping and squalling even when the baptismal mystery is solemnly performed for them, they drown the mystic words themselves; nevertheless, no Christian would vainly say they were not truly baptized.

At that time there was a greater reason for the weeping and squalling of infants in their baptism than at present, except among the Greeks, by whom they are always immersed; since, according to Du Pin, it is certain that in the time of Augustine, in the administration of baptism, all, both infants and adults, were three times dipped in water.

Defence of Infant Baptism by Augustine
„That which the universal church holds, which was not instituted by councils but has always been retained, it is most rightly believed was not transmitted save only by apostolical authority.” his famous defence was made for any one who might seek for divine authority for infant baptism, in a treatise of the author against the Donatists. This fact gives this article significance as to the sentiments of this people on the subject of the infant rite of baptism in an objective form. This defence is put in small capitals in the original. This might have been done by the author, or his editors at a later period after the document became of so much importance with pedobaptists. Since writing the above I have found in Du Pin’s Monuments of the Donatists that the treatise in question on baptism was formed according to the promise of Augustine, which agrees with his own words. Du Pin also says that he wrote a smaller work before that which he published, which is quite lengthy. It is mostly occupied in defence of Cyprian’s rebaptizing policy, and against the use of it by the Donatists. To refute the objections of the Donatists was the professed object of this treatise, in which is contained Augustine’s defence of infant baptism. That the above mode of argument was common with Augustine in his controversy with the Donatists, so far as baptism was concerned, is apparent from the following remarks of a learned and well-informed Catholic writer When, says Friar Baldwin, Augustine disputed with the Donatists on baptism, he did not allege so much of scripture as of apostolical tradition, church usage, custom, testimony and authority. Again, says the Friar, Augustine knew that Optatus was willing to define the question of one baptism against the Donatists, from the naked, sacred scriptures; but, unhappily, he did not acknowledge that rule. After all that was said by Augustine of the universality of infant baptism in the Catholic church, it is a fact worthy of particular notice that he himself was not baptized in infancy, nor till he was more than thirty years old, although his mother was a zealous member of that church, of which he was a catechumen from early life. Similar cases somewhat frequently occur in ancient church history. It has already been stated that Optatus placed faith before baptism. But, says Du Pin, this was said of adult persons only. In this case Du Pin evidently uttered a paraphrase according to his own creed as a pedobaptist, not with his usual caution as to historical facts; but bishop Albaspin, also a decided Catholic, in commenting on this passage of Optatus says: The person baptized should have faith and should believe, which, he says, was not required of him who administered baptism. In the last sentence is the Catholic doctrine, both then and now, against which the Donatists contended most earnestly with Augustine.

Remarks on the Quotations from Augustine
on Infant Baptism, Against the Donatists
The above defence of the baptism of infants by this ancient author, as a professedly apostolical institution, has gone the rounds of the baptismal controversy, but who ever read, except in the Latin original, his peculiar description of the baptism of infants, in his time, by trine immersion, and his labored arguments in support of the baptism of little ones; and furthermore, who ever supposed that the defence itself, and the arguments connected with it, were all originally addressed directly to the Donatists, in reply to the inquiry for a divine authority for infant baptism; thereby implicating them as thorough going anti-pedobaptists? Such, however, is most evidently an historical fact, and of course the baptistical character of this people is a logical and inevitable conclusion. The treatise in which the above details are found was professedly against the Donatists. What was said of the books published by Augustine on the baptism of little ones in his dispute on baptism against the Donatists, is found in the preface to the ninth volume of his works, where it was, of course, inserted by the editor. These books are said to be lost. But the question naturally arises, why did Augustine publish books concerning the baptism of little ones, and why all the concern indicated in the above described efforts of this zealous advocate of infant baptism to set the Donatists right on the subject; did he not know them to be opposed to the infant system? This is said of the main body of the Donatists. That the baptism of infants was practiced in one or more of the other parties, is inferred from the fact that in a few cases we read of men being ordained to the clerical office by the Catholics who were baptized in infancy among the Donatists. Only two such cases, however, can I find in all Augustine’s writings on the affairs of the Donatists. The widespread people who bore the general name of Donatists, according to Augustine, in his time operated in four divisions. In the main division, which he calls cardinals, that is, the chief or principal, there were said to be four hundred bishops; in the second, one hundred bishops; in the third, only twelve; in the fourth, the number is not named, but it was probably still less. The two last named divisions did not go out from the original company, but arose from subdivisions. Of the three smaller divisions we have but very little information.

The Maximianists, so called from Maximianus, their founder, was the largest of these divisions. Although they are often mentioned by Augustine in his writings against the Donatists, by which name they were distinguished, yet of them he has given no facts of sufficient importance for these narratives. It is not to the subdivisions, but to the main body of the Donatists, that we are to look for the denominational character of this people, and of them the following facts are very conspicuous in their whole history: To them all the writings of Optatus and Augustine on the affairs of the Donatists were directed.

By them were published all the able writings of the Donatists in the defense of their cause and against their opponents.

Against them all edicts were issued, and by them all persecutions inflicted on the Donatists were endured.

They, to the neglect of all the other parties, were summoned to the conference at Carthage.
To them was imputed the union with the Circumcellions.
To them Augustine addressed his defense of infant baptism.

Church Government of the Donatists
As I have no other information on this subject, with the following paragraphs from writers, who doubtless entertained different opinions of this ancient community, I begin this article. Long, a clergyman of the Church of England, in his small Donatist History, described their church government in the following terms: „The Donatists rejected the Catholic liturgy and set up for themselves in a more congregational way.”
Robinson, an English Baptist, thus described the church policy of this people: „The Catholics were for a national church for the sake of splendor. The Donatists were for a congregational church for the sake of purity of faith and manners.”

Remarks on the Above Statements
Long was a severe opponent of the Donatists as dissenters from the national hierarchy, and what he says of their rejecting the Catholic liturgy, and of their setting up for themselves in a more congregational way, was doubtless intended as a censure; while we may conclude that a similar imputation by Robins, himself a dissenter, was intended as an approval, although, of course, he would not approve the orthodox creed of the Donatists; nevertheless, he did them ample justice in saying they were for a congregational church for the sake of purity of faith and manners, since these were among the primordial principles for which they contended with the Catholics. If we admit the correctness of the above statements of Long and Robinson, of the arguments of the Donatists in favor of a congregational, or an independent church polity, we at the same time concede their form of church government; and their statements, I am confident, will be corroborated by a general survey of the Donatist church order and management; of their cherished principles of freedom and equality; of their strict adherence to apostolical rules and customs; and of their decided and outspoken opposition to all ecclesiastical control or domination. In all their operations as a religious community I have discovered nothing peculiar to episcopacy, or the episcopal regimen, except the diocese, which in early times was deficient in what in later times became essential to diocesan episcopacy, namely, three preaching orders, a plurality of churches, and the power and control of their other orders by the bishop. What was said by Mosheim and archbishop Whately of the station and duties of bishops, of the independence of churches, and of the identity of a church and a dioceses, in the earlier ages, I think will well apply to the Donatists, from all I can learn of the services and stations of their bishops, and of the order and management of their churches. „A bishop,” says Mosheim, „during the first and the second century, was a person who had the care of one Christian assembly. In this assembly he acted not so much with the authority of a master, as with the zeal and diligence of a faithful servant. The churches in these early times were entirely independent; none of them were subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each one was governed by its own rulers and its own laws.”

„A church and a diocese,” says archbishop Whately, „seem to have been, for a considerable time, coextensive and identical; and each church or diocese, and consequently each superintendent, though connected with the rest by the times of faith and hope and charity, seems to have been perfectly independent, as far as regards any power and control.”

The address of Petilian to his fellow elders and deacons contains something of the episcopal dialect, not enough, however, to make him of that order, in its later and present form. This address, in our language, reads thus: Petilian, bishop: To the most beloved brethren, fellow-elders and deacons, constituted servants with me (nobiscum) in the holy gospel, through the diocese: Grace be with you, and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. If the term diocese could have had the same meaning in the times of the Donatists as it subsequently acquired, and is now attached to it, the use made of it in Petilian’s address might be of some avail on the episcopal side, but unquestionably the term in question was then used interchangeably with that of church, to designate episcopal jurisdictions, according to the foregoing statement or archbishop Whately. Many examples occur in the records of the conference of Carthage where the terms church, people and diocese are found in juxtaposition, of similar import. Again, Petilian’s deacons were not of the preaching order, but were executive officers, the appropriate station and service of the deaconship from its origin. Furthermore, I do not find any evidence that Petilian had more than one church organization in his diocese, elsewhere called a church. Petilian, in the conference, when referring to Fortunatus, one of his rival bishops in his diocese, said of him: „He is a persecutor of the Church, in the same city where I am a bishop.” One church for a bishop appears to have been the common custom of the Donatists. Complaints of Petilian of the Manner of Forming New Dioceses by the Catholics . The reader not familiar with ecclesiastical distinctions should bear in mind that bishopric means the jurisdiction of a bishop, and that the term diocese is of the same meaning. The parties were, in the midst of their debates in the conference of Carthage, full of their complaints of each other. Petilian complained to the president that among his people, in the midst of his diocese, in the city of Constantina, his adversaries, at different times, had ordained two bishops, and formed two dioceses of their own; but as the second was among the same people of the first, your excellence, said he to the president, plainly perceives it is an imaginary concern. Petilian again complained of the Catholics for forming three of their own dioceses among the people of the bishop of Mileva, who was present. A third time the resolute complainer referred to a still more extensive invasion of the Catholics on the Donatists. „Among one people,” said he, „in the single diocese of his colleague, who was present, they had ordained four bishops against him; and thus it now stands, four Catholic bishops to one Donatist.” Of course there were five dioceses on the ground where there was but one before.

Complaints of the Donatists by the Catholics
Let it be recorded, said Alypius, a Catholic, that the Donatists have ordained bishops in all the villages and country towns, and not in any cities. So you, said Petilian, have many bishops dispersed through all the fields; yes, said he, you verily have bishops frequently where you have no people. His meaning, says Bingham, was, that the people had all turned Donatists.

In all the above named transactions Petilian accused his adversaries of seeking to augment the number of their bishops for the conference; and this, it is presumed, was done under a mistaken apprehension that the majority would gain the victory, whereas it had nothing to do with the case, or, in the judgment of the president, against the Donatists.

That the dioceses formed as above describe passed for valid organizations then, may be inferred from the fact that the bishops attached to them were evidently admitted as members of the conference. Many of the bishops in the council of Trent were similar to those in the conference at Carthage; in some cases they were mere boys. According to Bingham, the policy of the Catholics in forming so many small dioceses was to outdo the Donatists.

In these times the Catholics themselves could not have a diocese of three orders of preachers in Africa according to the following account: „Till the time of Augustine,” says Bingham, „preaching was the appropriate business of the bishops in the African churches, and Augustine himself was complained of for beginning to preach while only a presbyter, and before he was ordained a bishop.” And none but bishops could administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper without an episcopal license. Thus the presbyter, instead of being of the preaching order, could not preach at all without special permission from the bishop. And although Valerius, then the bishop of the Catholic church of Tagasta, in Numidia, Augustine’s native place, had authorized him to begin to preach before he received his episcopal ordination, yet, says Bingham, „many bishops were highly offended at it, and spake against it.”

The scenes and events above described relate to transactions almost one hundred years after the rise of the Donatists, and a little before we begin to read anything about the diocese in the history of this people, respecting whose presbyters or elders I find but little information as to their stations and duties. I am, however, inclined to think they were of the preaching order, as they were in primitive times.

A Brief History of the Diocese
As this system has often been referred to in the foregoing remarks, and as the denominational character of the Donatists may in some measure be inferred from the nature of the institution in their time, I have judged it proper at this point to speak of its origin, and its changes in the hands of statesmen and theologians. Although for most of the age of Christianity the diocese has been an ecclesiastical institution, yet in its origin it was altogether secular, and had no respect to church divisions; it was applied to domestic relations and management, and to the province, and provincial affairs. The term diocese was derived from the Greek noun which signifies direction, government, civil administration, etc., and from the Greek verb, which strictly means, to manage all the house, to direct, govern, etc. Before the Christian era the term in question was applied to one of the lesser provinces of the Roman empire; elsewhere, it was employed to designate a district, or a part of a province. Under the emperors, several provinces under one governor were called a diocese. About the time of Constantine the whole Roman empire, then consisting of about one hundred and twenty provinces, was divided into thirteen civil dioceses. About this time they began in the west to use the term diocese in the ecclesiastical sense. In the east, the term was thus employed at a much earlier date, according to Mosheim. Respecting the changes and the magnitude of the metropolitan churches, which were sometimes called provinces, it is sufficient to say that they all began with one single church. This was the beginning of all the great metropolitan establishments in the cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and of Rome itself, and elsewhere.

The rise of the Donatists was about the time when the term diocese began to be applied to church divisions in the west, in which Africa was included, the principal country of the Donatists. As this people were distinguished for following the examples of primitive times, we may well suppose that from their origin their ecclesiastical regimen was of the character described by Mosheim and archbishop Whately, namely, that their bishops, instead of having a number of churches under their care and control, had each the care of one Christian assembly or church, which was governed by its own rules and its own laws. Such was evidently the congregational or independent character of the churches of the Donatists, as it is of those of the Baptists. Neither of these communities, whose relationship seems quite intimate, were of the episcopal order, only as of old their pastors were called bishops. Thus it appears that the main body of the Donatists agreed with the Baptists in their form of church government as they did in opposing infant baptism, thereby confirming the claim of the Baptists of denominational kindred.

1. Church History, vol., I, pp. 311-312. Boston Ed.
2. Quin etiam fiendo et vagiendo cum in eis mysterium celebratur, ipsis mysticus vocibus obstrepunt. Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 140.
3. Du Pin’s Ecclesiastical History, Century 4, p. 289.
4. Et si quisquam in hoc re auctoritatem divinam quaerat, quamquam quod universa tenent ecclesia, nee conciliis institutem, sed semper retentum est, non nisi auctoritate apostolica traditum rectissime creditur. Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 140.
5. De Baptismo contra Donitistas. Op. Aug., as above.
6. „The History of the Donatists,” by Thomas Long, B.D., London, 1677, p. 55.
7. Robinson’s Researches, Chap. 8, p. 125 sq.
8. Mosheim’s Eccl. Hist., Vol. I, pp. 91-92.
9. Whatley’s Kingdom of Christ, p. 172.
10. Petilianus episcopus delectissimis fratibus, compresbyteris et dia conibus ministris per diaccesim, nobis cum in sancto Evangelio Constitutis: Gratia vobis et pax a Deo Patri Nostro et Domino Jesu Christo. Op. Aug., Contra litteras Petiliani, Tome 9, p. 217.
11. Ipse est Ecclesiae persecutor, in eadem civitate ubi ego Episcopus sum. Col. Cartha. Cum Donatistis, in Optatus, p. 50.
12. Bingham’s Antiq., vol. I, p. 51.
13. Bingham’s Antiq., Vol. I, p. 76

The Donatists Were Accused of a Confederacy
with the Circumcellions

This being one of the foulest charges against this people, I determined, if possible, to ascertain its truth or falsehood; and having resolved on the thorough investigation I have made, I judged it best to give all the facts I could collect pertaining to the subject, under one head.

Formerly, in my few remarks on this ancient people, I, with others, had ascribed to them evangelical traits of character with all their reputed faults, in which, from the silence of history, I was led to infer they were in some way implicated. Such were my early and long continued views of the character and position of the Donatists, whose want of consistency I tried to overlook, as they were accounted sound in the faith. But as time went on, I was more and more embarrassed with the acknowledged union in history of sound Christians with the worst of men; and the utter incompatibility of this union induced me to undertake this laborious investigation. For the purpose of a full view of Augustine’s accounts of the race of men by him called Circumcellions, and his authority for representing them as the soldiery of the Donatists, as Mosheim has it, by the aid of the copious indexes to the works of this voluminous author, I examined them all so far as the Donatists were concerned in any way, especially in their reputed confederacy with the Circumcellions. As the result of my examinations, I will give a few specimens of the descriptions, and then give the disclaimers of the accused party.

The Bad Character of the Circumcellions
„Furious flocks of drunken youth, armed first with clubs, and next with swords, under the well-known name of Circumcellions daily wander through all Africa, committing savage deeds, in violation of all laws of order, and of the authority of the magistrates. I will not speak of the fury of the Circumcellions, and of their fatal precipitations; nor of their sacrilegious and profane worship; neither of their bacchanalian inebrieties. At the sepulchers of the Circumcellions, droves of males and females, in iniquitous mixture, by day and by night, bury themselves in wine, and hence go forth to iniquitous deeds.”

The Reputed Confederacy of the Donatists
with the Circumcellions
„What,” said Augustine to Petilian, „does the sobriety of Donatus profit you, since you are contaminated with the drunkenness of the bad Circumcellions? We justly rebuke the inordinate, the licentious and haughty extravagances of your Circumcellions. Your savage and most violent audacity,” continued this false accuser, „with your Circumcellions, the satellites of your clergy, is known to all men; and,” said he to the grammarian Cresconius, „it was for the suppression of this audacity that imperial laws have been issued against you, and,” said he, „if you complain of persecution from our side, I will demonstrate that we, from your side, suffer much more. Do you not have your portion with adulterers, who suffer drunken flocks of your own sanctimonious people to wander, day and night, with drunken flocks, in shameful mixture, with the Circumcellions? We,” continued this accuser, „daily suffer acts worse than those of thieves and robbers from your clergy and your Circumcellions.” What author has ever questioned the correctness of any of the above impeachments, that have so often been republished?

The Disclaimers of the Donatists
„When,” said Augustine, „the savage deeds of the Circumcellions are presented to the Donatists, they feign their ignorance of such a race of men, or, in opposition to all men, they most impudently affirm they are not at all concerned in their savage deeds.” Augustine, in his first remarks on the disclaimers of the Donatists, in which he accused them of speaking in a most impotent manner, appears to have had respect to the whole people. In the next place, he said the bishops of the Donatists in Africa itself, assuredly either said that they were ignorant of the acts of the Circumcellions, or that they themselves had no concern in their acts. These statements were evidently intended to operate against the Donatists with his own people, but how decidedly do they operate for them with their friends?

In this case it seems there was a question of veracity between the parties; but as the subject will soon be presented in a different form, we will leave them at present in their adverse positions. But whether the disclaimers in question were true or false, we have the authority of Augustine himself that they were really made, which discloses an important fact in favor of a long calumniated people, who hitherto have appeared in history as having silently assented to the truth of the foul charges of a most infamous confederacy with the abominable Circumcellions; or, at least, as having made no protest against the charge.

Strange as it may appear, neither by Mosheim nor Milner, nor any other writer who has made some lame apologies for this reputed confederacy, do we find any mention of the important fact that the whole body of the Donatists, both their bishops and laity, disclaimed any knowledge of such a race of men as the Circumcellions, or of any concern with them. The only way to deprive the memory of this people of the benefit of these disclaimers is that of Augustine, who declared they were most impudently made. This their opponents will readily do. But nowhere, except in the original Latin, have I seen any mention of them, in any manner. Besides the foregoing disclaimers of this much-abused people of any knowledge of or concern with the Circumcellions, we find by Augustine’s statements that they had free and frequent disputes about their denominational concerns, and from what follows it is evident that Augustine expected the Donatists would repel his impeachments. In proof of this I will give the following examples. Augustine had associated Petilian with the use of the savage clubs of the Circumcellions; instead of waiting for his reply, You, said he, will say, what is that to us? and what concern have we with these bad men?2 Questions of this kind, on the part of the Donatists, were quite frequent while repelling the charges of their adversary; and a serious charge on their part was, that he impeached all whom he chose, and would not hear them in their turn, in their own defense.

Accusations on Both Sides of not
Proving their Charges Against Each Other
You, said the Donatists, do not prove your charges against us relative to the Circumcellions. Neither, said Augustine, do you prove your charges against the church.

A Great Change in the Whole Business
In the midst of the most severe charges against the Donatists, of their complaints of unfair treatment respecting the Circumcellions, Augustine, by a sudden change of speech, addressed Petilian in the following terms: Let us, said he, come to this agreement, if you please: That you shall not throw against us the bad men whom you think belong to us, neither will I throw at you the bad men supposed to be with you. And so you will see by this agreement, so just, placid and firm, you will have nothing to object to the seed of Abraham in all nations. But why have you impiously thus separated from the seed of Abraham? This you certainly cannot defend.

An Agreement Quite Similar Was Proposed with Maximinus
Let us, said Augustine, throw from our midst the insane objections and reproaches which, by unskillful parties, according to their custom, by turns, are thrown against each other. You shall not throw at us Macarian times, nor I against you the savageness of the Circumcellions. If the one does not pertain to you, neither does the other to me; that is, if the savageness of the Circumcellions does not belong to you, neither do the Macarian times belong to me. The Lord’s threshing floor is not as yet cleansed of chaff. Let us pray and labor as much as we are able that we may be wheat instead of chaff. But, said he, I cannot remain silent respecting your rebaptizing that deacon of ours, since I well know how pernicious to me my silence on that subject might be. In this last sentence Augustine doubtless had reference to the great complaint by his own people of the Donatists for their rebaptizing one of their deacons.

The name of Augustine’s bad men was of a singular origin, as was their character described by him at different times. His treatment of the Donatists with respect to these men was also very changeable, as it varied from the foulest charges to offers of fraternal intercourse. But his most censurable treatment was in making false charges, according to his own confession. This name was formed of the three Latin words, „circum”, around, „cellas”, cellars or huts, and „iens”, going. As the men thus named were originally lazy beggars who went around the huts of the peasants for their daily food, they thus acquired their name, which was doubtless formed and applied to them by Augustine himself. According to his account they were peculiar to Africa; and it may be said the name is peculiar to his writings. What a different character did he afterwards give them? The concessions of Augustine to Donatist bishops, by their tenor and implication were sufficient to neutralize all his charges of the confederacy of the Donatists with the Circumcellions in all sorts of crimes. But the following concession is still more to the point: You, said Augustine, complain loudly of Macarius and Macarian times; and we do the same of the Circumcellions. That the design in this announcement was an offset in reproaches, on the principle of retaliation, is sufficiently plain on the face of the terms, but Augustine elsewhere said, that while the Donatists reproached his people with Macarian times, he would reproach them with the wicked and savage deeds of the Circumcellions.

As Augustine has never given his readers any detailed accounts of the bad men, a late historian has described them in the following terms: „They were lawless ruffians, the refuse of Africa, of no sect and probably of no faith.” Such is the description of the Circumcellions by Waddington in his Church History, a clergyman of the English church, who was well acquainted with all ancient church history, and who does not appear to have been partial to the Donatists, as a dissenting community. As a member of an established church, if he was under any bias, it would naturally be against dissenters, as men of national churches generally are. The bad men in question, instead of being an organized company of any creed, were doubtless like their rough kindred of other countries, although they might have been preeminent in lawless acts, since, according to Beausobre, the morals of Africa were terrible in the time of Augustine. It is a fact worthy of notice that in all Augustine’s descriptions of the foul deeds ascribed to the Circumcellions, whether by themselves or in the reputed company of the Donatists, that he has never mentioned one name, nor the time, nor place, nor any of the circumstances connected with their lawless transactions.

Closing Remarks
It is not a little singular that, with the exceptions of a moderate amount of the facts of this history of the Donatists, they have been selected from the works of their decided opponents, Optatus and Augustine. In ordinary uses the defenders of accused parties are found among their friends. This anomalous event occurred from the different standpoints of the parties, not so much in their doctrinal creeds as in church building, management, and other matters. What the Donatists deemed scriptural and true, their opponents denounced as heretical and false; and their arguments against them disclosed their evangelical principles.

Strange diversities appear in Augustine’s dealing with the Donatists. One would think by most of his writings about them, they were the worst of men, but when he met them fact to face, there was an entire change in his language towards them. Then he said to them, „Be brothers in the Lord’s inheritance.” He fought them as criminals, and sought them as innocent. He followed them with the sword, was still was clamorous for their communion. This was the language of this people to their adversary. Similar discrepancies are found in many of Augustine’s descriptions of the character and the doings of the Donatists. These descriptions are scattered over hundreds of folio pages of the original, of which it is presumed but few, even of historians, have ever carefully examined; but instead of that, one has followed another in endless succession in presenting the worst features of this old story.

I began this article with Augustine’s well known impeachment of the Donatists of a criminal connection with the Circumcellions. In the foregoing protracted survey of the facts pertaining to this case, I have traced the remarks of this accuser in their various forms, also his pacific proposals to the Donatist bishops, and also, with no little surprise, I have read his announcement that he associated his opponents with the men of a bad name as an offset for what they said of his own people. From this concession, and others of a kindred character which have been repeated, it is presumed that all candid and impartial readers will agree with the writer, that Augustine himself made void his own impeachment of the Donatists, and that they are justly entitled to an acquittal from the charge of their imputed confederacy with the Circumcellions, respecting whom, according to Augustine’s own record, they disclaimed any knowledge of, or concern with, such a race of men.

1. Quorum scelera cum ad eos deferuntur, fingunt se ignorare tale homineum genus, etc. Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 22.
2. Dicturus es, quid ad nos pertinet? Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 260.
3. Paciscamur ergo, si placet, ut nec tu nobis malos objicias quos putas nostros, nec vobis ego vestros. Ita videbis hoc pacto tam justo placito atque firmato, nihil te habere quod objicias semini Abrahae in omnibus gentibus. Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 239.
4. Tollamus de medio inania objecta, quae a partibus imperitis jactari contra invicem solent, nec to objicias tempora Macariana, nec ego saevitiam Circumcellionum. Si hoc ad te non pertinet, nec illud ad me. Op. Aug., Tome 2, p. 33.
5. Clamatis vos de Macario, et nos de Circumcellione. S. Augustini Episcopi Psalmus contra partem Donati, p. 5.
6. Waddington’s Church History, p. 168. (Library of Useful Knowledge.)

Conclusive Evidence Against the Demoralizing Influence
of the Conference of Carthage On the Affairs of the Donatists

The report of the editors of Augustine’s works on this subject has previously been referred to, namely, that although this people were conquered by force, yet they were not silenced and subdued, for they immediately appealed to the emperor against the decision of the judge. That they did not submit to the judgment in question will fully appear i what will hereafter be exhibited in their subsequent transactions. Further evidence that this people were not generally converted to the Catholics by Augustine’s conference, according to his frequent representations, and that the judgment which was pronounced against them did not restrain their speech and actions, according to his descriptions, will be clearly shown.

Friar Baldwin on the Conference
This eminent Catholic jurist, whose name so often appears in this history, lived more than one thousand years after Augustine, whom, as a Catholic, he highly esteemed; yet, in justice to the Donatists in this case, as in a number of others, he gave an opinion decidedly against him, in the following terms: What, said the Friar, may have been the effect of this conference in other respects, he would say of the Donatists what Jerome said of the Luciferians, a kindred party, although they could certainly be overcome and put down by the Catholics, yet by them they could not be persuaded nor convinced. We were conquered by imperial power, not by the truth, was the language of the Donatists. The Luciferians consisted of a small party of orthodox dissenters in the fourth century.

Great Changes in the Affairs of the Donatists,
Also in Those of Their Opponents
In the first place, this long afflicted people were in some measure relieved by the sudden and unexpected deaths of a number of high state officials, in the ranks of their adversaries. The Catholics at this time were in great trouble in their state concerns by the invasion of the Goths, by whom Rome was captured in 410, a few months before the conference. The Gothic armies were spreading over all parts of Italy, and threatened all the provinces of the Roman empire, while the Vandals threatened Africa, which they soon after conquered. In this condition the emperor Honorius was in the greatest perturbation, and even desperation, for the fate of the empire, says Friar Baldwin, especially after the death of his prime minister and chief adviser, Stilicho, the circumstances of whose death will soon be related. Truly it would seem that this persecuting ruler had full employment with national concerns without lending his aid in persecuting measures.

Death of Distinguished Persecutors Of the Donatists
In addition to the alarming state of the empire, about the time of the conference new and unusual scenes occurred among the Catholics, in which a number of their prominent men were taken from their accustomed scenes of action, one after another, mostly by ignoble deaths, under the charge of treason against the state. The scenes about to be described belong to civil history, but since all the men in the following list had more or less share in persecuting the Donatists, under edicts from the emperor Honorius, with the approval of Augustine, I will give their names with a few facts of their history. The death of these men occurred in the following order: Stilicho, Heraclion, Apringius, Marcellinus and Boniface. All these men died either a little before or not long after the conference at Carthage. The four first named were beheaded by the order of the emperor, under the charge of treason. Boniface was killed in a duel. Such was the fate of men who had been employed to persecute the Donatists for the reputed crime of treason and rebellion against the Catholic church; and the same ruler who commissioned them to defend said church, ordered the loss of their heads for treason against his crown or the state. Stilicho was of Vandal pedigree, but he was one of the greatest generals of his time, under both Theodosius the Great, and Honorius his son; and under the impeachment, whether true or false, of his aspiring for the throne, the emperor commanded him to be beheaded. The charge against Heraclion was for his descent on Rome with a numerous fleet. The charge against Marcellinus and his brother was a confederacy with Heraclion, who was the betrayer of Stilicho. What a company of high-toned traitors, not only of the state, but also of each other; and who can blame the persecuted Donatists for rejoicing in their downfall? As the last named traitor acted a conspicuous part against the Donatists, it seems suitable that we should give a few of the facts concerning him, during the scenes under review. We have seen in the history of the conference over which he presided, decided indications of haste in his giving judgment on the spot, and closing it in the night; and is it unreasonable to attribute all this to his concern in the great naval expedition just named, which was prepared in the ports of Africa? Marcellinus, says Fleury, in his church history, remained a long time in Carthage after the conference, when at length he and his brother were thrown into prison on a charge of treason in confederacy with Heraclion; and after being a long time in prison, they were both led out and beheaded. What a change of destiny; and what different sensations must have been produced among the people when the rumor spread far and wide, before all Carthage, that he who but yesterday sat on his judicial seat as a cruel judge, lay lifeless beside the block of the stern executioner!

Did His Judgment Die With Him?
This question was agitated immediately after his death, and so much was the emperor concerned on the subject, that, according to Friar Baldwin, within about two months he reaffirmed said judgment with his own edict. The edicts of Honorius were very easily obtained, and were frequently issued. The main question in this case is,

„Did the Edict Help the Catholics to Convert the Donatists,
or Hinder them From Opposing Both the Judgment and Its Author?”
This proscribed people, instead of hastening to the bosom of the Catholic church after the conference, according to the representation of Augustine, are found in the open field of controversy with their opponents on the side of those who maintained that the judgment of Marcellinus died with its author. That they did not acknowledge its authority is apparent from what was said of them by Catholic writers. „In the conference of Carthage, as above stated, the Donatists were indeed overpowered, yet they were not put down by arguments, for they speedily appealed from the judgment against them, to the emperor.” „After that great convocation.” said these writers, „the Donatists pursued its president, the tribune Marcellinus, with extreme hatred, principally because he urged the execution of the imperial laws, in Africa, against them.” The disposition ascribed to the Donatists towards their judge, in the foregoing terms, seems at first view unchristian and unduly severe; but let us consider the relative condition of the parties. Marcellinus had no judicial authority. His appointment was merely to preside in the conference, and pass judgment on the merits of the testimonies and arguments of the contending parties; and accordingly the language of his judgment (moneo,) was that of admonition rather than of judicial command. Thus far he was within due bounds, but it was far otherwise when, as a zealous partisan, he urged upon the state authorities the execution of the dormant imperial laws, which were very severe, against all dissenters. The plan of the judge evidently was to have the Donatists punished beyond what he was able to inflict. It was for this principally they followed him with the hatred ascribed to them, according to the Catholic writers above referred to.

The Donatists Were Accused of Causing The Death of Their Judge
The same Catholic writers who imputed such a deadly hatred of Marcellinus to the Donatists, also said, him they so defamed with count Marinus, by malicious arts and blind intrigues, that by his command he was beheaded. This strange and most improbable story, according to Friar Baldwin, was first circulated by a Spanish ecclesiastic of the fourth century. It was doubtless devised to shield Marcellinus from the infamy of dying a traitor. In this story it is said it was uncertain if the judge thus executed was corrupted with gold at Carthage. It is also said that count Marinus, as a state offender, was immediately recalled from his official station in Africa and severely punished. In this fabulous account we see to what an extent the enemies of this people would carry their misrepresentations against them. What an idea, that a people under the ban of the empire, and everywhere despised by the ruling powers, should have such an influence with a state official!

Gibbon’s Account of the Donatists
„After the conference at Carthage,” says this secular author, „Honorius was persuaded to inflict the most rigorous penalties on a faction which had so long abused his patience and clemency! Three hundred bishops, with many thousands of the inferior clergy, were torn from their churches and ecclesiastical possessions, banished to the islands, proscribed by the laws if they presumed to conceal themselves in any of the provinces of Africa. A regular scale of fines was imposed upon them, according to their rank.”

This description is grounded on an edict in which the most rigorous penalties were indeed threatened, but which edict does not appear to have been executed.

Jacob Gothofred’s Comments on This Edict
„Immediately after the conference,” says this author, „the emperor Honorius engaged in earnest to reclaim the Donatists to the Catholic faith, and to put a stop to their heresy, by his severe edict.” The nature and the express design of the document are represented under seven heads, of which fines and exiles are the most prominent. These, said this commentator, on the severe edict of the emperor, assuredly are the seven considerations with which Honorius endeavored to reclaim the Donatists to the Catholic faith, and to break in pieces their pertinacious institution. According to Gothofred, to operate on the fears of those whom he sought to reclaim, was the main object of the rigorous edict in question. The fear of the loss of money is the first in the list; the next of the most importance, was the fear of their clergy being sent into exile; then came the fears of the loss of their own goods, and the donations of those to their churches, for the Catholics; and finally, fears for their personal and family enjoyments. How little did the emperor understand the character of the Donatists, to suppose that for any or all these considerations he could induce them to give up their dissenting interest, and go over to the Catholics. Almost a score of the edicts of the emperor Honorius concerning the Donatists may be found in Du Pin’s Monumenta of this people. Four were issued in quick succession against their rebaptizing, and still they continued the practice without abatement. But the document now under consideration was the result of an extraordinary effort, doubtless under clerical influence, in which the logic of fines was the principal argument; they descended by tens from eighty to five pounds of gold, according to the rank of those on whom they were imposed. Generally, only the clergy were fined, but in this case all Donatists, and even Catholic laity, were included. That was probably intended for such as favored the proscribed party. Ten pounds of gold was the ordinary sum with which the Donatists were threatened for rebaptizing Catholics, and for other inroads upon them. This, with us, would amount to more than two thousand dollars, and the fifty pound fines to considerably over ten thousand. I can find but one case in which this ten pound fine was imposed, namely, on Cryspin of Calama, which was soon remitted. This transaction, related in Du Pin’s history of the Donatists, will be described in another chapter. It occurred before this edict was issued. From the day of the giving of the law, said the emperor, the fines imposed must be paid into his treasure, unless the offending parties would cease from their sacrilege and return back to the Catholic faith. But I do not find any evidence that any one returned, or that any fines were paid. Neither can I find that any of the Donatists were exiled for non-payment of said fines.

A Contrast Worthy of Notice
The severe edict of the emperor is dated 412. In the same year we find Augustine, after the conference, addressing the Donatists in mild and fraternal language, and endeavoring to persuade them back to the church.

Circumstantial Evidence Against the Exiles In Question
They must have taken place, if at all, in the full tide of Augustine’s operations against this people, concerning whom his last writings were in his controversy with Gaudentius in 420, in which neither party refers to the exile punishment, nor is it complained of by the Donatists in the times under consideration. In these times the chief men were the first to be banished. It was so in the contests between the orthodox and the Arians, and also with the dominant party and the dissenters; and of course such men among the Donatists as Petilian, Gaudentius, Emeritus and Adeodatus, who occupied conspicuous stations among their own people, and were the principal men of the seven debaters in the conference at Carthage, instead of now being at their posts, and boldly defending their cause, would have been in exile on some of the desolate islands in the Mediterranean sea.

Remarks on the Foregoing Details
Not to modify the persecuting measures of the Catholics against the Donatists, but to show that the influence of these measures was much overrated, has been the main object of these remarks; and the writers principally had in view were Augustine, in what he said of the demoralizing influence of the conference of Carthage on the affairs of this community; and Gibbon, for what he said of the wholesale banishment of the Donatist bishops and inferior clergy, under the influence of the edict of the emperor Honorius, soon after the conference. Both Gibbon and Augustine at times had different dialects with respect to the Donatists. Gibbon not being in favor of either the Catholics or the Donatists, so far as religion was concerned, could give them hard hits by turns. Thus while he blamed the emperor for causing the reputed exile of the large number of the Donatist clergy, he could at the same time stigmatize them as a faction who had long abused the patience and clemency of the emperor. This abuse of the emperor, in the view of Gibbon, doubtless consisted in the Donatists not joining the Catholics according to his plan and desire. The two dialects of Augustine may be described in the following terms: When he wished to prove the influence of his measures for suppressing his opponents, he would magnify their effect; but when answering their complaints of such measures he would say, you exaggerate your sufferings for your error. Both Gibbon and Tillemont, in what they say of the exile of the three hundred Donatist bishops and the thousands of their inferior clergy, refer for their authority to the severe edict above described, the literal execution of which they evidently seemed to take for granted. This opinion appears to have been held by other historians; whereas, according to Jacob Gothofred, the commentator on the edict in question, its main design was to operate on the fears of the Donatists.

1. Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, p. 296.
2. This fleet, says Gibbon, when it anchored at the mouth of the Tiber, surpassed those of Xerxes and Alexander.
3. Decline and Fall, Vol. 2.
4. Metus damni pecuniarii metus clerici in exilium missi; bonorum proscriptionis metus. Du Pin’s Monu., p. 260.
5. The terms for pounds stand thus: Auri pondo quinquaginta (50), quadraginta (40), triginta (30), viginti (20), decem (10), quinque (5). Gold then was not a circulating medium, but went by weight, twelve ounces to the pound. Such was then the scarcity of money and its higher value, that it is very improbable that any of the very high or many of even the ten pound fines were ever paid.
6. Exaggeras persecutiones, quas vos patri dicitis. Op. Aug., Tome 9, p. 475.

Pope Gregory Against the Donatists

The late appearance of my extracts from the writings of this ancient and famous pontiff concerning the Donatists may be accounted for from the fact that I had no knowledge of such writings till most unexpectedly I found them in Du Pin’s Monuments. The extracts which I am about to make from pope Gregory’s writings will be from seven of his epistles addressed to eminent men, to whom he appealed for aid against the inroads of the heretics on the Catholic church. One of these men was the Roman emperor. By the following descriptions the Donatists will be found vigorous and successful about two hundred years later in history than appears in former accounts of them by Augustine. In making extracts from these epistles I shall take them in their order in Du Pin’s work, and shall be confined as far as possible to sentences pertaining wholly to Donatist affairs.

To Gennadius, Patrician and Exarchate Of Africa
This man the pope complimented as a distinguished warrior, and, said he, just as the Lord has made your excellence conspicuous for victories for the state, in the same manner you ought to be most highly honored for opposing the enemies of the church. It is know, said the pope, that men of an heretical religion rise vehemently against the Catholic faith; the poison of their heresy, however, must be destroyed, to whatever extent it may gain the members of the Christian body. But may your eminence crush their attempts, and press their proud necks under the yoke of rectitude.

To All the Bishops of Numidia
You, said the pope to these bishops, have sought through our secretary, if the customs of former times are still preserved; which customs were ordained from the first by the blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles. From the pope’s answers to these bishops the customs in question appear to have referred to the chief officers of the Catholic church, and, strange as it may have been, the inquiring bishops seemed to fear that converts from the Donatists would find their way to these offices.

Gregory’s Answer to the Bishops
In constituting primates, and other chief officers, said he, those are excluded who come to the episcopate from the Donatists, who are put forward for the dignity of primates. This advancement in office, said the pope, we by all means prohibit. Pope Gregory’s restraining policy with the Donatists in the business of offices will be referred to from Du Pin in the next chapter. The office of primate with the Catholics has previously been described, to wit: He was the head bishop of his province; by him all new bishops must be ordained; he succeeded to the office as the oldest bishop, and his age was counted from the time of his ordination. Such was the aversion of the Donatists to the Catholics that we should not suppose that they would join them for the sake of office; but all parties have had men of this description. Through all this history we have seen the Catholics were very anxious for the Donatists to join them; and as there was no voting for their primates an office seeker might slide into that office without the voice of the pope or people, without pope Gregory’s law against it.

To Columbus, Bishop of Numidia
It is know, well beloved brother in Christ, said the pope, that the ancient enemy who subjected the first man to a life of painful labor, by the crafty persuasion of the delights of paradise, hath now inflicted the punishment of mortality on the human race. With the same craft, said the pope, this old enemy would, with poisonous transfusions, bring the pastors of the Lord’s sheep under his own power. But we, said pope Gregory, unworthy as we are, who have by right assumed the government of the apostolical seat, in the place of Peter, the prince of the apostles, are compelled by the very office of the pontificate, to meet the common enemy. In the next place the pope made mention of an extended petition brought to him concerning the Catholic affairs in the province of Numidia. The substance of the story seemed to consist of the imputation of the corruption of a Catholic bishop, by a reward, from the Donatists, by which they obtained an unusual freedom. But besides he petition, said the pope, we have been informed by the insinuation of the bearers of the document, who are present, that the heresy of the Donatists was daily spreading far around, by our omissions; and, said the pope, it so happens that under a venal license granted the Donatists, very many, by them, are baptized anew, after they have received Catholic baptism. What may come of such a grievous transaction, my brother, it behooves us to weigh with the utmost carefulness of our minds. Behold, said the pope, the wolf, which tears in pieces the Lord’s flock, not secretly in the night, but openly in the light, and we behold him rioting in the slaughter of the sheep, with no solicitude for it, and with no sharp words of censure do we oppose these ravages of the wolf. What fruits, said he, can we render to the Lord, of the increase of his flock, if we, its pastors, thus quietly behold it devoured by a beast of prey? Let us, therefore, be watchful, said pope Gregory, to his brother Columbus, that with words of divine eloquence we may reclaim the Lord’s flock, as the Pastor of pastors has been vigilant about his own flock.

To The Prefect of Africa
Such, said the pope, is the well known law of your excellence, that it should be made to bear with greater force on the most nefarious depravity of the heretics. We have learned, said the pope, that in their parts the audacity of the Donatists hath increased to that degree that by a pestiferous authority they not only eject priests of the Catholic faith from their own churches, but more than that, they do not fear to rebaptize those whom the water of regeneration had previously washed. After expressing his wonder at such impiety, the pope assured the prefect that the souls of those who were lost would be required at his hands, provided he had neglected the means in his hands for their salvation.

To Victor and Columbus, Bishops of Africa
We are informed, said the pope, that the excitements of the Donatists in their parts, have so disturbed the Lord’s flock that very many are torn from it by their venomous teeth; and the result has been that in their most depraved rashness, they expel canonical priests from their own churches; and more than that, it is said that they have inflicted a spiritual death on many by their most nefarious depravity, by rebaptizing many, to whom the water of regeneration had previously been administered for their salvation. The few remarks in this case appear to have been the closing of this epistle. In the first place, the pope spoke of injurious reports which had come to him of what was wickedly said of good men of the right faith; but what was still worse, he said, was, that their sons, or others under control of the Donatists, consented to be baptized into their heresy. And if this account be true, said the pope to bishop Columbus, whom he now addressed for the third time, concerning the Donatists, your episcopal fraternity should endeavor, summarily, to amend and reform the practice. And the pope, after commending the sincerity of the faith, and the unremitting solicitude of the bishop, said: The innocent souls which might be saved by their Catholic baptism, should not perish by the contagion of heretics. Whoever there be, therefore, said the pope, of the persons we have before mentioned, of whatever class of our people, who have suffered themselves to be baptized anew among the Donatists, with every power, and with all vehemence, all should endeavor to restore them to the Catholic faith.

To The Roman Emperor Maurice
Pope Gregory, as we have seen, had addressed two eminent statesmen, to whom he had made serious complaints of the inroads of the Donatists on the Catholic church. We now come to his address to the head, both of the church and the state, on the same subject. Relative to the management of state affairs with the church, the pope complimented the emperor in the following terms: The unwearied zeal, said the pope, which the emperor maintained in governing the Christian republic amidst the concerns of arms and innumerable solicitudes, was a great cause of joy to him and all the world. In the next place, the pope commended the emperor for the serenity of his piety and his opposition to the most flagitious depravity of the Donatists, for its justice and for the tenor of his direct commands concerning them, which were most explicitly published. These commands, it appears, were intended to restrain what the pope accounted the most flagitious doings of the Donatists. Thus far the pope’s address to the emperor was highly flattering, but soon it was much otherwise. Most venerable bishops, said the pope, from Africa, have said that the imperial commands for restraining the Donatists are disregarded by the principal men without dissimulation. Again, said the pope, these bishops subjoined to their report, that in Africa, amongst the Donatists, the Catholic faith was publicly exposed for sale. This was a very troublesome story to the pope, but as it was told by his most venerable bishops, he devised various plans to hinder its injurious influence, especially on the most pious youth of the church. With this story most of Gregory’s epistle to the emperor is occupied. That the public sale in question was a real and legal transaction is evident from the fact that a secular judge was concerned in it. But in what way the Catholic faith was implicated in it, pope Gregory does not even intimate in any portion of his epistle to the emperor Maurice. In some of his remarks he seemed inclined to treat the story as „a misty fabrication;” but his great anxiety to suppress its circulation does not well agree with this theory. The same may be said of the pope’s earnest endeavors to shield the emperor from any blame in the public sale of the Catholic faith. The pope closed his epistle to the emperor with the following remarks, relative to the story under consideration: „It is an obscurity of a pestiferous depravity; and its is the venom of a diabolical fraud.”This whole story probably originated from the sale of one or more of the Catholic churches to the Donatists. That these churches often fell into the hands of the Donatists, is abundantly evident from the representations of both Augustine and pope Gregory. As a general thing, this was a matter of course on a change of denomination, without any formal sale or ceremony. In this case there might have been outside demands to be settled. After the next chapter I shall give some remarks on the epistles of pope Gregory, with a few biographical sketches of the author.

Du Pin’s History of the Donatists

From Du Pin’s Monumenta of the Donatists most of the matter of this chapter has been selected. In that work are contained the epistles of pope Gregory, to which it will be seen Du Pin himself sometimes referred. The first twenty pages of the Monumenta are occupied with brief historical sketches of the origin, progress and changes in the affairs of this people. The whole work contains about four hundred pages, and in it their whole history is given in the full manner no where else to be found. There is an English translation in seven quarto volumes of general church history of Du Pin in the library of Brown University, in which but little comparatively is said of the Donatists; but in that work, and in Optatus, and Augustine, I had become somewhat familiar with this history. Now, as I go for passages of new matter, I shall select such as describe events in a more explicit and intelligent form.

The Origin of the Donatists
Donatus, says Du Pin, divided all Africa into two parts, one of which he chose for himself. This laconic sentence comprehends the early operations of the new party. This saying, so descriptive of the Donatist leader, well agrees with that of the famous warrior, „I came, I saw, I conquered.” The above statement of Du Pin relative to the rapid spread of the Donatists over all North Africa has been published by many Catholic writers, although not in such strong language. Indeed, as all the writings of the Donatists have been destroyed, all our dependence for information of their doings must be on their adversaries. Augustine and Du Pin give similar descriptions of the parties into which the Donatists were divided, but it was only Du Pin who said the first party went off, on account of baptism. The Donatists, says Du Pin, sent bishops to Rome, Spain and Gaul, and to other lands, to gain proselytes to their sect. In 392, says Du Pin, a Donatist bishop named Crispin was called into the court of justice, having been accused of heresy according to the Theodosian code. In a set speech of three days, Crispin argued his cause from beginning to end before the proconsul, in which he endeavored to repel the charge of heresy against him. But after all the efforts of the resolute bishop he lost his cause, and the fine of ten pounds of gold was imposed upon him. But it was at once remitted by the request of Possidius, his principal accuser, who was a distinguished Catholic. In this case the theory was exemplified which has been previously suggested, that the then heavy fine was threatened against reputed heretics rather to alarm and hinder them, than for ultimate execution. In the next place, Du Pin referred to new commotions, which, he said, were stirred up by the Donatists on the death of their famous and cruel persecutor Stilicho, as if by his death the were free from the persecuting laws he was commissioned to execute. Both Du Pin and Fleury sometimes spoke lightly of the emperor Honorius as a legislator. The former named his issuing two edicts, one for, the other against, the Donatists, as among the versatile laws of princes. Fleury, on the same subject, said, when the emperor issued the first edict he was in great fear from his enemies, and needed the help of the Donatists, but when the fear was over he turned against them. The account of the execution of Marcellinus and the sentiments of the Donatists of his judgment against them are much like those I have given.

Du Pin’s Account of a Synod Against the Donatists
So much, said he, did their impudence and audacity increase that the African fathers called a synod to consult on measures for refuting the calumnies of their judge. Allowances must be made for the language of an opponent in the above sentence. In the next place, said Du Pin, the Donatists, not being satisfied with dishonoring the character of Marcellinus, they even sought his life, and by the direction of count Marinus he was beheaded on the 13th of September, 413. This account is not so full as that before given in the writings of Augustine. Thus, said Du Pin, the Donatists found an occasion for casting a useless veto on the judgment against them. I had prepared some remarks on the strangeness of Du Pin’s repeating this absurd story without note or comment when the current account of history ascribes the death of the man in question to the command of the emperor. But I concluded to let it stand, as a specimen of Catholic credulity.

Du Pin’s References to Pope Gregory’s
Epistles Concerning the Donatists
From these epistles, says Du Pin, which were addressed to different men against the Donatists, we are informed that this people, in a weak and languishing condition, survived a long time in Africa. Furthermore, we learn from Gregory’s representations, that in his time the number of the Donatists was not small. In the next place, pope Gregory complained of the Donatists for rebaptizing a large number of Catholics, and of their adding them to their own sect. To this complaint, pope Gregory added another of a still more serious and injurious character, that the Donatists drove many Catholic bishops of a canonical order from their own churches. Unhappily for this great historian, there is an entire disagreement in the above complaints which he reported of pope Gregory of the aggressions of the Donatists on the Catholics, and of the previous account of their weak and languishing condition.

Du Pin’s Description of Pope Gregory’s
Trouble With the Magistrates of Africa
The substance of this trouble was, that the magistrates in question failed to take out and execute the rescripts which he sent against the Donatists. In the details of Du Pin on this subject he says the pope assured the emperor that for the future he would demand of the African magistrates more strict dealing with the Donatists. Du Pin, in his account of the condition of the Donatists while under the Vandals, for almost one hundred years, is not so favorable to them as that of Mosheim. He admits that the Vandals evidently favored them as dissenters from their own church of an Arian creed, and that they were free from the persecuting edicts of the Roman emperors, yet, in his opinion, they drew out a miserable life under the Arian yoke.

The Conclusion of Du Pin’s Brief History of the Donatists
„Thus for three hundred years and more the Donatist schism continued in Africa, in which it arose, in an altogether inauspicious time, under Constantine the Great; nevertheless, neither by ecclesiastical nor by civil judgments could it be extinguished. Under the emperor Constans it was restrained; under Julian it was renewed; and for many years it filled a great part of Africa, until, by writings, by disputations, and by the encroachments of imperial laws, it was reduced to a few, whose unhappy followers to the sixth and the seventh century lay concealed in some corners of Africa.” Thus while church historians generally limit the existence of the Donatists in Africa to about one hundred years, Du Pin extends it to three hundred years and more. This statement carries us to about the time of the Mahometan invasion of the country. The above summary of Du Pin of the rise and progress of the Donatists till they are lost sight of in history, as an organized and operating community, on the whole, is doubtless well founded; but by following the Catholic dialect this great, and generally fair, historian does not fairly represent this people in what he says of their unhappy and obscure condition. It certainly does not correspond with the descriptions of them as given by pope Gregory.

Remarks on the Epistles of Pope Gregory
These epistles were written almost two centuries after the death of Augustine, who was about as much troubled with the inroads of the Donatists on the Catholic church, as was pope Gregory at this later period, and more so personally, as he lived among them, while Gregory was at Rome. The findings of these epistles has enabled me to extend this history of the Donatists far beyond the common accounts of them; and what must be gratifying to those who feel an interest in this people, they appear as active and successful as in their earlier operations. Without the aid of Du Pin’s Monumenta and Gregory’s epistles I had traced this history about one hundred years. With these helps I go on about two hundred years more. For about the one hundred years under the Vandal government in Africa, according to Mosheim, they enjoyed the sweets of freedom and tranquillity, although, as we have seen in the remarks of Du Pin, they were annoyed with the Arian yoke. The Vandals were indeed rigid Arians and persecuted the orthodox Catholics on account of their Trinitarian faith, yet it seems to be generally admitted that they treated the followers of Donatus with a good degree of toleration, although of the same orthodox and Trinitarian creed. But in the year 534 the Vandals were expelled from Africa by the famous general Belisarius, who was under the emperor Justinian, and the Catholics regained possession of the country which they held till the Mahometan conquest. From the time of the Catholics re-entering Africa to that of pope Gregory was a period of about sixty years, during which time I cannot gain any information of the affairs of the Donatists, nor of their treatment by the restored rulers. During the threescore years in question, that is, from pope Boniface II to the time of pope Gregory I, surnamed the Great, they had a new pope every few years, and in the contentions of the rival candidates the Donatists were probably permitted to pursue their usual course in augmenting their number, which, according to pope Gregory, was not small in his time. Although this ancient pontiff was a great writer, I have nowhere seen his name mentioned except in Du Pin’s Monumenta, and very briefly by Mosheim, in connection with the Donatists. The last named author, in his brief remarks on the condition of the Donatists in the time of pope Gregory the Great, says, „they were pluming their wings anew for the multiplication of their sect;” and his language would indicate that they were then put down. This does not at all agree with what Gregory himself said of their rebaptizing so many of the Lord’s flock, and of their scattering and devouring it like wolves and beasts of prey; of their expelling Catholic bishops from their own churches; and of their making inroads upon the dominant state church to that degree that the pope sought the aid of powerful statesmen and of the emperor himself to arrest them in their aggressive course.

Brief History of Pope Gregory
As this pontiff occupies an important position in Donatist history, I will give the following sketches of his character and deeds: Pope Gregory the Great was the first of sixteen popes of that name; he occupied the papal chair fourteen years, and died, as above states, in 604. It was this Gregory the Great who sent the famous Augustin, or Austen, as he is sometimes called, with forty monks into England to convert the Anglo Saxons in 596, the same year in which one of his epistles against the Donatists is dated. This Augustin was an entirely different man from the Bishop of Hippo, who lived about two hundred years before him. Waddington does not favor the theory of Mosheim that pope Gregory suppressed the Donatists, but rather that of Du Pin, who traced them under different rulers in to the seventh century. In the opinion of Waddington, the Saracens or Mahometans might have found the Donatists in Africa when they conquered it.

Comments on What Was Said by Pope Gregory
of the Donatists Driving Catholic Bishops
From Their Own Churches At first view this seems a very loud and valid complaint, which was also often made by Augustine in his times. Charges of this kind were made against the Protestants by the Catholics in later times. Such charges will always be made when new parties arise in the midst of old communities. But if such were the differences of the positions and conditions of the Catholics and the Donatists, in the time of pope Gregory, who had all the power of the church and the state at his command and under his control, how could the proscribed Donatists drive Catholic bishops from their own churches, in the common sense of the term? Bingham, although an Episcopalian, has explained the operation of which both Augustine and pope Gregory so loudly complained. The loss of the Catholic churches was owing to the people in them all turning Donatists. As the complaints under consideration were common with the two great church managers, whose operations were almost two centuries apart, may we not infer that during this long space of time the aggressive Donatists had often become repossessors of churches then occupied by the Catholics which had formerly been taken from them?

Augustine and Pope Gregory Compared
Of course they were both decided opponents to the Donatists. But we do not discover so much of the sharp, vindictive, persecuting spirit of the elevated pontiff at Rome, as in the ordinary bishop of Hippo. The language of Gregory often inclined to the complaining side, to his opponents. To them, denunciation was the ordinary language of Augustine. Gregory often laid much of the blame for the loss of Catholic members to the neglect of his bishops. Augustine laid it all to the reputed unfair means of the Donatists.

1. Ecce lupus domincum gregem, non jam in nocte latenter, sed in aperta luce dilaniat. *** Cernimus a bestia devorari. Du Pin’s Monumenta, p. 335.

Review of the History of the Donatists
And the Last Days of Augustine

Besides reviewing the principal events of this history, I propose to examine the common argument of history, on the rise of the community whose beginning, progress, trials, sentiments, and affairs in general the foregoing narratives have briefly described. For a fair discussion of this subject we ought to examine the Catholic policy at the time of the split in their church concerns, compared with that which the Donatists adopted for themselves. In all church history the beginning of this new party under consideration is ascribed to the division at Carthage on the choice of a new bishop, and no other cause has been assigned for the rise of the Donatists as a separate church organization. This may be accounted for from the fact that hitherto no one has studied their history or their principles sufficiently to understand them, or to show that they were actuated by any principles in their new organization aside from those above ascribed to them. But that there was a predisposing cause in the condition of the old body for a separation, on the part of those who desired church purity, and who were tired of the mixture of good and bad members for the sake of church union, is apparent in the early measures of the Donatists, and in all their controversies with their opponents on church discipline. They were all Catholics at first, and if they went off from the old body merely on account of their disagreement about a new bishop, why did they not continue Catholics after their separation, as did the Jansenists and others; and as doubtless the new party will do, which appears to be forming against the dogma of the pope’s infallibility? But very different was the course of these ancient reformers, and that they were well prepared for a new organization, with scripture rules of discipline, we may infer from the rapidity of the rise of the churches on these principles over all North Africa.

The views of the church of Christ by the Donatists, and the strictness of their church discipline, may be inferred from the following statements: It was said by the Catholic bishop Albaspin, whose name has often appeared in these narratives, that the Novations and Donatists were called Puritans because they held that the visible church of Jesus Christ does not, and ought not to, consist of any but those who are free from spots and falls, and that all others should be cast out. When the Catholic church was notoriously full of bad members, it was said by Augustine, the Donatist discipline would split it into a thousand schisms. The reformers of North Africa, unlike the reformers of later times, did not leave their work half done. Having repudiated the head of the church which they left, they also disowned its members, its baptisms, its ordinations, and all its official unctions; and all who came to them from the old body, whether bishops, elders, deacons or lay members, were required to be rebaptized, reordained and re-appointed in their new connection, in their different stations. Mosheim asserts that they required re-baptism of all who joined them from other parties. But according to Neander, the requisition was made only of those coming from the Catholics, for the reason that by adhering to Caecilian, the obnoxious bishop, they ceased to have the predicates of a true Christian church.

The Writings of the Donatists
All these writings are lost except the portions which have been preserved by Augustine; and as these portions consist of extracts quoted for the purpose of refuting their sentiments which were in conflict with his own, the said extracts thus providentially preserved are now valuable for information of the real sentiments of the Donatists. In answer to the natural inquiry as to the genuineness of these extracts, I answer: The Donatists often have the best side in argument, and they combat the positions of their opponent in terms exceedingly severe. Many of the most interesting passages in these extracts, thus preserved, are incorporated in the foregoing narratives. The reader should bear in mind that all these passages were recorded by Augustine himself, of which the following may serve for specimens of their plain and censorious style: „The Catholic church is a human figment. „The Good Father, meaning Augustine, sees no difference in a man of faith and an infidel, as a baptizer. „With us bad men may be unknown, as such. „With them, they are well known, to all. „If we are criminals, why are you so clamorous for our communion? „On the other hand, if we are innocent, why do you follow us with the sword? „Why do you continue your vain and fruitless controversy with us? „God created men free; how am I to be deprived of that by human lordship which God hath freely bestowed on me? „You boast of your church union, which is obtained by war and is stained with blood.”

Summary of the Persecutions of the Donatists
These began soon after the commencement of the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and they continued at intervals by his successors, with more or less severity, for about half a century. Although Constantine was declared emperor in 306, yet his undivided reign did not commence till the death of his rival, Maxentius, in 312. For a few years he suffered the ruling powers of the Catholic church to persecute the dissenters from it; but this was restrained during the last sixteen years of his reign. But under two of his sons, namely, Constantius and Constans, this people were severely persecuted, especially by the last named.

We now come to a great change in the business of persecuting the Donatists by the Constantine family, all of who but one, who were zealous Christians by profession, were more or less concerned in persecuting the Donatists; while this one, namely, Julian, surnamed the Apostate, a nephew of Constantine the Great, became a most distinguished benefactor of this persecuted people. By his imperial decree all who had been banished by his relatives were permitted to return to their country, their churches and their homes. This was in 361. For many years after this event the Donatists do not appear to have suffered severe persecutions.

Review of the History of the Conference at Carthage
This convocation was literally like the handle of a jug, all on one side. It occurred almost one hundred years after the rise of the Donatists, and but a few years after the then young bishop of Hippo appeared in the field against them. As the history of this conference occupied so large a space in the works of both Optatus and Augustine, and as in its magnitude and design it was the greatest effort of the enemies of the Donatists to suppress them, it is somewhat difficult to account for the silence of history respecting it. The main object of the great undertaking most evidently was to gain possession of all the Donatist churches in Africa by legal authority, under forms of law. Chapters V, VI and VII are wholly occupied with the history of this conference; the manner in which it was formed, the debates of the parties, their accusations against each other, and the final judgment of the president, in which the Donatists were condemned. In their debates during the three days of this conference, so many were their references to their controversies at their different homes, that an observer might have formed a tolerably good history of these home controversies all over the country.

While in other great meetings of disagreeing parties, in their subjects of discussion will be some important topics relative to faith or practice, scarcely anything of the kind came up in this meeting, except on church discipline. On this subject bishop Albaspin, a famous Catholic writer, said all turned on the question whether the field, in the parable of the wheat and tares, meant the world or the church, and, said this bishop, the decision of this question was the main business of the conference. The field means the church, said Augustine, with the wheat and the tares together. This was the favorite system of this famous church leader. Should any doubt the correctness of this statement, he may be convinced of its truth by an examination of all Augustine’s writings on the subject in his controversies with the Donatists. A few of his arguments against the strict disciplinarian opponents were in the following terms: „It was foretold of the church of the coming Messiah, that it should be composed of good and bad members, to the end of the world. Bad members in the church will not contaminate the good. Good members, secure of their own salvation, ought to tolerate the bad, in the church, for the furtherance of theirs.”

The Painful Labors and Great Distances
Traveled in Attending the Conference

As the Donatists were spread over all North Africa, from the Atlantic ocean on the west, to the borders of Egypt on the east, a distance of about two thousand miles, although its average width was but about three hundred miles, and as Carthage, the place for the conference, was about midway of the long country, it is plain to be seen that many of the bishops had to travel a thousand miles or more. If Carthage was not central, of course those from one end would have to go farther than from the other. The length of North Africa may be shown by comparing it with a territory of equal length on our Atlantic coast, which would extend from Boston a considerable distance into the southern states. And the whole journey both ways was probably on foot, the common mode of traveling in those times. Some who lived near the southern shores of the Mediterranean might have obtained passages by water, as Mr. Perry has suggested. I had supposed that June, the month of the conference, in a warm latitude, was an unfavorable time for travel. The remarks on this subject by Mr. Perry, late consul at Tunis, who spent a number of years in the country, may be found in a note.

As Augustine was evidently the projector of the great convocation under review, for the express purpose of suppressing the Donatists, I could never comprehend why he took such a roundabout way in the business, which subjected all the bishops of both parties to the laborious journeys which have been described; of which, however, the Catholics did not complain, as by the success of the measure they doubtless expected to gain the churches which the Donatists would lose, and thus demoralize their aggressive rivals. But the question returns, why did not the grasping bishop seize upon the churches he coveted at once, with an armed force, as the Catholic managers were accustomed to do in former times? To this question it may be said it was too late in the day for this rough measure. The people had become numerous over all the country, where they were mixed with the Catholics and others in the ordinary pursuits of life; and so well were they esteemed that the magistrates declined to persecute them. Of this fact we have ample evidence from both Augustine and, at a later time, from pope Gregory. In closing this review of the conference the following questions naturally occur: As during the whole time of the conference nothing was alleged against the Donatists which would subject them to a criminal process, why was this method adopted for their suppression? It was doubtless intended to obtain their condemnation by imperial authority. The whole business of the conference was an empty show; none of the subjects of the debates were referred to by the judge in his decision adverse to his opponents.

Again, I could not divine why all the Donatist bishops were called to Carthage, where only about twenty of them found anything to do, but to assist the president in forming a list of their names and the location of their churches, until the thought occurred that the list thus formed might have been an essential part of the conference. This idea was confirmed when I called to mind the great care of the president during the long process in making out the list of the Donatist churches and the names of their absent bishops. From the exparte character of this conference, and from the Catholic gold said to be in the hands of the president, which saying was never disproved, Augustine doubtless confidently expected the churches of the Donatists would be awarded to his party. In that case the apparently useless list hitherto, would be an ample guide to the agents who would be employed to install Catholic bishops in the four hundred Donatist churches. On this theory the obtaining this list was one of the principal objects of the conference. This is the most probable reason I can give for compelling all the Donatist bishops to meet at Carthage, where so few of them found nothing to do but to help form the list of all their churches and bishops, present or absent. In the whole matter of the getting up and management of this unsuccessful Carthaginian convocation there were far too many undeveloped plans for honest and fair-dealing men.

I will now briefly examine a most serious charge of Augustine against the Donatists, which exceeds that of their reputed confederacy with the Circumcellions, so far as they were personally concerned.

The Imputed Suicides of the Donatists
Century after century the charge of these criminal acts against this people has gone the rounds of church history, while no one, to my knowledge, has ever looked it directly in the face or taken any pains to ascertain the truth or the falsehood of the charge. And as it originated with Augustine, all who have repeated it, have done so on his authority; and as I resolved to sift this old story to the bottom, all the works of this voluminous author in which the Donatists were concerned have been carefully examined in the original Latin. And after all my researches in these works for something explicit and reliable on this subject, or from which an inference can be fairly drawn, I found but five cases of deaths which Augustine imputed to suicide; and one more case in which he accused the person of premeditating the act. Of the five cases of actual deaths, all agreed that they occurred in the Macarian war against the Donatists. These are the only cases now to be examined, only two of which were named. These deaths were all charged upon the Catholics by the Donatists, but were denied by Augustine. „Your voluntary deaths, which you inflict on yourselves and then charge them upon us,” was the common language of Augustine to the Donatists. Concerning the other three, said he, whose deaths you have equally charged upon us, I suppose there were those who knew why or in what manner they died; I confess, said he, I have not sought to know.

Such was the conclusion of the discussion between the Catholics and the Donatists on the question of three of the five reputed suicides, and of Augustine’s strange assertion that he had not inquired concerning the cause of the manner of their deaths. Donatus and Marculus were the names of the other two. The first was a bishop; the other was either a bishop or an elder. They were both prominent men with Donatists in Numidia. This Donatus was not the original man of this name, although he has often been confounded with him. Of this martyr I can only learn, in this connection, that he is said to have been thrown into a well. This was charged upon the Catholics, by the Donatists, as it was done in the Macarian war. On the death of Marculus I find accounts of considerable length, by both parties. Augustine said, he had heard he might have precipitated himself. This, he said, was more credible than that it was done by Roman authority, in the Macarian war, as that punishment was not according to the Roman laws.

The Death of Marculus, By a Donatist Author
„By the command of Macarius he was taken on his own possessions, in the Macarian war, where he was at once scourged with cords; in the next place, by a strong guard he was blindfolded and conducted through a number of the cities of Numidia to the New Rock, where, after four days, by a soldier, he was precipitated from the highest point of the rock.” This was doubtless the true account of the death of Marculus. This account is found in a note in Augustine’s works, where it must have been inserted by editors more careful and candid than the author. The case of Gaudentius is the only one yet to be examined, in which case the charge of his adversary was premeditating a suicidal act; but this distinction is generally so far overlooked that for unnumbered ages this man has stood in history as a distinguished advocate among the Donatists; and no historian that I have seen has appeared to notice that the original charge by Augustine’s own confession was made with other words than those which Gaudentius himself employed. And strange as it may appear, all authors have quoted the identical passage in question against Gaudentius, and have presented his constructed argument to prove him a patron of suicide. The language of this old story, on both sides, with its connections, is briefly given in Chapter IX. Thus ends the whole story of Augustine concerning the reputed suicides of the Donatists.

The Last Days of Augustine
For about forty years this unwearied opponent of the Donatists had sought in various ways to hinder and suppress them. According to Neander, this famous Catholic bishop was the soul of all the bishops of his order in North Africa; and whoever examines his language and measures will evidently discover that he regarded the whole country as the predestinated and lasting inheritance of his party, to the exclusion of all dissenters. But now, near the close of his life, he beheld an army of Vandals making rapid conquests of this country under their ambitious king, Genseric. These Vandals were of German origin. They had a full grown and well-ordered church establishment of the Arian faith. They held to the union of the church and the state. They also held the right and the duty of kings to manage in church concerns, and to punish dissenters. In these respects their ecclesiastical form was much like that of the Catholics. Thus two great hierarchies met on the same round, equally dogmatical and intolerant. Who now, of the Catholic bishops, says Robinson, dare preach a sermon on the text they had so often abused, „Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; the powers that be are ordained of God.”

Augustine did not live long enough under the Vandal government, says Robins, to witness the full extent of the sufferings of his own people; but he lived a sufficient time to witness the effect of that wicked doctrine of persecution, which he had taught the Catholics to practice on those he called heretics, returned with a vengeance on their own heads. Furthermore, says Robinson, he who, through his whole life, had been warring against heretics, now, by a revolution in government, under a zealous Arian head, became a heretic himself. During the progress of the invasion a number of Augustine’s associates sought a refuge with him in Hippo. Here, they who had driven the Donatists from their churches, had frequent tidings of a counterpart of these doings, in the expulsion of their own bishops from their seats, and in their imprisonment, and exile, and occasionally capital punishment. This Vandal war was a work of some years. The siege of Hippo lasted fourteen months, in the third of which Augustine sickened and died, at the age of seventy-six, in the year 430. Thus ended the laborious life of the far-famed bishop of Hippo. In my extended researches for the refutation of Augustine’s foul charges against the Donatists, I have learned more of their real character than from all other writers; and in his objections to their church polity and discipline, in which they disagreed with his own, their scriptural and evangelical principles are very clearly disclosed.
1. Mr. Perry says: „I do not regard June as an unfavorable time for travel in North Africa, for though the rays of the sun are piercing and the dust trying to the eyes, one will at that season avoid mud and swollen streams which travelers encounter at an earlier period.” MS Letter.
2. „Fateor non quaesivi.”

A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice

A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice

Elder Michael N. Ivey


PART ONE: Origin of the English Baptist
I. General Baptists
II. Particular Baptists
III. London Confessions of Faith
…..A. 1644 Confession
…..B. 1689 Confession
IV. Ancient Baptist Succession in Wales
V. Old Baptist Church at Olchon
VI. The Midland Association
PART TWO: Baptist Succession in America
VII. The American Link
VIII. The Separate Baptists
…..A. Fellowship and Union with the Regular Baptists
…..B. Separate Baptist Faith and Practice
IX. The Kehukee Association
…..A. Reformation of the Kehukee Association
…..B. Revival
X. Succession to the Twentieth Century
PART THREE: Historic Confessions of Faith
XI. Three Primitive Baptists Confessions of Faith
XII. 1655 Midland Confession
XIII. 1777 Kehukee Association Articles of Faith
XIV. Principles of Faith of the Sandy Creek Association
XV. Comparative Observations


A work such as this one is usually preceded with preface and introduction. However, it is my personal experience, in eagerness to „get into” a book, I often pass them by and start immediately with chapter one. I suspect my own reading habits are sometimes shared by others. But, despite my own poor reading patterns, I encourage perusers to take time to read the preamble of this treatise.

Credibility is a major concern in the presentation of any historical work, particularly when it involves church history. Since this effort explores Primitive Baptist church succession, I feel compelled to inform the reader of my methods of research and making conclusions so they are not mislead. We all know we cannot believe everything we read. Written accounts of history are not excluded from academic skepticism. It is not that historians are intentionally dishonest; rather, often they do not have complete information or understanding. This has certainly been my case. Therefore, I cannot claim every assumption is correct, nor every conclusion satisfactory. My research was not exhaustive. Financial and geographic limitations compelled me to rely on local libraries, and the generous kindness of several Elders who loaned me books. My efforts were far from perfect. Thus, they cannot be considered the final word on this subject.

Though certain limitations restricted the scope of this treatise, I was not cavalier in gathering information. I tried to be scrupulous in the selection of reference material. Because some Baptist histories were written with the intent of denominational promotion, with almost every event and character it is possible to find a historian who has written the exact opposite of other historians. For this reason I have been conscientious in my efforts to require multiple sources for each salient point I present. At times, when I believe some piece of information is both well known and commonly accepted, I have left out footnotes to save space. Also, in some cases I quote only one source. However, whenever I suspected some finding has the potential of raising eyebrows I have quoted multiple sources.

I make this point, in part, to caution the skeptic. Historical research is not valid unless multiple sources can back up a claim. I demand this standard for myself. I expect it from my critics. Little is accomplished when brethren of divergent opinions succumb to the temptation of trading quotes. I do not do it in matters of theology and I will not engage in this practice in matters of academic exploration. However, I welcome those who wish to investigate the body of this work with their own research. I have made it easy for you by supplying my sources.

My intent in writing is to present the reader with information which I found to be unavailable elsewhere as a single body of work. Further, I wish to offer observations and conclusions I have developed for myself over these two years spent researching and compiling this information. I do not present this work as a comprehensive study of the subject of Primitive Baptist origin and succession. It is a view of my own insights and understandings based upon certain events in history uncovered by my limited research. I have tried very hard to be honest and objective.

This labor has been a great source of joy for me. It provided many hours of entertainment during days which otherwise may have been spent in wasted activity. I leave it to your judgment as to whether the time was wasted.

The research was not always easy. At times it proceeded very slowly, then some bit of information was found which moved me quickly ahead. Frequently, I was at a loss as to where to look for some piece of information, or even what the next piece of the puzzle should be. Occasionally, upon finding some unexpected bit of information, I was compelled to restudy previous sources from a different perspective. Sometimes an avenue of study would open which had so many side streets of information that fully pursuing its complete course was almost overwhelming.

I found information which directly contradicted other sources. One such case is the religious identity of Valentine Wightman. Every source I found, except one, stated he was a Calvinist; the latter source identified him as a Six Principle Arminian. At this point I thought my findings of an American link to the Midland Association was invalid. However, upon more careful scrutiny, I discovered the author assumed all Six Principle Baptists were Arminians. I knew this was not so. In fact, the sixth principle, laying on hands on the newly baptized, was an error in practice which existed among the Primitive Baptists in Wales in the early seventeenth century. Though other sources note he was a Calvinist, their description of his theology cannot be accepted at face value. His theological legacy suggests he was a Primitive. Incorrect identification of Primitives as Calvinists is a common trap most religious historians seem to fall into.

The experience of collecting and compiling all the information required to compose these few pages can best be described as both tedious and exciting, slow and swift, frustrating and exhilarating, but always joyful.

God’s providence was apparent to me throughout the course of research. At times it was so evident I could almost feel his hand guiding mine as I searched through library stacks, directing me to some obscure book which I discovered contained a vital piece of information. It is not expedient for me to cite the times I found my research was at an apparent dead end, only to pick up some unlikely source and turn directly to the information I needed.

However, the most extraordinary evidence of God’s providence is the circumstance which moved Linda and me from California, where this study could not have been successfully concluded, to Texas. I found vital information at the Southwestern Baptist Seminary Library and book store in Fort Worth. God did not move a mountain to place us in Texas; however, he did move a large corporation! He also gave me the time to make this study, by circumstances I shall not discuss. He is such a tender and merciful God.

But kind reader, do not mistake providence for inspiration. While God apparently intended this research to occur and it be presented, the purity of His desire is surely tarnished by the failings of my efforts. I make no claims beyond a simple conviction that God manifested an approving countenance during the two-year course of research and study.

Writing Baptist history is difficult. Writing Primitive Baptist history is almost impossible, for two reasons. In the first case, most early Baptist history was written by our enemies. In the second, almost all Primitive Baptist history was written by our enemies, or those who were simply ignorant of our beliefs. In both cases, this has led to misidentification, misrepresentation, or both. In the case of Primitive Baptist history, often the only clues in searching for linkage were in the common use, from century to century, of disparaging names we have been called, as you will shortly find.

In researching ancient and old Baptist history, the problem is mis-identification. Most historians identify ancient Baptists based solely upon their beliefs in the ordinance of baptism. Perhaps in the broadest sense this is a correct association. However, if such a singular criterion is used in the distant future to identify 20th century Baptists, then many non-Baptist religions will be listed as Baptists. Perhaps some of this can be blamed on a lack of detailed information concerning ancient doctrinal beliefs; but none-the-less, the practice of combining groups under the Baptist banner which have obviously different practices and doctrinal tenets, simply because they share the principles of believers baptism and baptism by immersion, is troublesome.

This practice makes research very tedious for it cannot be assumed that all whom historians call Baptists or Anabaptists were in reality what they are called. Such is the case of the fanatic sect which captured Munster in Westphalia. Every historian I read refers to this group as Anabaptist. However, research reveals they never were affiliated with any of the main bodies of Anabaptists in Europe. They were a splinter group which left Luther’s Catholic reformation movement because of a belief in believers baptism. They had no connection with the Lollards, Waldensian, Huguenots or Mennonites.

The tendency of historians to lump religious groups together based upon minimal similarities makes study of Primitive Baptist history extremely difficult. Once research moves beyond fellowship connections found in associational minutes, Primitive Baptists tend to be identified with Particular Baptists. This occurs for two reasons. First, ancient Primitive Baptists, because they were subjects of constant persecution, were inclined to look upon any other body of Baptist dissenters as allies in Christian fellowship. This is as it should have been. However, because they sometimes worshipped together and corresponded, it is assumed by historians they were part of other Baptists groups. But, distinctions are apparent, even when they fellowshipped with other groups. Their doctrine was different and they practiced closed membership and communion. Further, primitives consistently made the point they were not reformed or reformers. These facts distinguish primitives from all other Baptists. Nevertheless, the fact of incorrect identification is found in the many erroneous explanations of what the Primitives believed, which brings us to the second problem.

Most historians are unaware of distinctions between primitive and Particular Baptists, and those who do notice subtle distinctions fail to understand their significance. When theological distinction is made, unless the historian was a primitive, it is usually incorrect. Sometimes the description is generally accurate; but, invariably, the writer will editorialize his interpretation of doctrinal applications with observations which are erroneous.

This work relies upon distinctions of primitive and reformed doctrine to identify groups. Specifically, Baptists which believed in election and predestination, and also believed that a saving faith is imparted prior to actual new birth in regeneration, I identify as holding to reformed theology. In the case of the Particular Baptists, based upon Article XXIV of the 1644 London Confession and Articles X and XIV of the 1689 Confession, as these several articles appear to be statements of Calvin’s theology as expressed in his Institutes of Christian Religion Book 2, Chapter 2, Number. 6 and Book 3, Chapter 11, Numbers 16, 17, they are identified as Baptists of reformed theology. Baptists which believed in election and predestination, but also believed new birth precedes faith, are identified as Baptists of primitive theology. They are not reformed.

However, such distinctions are not always clear. From the beginning, there were some among the Particulars, such as Benjamin Cox, who were primitives in their theology. Conversely, there were those among the primitives, such as William Carey, who embraced Calvin’s reformed theology. For this reason, I make distinctions in this work based upon identifying documents rather than affiliations. I rely upon confessions of faith, articles of faith, statements of belief and circular letters as documents which reveal a group’s belief relative to faith and new birth.

This is necessary because of a unique phenomenon which occurred during the reformation, Baptist groups with variant theologies first fellowshipped, then generally merged together. Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century primitives and reformed Particular Baptists in England often worshipped together. This general merger resulted in primitives in Northern England, the Midlands and Wales adopting the London Confession and losing their distinct identity as primitives. By the early nineteenth century the merger was nearly complete. The result was loss of the primitive faith in England.

Mergers also occurred in America. However, here the result was different. Though the London Confession was sometimes retained, as in the case of the Separate and Particular Baptist union in the Virginia Association, generally, when a merger did occur, the doctrine of the London Confession was lost over a period of time. In most instances of merger the London Confession was never adopted and primitive doctrine dominated. Over time, this resulted in the Particular or Regular Baptist losing their distinct identity. Thus, in America, primitive doctrine came to be the prevailing theology of those Baptists which held to the tenets of election and predestination. In 1638 primitive doctrine was the doctrine of Dr. John Clarke, pastor of Newport Baptist Church in Rhode Island, the first Baptist church constituted in America. It was also believed by the Separate Baptists led by Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall according to their statement of belief in 1758.

Because Primitives believed in election and predestination, but did not believe in gospel instrumentality in regeneration (saving faith), they are often referred to as hyper-Calvinists. Of course, they weren’t. The inclination of historians to identify them as extremist Calvinists, not only exacerbates the problem of correct identification, it also tends to hide their history by folding it into the history of more visible reformed Baptists such as the Particulars. For this reason, distinctions in Primitive Baptist history are often missed or ignored. Therefore, a study of their history includes searching for similar misnomers, consistently incorrect statements of their beliefs and practices, and similar disparaging descriptions. This tends to make researching Primitive Baptist history a bit of a treasure hunt.

Another aspect of research, which at times required cautious discernment, is the use of different names for a single group or the same name for different groups. For instance, while no distinction is made in this work between Regular Baptists and Particular Baptists, today they are not always the same group. The Regular Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries were quite different from those who are called Regular Baptists in 20th century America. For this work the criteria for using the names Regular and Particular is point of origin. If a group claimed common origin with the writers of the first or second London Confession, I interchangeably call them Regular or Particular Baptists.

Along this same line, sometimes different groups used the same name to identify themselves. This is the case with the Separate Baptists. The adjective „Separate” denotes a common origin as opposed to common theology. Separate Baptists were people who left the Puritan Congregationalist Church and joined some group of Baptists or started their own Baptist denomination. There were three major divisions of Separate Baptists plus several subdivisions. The major divisions includes those who joined the General Baptists, those who joined the Particular Baptists, and those who became Primitive Baptists. Subgroups included Seventh Day and Six Principle Baptists. There were also Seventh Day Particular Baptists; and, Six Principle Baptist subgroups were found variously among the General, Particular and Primitive Baptists. (Six Principle Baptists practiced „Laying on of hands” as part of the ordinance of baptism. They took their name from the six principles of doctrine set forth in Hebrews 6: 1-2).

To add to all this name confusion, some groups have multiple names. This practice was the case with the Regular Baptists, as noted above. It was also the case with the Church of England, Independents, Separatists, and Presbyterians. If all of this is confusing to the reader, you have my sympathy.

Finally, not all writers of Baptist histories agree. Most often their disagreements are minor and due to incomplete information. However, in some few instances, I suspect varying accounts of history are the result of denominational prejudice. Sometimes histories were written with a polemic attitude, to indict some group or defend oneself. The phenomenon of revisionist histories reached almost epidemic proportion with works written in the period immediately following the mission/anti-mission divisions of the 19th century. I have tried to pick through this category of histories. If I could not find generally collaborative accounts, I tended to reject them.

I am compelled to give thanks to God for the extrordinary providence of His support and for of all His saints who assisted in this effort.

Many wrote or called to express their support of my efforts. Their kind words and enthusiasm often came at times of great discouragement. The love of their caring support was an elixir to my soul.

I give thanks for those who gave me access to the treasures of their libraries. The staff of the Webb Robbins Library at Southwest Baptist Seminary Fort Worth, Texas was always very helpful. They gave me complete access to their facilities, including the rare books archives. Also, several of God’s saints within the Primitive Baptist family were very generous in lending me reference works from their personal libraries. Several times I was loaned rare books. I know the sacrifice that is required for one to lend to another a valuable and much loved book. I thank God for your generosity.

Several sent funds to help with the costs of printing. Others offered to print the book at their own expense. Still others assisted by finding a printer within my budget. Such an outpouring of generousity is very touching. I thank God for you. I pray that you will find this work worthy of your confidence.

I give thanks to God for His tender mercies. I cherish the memories of the many hours He allowed me to spend with Him, in prayer and meditation, during the course of research and writing.

Finally, I give thanks for my wife, Linda, for her loving encouragement and patience. Without her faithful support this book could not have been written.

This book is dedicated to my Lord and Master, with whom I spent many hours during its preparation, and to my loving wife, Linda, with whom I did not.

Elder Michael Ivey
Fort Worth, Texas
June, 1994


This book began as a simple desire to understand a seeming inconsistency which I believed existed in Primitive Baptist history relative to the question of our succession as Christ’s church. I could not resolve the differences I perceive between Primitive Baptist Confessions of Faith and the 1689 London Confession of Faith. I heard various arguments relating to differences in language, but did not accept them because the King James Version of the Bible is written in the same language and is readily understandable. I was given an explanation that the London brethren were attempting to escape persecution and so, wrote an „acceptable” confession. This did not seem to make sense to me since the church has always been a dissenting body from popular religion and always suffered persecution for her convictions. It did not seem reasonable that men who came to Baptist conviction knowing full well the persecution they must suffer would suddenly lay their convictions aside to avoid persecution.

My problem with resolving the language of the London Confession to Primitive Baptist faith was centered around the concepts of saving faith, and gospel agency as it is described in Articles 10 and 14 of the 1689 edition. In part these articles state:

Article 10, Part 1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto Life, he is pleased, in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call by his word, and Spirit, out of that state of sin, and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and Salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his Almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his Grace.

Article 14, Part 1. The Grace of Faith, whereby the Elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the Ministry of the Word; by which also and by the administration of Baptism, and the Lords Supper, Prayer and other means appointed of God, it is increased, and strengthened.

The archaic language and punctuation of the London Confession, to some measure, leaves the meanings of the these articles open to interpretations. However, inclusion of proof texts seem to indicate the London brethren believed in gospel agency, or instrumentality, in regeneration. Particularly, the use of II Thessalonians 2:13-14 as a proof text for Article 10 led me to conclude the authors believed that gospel utility includes its employment as a verbal instrument of effectual calling in regeneration. In addition, the use of Romans 10:14-17 to define the Ministry of the Word in Article 14 caused me to believe they were writing of the preached word, despite the use of capital punctuation. If I understand what they wrote, it is: The divine influence of faith, whereby the Elect are enabled to believe and thereby save their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily produced by the agency of the preached word.

My perplexity concerning the meanings of these articles was heightened when I read a copy of the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith. I discovered the language of Article 10, parts 1 and 3 in the two Confessions is identical. Also, I found the only difference in the language of Article 14, part 1 is the London Confession substituted the phrase, „by the administration of Baptism, and the Lords Supper, Prayer and other Means appointed of God” for the Westminster phrase „by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer.” Apparently, the only hesitance the Particular Baptists had with this part of the article of the Westminster Confession was the latter’s reference to baptism and the Lord’s supper as sacraments. The only other difference I found was incidental punctuation and capitalization. At first, I thought capitalization had some significance, but upon closer review I discovered the original transcript of the London Confession used capitalization indiscriminately. Therefore, I was unable to determine any significance for capitalized words.

Knowing that Presbyterian Calvinism teaches a principle of gospel agency in regeneration using the same two articles to set forth their position, I became convinced the early Particular Baptists also must have believed the same.

As I continued to ponder these things, it came to my attention that certain brethren, who no doubt are struggling with these same questions, are teaching gospel agency in regeneration and citing an historic perspective of church succession through the Particular Baptists as a point to support their theology. Simply put, they assert Primitive Baptists abandoned their true beliefs in the 19th century, claiming that until then all orthodox churches subscribed to the tenets of the 1689 London Confession of Faith. They reason abandonment of the London Confession occurred gradually through minor deviations in theology, which developed as an extremist response to anti-missionary, anti-Arminian sentiments. They have asserted that gospel means, or agency in regeneration is first, a bible doctrine and second, an historic belief of the Primitive Baptists owing to our historical connection to the London Confession.

I knew this could not be the case. I have read articles of faith written prior to the 19th century, which do not support gospel means. I have read Elder Wilson Thompson’s autobiography in which a detailed narrative is given of his opposition in 1858 to this doctrine. And, I have read the sermons of Elder Greg Thompson in which he valiantly proclaims God’s sovereignty in regeneration and refutes the notions of gospel instrumentality in regeneration. Further, careful restudy of this issue led me to believe the bible void of a doctrine which invokes the gospel in any way to any degree as a requisite principle of new birth.

All this deepened my desire to know more about the circumstance of the writing of the London Confession. I did not initiate this study to find some non-London Confession succession of the church; rather, my intent was simply to understand how the 1689 London Confession came to such wide acceptance among the Baptists. Also, from a historical perspective, I was anxious to know what events caused the Primitive Baptists to leave it. What I found was a Baptist succession which does not embrace the London Confession or, for some, has only coincidental contact.

The following pages are the results of my study. It is not exhaustive, neither is it infallible. It is simply an expression of my research and observations.

I have been asked why the line of succession this work claims is not listed elsewhere. My answer is, I do not know; perhaps it does exist elsewhere. However, I did not find it in any of the major works of Baptist history. Bits and pieces, sometimes hints, were found in the works of Crosby, Armitage, Underhill, Jones, Benedict and Hassell. But I could find no place in their works where these renowned Baptist historians suggested a consistent Welsh line of succession (though most note the existence of Baptists in England as early as 600 A.D.). Neither did I find a Welsh succession in the works of modern Historians such as Lumpkin, Torbet, or Armstrong. (Modern historians generally deny the existence of an unbroken succession of the church from Christ). Dr. Roy Mason does mention the existence of ancient Christians in Wales in his history, but he mostly quotes the work of Dr. John Christian. However, when all the pieces were placed together, a Welsh succession of the church unfolded.

I do not claim that such renowned historians were dishonest, or even incorrect. Each wrote books which greatly contribute to our understanding of Baptist history. However, in each case it is apparent their focal perspective was different from mine. They wrote to present a panoramic landscape of Baptist history. I have sketched a crude portrait.

The absence of an assimilated account of Welsh succession is troublesome to me. However, such a void probably resulted from the obscurity of many of the documents used by Welsh Baptist historians. Both Joshua Thomas and Jonathan Davis, who will be quoted often in the course of this work, were Welshmen. Much of their original research involved Welsh documents and manuscripts. Because of the obscurity of the Welsh language outside of Wales, it is reasonable to conclude that much of this information was hidden from both early and modern historians. I do not claim that Thomas and Davis are major historians. Their work is perhaps of little interest to those who are not specifically researching Welsh Baptist history. Also, with the exception of the Welsh Tract Church in America, most historians have considered Welsh Baptist history to be of little consequence. The Welsh Baptists were an obscure people.

Welsh Baptist history, like all early Baptist history, is sometimes difficult to discern. Many lines of fellowship, when they did exist, are now obscured by the loss of records and passing of time. I make this point to caution the reader about making assumptions. Because a single line of Baptist Succession is found in Wales, it cannot be assumed that all Welsh Baptists were primitives. We know this is not so. For instance Vavassor Howell, who will be more fully introduced in due time, was a prominent Welsh preacher. He was called by admirers the Welsh George Whitfield. Howell was reformed. His theological origin was with the Church of England. He held close fellowship with the Particular Baptists in London. Also, because of the proximity of Wales to Oxford and Bristol, locations of Anglican colleges of theology, during the reign of James many of the Calvinistic Anglican bishops which left the Church of England and turned to the Baptists were Welshman. Wales enjoyed a tremendous increase in Baptist Churches during this time.

Lines of fellowship are obscured by time and, perhaps, were obscure in many instances from the beginning. The denominational polarizations which exist today among Baptists were less acute in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Evangelists and other itinerant Baptist ministers were welcomed to preach wherever a Baptist congregation was gathered. Often these congregations were without pastors because of constant persecutions. (They preached courageous ministers who came their way.) Thus, a church which for centuries was primitive in faith one day would find herself with a reformed Pastor. This happened very often. The result of this was by the late eighteenth century most of the Baptist churches in Wales were either General or Particular Baptist. English persecution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did more than martyr God’s saints. It obscured Baptist succession.

Nothing is written between the lines of this work. I have not exercised subtlety in expressing myself. If I believe something I have said it. Therefore, the reader should not try to read things into my writing. This work is not a direct or indirect attack upon anything or anybody.

Because I have suggested there is a Welsh succession of the church does not, in the least, threaten a European succession through the Apostle John and Polycarp. I am not trying to replace one succession with another. It would be presumptuous for me to discount the numerous accounts of Anabaptist activity in Europe. Not only so, it weakens my own claims. This work contains a discussion of fellowship between the two groups.

Neither am I attacking our forefathers who met in Fulton, Kentucky, in 1900. To the contrary, I thank God for their efforts. These brethren were evidently struggling with the same issues, concerning the London Confession, with which I have struggled. They give historic precedence to my struggle. They arrived at a solution which satisfied themselves and their congregations. I applaud their efforts and its outcome. However, we cannot assume their solution is the last word on the matter. If they felt at liberty to scrutinize the London Confession from a theological perspective, is it not our privilege to scrutinize it from an historical vantage? I do not see the result of my work as confrontational towards theirs, rather as a complimentary addendum. Theological truths must always take precedent over historical perspective. But when theology and history agree, historical perspective compliments truth.

The Fulton brethren exercised their theological perspective of truth by adding footnotes to the London Confession. I have now come along and offered my applause for their work. I say to them, bravo! History affirms that your concerns were valid and your corrections accurate. Brethren in years past made the same corrections. It proves that the truths you penned at the bottom of the page are the same truths held by Old Baptists through the years. My work is merely an appreciative reaction to yours, a standing ovation.

This treatise is divided into three sections. The first chapters deal with the origins of the English Baptists. There is a brief discussion of the two London Confessions. This section also contains a summary of the ancient history of the Welsh Baptists. There is a chapter which discusses the early history of Olchon Primitive Baptist Church. It concludes with a description of the history and theology of the Midland Association.

Part Two begins with a discussion of the American Link of primitive Baptists succession. It includes a narrative of the circumstances surrounding the constitution of Newport Baptist Church. The ministries of Elders John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes are examined.

Next, there are several chapters dealing with the Separate Baptists. It discusses their transition to Baptist sentiment. A brief discussion of Elder Shubal Stearns is included. A narrative of the evangelical accomplishments of Elder Stearns and the Separate Baptists of North Carolina is inserted. It links the Separate Baptists to the Kehukee Association. The early history of the Kehukee Association is included along with the writers’ impressions as to causes of their irregularities in faith and practice.

The last section is an investigation of the theology of the Midland, Kehukee and Sandy Creek Associations’ Confessions of Faith. The content of each confession is examined. The Midland and Kehukee are compared and contrasted to the 1644 London Confession and the Philadelphia Confession respectively. A comparative examination of the three confessions is then discussed.

PART ONE: Origin of the English Baptists

Chapter I

General Baptists

With the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603 the Puritans, who were Calvinists in their doctrinal sympathies, had reason to hope the severe persecution they were suffering would end with the ascension of James I. James was raised and educated in Scotland under the watchful tutorage of Presbyterian clergy. His avowed admiration and attachment to the Kirk and the pure doctrine and practice of Calvinist Presbyterianism gave reason for such hope.

However, James proved to be a disastrous disappointment to all non-conformists. Once crowned, he succumbed to the persuasive abilities of Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Bancroft, Bishop of London. The praise and adoration which James received from these Anglican notables was in contrast to his rigid and stiff necked Calvinist mentors in Scotland, where Andrew Melville had once chastised the young royal to his face by calling him „God’s silly vassal.” The appeasement of James’ colossal vanity lead to the edict of the Hampton Court Conference in which dissenters were given to expect nothing but rigorous persecution from their arrogant king.

This new round of persecution, with little expectation of early abatement, resulted in the migration of many dissenters to Holland. Among those who fled James’ renewed oppression was a congregation of Brownists, or Separatists Puritans from Gainsborough led by John Smyth, an ex-Anglican clergyman. Their removal from England to Holland occurred around 1608. In Amsterdam they were joined by another group led by John Robinson, who later moved his congregation to Leydon and is noted as one of the Pilgrim Fathers.

In his book Shapers of Baptist Thought, James Tull makes a distinction between Independents and Separatist within the Puritan movement. He notes Independents wished to reform the Church of England, while the Separatists believed the Established Church was beyond reformation. They believed true reformation could only occur through a presbyterian polity directed from Geneva. However, the majority in both groups were Calvinists. In a sense, Independents were dissenters within the Church of England while Separatists were dissenters from without, having been either excommunicated or voluntarily separated from the Anglican body.

After arriving in Amsterdam, Smyth gradually came to the conclusion that the baptismal practice of his Calvinist Puritanism was not scriptural. Believing that pedobaptism was false, he persuaded his congregation to declare themselves not a church and disband. He then baptized himself by immersion and afterward baptized his entire congregation. Thus immersed, they proceeded to reconstitute themselves as a church, based upon believers baptism and baptism by immersion. It is from this act that historians conclude Smyth’s group became a Baptist church.

Shortly after this reformation, Smyth initiated conversations regarding the possibility of joining a nearby Dutch Waterlander Mennonite Church, since they were no longer Puritan Separatists because of their rejection of pedobaptism. Because of the irregularity of their baptisms, the Mennonites were understandably reluctant to admit Smyth’s group into their body. Their reluctance might also have stemmed from the fact that Smyth was a Calvinist while the Waterlanders, though Mennonites, were Arminians. However, it appears Smyth soon changed his coat and became an Arminian, urging his church to submit to baptism by the Waterlander Mennonites. Though he died before the merge occurred, a remnant of his followers finally joined the Mennonites.

Smyth’s willingness to abandon his Calvinist theology attests to the pliability of his doctrinal convictions. However, Smyth must have realized that by rejecting pedobaptism he had separated his group from the Puritan movement. Evidently he felt baptism by immersion was important enough to warrant separation from his Puritan brethren. As to church identity, lacking any other direction of affiliation, evidently he willingly surrendered his Calvinism in order to gain identity with the Waterlander Baptists.

Smyth’s desire to join the Mennonite congregation caused a split in his congregation, led by John Helwys. The split was not over the Arminian theology of the Waterlanders; rather, Helwys’ group was uniformly satisfied with their reformation baptisms at the hand of Smyth and would not submit to rebaptism by the Mennonites. This group started a separate church, complete with an Arminian Confession of faith. Composed by Helwys in 1610 before leaving Holland, it is written in the new church’s name and contains twenty-seven articles. According to William L. Lumpkin, „Mennonite influence is readily seen in the confession for it shows a departure from the hitherto markedly consistent Calvinism of the Separatist movement.” Helwys included articles relating to general atonement for all believers, justification by faith as received through the gospel, and a tenet which stated saints may fall from grace through disobedience and unbelief. Article five deals with predestination. In part, it reads; „That God before the foundation of the world predestinated that all that believe in him shall be saved and all who believe not in him shall be damned, all which he knew before. And this is the Election and reprobation spoken in the Scripture, concerning salvation, and condemnation, and not that God hath Predestinated men to be wicked, and to be damned, for God would have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, and would have no man to perish, but would have all men come to repentance.” From this article alone there can be no doubt that the Helwys group were Arminian Baptists. It was this Confession of Faith, with its high Arminian doctrine, which Helwys brought back to England.

In 1612 or 1613 Helwys and his followers returned to England. As stated, during their exile in Holland, Smyth’s group underwent certain doctrinal changes resulting from their affiliation with the Dutch Mennonites. Though Smyth left as a staunch Calvinist Separatist, the portion of his congregation led by Helwys, which later came back to England, returned as strict Arminians However, Smyth’s transition from Calvinist to Arminian was in keeping with his constant search for religious satisfaction. His theological journey, which started with Anglican Episcopalianism, ended with Dutch Waterlander Mennonite Arminianism. According to Baptist historian A. C. Underwood, Smyth’s theological wanderings resulted in the founding of the Arminian General Baptist denomination. He wrote of Smyth, „….he stands at the fountain head of consecutive Baptist history. He may be regarded as the father and founder of the original Baptist of England and of the General Baptists in particular. After the lapse of three hundred years he must be placed in the vanguard of what is now the ecumenical communion.”

When Helwys and his group returned to England, they returned as a church. This group is uniformly credited by Baptist historians as the founding congregation of the Arminian General Baptist assembly in London. The group left England in 1608 as Calvinist Separatists and returned in 1613 as Arminian Baptists. Thus, the heritage of this persuasion of Baptist conviction is first, based upon a belief in baptism by immersion and believers baptism; next, founded by spontaneous reformation and self-baptism; and last, upon the Peligian philosophies of James Arminius as they were embraced by the Waterlander Dutch Mennonites. The origin of this denomination’s Baptist identity begins with seventeenth century reformation. If succession is carried any further back it leads these Baptists to Anglican, then Catholic succession.

Chapter II

Particular Baptists

Elder Sylvestor Hassell makes the following statement concerning the origin of Particular Baptists. „In 1633, September the 12th, the first Particular Baptist, or Calvinist, or Predestinarian English Baptist Church was founded in London, under the pastoral care of John Spilsbury, from those members of an Independent Church who rejected infant baptism; it was called Bond Street Church, and was in the parish of Wapping, London.” Elder Hassell provides no further information as to the origin of this church so far as succession is concerned.

A more detailed account of the origin of Particular Baptists is Found in Underwood’s History of the English Baptist. Though similar in outcome the circumstance is slightly different. First noting this group has its origin with Puritan and Pilgrim Father John Robinson, it reads, „In 1616 Henry Jacob and some of the exiled Independents returned to England from the Netherlands and began work in London. In 1633, John Spilsbury and a few others left this church, apparently because they had come to oppose infant baptism.”

Robert Torbet provides additional details. His account indicates some twenty years after the Helwys group returned to England a friendly division occurred. In September 1633, by honorable dismissal, several members separated themselves from Helwys’ congregation and formed an independent church constituted on Calvinist principles. Shortly thereafter John Spilsbury was elected their pastor. Within a few years this congregation came to be known as Regular or Particular Baptists. Their name was adopted based upon their belief in particular redemption.

Torbet’s account also explains an apparent link up of the former Smyth and Robinson groups. He cites the presence of Lathrop as an early leader of the group formed in 1616. From this it may be assumed that the two groups merged when John Lathrop and his group left the fledgling General Baptist congregation. Thus, his reference to two branches under Henry Jacob may result from these separate origins, prior to a merger under the leadership of John Lathrop. One group was initially led by Henry Jacob, out of Robinson’s Independents. The other group was led by John Lathrop, formerly with Helwys’ General Baptist congregation, out of John Smyth’s Separatists.

Torbet agrees with Underwood that Jacob was an Independent who left Robinson and returned to England in 1616. He gives the line of succession this way. The Particular Baptist were first recognizable as a separate group, with their own doctrine and practice, in 1638. They were first Independent Puritan Calvinists led by Henry Jacob. The church was aptly called Jacob Church. In 1622 Jacob moved to Virginia, where he died in 1624. After Henry Jacob, John Lathrop was pastor until his imprisonment in 1632. After his release from prison, he and about thirty members of his congregation fled to New England. The group which remained in England were led by two pastors. Cromwell’s humorously named parliamentarian „Praise-God” Barebone led half the church which met in his house, Lock and Key, on Fleet Street. Henry Jessey cared for the other half. At this point, both Jessey and Barebone were still Puritan pedobaptists. In time Jessey came to accept believer’s baptism and was baptized by Hansard Knollys who at the time was an Independent in sentiment, believing in baptism by immersion, but still a bishop with the Church of England.

B. R. White, in his work, English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century, notes that both Kiffin and Spilsbury were original members of the Jacob group, which was an outgrowth of the John Robinson Independents group.

In 1633 the Jessey group experienced a friendly split when Spilsbury and a small band left over the issue of baptismal authority. They did not object to infant baptism; however, they rejected the authority of Anglican Church baptism. In rejecting Anglican baptismal authority, the group made a transition from Independents to Separatists. (It is perhaps at this point where the former Helwys and Lathrop groups joined company.) They organized a separate church under the leadership of Samuel Elton. In 1638 another group left Jessey’s church. This group believed only regenerates are qualified candidates for baptism. They are the first group out of Jessey’s church to reject pedobaptism. William Kiffen was part of this group. Meanwhile, Spilsbury was chosen to replace Elton as pastor of the original group dismissed in 1633 from the Jessey’s congregation. These two groups merged in 1638.

Thomas Crosby cites the earlier date, 1633, as the point at which the Particular Baptists were recognizable as a distinct denomination. Certainly, the group which later fully embraced the tenets of believers baptism and baptism by immersion is first seen as a congregation in 1633; however, at that time they still accepted the practice of pedobaptism. The doctrinal sentiment of the group which left Jessey in 1633 cannot be proven to be Baptist before 1638, after they merged with Kiffin. Spilsbury must have come to Baptist sentiment concerning believers baptism and baptism by immersion before he merged with Kiffin; but, according to Torbet, when Spilsbury left the Jessey church he was still a pedobaptist. The first documented evidence of his change in sentiment was after he merged with Kiffin in 1638. However, in practice, this group did not become a true Baptist Church until believers baptism and baptism by immersion became requirements for membership, which did not occur until 1641. According to Kiffin’s manuscript, a group of members of this newly amalgamated congregation became convinced that baptism by aspersion (sprinkling or pouring) was unscriptural. This new view is known to have been held by Spilsbury, Kiffin and Richard Blunt, plus some few others. Blunt knew of Mennonites in Rhwynsburg, in the Netherlands, who practiced baptism by immersion. Because he spoke Dutch, in 1641 he traveled to Holland, where according to Kiffin’s manuscript, he was kindly received and given letters for the new London congregation. It is believed the letters he received contained arguments in support of believers baptism and baptism by immersion.

Kiffin’s manuscript, as paraphrased by Crosby, seems to demonstrate the Particular’s desire to understand the proper mode and seek proper administration of the ordinance of baptism. „They could not be satisfied about any administrator in England to begin this practice; because tho’ some in this nation rejected baptism of infants, yet they had not as they knew revived the ancient custom of immersion.”

Though the context of Thomas Crosby’s History of the English Baptists seems to imply that Blunt was baptized while in Holland, Crosby does not say so outright. He continues Kiffin’s narrative in his own words, but makes no specific reference to Blunt being baptized while in Holland. „But hearing that some in the Netherlands practiced it, they agreed to send over one Mr. Richard Blount, who understood the Dutch Language: That he went accordingly, carrying letters of recommendation with him, and was kindly received by the church there, and Mr. John Batte, their teacher: That upon his return he baptized Mr. Samuel Blacklock, a minister, and these two baptized the rest of their company, whose names appear in the manuscript, to the number of fifty-three.”

Neither does the continuation of Kiffin’s original manuscript say Blunt was baptized in Holland. Regarding Blunt’s return and the subsequent baptismal service, Kiffin wrote, „1640. 3rd Mo.; The church became to (sic) by mutual consent just half being with Mr. P. Barebone, & ye other halfe with Mr. H. Jessey. Mr. Richard Blunt with him being convinced of Baptism yt also it ought to be by dipping in ye Body into ye Water, resembling Burial & rising again 2 Col. 2:12. Rom 6:4, had sober conference about it in ye Church, & then with some of the forenamed who also ware so convinced. And after prayer & Conference about their so enjoying it, none having then to practiced it in England to Professed Believers & hearing that some in ye Netherlands had so practiced they agreed and sent over Mr. Rich. Blunt (who understood Dutch) with letters of Commendation, and who was kindly accepted there, and returned with letters from them Jo: Batte a Teacher there and from that Church to such as sent him.

1641, They proceed therein, viz. Those Persons that ware persuaded Baptism should be by dipping ye Body had met in two Companies, and did intend so to meet after this, all these agreed to proceed alike togeather And then Manifesting (not by any formal Words a Covenant); wch word was scrupled by some of them, but by mutual desires and agreement each testified:

Those two Companyss did set apart one to Baptize the rest; so it was solemnly performed by them.

Mr. Blunt baptized Mr. Blacklock yt was a Teacher amongst them, and Mr. Blunt being Baptized, he & Mr. Blacklock Baptized ye rest of their friends that ware so minded, & many being added to them they increased much”

From this account, together with Burrage’s corrected reading of Kiffin’s manuscripts, several historians understand that Mr Blunt baptized Mr Blacklock and Mr Blacklock baptized Mr Blunt, and the two proceeded to baptize the rest of the congregation; which was evidently composed of two companies or churches.

William A. Whitsitt concurs with Burrage’s interpretation, concluding that Blunt was not baptized in Holland. He places the occurrence of the reformation baptismal service at the earliest in 1641.

B. R. White also agrees with Burrage and Whitsitt, maintaining that Particular Baptist transformation from Puritan Calvinist Separatists to Baptists was accomplished by self-baptism. He wrote, „Blunt baptized himself.” He bolsters this assertion with an article written by Thomas Killcop in 1642. Killcop was a member of Spilsbury’s congregation. However, his assertion may be incorrect due to misinterpretation of Killcop’s article.

The article was published as a response to the Independents’ criticisms of the Particular Baptists for practicing self-baptism. Killcop’s article does not specifically deny that Blunt baptized himself after returning from Holland; however, neither does he admit that Blunt baptized himself. His defense of reinstitution of immersion and believers baptism is based upon a principle that God is able to spontaneously raise up a true witness. He wrote to the Independents, „every scripture which gives you warrant to erect a church state, gives us the same warrant to erect baptism since the one cannot be done without the other, for none can put on Christ (that is visibly by outward profession) but such as are baptized into Christ.

White noted the simplicity of Killcop’s argument: „If scripture gave authority for the vital act of the reconstruction of the church it must surely do so for the smaller act of reconstituting the church ordinance of baptism.”

Neither did John Spilsbury’s response to the controversy deny self-baptism as a method for restoring the primitive ordinance; but, like Killcop, neither does he specifically support self-baptism. He addressed his argument from the attitude of assembled believers authority, noting that when God himself calls together a congregation as an assembled church, uniting them to Christ and each other, they are authorized by Christ to choose a member or members to perform baptisms. Spilsbury wrote; „as occasion offers and authorizes him or them to administer baptism upon the whole body and so upon themselves in the first place as part of the same.” He continued a defense of the Particular’s origin by asserting, „wheresoever a church doth rise in her true constitution, there are her ordinances and also power to administer the same; and where a thing is wanting there must be of necessity a beginning to reduce that thing again into being.”

Torbet does not believe Blunt was baptized in Holland. He makes this assertion based upon the fact that the Dutch Baptists to whom he traveled seeking instruction were Arminian Collegiant, or Rhwynsburg Mennonites. He reasons the Collegiants would not have accepted Blunt as a candidate for baptism because he did not believe their doctrine, being a Calvinist. Conversely, he asserts that Blunt would not have offered himself for baptism at the hands of Arminians. Torbet lists Shakespeare’s Baptist and Congregational Pioneers, pages 180-183, Kiffin’s original manuscript, and Burrage’s Early English Dissenters, Vol II pgs. 302 – 305, as his sources for this information.

While Kiffin’s manuscript includes both Blunt and Blacklock in the list of new members in his account of the original baptismal service, his wording is vague. It does not specifically state if members were baptized or otherwise received. However, as this was a reconstitution of their church it is reasonable to assume the list is of those who covenanted together. The inexplicit language of the document, in part, may be due to the fact that Kiffin was not present when the baptismal service occurred. He may have been in prison for preaching without proper authorization.

Spilsbury and Knolly’s names are absent from the list; however, it is known they were both identified with the group both before and after the baptismal service. Knollys was in Holland and Germany in self-exile during this period of the new church’s history. It is unknown why Spilsbury is not included in the original membership list. A possible explanation is that Kiffin’s membership list is actually a list of only those who were baptized that day. Spilsbury is believed to have been previously baptized by Knollys.

The wording of Kiffin’s manuscript suggests there may have been some present who did not submit to baptism. Kiffin’s statement, „he & Mr. Blacklock Baptized ye rest of their friends that ware so minded,” could infer that some were not „so minded” and were not baptized by Blunt or Blacklock. It may be that Spilsbury, like Jessey, had already been baptized by Knollys. As believers baptism and baptism by immersion are clearly stated motives and principles of the formation of the Particular Baptists it seems unlikely they would admit or retain members who were unbaptized. This leads to the probability of other occasions of baptisms.

It cannot be disputed that early Particular Baptists believed in a principle of spontaneous reconstitution of the church. Both Killcop and Spilbury use this tenet as an argument in support of original baptism. In 1646 Hansard Knollys replied to a work written by John Saltmarsh which was critical of the Baptists’ requirement of baptism by immersion. Saltmarsh believed baptism was Spiritual only, therefore mode was of no consequence. Knollys’ reply reveals belief in a principle of mediation of baptismal authority directly from Christ. He believed that the commission to baptize is received directly from Christ without the necessity of a succession of authority; stating, „one can baptize as warrantably in his name as could any of his disciples.”

It may be that Blunt was baptized in Holland, as Crosby so infers. It is certain he and Mr. Blacklock baptized several of their friends upon Mr. Blunt’s return from Holland. The possibility of some not being baptized by Blunt or Blacklock is suggested by the writings of Killcop and Spilsbury. Also, Crosby’s assertion that some Particulars practiced what he called „last method of restoring baptism.” infers some were not baptized in the formal constitution of the church. He claims there was a general acceptance, among early English Baptists, of a practice of unbaptized persons baptizing.

Crosby asserts the early Particular Baptists believed in two methods of instituting a „reformation.” He states both were acceptable to the English Baptists „at their revival of immersion in England.”

1. The regular baptism method. „The former of these (methods) was, to send over to the foreign Anabaptists, who descended from the antient Waldenses in France or Germany that so one or more receiving baptism from them might become a proper administrator of it to others. Some thought this the best way and acted accordingly, as appears from Mr. Hutchinson’s account in the epistle of his treatise of the Covenant of Baptism.”

2. The Anti-succession method. „But the greatest number of the English Baptists, and the more judicious, looked upon all this as needless trouble, and what proceeded from the old Popish Doctrine of right to administer the sacraments by an uninterrupted succession, which neither the Church of Rome, nor the Church of England, much less the modern dissenters, could prove to be with them. They affirmed therefore and practiced accordingly, that after a general corruption of Baptism, an unbaptized person might warrantably baptize, and so begin a reformation.”

It is interesting that Crosby quotes Spilsbury to support his argument that some early English Baptist practiced the anti-succession method of restoring baptism.

It must be noted that Crosby is very careful to distinguish between self-baptism and „the last method of baptism.” He first denies that John Smyth baptized himself; then, discounts the significance of his self-baptism, if it did occur. He wrote, „But enough of this. If he were guilty of what they charge him with ‘tis no blemish upon the English Baptists; who neither approved of any such method, not did they receive baptism from him.” In his denial he is critical of self-baptism as a valid reinstitution of the ordinance. This seems a bit strange in light of his support of last method baptism. However, if his reference to „an unbaptized person” refers to Hansard Knollys, who baptized Jessey and Spilsbury, it may be that Crosby somehow gave authority to this form of reinstitution of baptism, as part of a spontaneous reformation of the church, but distinguished the „second method” from self-immersion as practiced by Smyth. Perhaps Crosby viewed Knollys, Spilsbury and Kiffen as reformed Baptists who received their baptismal authority as God called ministers of the gospel, upon the merit of restoration of the true mode of baptism.

Despite the reasoning of several historians, since the matter cannot be factually settled, this writer chooses to follow Crosby’s lead and assume Blunt was baptized while in Holland and had authority to baptize others; and, that his baptism represents a succession of the ordinance. It seems extremely unlikely he would travel to the Continent only to receive instructions concerning immersion. The phrase in Kiffin’s manuscript concerning Blunt’s reception in Holland, „who was kindly accepted there,” could indicate he was accepted for baptism. Also, denominational lines were not well drawn in that day. It is conceivable the Arminian Collegiant Baptists in Rhwynsburg were willing to baptize Blunt despite his Calvinist sentiments. The theological lineage of this particular congregation of Mennonites is unknown, therefore it cannot be concluded their own origin is outside a line of baptismal succession.

The 1644 and 1646 editions of the London Confession tend to support the notion that some Particulars did not recognize baptismal authority through a ministerial succession by laying on of hands. This is an important point for the Particular Baptists for two reasons. First, if baptismal authority requires a continuous succession by laying on of hands then spontaneous reinstitution of the ordinance cannot be recognized as a valid method of reformation of the church. Second, there is no evidence that Blunt or Blacklock were ordained ministers with a succession back to Christ at the time of the baptismal service.

The 1644 edition of the London Confession, concerning baptismal authority, states „The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this Ordinance, the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching Disciple, it being no where tied to a particular Church, Officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the Commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples.” In 1646 the meaning of this statement was given more clarity. It shows that a principle of succession of baptismal authority evidently was not supported by the early Particular Baptists. It reads, „The person designed by Christ to dispense Baptism, the Scriptures hold forth to be a Disciple; it being nowhere tied to a particular Church officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the Commission enjoining the administration, being given to them as considered Disciples, being men able to preach the Gospel.” Neither article mentions the need for the ordination of the administrator of baptism.

Crosby, nor any subsequent historians, present evidence that Blunt and Blacklock were authorized to baptize others through a succession of laying on of hands from Christ, as ordained ministers. No mention is made concerning Blunt being ordained in Holland. This may account for the position taken in their Confession concerning baptismal authority. At such an early date, it was too soon to impose a principle of baptismal authority. Whatever the reason for omission of this principle from the 1644 Confession, it is also conspicuously absent from the 1689 Confession.

Again, the Particular’s belief in a principle of God directly granting baptismal authority may explain the absence of the principle of ministerial succession by the laying on of hands. In reading several accounts of Reformation thinking, the principle of spontaneous baptismal authority is noted. As we have stated, the principle is; God, at any time, may reform his church to its primitive faith and practice. It supports a notion that the church can become so corrupted with error that God will go outside her authority to raise a witness. When this occurs it is presumed the ordinances of the church are reinstated in primitive form, baptism being one of these. Thus, God will call men, giving them divine authority outside the succession of ordination by laying on of hands, to reinstate the ordinances. Reformation defenders use John the Baptist as a scriptural example of this principle. They mistakenly presume John was reforming the visible church from Mosaic law service to Christian dispensation. They note that John was not ordained. Also, they reason his baptisms were valid because he baptized the Savior. From their writings and practice, it appears some Particular Baptists accepted this reasoning.

Extension of the Particular Baptist’s belief in a spontaneous reinstitution of Baptism, by direct authority from God rather than ministerial succession, brings into question the whole issue of church succession. If the ordinances of the church are spontaneously re-instituted, logic dictates that the church itself is re-instituted. Reinstitution of the church is reformation. Perhaps this is the reason the Particular Baptists referred to themselves as reformed and Protestants. It may also explain why their writers referred to their church as a denomination.

In every account of the origin of the Particular Baptists there is a common thread of historical detail: Particular Baptist origin is closely associated with the Anglican Calvinism of the Independents and Separatists. As former reformed Anglican Independents and Separatists, their doctrinal culture was Puritan Calvinism.

Several historical accounts examining the Particular Baptists’ baptismal link to European Anabaptists have been presented. They question whether the short visit of Mr Blunt to Rhwynsburg included his baptism. Most conclude he was not.

Whether or not Blunt was baptized in Holland, his visit does not substantiate an undeniable claim of church succession for three reasons. First, no claim of succession was made by Particular Baptists at the time of their formation. Second, even if Blunt was baptized in Holland it was into an Arminian fellowship. Third, there is no evidence of an orderly succession of administration of baptism by Blunt and Blacklock because there is no evidence they were authorized to administer baptism to others through the ministerial succession of laying on of hands by a presbytary. However, despite assumptions of irregularities made by several historians, of Blunt and Blacklock’s baptismal authority, Blunts trip to Holland is very important because it demonstrates the Particular’s interest in baptismal authority. Crosby’s description of the first method of restoration of baptismal authority, „to send over to the foreign Anabaptists, who descended from the antient Waldenses in France or Germany that so one or more receiving baptism from them might become a proper administrator of it to others,” may be a specific reference to Mr. Blunt’s trip to Holland.

Also, all of these difficulties can be surmounted if one assumes a church can, for a time, be in error and yet retain her identity as Christ’s church. Scripture undeniably reveals this potentiality. It was certainly the condition with the seven churches of Asia as their cases are described in Revelations. Until the candlestick was removed identity remained. None but God can know with certainty if Blunt’s visit to Holland and the subsequent baptisms of Blacklock and his fellow saints represents a succession of the church. Therefore, despite all the unorthodox events which led to the establishment of the Particular Baptists in London, only God may rightly judge whether these brethren constituted themselves as Christ’s bride. However, their subsequent history presents a strong case they did and charity demands we consider it so.

Had these brethren searched for a continuous Baptist succession in England, it was to be found in Northern England, near the Welsh border, at ancient Hill Cliffe Baptist Church in Warrington, where Lancaster and Chester Counties meet. It was not necessary for Blunt to travel to Holland to learn about baptism. The earliest baptisms by the pastors of Hill Cliffe were performed in historical antiquity. The constitution of this oldest continuing Baptist Church is unknown, but legible markers in the graveyard date back to 1357 A. D.. Some markers are believed to be older, but centuries of erosion have rendered them illegible. Local tradition asserts this ancient church was always Baptist. In 1800 when the meeting house was rebuilt, the ancient baptistery, carved from stone, was discovered and excavated. It is described as large enough to immerse an adult.

The earliest pastor of record at Hill Cliffe was Elder Weyerburton, of the Cheshire family of Warburtons. The beginning of his pastoral care is unknown, but he remained pastor of Hill Cliffe until his death in 1594. When Mssrs. Kiffin and Spilbury were first learning of the necessity of believers baptism and baptism by immersion, Elder Tillman was pastor at Hill Cliffe. He could have instructed them more perfectly concerning Baptist succession and baptismal authority. Had they known of Elder Tillman and Hill Cliffe Church they could have received baptism from one who claimed his authority through a continuous succession of the church.

In 1642 the Particular Baptists numbered fifty-three and were meeting in two congregations. By 1644 the group expanded to seven churches. In 1644, to clarify the mode and authority of baptism, Spilsbury and Kiffen inserted a tenet of baptism by immersion in their new Confession of Faith.

Chapter III

London Confessions of Faith

1644 Confession

In his church history, Elder Sylvester Hassell notes the partial intent of writing the original London Confession was an attempt to appease Baptist detractors. He wrote, „In 1644 they numbered seven churches in London, and forty-seven in the country; and the same year, three years before the Westminster Confession; in answer to the calumnies of Daniel Featley, an Episcopalian clergyman, the seven London churches published, in fifty-two Articles, a Confession of Faith, showing that, in all important doctrinal principles, the Baptists agreed with the „orthodox Reformed Churches.” The rapid increase in congregations of General and Particular Baptist churches around the London area attracted the attention of Anglican critics. It is presumed by Lumpkin that, in part, the impetus for writing the first London Confession of Faith in 1644 resulted from the publications of several particularly scurrilous works which attacked both the Particular and General Baptists. These works included A Short History of the Anabaptist of High and Low Germany (1642) and A Warning for England, especially for London 1644. However, the final provocation for the London Particular Baptists was the appearance of a booklet entitled A Confulation of the Anabaptists and All others who affect not Civil Government 1644. This latter work identified the fledgling Baptist movement of the General and Particulars with the political excesses of a small sect Anabaptists in Munster, Westphalia. The Munster group, which was actually a dissenting sect of Lutherans, was accused of massacring the population of Munster in 1526. Rumors of this event rapidly spread, and because the sect had separated from Luther’s movement over the latter’s practice of infant baptism, all other Anabaptist groups were commonly identified with their excesses. In response to these vicious and untrue attacks, Spilbury requested a general meeting of the Elders of the seven Particular Baptist Churches in London for the purpose of composing a formal Confession of Faith.

It is supposed that slanderous writings against the Baptists were in response to several articles and books, written by General Baptist authors, which dealt with the issue of limitation of civil authority as it relates to matters of religious conscience. In particular, works by Leonard Busher and John Milton stirred great anti-Baptist sentiment in the Anglican Church. Busher’s book Religious Peace, or, A Plea for Liberty of Conscience, which was addressed to the King, denied civil jurisdiction in matters of religion. This was viewed by the Anglican Church as a direct attack on her comfortable position as the Established Church of England. The issue of religious freedom, a Baptist principle, was falsely identified with the radical revolutionist excesses of the Munster Lutheran sect. Thus, slanderous accusations ranging from seditious treason, to murder, to cannibalism were hurled at the upstart General and Particular Baptists in England.

In a desire to reveal the orthodoxy of their faith and practice, and also to demonstrate their separate identity from the General Baptists, to whom the attacks were specifically aimed because of Busher and Milton’s General Baptist affiliations, the Particular Baptist met in London in 1644 and composed their Confession of Faith.

Each of the seven churches sent two delegates, except Spilsbury’s, which sent three. The Confession is considered by Lumpkin to be an expansion of the Separatist Confession of 1596 which he believes was used as a model. He links this document to Separatism because of the background of some of the signataries. Former Separatists included Spilsbury, Kiffin, Killcop and probably others.

B. R. White agrees with Lumpkin’s assessment of the Confession. His analysis of this document begins with this statement. „The 1644 Confession (revised in 1646) was far from being a creation ex nihilo since twenty-six of its fifty-three articles repeated the teaching, often with only the smallest verbal modifications, of the corresponding sections in the Separatist Confession of 1596.”

Historian Robert B. Hannen notes several remarkable similarities between the first London Confession and the Aberdeen Confession, written in 1616. A work by Daniel Featley titled The Dippers dipt. (1645) offers an explanation for the similarities. Featley asserted that a Scot, whose name is now unknown, joined the London Particular Baptist in 1642. From this fact, Robert B. Hannen suspects this man brought a copy of the Aberdeen Confession to the attention of the leaders of the seven churches.

In all, there were five versions of this first London Confession, the last published in 1653 at Leith in Scotland. The 1646 edition had three printings. This suggests widespread acceptance of the document among Particular Baptists.

When compared to the 1689 Confession the first London document is said to present a more accurate biblical perspective of God’s law. The editors of Backus Books Publishers, who reprinted the 1646 edition of the London Confession with Benjamin Cox’s Appendix, offer this observation. „There are other baptistic statements of faith already available in our day, such as the Second London Confession of 1689, which is a modification of the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646. Although these confessions agree on the fundamentals of Christian faith, there is a distinctive New Covenant emphasis concerning biblical law in the 1644 and 1646 editions of the First London Confession that is regretfully lacking in the Old Covenant emphasis of the Westminster and Second London Confessions. This difference has far reaching theological implications.”

In the general conference of 1646 Elder Benjamin Cox, pastor of Abington Church, presented an appendix to the Confession. The existence of this document indicates that at least one church in London, of the original seven, considered the Confession either too vague or else inaccurate in presenting the doctrine of regeneration. Lumpkin describes Cox’s work as characterizing a „higher Calvinism than the second edition.”

Particularly, Elder Cox took exception to the Pelagian implications of Gospel agency in regeneration. In article seven of his appendix he wrote;

Though we confess that no man doth attain unto faith by his own good will; John 1:13, yet we judge and know that the Spirit of God doth not compel a man to believe against his will, but doth powerfully and sweetly create in a man a new heart, and make him to believe and obey willingly, Ezekiel 36:26,27; Psalms; 110:3. God thus working in us both to will and to do, of His good pleasure, Philippians 2:13.

I have been unable to find any evidence that the Cox appendix was ever formally accepted and added to the first London Confession. From this, it may be assumed that others were satisfied with the positions taken in the Confession and saw little need to adjust it doctrinal tenor.

Apparently, the distinguishing theology of the First London Confession did not go unnoticed by the Arminian General Baptists. Elder Cox’s appendix is, for the most part, a polemic response to Arminian theology. The content and tone of his work indicates the General Baptists were not pleased with the appearance of the London Confession. Until 1644 John Helwys’ very Arminian 1610 Confession was the principle statement of Baptist theology in England. The London Confession served to undermine the influence of the Helwys document. It revealed that his 1610 Confession was not endorsed by a significant portion of the Baptist community in London.

A little known fact about the 1644 Confession may offer another plausible explanation for its adoption. In 1647, after two revisions, in which some wording was changed to remove the sting of certain criticisms being hurled by Kiffin’s old enemy Daniel Featley, the London Confession was accepted by Parliament and the Particular Baptists were granted toleration. However, official toleration was lost when Charles II ascended to the throne in 1660.

1689 Confession

The London Confession of 1689 (which was originally written is 1677) was the Particular Baptist’s second great document.

By 1688, when the call went out for a Particular Baptist General Convention, the political climate in England had changed several times. During the forty-four years separating the adoption of the two Particular Baptist Confessions, a civil war occurred, a King was executed, democratic process was instituted and derailed, the Anglican church underwent reformation and a new King was crowned. Also, the cause of religious freedom suffered setbacks resulting in a systematic and legislated policy which is best described as an almost perpetual increase in intensity of persecution of dissenters.

In 1642 civil war erupted in England. Royalist Cavaliers were opposed by the „roundheads” of Oliver Cromwell’s populist army. The final result of this disturbance was execution by beheading of Charles I in 1649. Long Parliament subsequently appointed Cromwell Lord High Protectorate of England. During the conflict non-conformists of every religious persuasion joined Cromwell’s army. The Baptists, in particular, were well represented. Cromwell’s chief-of-staff, together with many officers were Baptist preachers. For this reason, together with the fact that Cromwell personally held the principle of religious freedom, at the conclusion of hostilities the Baptists were optimistic about their future safety from religious persecution. Their optimism soon turned to dismay.

As Cromwell’s administration grew in bureaucracy, it became increasingly autocratic. This was particularly the case in matters of religion, where despite a reformation of the Church of England which placed Presbyterian clergy at its head, an appetite for complete religious conformity still gnawed at the leadership. Fresh outbreaks of religious persecution occurred against the Baptists by these Calvinist brethren who now controlled the Church of England. According to James Tull the newly empowered Presbyterians held precisely the same views as their Anglican counterparts concerning religious conformity. „The Presbyterians intended for the church to be a national church, embracing the whole population in its membership. Dissent was not to be allowed; membership was compulsory. Everyone was to have his children baptized and to pay tithes. On this point there was to be little difference from the church as already established.”

After Cromwell’s death, Parliament initiated discussions with Charles II regarding the terms of his return to England and ascendancy to the throne. In 1660 Charles returned to power. His return marked the beginning of a new era of Baptist persecution which was both systematic and terrible.

In 1662 The Act of Uniformity was passed. This act required use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in all religious meetings under penalty of loss of position for the Anglican clergy who refused and fines and/or imprisonment for the leaders of Non-conformist congregations. The result of this act was two-fold. First, because the book was essentially Catholic Episcopalian and many preachers in the Established Church were by then Calvinists, it is estimated that approximately two thousand Anglican bishops left the Established Order and joined nonconforming congregations. Second, fines and imprisonments were systematically imposed upon non-conforming violators.

The Uniformity Act was quickly followed by other means of legislated persecution which included reinstitution of The Conventicle Act in 1664. This law forbade nonconformist religious gatherings of more than four persons over the age of sixteen.

Next, the Five-mile Act was passed in 1665. It prohibited nonconforming ministers from preaching within five miles of any city or village which sent members to Parliament or which had an Established Church within its boundaries. It also denied dissenters the right to teach in any public or private schools.

In 1670 another Conventicle Act was passed. While this law did not carry a death penalty for repeat offenders, as did the original Conventicle Act, it was particularly cruel in that it allowed the Crown to seize all property of repeat offenders. Also, this law was very effective because it allowed informers to keep one third of everything seized.

The second Conventicle Act was followed by the Test Act of 1673. This law barred nonconformist from holding civil or military office.

The Test Act was followed by The Clarendon Code, which renewed the severest forms of persecution.

The tyranny of these laws resulted in fines, public beatings, imprisonment and capital execution for dissenters. Offenders where often tortured to death. Executions were carried out by hanging, beating, beheading, impaling, dismembering, and burning. It is estimated that the malicious treatment of non-conformers (of which Baptists suffered more than any others owing to their public support of principles of religious liberty) resulted in persecution of more than seventy-thousand saints, of whom eight thousand perished. The sum total of fines levied and collected is calculated to be in excess of two-million pounds sterling, as calculated in 1850.

It was amid this climate of religious persecution that a small window of liberty briefly opened. In 1689, with the ascension of William and Mary to the throne, a new Act of Toleration was passed. This act, while not guaranteeing religious freedom, did allow provisions for non conformers to worship in peace. However, it required that all dissenting religious bodies submit a statement of their creed for approval by the Crown. Actually, approval by the crown was in form only, the substance of approval came after review by a body of bishops and archbishops of the Church of England.

When this newest Act of Toleration passed on May 24, 1689 the Particular Baptists were ready to take full advantage. On September 3, 1689 they met in a general convention for the purpose of ratifying a confession of faith which would be acceptable to the Crown, and thus provide for official tolerance of their Churches. Representatives of some one-hundred congregations met in London and adopted the 1689 London Confession.

For reasons not entirely made clear, the London brethren did not use their 1644 Confession as a model for the 1689 document. Their stated reasons were its poor circulation among the Baptists and a general lack of familiarity with this earlier document among the attendants of the convention. However, their stated reason seems a bit strange since the first Confession underwent five printings in three editions and was distributed throughout England, Wales and Scotland.

The draft finally presented to the Crown is a second edition of the 1677 London Confession, which was principally written by Mr William Collins. According to Lumpkin, this document is a modified version of the Presbyterian’s 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith.

Pope A. Duncan agrees with Lumpkin’s assessment. He describes the second London Confession as a purposeful attempt to align the Particular Baptists with reformation Protestantism. He wrote, „Baptists in the seventeenth century stood squarely in the Protestant tradition insofar as the great majority of their doctrines were concerned. What they had to say about most of the classic tenets of the faith differed almost none at all from those of the other Protestant churches of England. Indeed, the widely used „Second London Confession” purposely used the order and often the very words of the Westminster Confession in order to demonstrate the agreement of Baptists with classical Protestantism. Thus, with regard to such articles as those dealing with the holy Scripture, the Trinity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, faith, justification, sanctification, the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment, one could note no significant differences between Baptist thought and that of other Protestant Christians of England. In fact, there was essential agreement on most doctrines.”

The Baptists’ motivation for adopting a confession similar to the Westminster creed may relate to the rise in political prominence of the Presbyterians. For a brief period, from 1650 to 1660 the Presbyterians actually held official recognition as the Established Church of England. However, with the return of Charles II, Anglican Episcopalians regained command of the Established Order. Despite losing control, the Presbyterians remained strong. They retained their official status in Scotland. In England their members still controlled a significant voting block in Parliament. Further, many Anglican clergymen remained Calvinists. Observing their successful defiance of the Uniformity and Conventicle Acts in particular, no doubt, the London Baptist believed close alignment with the powerful Presbyterians would make it politically difficult for the Crown to reject their petition for official tolerance. Thoughts of continued persecution, with a possible means of avoidance at hand, apparently induced the Baptists to identify themselves more closely with this powerful group.

The London Particular Baptists were not the first to think of closer alignment with the Presbyterians. Separatist Puritan Congregationalists had already allied themselves politically by identifying themselves doctrinally with the Presbyterians. In 1658 they adopted the Savoy Confession, a close copy of the Westminster Confession, as their doctrinal creed.

The Baptists, yet suffering terribly at the hand of the Crown, eventually realized that neither the Presbyterians nor Congregationalists were suffering the same frequency and intensity of torment. Perhaps fully understanding the political reality of their circumstance they assembled in 1689 in a General Convention and officially adopted Collin’s very Westminsterish confession.

The desire of these tortured brethren to align themselves with the Presbyterians is evident throughout the document. However, nowhere is it more apparent than in the preamble of the 1677 first edition, which reads in part, „…our hearty agreement with them (Presbyterians and Congregationalists) in the wholesome protestant doctrine, which with so clear evidence of Scriptures they have asserted.” The preamble of the second edition of 1688, as adopted in 1689, is less direct but equally obvious in pointing readers to its similarities with the Presbyterian and Congregationalist creeds. It reads, „…And finding no defect in this regard in that fixed on by the Assembly, and after them by those of the Congregational way, we did readily conclude best to retain the same order in our present Confession.” Assembly and Congregational, both capitalized, refer to the Presbyterians and Congregationalists respectively. Further this statement indicates the London Confession was written, as much as possible, with the same topical format as the Westminster Confession.

In 1677 Collins reworked of the Presbyterian Westminster Confession, to better apply to Baptist sentiment. Significant changes to the Westminster Confession included deletion of an article which identified the right of civil authority to keep peace in the church, and the section on Covenants in Chapter VII, sections 2,3,5,6. Changes were made which deal with church government. Reference to the Lord’s supper and baptism as sacraments was dropped. Despite these several changes the order of the two confessions is nearly identical. The subject order of Articles one through nineteen is identical. Numerous phrases, often paragraphs, and occasionally whole articles are identical in wording.

In the London Confession an article titled „Of the Gospel, and of the extent of the Grace thereof” is inserted as Article Twenty. After Article twenty, the subject order continues to be identical through Article Twenty Seven of the London Confession. The name of Article Twenty-Eight is different. In the Westminster, which lists it as Article Twenty-Nine, the title is „of the Sacraments.” The London Confession refers to this article as „of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The order continues the same with the exception that the London Confession omits Articles Thirty and Thirty-One of the Westminster Creed. These two article deal with church government and are titled „of Church Censure” and „of Synods and Councils.”

In his book, Baptist Confessions of faith, W. L. Lumpkin provides a moderately detailed comparison of the London and Westminster Confessions. He found the language of the two confessions is often identical. Their similarity is so considerable it is difficult to conclude anything other than the London Confession is a modification of the Westminster Confession with certain additions and deletions.

Lumpkin also provides a sketch of a political climate of almost continuous religious persecution of the Baptists which motivated the London brethren who, when a brief window of religious tolerance opened, were encouraged to seek official tolerance from the Crown; and therefore, penned a confession which aligned them theologically with the more numerous and politically favored Calvinist Presbyterians.

We must not think harshly of these tortured brothrens’ willingness to seize this opportunity to gain official tolerance. None today have lived under constant threat of imprisonment or worse for practicing their religion. None have seen their pastors drawn upon the rack and quartered. None have gone to their meeting house and found their pastor’s head mounted on a pike in the church yard.

Also, it is reasonable to conclude that the 1689 London Confession accurately represents the beliefs of its ratifiers and their congregations. To think otherwise is to accuse the Particular Baptists of surrendering conscience to political opportunity. Such a possibility flies in the face of all they suffered prior to 1689. Liberty of Conscience was, from the beginning, a fundamental tenet of the Particular Baptists. It seems highly unlikely these courageous brethren would have abandon certain elements of their doctrine simply to gain religious toleration.

With regard to gospel instrumentality in regeneration, there is evidence that at least some of the early leaders of the Particular Baptists held Calvinist Presbyterian religious views. Hansard Knollys expressed his support for this tenet in an exposition of the work of the ministry, to preach the gospel, in relation to God’s sovereignty in regeneration. He declared, „I say then when they (ministers) have done this, they must leave the issue to the Lord, who onely (sic) makes this ministry powerful to whom he pleaseth, giving them repentance…enabling them to believe in him unto remission of sins and everlasting life. And surely God hath appointed the Ministry, especially for this end, that by means thereof he might worke faith in all those whom he hath ordained unto eternal life.”

Knollys demonstrated a position which balanced gospel agency and election in a sermon titled The World that Now is, and the World that is to Come. He stated, „If the sinner be willing to open the door of his heart, Christ will come in by his holy Spirit and He will communicate of his Grace to his soul. Not that you can do those things of your selves; I have told you, without Christ you can do nothing, John 15.5. But it is your duty to do them and it is the Free Grace of God, to work in you to will and to do, according to his good pleasure, Phil. 2.12,13. That he so working in you, you may work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Elder Cox’s appendix suggests that in 1646 not all Particulars Baptists embraced certain principles of Calvinism. But, adoption of the overtly Calvinistic tenets of the 1689 Confession indicates if dissenting arguments were presented at the general conference, they were not publicly acknowledged. Inclusion of Chapter Ten, parts one and three, which deals with gospel instrumentality in the effectual call, and Chapter fourteen, part one, which describes saving faith through a concert of divine impartation and rational belief of the gospel, together with supporting scriptural references, all serve to demonstrate the commitment the conferees had to Calvin’s doctrine. By expressing the heart of Calvin’s theory of regeneration in their Confession they moved away from those brethren who held to primitive faith. This tends to indicate the theology of the 1689 Confession went beyond political expediency and embraced conscience. These brethren were Calvinists with regard to Gospel agency. It must be assumed they heartily believed what they wrote into their Confession.

Chapter IV

Ancient Baptist Succession in Wales

Perhaps because of their Separatist origins, the Particular Baptists of London and vicinity suffered from certain doctrinal lapses concerning communion and baptism. Throughout the latter years of the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth they debated the issues of mixed memberships and open communion. In fact, after careful consideration of the 1644 Confession, a Particular Baptist council ruled that its authors purposely left the question of open communion unanswered. Therefore, they concluded that their intent was to permit open communion.

The positions of Killcop, Spilsbury and Knollys concerning baptismal succession have already been noted. Crosby’s History of the English Baptist indicates an attitude of ambiguity existed among some Particular Baptists toward the principle of baptismal succession.

In all, it appears from the statements of early Particular Baptist leaders that baptism by immersion, upon a profession of faith, was the determining feature of church fellowship. Evidently it was their position that baptismal authority need not be through succession from Christ; rather, at any time, God allowed groups to assign this authority to one of their members and thereby institute a new beginning of church identity and authority. Thus, reformation did not require church succession for authority to baptize.

Jonathan Davis, in his book A History of the Welsh Baptists, published in 1835, notes the Particular Baptists were in controversy over the practice of laying on of hands on newly baptized members. Also, W. Gwynn Owen’s book reveals the practice of fellowship with the General Baptists led to associational amalgamation between the two bodies of Baptists.

Such practices were in contrast to the early Baptists of Wales in the Midlands, who claimed their succession of Baptist heritage through the mother church in Olchon Valley located on the Wales/England border, which is part of that area of Britain known as the Midlands. Their ancient Baptist heritage included principles of closed membership and communion. They were not reformed, claiming a succession to Christ through the Apostle Paul. Former pastor of Olchon Baptist Church, John Howells, states the ancient Britons of Wales, around Olchon, maintained an unbroken chain of succession from Christ. „The true apostolic succession is to be found here, and here only, in the history of the genuine Baptists. From Paul, downwards, to this day, they have never failed as a visible body of believers, witnessing for the truth as it is in Jesus, and in maintaining the like faith and practice, continuing constant, in season and out of season, in spite of bonds, imprisonments, the fiery stake, the headsman’s axe, the hangmans cord, the assassin’s sword, the damp, dark, dreary, and undrained dungeon, the racking tortures of the inquisition, the perverted Roman church. There has been all along the blood-tinged ages of martyrdom an uninterrupted preservation of the primitive creed and ritual of the church of the Pentecost, so signally inaugurated in the upper room in Jerusalem. There is no missing link in this celestial chain from age to age of the remnant according to the election of grace. One of those important and super-eminent links in the „Catena” of Orthodox Christian Church history is the ancient church and chapel of Olchon. It goes back behind Luther and the Protestant Reformation. The genuine Baptist Church needed no reformation, for it never deformed or degenerated itself. Its unquenchable and sparkling transparency motto ever has been and still is, the incorruptible Word that liveth and abideth forever.”

Jonathan Davis notes the ancient Baptists of Wales did not practice open membership or communion. He cited their relative isolation as the reason for their purity of doctrine and practice. He wrote of the Welsh brethren around Olchon, „We know that at the reformation, in the reign of Charles the first, they had a minister named Howell Vaughan, quite a different sort of a Baptist from Erbury, Wroth, Vavasor Powell and others, who were the great reformers, but had not reformed so far as they ought to have done, in the opinion of the Olchon Baptists. And was not to be wondered at; for they had dissented from the Church of England, and probably brought some of her corruptions with them, but the mountain Baptists were not dissenters from that establishment. We know the reformers were for mixed communion, but the Olchon Baptists received no such practices. In short, these were plain, strict Apostolic Baptists. They would have order and no confusion, the word of God their only rule.”

Several historians, cite an ancient presence of Baptists in Wales. In the introduction to Orchard’s History, J. R. Graves wrote; „Welsh Baptists contend that the principles of the gospel were maintained pure and unalloyed in the recesses of their mountainous principality all through the dark reign of popery. God had a regular chain of true and faithful witness in this country, in every age, from the first introduction of Christianity.”

„In no country have the principles of our faith as Baptists been more generally understood and more bravely defended than in the little principality of Wales. It is commonly believed that all through the dark reign of popery, in the seclusions of her valleys and the fastnesses of her mountains, there were those who preserved the ancient purity of doctrine and worship.”

„There is much evidence that the Baptists of England and Wales date back to very early times.”

Jonathan Davis places Christianity in Wales prior to the reformation with this colorful description of the Vale of Carleon, which is the location of Olchon. „It is well known to all who are acquainted with the history of Great Britain, that Carleon, in South Wales, was a renowned city in past ages……The vale of Carleon is situated between England and the mountainous part of Wales, just at the foot of the mountains. It is our valley of Piedmont; the mountains of Merthyn Tydryl, our Alps; and the crevices of the rock, the hiding-places of the lambs of the sheep of Christ, where the ordinances of the gospel, to this day, have been administered in their primitive mode, without being adulterated by the corrupt church of Rome. It was no wonder that Penry, Wroth and Erbury, commonly called the first reformers of the Baptist denomination in Wales, should have so many followers at once, when we consider that their field of labors was the vale of Carleon and its vicinity.”

Formal records of the origin of Christianity in Wales are lost in antiquity. However, a single legendary account is generally cited by Welsh Baptist historians. The following description of the ancient roots of the Welsh Baptists is taken from History of the Welch Baptists, by Jonathan Davis, written in 1835. „About fifty years before the birth of our Savior, the Romans invaded the British Isles, in the reign of the Welch king Cassebellun; but having failed, in consequence of other and more important wars made peace with them, and dwelt among them many years. During that period many of the Welsh soldiers joined the Roman army, and many families from Wales visited Rome; among them there was a certain woman named Claudia, who was married to a man named Pudence. At the time, Paul was sent a prisoner to Rome, and preached there in his own hired house, for the space of two years, about the year of our Lord 63. Pudence and Claudia his wife, who belonged to Caesar’s household, under the blessing of God on Paul’s preaching, were brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and made a profession of their Christian religion. These together with other Welshmen, among the Roman soldiers, who had heard that the Lord was gracious, exerted themselves on behalf of their countrymen in Wales, who were at that time idolaters.” Davis continues, „How rapidly did the mighty gospel of Christ fly abroad! The very year 63, when Paul, a prisoner, was preaching to a few individuals, in his own hired house in Rome, the seed sowed there is growing in the Isle of Britain.”

The Apostle Paul concludes his second epistle to Timothy with greetings from some of the saints gathered with him in Rome. Among those mentioned are Pudence and Claudia. Paul’s mention of these Welsh Christians casts some doubt as to their being in Wales in 63 A. D. since it is believed Paul wrote II Timothy in 66 A.D.. However, the identities of Pudence and Claudia are well documented. Claudia was the daughter of Welsh King Caratacus. Pudence was Claudia’s husband. Armitage believed he was a Roman Senator.

Seventeenth century historian Edward Stillingfleet, in Orgines Britannice: or, the Antiquities of the British Churches, provides specific details of the identity of Pudens and Claudia and their involvement with Christianity in first century Rome and Britain. Quoting Moncaeius de Incunah he wrote, „That Claudia, mentioned by St. Paul, was Caractacus’ daughter, and turned Christian, and after married to Pudens, a Roman senator; whose marriage is celebrated by Martial in his noted epigrams to that purpose.” Stillingfleet continued his assessment of Claudia’s role in the spread of Christianity to Britain quoting from Antiquities Britannicae; „That in so noble a family, the rest of her kindred who were baptised with her might be the occasion of dispersing Chritianity in the British nation.”

T. Rees, in his History of Non-conformity in Wales, states that Bran Fendigaid (Bruno the blessed), a Prince of Wales, was a Christian, who, along with other Christians, returned from Rome to Wales around 60 A. D.. According to Rees, they brought with them ministers of the gospel, who introduced Christianity to Wales, establishing a link of succession from Christ.

William Cathcart, in his book The Ancient British and Irish Churches, also claims an ancient beginning for Christianity in the British Isles. He quotes the work of second century historian Tertullian to substantiate his assertion. „In whom other than Christ, who has already come, do all the nations believe? For in him have believed the most diverse people; Pathians, Medes, Elamites; those who inhabit Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia; the dwellers of Pontus, Asia and Pamphylia; those occupying Egypt, and inhabiting the region of Africa beyond Cyrene, Romans and natives, even Jews dwelling in Jerusalem, and other nations; nay, the different tribes of the Getulians, and many territories of the Moors, all parts of Spain, the different peoples of Gaul, and part of BRITAIN not reached by the Romans but subjugated by Christ. In all these the name of Christ who has already come, reigns.”

In 180 A. D. Faganus and Damicanus, who in Davis’ words „were born in Wales but born again in Rome, and there became eminent ministers of the gospel,” returned to Wales to assist their brethren. In citing their successes Davis wrote. „Though the gospel had been preached in the island since the year 63; yet, as God had not departed from his general way of disseminating his truth among the children of men, by beginning with small things in order to obtain great things, hitherto it had been the day of small things with our forefathers, the inhabitants of the ends of the earth. But now Zion’s tent stretched forth; she broke forth on the right hand and on the left.”

About 285 A. D. the Welsh Baptists suffered their first large scale persecutions. As Satan had been negligent of his usual policy of immediate persecutions against those newly turned to the Savior, he assaulted this small band of isolated Christians with intense hatred and destruction. During the reign of Roman Emperor Dioclesian, in the tenth persecution, the first martyrdoms on Welsh soil occurred. The elimination of Christianity in Wales was ordered.

Alban was the first Briton to fall in death for Christ. He was executed for providing shelter to a Christian bishop. Next to Alban were two of Christ’s bishops, Aaron and Julius, who lived at Carleon, South Wales. With their deaths the reign of terror expanded. A command went out that every Christian be slain. Orders were given to burn all their meeting houses and writings. But persecution did not stop the spread of Christianity, for as quickly as one saint fell another stepped forward to carry forward the blood stained banner of King Immanuel.

The first Christian emperor was a Welshman. Though of Roman descent, Constantine was also Welsh. His mother was Helena the daughter of Coelgodebog Earl of Glouchester, his father Constantius, the Roman ruler of Britain. As a youth, Constantine resided in Wales, where his mother instructed him in the ways of Christ. Concerning Helena’s dedication to Christ, Cathcart rote, „She was a devoted Christian, and there is some reason for supposing that she exerted and influence over both her husband and son in favor of christians, which prompted them to the toleration of their opinions.” Thus, it was by a Welshman that Christianity drew the attention of all the world. However, it is a saying with English historians, and here it very accurately applies; when princes engage in religion they either do to much for it or too much against it.

Not all Welsh Christians were orthodox. The father of perhaps the greatest perversion of the doctrines of Christ was a Welshman. His Welsh name was Morgan. He is the father of free willism. Davis notes, „the Welshmen, for a considerable time, had a sort of a religious quarrel with one of their countrymen, of the name of Morgan, known abroad as Pelagius.”

Davis quotes historical records which note the massacre of more than 1200 Welsh Baptists around 600 A.D. by Saxons under command of the papist monk, Austin. Because of previous successes among the pagan Saxons of England Austin ventured into Wales to spread Roman Catholicism. He requested a meeting with the leaders of the Baptists. Being agreeable to meet and discuss matters of religion, the Welsh brethren sent some twelve-hundred of their preachers and delegates to meet with Austin near Hereford, on the English border, near the cleft of Black Mountain, in a valley called Olchon. Once they assembled the papist asserted that baptism was the means of salvation, and insisted the Welsh brethren surrender their children and infants to Catholic baptism. To this the Elders utterly refused, at which point Austin ordered the Saxons, who had accompanied him to Wales, to attack the unarmed Baptists. In one day, at the hands of one Catholic monk and four-hundred Saxon malefactors, some twelve-hundred of God’s humble servants fell in defence of Christ’s cause.

Very little written history remains of the Welsh Baptists during the dark ages of Catholic occupation up to the reformation of the English Catholics by Henry VIII. However, some few accounts exist which testify that Christ’s little band of Welsh Baptists remained as true witnesses of the glory and graciousness of God. The remnants of history which remain are mostly centered around the vale of Olchon.

Chapter V

Old Baptist Church at Olchon

Elder Joshua Thomas’ book The American Baptist Heritage in Wales details the existence of an ancient Christian enclave at Olchon, in Wales, near the Midlands of England. He notes the presence of a gathered congregation is documented back to the sixth century. Welsh historian John Howells cites historical accounts of Baptist activity in the Valley of Olchon back to the first century.

Olchon church was located in the vale of Black Mountain on the border of Hereford, Monmouth and Brecknock counties on the Welsh/English border. It’s location is significant in that civil jurisdiction did not extend beyond county or parish lines. Therefore, when one county persecuted the church the congregation simply moved their worship services to the adjacent county. The Black Mountains area is described by Thomas as rugged and remote, similar to the area surrounding the Piedmont Valley. He ascribes God’s providence for the geographic location of the church in contributing to her longevity and purity doctrine.

The following description of the location of Olchon Church is taken from A Brief History of the Old Baptist Church at Olchon, written by John Howells. „Olchon is on the Welsh border. It is situated in the County of Hereford. The ruins of the oldest Chapel belonging to the Primitive Baptists stand on the banks of the swift flowing stream from which the narrow and romantic Valley of the Olchon takes it’s name. There is another old Baptist chapel in a state of rapid decay at Ilston, in the peninsula of Gower, in the County of Glamorgan. But the Mother Church doubtless was this one at the Gellis, the old historians called it, from the woods that fringe the steep hill-sides between here and the picturesque little town familiarly known as the Welsh Hay. Near to the old ruin in the which now more than three hundred years ago our Baptist forefathers worshipped, on the hill above it, to the westward is Capel-y-fin or the boundary Chapel, so named because of the junction at this singular place of the three Counties of Brecknock, Monmouth, and Hereford.”

Howells contiues his eyewitness narrative with a description of the ruins of the ancient Olchon Baptist meeting house. „Olchon is nearly midway between Abergavenny and Hay. It is situated in a narrow glen at the foot of Black Hill on one side, and the Black Mountains on the other side. It is near to the Western Bank of the Olchon rivulet. The new chapel has been built on the eastern side of this impetuous stream, on an elevated spot not far from where stands the ancient sacred and venerable remains of the medieval hollowed edifice. Here pure and undefiled religion was preserved in its primitive priority, and here the apostolic and pentecostal faith was enshrined in uncorrupted and unalloyed simplicity, and handed down to us in virgin simplicity and unpolluted integrity, when nearly the whole of Christendom besides was enshrouded in Popish perversity and anti-christian thraldom. Here was Olchon preserved intact and untampered with the divine ark of the new Covenant of Grace.”

Olchon is believed to be the location of the oldest church in Wales. Her congregation of shepherds, farmers, merchants and occasional nobility moved their meeting place frequently, often worshipping at night to avoid discovery. As she was an ancient church, and do to constant fear of persecution, records of her organization do not exist until about 1600.

Elder Thomas states that Dr. Thomas Bradwardine was born in the county of Hereford, near Olchon. He believed that the famous theologian, mathmetician and Philosopher sometimes attended services there, though his visits were infrequent because because of the press of his busy life.

Thomas also states that Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into the English language, lived near Olchon in 1371. He also lists Walter Brute as an early preacher in this ancient church. He gives the following account of how Brute came to Olchon. „Now to me it appears very probable Wycliffe received much of his light in the Gospel from Bradwardine and his writings, and Brute from Wycliffe and others; and he began to sow the seed of reformation in and about Olchon, and of Believers Baptism, among other doctrines; and that long before the beginning of the Reformation began by Luther, King Richard II directed a letter to the nobility and gentlemen of the county of Hereford, and to the Mayor of the city, charging all to persecute Brute, accused of preaching heresy, in the diocese and places adjacent; and also of keeping conventicles.” (Conventicles were unauthorized religious meetings).

Along with these notable men Elder Thomas includes Tyndale. He notes that Tyndale lived in the area, and as a non-conformist, possessed strong Baptist sentiments, though he probably did not attend services frequently. It was Elder Thomas’ opinion, shared by other Welsh historians, that the ancient Baptists of Olchon influenced Tyndale’s religious beliefs. He notes the Tyndale family name was associated with the Baptists around Olchon.

Elder Thomas presents Olchon not only as the location of the mother church in Wales, but as the virtuous bride of Christ who welcomed all struggling pilgrims who happened her way. He believed Walter Reynard (Walter Lollard) was given refuge there. While it cannot be proven Lollard actually went to Olchon, it is known that the European Anabaptist went to Wales. Elder Thomas notes that Lollard was aware of the existence of Olchon before arriving in Wales. Upon returning to Europe, Lollard was captured and burned alive, in Cologne, in 1322.

Crosby records Lollard residing in Britain for some period of time. „In the time of Edward II, about the year 1315 Walter Lollard, a German Baptist preacher, a man of great renown among the Waldenses, came into England; he spread their doctrines very much in these parts, so that afterwards they went by the name Lollards.”

Lollard’s appearance in Wales cannot be interpreted as the point of introduction of Baptist sentiment to English soil. There were too many previous sightings. An accurate characterization of his sojourn in the Vale of Olchon is fellowship. Lollard accepted refuge from, and worshipped with, his Welsh Baptist brethren. His presence, and acceptance in Wales solidifies the view that the Anabaptists of the European Continent and the Isle of Britain share a common origin. It was not Polycarp, or even Paul or John. It was the upper room in Jerusalem. Their common link and basis for church fellowship was the Savior, Jesus Christ.

There is agreement among Davis, Thomas, Howells and Fox that martyred Sir John Oldcastle, Lord of Cobhan, had a country home named Olchon Court, to which he fled in 1391 when he first learned of a plot against him. He was accused of „Lollardism” in 1393 and ordered to be arrested and transported to London. It is probable that Lord Oldcastle was an Old Baptist Minister. Davis notes the Baptists sometimes met in the chapel at Olchon Court where Oldcastle preached.

John Howells provides this account of Sir John’s Baptist activity. „Not far from the gradually crumbling and rapidly decaying sanctuary stands another renowned and remarkable ruin, namely, the Herfordshire County Seat of Sir John Oldcastle, styled also as Lord Cobhan. Sir John Oldcastle in all probability was baptised in the rivulet that rushes contiguously by the aforesaid rustic, secluded, and verable old Chapel, in which afterwards he would be admitted by the Holy Elders and pious brethren into the Christian fellowship of the only true and scripturally constituted Apostalical Church.” In his book, John Wycliff and his English Precursors, Professor Lechler writes; „Sir John Oldcastle, ‘the good Lord Cobham,’ as he was affectionately termed by the poor and simple, was a firm adherent of the Lollards, whose preachers he welcomed to his seat at Cowling Castle, in Kent, and refused to surrender to the command of the authorities.”

Because of their friendship since childhood, while Henry IV was alive Lord Cobhan was not actively pursued despite his Baptist sentiments. However, with the ascension of Henry V to the throne, Sir John’s standing with the crown changed for the worst. He was vigorously pursecuted because of his religious views. Howells notes; „His espousal to the tenets and practices of the Lollards, somewhat estranged him from the favour and affection of the Kingly court of St. James, and Windsor Castle. Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, aided and abetted by the other Popist Prelates, hunted his life to destroy it. They poisoned the mind and envenomed the heart of the young episcopally subservient Monarch against him.”

In 1411 John Oldcastle was arrested and held in the Tower of London. During this period, a group of Baptists, called Lollards, gathered in the town of St Giles’s Fields to offer their support for Sir John. King Henry, convinced by Archbishop Chichely that an uprising was about to occur, sent soldiers to apprehend the gathered Baptists. Thirty-nine were captured. He ordered all thirty-nine to be burned or hanged.

About the same time, Sir John escaped from London Tower and returned to Wales. A reward of one-thousand marks was set for his arrest. He evaded capture for several years while Richard was distracted with war in France. Finally, in 1417 he was apprehended at Olchon Court, carried to London, and ordered to be hanged as a traitor and burned as a heretic.

His sentence was carried out literally. Professor Lechler provides a detailed narrative of his execution. „He was placed upon a sledge and dragged through the town of St. Giles Fields. On arriving there he was taken down from the sledge, and immediately falling on his knees, he began to pray to God for the forgiveness of his enemies. His prayer ended, he rose, and, addressing the assembled multitude, warned them to obey God’s commands written down in the Bible, and always to shun such teaching as they saw to be contrary to the life and example of Christ. He was then suspended between two gallows by chains, and the funeral pile was kindled beneath him, so that he was slowly burned. So long as life remained in him he continued to praise God and commend his soul to His divine keeping.”

Lechler describes those to whom Sir John Oldcastle preached as, „earnest, obscure men, mostly poor, often illiterate, who yet prized the teaching of Holy Scripture, silently testifying against the corruptions of the professed Church of Christ, and so preparing the mind and heart of the people to welcome the Reformation of the sixteenth century.”

An explanation should be noted as to why there are no church records for Olchon Church prior to about 1600. Elder Joshua Thomas states that at one point in his search for records he was sent to an ancient home in Hay, near the church. It had belonged to a Mr. John Rys Howell, who was occasional assistant to the minister. Mr. Howell had sailed to America but returned to Wales in his last days, where he died in 1692. Elder Thomas was instructed that Mr. Howell possessed an ancient trunk filled with manuscripts and records. He received this information about 1770. In 1775 he located the house and trunk just as described, but was too late. The trunk was full of decaying scraps of paper. Every document Mr. Howell had so carefully placed for safe keeping was destroyed by age.

Though it cannot be proven conclusively, Elder Thomas presents a good case, suggesting that John Perry was from around Olchon and probably preached there. Although there is some discussion among historians regarding Mr. Perry’s identity as a Baptist, Elder Thomas cites A. Wood, a contemporary of Perry, who in Ath. Oxom plainly stated Mr. Perry „was a notorious Anabaptist, of which party he was the Coryphous (or leader).” This is supported by the writings of another of Perry’s antagonists, a Mr. Strype, who charged him with practicing anabaptism. So it would seem evident by the accusations of two contemporaries of Perry that he was an Anabaptist and probably a preacher for the Baptists. It is asserted by Thomas that he lived near the vale of Olchon. He was executed for his dissenting activities in 1593 at age 34.

We have previously noted Elder Howell Vaughn as pastor of Olchon. He is the first pastor of record, though certainly not the first of memory. His earliest appearance as pastor at Olchon is set around 1633. It is known he was already Pastor of this body when Erbury and Vavassor Powell dissented from the established church and came to the Baptists. The following excerpt provides a brief sketch of Elder Vaughn. „Howell Vaughn commenced preaching we know not, neither can we find when or where he was ordained. But however, we find him the pastor of the church at the time of the reformation. He was not a learned man, like Erbury, Wroth, and Powell, as he never had a college education; but he was a plain, conscientious, and godly man, remarkably well versed in scripture. He was a very good preacher, well calculated to feed the church of God with knowledge and understanding. The church under his pastoral care, though small at first, in short time increased most wonderfully.”

Davis lists two men as the Elders at Olchon from 1660 to 1688. They are Thomas Perry and John Rees Howell. The men served together, with Elder Perry serving from 1641 until his death in 1709, and Elder Howell co-pastoring from 1645 to 1699 when he died. This was a terrible time of persecution for the old mother church of Wales. Her congregation was frequently forced to flee for refuge to Black Mountain. Davis describes their sundry meeting places during this dark age of Baptist persecution. „But for twenty-eight years, in the reign of Charles the second, the church had to meet in the most secret places by night, somewhere in the woods, or on the Black Mountain, or the rough rock. They were obliged to change the place every week, that their enemies might not find them out. Often the friends of the infernal foe diligently sought them, but found them not. While the wolves were searching in one mountain the lambs were sheltering in the rock of another.” Davis continues the narrative with a description of Black Rock. „The safest place they ever found, was in the woods, under a large rock, called Darren Ddu, or the Black Rock. It is a most dreadful steep, and the roughest place we have ever seen. Thus, the Primitive Baptists of Olchon found their, cleft of the rock, where often they fled for refuge.” (That we latter day primitives might diligently seek God, as our cleft of the rock, and flee to him for refuge from Satan’s subtle though equally destructive assaults).

Olchon was a member of the Abergavenny Association, constituted in 1653. A sad note in the history of this old association was introduction of a practice of „laying on of hands” on newly baptized members. According to Davis, this practice first came to the Welsh Baptists in 1654. It was brought from Glazier’s Hall Church in London by Messrs. Ryder and Hopkins. Davis notes that in 1654 this practice occurred in Wales „for the first time since the introduction of Christianity into the Isle of Britain.” In the mid seventeenth century „Laying on of hands” on newly baptized members became a practice in several churches due to incorrect interpretation and application of Acts 19:6. It was practiced in either of two ways. In some cases, after a person was baptized, the administrator would lay his hand upon the individual and pray they receive the Holy Ghost. Another practice was for the entire congregation to pass by the newly baptized person and lay their hands on him. Both modes of this unorthodox custom were practiced in America, beginning in Newport, Rhode Island. However, though the practice resulted in some intrachurch divisions, apparently, it was not a test of interchurch fellowships. Beginning in the mid 18th century it was gradually eliminated from American primitive Baptist practice.

We have described the faith and order of the Primitive Baptists of Olchon. We have detailed their reluctance, as late as 1654, to open their communion; that Howell Vaughn would not accept the irregularity of open communion, which was evidently an acceptable practice among at least some of the London Particular Baptists. (We here also note how Olchon sent no representatives to subsequent meetings of the London Confession Conferences, held regularly for several years after the 1644 Confession was signed, and none to the 1689 Conference). The writer will now attempt to satisfy those who must have a clear expression of the beliefs of the Olchon Baptists.

Chapter VI

The Midland Association

A line of fellowship between Olchon and the Midland Church at Leonminster will give us an understanding of the doctrinal sentiments of the ancient Welsh church, based upon the Loenminster’s membership in the Midland Association. Fellowship is acceptable proof of common theology since it is documented that Olchon Church was very strict in matters of faith and practice.

Elder Joshua Thomas served Olchon Church from 1746 to 1754. In 1754 he left Olchon, accepting the pastoral care of neighboring Leonminster Church. Leonminster Church joined the Midland Association in 1658. Elder Thomas’ ministry at both churches and membership in the Midland Association together with his continued frequent visitations to Olchon Church testify to the fact that Olchon held general agreement to the doctrinal principles of the Midland Confession of Faith. Therefore, it may be concluded that the content of the 1655 Midland Confession satisfied the strict creed of faith and order to which the Olchon Church continuously held from her ancient origin to the establishment of fellowship with the brethren of Midland Association in 1658 and beyond. But the link of Baptist succession between the Welsh Baptists at Olchon and the Midland Association in even more distinguishable.

Several churches of the Midland Association, including Hereford, Tewksbury, Moreton and Leonminster shared common origin with Olchon and, perhaps, considered her their mother church. Hereford, in particular, is located very near Welsh Hay (within a few miles) and was one of the meeting places of Olchon Church. She eventually became an arm of Olchon and finally a sister church. For unknown reasons, in 1657 Hereford transferred her membership from the Abergavenny Association, where she shared affiliation with Olchon, to the Midland Association. However, it should not be considered that some tension existed; neither association gives any indication of a problem.

Though the old records are destroyed, it is a reasonable conclusion that Leominster was a daughter or grand-daughter church of Ancient Olchon, as it was customary for a single church to extend arms into nearby locals where members lived. Both Davis and Thomas indicate the spread of members of Olchon extended north beyond Hay and, therefore, probably to nearby Leonminster.

Also, Tewksbury Church, a charter member of the Midland Association, is but a few miles to the east of Black Mountain and very near Llanigon, which was an arm, then sister church, of Olchon. In addition, it is probable that Alcester, Warwick, Derby and Burton churches, all members of the Midland Association, were daughters or grand-daughters of Olchon. Thus. through the mother church at Olchon, the Welsh and Midland Baptists claim a common ancient Baptist origin which predates the European reformation by some fifteen hundred years.

The seven original churches of the Midland Association were Warwick, Derby, Burton (sometimes called Burton by the Water), Moreton, Tewksbury, Hooknorton and Alcester. It is not known which of these seven churches is the oldest. However, it is known that a Baptist congregation was meeting in Burton prior to 1612, for their preacher was burned at the stake that year.

In 1612, the year John Helwys returned from Holland to London with his new General Baptist group, Elder Edward Wightman of Burton was arrested as a repeat offender, for preaching „Anabaptist heresies.” He was taken to nearby Lichfield where his case was heard. He was convicted of Anabaptist heresy and, being the leader of Anabaptist dissenters, was executed by burning at the stake. In charging Wightman, the authorities displayed the normal pattern of exaggeration and falsehood. As previously with Sir John Oldcastle, Elder Wightman was accused of everything from claiming he was Christ, to sedition. Among the charges, he was accused of Anabaptist activities. This is an important point and probably the sole reason he was arrested and executed. Anabaptist activity was a very specific charge. It meant he was teaching people of the necessity of believers baptism and baptism by immersion, and evidently baptizing.

The seven Midland Churches met together on March 3, 1655 at Warwick for the purpose of writing Articles of Faith. The document was copied and carried by the respective messengers back to their home churches for approval. With all seven churches approving, they met again on April 26, 1655 at Moreton and convened as an association. Their first item of business was to write a constitution. In their constitution they formally agreed to their new Articles of Faith, declaring it their duty „to hold communion with each other, according to the rule of His word; and so to be helpful each to the other.” Next, they wrote a covenant in which they agreed to hold to the principle of closed communion. They noted that each church would remain independent in matters of church discipline. They agreed to support each other by sending „gifted brethren” to preach to sister churches of the association. They agreed to „watch over each other, and considering each other for good, in respect of purity of doctrine, exercise of love, and good conversation, being all members of the same body of Christ.” From this statement it may be concluded the Midland Churches agreed to form an association based upon principles of common doctrine, Christian charity and godly living. Thus, common faith and practice and unfeigned love were the basis of their fellowship.

The next meeting of the association was at Warwick where queries were answered. The questions answered concerned marriage, members who refused to pray when called upon, and unlicensed preaching. To the latter they answered, „we judge it unlawful for any church member to go forth to preach in the world without the approbation of the church.” This response indicates the associations orderliness of ordaining Elders in response to their divine call. They would not tolerate unauthorized preachers going forth from them and presumably did not tolerate the same coming to them. One significant trait of the Midland churches, as with their nearby Welsh sisters, was their independence from the London churches during the seventeenth century. As we have noted, they opposed an open communion, which was sometimes practiced in the London churches. Further, it appears from Davis’ statements concerning the practice of open communion that the ordinances of the church are where these brethren drew the line of fellowship. According to Davis, Powell, Wroth, Erbury and Penry were all allowed to preach in the Welsh churches; however, it appears they were not allowed to commune. The statement of the Midland Association Constitution regarding closed communion may be similarly interpreted.

However, the most significant indicator of the Midland Association’s independence and theological distinction from the London Particular Baptists is their Confession of Faith. While the 1644 London Confession is termed mildly Calvinistic by Lumpkin, the Midland brethren penned a confession which closely resembles eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century Primitive Baptist Confessions.

Article eight of the Midland Confession plainly marks a divergent theology from the tenets of Calvinism. However, according to Lumpkin and Tull, it was actually a response to the growing number of free will Arminian Baptist churches appearing in the mid-seventeenth century. The Midlands, in particular, experienced a considerable increase in Baptist churches which professed the tenets of semi-pelagian Arminianism. However, the wording of the article also contradicts Calvin’s modified pelagian theories of divine impartation of a saving faith before regeneration. It reads:

8. That all men until they are quickened by Christ are dead in trespasses; and therefore have no power of themselves to believe savingly. But faith is a free gift of God, and the mighty work of God in the soul, even like the rising of Christ from the dead. Therefore (we) consent not with those who hold that God hath given power to all men to believe to salvation.

By stating that man is dead and has no power to believe savingly of himself, they removed precursor faith as an instrument of justification prior to actual regeneration. Their order is new birth, belief. They indicated that men who are dead in trespasses and sin cannot believe until they are quickened. This principle eliminates requisite gospel agency in regeneration. Calvinism teaches belief is in reaction to a concerted medium of the Holy Ghost and the gospel; whereby one believes and is justified, and after being justified is born again. This distinction separates primitive faith from Calvinism.

With inclusion of article eight in their Confession of faith, the Midland brethren denied the Arminian tenet of free-willism. However, it is both ironic and significant; it also distinguished the theology of the Midland Churches from all who subscribed to a theology of saving faith through the concerted agency of the Holy Ghost and the gospel. They rejected the theory of saving faith in response to Arminian teachings; but, in so doing, they also rejected the Calvinistic notions of gospel instrumentality in regeneration. Their statement regarding the relationship of regeneration and faith is an acceptable representation of what orthodox twentieth century Primitive Baptists believe.

An interesting aside to the writing of the Midland Confession of faith is the involvement of Benjamin Cox who was Pastor of Abington Church in London. As already mentioned, he attended the 1646 ministerial conference of the London Confession where, not fully satisfied with the language of the 1644 Confession, he presented a twenty-two point appendix to the 1646 edition. At the request of Warwick Church Cox attended the first session of the Midland Association as a corresponding messenger from Abington Church. It may be supposed this request was the result of his authorship of the proposed appendix. It may also explain the markedly polemic tenor of the Midland Confession. It is reasonable to believe, as an invited representative to the Midland Association, Elder Cox’s views were given significant consideration.

We have already presented his statement concerning regeneration. His views concerning communion are also significant. They are in line with the practice of the Midland and Welsh brethren and apparently more conservative than the sentiments of some of his London brethren. Addendum Twenty notes a requirement for closed communion. In part Elder Cox wrote: „yet in as much as all things ought to be done decently, but also in order, and the Word holds forth this order, that disciples should be baptized, and then be taught to observe all things (that is to say, all other things) that Christ commanded the Apostles, and accordingly the Apostles first baptized disciples, and then admitted them to the supper.”

Lumpkin asserts the Midland Confession is modeled after the 1644 London Confession. He believes Daniel King’s friendship with the Particular Baptists in London establishes an argument for his assertion. Further, he notes certain similarities. However, none of these claims explain the differences between the two documents, which will be discussed in greater detail in Part Three of this work. With Elders King and Cox present, both having access to the London Confession, if the Midland Brethren had fully endorsed the London document, it seems reasonable they would have adopted it, in some form, as their confession. They did not. Lumpkin’s conclusion, that the Midland Confession is modeled after the 1644 London Confession, is probably the result of his lack of familiarity with primitive Baptist doctrine. It is probable he mistakenly presumed these primitive Baptists were Calvinists. His error is understandable assuming he was not versed in the doctrinal distinctions of the two theologies.

The Midland Baptists have been variously characterized by Underhill, Tull, Gwynn Owen and perhaps other Baptist historians as hyper-Calvinists. This term implies they went farther with the doctrine of regeneration than did Calvin. Specifically, the distinction between Calvinism and High-Calvinism relates to the instrumentality of the gospel in regeneration. It is a name that is routinely applied to modern Primitive Baptists.

The English Baptist historian A. C. Underwood identified Midlands England as a stronghold of hyper-Calvinism. He identified John Gill as a proponent of this theology. Further, he stated in his History of the English Baptists that it was principally through the influence of Andrew Fuller and William Carey that the „winter of hypercalvinism” finally came to an end for the Midland Baptists.

In A Memorial of the 250th Anniversary of the Midland, now the West Midland Association 1655 to 1905, J. Gwynn Owen notes opposition in the 1770s and 80s by certain older ministers of the association to the promotion of manmade institutions such as Sunday Schools and Missionary Societies. These innovations were introduced to the Midlands by Elders Fuller and Carey who were members of the Association. In explaining their opposition to Fuller and Carey’s ideas, Owen wrote of the older ministers, „These revered seniors were more or less bound by the doctrines of a higher Calvinism than now influences theology.”

An example of the intensity of disturbance the proposed schemes caused is found in an exchange between William Carey and the senior Elder John Ryland (who ordained Carey) during a ministerial conference held at Northhampton. Carey suggested, as a topic for discussion, the need for missionary efforts to deliver the gospel to save heathens in foreign countries. To this Elder Ryland, who was chairing the conference, responded, „Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do so without your help or mine.” Elder Ryland’s statement indicates his position concerning gospel instrumentality. Though he only included himself and Carey, his dismissal of Carey’s topic for discussion may be interpreted as theological disagreement over the issue of Calvin’s doctrine of gospel instrumentality in the regeneration of sinners. He evidently did not believe that hearing the gospel was a requirement for regeneration, or a stipulation of election.

Indicating enthusiastic support for gospel instrumentality together with its trappings of Sunday schools and Missionary societies, Owen is generally unsympathetic toward the doctrines held by Elder Ryland and the other „revered seniors” among the ministry of the Midland Association. By the time Owen wrote his memorial work the Midland Association had progressed from primitive to Calvinist to Arminian in theology. Therefore, Owen deserves commendation for resisting temptations to write a revisionist history which would not accurately present the original doctrine of the Midland Association and the strain which introduction of gospel agency caused.

Owen erroneously labels the beliefs of the original Elders of the Midland as High Calvinism. However, he accurately presents their doctrinal position concerning the relationship of gospel agency and new birth with the following statement. „For the logical High-Calvinist could find no scope in his rigorous creed for the operation of any human agency in winning the unconverted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God saves all who are predestinated, and no man can help or hinder His sovereign and effectual grace.”

Owen’s assessment of the original beliefs of the founders of the Midland Association suggests they were primitives, not high Calvinists. Further, his statement concerning the younger generation of preachers implies that gospel instrumentality in regeneration was newly introduced and represented a doctrinal departure from the original beliefs of the Midland brethren. „The younger generation of ministers, like Fuller of Kettering; Carey of Moulton; Sutcliffe of Olney and the younger Ryland, being more open to conviction, and less wedded to the old, rigid creed, began to advocate a modification of the old views, and to adopt as the basis of their ministry a moderate Calvinism which permitted them to appeal to the unconverted.”

Thus, with the passing of such stalwarts as Elder John Ryland the next generation of ministers pursued new theologies, leading their brethren away from true and historic doctrines of grace which had been held by the Baptists of Wales and the Midlands for almost 1700 years.

In the late 1780’s the younger generation of preachers, Led by the younger Ryland, initiated efforts to have the 1655 confession removed from the heading of Midland Association circular letters. Eventually they were successful. By the early 1800s the excesses and errors of Calvinism, introduced through the single false doctrine of gospel instrumentality in regeneration, served to establish Sunday schools and missionary societies in the churches. This once doctrinally pure group of churches, with roots of ancient origin, finally amalgamated with Arminian General Baptist churches in 1851 as the West Midland Association. Thus, the error of Calvin’s gospel instrumentality theory finally led them into Arminianism.

The account of the Churches of the Midland Association was repeated many times among the primitive churches of England and Wales. By the late eighteenth century most were fully merged and identified with Calvinist Particular Baptists. Despite this phenomenon the distinct identity of faith and practice of the primitives was not lost. Before they were completely integrated with the Particulars, some of their numbers migrated to America.

James E. Tull, in his book Shapers of Baptist Thought, notes that departure from what he misterms hyper-Calvinism began in the Midlands as early as 1770. He further notes that Andrew Fuller’s first pastorate was a church which originally held to hyper-Calvinist (his term) beliefs. He lists John Owens, the Wesleys and Dan Taylor as principle influences of Fuller’s theological sentiments. None of these men were ever Baptists.

Tull presents a moderately detailed, though prejudicial, description of the theology of the Midland Baptists. His description of circa 1770 Midland Association doctrine resembles present day Primitive Baptist doctrine. He begins, „The enervating effect of hyper-Calvinism stemmed from a rigid view of the doctrine of election. This view held that God had decreed before the world began who would be saved and who would be lost. Therefore, it was conceived to be both useless and highly presumptuous to invite men to repent and believe.”

Speaking of the duty of reprobates according hyper-Calvinist theology, so called, Tull continued: „It was not, therefore, their duty to repent, to have faith, to pray…..It was not their duty, because these were gifts of divine grace, not human attainments. Closely related to the belief that faith was not a duty was the belief that a warrant was necessary to believe. A warrant was an evidence or a sign of a work of divine favor in the soul. Conviction of sin, with its accompanying mental distress, was such a sign or warrant. Such a warrant and the faith which followed were implanted in the heart at the initiative of divine grace, and they could not be initiated by the sinner.”

Further analysis of Tull’s opinions of hyper-Calvinism reveals the Midland brethren believed in justification by declared righteousness and imputation to Christ, in the atonement, of the sins of the elect.

Tull’s conclusions must be read with a jaundiced eye. His Arminian prejudices shout from the pages. However, despite his derogatory, often erroneous and mostly overstated conclusions, he did manage to state correctly a few salient points of the doctrines of grace which serve to reveal similarities between Midland and Primitive Baptist doctrine.

Henry Veddar, writing of the mission/anti-mission divisions used the phrase hyper-Calvinism to describe a group who terminated fellowship with the Regular Baptists. His brief editorial describes and identifies these hyper-Calvinists. „There were also a number of Calvinistic Baptists bodies that for one reason or another, decline fellowship with the Regular Baptists. A considerable number of Baptists in the early part of this century separated from the other churches on account of doctrinal and practical differences. Holding to hyper-Calvinistic theology, they were opposed to missions, Sunday schools, and all contrivances which seem to make the salvation of man depend on human effort. They call themselves Primitive Baptists, and have been known as Anti-Mission, Anti-Effort, Old, and Hardshell Baptists.”

The terms hyper-Calvinist and high-Calvinism as used by Veddar, Underhill, Tull, Owen and others are misnomers which continue to be applied to Primitive Baptists today. However, primitive faith is not hyper-Calvinist nor is its doctrine accurately described as high-Calvinism. Primitive faith does not move beyond Calvin because primitive Baptists never embraced Calvin’s theology. The doctrine of primitive faith is not an extension, expansion nor elevation of Calvin’s doctrine. Primitives were never Calvinists nor was their doctrine ever Calvinistic.

Further, Calvin never embraced Baptist theology. He was a self-declared reformer who never believed nor taught Baptist doctrine, rejecting outright the doctrines of believers baptism only and baptism by immersion. Some of his tenets approximate primitive doctrines; but, when taken on the whole, there are substantial distinctions in key principles between Calvinism and primitive faith. However, it is clear from the statements of Owen and Veddar that orthodox Primitive Baptists yet cling to what they described as the old, rigid creed of High-Calvinism, of which the doctrines of grace are accurately stated in the 1655 Midland Confession of Faith.

PART TWO: Baptist Succession in America

Chapter VII

The American Link

The earliest presence of Anabaptists in America is unknown. However, gathered congregations began appearing as early as the 1630s. Further, there is evidence that Baptists were having some influence upon some members of the Puritan Established Church in Massachusetts Colony.

In 1637 Boston was seven years old and boasted a population of more than one-thousand. The Colony had adopted Puritan Congregationalism as the Standing Order. As such, the First Church of Boston was was served by Rev. John Wilson and Rev. John Cotton as pastor and teacher, respectively.

About this time, certain members began to question the rigidity of the doctrine of works taught by the Puritans. Several women members, led by Mrs. Anne Hutchinson began meeting on the first Monday each month to discuss matters of religion. Eventually men began frequenting the meetings. Leading members of the community became regular attenders of the informal discussions. Those in attendance began to question the disparity between the doctrines of Puritan Congregationalism and Bible teachings relating to the doctrine of regeneration and evidences of grace. These monthly discussions soon led to a schism in the church. Those who opposed Congregational teachings identified themselves as followers of the Covenant of Grace. Those who opposed their views, while holding to the Congregational position were described as followers of a Covenant of Works. The Covenant of Works faction also referred to the Covenant of Grace group as Antinomians. It was to this climate of religious controversy that Elder John Clarke arrived in Boston in the fall of 1637.

Dr. Clarke was born of Thomas and Catherine Cook Clarke on October 3, 1609 in Westhorpe, Suffolk County England. He was one of eight children. With the exception of one sister who died in infancy, and a younger brother, William, all of his siblings followed him to America, settling in and around Newport, Rhode Island. He was raised in a moderately wealthy family. Though his parents both died in 1627, they left enough financial support to see to his education. He was educated as a physician, receiving instruction both in England and on the European Continent. He concluded his formal education at the University of Leydon, in Holland in 1635. Records indicate the graduation of „Johannees Clarcq” on July 17, 1635.

When Elder Clarke arrived in Boston, from England, in November 1637 he was already a Baptist. The exact date and circumstance of his conversion to Baptist sentiment is unknown. It is presumed by several historians that he converted to Baptist faith while at university in Holland. Some believe he became a baptist and was ordained as a minister in England, before he traveled to Holland. However, though his early history is at best, obscured, a great deal is known about his theological persuasions from the time of his arrival in America. From the very beginning of his residency in the New World Elder Clarke demonstrated sound and settled Baptist sentiment. There is no evidence he entertained either Congregational or Anglican sentiment after his arrival. Also, unlike Roger Williams, Elder Clarke’s life history provides no hint that he was in the midst of a „theological journey” when he arrived in America. The church he constituted in 1638, he continued to pastor throughout his ministry except for the years he served as Rhode Island’s Ambassador to England.

Dr. Comfort Edwin Barrows, in footnoting the diary of Elder John Comer wrote the following concerning Elder Clarke’s theology. „John Clarke was a broad-minded, level-head, strong man; a man of God. In his doctrinal and practical views he was remarkably in accord with the Regular Baptists of the present time in this country.” (Dr. Barrows mistakenly characterized John Clarke’s theology as that of the Regular Baptists. We shall presently demonstrate that his theology was primitive).

Upon arriving in Boston, Elder Clarke quickly realized the climate of religious oppression in the Massachusetts Colony was not favorable toward Baptists. Soon after his arrival, the Antinomians (so-called by their enemies) were excommunicated from the Established Church. Clarke was suspected of siding with the Covenant of Grace dissenters, though he had not taken any position nor made any statements critical of the Congregationalists. Nevertheless, he was disarmed by the local magistrate. The harsh treatment of dissenters, together with his own shabby welcome in Boston convinced him he should find residence elsewhere.

Evidently, even before leaving Boston, the Covenant of Grace dissenters organized themselves into a gathered body. This group cannot be properly considered a church until sometime later. However, Elder Clarke’s statement in his booklet Ill News from New England indicates their organization together with Clarke’s position of respected advisor. It reads, „In the year 1637 I left my native land, in the ninth month of the same I (through mercy) arrived in Boston. I was no sooner on shore, but there appeared to me differences among them touching the covenants, and in points of evidencing a man’s good estate; some prest hard for the Covenant of Works, and for sanctification to be the first and chief evidence; others prest as hard for the Covenant of Grace that was established upon better promises, and for the evidence of the Spirit, as that which is a more certain, constant and satisfactory witness. I thought it not strange to see men differ about matters of Heaven, for I expect no less upon Earth. But to see that they were not able so to bear with others in their different understandings and consciences, as in these uttermost parts of the world to live peaceably together, whereupon I moved the latter, for as much as the land was before us and wide enough with the profer of Abraham to Lot, and for peace sake, to turn aside to the right hand or to the left. The motion was accepted and I was requested with some others to seek out a place.” Elder Clarke’s statement, that he „moved” (made a motion) and „the motion was accepted,” indicates the Boston Covenant of Grace dissenters had organized themselves enough to practice democratic process.

His words also tell something of his own theology. Clearly, he preferred the Covenant of Grace position over the Covenant of Works position. The distinction he makes between the two is at the heart of the variance between Calvinism and sovereign grace theology. The Congregationalists were Calvinists of the strictest sort. Their Covenant of Works position stressed their belief in a strict doctrine of progressive sanctification, where works alone are depended upon as evidences of grace. This contrasts with the Covenant of Grace position endorsed by Clarke, which allows that the obedience of good works is an evidence of grace, but places greater certainty in the motive for obedience; which is, the love of God shed abroad in the heart of everyone who is born again. Elder Clarke believed good works follows grace, but he relied upon the testimony of the „Spirit bearing witness with our spirit” as a constant and satisfactory witness of new birth. His statement indicates he was a primitive Baptist with respect to this doctrine of grace. He believed in a heart felt religion. Because of this belief, he and the group which followed him to Rhode Island were labeled Antinomians, invoking a description which, beginning in Paul’s day (Romans 3:8) up to the present time, the primitive church has suffered.

Elder Clarke led his small congregation to the Island of Aquidneck, which they subsequently purchased from local native Americans. They established a village which they named Newport. Adquidneck was later named Rhode Island.

The first fully organized Baptist Church was gathered in Newport, Rhode Island in the early months of 1638. This early date is substantiated by several sources. Although Benedict cites 1644 as the earliest date of this church, he is mistaken. Elder Clarke’s tombstone attests to the earlier date of organization. It reads:

To the Memory of Doctor John Clarke, one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Newport, its first pastor, and munificent benefactor; He was a native of Bedfordshire, England, and a practitioner of physic in London. He, his associates, came to this Island from Mass., in March 1638, O. S. and on the 24 of the same month obtained a deed thereof from the Indians. He shortly after gathered the church aforesaid and became its pastor; in 1651, he with Roger Williams, was sent to England, by the people of Rhode Island colony, to negotiate the business of the Colony with the British Ministry. Mr. Clarke was instrumental in obtaining the charter of 1663 from Charles II, which secured to the people of the State free and full enjoyment of judgment and conscience in matters of religion. He remained in England to watch over the interests of the Colony until 1664. Mr. Clark and Mr. Williams, two fathers of the colony, strenuously and fearlessly maintained that none but Jesus Christ had authority over the affairs of conscience. He died April 20, 1676, in the 66th year of his age, and is here interred.

William Cathcart, in Baptist Encyclopedia pages 240 and 840 wrote; „A church was gathered in 1638, probably early in the year, of which Mr. Clarke became pastor or teaching elder. He is mentioned (in 1638) as „preacher to those of the island” as „their minister” as „elder of the church there” by Mr. Lechford writing in 1640, after having made a tour through New England, that „at the island……there is a church where one Master Clarke is pastor.”

The date of the constitution of Newport Church is significant. It occurred three years before the baptismal service in London which transformed the Spilsbury congregation from Separatists to Baptists. Thus, three years before the group that later became identified as Particular Baptists actually adopted Baptist faith and practice, there was a fully functional, orderly Baptist Church on American soil. The Newport Church was not constituted as a Particular or Regular Baptist Church because Particular Baptist identity did not exist in 1638. In faith and practice, the Newport Church was primitive Baptist, as we shall shortly disclose.

In 1650 Obadiah Holmes, after being excommunicated from the Puritan Congregationalist Church and banished from Plymouth Colony, arrived in Rhode Island at Newport. His exclusion and banishment stemmed from his strong support of believers baptism and baptism by immersion, both Baptist tenets.

Holmes journey to Baptist sentiment and residency in Newport began upon his arriving in America in 1639. Initially, he and his wife Katherine joined the Puritan Congregationalists in Salem. Observing their harsh judgement and treatment of dissenters, in contrast to Christ’s message of love, Holmes became dissatisfied with the practice of the Established Church. Further, upon study of the word of God he came to realize that baptism represented the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Not only so, his study of theology led him into the doctrines of grace; whereby he concluded, „that there is no preparation necessary to obtain Christ…. Nothing can be done by man; there is nothing that he can do to bring down salvation from heaven to earth. For what has to be done has already been done and done by God, not by man.”

In 1643 Holmes moved from Salem to Rehoboth, part of Plymouth Colony. Though the climate there was equally harsh toward Baptist sentiment, he initially received better treatment and was elevated to the status of freeman. While residing in Rehoboth he heard the doctrines of grace preached for the first time. In 1649, Newport Church extended an arm to Rehoboth sending Elder Clarke to minister to the small congregation of Baptists gathered there. Later, this group formally organized into a church. Holmes joined them in 1650. No doubt, feeling a burden to preach the gospel and desiring to learn at the feet of Dr. Clarke, Holmes move to Newport. In 1651 he moved his family and, with his wife Katherine, united with Newport Church. The same year he was ordained to the work of the ministry.

Later in 1651 Elder Holmes took occasion to accompany Elder Clarke and John Crandall to Lynn, Massachusetts to visit a shut-in member of Newport Church. As they bowed in prayer, in the home of Brother Witter, the local sheriff burst in and arrested the three for holding an unlawful worship service. They were brought before a local magistrate where a mock trial was held. All three were found guilty, though they were denied the right of counsel, the right to face their accusers, and no witnesses were presented against them. Elder Clarke was fined twenty pounds, Elder Holmes thirty and Crandall five. Elders Clarke and Holmes were given a choice of paying their fines or being „well whipped.”

The fines and beatings were mild compared to the intense hatred the authorities and local clergy of the Established Church held against the Elders and their doctrine. The governor of Massachusetts, John Endicott, in frustration at the courts inability to cite a single law which the three had broken (the incident occurred during the time of the first Act of Toleration), finally expressed his true sentiments and, no doubt, those of the Established Puritan Church. Elder Clarke later wrote of Endicott’s outburst. „None were able to turn the law of God or man by which we were condemned. At length the Governor stepped up, and told us we had denied infant’s baptism, and, being somewhat transported, told me I had deserved death, and said he would not have such trash brought into their jurisdiction.”

John Crandall paid his fine and returned to Newport. Declaring their innocence, Elders Clarke and Holmes refused to pay their fines, which prolonged their imprisonment. After about three weeks Elder Clarke was released. Various reasons for his release are offered by different historians. In point, however, they all agree that Elder Clarke did not pay his fine. Some suggest that friends paid it. One account notes an unknown gentleman who could not stand to see another gentleman publicly flogged.

Another account suggests that Elder Clarke was released in order to avoid a public debate of believer’s baptism and baptism by immersion. During his trial Elder Clarke challenged Mr. Howell to a debate of these issues. Apparently, there was considerable support among the populace that the debate occur. It is surmised Mr. Howell, knowing he could not successfully defend his position of pedobaptism, arranged Elder Clarke’s release to avoid the debate. Elder Clarke offered to return to Massachusetts to debate Howell, but Govenor Endicutt refused to guarantee he would not again be arrested and imprisoned.

It is known that Elder Clarke had every intention of suffering the pain and humiliation of a public beating rather than consenting to the injustice of the Massachusetts judiciary. One account of the affair states that he stood stripped to the waist and was tied to the whipping post before being suddenly released.

It is probable the real object of the irrational rage of the magistrates and clergy of Massachusetts was Obadiah Holmes. Having been previously excommunicated from the Puritan Established Church and banished from the Colony of Massachusetts, his presence was viewed as an affront to both religious and civic authority. He was to be taught a lesson, as an example to warn others of the severe consequences of excommunication and banishment.

Accordingly, on September 5 he was taken from his cell and brought to the public whipping post to be beaten. The post was located behind the Old State House in Boston, at the corner of State and Devonshire Streets. Once there, Elder Holmes asked Rev. Nowell, of the Puritan Congregational Church, who evidently was in charge of the beating, for permission to speak. Eyewitnesses reported the following exchange.

Nowell: It is not now a time to speak.

Holmes: I beg you. Give me leave to speak a few words. Seeing I am to seal what I hold with my blood, I am ready to defend it by the Word.

Nowell: There is no time for dispute.

Holmes: I desire to give an account of the Faith and Order I hold.

H. Flint: Executioner, Fellow do thine office, for this fellow here would but make a long speech to delude the people.

Holmes: That which I am about to suffer for is the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ.

Nowell: No! It is for your error, and going about to seduce people.

Holmes: Not for error! In all the time of my imprisonment, which of all your ministers, in all that time came to convince me of error? And what was the reason the public dispute was not granted?

Nowell: It was Clarke’s fault that he went away and would not dispute.

Flint: (To Executioner) Do your office!

Holmes: (while his clothes are being ripped away from him) I am now come to be baptized in afflictions by your hands, that so I may have further fellowship with my Lord. I am not ashamed of His sufferings for by His stripes am I healed.

Elder Holmes was beaten with thirty lashes. The Executioner spat upon his hands, and with a scourge of three leather straps, he beat Elder Holmes until his back was laid open to the bone, his flesh raw and bleeding. The beating complete, Elder Holmes was untied from the whipping post and led back to his cell. As he was led away he turned to his executioner and said, „Sir, you have struck me as with roses.”

Thirty lashes was a most severe sentence. The normal punishment of whipping for criminals found guilty of the worst crimes, such as rape, robbery and counterfeiting was ten lashes. From such harsh treatment, as was the case with Apostle Paul’s beatings, it must be surmised the true purpose of Elder Holmes persecution was to maim or perhaps kill him. Like Paul, Obadiah Holmes was delivered by the grace of God; and, henceforth bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. Elder Holmes was the first Baptist in America who was so punished for conscience sake. With his beating the pattern of persecution, which Baptists fled England to escape, continued in America. He was among the first of many in America who suffered fines, imprisonment, public ridicule, banishment and beatings for conscience sake.

Later, he recalled his condition of spirit and mind both before the beating. He wrote, „I betook myself to my chamber, where I might communicate with my God, commit myself to Him, and beg strength from Him. I was caused to pray earnestly unto the Lord, that He would be pleased to give me a spirit of courage and boldness, a tongue to speak for Him, and strength of body to suffer for His sake, and not to shrink or yield to the strokes, or shed tears, lest the adversaries of the truth should thereupon blaspheme and be hardened, and the weak and feeble-hearted discouraged; and for this I besought the Lord earnestly. At length He satisfied my spirit to give up, as my soul so my body to Him, and quietly leave the whole disposing of the matter to Him. And when I heard the voice of my keeper come for me, and, taking my Testament in hand, I went along with him to the place of execution.” Concerning his pain during the beating, Elder Holmes said, „in a manner I felt it not.”

Many would surmise that the harsh treatment Elder Holmes received in Boston would have ended any thoughts he had of preaching in Massachusetts in the future. However, heeding the call of God alone, this venerable old servant returned several times to preach the gospel and baptize believers. He was arrested again, but never again beaten or fined.

Elder Holmes returned to Newport to recover from his ordeal. He continued there the rest of his life, assisting Elder Clarke and serving as pastor in Clarke’s absence.

In late 1651 Elder Clarke sailed to England to administer the affairs of Rhode Island. He remained as the Colony’s representative to the Crown for twelve years. During this time Elder Holmes served as interim pastor of Newport Church. He was ably assisted by Elder Mark Lucar, who was a charter member of Mr. Spilsbury’s church in London, being baptized with fifty-two others in 1641 at the Particular’s inaugural baptismal service.

The primitive Baptists of Newport maintained a cordial correspondence with the Particular Baptists in London. Numerous examples of their friendly relations are contained in letters written by both Elder Clarke and Elder Holmes. One such letter was written to Mssrs. Spilsbury and Kiffen by Elder Holmes shortly after his beating. In it he mentions Elder Clarke’s impending journey to London, noting they will soon be able to hear Elder Clarke’s account of the ordeal. The introduction of Elder Holmes letter suggests the close fellowship he felt toward the brethren in London. He began the correspondence, „Unto the well beloved brethren John Spilsbury and William Kiffen, and the rest that in London stand fast in the faith, and continue to walk steadfastly in that order of Gospel which was once delivered unto the saints by Jesus Christ; Obadiah Holmes, an unworthy witness that Jesus is Lord, and of late a prisoner for Jesus’ sake at Boston, sendeth greetings.”

In 1676, after the deaths of both Clarke and Lucar, Elder Holmes served as sole pastor of Newport Church. He continued at that post until his own death in 1682.

I have been unable to attain a copy of the original Articles of Faith of Newport Church. Also, though Dr. Clarke’s history and affiliations provide many examples of his belief in the doctrines of election and predestination, I have been unable to find any writings by the good doctor which actually spell out his doctrinal sentiments. However, Elder Holmes, who was co-pastor at Newport Church with Dr. Clarke, left a statement of his beliefs in the form of a personal confession of faith. He wrote the document at the request of his brother in England. It is included in a compilation of several letters and documents which, in sum, are titled The Last Will and Testament of Obadiah Holmes.

From Elder Holmes confession of faith it may be concluded he held firmly to the doctrines of sovereign grace. Not only so, but his theology is best described as primitive, rather than reformed. Elder Holmes was not a Calvinist.

On the subject of election he wrote: „God in His own time chose a people to Himself and gave them His laws and statutes in a special manner, though He had always His chosen ones in every generation.” Concerning the salvation of the elect he wrote: „I believe that God has laid the iniquity of all His elect and called ones upon Him (Christ).”

Concerning perseverance he wrote: „I believe that all those that are in his covenant of grace shall never fall away or perish, but shall have life in the Prince of life: the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Concerning new birth he wrote: „I believe that no man can come to the Son but they that are drawn by the Father to Him, and they that come He will in no wise cast away. I believe none has power to choose salvation or to believe in Christ, for life is the gift only of God.”

Elder Holmes divided the functionality of the gospel into two categories. He wrote it „begets souls to the truth” and „feeds the church.” He explains the instrumentality of the gospel with two separate articles In neither article does he intimate the gospel is in any way linked functionally to regeneration.

The first statement resembles the primitive belief that God must aid preachers with liberty of explanation and hearers with liberty of comprehension for the doctrines of grace to be understood and accepted as truth. „I believe the precious gift of the Spirit’s teaching was procured by Christ’s ascension and given to men, begetting souls to the truth and for the establishment and consolations of those that are turned to the Lord.”

His second statement explains a principle of sufficiency of the scriptures to sustain believers faith in every circumstance. „I believe that as God prepared a begetting ministry even so does He also prepare a feeding ministry in the church, who are a people called out of the world by the word and Spirit of the Lord, assembling themselves together in a holy brotherhood, continuing in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, breaking bread and prayer.”

Evidently, Elder Holmes was a millennialist. Concerning the resurrection of the just he wrote: „I believe the promise of the Father concerning the return of Israel and Judah, and the coming of the Lord to raise up the dead in Christ, and to change them that are alive that they may reign with him a thousand years, according to the Scriptures.”

Excluding his millennial reign theory, Elder Holmes’ confession of faith is orthodox in all other areas. It demonstrates a clear understanding of both eternal salvation and gospel deliverance. It plainly distinguishes new birth as a precursor to acceptance, or rational belief, in Christ. His handling of regeneration, together with his definitions of the functionality of the gospel indicates Elder Holmes was not reformed, despite his earlier exposure to Puritan Congregationalism. One must wonder if the harshness of Puritan Calvinism compelled him to look beyond the reformer’s theology until he found in the scriptures and by Dr. Clarke’s preaching a primitive doctrine, which „begot” his soul to gospel truth, which is the faith once delivered.

A partial chronology of pastorship of Newport Baptist Church, after Elder Holmes death includes:

Richard Dingley 1690 – 1711
William Peckman 1711 – 1734
John Comer 1726 – 1729 (co-pastor)

In 1656 the Second Baptist Church was organized in Newport. Its organization was the result of a disagreement as to the necessity of laying on of hands on newly baptized members. The original church allowed the practice, but did not require it. The latter group, led by William Vaughn, believed laying on of hands was a requirement of the ordinance of baptism. Though the membership of Second Church apparently had a basic disagreement with those of First, as to the means necessary to initiate church fellowship, it did not seem to affect interchurch fellowship. It appears they continued fellowship with one another, sat in each others ordinations and exchanged pulpit duties. There is no doubt this issue resulted in a division of the First Church; however, it appears the split was friendly.

The Baptists were still a very small group in New England as late as 1700. The gospel had not spread much beyond Rhode Island. However, Baptist preachers had ventured into Connecticut where they gained a few converts. A group of Baptist converts in Groton Connecticut began to hold regular meetings. They petitioned Connecticut’s General Court for official tolerance, but received no response from the ruling body. Despite failure to gain official tolerance, they interpreted the General Court’s silence as unofficial consent. They formally organized themselves into a Baptist Church in 1705.

The new church sent for a young preacher from North Kingston, Rhode Island to serve as their pastor. His name was Valentine Wightman. He was a great-grandson of Elder Edward Wightman, of Burton, England, who was the last person burned at the stake in England. Burton Church was a charter member of the Midland Association in 1655.

Edward Wightman, was executed at Lichfield in Staffordshire, near Burton in 1612. Descendants who followed him as ministers of the Gospel included his son John (1598-1662), grandson George (1632-1722), and great-grandson Valentine (1687-1747). Armitage also identifies Timothy, Gano and Daniel Wightman. Timothy was Elder Valentine’s son. Gano is probably John Gano Wightman, also Elder Valentine’s son. Daniel is believed to have been his brother.

Elder Valentine was named after his uncle, who was an indentured servant to a Mr. Richard Smith in Providence, Rhode Island. After working off his indebtedness, the senior Wightman proved himself a highly regarded citizen of Rhode Island as both a jurist and indian interpreter. He was a close acquaintance of Roger Williams. Elder Valentine was also a nephew by marriage to Katherine Williams Wightman, Roger Williams sister. Her husband was Ralph, a brother to George Wightman, Elder Valentine’s father.

Little is known about Valentine Wightman’s ministry. It is known he was a „Six Principle” Baptist. From this, some have tried to build a case that Elder Wightman was Arminian in his theology. He was identified as a Six Principle because he practiced „laying on of hands” on the newly baptized. There were Six Principle Baptists among the Arminian Baptists. However, as we have noted, Jonathan Davis stated in his History of the Welsh Baptists that this practice was introduced in 1654 into the churches of the Midlands and Wales, which held to a sovereign grace primitive faith.

Elder Wightman re-instituted singing hymns as part of the worship service. He wrote a short defense of the practice which was widely distributed. His work in this area is credited for the adoption of singing in many Baptist churches.

Groton church experienced a division over doctrinal issues in 1765, during the pastorship of Timothy Wightman. The defecting group ordained Silas Burris as their preacher. They practiced open communion. The Groton Conference, a mostly Arminian group of Baptist churches, is named after this latter church. The mother church did not join the Conference.

Because of Elder Wightman’s religious heritage, together with what is known about those with whom he had fellowship, and those to whom he passed his theological lineage, it is reasonable to assume Valentine Wightman was a primitive Baptist of the order of the Midland Association and the Old Baptists of Olchon and vicinity. His original membership was with the second Newport Church. This church was not Arminian during the time of his membership, neither was North Kingston where he later held membership. Also, Swanzy Church, constituted by John Miles, was six principle, as was Rehoboth, constituted by Dr. John Clarke. Neither of these churches were Arminian in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In fact, by 1750 the practice of laying on of hands on those newly baptized was a common practice among both primitive and Particular Baptists.

Armitage describes Elder Wightman as calm and discrete. He is said to have had the respect of the Authorized Congregationalist clergy in Groton. He possessed sound learning, great zeal and deep piety, according to Armitage. He was a strict observer of scriptural authority and a powerful preacher. The blessings of these traits allowed him to exercise tender care with his new flock, which increased greatly during the forty-two years of his pastorship.

The above description of Elder Valentine’s demeanor and pastoral care should not be taken as evidence he escaped persecution. He did not. While there is no record he was ever imprisoned or publicly beaten, he did not escape punishment. Shortly after moving to Groton, Elder Wightman was arrested as an illegal alien. Like most New England townships, Groton had a law that prospective citizens must first receive permission from the Selectmen of the township before establishing residency in the town. The stated purpose of the ordinance was to prevent derelicts from becoming a financial burden to the community. However, the law was often used to keep out all sorts of undesirables, including religious dissenters.

Elder Wightman appeared in New London before Richard Christopher, Justice of the Peace. He was fined eleven pounds, plus cost of prosecution. He appealed the fine because the amount exceeded Christopher’s authority to levy fines, but lost the appeal. He refused to pay the fine; and, there is no record it was ever paid. Eventually, Elder Wightman was forced to post a two-hundred pound bond in order to stay in Groton. The bond was paid by William Stark, a member of Groton Church. The prosecution and bond could have been avoided had Elder Wightman been able to receive permission to stay in Groton. But permission was only granted by either the ruling of the town’s Selectmen or by popular vote of its citizens. It is evident from the fact that a bond was posted he was unable to obtain permission either way.

Elder Wightman shared fellowship with Rehoboth Church, which was constituted as an arm of the first Newport Church. He also fellowshipped Elder John Comers, who, for a time, was co-pastor of First Newport Church. In November, 1726, while Elder Comer was still co-pastor at First Newport Church, he made the following entry in his diary. „Monday. This day I preached at New London, Mr. Stephen Gorton’s Ordination sermon, from 2 Cor. 2:16, and assisted in conjunction with Mr. Jno Moss and Mr. Valentine Wightman. There was a large auditory.” This entry indicates Elder Wightman was in a succession of interchurch fellowship which included Elders John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes. Elder Wightman was in direct fellowship with those Baptists in America which first, by date of their organization, and second, by statement of their beliefs, were primitive Baptists.

As has been noted, beginning with Elder John Clarke, the churches and Elders of this succession had frequent and numerous contact with the Particular Baptists in England, and later, with the Regular Baptists in America. However, their friendly relations with the Particulars does not mean these brethren were themselves Particular Baptists. Their succession was primitive. Newport Baptist Church was constituted, fully embracing the principles of believers baptism and baptism by immersion, four years before the first baptismal service was held by the Particular Baptists in London.

The reader may trace this American succession through Dr. Clarke back to the primitive Baptists of England, or perhaps Holland. (When or where Elder Clarke was baptized and ordained is unknown. However, he was already an ordained Baptist Elder when he arrived in America in 1637). His succession includes the Lollards (so called) in England through the Welsh Anabaptists or the Lollards in Europe through the Dutch Anabaptists. In either case, a direct succession exists back to Jesus Christ. Both successions embrace pre-reformation, primitive Baptist, faith and practice.

Elder Valentine Wightman is a link in the succession of the primitive Baptists from the Lollards of the Midlands of England to America. His family’s religious heritage was primitive Baptist. Also, his fellowship with Newport, North Kingston and Rehoboth Churches shows that he supported and taught the same principles of belief as John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes and John Comer who themselves were primitive Baptists. Like both his great-grandfather Edward Wightman, who was executed in 1612 for his primitive Baptist beliefs, and John Clarke, who established the first Baptist church in America, Valentine Wightman is a link in the chain of succession of the primitive Baptists.

Elder Wightman baptized and ordained Elder Wait Palmer, who was pastor of the Baptist Church in Tolland, Connecticut. In 1751 Elder Palmer baptized and ordained Elder Shubal Stearns, who came to the Baptists from the Separatists. He was a „New Light” convert of the „Great Awakening” revival of George Whitfield.

Chapter VIII

The Separate Baptists

The American succession of faith and practice of the Primitive Baptists can be traced through Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptists. The Separate Baptists received their name as an indirect result of the Great Awakening, which had its beginnings in New England around 1734. Its evangelical appeal was the result of years of religious decline, which was the outcome of the Established Congregationalist Church. Because all citizens were compelled to join at birth, and many could not claim an experience of grace, by 1720 the Congregationalists claimed a large class of what they termed „inferior” members. These members possessed limited rights and privileges of church membership. However, various schemes were launched in attempts to revive the ailing denomination, by vitalizing the membership of inferior members. First they were allowed into communion. Next, they were allowed to hold certain church offices. Finally, it was agreed that „inferior” members, those who made no claim as to an experience of grace, could be ordained to the clergy. None of the Congregationalists schemes were successful. They continued to suffer from lax discipline and defections. In 1734 Jonathan Edwards was blest to participate in a short revival in religion. His relentless preaching stirred some enthusiasm which resulted in short lived religious renewal among the Congregationalists in Massachusetts and Connecticut. However, one positive outcome of Edward’s zeal and the slight renewal of interest in religion was the arrival of George Whitfield in America in 1740.

From the moment the world famous Whitfield landed on American soil, at Newport, in September 1740, huge crowds gathered to hear him preach. The effect was electrifying. Whitfield recorded in his journal, „many wept exceedingly, and cried out under the Word, like persons that were hungering and thirsting for righteousness.” Wherever Whitfield preached, thousands rejoiced. The heartfelt religion which spontaneously burst forth was in great contrast to the stern and stoic form of religion practiced by the Calvinist Puritan Congregationalists of the Established Church. New converts in Congregational churches soon became uneasy by the coldness and hostility of unawakened members.

Whitfield revival converts came to be known as „New lights.” Traditionalists in the Puritan congregations were called „Old lights.” In such a climate of contrast, it was only natural the New lights began leaving the old state church to form their own congregations. By 1744 these informal congregations began assuming identities as churches. Those who left the old church and formed into new churches became known as Separates.

In 1745 Whitfield returned to America. His return was not welcomed by many of the Established Churches. However, the Separates greeted him enthusiastically. Because of their fervent support and attendance, the Separate Churches received most of the benefit from Whitfield’s second revival tour. Three men of note who joined the Separates during the 1745 revival were Isaac Backus, Daniel Marshall and Shubal Sterns. All three would later join the Baptists, bringing with them their enthusiastic belief in evangelical revival.

The Established Congregational Church may have accepted the existence of the awakened New Light churches but for the fact that the New Lights kept a „closed communion” and would not accept letters of dismissal from the Congregationalists. Even at this early date, the New Lights recognized the need for church order. The Separates brought these practices with them when they joined the Baptists.

Elder Sylvester Hassell provides a brief introduction of the Separates as Baptists. He notes, „These Separates first arose in New England, and made their way eventually, into the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Elders Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall were among those evangelical ministers whose labors were greatly blessed in the States above named.”

Elder Lemuel Burkitt, in his history, written in 1806, notes; „The Separates first arose in New England, where some pious members left the Presbyterian, or the Standing Order, on account of their formality and superfluity, viz. 1. Because they were too extravagant in their apparel. 2. Because they did not believe their form of Church government to be right. But chiefly because they would admit none to the ministry only men of classical education,and many of their ministers, apparently, seemed to be unconverted. They were then called Separates Newlights. Some of these were baptized and moved into the southern provinces, particularly Elders Shubal Sterns and Daniel Marshall, whose labors were wonderfully blest in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Many souls were converted, and, as the work progressed, many churches were established in Virginia and some in North Carolina.”

Elder Burkitt continues his somewhat detailed and flattering description of the Separates by describing their preachers as extremely pious and zealous men. He characterized the effect of their evangelical zeal with this quote; „and such a work appeared to be amongst the people that some were amazed, and stood in doubt, saying what means this?” He notes, „The distinction between them and us, was they were called Separates and the Philadelphia, the Charleston, and the Kehukee Associations were called Regular Baptists.”

As Elder Burkitt’s narrative suggests, the Separates discovered many Baptist practices with which they concurred. They approved of the Baptists practice of democracy in church government, simplicity of their order of worship, believers baptism and ordaining men to the ministry based upon a divine call as demonstrated by qualification of their gifts through preaching.

Baptist Elders crossed into Connecticut to preach for Separate Congregations. Slowly the Separates began to leave the doctrines of pedobaptism and join Baptist churches. At one point Elder Backus, who himself left the Separates and was baptized and ordained by the Baptists, was heard to say that all the Separate churches would soon become Baptists.

During this migration of gospel conversion, Shubal Stearns, a prominent Separate preacher, joined the Baptists and was baptized and ordained in 1751 by Elder Waitt Palmer at Tolland, Connecticut. Elder Palmer had been baptized and ordained by Valentine Wightman.

It was through the evangelical activities of Elder Stearns and his brother-in-law, and brother in the ministry, Daniel Marshall, that primitive Baptist faith and practice was carried to the Kehukee brethren of North Carolina. In 1755 Stearns joined Daniel Marshall in Virginia. Marshall had been baptized earlier at the Particular Baptist Church at Mill Creek in Opekon, Virginia. Stearns was on his way to North Carolina at the request of friends, who petitioned him to come and help with the pathetic spiritual destitution of the area. Marshall and Stearns left Opekon in the summer of 1755, traveling two hundred miles to Sandy Creek, North Carolina.

Upon arriving at Sandy Creek, Stearns and his small congregation built a meeting house. Elder Stearns immediately began his evangelical activities. People from neighboring farms began attending the frequent services held in the new meeting house. Elder Stearns’ heartfelt and powerful delivery was a display of religious fervor many had never heard nor seen. They could not decide which was more remarkable, his delivery or the content of his sermons of God’s sovreign grace. Both had a very positive effect. There was an outpouring of the Spirit of God and revival began. Word of the lively meetings at Sandy Creek soon reached other settlements. Stearns received invitations to visit in those areas. He gave preference to invitations from the most neglected areas, having a desire to preach to the poorest folk. He accepted no salary for his services, relying on the providence of God through the generosity of His Saints. In 1757 an arm of Sandy Creek Church was extended to Abbott’s Creek.

The Spirit of revival heightened dramatically the next year. An arm was extended to Deep River. After his own ordination, Daniel Marshall pushed the revival northward into Virginia, taking with him James Reed, William and Joseph Murphy, and Dutton Lane all newly ordained young preachers. He also traveled south, to Georgia, establishing churches there.

Within three years after their arrival, Stearns and Marshall witnessed a tremendous increase among the Baptists. Beginning with only sixteen members at Sandy Creek, there were now three churches with a combined membership of nine-hundred. More preachers were ordained. John Newton, Joseph Breed, Ezekiel Hunter, Charles Markland, Nathaniel Powell and James Turner were all preaching the gospel. The revival which began at Sandy Creek spread in every direction. In 1758 the Sandy Creek Association was organized.

The first session of Sandy Creek Association met in June 1758. According to Lumpkin „the meeting did not bother with organizational procedures and transaction of business. It did not even go so far as to elect a moderator, although everyone looked to Elder Stearns as the man in charge. The order of the day was preaching and exhorting, singing and recounting successes.”

The meeting further energized the Baptists. Preachers were stirred to greater zeal. Many visitors, who attended the association out of curiosity, went away convicted by the message of man’s depraved nature and God’s free grace. New invitations came from every direction for preachers to be sent. Ingathering occurred in great numbers.

Elders Dutton Lane, baptized and ordained by Elder Stearns, found Virginia to be his field of labor. The first Separate Baptist church in Virginia was constituted in August 1760. Elder Lane served as pastor. According to Elder Robert Semple, in his history, Rise and Progress of the Baptist of Virginia, „The church prospered under the ministry of Mr. Lane, aided by the occasional visits of Mr. Marshall and Mr. Stearns.”

Initially the Virginia churches were members of the Sandy Creek Association. However, because of the difficulty of travel and since the Sandy Creek Association had grown quite large, with churches in South Carolina and Virginia, at the 1770 session it was unanimously agreed to divide into three associations.

In 1771 the first session of the Virginia Separate Baptist Association was held. The new association contained fourteen churches. Very quickly, the association grew to more than fifty churches. It eventually divided into districts which later became independent associations. Associations which originated from the Virginia include Dover, Goshen, Culpepper, Albemarie, Middle District, Appomattox, Roanoak, Meherrin, Strawberry, New River, Halston, Mountain and Accomac.

The Separates organized churches in Tennessee. In 1771 a small group from Sandy Creek Church moved west, settling on Boone’s Creek in Washington County. However, the churches were soon broken up by the Indian War of 1774. Though no church records are still in existence, correspondence from sister churches in North Carolina identifies the name of one of these pioneer churches as Buffalo Ridge. About 1780 many of the scattered memberships of these early churches reorganized in East Tennessee. In 1776 Elder Tidence Lane arrived in Watauga at Boone’s Creek. He settled at nearby St Clair Bottom in 1777, where he established a group from Sandy Creek as a constituted church.

Elder Daniel Marshall traveled to Georgia where he established the first Baptist church in that Colony. In 1772 he constituted a church at Kiokee.

Kentucky also experienced Baptist expansion and ingathering from the Separate Baptists. In 1779 Squire Boone, brother of Daniel Boone, moved with his family from North Carolina down the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers to Louisville. Ordained as a Separate Baptist minister in 1776, Boone started a church there.

The first Baptist church in Mississippi, at Cole’s Creek, was constituted by members from Little River Church. In turn, Little River had been organized by members from Sandy Creek and Deep River Church. Her first pastor, Elder Joseph Murphy, was baptized and ordained by Elder Stearns. The first pastor of Cole’s Creek was Elder Richard Curtis Jr.. He returned to Little River in 1791 to be ordained. He immediately returned to Mississippi and constituted Cole’s Creek Church.

On November 20, 1771 Elder Shubal Stearns died at the age of sixty-five. During his sixteen year ministry in North Carolina and there about, he ordained one hundred twenty-five Elders and helped constitute forty-two churches, plus many branches. Using this able servant, and the small group of Baptists he gathered at Sandy Creek, the Lord effected the most dramatic revival and ingathering ever experienced on American soil.

Fellowship and Union With the Regular Baptists

The first of several account of attempts to unite the Separates and Regulars is contained in the 1762 minutes of the Charleston Association. Mr. Hart of Charleston and Evan Pugh of Pee Dee were instructed to attend the 1763 meeting of the Sandy Creek Association to try to effect a union. There is no further record of this effort contained in the Charleston minutes. The early minutes of the Sandy Creek are lost, burned in a house fire in 1810. However, from the complete silence of the Charleston Association regarding their proposed union it may be assumed Sandy Creek either ignored or declined their invitation.

In 1769 another attempt at interchurch fellowship was made by the Kekocton Association. They sent Messrs. Garratt, Major and Saunders to the Sandy Creek Association to propose a union. The proposal was rejected. The most serious objection to a union was the Kekocton’s identification with the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. Quoting from Robert Semple’s history G. W. Pascal notes, „A more serious and real objection was that, the Philadelphia Confession, some parts of which they considered objectionable, might come to bind them too much.” A sense of the reluctance of the Separates to participate in the proposed union is suggested by the tone of the Kekocton’s letter of invitation. It provides some indication the Separates were very serious in their refusal to be formally identified with the Regular Baptists.

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ:

The bearers of this letter can acquaint you with the design of writing it. Their errand is peace, and their business is a reconciliation between us, if there is any difference subsisting. If we are all Christians, all Baptists, all New Lights, why are we divided? Must the little appellative names, Regular and Separate, break the golden band of charity, and set the sons and daughters of Zion at variance? „Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” but how bad and how bitter it is for them to live asunder in discord. To indulge ourselves in prejudice, is surely a disorder; and to quarrel about nothing is irregularity with a witness. O, our dear brethren, endeavor to prevent this calamity in the future.

The Separate Baptists’ response to this overture of fellowship demonstrates what Benedict terms their „shyness.” It attests to their high regard for order in both faith and practice. Their response reads;

Excuse us in love; for we are acquainted with our own order, but not so well with yours; and if there is a difference, we might jump into that which will make us rue it.

The Separate Baptists’ consistent aversion to written creeds and specifically, the Philadelphia Confession, gave rise to a distinction between those sovereign grace baptists who embraced its doctrinal tenets and those who rejected the document. The name Regular Baptist was applied to those who embraced the Philadelphia Confession.

The first formal union of Separates and Regulars occurred in the reformation of the Kehukee Association. In 1777 six Regular Baptist and four Separate Baptist churches joined together, with a new covenant and new Articles of Faith.

In 1784 the Georgia Association was constituted. It included both Separate and Regular Baptist churches. Like the Kehukee Association this group also adopted their own Confession, which closely resembles primitive articles of faith in both content and style. In 1809 an attempt was made to replace this document with the Charleston Confession of Faith. After review by a committee appointed by the association, the move to adopt Keach’s version of the London Confession was defeated.

A union of Separates and Regulars occurred in 1787 in Virginia. In this integration the Philadelphia Confession was adopted, although the Separates required a statement be included in the constitution of the Association which stipulated that no church was required to strictly hold to the Particular Baptist confession. The disclaimer stated that acceptance of the confession did not „mean that every person is to be bound to the strict observance of everything therein contained, nor do we mean to make it, in any respect, superior or equal to the scriptures in matters of faith and practice.” This union of Separate and Particular Baptists resulted in the formation of the Virginia Association.

Semple presents a more detailed explanation of the Separates’ caution in adopting the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. Quoting the committee’s explanation of the resolution, he wrote, „After considerable debate as to the propriety of having any confession of faith at all, the report of the committee was received with the following explanation: To prevent the confession of faith from usurping a tyrannical power &vover the conscience of any, we do not mean that every person is bound to the strict observance of everything therein contained; yet that it holds forth the essential truths of the Gospel, and that the doctrine of salvation by Christ and free, and unmerited grace alone ought to be believed by every minister of the Gospel. Upon these terms we are united; and desire hereafter that the names Regular and Separate be buried in oblivion, and that from henceforth, we shall be known by the name of the United Baptists Churches of Christ in Virginia.”

The first hints of fellowship between the Regular Baptists and the Separates of the Virginia Association occurred through circumstances which truly, were providential. It came as a result of American independence. In the 1780 session of the Association a letter was received from a committee of the Regular Baptists suggesting the Virginia Separate Baptist Association appoint a committee to join with the Regulars „to consider national grievances in conjunction.” The Separates agreed to the proposal, sending Reubin Ford, John Williams and Elijah Craig to serve with Regular Baptists in addressing religious matters of national concern to the newly formed American government. The Baptist’s common desire for religious freedom opened a window which allowed the Separates and Regulars to view one another. Eventually this small window led to full fellowship.

In 1789 a general union occurred between the Separate and Regular Baptists in North Carolina, forming the United Baptist Association. This association was composed of several churches of the original Kehukee, which had divided in 1774, together with six Regular Baptist and four Separate Baptist churches which reformed the Kehukee in 1777. The churches which had refused to reform in 1777 finally agreed to unite with the reformed Kehukee. The spirit of brotherhood in Christ which effected the earlier merger of Separate and Regular Baptists into the reformed Kehukee Association had continued, allowing the churches of the reformed Kehukee to resolve their differences with those which had rejected the 1777 reformation.

All these evidences of friendly relations between the Separates and Regulars can be attributed to the providence of God rather than man’s disposition. When Regular Baptist preacher John Gano first attended the Sandy Creek association he was not recognized. His presence was greeted with suspicion by the general membership. Elder Stearns, however, showed him great Christian affection and brotherly kindness. By the same token, in Georgia, when Daniel Marshall first met Mr. Botsford, recently ordained from the Regular Baptist Charleston Association, he was reluctant to extend fellowship. However, after resolving certain „slight differences” the two established a close friendship and fellowship which lasted the remainder of Elder Marshall’s life.

The Separates were jealous of their doctrine and practice. They were unwilling to surrender their beliefs or practices to the formality of the Regular Baptists. At the same time there were many among the Regulars, whose religious heritage was primitive Baptist, who retained their love for a simple and heartfelt religion. When they came into contact with the Separates their reaction was a longing to worship the Lord as their ancestors had.

Elder Edward Morgan, a Welshman and Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, expressed the sentiments of many Regulars in his enthusiastic admiration of the Separate Baptists. Beginning in 1770 Elder Edwards composed a notebook of material to be used for a history he later planned to write. Although he did not live to write his history, his notes were used extensively by Backus, in his History of New England with Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists and by Benedict in his History of the Baptists.

A short excerpt from Elder Morgan’s notebook provides a flavor of the admiration he felt for the Separate Baptists. Writing of the motherhood of Sandy Creek church he notes „It is a mother church, nay a grand mother and a great grand mother. All the Separate baptists sprang hence not only eastward towards the sea, but westward towards the great Mississippi, but northward to Virginia and southward to South Carolina and Georgia. The word went forth from this sion, and great was the company of them who published it, in so much that her converts were as the drops of dew. This first church that sprang hence was Abbott’s Creek, the Deep River, Little river, New River, (Ezek. Hunter), Southwest (Charles Marklin), Trent (James McDaniel), Staunton-river, Virg. (William Murphy), Fall-creek, VA (Samuel Harris), Danriver, Va. (Dutton Lane), Grassy-creek (James Reed), John Walker’s church, Va Amelia Va. (Jeremia Walker), Fairforest, S. C. (Phil Mulkey) Congaree, S. C. (James Rees), Stephens-Creek, S. C.; (Dan. Marshal), Shallow-fords, N. C. (Joseph Murphy), &c.”

The phenomenon of the merger of Separates and Regulars warrants some consideration. It has been previously noted that in England, when integration of the primitives and Particulars occurred, the primitives’ identity was obscured. However, it appears their doctrinal sentiments were retained by some, though they were formally identified as Particulars. Upon arriving in America, when they became acquainted with the Separates, those holding to the primitive faith reemerged and sought union with the Separates. After the two bodies of Baptists integrated they eventually referred to themselves as Primitive Baptists. In America, it was not the Separates or primitives whose identity became obscured by integration, for their faith and doctrine remained the same. However, the Particulars lost their distinct identity. Over a period of seventy years the primitive faith and practice of the Separates came to dominate the integration. This seems reasonable since it is known that some portion of the Particulars possessed a religious heritage of primitive faith and practice. In some instances they were perhaps only a generation removed from their own primitive Baptist roots.

Those who resisted this migration toward primitive faith usually separated themselves from the main body. By the end of the mission/anti-mission divisions, formal use of the London Confession as the principle statement of beliefs of Primitive Baptist Churches and Associations in America was rare. The numerous documents which replaced the Particular Baptist Confession are similar to the Midland, Kehukee and Sandy Creek Articles of Faith. Widespread abandonment of the London Confession diminished its prestige as a creed to such an extent that most contemporary Primitive Baptists possess only a passing knowledge ofthe document’s content.

It may be surmised that God, in his infinite wisdom, used the „good offices” of the Particular Baptists to deliver a large number of his saints to America as sovereign grace baptists, many of them yet holding to primitive faith. As such, they were prepared for the faith and practice of the primitives they found here. God then used a few pious Separate Baptist brethren, filling them with the fire of the Gospel and a zeal of God according to knowledge, to labor in this new field, which was white and ready for the harvest. The fervent Spirit of God which was manifest by these primitive faith preachers melted the hearts of many of God’s saints, who had come to America loving the doctrines of grace. Once here, they learned to love the spirit of grace as well. Thus, the primitive faith reemerged in America in greater proportions than it had been exercised in England for many centuries.

The contribution of early Welsh immigrants, to the union of the Separates and Regulars, must be noted. When they came to America, many brought a pure form doctrine, which had been held by Welsh Baptists since antiquity. Their preachers, whether Regular or Separate, in large part, were primitive. In his book, Primitive Baptist History, Elder W. S. Craig provides modest biographies of several of these able ministers of the gospel. While we will not repeat his work, the significance of the labors of such pious evangelicals demands they be identified in this writing. Welsh Baptist notables include; Elders Thomas Griffin, John Miles, Morgan Edwards, Samuel Jones, Abel Morgan, William Davis, Hugh Davis, Davis Evans, Nathaniel Jenkins, Griffith Jones, Caleb Evans, Elias Thomas, Enoch Morgan and many more brethren who preached the pure doctrines of grace in power and demonstration of Spirit of God.

Likewise, much is owed to Particular Baptist worthies for their faithfulness and piety. We must also thank God for the evangelical zeal of Elder Stearns and his small army of preachers. By God’s grace they all worked together for good for those who love the Lord. Finally, the greatest debt of gratitude is owed the heavenly Father for his providence and mercy in sustaining and delivering the primitive faith to America.

Separate Baptist Faith and Practice

The Separate Baptists were unique among the Baptists of America, including both General and Regular, concerning the immediate working of the Spirit upon an individual. Elder Robert Semple wrote of the initial reaction of many to the doctrine preached by Elders Stearns and Marshall. „Having always supposed that religion consisted in nothing more than the practice of its outward duties, they could not comprehend how it should be necessary to feel conviction and conversion. But to be able to ascertain the time and place of one’s conviction and conversion was, in their estimation, wonderful indeed. These points were all strenuously contended for by the new preachers.”

David Benedict, quoting Semple, in his history of the Baptists of America offers additional insight into the doctrine of the Separate Baptists. He wrote, „Mr. Stearns and most of the Separates had strong faith in the immediate teachings of the Spirit. They believed that to those who sought him earnestly, God often gave evident tokens of his will. That such indications of the divine pleasure, partaking of the nature of inspiration, were above, though not contrary to reason, and that following these, still leaning in every step upon the same wisdom and power by which they were first actuated, they would inevitably be led to the accomplishment of the two great objects of a Christian life, the glory of God and the salvation of men.”

As has been noted, some have imagined Elders Stearns and Marshall were Arminian in their theology. In their efforts to claim a historical argument for their own position they assert Elders Stearns, Marshall and Burkitt were supporters of the missionary system. With this latter claim, they strain to make evangelical zeal a missionary system. Further, they incorrectly assume only Arminians embraced Fuller’s missionary scheme. This is not so. The Regular Baptists of the Philadelphia and Charleston Associations were enthusiastic in their support of the missionary movement.

Elders Stearns, Marshall and Burkitt all traveled extensively, and constituted numerous churches. But they did so under the Apostolic plan, „Go your ways; behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. And unto whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be unto this house.” (Luke 10:4-5) They did not pursue Fuller and Carey’s missionary schemes.

It is true these Elders traveled into new areas spreading the gospel; but, they did not rely upon missionary societies to define their fields of labor. They did not carry indoctrination tracts with them. And, they did not require a salary in order to travel. They responded to the leading influence of the Holy Spirit in determining their labors. They traveled by faith, relying upon God’s providence for food and shelter. This is the true pattern of evangelical liberty.

History will not support a notion that Stearns and Marshall were Arminians. Such assertions are universally void of documented evidence of their belief in Arminius’ theories. No church which they formed include Arminian statements of beliefs in their constitution. None of these churches were identified with Arminius until after 1776. However, original documents of churches constituted by Stearns and Marshall do exist, which attest to their belief in the doctrines of particular redemption and free grace.

Further, the testimony of eyewitness accounts confirm their love of the doctrines of election and predestination. Elder Burkitt, describes Stearns and Marshall together with the numerous elders they ordained as believers in the sovereign and free grace of God through election and predestination. His hardy endorsement and devoted affection to the labors of these two brethren is testimony as to their doctrinal orientation. He wanted fellowship with the churches they constituted. Would Elder Burkitt have desired fellowship with the Separates if they were free-will Baptists, after having just helped write primitive Articles of Faith for the Kehukee Association which denounce free-willism? Plentiful records of the warm and frequent fellowships between the churches of the Kehukee and the churches of the Separate Baptists are too great a witness of their common doctrinal sentiments. This witness is sealed with their amalgamation in 1789 as the United Baptist Association.

According to Elder Burkitt, Stearns and Marshall left the Congregational or Standing Order. Their removal from their former doctrinal sentiment, to primitive faith is well documented. It seems unlikely they would have abandoned the doctrines of election and predestination without somewhere leaving a record as to their reasons for departing from the doctrines of Grace and embracing Free-willism.

Robert Semple, Separate Baptist minister and historian was an eyewitness to many of the activities of the Separate Baptists (including divisions). As a Separate Baptist Elder who understood their doctrine, a man whose integrity remains to this day unchallenged, he must be considered the premiere and authoritative resource of Separate Baptist history. In his history of the Virginia Baptists, Elder Semple makes no statement, nor does he intimate, that the Separate Baptists were originally Arminians. He does observe that some were overcome with vanity and succumbed to Arminian sentiment. But he cites this occurring first in the 1770s, during the early days of the great revival. He informs us, „Some of the preachers, likewise, falling unhappily into the Arminian scheme, stirred up no small disputation, and thereby imperceptibly drove their opponents to the borders, if not within the lines of Antinomianism.” This statement clearly indicates the brethren of whom Elder Semple wrote abandon their original position, „falling unhappily in the Arminian scheme.”

Semple identifies 1775 as the first year Arminian sentiment came to public attention among the Separate Baptists of the Virginia Association. In response to a query concerning general atonement, a debate ensued. After two days of continuous discussion a vote was taken by the delegates and the Arminian position was defeated. However, in a spirit of toleration, a resolution was accomplished. Those holding to the original position of particular redemption offered to tolerate the presence of the minority promoting Arminianism, hoping the Lord would correct the error. They expressed their desire for continued fellowship in a short letter written to those holding the Arminian position.

Dear Brethren,- Inasmuch as a continuation of your Christian fellowship seems nearly as dear to us as our lives, and seeing our difficulties concerning your principles with respect to merit in the creature, particular election, and final perseverance of the saints, are in hopeful measure removing, we do willingly retain you in fellowship, not raising the least bar. But do heartily wish and pray that God, in His kind providence, in His own time will bring it about when Israel shall all be of one mind, speaking the same things.

Signed by Order.

„John Williams, Moderator.”

While the brotherly kindness and charity of those who so desired continued fellowship is greatly admired, one wonders if the tolerance of Arminius’ doctrine in their midst did not contribute to a greater loss of fellowship in the divisions of the 1800s.

In 1776 a split did occur over the Arminian question. At this session the introductory sermon was preached by John Walker, who took I Corinthians 13:11 as a text. According to Semple, Walker „had fully embraced the whole Arminian system, and was determined to preach it at every risk.” He was called before the Association for preaching unsound doctrine. Walker’s response was to withdraw from the Association together with all those who supported Arminianism. In Semple’s words they „immediately set up for independence.”

The Separate Baptists suffered from other doctrinal lapses. During the October 1774 session of the southern district of the Association a query was considered concerning the offices of the church. Using Ephesians 4:11-13 as proof text, the association agreed, almost unanimously, that the office of Apostle still existed. Without further discussion the delegates nominated and ordained, by laying on of hands, Elder Samuel Harris, as Christ’s apostle. It was thought this office served to oversee the faith and practice of the churches. Elder Harris’ authority was described as follows. „His work was to pervade the churches; to do, or at least to see to, the work of ordination, and to set in order things that were wanting, and to make report to the next Association.”

According to Elder Semple, subsequent discussion of the rash implementation of this office „caused no little warmth on both sides.” Fortunately, the Association’s error came to nought. Elder Harris never exercised his new authority. Upon reflection, at the next session of the Association, the act of creating a new apostolic office was rescinded. Elder Harris eventually succumbed to the temptations of Arminianism and left the Association.

The theology of Elders Stearns and Marshall is well documented. There is no doubt as to their doctrinal affections. They believed in election and predestination. This is apparent, from the constitutional statement of beliefs of Sandy Creek church, written by Elders Stearns.

While Sandy Creek Church, where Elder Shubal Sterns was pastor, did not have formal Articles of faith, the statement of beliefs contained in the church Covenant, written in 1756, testifies of the Old Baptist origin of their doctrine.

„Holding believers baptism; the laying on of hands; particular election of grace by the predestination of God in Christ; effectual calling by the Holy Ghost; free justification through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ; progressive sanctification through God’s grace and truth; and final perseverance, or continuance of the saints in grace; the resurrection of these bodies after death, at the day which God has appointed to judge the quick and dead by Jesus Christ, by the power of God and by the resurrection of Christ; and life everlasting. Amen.”

Though it was some years later before Sandy Creek formally adopted Articles of Faith, their simple statement of beliefs, contained in the original church covenant, is easily understood and a good statement of the doctrines of grace. Any orthodox Primitive Baptist Church can accept the doctrine of their covenant.

Prior to Sandy Creek adopting more formal Articles of Faith, the Georgia Association was constituted. It was composed, in part, by several churches which Daniel Marshall helped constitute, including Kiokee where he served as pastor until his death in 1784. Also, Elder Silas Mercer, formerly a member of Kehukee Church, in the Kehukee Association, was involved with the constitution of the Georgia Association. The Articles of Faith of this association are free grace and primitive in their doctrinal expressions. For instance, Article four of the Georgia Association Articles of Faith reads; „We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people, and the eternal election of a definite number of the human race, to grace and glory: And that there was a covenant of Grace or redemption made between the Father and the Son, before the world began, in which salvation is secure, and that they in particular are redeemed.” Article six further demonstrates Daniel Marshall believed in sovereign grace. „We believe that all those who were chosen in Christ, will be effectually called, regenerated, converted, sanctified, and supported by the spirit and power of God, so that they shall persevere in grace and not one of them be finally lost.”

In 1816 The Sandy Creek Association, in which Sandy Creek Church held membership, adopted formal Articles of Faith. The articles represent more detailed explanations of the statement of beliefs contained in the Church’s Covenant. Like the Georgia Association Articles, the Sandy Creek confession expresses the doctrinal tenets of free grace. Article four demonstrates this point. „We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.”

Lumpkin writes, „the Separate Baptists were unique among the Christian groups of the south. For a quarter of a century their distinctive outlook was to keep them aloof from other groups, including their Baptist neighbors who belonged to different traditions.” He describes their unique belief concerning regeneration. „Their teaching centered in individual conversion and regeneration. Conversion was seen as coming not usually through fellowship of a church or family but through a separate act of God upon the individual.”

It is not known why the Separates were initially opposed to written Articles of Faith, but their opposition is frequently noted by historians. If their stated reasons are the full explanation for the aversion, they show themselves to be committed to precisely the same principle of scriptural authority ascribed to the Old Baptists of Wales by Welsh Baptist preacher Howell Vaughn in the early 17th century. Their often stated reason for non-reliance on Articles of faith was the same as historian Jonathan Davis said of Elder Vaughn and the ancient Baptists of Olchon. „They would have order, and no confusion; the Word of God their only rule.”

Semple infers the Separate’s antipathy for the London Confession was because of the influence the document wielded. He notes the Separates opposed subordination of inspired scripture to uninspired works of men. In their first response to the Regulars’ application for uniting the two bodies, the Virginia Separate Baptists seemed to presume the Regulars were too attached to their confession. Semple’s assessment of their reluctance to promote written principles of faith is summarized with this excerpt. „They did not entirely approve of the practice of religious societies binding themselves too strictly by confessions of faith, seeing there was danger of their finally usurping too high a place.”

A discussion of the doctrine of the Separate Baptists must include some notice of their mode of delivering sermons. Semple provides a description of their preaching which is especially appreciated by those who yet rejoice to hear the doctrines of grace preached in power and demonstration of the Spirit of God. In portraying their preaching liberty, Semple paints a picture which is familiar to those who yet hold to the primitive faith.

But their manner of preaching was, if possible, much more novel than their doctrines. The Separates in New England had acquired a very warm and pathetic address, accompanied by strong gestures and a singular tone of voice. Being often deeply affected themselves while preaching, correspondent affections were felt by their pious hearers, which were frequently expressed by tears, trembling, shouts and acclamations. All these they brought with them into their new habitation. The people were greatly astonished, having never seen such things on this wise before. Many mocked, but, the power of God attending them, many also trembled.

The Separate Baptists practiced a heartfelt religion. Their preaching was warm and tender. During the preaching service, shouts of praise and weeping was often heard from the congregation.

The doctrine of the Separate Baptists was primitive. They believed in the immediate workings of the Holy Spirit. The immediate work of the Spirit precludes gospel preparation or instrumentality in regeneration or else the working of the Spirit is delayed until the preacher arrives. Immediacy of the Spirit eliminates works systems of all types, including evangelical efforts, for the purpose of the eternal salvation of sinners.

Though they were not antinomian, the Separate Baptists rejected the works system of the Arminians, who taught one must accept Christ to be saved. They also rejected the back door works system of the Calvinists, who taught that acceptance of Christ and obedience in baptism are the first and essential evidences that one is saved; and, that lacking these external evidences, it must be concluded that one is not saved. They believed in obedience to God, but not from a motive of producing evidences of grace in order to receive an intellectual assurance of eternal salvation. They understood that such convictions must originate in one’s soul, by faith. There is no righteousness in the works of a law service, whether through the front door or back. Their motive for obedience was love of God. As those embraced in his Covenant of Grace, their obedience and good works were evidences of grace, motivated by love alone, to the full assurance of a strong consolation by a hope in Christ Jesus.

Chapter IX

The Kehukee Association

The first Baptist churches in North Carolina were Arminian General Baptist. They were organized principally as a result of the evangelizing efforts of Elders Paul Palmer and Joseph Smith. In his book, A Concise History of the Kehukee Baptist Association, Elder Lemuel Burkitt lists several churches in North Carolina which were originally founded on the Arminian plan of the General Baptists. They included the churches at Tosniot, Kehukee, Falls at Tar River, Fishing Creek, Reedy Creek, Sandy Run and Camden County. He notes of these churches, „They preached and adhered to the Arminian, or Free-will doctrines, and their churches were first established upon this system.” Further, Elder Burkitt notes these early churches were composed of any who believed in baptism by immersion. „They gathered churches without requiring an experience of grace previous to their baptism; but baptize all who believed in the doctrine of baptism by immersion, and requested baptism of them.”

While this may seem very strange to us, it must be remembered that all the established churches, from which most people joined the Baptists, practiced pedobaptism. Pedobaptism does not require an experience of grace prior to baptism. The Calvinist Presbyterians and Congregationalists along with the Anglicans, all baptized unbelievers. When, Palmer and Smith came into North Carolina, they did likewise except they baptized by immersion.

These churches continued with their Arminian plan for several years until Elders Van Horn and Miller from the Philadelphia Association arrived preaching Calvin’s theology. By the preaching of these two Elders many members of the General Baptist churches were converted to Calvinism. However, Elder Burkitt notes of these brethren what Jonathan Davis noted of the Welch reformers, Wroth, Erbury and Powell; they were not converted enough. The churches retained members baptized before they had an experience of grace. Some of those so retained asserted they had received baptism in the hope of being saved.

Seven churches formally organized themselves into the Kehukee Association of Regular Baptists in 1765, adopting Keach’s Philadelphia version of the 1689 London Confession as their Articles of Faith. They established formal correspondence with the Charleston Association. They held no fellowship or formal visitation with the Separate Baptists in the area.

Noting the rapid increase of the Separate Baptists in North Carolina and Virginia, the Association sent Elders Jonathan Thomas and John Meglamre to the 1772 session of the Virginia Separate Baptist Association for the purpose of establishing correspondence. The Separate Baptists agreed to consider the possibility of fellowship and sent Elders Elijah Craig and David Thompson to the Kehukee Association held later that year. After investigating their order, the delegates found the Kehukee in disorder and returned to Virginia with a recommendation that the Separates withhold recognition and fellowship.

Elder Sylvester Hassell notes the Separates initial rejection of the Regulars’ overtures of fellowship. „These Separates objected to the Regular or Kehukee Baptists in the following particulars: 1. Because they did not require strictly from those who applied for baptism an experience of grace. 2. Because they held members in their churches who acknowledged they were baptized before conversion. 3. Because they indulged too much in superfluity of apparel. There were other objections of minor importance. The most forcible objection of all appeared to be the retention of members who had been baptized in unbelief; and this was admitted on the part of the Regulars to be wrong; on which account several of their churches sought to correct it, by requiring all such of their members be baptized. This course gave offense to some other churches, who opposed the reformation; and, as a consequence, the churches at an Association held at Falls of Tar River, in October, 1775, divided; a part of them holding their session in the house, and the others in the woods, both claiming to be the Kehukee Association.”

The first and second objections proved to be of greatest concern to the Kehukee brethren. According to Elder Burkitt, the issue of unconverted members was a carryover from their General Baptist days. As already noted, during that time, people were accepted for baptism and church membership without concern as to whether or not they had any spiritual evidence of a prior work of grace. Although they later came to be Regular Baptists, some members admitted they originally requested baptism as General Baptists with the hope they would be saved.

Apparently Elders Van Horn and Miller, the Regular Baptist ministers from the Philadelphia Association who converted these churches, felt that General Baptist baptisms were acceptable for membership in Regular Baptist Churches. This suggests their support of a principle of open membership. When the General Baptists were converted from the Arminian plan to Calvin’s plan, becoming Regular Baptists, there is no evidence their baptisms were investigated though performed by authority of the Arminian plan. In his history of the Kehukee, Elder Burkitt never raises the issue of rebaptism. Since he is very specific as to the details of the Kehukee’s transformation from Arminianism to Calvinism, had these brethren been rebaptized, it seems reasonable Elder Burkitt would have included this fact. Also, both Elders Burkitt and Hassell use language in their respective accounts which indicates they were not.

From this mid-eighteenth century episode, together with the Philadelphia Association’s 1806 acceptance of „Tunker Universalist” baptisms, it may be assumed the Regulars recognized other denomination’s baptismal authority as long as it was by immersion. It is evident from their confession that they required believers baptism in principle; however, it appears even at this early date, their practice of this tenet was lax.

The wording of the Separates first objection suggests that at the time the objection was raised the Kehukee Churches were still lax about investigating a candidate’s condition of grace before they administered baptism. This was a serious charge, but one Elder Burkitt did not deny. In fact, his subsequent statements and actions suggest that he agreed with the Separates. This would explain why the charge is leveled against the Kehukee churches as a present error. This error later brought great agony to the Kehukee brethren. Some ministers said they were baptized, ordained and had baptized others before having a true experience of grace themselves. Some members said they were baptized with the hope of getting saved. This was in keeping with the Arminian plan of offering salvation to all who said they believed. People fearing the fires of hell were willing to believe if believing would save them. Thus, they stated their belief in Christ and were baptized, yet without a true work of grace in their souls. This also was in keeping with the practices of the Presbyterian and Congregationalist Calvinists who practiced pedobaptism and had a remnant of their membership they termed „inferior members,” people baptized as infants who yet did not possess evidences of grace.

A brief discussion concerning this matter must be injected. The idea of having members who were baptized without a personal experience of grace seems strange indeed today. However, in the eighteenth century religious affiliation was compulsory both by law and as a strong cultural more. Because of this, it is reasonable to accept at face value the numerous statements made by writers of that day as to the presence of false professors. People had certain beliefs about God because belief in God was mandated both by society as law and culturally as acceptable behavior. However, in reprobates this belief was not heartfelt. It was the natural belief Paul spoke of in Romans 1:19-20. Natural belief in God was strengthened by the existence of mandated religion which resulted in people with no experience of grace receiving extensive instruction in the gospel. Natural belief was also sustained in the fact that most institutes of learning were operated by churches. Because of the societal norm of belief in God, reprobates believed He existed, were concerned with the thought of going to hell, and, therefore, professed religion to avoid it.

Such is not the case today. Today, reprobates are simply unbelievers, rather than false professors. Today, People who have no faith also have little natural belief about God. Twentieth century society is absent enforced societal norms concerning God and generally void of strong mores which might serve to promote strict belief in God by society as a whole. Society has degenerated to the conclusion of Paul’s description of reprobates in Romans 1:21-32. Therefore reprobates no longer possess significant natural understanding about God because they are not compelled to do so. Thus, they also do not feel compelled to make false professions to avoid final judgement, because they do not believe in a final judgement.

It is presumed the rigid legalism of Calvinism may have lent itself to compelling unregenerates to a conjured belief. This was complimented by a societal fiat of exposure to gospel instruction. Such a circumstance could have perpetuated the problem of unbelievers baptism even after the Kehukee churches adopted Calvin’s theology.

With a back door works system of „fruit inspection,” which judges people’s salvation based solely upon external practice, Calvinism places limited emphasis on the need for a heartfelt religion. It is not that the Regular Baptists rejected the notion of a heartfelt experience; however, the practices of Calvinist legalism tends to obscure such experiences. Without heartfelt religion, these brethren were forced to focus solely on manifestations of obedience which they interpreted as acts of righteousness. Thus, people were lead to a mistaken assumption that works alone were reliable indicators of unmistakable and irrefutable evidences of grace.

Baptism was one such work. Calvinist ministers spoke of obedience in baptism both as an evidence and requirement of salvation. Their doctrine of gospel instrumentality insisted that regeneration was accomplished in concert with hearing the gospel; and, their doctrine of strict perseverance mandated baptism as the first act after regeneration. The partnership of these tenets convinced people that all true believers are baptized; and, if one is not baptized, he is not saved because he lacks the first evidence of salvation. Thus, even after the Arminian plan was set aside, people who were void of a heartfelt work of grace evidently continued to present themselves for baptism to fulfill the first requisite and manifest the first evidence of salvation. They were baptized not to get saved; rather, they were baptized to prove to themselves and others they were saved. Though this is a distinction between Arminianism and Calvinism relative to gospel instrumentality, it arrives at the same conclusion, unsaved church members. In practice, most people were unable to make a distinction. This is why unbelievers baptism continued to be a problem even after the Kehukee churches transformed from Arminianism to Calvinism.

This problem was not particular to the Kehukee Association. In 1753, in response to a query from Kingswood Church regarding the necessity of an assurance of faith prior to baptism, the Philadelphia Association responded as follows. „It appears to us, both from scripture and experience, that true saving faith may subsist where there is not assurance of faith. Therefore, in answer to the second query, That a person sound in judgment, professing his faith of reliance on Christ for mercy and salvation, accompanied with a gospel conversation, ought to be baptized.” This statement seems to indicate the Philadelphia Particular Baptists were also suffering from the logical consequence of Calvinist legalism, which quenches the spirit. Thus, spiritual motivations of rational outward expressions of the spirit such as weeping, shouts of praise, joyous countenance, and peace are lost. Simply stated, in general, their religion was not heartfelt.

Void of heartfelt religion, the Calvinist Regular Baptists were forced to view only works as evidences of grace. They encouraged people to be baptized even if they did not feel the assurance recieved by the witness of the divine indwelling of the Spirit. They reasoned that baptism, as a response to the need for assurance of salvation, indicated salvation. The theology of Calvin placed the Regulars in the awkward circumstance of accepting people for baptism despite their inability to profess an immediate experience of grace or some experiential evidence of God’s indwelling.

This was not acceptable to the Separate Baptists who practiced a heart felt religion. Their scriptural searching and own experiences taught that the effects of regeneration on the soul was felt throughout the newly born again. They would not accept people for baptism who could not express a faithful hope of assurance, that they felt the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost dwelling urging their obedience to baptism. (This is precisely the issue of Covenant of Works verses Covenant of Grace which greeted Elder John Clarke when he arrived in Boston in 1637).

When the Separates came along, preaching a gospel of heartfelt religion which stirred believers souls and compelled them to weep and shout with joy, the Kehukee Particular Baptists were astonished. Such displays of religious fervor were unknown to the Regular Baptists. However, when they saw the effect of such preaching and fellowship, and the great revival God was accomplishing through the Separate Baptists, they could not deny its validity. When the Separates pointed out the effect of the Regulars’ Calvinist legal system of belief and salvation, the Kehukee brethren could not ignore their criticisms. They evidently had members among them who lacked an experience of grace, which was the logical conclusion of both their Arminian and Calvinist theologies.

The lax practices of the Regular Baptists concerning heartfelt expressions of belief and hope in Christ, as an evidence of grace prior to baptism, and retaining members who could not honestly make such a statement caused a division in the association. The Separate’s criticisms forced the Regular churches to examine their doctrine and practice. Evidently some churches were not satisfied with what they found. Three of the churches in the association adopted a declaration of withdrawal against „every brother that walked disorderly.” Stating their motive, Elder Burkitt wrote, „we were under very great impressions to begin a reformation of the churches.” The association, and one church, split.

The churches which resisted reformation, holding to their original plan of baptism, were Tosniot, Fishing Creek, Reedy Creek, and part of Falls at Tar River. Their Elders were John Moore, Charles Daniel, William Burges, and Thomas Daniel.

Reformation of the Kehukee Association

Reformation of the Kehukee occurred in 1777. The Separates, who first identified their problems, helped in the reformation. Among the cadre of ministers of the Kehukee only Elders John Meglamre, David Barrow and Lemuel Burkitt originally supported reformation. However, owing to these brethren’s sincere desire to put the cause of Christ ahead of man’s desires, the Separates lent their support. Four Separate Baptist Churches joined the reformed Kehukee Association.

In all, ten churches gathered at Sussex Meeting house in August, 1777, to reform the Kehukee Association. The six Regular Baptist churches of this union were; Bertie, Elder Lemuel Burkitt, Pastor; Sussex, Elder John Meglamre, pastor; Brunswick, Elder Zachary Thompson, pastor; Isle of Wight, Elder David Barrow, pastor; Chowan, no pastor listed; and Granville, Elder Henry Ledbetter, pastor. The Separate Baptists Churches included; Bute, Elder Joshua Kelly, pastor; Sussex, Elder James Bell, pastor; Rocky Swamp, Elder Jesse Read, Pastor; and Edgecombe, Elder John Tanner, pastor.

It is interesting to note Elder Burkitt supplies a very general explanation as to why a new Confession was adopted. His explanation is pointedly absent any reason why the Philadelphia Confession was not retained. However, he references the Separates concern as to the orthodoxy of some of the Regular Baptists. Further, it is clear from the new Kehukee Confession of Faith and the Sandy Creek Church statement of beliefs, together with the Sandy Creek Confession of Faith of 1816, the Separate Baptist brethren did not hold to some of Calvin’s theories. Elder Burkitt’s complete explanation for the new Confession is as follows.

1. Some of them were churches that claimed a prerogatives [sic.] of being the Kehukee Association, that never had departed from their original principles; therefore in order to convince the other churches and the world at large, that they still held the same faith and order they were at first established on, it was necessary to present to this Association, and make public, the confession of faith.2. As some of these churches which at this time were about to unite in the Association with us, had never before been members, it was necessary they should present a confession of their faith, that it might be known whether we all agreed in principles or not.

This statement is a little confusing since it does not explain why the association dropped the London Confession and adopted their own. Also, it seems to indicate that certain churches refused to acknowledge their past irregularities of faith and practice. Further, none of the Regular Baptist Churches were holding to their original principles of faith since originally they were Arminians.

What may be concluded from the statement together with the fact of adoption of the new confession is the new Confession of Faith is an accurate representation of what the brethren of the Reformed Kehukee Association believed. Further, The Kehukee brethren made a conscience decision to drop the London Confession in 1777. That is fact. They did so as part of a reformation of their churches. That is fact. The Separates who joined the Association did not reform, as their criticisms of the Regular Baptists prompted the reformation. That is fact. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude the Kehukees reformed their doctrine and practice to conform to the doctrine and practice of the Separate Baptists.

Further, the first article of Elder Burkitt’s statement tends to intimate a bit of a contentious attitude in some of the Kehukee Churches. He was evidently speaking of churches which wished to reform with the Kehukee, but claimed they were orthodox as the original Kehukee. This is an extraordinary situation. They refused to admit they had erroneous practice, but desired to join in a reformation with sister churches who freely admitted the original Kehukee was disorderly. If this is what Elder Burkitt is alluding to, it is understandable that the Separates were suspicious of these churches’ soundness. Perhaps the phrase, „to convince other churches” refers to a need for some of the Kehukee Regular churches to allay the suspicions of the Separate Baptist Churches, as well as the properly reformed Kehukee churches.

Perhaps since Elder Burkitt’s book was contemporary and because he had come out from the Regular Baptists where he, no doubt, had many friends, he felt it the better part of expediency to avoid specific discussions of the reasons the Kehukee adopted a new Confession of Faith. Whatever the reasons, the effect of their action was far reaching. Today all orthodox Primitive Baptist Churches have long since abandoned the London Confession.


In 1787 the Lord allowed the Separates and Regulars of Virginia to effect recognition and fellowship. These two groups, which were very similar in doctrine and practice, were allowed to set aside differences and join in a unity of fellowship.

The 1789 general union of the Separate Baptists and Regular Baptists of North Carolina occurred after many years of only limited fellowship. The reformed Kehukee finally agreed to unite with their former Regular brethren. Although a small fellowship had taken place in 1777, the larger body of Separate Baptists remained distant from the Regulars.

In 1785 the Association appointed a committee to work out a plan to combine all the Regulars and Separates in the area. The committee returned the following year with a recommendation that the association propose fellowship with the Separates based upon common beliefs plus a statement of three of principles concerning baptism. The principles were:

1. We think that none but believers in Christ have a right to the ordinance of baptism; therefore, we will not hold communion with those who plea for the validity of baptism in unbelief.

2. We leave every church member to decide for himself whether he has been baptized in unbelief or not.

3. We leave every minister at liberty to baptize, or not, such person as desires to be baptized, being scrupulous about their former baptism.

With the issue of believer’s baptism squarely addressed, the Separates and Regulars agreed to join in a broader fellowship. A union between the two groups was formerly agreed to on October 10, 1789. The Association passed a resolution they titled A Plan or Constitution of the United Baptist Association, Formerly Called the Kehukee Association. The Union included the ten churches of the Reformed Kehukee, and several Regular Baptist Churches, including some which had dissented from the reformation of the Association in 1777. In all, fifty-two churches joined the new United Baptist Association. Further, the union established fellowship with the numerous Separate Baptist Churches throughout Virginia, North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. It is from this nucleus of churches in North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina, that most modern Primitive Baptist Churches branched or descended.

It is interesting to note, it was not until after the Kehukee Association united that the spiritual revival of the Great Awakening reached them with full force, and even then it was twelve years after their union. Twelve is a number with ecclesiastic significance, representing completeness. There are three significant events in the history of the Kehukee Association which are each divided by twelve years. In 1777 the Kehukee reformed, purging itself of the error of unbelievers baptism. Twelve years later, in 1789, they established a united fellowship with their former sister churches and the larger body of Separate Baptist churches. Twelve years later they began an era of tremendous revival, beginning in 1801.

Since their original constitution in 1765 the churches of the Kehukee had complained of spiritual coldness. Their distress was so great they formally adopted resolutions to petition God for revival. Their first resolution called for a day of fasting and prayer each month. The second resolution called for each member of the Association to pray simultaneously every day for revival. Their last resolution called upon each church to meet for a day of prayer once each month. They noted there was to be no preaching or exhortation and that each man could pray no more than thirty-minutes.

Elder Burkitt documents complaints of coldness from the churches, concerning their spiritual conditions. With an air of disappointment he included the following notations in his book, concerning the lack of revival and in-gathering. „There were but few added by baptism for several years. In 1798, only fifteen members were added in all the churches. In 1790, there were four hundred and forty-six baptized. In 1791, ninety-nine. In 1792, one hundred and ninety-two. In 1794, fifty-seven. In 1795, only nineteen. In 1796, only thirty-three. In 1797, thirteen. In 1798, forty-three. In 1799, seventy-two. In 1800, one hundred and twenty-nine. In 1801, one hundred and thirty-eight were returned in the letters from the churches to the Association. Thus the work progressed but slowly, but there always appeared some worthy characters in every church sensible of the coldness of religion, and at almost every Association would be devising some ways and means to bring on a revival.”

All this time the Lord was preparing the Kehukee brethren for revival. He had already sent the Separate Baptists into their midst. He showed them errors in faith and practice which required correction. He allowed their leaders to place the cause ahead of popular sentiment, even at the risk of division. He gave them an ancient and orthodox creed to adopt as their Articles of Faith. He allowed them to grow in knowledge and understanding for twelve years until they were able to help their former sister Regular Baptist churches correct the same errors. He gave them twelve more years to grow spiritually in grace, in order to be mature sufficiently for the tremendous revival he was to effect. When they were knowledgeable enough in the doctrines or grace, their walk obedient enough, and they were spiritually mature enough, the Lord sent revival.

According to Elder Burkitt the full impact of revival reached the Kehukee Association in 1801. Upon his return from a preaching trip, he announced publicly the churches in Kentucky alone had baptized six thousand in the previous eight months. Elder Burkitt’s announcement created a profound stirring within the members of the Association. Of the 1801 session of the Kehukee he notes, „Such a Kehukee Association we had never before seen. The ministers all seemed alive in the work of the Lord, and every Christian present in rapturous desire was ready to cry, „Thy kingdom come.” The ministers and delegates carried the sacred flame home to their churches, and the fire began to kindle in the greatest part of the churches, and the work increased.”

Elder Burkitt continues his description of this revival, noting that preachers were liberated to preach with divine power and demonstration of the Spirit of God, as had never been experienced before. „The word preached was attended with such a divine power that some meetings two or three hundred would be in floods of tears, and many crying out loudly, „What shall we do to be saved?” He continues, „Old Christians were so revived they were all on fire to see their neighbors, their neighbors’ children and their own families so much engaged. Many backsliders who had been runaway for many years, returned weeping home. The ministers seemed all united in love, and no strife nor contention amongst them, and they all appeared to be engaged to carry on the work, and did not seem to care whose labors were most blessed so the work went on; and none seemed desirous to take the glory of it to themselves, which ought carefully to be observed.”

Acknowledging the effect of spiritual revival, Elder Burkitt describes numerous instances of conversions. „The work increasing, many were converted, and they began to join the churches. In some churches where they had not received a member by baptism for a year or two, would now frequently receive at almost every conference meeting, several members. Sometimes twelve, fourteen, eighteen, twenty, and twenty-four at several times in one day. Twenty-two and twenty-four were baptized several times at Flat Swamp, Cashie, Parker’s meeting-house, Fishing Creek, Falls at Tar River, etc. Some of the churches of the revival received nearly two-hundred members each. In four churches lying between Roanoke and Meherrin Rivers, in Bertie, Northampton, and Hartford counties, were baptized in two years about six hundred members.”

Chapter X

Succession to the Twentieth Century

Those who have traced the Kehukee, Virginia, Philadelphia, Charleston and other former Regular Baptist Associations are aware these bodies realized significant changes in both faith and practice since 1789. Indeed, most of the original Regular Baptist Associations no longer exist. In the mission/anti-mission divisions of the nineteenth century, churches from all of these associations gained new identities. Some few remained Regular Baptists, fully embracing the inventions of Fuller and Carey while retaining their Calvinist theology. In 1900 they became known formally as Landmark Baptists and are members of the American Baptist Association. However, it must be noted these brethren also experienced divisions; and today, not all who call themselves Landmark Baptists are Calvinists in their theology.

Some few churches in America are yet called Particular or Strict Baptists. Their affiliation is with the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists in England.

Many of the Regulars made a complete transformation once exposed to the heady self-flattery of the missionary scheme. They could no longer be satisfied with saving elect souls and demanded an opportunity to save all souls. They abandoned Calvin’s theology and, with missionaryism as their creed, joined in union with the General Baptists, subdividing into numerous Baptist Conferences, Unions and Societies.

Those who truly loved the doctrines of grace were more perfectly instructed. Over several decades they came to accept the truth of man’s depravity and God’s grace. They realized man can do nothing before he is born again to save himself, including receiving gracious visitation and implantation of a saving faith prior to actual regeneration. They rejected Calvin’s notions of saving faith gospel instrumentality in regeneration. They came to realize that faith is not one of the fruits of the Spirit; but rather, is one of nine elements of the single fruit of the Spirit. As such it cannot precede Spiritual indwelling in the child or God. They embraced the Old, primitive Baptist creed, which is the word of God, the only rule of faith and practice. They joined or affiliated themselves with churches whose unbroken succession of authorized baptism and true faith is traced back to Christ. In so doing, forefathers settled on an old name as their new name, Primitive Baptists.

Most Primitive Baptist churches in existence today can trace their origins back through the Kehukee, Virginia, or Georgia Associations; or, through some other church in the area, constituted through the efforts of Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, or the small army of evangelical elders they ordained. From these numerous Churches, successions reach England in one of two ways. Those who so desire, may claim succession through the Particular or, Regular Baptists, who joined union with the Separate Baptists. This path proceeds back to England through the Churches of the Philadelphia, Charleston, New York or other Particular Baptist Associations. It leads back to the represented churches of the 1689 and 1644 London Confessions, It proceeds back to John Batte and the Rwynsburg Mennonites. It continues through Walter Reynard (Lollard) to the Waldensians. It moves back to Polycarp, then John and finally the Savior.

Those who choose the Welch succession trace their primitive Baptist heritage through Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall. They follow it to Elder Valentine Wightman, Obadiah Holmes and Dr. John Clarke. It goes back through the Midland Association of 1655 prior to embracing Fuller’s errors of Calvinist gospel instrumentality. It reaches back to Elder Edward Wightman of Burton, in the Midlands in 1612, whose preaching so inflamed Anglican clergy they burned him at the stake. It traces from this brother back to the ancient mother Church at Olchon, who claims her origin in the era of the Apostle Paul and the apostolic church in first century Rome, finally, back to the Savior in Jerusalem.

The word fitly spoken by the Savior, which he gave to the Apostle Paul, was passed to Pudence, Bran Fendigaid and other noble Welshman. It was passed to martyred Alban, Aaron and Julius whom the Welsh pagan worshippers slew. It was passed to Dyfrig who withstood the Papist Austin and was slain with twelve hundred of his yoke fellows in 600 A.D. in the Vale of Carleon. It was preached by Dynawl, Tailo, Pawlin, Daniel and David. It was preached in fellowship with Walter Lollard. Sir John Oldcastle preached the same words of Christ, as flames licked his body. He passed the word to Walter Brute. It passed to Howell Vaughn and Edward Wightman. It was passed to Daniel King, John Mayo and others of the Midland Association. It passed to John Clarke and Valentine Wightman. It passed to Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall. It was passed to the one-hundred twenty-five elders they ordained. It was passed to Elders Lemuel Burkitt, John Maglamre, Nathan Mayo and others of the Kehukee brethren.

From there it spread across America. It is the doctrine Elder Richard Curtis Jr. preached in Mississippi in 1791. It is the faith which Elder Wilson Thompson preached all his life and passed to his son Elder Greg Thompson. It is the doctrine they both used with great spirit and skill as they refuted the arguments of gospel means in the mid 1800s. It was preached by Elders Lee Hanks, Achilles Coffey, John R. Daily, Walter Evans, S. F. Cayce, G. T. Mayo, J. G. Webb, S. F. Moore, Walter Cash and T. L. Webb. It is the doctrine so ably explained in the notes of the Fulton Convention of 1900. It is this same faith which is preached from Primitive Baptist pulpits today.

There is a great need for revival in the church today. She is under attack, and Satan is using his most subtle and effective weapons. We all seek spiritual revival. However, conforming ourselves to the teachings of Protestant reformers is not the answer. It was not the answer for Olchon, the Midland Churches, the Separates or the Kehukee brethren. Calvin, Owens, and Edwards or even Philpot or Spurgeon are not our role models. They were all men who served God as they felt impressed in their hearts. Our true role models are first, Jesus Christ, next the apostles, next the first century church and then New Testament saints such as Stephen, Timothy, Cornelius, Pricilla and Eunice. The relevance of their service is defined in scripture. We are not forced to wonder about their motives and activities. They are all defined examples. No such well defined role models have existed since, because the accounts of later saints were not penned by divine inspiration.

The true creed of Primitive Baptist doctrine and practice is not contained in uninspired articles of faith. Our standard for belief is the inspired word of God, the Bible. We must not succumb to the wiles of Satan in our efforts to claim God’s elect into the church or to reclaim backsliding members. The self-defined doctrines of hyper-legality will never effect true revival. Throughout history, beginning with the Pharisees of Jesus Christ’s day, such theories have always fallen by the way. Devices of men do not glorify God and therefore have never effected true revival.

True revival can occur. But it will occur only after we, as a people, humble ourselves before God in prayer, begging his forgiveness for our sins of negligence and idolatry. He will then give us spirits of repentance which will focus our minds and lives upon our complete dependence in his gracious providence. When we return to the narrow path walked by the Savior and martyred saints who gave all in their pursuit of godly righteousness, God will send others to walk with us.

The false religion of rigidly enforced ethical creeds will never effect true revival. Only when true gospel is coupled with the godly righteousness of true religion, which is in Christ Jesus, will God so bless us. The obedient walks of the saints of God will provide examples to those who long in their souls to be delivered from the bondage of corruption of their carnal existence. The gospel will explain the good news of salvation by the sovereign grace of God and give occasion to joy and peace. It will reveal the narrow pathway of true Christian discipleship. When we, as members of Christ’s church, conform the walks of our lives to Christ Jesus by the transforming of our minds away from worldly charms, then God will send revival. But first, we must humble ourselves and beg God’s forgiveness. When our minds are spiritual enough and our lives obedient enough God will send revival.

We may take a lesson from our seventeenth century brethren. When differences arose, their desire was to serve God in any way, even in disagreement. Personal attacks were few. Brethren looked for areas of agreement. Error was tolerated while labor was extended. Everyone benefitted from manifestations of godly affections. The Lord sent revival.

Though brethren sometimes did not agree, they continued to communicate in a spirit of brotherly love. When common ground could be found they quickly met there and served their creator, arm-in-arm. Contention ebbed. Satan’s influence diminished. In this environment of brotherhood and godly affection hearts melted and correction was the result. By the mercies of God’s love, his providence allowed brethren to realize they loved God more than self. They laid aside, what was for some, centuries of doctrinal heritage and declared as had the Midland Brethren „the word of God, our only rule.” Love abounded and led the charge. Order pursued and soon prevailed. The Church was edified, seen as a Bride adorned for her husband. The song of the turtle dove was heard, and peace ruled the day. The glorious Lord was seen walking among his candlesticks. The morning of revival dawned.

PART THREE : Historic Confessions of Faith

Chapter XI

Three Primitive Baptist Confessions of Faith

Previously, we have offered a brief discussion of the Particular Baptists’ 1644 and 1689 London Confessions. In particular, the discussion identified the striking similarities of the Presbyterian 1646 Westminster Confession and the 1689 London Confession. The detail and scope of their correspondence forces us to conclude that the London Confession is a slightly modified version of the older Presbyterian creed. We have offered several possibilities as to why the Particular Baptists used the Westminster Confession as a model for their Confession.

We will now attempt to survey three Baptist statements of belief which bear little resemblance to either the London or Westminster Confessions. The scope of diversity of these confessions, from those mentioned above, includes language style, detail, breadth of subject matter and theological content.

Three Confessions of Faith warrant special consideration as principle statements of primitive Baptist orthodoxy. They are the 1655 Midland Association Confession of Faith, the 1777 Reformed Kehukee Association Articles of Faith, and the 1816 Sandy Creek Association Principles of Faith. Their importance is both theological and historical. Their theological significance is found in both what they say, and what they do not say as compared to the better known London and Philadelphia Confessions of Faith. Beyond their theological content as compared and contrasted to those confessions, of paramount importance are their contents relative to scriptural validation.

The historical importance of these Confessions rests with the issue of succession. They provide a view of what our forefathers believed. Considering their similarities and differences allows us to determine the degree of mutual belief which their authors held with one another and also, which we hold with them. Historically they allow us to determine if they held the faith once delivered to the saints. Of course, this determination is not made in a vacuum. Historical succession is always and primarily considered in the context of scriptural validation of the essential principles of faith. If we all believe the same doctrine, and it is erroneous, we may in fact possess a line of succession but it is not an unbroken line back to Christ.

A small liberty is taken in calling these three Confessions Primitive Baptist Confessions of Faith. In so doing I disclose my slight prejudice. However, I believe this liberty is both accurate and merited. It is accurate, as we shall see, because the essential principles contained in each confession are primitive in their origin, which is Holy Scripture, and because they accurately define the principles of faith held by contemporary Primitive Baptists. Each Confession accurately describes the essential faith which was one time delivered to our ancient brethren.

Associating the Primitive Baptist name with these Confessions is merited for the purposes of distinction and succession. While it is not claimed that they are standards for subsequent Articles of Faith, they do function quite well as landmarks. The model or standard for Confessions of Faith must be scripture. However, it is quite beneficial to call up old confessions from centuries past and make comparisons. They tell us if we have strayed from the doctrinal tenets of our theological ancestry. When agreement is found, evidence of continuous succession of these truths is also found. Succession of truth is an identifying principle of the true church, since her doctrine and practice is derived from the faith which was once (one time) delivered to the saints of God.

The purpose of examining these three Confessions is twofold. First, individual analysis allows exploration into what brethren of their day believed, how they expressed it, and when applicable, what issues of faith or practice were exigent at the time. Second, a comparative analysis is made to explore both similarities and differences in the three Confessions. From this, assumptions may be pursued as to the influence these earlier Confessions may have had on subsequent statements of belief.

Chapter XII

1655 Midland Confession of Faith

The Midland Confession of Faith was written in preparation for an Associational union of seven churches in the Midlands of England. The document was prepared in May, 1655 at a gathering of delegates which met at Warwick. It was returned to the seven churches for discussion and ratification. On June 26, 1655 the Midland Association was formally constituted at Moreton. The Confession was adopted as a formal statement of the commonly held beliefs of the Midland churches.

Many Baptists in this area were Arminians of the General Baptist Assembly. Also, the Midlands was an area of intense proselyting activity by George Fox and the Quakers. In part, this serves to explain the polemic tone of this confession. It was intended not only to define the essential beliefs held by the Midland churches, but also to function as an instructional tool to ward off error by anticipating the contradictions of the General Baptists and Quakers.

The Elders of the Midland Association were mostly working men. None were seminary graduates. None were former Anglican Bishops, so they did not considered themselves reformed or reformers. They were farmers, weavers, millers etc.. These were men who believed their calling and qualification, as ministers of the gospel, were from God. These facts are significant when considering both the existence and content of their Confession.

Lacking formal educations, and as busy working men, it is reasonable to assume these brethren would have adopted the 1644 London Confession as an expression of their beliefs had they fully agreed with its content. The London document was written by more educated men, some of which were former Anglican Bishops with formal theological training. Their busy lives made the London Confession a convenient credential. However, they chose not to take full advantage of the London document.

Elder Benjamin Cox, pastor of Abington Church in London, was invited to participate in writing the Midland Confession. Elder Cox had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the 1644 London Confession. In 1646 he attended the London General Conference submitting a list of twenty-two additions and corrections for consideration. His appendix was not officially endorsed by the conference. However, it is preserved and was reprinted in 1981 as an appendix to the 1646 edition of the London Confession.

Certain similarities in phrases are seen in the Midland Confession and the 1644 London Confession. No doubt this represents the influence of Elder Cox. However, his most significant contribution to the Midland Confession lies in its opposition to Arminian theories.

Elder Cox’s appendix is mostly a polemic response to Arminian Free-willism. In this regard, his efforts to address the errors of Arminius were exactly what the Midland brethren desired. The growing numbers of Arminian Baptist churches was a concern to these brethren. Elder Cox efforts demonstrated his ability to nullify their most persuasive arguments. In this regard, his skills proved very beneficial to the Midland churches.

Elder Daniel King, one of the principle organizers of the Midland Association, was also probably familiar with the London Confession. In 1650 he wrote a book titled A Way to Sion, which was endorsed by four Elders from the London area. It is known that he retained contact with the London Churches during his ministry.

However, Elders Cox and King’s acquaintance with the London Confession serves to bolster the assertion that the Midland churches purposely distinguished themselves from the theological content of the London Confession. With two men in their midst having ready access and detailed knowledge of the London document, it seems reasonable the Midland brethren would have simply adopted the London Confession outright. At the least, they could have restated it in their own words had they considered it a reasonable expression of their beliefs.

Differences in the two documents are considerable. First, the language style is different. The Midland document uses a more concise style of expression. The London document is more comprehensive in subject matter than the Midland Confession. The Midland brethren stated their doctrine in sixteen articles rather than fifty-three.Further, the subject order is different. Only the first two articles, dealing with the identity and character of God, are in the same order. Unlike the London Confession, the Midland Confession does not include a discussion of God’s providence with the doctrine of Election. (This is article three in the London Confession). The London Confession omits any relationship between scriptural knowledge and time salvation.

The sentiment of Article twenty-four of the 1644 London is absent in the Midland Confession. Article Twenty-four: „Faith is ordinarily begotten by the preaching of the gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or agency in the creature; but it being wholly passive, and dead in trespasses and sins, doth believe and is converted by no less power than that which raised Christ from the dead.”

The order of this statement is unmistakable. It says faith is normally acquired by the preaching of the gospel. It continues by saying God does not respect any power or agency in the hearing creature, because the hearing creature is passive, being dead in trespasses and sins; upon hearing, the dead creature believes and is converted by the same power which raised Christ from the dead. The inference of this article cannot be denied. It is dealing with regeneration. The creature is dead in trespasses and sins. It is converted by the power that raised Christ from the dead. This conversion must be a conversion from death to life, since the analogy of Christ which is used is from death to life. Further, it notes the conversion is effected by the Spirit of God. Finally it plainly declares the gospel is the ordinary means for arranging belief, and that belief precedes conversion. It says God does not respect any agency in the creature. However, the article ascribes the gospel as an agency of belief to regeneration. The logical conclusion is: Without the gospel there is no faith and therefore no regeneration.

As we shall attempt to show in our commentary of article eight of the Midland Confession, these brethren did not accept that rational belief, or gospel faith, is a prerequisite of regeneration. They did not place gospel faith ahead of regeneration. This is a fundamental dissimilarity between these two documents. There is no statement of gospel instrumentality in the Midland Confession. Apparently Lumpkin, in assessing the two documents, missed this fundamental difference. However, with such a drastic distinction in theology, it is apparent why the Midland Brethren did not use the London Confession of 1644 as a statement of their beliefs.

The 1655 Midland Confession is a model for later Primitive Baptist Confessions. Its brevity and simple language is in contrast to the detail and linguistic intricacy of the London Confessions. Subsequent Primitive Baptist Confessions share the Midland brethren’s style of directness and simplicity.

The Confession was not written for the benefit of Parliaments and clergy. It was not dedicated to a king. It was written for the benefit of the membership and friends of the churches of the Midland Association. Its style fits the modest education of the farmers, laborers and merchants who comprised the churches’ memberships. It is a document which fathers and mothers were able to understand and to explain to their children, which neighbors could discuss with one another. Its simplicity served to make it an outline for scriptural study.

1st. We believe and profess, that there is only one true God, who is our God, who is eternal, almighty, unchangeable, infinite, and incomprehensible; who is a Spirit, having His being in Himself, and giveth being to all creatures; He doth what He will, in heaven and earth; working all things according to the counsel of His own will.

2nd. That this infinite Being is set forth to be the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three agree in one. I John v.7.

The first two articles are statements of the identity and attributes of God. They begin by establishing belief in his power and authority as Creator God. The identity of God as one true God and as the Trinity is defined.

The statement of the Trinity stops short of declaring the three are one, instead they say „these three agree in one.” This handling of the Godhead probably suggests that the concept of an omnipotent God who is three in one was so well understood and accepted it required little explanation.

3rd. We profess and believe the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, to be the word and revealed mind of God, which are able to make men wise unto Salvation, through faith and love which is in Christ Jesus; and that they are given by inspiration of God, serving to furnish the man of God for every good work; and by them we are (in the strength of Christ) to try all things whatsoever are brought to us, under the pretence of truth. II Timothy iii.15-17; Isaiah viii.20.

Article three reveals a belief in divine inspiration of the Bible. It also proclaims the sufficiency of scripture „to make man wise unto salvation.”

This article is a remarkable and distinct statement which demonstrates independent theological thinking. It expresses a distinctly Primitive Baptist tenet. It is the first Baptist confessional statement which plainly identifies God’s providential ministering as the bible doctrine of timely salvation. These brethren recognized that peace, joy, contentment, assurance, consolation and even rational believing are all dependent, in some degree, upon man’s obedience towards God’s will. They noted that wisdom based salvation is established in one’s faith and love in Christ. They associated the providential deliverance of this salvation to good works from a love motive, identifying scripture as the principle source for instruction in good works. With their last statement, concerning trying all things, they subscribed to a belief that scripture is the only rule of faith, practice, and daily living.

By identifying a salvation which is from God, revealed in scripture, understood through wisdom, received through scriptural discernment, applied by good works, all accomplished through faith and love in Christ, these brethren provided a detailed description of the contingent for God delivering providential blessings of temporal deliverance, which is time salvation.

The absence of a polemic attitude in this article and the skill with which it is simply stated suggests the Midland brethren were both established and comfortable with the theology of a temporal salvation of providential deliverance. They recognized that, to a very large extent, this deliverance, or temporal saving, is contingent upon obedience to God’s will. They understood that scriptures such as Philippians 2:12, Romans 1:16, II Corinthians 7:18, Philippians 1:19 and II Timothy 3:15 all reveal the principle of God’s providential salvation of His people.

4th. That though Adam was created righteous, yet he fell through the temptations of Satan; and his fall overthrew, not only himself, but his posterity, making them sinners by his disobedience; so that we are by nature children of wrath, and defiled from the womb, being shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin. Psalm ii.13; Romans v.12-15.

The origin of sin and man’s resultant depravity is stated in this article. The statement is short but inclusive. It identifies the culpability of Satan in the transgression as well as Adam’s position as the federal head of humanity. It contains a specific statement describing the nature of man in total depravity.

5th. That God elected and chose, in His Eternal counsel, some persons to life and salvation, before the foundation of the world, whom accordingly He doth and will effectually call, and whom He doth so call, He will certainly keep by His power, through faith to salvation. Acts xiii.48; Ephesians i.2-4; II Thessalonians ii.13; I Peter i.2, etc.

Article five marks a variance of the Midland brethren from classic Calvinism. Dealing with election, they identify God’s choice of, „some persons to life and salvation.” This statement is void of any suggestion of a double election, a concept which Calvin held. In his Institutes, Calvin presents a theory of predestination as the culmination of two elections by which God predestinates certain people to heaven and others to hell. He taught that God elected the Children of God to a predestination of heaven in the conformed image of Christ; and, elected the children of wrath to a predestination of reprobation and destruction in hell. Calvin supports his double election theory with deductive reasoning rather than scripture. He supposes that God, in choosing a people to live with him in heaven, by process of elimination has also made a choice of a people to suffer eternal torment.

The consequence of his erroneous reasoning is far reaching. Presumably, his double election theory is the basis for the false doctrine of God’s absolute predestination of all things. Calvin denied he believed in God’s predestination of all things. However, the same deductive reasoning which brought him to a conclusion of a double election, when carried to its logical conclusion, demands that there be a doctrine of God’s predestination of all things. Calvin’s denial serves to demonstrate the eventual conclusion of his double election theory. Since God provides all the means necessary for the eternal salvation of the children of God to a predestination which includes an election of grace; if he has predestinated others to eternal damnation in hell, it is reasonable to conclude he has also provided all the means necessary to ensure their eternal destiny. Thus, God becomes predestinator of the cause of condemnation, which is sin. This logic compelled Calvin’s critics to suspect him of believing in God’s absolute predestination of all things. His vigorous denial registers the fact that accusations were made.

The Midland brethren realized the Bible teaches an exclusive predestination of God’s elect to conformation to the image of Christ. Their qualified application of election to „life and salvation” suggests not only they correctly understood the doctrine of election; it also implies that others did not.

6th. That election was free in God, of His own pleasure, and not at all for, or with reference to , any foreseen works of faith in the creature, as the motive thereunto. Ephesians i.4, Romans xi.5,6.

The Confession continues with the subject of election in this article by dealing with God’s sovereignty. It plainly states the election of God was not based upon „foreseen works of faith in the creature.”

By associating works and faith these brethren revealed a fundamental theological connection. It is, faith is manifested by works. Thus, faith can never be viewed in the abstract. Purely abstract faith produces no evidence of its existence because works is the evidence. Therefore, without works it is impossible to display faith. Further, James declares faith void of works is dead. The relationship of faith and works is fixed. James was adamant on this point. He challenged Christians to show faith void of works, insinuating the impossibility of success. Such faith is dead on arrival, and cannot truly be identified as faith. Even the antecedent faith of regeneration is evidenced by subtle works which are sometimes unexplainable by those who possess it. This point is revealed and developed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:13 – 16. He recognized that even those lacking gospel knowledge are capable of the faithful work of godly morality, based upon the new creature testimony present in their souls.

Arminius missed this point completely, associating faith with works but placing the source of such faith in the rational logic of a depraved being. This faith does not proceed from holiness, and therefore, can never be inventoried as righteousness. How can unholiness manifest good works? Paul said it cannot. He said there is no righteousness (sinless quality) in carnal man. He said God concluded all in unbelief. Depraved man is void of righteousness because he has no holiness. Without holiness there is no substantive source for good works. Works cannot be good unless they originate in holiness. Without good works there is no evidence of faith. Pelagianism falls.

Calvin understood the evidentiary relationship of faith and works(sometimes taking it to an extreme) everywhere except in the doctrine of justification as it relates to regeneration. Here, his doctrine imparts faith, through the concerted efforts of the Holy Ghost and the Gospel, before new birth. Even if belief is manifested a nanosecond before regeneration, it cannot be counted as righteousness, because such belief is an expression of the rational stirrings of a creature whose spiritual identity is one of total depravity. Since he is not yet born again, he has no holiness by which righteous faith is produced. The only means of attaining righteousness is through the blood of Christ. But the blood must be applied before righteousness can be counted (imputed) by God. So this faith cannot be counted righteous through the righteousness that is in Christ’s blood because the blood is not effectually applied until regeneration occurs.

Here, Calvin has stumbled and landed next to Arminius, for he places faith before regeneration. His theory, simply stated, is that the child of God is imparted a saving faith prior to the indwelling of God in new birth. This prior to new birth faith allows his will to accept the message of the gospel whereby he believes in Christ, is justified before God based upon this belief, and is then given new birth. Thus, Calvin placed the good work of belief in a faith that is resident in an unregenerate, totally depraved being. He is in the same fix as Arminius. How can righteous faith reside in unholy man? If it does not reside in the holy seed, born of regeneration, how can it remain righteous? How can God look upon it as righteous if it is produced in the unholy environment of human depravity? Calvin said it is produced by the Spirit and imparted to man. However, without the cleansing efficacy of Christ’s blood it cannot remain holy while in contact with depraved humanity. It must be viewed through the blood of Christ which, by Calvin’s theory, is applied after belief. Here, Calvin ignored the fixed relationship of faith and its manifestation as the good work of belief. It cannot be good, and thereby righteous, or counted as righteous, if it does not reside in and proceed from a holy environment. He forgot the contextual development of faith as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. He does not deny faith is a fruit of the Spirit. However, Calvin overlooked that, in Galatians 5, Paul developed a principle of manifestation of the indwelling Spirit of God. Verse 25 summarizes the entire basis for Paul’s discussion of good works as manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit. He wrote; „If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk after the Spirit.”

The Midland brethren understood that a fundamental distinction of manifestations of faith does not exist; that fundamentally, faith is proactive. That is, faith will express itself at some level, from the moment of new birth. In this context, conviction of sin which, as a response of godly morality may be manifest as genuine remorse, is a manifestation of faith which can be expressed absent any gospel knowledge. They accepted Paul’s Galatian letter and James’ epistle, that good works are affixed to faith and faith without works is dead. They understood that philosophical faith, void of work, is a mirage of antinomian rhetoric. But, they also knew that the good work of rational acceptance of God, even a nanosecond after regeneration, is a manifestation of faith, and therefore evidence of a predessorary indwelling of God’s Spirit in regeneration. They knew that God judges no work as good or faithful unless its origin is holy and thereby stimulated by a righteous motivation. Without the imparted sanctification of Spiritual seed new life there are no good works. The carnal nature of man (the only nature man possesses before regeneration) cannot produce works which are good in the context of God’s moral judgement. God always views good works through the applied blood of Christ. Thus, these brethren understood that the divine indwelling of regeneration, and nothing less, is the predessorary impetus for manifesting faith. They knew there is no definition of faith outside the context of God’s holiness, because without holiness there is no faith. Therefore, without the indwelling of the holy Spirit in regeneration, man is not capable of faithful overtures toward God by any scriptural definition of faith.

Not only were they saying God does not elect based upon faithful works but, by denying faithful works as a prerequisite for election, they also denied it as a precursor of regeneration.

7th. That Jesus Christ was, in the fulness of time, manifested in the flesh; being born of a woman; being perfectly righteous, gave himself for the elect to redeem them to God by his blood. John x.15; Ephesians v. 25-27; Rev. v.9.

This article addresses the eternal identity of Christ. It teaches he assumed human form, being born of a woman. It identifies his sinless quality while he was in the form of a man.

It is also a definite statement of particular redemption. By associating redemption by Christ’s blood to the elect only, they have said that Christ died for his elect alone and that only the elect, chosen by the eternal counsel of God, (Article five) will be redeemed. No doubt, it was this tenet, in particular, which the disciples of Fuller and Carey wished to have removed from the Association’s circular letters. Their perverted doctrine of general atonement and particular application cannot be resolved to the meaning of this article.

8th. That all men until they be quickened by Christ are dead in trespasses–Ephesians ii.1; and therefore have no power of themselves to believe savingly–John xv.5. But faith is the free gift of God, and the mighty work of God in the soul, even like the rising of Christ from the dead–Ephesians 1.19. Therefore consent not with those who hold that God hath given power to all men to believe to salvation.

While Elder Cox’s influence is apparent in other articles of this Confession, it is nowhere more apparent than in article eight. This article is a compact statement of several articles of his appendix. In particular it communicates sentiments expressed by Elder Cox in article seven of his appendix. It states, „Though we confess that no man doth attain unto faith by his own good will; John 1:13, yet we judge and know that the Spirit of God doth not compel a man to believe against his will, but doth powerfully and sweetly create in a man a new heart, and so make him to believe and obey willingly, Ezek. 36;26,27; Ps. 110:3. God thus working in us both to will and to do, of His good pleasure, Phil. 2:13.” Elder Cox clearly understood that faith cannot exist in the child of God until after a new heart is created in him.

The polemic attitude of this article reveals the controversial issue of the day. It is markedly anti-Arminian. The last statement is directed at correcting the notion of Pelagian free-willism. This makes sense because the Welsh Baptists had done battle with Pelagianism for a millennium. Its rise in popularity in the 17th century must have been a cause for alarm among the Midland churches.

In addressing Pelagian error, the Midland brethren also identified their opposition to an underlying principle of Calvinist regeneration, which is gospel agency. Their statement presents faith as an evidence of regeneration, and concludes that this certainty eliminates any ability for men to believe savingly. The Midland brethren evidently believed new birth must precede rational comprehension of gospel faith. They likened faith to the rising of Christ from the dead. Before he rose he was alive. He did not first rise, then live. Regardless of the immediacy of his rising after life, the rising did not precede life.

Perhaps the use of the phrase „all men” in their concluding sentence was pointed at Arminian free-willism. However, this is the conclusion of the article, which is predicated on a relationshipof regeneration and faith as being analogous to the rising of Christ from the dead. The article began by establishing that all men are dead. The „all men” of the first statement is inclusive of every human who is dead in trespasses and sins and cannot believe until after they are quickened. Therefore „all men” in the conclusive sentence must be interpreted to mean every man. Context has not changed. Therefore, the „all men” of the last statement must also be inclusive. They did not believe that any man can believe and be saved, whether or not they are elect. Belief, in this article, is identified as following, not preceding, nor concurrent to new birth.

9th. That Christ is the only true King, Priest, and Prophet of the Church. Acts ii.22-23; Hebrews iv.14, etc; viii.1, etc.

This article establishes Christ’s authority as King, ability as Priest, and instruction as Prophet. In combination, it describes his identity as the head of the church. It clearly defines Christ alone as the head of the church. The Midlands area had suffered terribly from both papal and Anglican persecutions. They knew first hand of abuses of pontifical authorities. In this article they plainly declared that Christ alone is the head and power of the church. They identify his prophecy, written as scripture and preached as gospel, as the only rule of faith and practice.

10th. That every man is justified by Christ–Romans; viii.33; I Cor. vi.11; apprehended by faith; and that no man is justified in the sight of God partly by Christ and partly by works. Romans iii.20,28,30; Gal. v.4.

Article ten is very Primitive Baptist. The language of the article together with scriptural references indicates the Midland brethren understood that Paul’s references to law service, in a broader application, refers to any works system. Also, it provides additional clarity to the Midland brethren’s position relative to faith in regeneration. The clause, „That every man is justified by Christ, apprehended by faith,” makes the same distinction of order in justification and faith that is made in article eight concerning regeneration and faith. They did not precede justification with faith. The proper order is justification, then faith.

This article specifies justification as being accomplished by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. They say man is justified by Christ. In this they disassociated justification and works; and, because belief is the work of faith, they eliminated the unregenerate faith as an ingredient of effectual justification. Evidently they believed justification is by the imputed righteousness of Christ, „through the faith of the operation of the God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12); whereby, in regeneration the child of God is buried with Christ by a baptism into his death by effectual immersion in his blood, and arises in him, in the blood, by the justification of reconciliation demonstrated in his resurrection.

However, they wrote that man is apprehended by faith. No doubt, their use of the word apprehended was deliberate. It sends a signal concerning this faith. It is a faith that apprehends. Paul spoke of such a faith in Philippians 3. He desired to be found in Christ, not possessing his own righteousness of works, but rather a righteousness which is through the faith of Christ. With this righteousness he was able to know Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering. Being thus conformed to the death of Christ, which is a death of the will of the flesh in obedience to the will of God, Paul aspired to attain a resurrection. In this resurrection he would apprehend that for which he was apprehended of, Christ Jesus. He concludes by stating; „Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”

The apprehending of which Paul wrote is the apprehending of which the Midland brethren wrote. Again, this article demonstrates the depth of knowledge and skill of these early Baptists. They understood the scriptural principle of experiential justification, that, through obedience, man gains the experience of justification. They realized this justification, although we are not yet raised from the dead, allows us to experience the qualitative power of Christ’s resurrection. They knew that such obedience is through sufferings and mortifications of our members in the flesh. They knew the basis for such obedience is through the faith of Christ, which is in the Child of God in regeneration.

11th. That Jesus of Nazareth, of whom the scriptures of the Old Testament prophesied, is the true Messiah and Saviour of men; and that He died on the cross, was buried, rose again in the same body in which He suffered and ascended to the right hand of the majesty on high, and appeareth in the presence of God, making intercession for us.

This article requires very little discussion. Its theme is belief in the literal existence of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth. Its poignant message is that Christ is a man who was born in Nazareth, according to prophesy. He suffered and died in man’s body. He arose in the same body. He ascended into heaven in the same body where he now dwells with God. This article confirms the humanity of Christ while it ascribes deity to his person, all prophesied in scripture and accomplished at the appointed time. It also defines the principle of the bodily resurrection of the dead.

12th That all those who have faith wrought in their hearts by the power of God, according to his good pleasure, should be careful to maintain good works, and to abound in them, acting from principles of true faith and unfeigned love, looking to God’s glory as their main end. Titus iii.8; Heb. xi.6; I Cor. vi.10 and 31.

Article twelve affirms a belief that faith is a fruit of the Spirit which is received from God. Further, it identifies God as the sole worker of intrinsic faith, by his power alone. This article is an apologetic statement of the doctrine of christian obedience. It identifies the responsibility of everyone born of the Spirit of God to maintain an abundance of good works. It assigns true faith and unfeigned love as the principle motives for godly living. Finally, it assigns to God any approbations of men we might receive for well doing.

13th. That those who profess faith in Christ, and make the same appear by their fruits, are the proper subjects of Baptism. Matthew xxviii.18,19.

14th. That this baptizing is not by sprinkling, but dipping of the persons in the water, representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Romans vi.3,4; Colossians ii.12; Acts viii.38,39.

Articles thirteen and fourteen deal with baptism. Article fourteen cites baptism by immersion, and not sprinkling, as the proper mode of baptism. Article thirteen establishes faith in Christ and obedience, as evidenced by manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit in ones life, as requirements for baptism. It reveals that baptism is a commandment to be obeyed by all the faithful.

15th. That persons so baptized ought, by free consent, to walk together, as God shall give opportunity in distinct churches, or assemblies of Zion, continuing in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers, as fellow-men caring for one another, according to the will of God. All these ordinances of Christ are enjoined in His Church, being to be observed till his Second Coming, which we all ought diligently to wait for.

Article fifteen deals with the community of the church as a congregation of baptized believers. It identifies the Lord’s supper as an ordinance in the church and implies a closed communion.

A point of interest relative to Article fifteen, and indeed the whole Confession, is the absence of a statement concerning limitation of associational authority. This may be a result of the newness of associations as structured bodies. These brethren had not faced the abuses which later sometimes arose when Associations imposed certain policies and practices upon individual churches. Therefore, perhaps they saw little need to make provisions to curb such abuses in their Articles of Faith.

16th. That at the time appointed of the Lord, the dead bodies of all men, just and unjust, shall rise again out of their graves, that all may receive according to what they have done in their bodies, be it good or evil.

Article sixteen addresses the resurrection and final judgement. The statement of these principles is very general. However, they are specific in identifying the resurrection of both the just and unjust. Annihilation theories cannot be contrived in the wording of this article. It does not specifically attach the principle of immediate ascension into heaven for the just. However, neither does it imply a temporary respite after resurrection. For this reason, and because historically there is no evidence to support the thought that the Midland brethren believed in a millennial reign, there is no reason to assume the absence of a principle of immediate ascension implies they believed in a millennial reign. Probably, the concept of millennial reign was so foreign it did not occur to them to state specifically a principle of immediate ascension.

The elegance of simplicity of the Midland Confession cannot be overstated. In sixteen concise articles this document provides a detailed, yet easily understood, expression of the doctrines of grace. The inclusive scope and precise language of the document reveal the depth of knowledge of its authors. Inclusion of scriptural references with each article indicates the Midland brethren’s willingness to defend their doctrine with scripture. Also, scriptural references, no doubt, enhanced this document’s functionality as a study guide of the doctrines of grace. As an early example of documentation of the doctrines of sovereign grace, the Midland Confession stands at the pinnacle of written Primitive Baptist scholarship.

Chapter XIII

1777 Kehukee Association Articles of Faith

The 1777 Kehukee Association Confession of Faith is a document written during a time of crisis. The Association, and, in one case, a church, were evenly divided over the issues of receiving and retaining members who were baptized in unbelief. The origin of this situation was the Arminian theology upon which the seven churches were first constituted. However, when they later converted to Calvinism, adopting the Philadelphia Confession as their creed, the problem continued. It came to the point of schism among the churches when the brethren of the Virginia Separate Baptists rejected the Kehukee’s overtures for fellowship and correspondence. After investigating their faith and practice, the Virginia Separates found the Kehukee Association to be disorderly in both Faith and Practice. Their faith was considered unorthodox because they practiced unbelievers baptism. Their practice was unorthodox because they retained unbelievers as members. By unbelievers, the Separate Baptists contended that anyone who could not give an adequate expression of an assurance, or effect, of grace in his life was an unbeliever. This is not to say one did not possess a rational belief about God, or was not persuaded that Jesus was his Son; rather, if one could not recount a personal experience of regeneration or else could not relate some evidence of effectual manifestations of God’s grace in his life, he was considered an unbeliever.

Though this seems a bit unusual today, we must realize that both regenerates and unregenerates, in that day, were required to attend church, study their Bibles and live according to Christian principles of morality. This made it possible for unregenerates to possess significant intellectual knowledge about God, void of spiritual understanding. Satan used this circumstance to present some, who were spiritual unbelievers, for baptism and church membership.

The Baptists were only somewhat vulnerable to this potentiality because they required believer’s baptism and were, therefore, required to make judgments about candidates personal salvation. They were placed in a position of careful discernment of evidences of grace in order to minimize the possibility of accepting a false professor. The Separate Baptists met this challenge by requiring spiritual evidences of a heart felt, soul stirring belief in God. If one could not profess some experience of God’s inward workings, they were not accepted for baptism.

This was in contrast to both the Arminian and Calvinist Baptists who used submission to baptism as a requisite evidence of a work of grace. They encouraged people to submit to baptism in order to prove to the church and themselves they were saved. In the case of the Arminians, this practice resulted from their theology of pelagian free-willism. With the Calvinists, it resulted from a distorted perseverance theology of evidential sanctification.

For the Calvinists, baptism was the next evidence after belief in the journey of perseverance. If the journey stopped short of baptism, it was concluded that the person was a false professor. However, this doctrine had the effect of encouraging unbelievers, fearful of a final judgement, to seek baptism to prove their salvation through an act of perseverance in sanctification. This phenomenon compelled the Calvinist Baptists to be even more rigid in their judgments of perseverance of true believers. In turn, this forced a practice of perseverance which, void of spiritual motivation because fear had quenched the spirit, could not distinguish effectual sanctification from an obedience which was motivated by fear and plus other external pressures. It was a perseverance which quenched the Spirit, thereby obscuring love as the motive for obedience. Thus, it nurtured attitudes of both fear and self-righteousness. The dominance of such emotions produced a religious climate void of soul motivated manifestations of consolation and joy. Such quenching of the Spirit made it impossible for believers to experience heartfelt religion. With every member thus denied the experience of heartfelt religion, regeneration could only be estimated by evidences of obedience to a rigid works system.

In this environment the Kehukee churches were vulnerable to baptizing unbelievers because they were unable to distinguish between simple socially acceptable behaviors and effectual sanctification; because their only method of assessing sanctification was external evidences of perseverance. Further, because they were unable to make such distinctions, they could not define their problem. However, they knew a problem existed. The churches’ early associational letters frequently expressed statements of concern over coldness and lack of spiritual blessings among their members. In response, the association passed several resolutions for prayer meetings, unified daily prayer, and days of fasting in attempts to effect spiritual revival.

In part, the Separate Baptists were God’s answer to their prayers. Immediately, these brethren were able to understand the nature of the Kehukee churches’ problem. At the first opportunity, the Separate Baptists identified one symptom, which was the practice of baptizing and retaining unbelievers. Further, by uniting with them in the reformed Kehukee, they took steps to insure the problem would not recur.

The Association split in 1775 over these issues. Those holding to believers baptism met in 1777 and reformed the Association. In the course of reforming, three of the dissenting churches denounced their former position and came back to the Association. In addition, four nearby Separate Baptist Churches petitioned for membership. In all, ten churches met to reform the Kehukee Association. In so doing, they adopted a new constitution and new Confession of Faith, dropping the Philadelphia Confession.

By today’s standards, it seems remarkable the Kehukee brethren were willing to discard their Philadelphia Confession. However, it must be remembered this group of churches had a relatively short history of Calvinism. The Kehukee Churches began as General Baptists. Their constitutions began as early as 1720. By 1729 all seven churches were constituted and holding a combined annual meeting. They remained Arminian General Baptist Churches until around 1765. Even as late as 1777 when the Kehukee reformed, the older churches still had a longer history as Arminians than as Calvinists.

The Kehukee brethren did not have a long association with the Philadelphia Confession. They formed as an Association in 1765 and adopted the Confession in 1767. Further, their transformation from Calvinism to Primitive Faith was not nearly as dramatic as their original transformation from Arminianism to Calvinism. Thus, it was not particularly painful for them to abandon a document which they had not authored and which they formally embraced for only ten years. In fact, taking at face value Elder Burkitt’s statement concerning the reasons for adopting new articles of faith, some churches did not realize their new confession represented a departure from the Philadelphia Confession.

In writing their reformed confession, the Kehukee brethren pretty much abandoned the structural format of the Philadelphia Confession. This includes omission of the detail oriented style of the former confession. While some few phrases were retained, in general the language of the new document is different.

Any of several reasons may explain why such a dramatic departure from the Philadelphia document occurred. Probably, the new document was a compilation of several statements of beliefs submitted by the member churches of the Association. Elder Burkitt intimated as much when he wrote concerning this matter. His statement indicates several of the churches had previously never adopted formal Articles of Faith; therefore, each church applying for membership was required to submit a statement of beliefs.

The new Confession was written and adopted at a time of upheaval for several of the member churches. They were experiencing their third theological transition in as many decades. While, God’s providence must be credited with bringing the Kehukee Churches so far in such a short time, such upheaval may have left these brethren a little fearful about being too specific in stating their theology. Or, they may have realized that lengthy and detailed Confessions tend to take on the authority of a creed, or were difficult for the general membership to understand. Realizing the word of God was their only creed, these brethren may have purposely avoided the temptation to produce a more weighty document. They may have simply wished to produce a confession which adequately distinguished, rather than inadequately defined, their beliefs.

The 1777 Kehukee Association Confession of Faith may be considered the first such document written and adopted in America. Prior to its adoption, Baptist churches either ignored the idea of written confessions or adopted some version of a confession written in England or Europe. Its style and relative brevity speaks to American’s desire for directness. It contains all the salient principles of grace.

1. We believe in the being of God as almighty, eternal, unchangeable, of infinite wisdom, power, justice, holiness, goodness, mercy, and truth; and that this God has revealed Himself in his word under the characteristics of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Article one is a well stated tenet of the trinity of God. It defines God’s character and power.

2. We believe that almighty God has made known His mind and will to the children of men in His word which word we believe to be of divine authority, and contains all things necessary to be made known for the salvation of men and women. The same is comprehended or contained in the Books of the Old and New Testaments as are commonly received.

This article ascribes divine inspiration and sufficiency to the scriptures. It defines scripture as expressions of the mind of God. It contains a definite statement concerning its functionality in providing instruction and access to salvation. This must be a salvation of divine deliverance in time, since scripture is the source of information for the salvation of men and women.

3. We believe that God, before the foundation of the world, for a purpose of His own glory, did elect a certain number of men and angels to eternal life and that His election is particular, eternal and unconditional on the creature’s part.

This statement of election is brief but very specific and clear. It removes any possibility of human activity or influence in election. It limits election to the just only as the destination of the elect is eternal life.

4. We believe that, when God made man first, he was perfect, holy and upright, able to keep the law, but liable to fall, and that he stood as a federal head, or representative, of all his natural offspring and that they were partakers of the benefits of his obedience or exposed to the misery which sprang from his disobedience.

This article defines the creative character of God. It stipulates that man is a created being. However, in defining the moral quality of man, as he was created, the Kehukee brethren ascribed holiness to him. This cannot be. The insertion of holiness was probably a simple misstatement. If man was created holy, he was created with the Spirit of God in his being, since the seed of God is the only scripturally defined source for holiness in man. Therefore, in the fall, the Spirit of God would have died in trespasses and sin. It is likely the Kehukee brethren actually meant man was created righteous; that is, given a sinless nature.

An interesting point about this article, especially in light of the Kehukee Association’s later history, is that it eliminates predestination as a motive for Adam’s transgression. It says he was able to keep God’s law but liable to fall. This contrast of obedience and disobedience, all within the will of man, nullifies all accusations of God’s culpability in the origin of sin. It eliminates fatalism as an ingredient of man’s sin or sinning.

5. We believe that Adam fell from his state of moral rectitude, and that he involved himself and all his natural offspring in a state of death; and, for that original transgression, we are both guilty and filthy in the sight of our holy God.

Article five identifies original sin and its consequence. It defines man as dead in sin, and further describes his depravity as guilt and filth.

6. We believe that it is utterly out of the power of men, as fallen creatures, to keep the law of God perfectly, repent of their sins truly, or believe in Jesus Christ, except they be drawn by the Holy Ghost.

This article defines the complete inability of man to deliver himself, by thought, word or deed from the corruption and condemnation of sin. It reveals the Kehukee churches’ belief that obedience, repentance and faith are all divine influences and without the presence of the Holy Ghost, all are impossible. This article does not go so far as to declare a requirement of indwelling; and so, taken alone could be interpreted as Calvinistic. But when read in the context of the entire confession, the phrase, „except they be drawn by the Holy Ghost” may be considered as the divine intervention of new birth.

No doubt, use of the term is in reference to John 6:44; „No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” In this verse, the Savior indicates the need of the divine power of God to bring one to him. In verse 45 the Savior more fully develops this point. „It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh to me.” This verse teaches a principle of direct divine instruction. It indicates that every man, without failure, which is taught by God is drawn by God, to Christ. That is, every one who hears the quickening voice of God proceeds to Christ in a redemptive sense. Though God quickens, it is Christ who redeems. All who are quickened are instantly presented to Christ for effectual redemption. Another way of saying the same thing is; it is by the application of the blood of Christ that we are redeemed from our sins.

The Savior indicated those who come to him are taught by the Father. This demonstrates a tutoring witness in regeneration. Paul described this witness and his testimony in Romans 8:16. „For the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

This article does not exclude a need for gospel instruction in order to obey, repent or believe. The gospel is not mentioned because the article deals with the fundamental inability of man to approach God without a prior work of grace. It was not appropriate to discuss the gospel at this point. To do so may have confused some with notions of gospel instrumentality in regeneration.

7. We believe in God’s appointed time and way (by means which he has obtained) the elect shall be called, justified and sanctified, and that it is impossible they can utterly refuse the call, but shall be made willing by divine grace to recieve the offers of mercy.

This article sets forth the principles of the operation of regeneration. It states that God’s work of grace is irresistible. It identifies divine calling, justification and sanctification as the component principles of regeneration.

It also contains a remarkable parenthetical clause which clearing demonstrates how far these brethren had come in their journey. First, as Arminians, then Calvinists, these brethren would have identified the gospel as the means he has obtained.

By inserting the phrase (by means which he has obtained) the Kehukee brethren sent a message to all. They did not believe the gospel to be instrumental in regeneration. They are writing of means or methods which God alone utilizes in regeneration. This precludes man obtaining some means or methods to save himself or others. Because they are God’s means they are not man’s means. Some might suppose the means which the Kehukee brethren meant is gospel instrumentality. This is assigning a specific belief which they would not identify for themselves.

It is more likely they did not identify a specific means because they did not know it. This position is in keeping with a mystery to which Jesus Christ alluded when speaking to Nicodemus. „Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8). These verses express the both the sovereignty and mystery of God in the time and circumstance of regeneration. We hear the sound of the wind at the same moment it is felt. We hear the quickening call of God and immediately feel the evidence of his presence. But having heard God’s call, like hearing wind blowing, we cannot describe the exact circumstance or means of his calling to us. Neither, as with where the wind will blow next, can we foretell who will next hear the voice of God in regeneration.

8. We believe that justification in the sight of God is only by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, received and applied by faith alone.

Article eight expands the definition of justification as it is used in the previous article. The order of the last phrase „received and applied by faith alone” suggests the Kehukee brethren held the exact same position concerning the doctrine of justification as was held by the Midland brethren. They understood that effectual justification is received by the faith of the operation of God (Colossians 2:12) Further, they understood that it is applied experientially in the believer’s life based upon his faithful obedience to God as detailed in the gospel. The distinction made in the phrase „received and applied” indicates two activities of justification. It is received effectually in regeneration. It is also recieved experientially after regeneration through faith. This is the lesson of Romans 4. Abraham was saved eternally years before the believing of Romans 4 occurred. Hebrews 11:8 – 9 proves he was saved already. Further, James 2 identifies Abraham’s belief of Romans 4 as experiential. The experience was that, by obeying God’s will, he was called the friend of God. (Being called the friend of God, when it is God who is calling you his friend, is an experience of joy unspeakable, full of glory, in the life of one so fortunate). Applying faith in our lives works an experience of justification. The Kehukee brethren called experiential justification applied justification.

9. We believe, in like manner, that God’s elect shall not only be called, and justified, but that they shall be converted, born again and changed by the effectual workings of God’s holy Spirit.

Continuing the discussion of the specific nature of regeneration, the Kehukee Confession reveals a principle of conversion. The word converted in this context deals with a fundamental change in the disposition of one born of God. The Apostle Paul characterized the fundamental nature of the conversion of regeneration in Romans 7 as initiating a warfare. He identified a basic change in affections as the stimulus of this conflict. This is the conversion of article nine.

10. We believe that such as are converted, justified and called by His grace, shall persevere in holiness, and never fall away.

This article is a statement of belief in the final preservation of the saints. The Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principle gives the following theological definition to the word perseverance: Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory. No doubt, the Kehukee brethren had this definition in mind. Nothing more should be read into their use of the word persevere.

11. We believe it to be a duty incumbent on all God’s people to walk religiously in good works, not in the old covenant way of seeking life and favor of the Lord by it, but only as a duty from a principle of love.

With this article the Kehukee brethren, like their Midland forefathers, identified love as the motivating principle for obedience. They make note that some have used obedience as a legal means to attempt to gain God’s favor. They define the motive of obedience not as reward, but as love. Thus they retain a perspective of God’s graciousness in all his dealings with his children. He does not simply reward, for every reward for faith and obedience, in reality, is a gracious gift. No effort by man is ever seen as worthy of the pleasure of God, unless it is appraised through the blood of Christ. Therefore it is futile for one to serve God with the motive of seeking rewards from Him. Love is the only acceptable motive for serving God.

However, the presence of grace does not preclude the necessity of obedience. Article eleven establishes this principle. Obedience is still required, but it is reckoned of grace, not of reward.

12. We believe baptism and the Lord’s supper are gospel ordinances both belonging to the converted or true believers; and that persons who are sprinkled or dipped while in unbelief are not regularly baptized according to God’s word, and that such ought to be baptized after they are savingly converted in the faith of Christ.

Article twelve is curiously stated. By today’s standard, it is accepted without statement that sprinkling is not baptizing. This was also the case in 1777. However, the Kehukee brethren needed to make a statement about believers baptism and, perhaps, they did not wish to draw specific attention to the issue in a context of their own problems and subsequent reformation. Also, it is apparent from the history of the Kehukee churches that members who were baptized by immersion as Arminian General Baptists, reformed as Particular Baptists then reformed again as Primitive Baptists all without rebaptisms. They could not be too specific about baptismal authority because their own baptisms would be brought into question.

However, they did not entirely ignore the issue of those who had been baptized by immersion before they believed. They could not, because they reformed over this specific issue. It must be presumed that all those who had been immersed in unbelief had either been baptized again after they believed, or excommunicated from the member churches.

Though stated with a polemic tone, the heart of this article defines baptism by immersion, for believers only.

13. We believe that every church is independent in matters of discipline; and that Associations, Councils and Conferences of several ministers, or churches, are not to impose on the churches the keeping, holding or maintaining of any principle or practice contrary to Church’s judgement.

The Kehukee brethren identify a principle of church authority and accountability in this article. They establish that churches may call upon one another, in various formats, for aid in counsel. However, they retain the authority of the nuclear church to make her own determinations. Simply stated, the rulings of councils are not binding on churches. This article implies that Christ alone is the head of the church and that scripture is the only rule of faith and practice.

14. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust, and a general judgment.

15. We believe the punishment of the wicked is everlasting and the joys of the righteous are eternal.

These two articles define the Kehukee churches’ beliefs concerning the resurrection of the dead. They believed in a general resurrection of the dead, of the just and unjust. They believed in a final judgement. They believed in a literal heaven and hell. They believed the wicked will forever suffer in hell and the just will forever rejoice in heaven. Like the Midland brethren, they give no hint that they believed in a millennial reign.

16. We believe that no minister has no [sic] right to administration of the ordinances, only as are regularly called and come under the imposition of hands by the presbytery.

This article states the principles of ministerial authority, that only properly ordained ministers may administer baptism and the Lord’s supper. Further it notes laying on of hands as the method of ordination. Laying on of hands implies a continuous succession of the ministry as Paul taught in II Timothy 2:2.

A point should be made here. The Kehukees evidently dropped the practice of laying on of hands of the newly baptized. This is significant because the Particular Baptists practiced this error. The Philadelphia Confession contained an additional article establishing this erroneous activity as a practice.

17. Lastly, we believe that, for the mutual comfort, union and satisfaction of the several churches of the aforesaid faith and order, we ought to meet in an Association way, wherein each church ought to represent their case by their delegates and attend as often as necessary to advise the several churches in conference and that the decision of matters in such Associations are not to be imposed, or in any wise binding, on the churches, without their consent, but only to sit as an advisory council.

The final article deals with the validity and authority of associations. The Kehukee brethren believed in the propriety of such unions but were careful to limit their authority. They present the association as a body of fellowship which may advice churches in matters of faith and order, but have no authority to impose their advice on the churches. The Confession is basically apologetic in style and substance. However, the underlying issues of the doctrinal issues which brought about the need for reformation are dealt with in a more polemic tone. Article twelve attests to the sensitivity the Kehukee brethren felt concerning baptism of believers. They specifically define true believers as those who are converted, inferring the possibility of unconverted (unregenerate) believers. Their own experiences testified to the fact that this class of believer not only existed, but sometimes sought baptism.

Their application of faith in justification shows their understanding of this doctrine to be consistent with the Midland brethren. Also, it is significant, that they omitted saving faith both conceptually and linguistically from their Confession.

Article seventeen defines the reason for the Association’s formation and its scope and method of activity. Also, while article fifteen seems to exclude associational jurisdiction, article seventeen defines it as a consulting body; but, reiterates the limit of authority the association may exercise.

In all, the Confession is thoughtful and well expressed. It serves to distinguish clearly the doctrine of Kehukee brethren from Arminianism and Calvinism. As a first attempt to define their beliefs for themselves, while it is not exhaustive, it is comprehensive. No doubt, it provided these brethren a focal model of their doctrine. They could start with their various articles of beliefs and search the scriptures for deeper explanations. When Elders preached, the general membership could identify the subjects of their sermons with a particular Article of Faith and thereby enhance their own understanding with scriptural study and meditation. In all, the Kehukee brethren did a commendable job of compressing the body of their beliefs into Articles of Faith.

Chapter XIV

Principles of Faith of the Sandy Creek Association

The Sandy Creek confession is the shortest of the three documents. However, its brevity does not imply lack of doctrinal understanding by its authors. The succinctness of the confession, together with its late arrival, speaks to the reluctance of the Separate Baptists to be tied to uninspired documents. Though the Sandy Creek Association was constituted in 1758, it was fifty-eight years before these brethren got around to formally adopting their principles of faith. But form was never their strong point, as compared to substance. Their earliest associations were conducted without formal officers or even a business meeting, though they did keep records of the meetings. They considered the worship service too important to be imposed upon by a formal business session. In like manner, they asserted that Holy Scripture provided a substantial statement of their beliefs; consequently, they didn’t place much value on Confessions of Faith as a form of expression of beliefs.

Their first attempt at a written confession reveals the validity of their assertion as to the sufficiency of scripture. The document is well organized and to the point. In ten short statements the Sandy Creek brethren express their belief in the essential points of the doctrines of grace. It is easily understood. One can well imagine the members and friends of the association using the document as a study guide.

Art. I. We believe that there is only one true and living God; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, equal in essence, power and glory; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.

Article one is a short statement of the singular identity of God as one true God and as a trinity Godhead. They ascribe equal power and glory to him in the trinity.

II. That Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, and only rule of faith and practice.

This article assigns divine inspiration as the authority of Holy Scripture in matters of faith and practice.

III. That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily place.

The Sandy Creek churches include a statement concerning the purity of Adam in creation and his depravity in transgression. They identify him as the federal head of sin in humanity. A brief statement of the nature of depraved man is included.

IV. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

Article four is a comprehensive statement of the doctrine of election. It connects election to justification, effectual calling and eternal preservation. The connectivity of these concepts eliminates any consideration of a double election, of the just and unjust.

V. We believe that there will be a resurrection from the dead, and a general or universal judgment, and that the happiness of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.

Article five is a concise statement of the resurrection of the dead. It specifies that both the just and unjust will be raised from the dead. It notes equality of duration of the bliss of the just and the suffering of the wicked. It contains neither statement nor inference of a millennial reign.

VI. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have obtained fellowship with each other, and have given themselves up to the Lord and one another; having agreed to keep up a godly discipline, according to the rules of the Gospel.

The church as the visible kingdom of God with men is the subject of Article six. It describes the community of the church as a local body of the faithful engaged in fellowship. It defines their spiritual and bodily commitment to God and one another. It states a principle of godly discipline in accordance with gospel instruction.

VII. That Jesus Christ is the great head of the church, and that the government thereof is with the body.

This article acknowledges Christ as the head of the Church. It also declares the authority of the church in self-government.

VIII. That baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the Lord, and to be continued by his church until his second coming.

Article eight defines baptism and the Lord’s supper as ordinances in the church. It is interesting that this article contains an identical sentiment as is stated in Article fifteen of the Midland Confession concerning the continuance of the ordinances of the church until Christ’s second coming.

IX. That true believers are the only fit subjects of baptism;, and that immersion is the only mode.

Article nine is a mildly polemic statement concerning believers baptism. Perhaps it is so worded because of the Separate Baptists sensitivity to the Puritan practice of pedobaptism. However, seeing this document was written sixty years after their forefather’s last contact with Puritanism and because they made a distinction about „true believers” baptism, it is more likely they are protecting themselves against the errors they found in the Kehukee Association in 1775. Whatever the reason, it is a simple statement of the principle of believer’s baptism and baptism by immersion.

X. That the church has no right to admit any but regular baptized church members to communion at the Lord’s table.

This final article is a statement of the principle of a closed communion. Also, it specifically ties regular baptism to church membership. This implies the Sandy Creek churches practiced closed membership. By inserting the words „church members” the Sandy Creek brethren removed all doubt as to whom they considered to be baptized regularly. Regular baptized persons were members of orthodox Baptist Churches.

The Sandy Creek Principles of Faith, as a document, is a reasonable statement of the doctrines of grace. Its brevity does not allow detailed explanations. Neither does it confuse the reader. It is truly an outline. While refusing to be bound to written articles of faith nevertheless its authors understood they would be identified by this document. They were careful to pen a confession which identified their doctrine but left the reader some degree of liberty to define it. They recognized their need for a document indicating commonly held beliefs but were wise to realize that a comprehensive statement could cause confusion or even schism.

They did not fall into the trap of those who wrote confessions which are so comprehensive and detailed as to give the impression they are exhaustive in scope, making them binding creeds. Such detailed, uninspired works, when formally adopted, take on the appearance of divine inspiration, making them canonical creeds in the minds of their subscribers. The Sandy Creek brethren were aware of such snares and had no desire for interpretations and applications of men to supplant the authority of scripture. Evidently, they wrote a minimal declaration of their faith to avoid the temptation of elevating their statement of belief to the level of scriptural authority. Their Principles of Faith Confession was intended to identify, not to define, their beliefs. As such, it is well written and functional.

Chapter XV

Comparative Observations

Each of the three Confessions discussed possesses Holy Scripture as it basis of origin. However, they each suggest the influence of their own unique historical circumstance. The Midland Confession is unique as an original composition in context of the existence of the 1644 London Confession. The obvious differences in the two documents, in light of the familiarity the Midland brethren had with the London Confession, attests to their theological independence from the London churches.

The Kehukee Confession was written in the context of reformation. It displays minimal reliance upon the Philadelphia Confession. It is independent and original in structure and content. When separation from the Philadelphia Confession was necessary in order to eliminate errors which were introduced by Arminian theology and sustained by Calvinist theology, the Kehukee brethren gladly departed. Where there is common theology they borrowed small phrases. However, for the most part, the Kehukee Churches opted to use their own style and concepts. In this regard the Confession is an original document.

The Sandy Creek Principles of Faith is clearly influenced by these brethren’s historic aversion to uninspired religious creeds. They took great pains to create a document which adequately identified their beliefs but could never be given the authority of Holy Scripture. Their document could never be mistaken for a canonical creed.

Despite the diverse influences exercised in writing these documents, they contain striking similarities. The most obvious is they all may be interpreted to say the same thing. Certainly, similarity should exist since all three documents claim a singular origin in Holy Scripture. But many such documents claim scripture as their origin yet do not agree with one another or with these three confessions. Therefore, while we give credence to the validity of common origin, we also look beyond singular origin and explore the possibility of common experiential influence.

The several preceding pages, which detailed the succession of the church, present a reasonable argument as to the plausibility of common experiential influence. Now, we will attempt to find evidences of such influence in the documents by comparing their contents.

All three documents share the common feature of avoiding restatements or even reinterpretations of either of the two London Confessions. Their connectivity lies in the body of their similarities despite the fact that the London Confessions had little to no influence upon their authors, either by circumstance, as was the case for the Sandy Creek document, or by design, as was the case for the Midland and Kehukee documents. Thus, their similarities are rooted elsewhere, evidently in providential succession. Indeed, their similarities speak to this issue. Without a line of succession, how could three such different groups, separated by geography and time, possess such similar documents? This point is particularly striking when comparing the Midland Confession and Sandy Creek Principles.

The probability of providential perpetuity is enhanced by the unlikelihood that the Separates or Kehukees had access to a copy of the Midland Confession. There seems to be no record of this document actually traveling to American in the seventeenth century in a concise form. This fact seems to strengthen the potential of providential intervention. As we shall attempt to prove, the three documents appear to contain unique presentations of theological concepts which are nearly identical. In places they contain nearly identical phrases; which, in turn, are unique to the three confessions. They all begin with an order previously not used in Particular Baptist Confessions. All three confessions share common and concise language style as compared to the intricate wording of the London Confessions.

The Midland and Sandy Creek Confessions, on the whole, are most similar. They are both short and concise in structure and language. Also both use similar, odd sentence structure. Many articles in both begin with the word „that” leaving „we believe” to be inferred by the reader. This is a unique sentence structure not found in either of the London Confessions, the Philadelphia Confession, or subsequent Primitive Confessions. This style seems to be a unique anomaly of the Midland Confession, and perhaps was providentially passed to the Sandy Creek Principles.

Each confession begins with a statement of the identity and authority of God. The Kehukee and Sandy Creek documents present their statements as single articles. The Midland Confession divides the statement into two articles.

In all three confessions the next subject is a statement of the authority and validity of Holy Scripture. The Midland and Kehukee statements are most similar. Both contain phrases identifying scripture as the revealed mind of God. Use of the word „mind” as in „revealed mind of God” is unique. The London Confessions present more abstract statements identifying scripture as expressions of the will and thoughts of God.

Both the Midland and Kehukee documents insert a principle of temporal deliverance, or time salvation, into this article. For the Kehukee brethren this represented a departure from the London Confession. Further, it suggests Midland influence in writing the Kehukee Confession, since the Midland Confession was the first and only modern confession containing a specific statement of temporal salvation.

Next in subject order is Adamic sin. The Kehukee document divided this subject into two articles. However, all three confessions are in essential agreement with the exception of the Kehukees’ misstatement concerning Adam’s holiness, as mentioned earlier.

The order of the previous three subjects, identity of God, authority of scripture and Adamic sin is identical in all three confessions. For the Kehukees this was a structural departure from the London Confession. As the second written of the three confessions, this hints of Midland Confession influence in the writing of the Kehukee Confession.

All three confessions contain connective statements underscoring election. The Midland statement is the most general, connecting election in only a broad sense to regeneration and preservation. However, the remaining confessions are very specific in connecting election to effectual calling, justification and sanctification. All the documents cite foreknowledge as the basis of election, noting its presence before the world existed. They all note the sovereignty of God and man’s inability to influence his choice in election. All three Confessions are absent any statement or implication of a double election of the just and unjust.

Each confession describes justification through Christ. The Kehukee and Sandy Creek specifically identify justification to occur by the imputed righteousness of Christ. They all are void of any reference to saving faith, though each contains wording which associates faith and justification. None of the confessions assign a principle of faith to man before he is justified.

The Midland and Kehukee Confessions each contain a highly developed concept of justification. They both surpass Calvin’s limited justification theories and reveal the bible principle of experiential justification. Inclusion of this tenet identifies the principles of experiential justification as the parameters for God’s providential or time salvation. This is a doctrine which is absent in Calvin’s writings and both of the London Confessions.

The Midland and Kehukee documents contain specific and separate articles concerning the utter inability of man to deliver himself from the condition of sin. Further, they include statements as to man’s inability to resist the grace of God in regeneration. Both, in principle, reject prior belief in Jesus Christ as a precursor to justification.

The Midland and Sandy Creek include strikingly similar statements concerning the identity of Christ. They both describe him as the head of the church.

The Midland and Kehukee contain specific articles declaring baptism and godliness as moral requirements for all regenerates. They are both very careful disassociating this principle to law service by any definition of law. They cite true faith and unfeigned love as the basis of discipleship. For the Kehukee churches this represented a departure from the more rigid legalist orientation of the London Confession. None of the confessions assign baptism a role of evidentiary confirmation of salvation. They simply state it the duty of believers to be baptized.

All three assert a principle of believers baptism. All three ascribe immersion as the proper mode of baptism. The Midland and Kehukee Confessions include a polemic statement against sprinkling.

They identify baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances in the church. None of the confessions elevate the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper to the status of sacrament. Each expresses a belief in a closed communion.

All three confessions contain statements regarding the church as the visible kingdom of God, with men. The Midland and Sandy Creek are most similar. Noting fellowship as an important element of church membership, they stress the concept of the community of the church rather than a rigid intrachurch government. They both contain similar wording addressing the need for church members to give themselves to the Lord and each other.

Though all three documents contain articles identifying the principle of a general resurrection of the dead, the Kehukee and Sandy Creek are most similar. Both use the same logic in describing the bliss of the just and punishment of the wicked.


Armitage, Thomas. A History of the Baptists. New York, NY: Bryan, Taylor.

Aston, Margaret. Lollards and Reformers: Images and Liberty in Late Medieval Religion. London: The Hambledon Press.

Backus, Isaac. A History of New England with Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists. Newton, MA: Backus Historical Society.

Barrows, C. Edwin. Editor. Diary of John Comer. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

Benedict, David. A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World. New York: Lewis Colby & Co.

Boettner, Lorraine. Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

Burgess, W. J.. Baptist Faith and Martyrs’ Fire. Little Rock, AR: The Baptist Publication Committee.

Cathcart, William. The Ancient British and Irish Churches. Philadelphia: Charles H. Banes. (1894)

Cathcart, William. The Baptists and the American Revolution. Philadelphia: S. A. George & Co.

Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopedia. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts. (1881)

Christian, John T. A History of the Baptists. 2 vols., Nashville

Cole, Henry. Calvin’s Calvinism. London: Wertheim and MacIntosh.

Craig, Elder W. S.. Primitive Baptist History. Kerney, NE: 1925.

Cramp J. N.. Baptist History from the Foundation of the Christian Church to the Close of the Eighteenth Century. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

Edwards, Morgan. Materials Toward a History of the Baptists. 2 vols. Eve B. Weeks & Mary B. Warren, Editors, Danielville, GA.: Heritage Papers.

Emry, Sheldon. Paul and Joseph of Arimathea: Missionariest to „The Gentiles”. Phoenix, AZ: America’s Promise Radio Broadcast, Lord’s Covenant Church Inc..

Ernst, James. Roger Williams, New England Firebrand. New York: The Macmillan Co.

Evans, Philip. History of the Connecticut Baptist State Convention. Hartford CT: Press of the Smith Literary Co.

Evans, B.. The Early English Baptist. 2 vols., London: J. Heaton & Son.

Hassell, Sylvester. History of the Church of God. Middletown, NY: Gilbert Beebe’s Sons, Publisher.

Holliday, J. M.. The Baptist Heritage. Texarkana, TX: Bogard Press.

Gaustad, Edwin S.. Baptist Piety, The Last Will and Testimony of Obadiah Holmes. Grand Rapids: William Erdmans Publishing Company Gillette, A. D.. Minutes of the Philadelphia Association from 1707 to 1807. Minneapolis, MN: James Publishing Co.

Griffin, Benjamin. History of the Primitive Baptists of Mississippi. Jackson MS: Barksdale and Jones.

Ivimey, Joseph. A History of the English Baptists. 4 vols. London.

Jarrel, W. A.. Baptist Church Perpetuity. Dallas, TX

Lechler, Professor. John Wycliffe and his English Precursors. London: The Religious Tract Society.

Jones, William. The History of the Christian Church. 2 vols., London: William Jones, Paternoster Row.

Little, Lewis Peyton. Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia. Lynchburg, VA: J. P. Bell Co., Inc.

Lumpkin, William L. Baptist Confessions of Faith. Valley Forge: Judson Press

Lumpkin, William L. A History of Immersion. Nashville: Broadman Press.

Mason, Roy. The Church that Jesus Built. Tenth Edition

McLoughlin, William G.. New England Dissent 1630-1833. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McNeil, John T.. The History and Character of Calvinism. New York: Oxford University Press.

McNeil, John T., Editor. Calvin: Institutes of the ChristianReligion. 2 vols., Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Nelson, Wilbur. The Hero of Aquidneck: A Life of Dr. John Clarke. Bloomfield, NJ: Shaefer Enterprises

Orchard, G. W.. A Concise History of Foreign Baptists…. Nashville: Graves, Marks & Co.

Paschal, G. W. History of the North Carolina Baptists. Raleigh N. C.: Edwards and Broughton Co.

Purcloy, George W.. A History of the Sandy Creek Association. New York: Sheldon & Co.

Ray, D. R.. Baptist Succession. (1949) Rosemead, CA: The Kings Press.

Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. 7 vols.

Shakespeare, John H.. Baptist and Congregational Pioneers. London: The Kingsgate Press.

The Confession of Faith Agreed Upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. (1813) Philadelphia, PA: W. W. Woodward.

The First London Confession of Faith. Salisbury, MD: Robert N. Lackey.

Thompson, Elder Gregg. The Primitive Preacher. Greenfield, IN: D. H. Goble Publisher.

Thompson, Elder Wilson. Autobiography of Wilson Thompson. Conley, GA. Old School Hymnal Co., Inc.

Tull, James. Shapers of Baptist Thought. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

Veddar, Henry. A Short History of the Baptists. Philadelphia: The Judson Press.

Warburton, John. The Gospel of a Covenant God. Leicester, England: Zoar Publications.

Whitsitt, William H.. A Question in Baptist History: Whether the Anabaptists in England Practiced Immersion before the Year 1641. Louisville, KY: Charles T. Dearing.

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The Trail of Blood

Three Witnesses for the Baptists

The Waldenses Were Independent Baptists


LANDMARKISMUL, DE LA OM SAU DE LA DUMNEZEU? de Rick Perdue Nu muta hotarul cel vechi pe care l-au asezat parintii tai. (Proverbe 22:28) Termenul de „Vechii Landmarkisti” a fost folosit initial pentru a-l descrie pe J.R. Graves si pe aceia care traiau in armonie cu principiile pe care acesta le-a aparat la mijlocul anilor 1800. Asemenea numelui de „Crestini” (Fapte 11:26), titulatura de „Landmarkisti” a fost la inceput folosit ca o batjocura din partea acelora care respingeau principiile sustinute de J.R. Graves si de cei care stateau alaturi de el. Termenul provine dintr-un articol intitulat „Reasezarea unui vechi hotar” scris de J.M. Pendleton la cererea lui J.R. Graves, si publicat in 1854. Acest termen se aplica acelor doctrine privitoare la biserica, care ii disting pe Landmarkisti de restul crestinilor practicanti, in mod special de Baptistii moderni. J.R. Graves in cartea sa: „Vechiul Landmarkism – Ce este el?”, a enuntat sapte semne distinctive ale Landmarkismului. Acestea au fost sintetizate in acest articol intr-un numar de patru. Daca aceste principii sunt „pietre de hotar” pe care J.R. Graves, J.M. Pendleton si altii le-au stabilit, atunci ele sunt de la oameni, nu de la Dumnezeu, si trebuiesc lepadate. Pe de alta parte, daca, dupa cum au si sustinut, ei n-au facut altceva decat sa restabileasca pietrele de hotar, pe care unii le-au inlaturat prin practicile lor liberale, atunci aceste principii vor fi regasite si in Scriptura, fiind astfel de la Dumnezeu. Daca sunt de la Dumnezeu, atunci noua ne revine responsabilitatea solemna de a le urma, indiferent cat de mult ne-ar afecta lucrul acesta pe noi si relatia noastra cu ceilalti. „Trebuie sã ascultãm mai mult de Dumnezeu decat de oameni!” Sa luam astfel in considerare urmatoarele: PRIMUL SEMN BISERICA ESTE DE ORIGINE DIVINA. Isus a numit-o Biserica Sa, in timp ce le vorbea ucenicilor in Matei 16:18 „Si Eu iti spun: tu esti Petru, si pe aceasta piatra voi zidi Biserica Mea, si portile Locuintei mortilor nu o vor birui.” Unii afirma in mod eronat ca Biserica a fost zidita pe Petru sau pe marturia acestuia, dar cand versetele sunt comparate unele cu altele, trebuie sa deducem ca Isus Insusi este Stanca Piatra pe care El isi zideste Biserica. Comparati urmatoarele texte biblice: „Caci nimeni nu poate pune o alta temelie decat cea care a fost pusa, si care este Isus Hristos” (1 Corinteni 3:11). „Fratilor, nu vreau sa nu stiti ca parintii nostri toti au fost sub nor, toti au trecut prin mare, toti au fost botezati in nor si in mare, pentru Moise; toti au mancat aceeasi mancare duhovniceasca, si toti au baut aceeasi bautura duhovniceasca, pentru ca beau dintr-o stanca duhovniceasca ce venea dupa ei; si stanca era Hristos” (1 Corinteni 10:1-4). „Caci este scris in Scriptura: ‚Iata ca pun in Sion o piatra din capul unghiului, aleasa, scumpa; si cine se increde in El, nu va fi dat de rusine.” Cinstea aceasta este, deci, pentru voi care ati crezut! Dar pentru cei necredinciosi „piatra pe care au lepadat-o zidarii, a ajuns sa fie pusa in capul unghiului’” (1 Petru 2:6, 7). Materialul pe care Domnul Isus la folosit pentru a-si incepe Biserica, a fost pregatit de un om trimis de Dumnezeu: Ioan Botezatorul. Doua pasaje din Vechiul Testament au profetit venirea lui Ioan. Amandoua sunt citate si in Noul Testament. Profetiile lui Isaia despre Ioan se regasesc in cuvintele: „Un glas striga: „Pregatiti in pustie calea Domnului, neteziti in locurile uscate un drum pentru Dumnezeul nostru!” – Isaia 40:3 (vezi de asemenea Matei 3.1-3). Maleahi a profetit referitor la venirea lui Ioan si la cea a lui Hristos, afirmand: „Iata, voi trimite pe solul Meu; el va pregati calea inaintea Mea. Si deodata va intra in Templul Sau Domnul pe care-L cautati: Solul legamantului, pe care-L doriti; iata ca vine, zice Domnul ostirilor” (Maleahi 3:1). Isus a luat din materialul pe care Ioan l-a pregatit, incepand Biserica Sa, in timpul lucrarii Sale personale de pe pamant. A inceput prin a-i chema pe tarmurile marii Galileii, (Matei 4:18-22) si i-a asezat randuit pe munte (1 Corinteni 12:28 si Luca 6:12, 13). Acesta adunare a celor chemati, L-a insotit in timpul lucrarii Sale de pe pamant (lucrarii pamantesti), iar inainte de a se inalta inapoi la Tatal, El le-a dat acestora autoritatea de a-I continua lucrarea aici pe pamant (Matei 28:19, 20). Isus a promis Bisericii Sale o existenta continua pana la sfarsitul veacurilor, cand El se va intoarce si-o va primi la Sine. Aceasta realitate este cunoscuta sub numele de succesiune sau perpetuitate bisericeasca (ecleziastica). Acest principiu este exprimat in Matei 16:18, unde Isus afirma ca: „… portile Locuintei mortilor nu o vor birui.” De asemenea Isus a spus ca va fi cu ei (Biserica Sa) „in toate zilele” (Matei 28:20). AL DOILEA SEMN BISERICA ESTE UN TRUP LOCAL, VIZIBIL. Cuvantul „biserica” este folosit in Noul Testament pentru a identifica o congregatie locala de ucenici ai lui Isus, care sunt uniti in aceeasi credinta si cu acelasi scop. Cuvantul grecesc ekklesia (ekklesia) inseamna „o adunare a celor chemati afara” si a fost folosit in perioada Imperiului Roman, pentru a descrie acel grup de indivizi, care au fost chemati dintre cetatenii oraselor-state si autorizati pentru a le conduce afacerile. Asadar, o biserica nou-testamentala reprezinta un grup al sfintilor chemati, carora Domnul Isus Christos le-a dat autoritatea de a-I continua lucrarea. Cuvantul „biserica” este folosit la singular, atunci cand acesta descrie o biserica anume dintr-un loc specific. De exemplu: „catre Biserica lui Dumnezeu care este in Corint. . .” (1 Corinteni 1:2). Sunt insa si cateva locuri in care acest cuvant este folosit cu sens generic. Insa nu ar trebui nici chiar atunci sa existe confuzie. Folosim in fiecare zi cuvinte in sens generic, fara insa a pierde din vedere individualitatea unei entitati specifice. Daca afirmam, caminul constituie piatra de capatai (de temelie) a societatii umane, ce intelegem prin termenul camin? Un conglomerat al tuturor caminelor din lume? Cu siguranta ca nu! Ci ne gandim la o entitate individuala. De ce insa, folosirea generica a cuvantului biserica, cauzeaza asa multa confuzie si o acceptare generala a bisericii universale, care nu este mai rezonabila, logica sau scripturala decat acel camin universal din care facem toti parte? Termenul la plural este folosit atunci cand se face referire la mai mult de o singura biserica locala. „Si toti fratii care Sunt impreuna cu mine, catre Bisericile Galatiei” (Galateni 1:2). In Apocalipsa 1:11, citim din nou: „Ce vezi, scrie intr-o carte, si trimite-o celor sapte Biserici: la Efes, Smirna, Pergam, Tiatira, Sardes, Filadelfia si Laodicea.”(V.D.C.) Nu doar ca biserica este un trup local, vizibil, ci ea este si autonoma. Fiecare biserica locala se auto-guverneaza, raspunzand doar inaintea Capului ei, Domnul Isus Christos. Biserica din Antiohia, sub conducerea Duhului Sfant, i-au trimis pe Barnaba si pe Saul ca misionari, fara a cere sfatul apostolilor care erau la Ierusalim (Fapte 13:1-4). Cand niste eretici din Ierusalim au creat confuzie in Antiohia, biserica din locul acela a trimis delegati la Ierusalim pentru a discuta despre problemele iscate. Ajunsi acolo, intreaga biserica din Ierusalim a facut anumite recomandari bisericii din Antiohia si altor biserici formate din neamuri, unde au ajuns invatatorii falsi. Limbajul prin care ei s-au exprimat n-a fost sub forma unei porunci venite de la o autoritate mai inalta, ci mai degraba recomandarile unei biserici surori: „ni s-a parut nimerit … daca va veti pazi, va fi bine de voi” (Fapte 15:28, 29). Aceasta este si astazi relatia dintre bisericile nou-testamentale care au dorinta de a coopera si de a avea partasie una cu cealalta, ca egale, in jurul adevarurilor Cuvantului lui Dumnezeu. AL TREILEA SEMN BISERICA ARE O MEMBRALITATE REGENERATA (Este compusa din membrii regenerati). Faptul ca cineva trebuie sa fie mantuit, pentru a se califica pentru membralitate intr-o biserica Nou-Testamentala, reprezinta un principiu clar al Scripturii. O persoana trebuie sa-L cunoasca pe Christos ca Mantuitor inainte de a fi botezata, iar botezul este o conditie care se cere inainte de a deveni membru al unei biserici Nou-Testamentale. Cunosterea lui Christos trebuie sa aiba loc inaintea intrarii in apa. Cand multi dintre Farisei si Saduchei au venit la Ioan pentru a fi botezati, el le-a cerut sa aduca „…roade vrednice de pocainta” (Matei 3:8). Ioan i-a botezat doar pe aceia care au aratat pocainta din viata lor si si-au exprimat credinta in Isus, care urma sa vina dupa el (vezi Fapte 19:4). Adevaratele biserici nou-testamentale practica acelasi lucru astazi. In Matei 5:15, 16 Isus aseamana Biserica Sa cu un sfesnic. Dupa cum se poate observa din pasaj, lumina trebuie mai intai aprinsa inainte de a fi pusa in sfesnic. Petru in 1 Petru 2:5, ilustreaza modul in care biserica este o casa construita din pietre vii. Pietrele trebuiesc sa fie vii, pentru a deveni parte din Casa spirituala. Nu este vorba de a aseza o lumanare intr-un sfesnic care o aprinde si nici a aseza o piatra fara viata intr-o Cladire vie care-i da viata. Asadar, oamenii trebuie sa fie regenerati inainte de a deveni membrii ai unei biserici Nou-Testamentale. AL PATRULEA SEMN O BISERICA NOU-TESTAMENTALA ARE DOUA RANDUIELI (lasate de Christos): Botezul si Cina Domnului. Acestea nu sunt sacramente care contribuie la mantuirea noastra, ci sunt randuieli ilustrative care declara mantuirea noastra prin lucrarea desavarsita infaptuita de Christos. Pentru a fi scriptural, Botezul trebuie sa contina urmatoarele patru elemente: candidatul potrivit, modul potrivit (de a boteza), scopul potrivit (pentru care este infaptuit botezul), si autoritatea potrivita (a celui care oficiaza botezul). (Candidatul potrivit) Doar acela care-si marturiseste credinta in Isus Christos, ca unic si atot-suficient Mantuitor personal, este un candidat potrivit pentru botez. Trebuie sa fi experimentat puterea curatirii sangelui lui Hristos inainte de a deveni un subiect potrivit pentru apa botezului. Doar aceia care au avut aplicat asupra lor sangele izbavitor in Egipt, au reusit sa strabata Marea Rosie (un tip al botezului – 1 Corinteni 10:1-4). Faraon impreuna cu armata sa au pierit in Mare incercand sa-l urmareasca pe Israel. Tot asa cei care sunt botezati fara a avea asupra lor sangele lui Isus Christos pentru protectie si curatie vor pieri. (Modalitatea potrivita de botez) Botezul scriptural este acela prin imersie in apa. Cuvantul inseamna a se afunda sau cufunda. Nici un alt mod de a boteza, nu reprezinta mai corect ingroparea si invierea Domnului nostru Isus Christos (Romani 6:4). (Scopul botezului) Scopul botezul este acela de a declara credinta noastra in Christos Isus: Faptul ca El a murit pentru pacatele nostre conform Bibliei, ca „a fost ingropat si a inviat a treia zi, dupa Scripturi” asigurandu-ne astfel o rascumparare vesnica. In botez noi ne identificam cu Domnul Isus Christos si cu Biserica Sa: „Noi toti, in adevar, am fost botezati de un singur Duh, ca sa alcatuim un singur trup” – 1 Corinteni 12:13. Botezul nu este infaptuit pentru a spala intinaciunea trupeasca, ci el reprezinta „marturia unui cuget curat” curatit deja de sangele lui Isus Christos (1 Petru 3:21). (Autoritatea potrivita) Ingredientul final al unui botez scriptural este autoritatea potrivita. Este importanta persoana care oficiaza actul botezului: Isus si-a ales ucenicii din randul celor care au fost botezati de Ioan Botezatorul, deoarece el a fost la randul lui trimis de Dumnezeu (Ioan 1:6). Isus a transmis autoritatea aceasta bisericilor Sale (Matei 28:16-20) aceste biserici ale Sale fiind singurele care au autoritate scripturala. Daca o biserica nu poate fi identificata conform „semnelor” prezentate anterior, ea nu poseda aceasta autoritate scripturala. Daca cineva pune la indoiala caracterul restrictiv al autorizarii, acesta este indrumat spre Fapte 18:24-19:4. Vedem aici cum unii ucenici, care aparent au fost botezati de Apolo (care desi „era tare in Scripturi” avea „un duh infocat”, era mantuit si botezat scriptural, nu avea autoritate) au fost botezati din nou de catre Pavel (care avea autoritate). Cealalta randuiala a bisericii nou-testamentale este Cina Domnului. Datorita faptului ca este o randuiala bisericeasca, este clar de acum faptul ca ea trebuie sa fie rezervata doar membrilor unui trup local (singurul tip de biserica descoperit in Scriptura). Cina trebuie celebrata de acest trup. Limbajul folosit de Apostolul Pavel este clar in aceasta privinta. Atunci cand el vorbeste despre inviere, cand toti sfintii vor invia, el foloseste toti termenii intr-un mod conprehensiv extins – noi toti, dar atunci cand vorbeste despre Cina Domnului, limbajul sau este unul diferit. In 1 Corinteni 11:26, el scrie: “Pentruca, ori de cate ori mancati din painea aceasta si beti din paharul acesta”. El nu mai afirma noi ci spune voi. Care voi ? Biserica lui Dumnezeu care se afla in Corint, la acestia face el aici referire. Cina Domnului trebuie de asemenea sa fie compusa din elementele potrivite: paine nedospita, si rodul vitei de asemenea fara drojdie. Aluatul este un simbol al pacatului si astfel nimic cu aluat nu poate sa reprezinte cum se cuvine, trupul fara de pacat al Domnului Isus. Cina trebuie celebrata in amintirea mortii Lui pana cand El va veni. Inseamna a privi inapoi si in acelasi timp a privi inainte inspre acel moment cand El o va celebra cu noi noua in Imparatia Tatalui Sau. CONCLUZIE: Daca o pasare arata ca o rata, macaie ca o rata, inoata ca o rata, si se misca la fel ca o rata, atunci presupun ca este o rata. Daca nu este o rata nu face nici unul din lucrurile mentionate mai sus, chiar daca este numita rata. La fel, si bisericile Domnului pot fi recunoscute dupa doctrina si practica lor. Daca bisericile nu invata si nu practica aceste adevaruri, ele nu trebuiesc acceptate a fi Biserici Nou-Testamentale, iar randuielile lor impreuna cu ordinarile lor trebuiesc respinse. Prin pastrarea randuielilor, autoritatea bisericii nou testamentale este transmisa de la o generatie la alta. Fie ca Domnul sa ne dea capacitatea de a lupta „pentru credinta, care a fost data sfintilor odata pentru totdeauna.

13 Propoziţii afirmate de Baptiştii istorici

13 Propoziţii afirmate de Baptiştii istorici
După Edward T. Hiscox
(Această secţiune face parte din cartea Principles and Practices for Baptist
Churches, de Edward T. Hiscox, capitolul 1, Propositions and Statements, p. 11-14,
Kregel Publications, 1982)
Traducere de Raul Enyedi
Propoziţia I: Biblia este o Revelaţie Divină dată de Dumnezeu oamenilor şi este un
ghid şi un standard autoritar complet şi infailibil în tot ce ţine de religie şi morală; orice
învaţă trebuie crezut, şi orice porunceşte trebuie ascultat; orice recomandă trebuie
acceptat ca drept şi util; orice condamnă trebuie evitat atât ca greşit cât şi ca dăunător; dar
ceea ce nici nu porunceşte, nici nu învaţă nu trebuie impus asupra conştiinţei ca obligaţie
Propoziţia II: Noul Testament este constituţia Creştinismului, carta Bisericii
Creştine, singurul cod autoritar de lege ecleziastică şi baza şi justificarea tuturor
instituţiilor Creştine. Numai în el sunt aduse la lumină viaţa şi nemurirea, este descoperită
calea de scăpare de mânie şi este clar prezentat tot ce este necesar mântuirii; mesajele lui
fiind o evanghelie a păcii pe pământ şi a speranţei pentru o lume nemântuită.
Propoziţia III: Fiecare om, prin natura sa, posedă dreptul opiniei particulare în
interpretarea Scripturilor şi în toate interesele religioase; are privilegiul de a citi şi a-şi
explica sieşi Biblia, fără să i se dicteze sau să depindă de cineva, fiind responsabil numai
înaintea lui Dumnezeu pentru felul în care foloseşte adevărul sacru.
Propoziţia IV: Fiecare om are dreptul de a susţine opiniile religioase despre care
crede că sunt învăţate de Biblie, fără a fi atins sau împiedicat de cineva din acest motiv,
atât timp cât nu afectează sau nu vatămă prin aceasta drepturile altora.
Propoziţia V: Toţi oamenii au dreptul, nu doar de a crede, dar de a mărturisi şi
declara deschis orice opinii religioase ar susţine cu condiţia să nu fie contrare moralităţii
comune şi să nu cauzeze vreo injustiţie altora.
Propoziţia VI: Toţi oamenii posedă dreptul comun de a se închina lui Dumnezeu
după învăţăturile Scripturilor, aşa cum le înţeleg ei, fără piedică sau molestare, atât timp
cât nu lezează sau nu vatămă prin aceasta drepturile altora.
Propoziţia VII: Autorităţile civile, conducătorii şi magistraţii trebuie respectaţi şi
ascultaţi în toate problemele temporale ce nu sunt contrare conştiinţei şi Cuvântului lui
Dumnezeu; dar aceştia nu au nici o jurisdicţie în interesele spirituale şi nu au nici un
drept de dictare sau control sau amestec în probleme de religie; ci sunt obligaţi să
protejeze pe toţi cetăţenii buni în exercitarea paşnică a drepturilor şi privilegiilor lor
Propoziţia VIII: Nici o legătură organică a Bisericii cu Statul nu ar trebui tolerată,
ci trebuie menţinută o separare totală: Biserica nu ar trebui nici să ceară, nici să accepte
susţinere din partea autorităţii civile, deoarece aceasta ar implica dreptul de dictare şi
control civil. Susţinerea religiei este responsabilitatea celor care o mărturisesc.
Propoziţia IX: Creştinii trebuie să fie cetăţeni buni, împlinitori ai legii, care susţin
şi apără autoritatea sub care trăiesc în toate lucrurile ce nu sunt contrare conştiinţei şi
Cuvântului lui Dumnezeu; iar acea autoritate este obligată să îi apere în exercitarea
deplină a tuturor drepturilor şi privilegiilor lor, atât civile cât şi religioase.
Propoziţia X: Religia trebuie să fie liberă şi voluntară în ce priveşte credinţa,
închinarea şi slujirea; nici conformarea faţă de o religie, în orice formă a ei, nici
susţinerea acesteia, nu au voie să fie coercitive. Credinţa şi practica Creştină ţin de
conştiinţă şi alegere personală, şi nu se supun unei dictări oficiale; iar ca o autoritate
civilă sau ecleziastică să impună conformarea, să pedepsească disidenţa sau să oblige
susţinerea oricărui fel de închinare înseamnă un delict împotriva drepturilor omului, o
asumare a unor prerogative divine şi trădare faţă de Cristos, singurul Domn al conştiinţei
şi Suveran al sufletului.
Propoziţia XI: Doar persoanele regenerate, şi numai acestea ar trebui să fie şi pot fi
de drept membre într-o Biserică Creştină, care este un corp spiritual separat de lume şi
distinct de Stat, trebuind să fie alcătuit doar din membri spirituali.
Propoziţia XII: Nu este permis ca păstorii să fie impuşi bisericilor, nici să fie
îndepărtaţi fără consimţământul acestora, ci trebuie să fie aleşi de ele, fiecare alegând
pentru sine, după propria-i opinie, ca oameni liberi în Cristos care au dreptul selectării şi
alegerii învăţătorilor lor religioşi.
Propoziţia XIII: Cristos este singurul Cap peste bisericile Sale şi singurul
Legiuitor. În consecinţă, bisericile nu pot face legi, ci pot doar să le execute pe cele date
de El. Nici un om sau un grup de oameni nu poate da legi bisericilor. Doar Noul
Testament este codul lor de legi, prin care, fără a-l schimba, trupul lui Cristos trebuie să
se conducă.

Evenimente importante din istoria baptiştilor

Evenimente importante din istoria baptiştilor Baptiştii americani îşi trasează originea bisericii lor până la Baptiştii din Ţara Galilor care, ca indivizi, iar în unele situaţii ca Biserici Baptiste organizate au emigrat din acea ţară în Lumea Nouă. Aceasta este important şi interesant pentru Baptiştii români din moment ce un Baptist american numit Sears a fost acela care i-a botezat pe Gerhard von Oncken şi adepţii săi şi i-a organizat într-o Biserică Baptistă. În ziua următoare, noua Biserică l-a ales pe Oncken ca păstor al lor. A fost acelaşi Oncken căruia Dumnezeu i-a dat putere să aducă din nou Evanghelia în România la ceea ce se numeşte acum mişcarea Batistă modernă de aici. (Că au existat Baptişti şi Biserici Baptiste organizate în România în timpul lui Traian şi după aceea este foarte probabil deoarece existau Creştini între soldaţii romani şi familiile lor în întreg Imperiul Roman. Aşa cum au existat Baptişti în Bulgaria înainte de Traian, este de asemenea probabil să fi existat Baptişti şi Bisericile lor în ceea ce acum este România, chiar înainte de Traian.) Dar, aşa cum am menţionat mai sus, mişcarea Baptistă modernă din România este îndatorată lui Oncken, iar el, la rândul lui Baptiştilor americani pentru botezul său şi organizarea Bisericii. Dar de unde au venit Baptiştii galezi? Din ei au apărut Baptiştii americani, iar mai apoi Baptiştii moderni din România. Istoricii Baptişti galezi susţin că Claudia şi Pudens (xxx), un cuplu regal din Ţara Galilor au călătorit la Roma şi au auzit Evanghelia probabil de la Pavel sau de la altcineva din grupul lui. Se crede că Pavel, după ce a fost eliberat dintr-una din întemniţările sale timpurii a călătorit în insulele Britanice şi a predicat acolo. De asemenea se ştie că înainte de 597 d.Cr. Bisericile Baptiste din Ţara Galilor (şi din zonele învecinate) erau scutite de erorile catolice. Dar în 597, Austin (uneori numit Augustin, dar a nu se confunda cu „Sfântul Augustin”) a fost trimis să convertească Saxonii la „Creştinism”. Cităm acum din Istoria Baptiştilor scrisă de Benedict. „La aproximativ şaizeci de ani de la înălţarea Domnului nostru, Creştinismul a fost sădit în Britania unde un număr din familie regală şi mulţi alţii de grad inferior au fost chemaţi să fie sfinţi. Aici evanghelia a înflorit mult în vremurile timpurii, şi totodată, aici, adepţii ei au suferit multe dureri şi calamităţi datorită persecuţiilor păgâne. Creştinii britanici au experimentat variate schimbări de prosperitate şi opoziţie până în jurul anului 600. Cu puţin timp înaintea acestei perioade, călugărul Austin, faimosul prigonitor pedo-baptist, împreună cu alţi patruzeci au fost trimişi aici de papa Grigorie cel Mare să convertească saxonii păgâni la papalitate şi să îi supună stăpânirii Romei. Iniţiativa a reuşit şi lucrarea de convertire (sau mai degrabă pervertire) a fost îndeplinită la o scară largă. Regele Ethelbert şi curtea sa, împreună cu o parte considerabilă a împărăţiei sale au fost câştigaţi de călugărul de succes care a consacrat râul Swale, lângă York în care el a hotărât ca zece mii din convertiţii săi să fie botezaţi într-o singură zi. Întâlnind un aşa mare succes îm Anglia, el s-a hotîrât să încerce ce poate să facă în Ţara Galilor. Mulţi Creştini britanici au fugit acolo în acele timpuri pentru a evita devastările brutale ale Saxonilor atroce. Călugărul a ţinut un sinod în vecinătatea lor şi a trimis păstorilor lor cerinţa de a primi porunca papei, dar ei au refuzat să asculte de călugăr sau de papă sau să adopte vreunul din preceptele lor. Austin, văzând refuzul lor prompt, a încercat compromisul cu aceşti galezi zeloşi, cerându-le să îşi dea consimţământul în trei lucruri: primul a fost ca ei să administreze botezul copiilor lor [ adică să îşi boteze nou născuţii. Celelalte două au fost să ţină Paştele după cum va dicta papa şi să se alăture lui –Austin- în proclamarea „evangheliei”. Ed.] Dar ei nu au vrut să fie complicii nici uneia din propunerile lui. „Fiindcă”, a spus acest apostol zelos al papalităţii şi pedobaptismului, „nu vreţi să primiţi pacea fraţilor voştri, veţi avea parte de război şi mizerie.” Şi după cum a spus, el a adus saxonii să le verse sângele nevinovat şi mulţi dintre ei şi-au pierdut vieţile pentru numele lui Isus. Istoricii Baptişti din Anglia susţin că primii Baptişti englezi au fost Baptişti şi că au susţinut principiile Baptiste până la venirea lui Austin. „Nu avem nici o menţionare”, spune autorul Memoriilor, „despre botezarea copiilor în Anglia înainte de venirea lui Austin în 587; şi pentru noi este evident că el l-a adus nu din cer, ci de la Roma.” Acei Baptişti galezi care au scăpat de războinicii saxoni chemaţi de „fratele” lor Austin au alergat înspre regiunea muntoasă a Ţării Galilor unde au rămas ascunşi. În zile de libertate, ei au ieşit de acolo şi s-au răspândit chiar şi în America iar în final, influenţa lor a fost simţită în toată lumea, pe măsură ce Biserici Baptiste erau organizate în multe ţări după modelul nou testamental. Baptiştii români au o datorie, la fel ca Baptiştii americani, faţă de acei fraţi şi surori credincioşi din Ţara Galilor care au refuzat compromisul, alegând mai degrabă să sufere persecuţia pentru Hristos şi Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu. Fie ca noi să învăţăm din istorie, pentru a nu o repeta!

O scurtă descriere a baptiştilor istorici

O scurtă descriere a baptiştilor istorici

De Raul Enyedi

Fiind păstrătorii simplităţii doctrinare şi practice pe care o găsim în Noul Testament, şi având o existenţă continuă din primul secol creştin până astăzi, baptiştii sunt creştinii originali. Fondatorul nostru nu este un om, ci Însuşi Mântuitorul Isus Cristos.

De-a lungul istoriei am fost cunoscuţi sub diferite nume, care ne-au fost date în funcţie de o anumită caracteristică, un anumit lider sau loc din care proveneam (novaţieni, donatişti, paulicieni, albigenzi, valdenzi sunt doar câteva denumiri). În general eram cunoscuţi sub denumirea peiorativă de Anabaptişti (rebotezători), fiindcă nu recunoşteam actele de cult făcute de biserici pe care nu le consideram autentice şi botezam pe cei ce se converteau la credinţa noastră. Niciodată însă nu ne-am însuşit acest nume, deoarece consideram că nu botezăm a doua oară, ci pentru prima oară în mod corect, biblic. În timp s-a renunţat la prefixul „ana-” şi am rămas cunoscuţi ca „baptişti” (botezători).

Parcursul nostru istoric este unul diferit de cel al Bisericilor tradiţionale. Nu am ieşit nici din Reforma Protestantă, nici din Biserica de Apus, nici din cea de Răsărit. Nu ne-am identificat cu nici una din aceste biserici şi nici nu ne asemănăm cu ele. Sir Isaac Newton, marele om de ştiinţă, a afirmat că este convins că „baptiştii sunt singurii creştini care nu s-au identificat niciodată cu Roma [papală]”. Privind înapoi în istoria universală, noi considerăm această afirmaţie ca un mare compliment.

Fiind catalogaţi pe nedrept eretici (Mircea Eliade spunea că „primele forme creştine erau mai aproape de acelea care au fost considerate mai târziu drept eretice”), înaintaşii noştri au fost crunt persecutaţi atât de autorităţile ecleziastice cât şi de cele seculare. Mulţi au plătit cu viaţa pentru ceea ce se considera atunci a fi vina supremă, aceea de a crede şi practica în viaţa de zi cu zi principiile Noului Testament şi de a cere libertate pentru toţi oamenii de a-L sluji pe Dumnezeu după cum le dictează conştiinţa. Deşi milioane au murit pentru credinţa lor, la rândul lor nu au persecutat pe nimeni, niciodată. Nimeni nu a suferit persecuţie din mâna baptiştilor şi nici o picătură de sânge nu a fost vărsată în numele religiei noastre!

În ţara noastră au existat baptişti în diferite perioade istorice, dar au fost exterminaţi sau alungaţi în mai multe rânduri. În epoca modernă baptiştii au apărut de la mijlocul secolului XIX, la început dezvoltându-se printre etnicii germani şi maghiari, apoi printre români. Pionierii baptişti şi primele biserici erau independente, credeau şi practicau principiile baptiştilor istorici.

Particularităţile după care pot fi identificate bisericile noastre astăzi, dar şi în orice moment al istoriei creştine sunt următoarele:

1. Conform definiţiei biblice, Biserica este adunarea credincioşilor botezaţi dintr-un anumit loc – o organizaţie axată pe activităţi spirituale, al cărei Fondator, Cap şi Dătător de lege este Mântuitorul Isus Cristos. Biserica nu este o clădire şi nu este formată doar din cler. De asemenea, nu credem în concepte ca Biserică naţională sau universală, acestea fiind în contradicţie cu Sfânta Scriptură.

2. Membri în biserică pot fi doar persoanele care au crezut Evanghelia şi a căror viaţă a fost schimbată vizibil. A crede Evanghelia înseamnă a crede că omul merită moartea pentru păcatele Sale, dar că poate fi salvat de Dumnezeu prin har (adică fără a merita mântuirea) prin faptul că Cristos a suferit pedeapsa pentru păcatele sale. Credem că omul nu se poate salva prin faptele sale şi nici nu Îl poate determina cumva pe Dumnezeu să îi arate bunăvoinţă, ci este dependent de îndurarea Lui.

3. În biserică se intră prin botez (efectuat prin scufundare), pe baza mărturiei personale a credinţei fiecărui candidat. Acesta este începutul vieţii de creştin. Din acest punct urmează supunerea şi fidelitatea faţă de toate învăţăturile din Noul Testament.

4. Biserica nu are decât două rânduieli: botezul şi Cina Domnului. Acestea sunt simbolice (nu se întâmplă nimic miraculos în timpul acestor ceremonii), comemorează moartea şi învierea Domnului dar arată şi identificarea noastră cu El; nu sunt sacramente mântuitoare, deci participarea la ele nu asigură mântuirea nimănui.

5. Legile şi rânduielile pe baza cărora biserica funcţionează se găsesc exclusiv în Noul Testament (deşi credem că întreaga Biblie este Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu, biserica este o instituţie nou testamentală). Prin urmare, nu acceptăm alte norme, cum ar fi practici iudaice din vechiul testament, tradiţia bisericească, învăţăturile vreunui profet modern, etc.

6. În cadrul bisericii nu există o ierarhie, un cler. Există doar 2 feluri de slujitori ai bisericii, păstorii (numiţi în Scriptură şi episcopi sau prezbiteri) – aceştia se ocupă de învăţarea credincioşilor, de creşterea lor spirituală; şi diaconii, care se ocupă de slujbele administrative ale bisericii.

7. Biserica funcţionează ca o democraţie pură. Fiecare membru este implicat activ în viaţa bisericii, deciziile fiind luate prin votul majorităţii. Nu există diferenţiere între membri, fiecare este egal; nu avem comitete sau alte foruri conducătoare.

8. Bisericile – adunări locale – sunt independente unele faţă de celelalte în executarea legilor şi disciplinei, dar cooperează unele cu altele în diferite activităţi, ca egale. Nici o biserică nu are autoritate asupra alteia. Asocierea de biserici în diferite structuri este nebiblică şi dăunătoare bisericilor locale.

9. Credem în separarea absolută a bisericii faţă de stat. Plătim autorităţilor ce suntem datori, ca cetăţeni ai statului în care trăim, şi ne supunem legilor domestice.  Nu pretindem salarii de la bugetul public, scutiri de impozite, şi alte asemenea avantaje. Credem că cheltuielile fiecărei biserici nu sunt cheltuieli publice, ci trebuie suportate de membrii bisericii respective.

10. Credem şi susţinem că fiecare om are dreptul la libertate religioasă, şi că nimeni nu îi poate impune cu forţa ce să creadă, deoarece fiecare este responsabil înaintea lui Dumnezeu pentru ceea ce crede şi pentru modul în care îşi trăieşte viaţa.

Aceste 10 particularităţi ne fac diferiţi şi de multe biserici care se mai numesc încă „baptiste”, dar acestea reprezintă scheletul doctrinar şi practic după care poate fi recunoscută o biserică de tip baptist, indiferent de numele pe care îl poartă sau de perioada istorică în care a existat. Aceste principii fiind extrase din Sfânta Scriptură, le considerăm totodată ca fiind caracteristici esenţiale, în lipsa cărora o biserică nu este autentică.

Alte câteva caracteristici merită menţionate.

Credem că singurul intermediar între Dumnezeu şi oameni este Isus Cristos. Prin El avem acces liber la Dumnezeu, fără să mai fie nevoie de mijlocirea unei clase preoţeşti sau a diferitor sfinţi.

Bisericile noastre nu au sărbători. Ceea ce majoritatea oamenilor socotesc a fi sărbători creştine, nu sunt decât o suprapunere de nume creştine peste unele ritualuri iudaice, dar mai ales peste vechi sărbători păgâne, din care s-au păstrat practicile şi uneori chiar datele. Sărbătoarea Crăciunului, de exemplu, este numită şi sărbătoarea Naşterii Domnului. Dar Scriptura nu precizează data exactă a naşterii Sale, ci doar perioada aproximativă (sfârşitul lui septembrie, începutul lui octombrie). Dacă încercăm să găsim în istorie originea datei şi a obiceiurilor de Crăciun, vom găsi că acestea provin din păgânism. De asemenea, nu ni se spune în Biblie că trebuie să sărbătorim naşterea Sa. Acestea sunt motive suficiente pentru a nu ne implica în astfel de sărbători. În plus, pentru creştin, fiecare zi trăită în ascultare de Dumnezeu este o zi de sărbătoare, de odihnă a sufletului.

Credem că rolul bisericii nu este acela de a asigura mântuirea oamenilor. Principiul „nu există mântuire în afara bisericii” este nebiblic. Dumnezeu este cel care salvează sufletele, nu oamenii. Oamenii nu se pot salva pe ei înşişi şi nu pot salva pe altcineva, oricine ar fi şi orice ar face. Rolul bisericii este acela de a-L reprezenta pe Cristos şi mesajul Său înaintea restului lumii, de a ajuta la creşterea spirituală a credincioşilor. Totodată, o biserică autentică este locul în care Dumnezeu acceptă închinarea şi slujirea credincioşilor.

Baptiştii dintotdeauna au promovat educarea şi creşterea nivelului de cunoştinţe al oamenilor. Conceptul de credinţă oarbă este străin de noi. Nu avem liste de cărţi interzise, laice sau religioase, şi suntem susţinători ai ştiinţei autentice. Biblia nu îndeamnă la îngustime şi ignoranţă. Sintagma „crede şi nu cerceta” nu este biblică, aşa cum cred mulţi. Biblia afirmă contrariul: „Cercetaţi toate lucrurile şi păstraţi ce este bun”. Acesta este principiul nostru.

Nu suntem implicaţi în mişcarea ecumenică (mişcarea de reunificare a tuturor bisericilor) deoarece, din nefericire, acolo nu se urmăreşte întoarcerea la adevăr, la spiritualitatea creştinismului original, la învăţăturile şi practicile Noului Testament. Dimpotrivă, acestea sunt în continuare ignorate, baza doctrinară a ecumenismului fiind asigurată de decretele primelor concilii ecumenice.

Suntem diferiţi şi separaţi de bisericile baptiste care direct sau indirect (prin reprezentanţii forurilor lor de conducere) sunt implicaţi în ecumenism, sau care au renunţat la unele din principiile fundamentale baptiste.

Nu avem ca scop convertirea lumii sau a vreunui popor la o anumită ideologie. Nu urmărim nici strategii de marketing pentru dezvoltare şi nici nu căutăm succese sau avantaje financiare. Ceea ce sperăm să realizăm, şi o vom face, dacă va voi Dumnezeu, este să prezentăm Evanghelia lui Cristos cât mai multor oameni, să îi convingem să citească Sfânta Scriptură, fiindcă acolo se găseşte calea spre viaţa eternă. Restul depinde de Dumnezeu.

Dilema John Smyth sau patru sute de ani de la înfiinţarea mişcării Baptiste?

Dilema John Smyth


patru sute de ani de la înfiinţarea mişcării Baptiste?


De Aurel Munteanu şi Raul Enyedi

Anul acesta multe organizaţii Baptiste au sărbătorit patru sute de ani de la înfiinţarea primei Biserici Baptiste în Amsterdam. Cu această ocazie, Alianţa Baptistă Mondială a promovat cunoaşterea începuturilor istorice, şi de asemenea identificarea chemării lor din partea lui Dumnezeu pentru viitor. Acest mega-eveniment a fost organizat de Alianţa Baptistă Mondială, Federaţia Baptistă Europeană şi Uniunea Baptistă Olandeză. Iată o scurtă introducere în istoria acestui mare eveniment care a fost sărbătorit.

În jurul anilor 1606, un anume domn pe nume John Smyth, preot Anglican, a părăsit biserica tradiţională cu un grup de credincioşi şi s-a alăturat Separatiştilor; în scurt timp, diferenţele dintre ei şi separatişti au ieşit la iveală cu privire la candidaţii potriviţi pentru botez, iar domnul Smyth şi grupul său au fost nevoiţi să se refugieze în Olanda, din cauza persecuţiei. Acolo, studiind Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu, au ajuns la convingerea că aveau nevoie de un botez corect. Ei credeau că pentru a avea un botez valid nu era nevoie de altceva decât de mărturisirea personală a credinţei în Isus Cristos şi în jertfa Sa.

Istoria spune că Domnul John Smyth s-a autobotezat iar apoi a botezat treizeci şi şase de membri care îi împărtăşau crezul. Se spune că în acest fel a luat naştere prima Biserică Baptistă în Amsterdam, în anul 1609.

După această întâmplare, influenţa Anabaptistă l-a determinat pe Domnul John Smyth să se răzgândească, astfel că şi-a negat autobotezul şi a cerut Anabaptiştilor să îl boteze corect. Unii dintre membri bisericii ce o fondase l-au urmat, dar un grup de zece persoane, condus de Domnul Thomas Helwys i s-a opus. Acest grup a rămas la convingerea că, pentru a fi valid, este suficient ca botezul să fie administrat persoanelor adulte în baza mărturisirii de credinţă. După lungi dezbateri, grupul s-a întors în Anglia în anul 1612, unde şi-a răspândit credinţa. Liderul lor, Domnul Thomas Helwys, şi-a pecetluit credinţa cu propriul sânge, murind ca martir.

Majoritatea Baptiştilor contemporani cred că aceasta este originea lor. Totuşi, această origine ridică nişte întrebări serioase datorită credinţei iniţiale a Domnului Smyth cu privire la administratorul corect al botezului.

Pentru a fi înţelese aceste întrebări, vom prezenta un caz ipotetic. Să spunem că am fost botezat ca prunc, iar acum, fiind adult, încep să studiez Biblia cu familia mea. Domnul ne mântuieşte şi realizăm că botezul primit în copilărie nu este valid. În oraşul meu nu este decât o biserică ce botează adulţi în baza marturisirii credinţei personale, dar nu sunt de acord cu ei în unele probleme doctrinare, aşa că hotărăsc să merg la râu şi să mă autobotez, iar apoi să botez şi restul familiei. Dacă vin la o biserică Baptistă locală, ne vor primi ei ca membri cu un asemenea botez?

Acest exemplu prezintă un caz fundamental pentru Baptişti. Ca să fie consecvenţi cu doctrinele fondatorilor, ar trebui să ne accepte ca membri şi să ne considere botezurile valide. Dar toate bisericile Baptiste pe care le ştiu ar refuza să mă primească membru din cauza autobotezului, şi nici familia nu mi-ar accepta-o, pentru că am botezat-o eu.

Dar refuzul lor arată că ei cred că, pentru ca botezul să fie valid, este nevoie de un administrator autorizat. Respingând botezul meu şi al familiei mele, ei resping botezurile Domnilor Smyth şi Helwys, pe care îi consideră fondatori. Mai mult, dacă toate botezurile lor vin din această sursă, ei îşi neagă propriile botezuri, arătând că nici unul dintre ei nu este cu adevărat botezat!

Prezentul refuz al bisericilor Baptiste de a recunoaşte autobotezurile le pune într-o mare dilemă. Dacă vor continua să susţină originea prin Domnul Smyth, ar trebui să înceapă să recunoască autobotezurile, deoarece consecvenţa pretinde acest lucru. Dar, din câte ştiu, nu sunt gata să o facă, şi ar fi imposibil de găsit în Biblie vreo dovadă pentru o asemenea practică. Menţinând această poziţie, Baptiştii ar viola principiile Biblice, ar cauza serioase dezordini în bisericile lor, iar doctina şi practica bisericii lor ar fi în final ridiculizată şi distrusă.

Dacă, totuşi, aleg să continue să refuze acceptarea autobotezurilor, sunt forţaţi să admită că John Smyth nu a fost botezat, că toţi cei care şi-au primit botezul de la el nu au fost botezaţi, inclusiv ei înşişi. Dacă rădăcina este rea, la fel sunt şi ramurile. Dacă fundaţia este greşită, la fel este toată casa. Care este atunci sensul numelui lor denominaţional, din moment ce Baptist înseamnă Botezat?  

Menţinerea  acestei poziţii  secunde  i-ar pune pe Baptişti într-o situaţie foarte jenantă, şi, mai rău chiar, într-o poziţie nescripturală, din moment ce aceasta i-ar face o biserică surogat. Atunci, ei ar trebui să se dizolve ca biserici şi să caute un administrator autorizat să-i boteze şi să-i organizeze în biserici scripturale.

Refuzul recunoaşterii autobotezurilor ca valide ar fi cu siguranţă alegerea scripurală, dar consecvenţa ar cere acceptarea acestora, şi logic, încălcarea principiilor scripturale. Încotro se vor îndrepta Baptiştii?

Este interesant de notat cursul pe care l-a luat John Smyth. El s-a confruntat cu aceeaşi dilemă. A văzut nevoia unui administrator autorizat, şi a înţeles că acest administrator nu primeşte autoritate numai pe verticală, de la Dumnezeu, dar şi pe orizontală, de la o instituţie pământească autorizată. A ajuns să respingă propriul botez, pe care l-a considerat invalid, şi a apelat la Anabaptişti.

Domnul Smyth a găsit o cale de ieşire consecventă şi scripturală din această dilemă. A admis că autobotezul a fost un episod singular şi izolat şi a recunoscut nevoia unui administrator legiuit. Dilema nu oferă nici o rezolvare dacă este menţinută teoria originii prin Smyth. Baptiştii de astăzi pot scăpa de această dilemă fundamentală numai dacă vor nega că îşi au originea în Domnul Smyth şi vor insista asupra faptului că Domnul Helwys a popularizat numai numele de „Baptist”, dar biserici ce credeau doctrinele fundamentale Baptiste au existat cu mult înainte de 1609, cu toate că aveau alte denumiri. În acest fel, vor admite că episodul cu John Smyth a fost doar un eveniment izolat în istoria noastră, şi nu primul nostru început.

De ce Baptiştii nu sunt Protestanţi

De ce Baptiştii nu sunt Protestanţi




Originea şi doctrinele Anabaptiştilor din secolul Reformei

De Raul Enyedi




NABAPTIŞTII din secolul Reformei reprezintă unul din cele mai controversate subiecte din istoria omenirii. Fiecare aspect al existenţei lor – originea, doctrinele, practica, influenţa lor asupra lumii – a fost afirmată şi contestată într-o mulţime de feluri. Atât apărătorii cât şi acuzatorii lor au descoperit că păstrarea obiectivităţii, a imparţialităţii în timpul cercetării mişcării Anabaptiste este cel mai greu lucru posibil. Anabaptiştii erau cunoscuţi ca oameni care urau compromisul, iar poziţiile lor radicale erau fie iubite, fie urâte, dar nicidecum privite cu indiferenţă.

Considerăm că lumea a ajuns într-un punct, mai ales în mediul religios, în care există o nevoie urgentă ca doctrinele Anabaptiştilor să fie cunoscute şi proclamate de toţi cei care doresc continuarea existenţei Creştinismului pur şi al Bisericilor construite după modelul nou testamentar (Epistola lui Iuda, versetul 3).

Trăim într-o epocă în care afirmarea unei identităţi doctrinare sau denominaţionale este considerată a fi o poziţie demodată. Cineva care susţine identitatea Baptistă este numit „îngust”, „bigot”, „fanatic” sau „lipsit de bun simţ biblic”. Ca Baptişti, însă, este imposibil să ştim încotro ne îndreptăm dacă nu ne cunoaştem identitatea istorică. Nici un Baptist nu îşi poate cunoaşte identitatea şi originea, nu poate şti de unde vine şi încotro se îndreaptă, dacă nu îi cunoaşte pe Anabaptişti.

Anabaptiştii au marcat semnificativ istoria creştinismului şi a lumii. Omul modern care trăieşte într-o societate ce îi asigură dreptul de a se exprima liber, de a crede ceea ce consideră potrivit, este tributar Anabaptiştilor secolului XVI. Mulţi dintre ei au pierit prin mâna călăului sau mistuiţi de flăcările rugului pentru a proclama şi apăra aceste drepturi fundamentale de care se bucură lumea civilizată astăzi.

Anabaptistului persecutat, vânat şi martirizat acum aproape cinci veacuri, baptistul modern îi datorează existenţa sa, scheletul doctrinar pe care îi este construită biserica şi totodată direcţia pe care o urmează. Având o asemenea moştenire, orice baptist ar trebui să fie mândru de înaintaşii lui, dar smerit în faţa unui nor aşa de mare de martori.

Astăzi, însă, baptiştii îi ignoră sau renegă pe Anabaptişti, stânjenindu-se când sunt identificaţi cu ei. Ba mai mult, sunt unii care îşi spun baptişti, dar mărturisesc deschis că se identifică mai degrabă cu tabăra Protestantă sau cea Catolică decât cu cea Anabaptistă. Considerăm că această tristă situaţie are două cauze. Prima – de partea membrilor obişnuiţi – este ignoranţa. A doua – de partea liderilor – este implicarea în mişcarea ecumenică.

Prima cauză, ignoranţa, deşi nu este lăudabilă, are atuul inocenţei. În limba română sunt puţine materiale disponibile care tratează istoria Anabaptiştilor, iar de la amvoane nu se mai aude de mult timp învăţătura despre originile noastre baptiste. Cu toate acestea, avertizăm că fiecare membru este responsabil înaintea lui Dumnezeu să caute adevărul în orice privinţă, să judece ceea ce se predică – şi ce nu se predică, să vegheze la puritatea doctrinară şi practică a bisericii din care face parte.

A doua cauză este mult mai dramatică şi deloc inocentă. Majoritatea liderilor baptişti nu mai pot fi acuzaţi de ignoranţă – nu inocentă, cel puţin. Au trecut vremurile în care baptiştilor nu li se permitea accesul la învăţământul superior sau la informaţie. Informaţia există şi este disponibilă oricui vrea să studieze. Învăţătura despre originile baptiste nu se predică nu pentru că nu este cunoscută, ci fiindcă nu se potriveşte cu programa urmată de forurile baptiste superioare. Aceasta este programa ecumenică urmată de toate marile denominaţii creştine. Ecumenismul nu priveşte favorabil insistenţa asupra istoriei denominaţiilor, fiindcă urmăreşte aducerea lor într-o epocă post-denominaţională. Istoria (care inevitabil subliniază particularităţile denominaţionale) este minimizată sau chiar schimbată de cei din largul cerc ecumenic.

Mai mult decât orice altă denominaţie, Baptiştii au o istorie care nu se încadrează în şabloanele ecumenice, fiind astfel extrem de incomodă. Nu este de mirare, deci, că odată cu implicarea Baptiştilor în ecumenism a survenit şi o schimbare în poziţia lor cu privire la propria origine. Întâi s-a renunţat la „teoria succesiunii” (care afirmă că baptiştii sunt urmaşii creştinilor originali, şi că biserici de tip baptist, dar cu nume diferite, au existat în fiecare secol  de la Cristos încoace); apoi s-a renunţat şi la „teoria înrudirii Anabaptiste”, deoarece Anabaptiştii erau drastic separaţi atât de Catolici cât şi de Protestanţi şi erau stigmatizaţi ca fanatici, fiind făcuţi responsabili pentru două episoade tragice din vremea Reformei timpurii, Războaiele Ţărănimii (1524-1525) şi Împărăţia de la Munster (1535-1536). S-a ales teoria originii din separatiştii englezi, în 1609, prin John Smyth, cel care s-a botezat singur şi apoi i-a botezat pe cei care îl însoţeau, organizând astfel prima biserică baptistă din lume. O astfel de teorie este foarte convenabilă cauzei ecumenice fiindcă îi încadrează pe baptişti în sfera Protestantismului târziu, devenind continuatori ai Reformei, şi îi separă de evenimentele zbuciumate ale secolului XVI şi de toate grupările medievale disidente, care s-au împotrivit Catolicismului în mod vehement şi, în cele mai multe cazuri, până la exterminare.

Scopul acestui articol este să scoată la lumină o mică parte a istoriei Anabaptiştilor timpurii, a viziunii lor, a doctrinelor lor specifice, a standardului lor de viaţă, a luptei lor pentru păstrarea credinţei, a suferinţelor şi persecuţiilor prin care au trecut. Având la dispoziţie informaţii esenţiale, citate din surse originale şi citate din cei mai importanţi cercetători ai Anabaptismului, sperăm că cititorul îşi poate forma o opinie generală, dar corectă despre Anabaptişti, aşa încât, la sfârşitul lecturii, să fie capabil să răspundă la două întrebări esenţiale: cine au fost Anabaptiştii? şi ce au crezut ei?

Definirea termenului „Anabaptist”

Numele de Anabaptism a fost dat acelei mişcări ce s-a dezvoltat în timpul Reformei din secolul XVI a cărei caracteristică generală a fost protestul faţă de botezul pruncilor practicat de Biserica Romano-Catolică şi de Bisericile Protestante, botez pe care îl considerau nescriptural şi invalid. Cuvântul „Anabaptist” înseamnă „re-botezător” şi a fost aplicat lor de către duşmani, în sens peiorativ. Ei niciodată nu au acceptat această poreclă, fiindcă nu se considerau re-botezători. Ei afirmau că botezul pruncilor nu este un botez validat de Scripturi, de aceea nu poate fi numit botez. Ei considerau că botezul valid era doar cel aplicat unor persoane suficient de mature pentru a-şi exprima propria credinţă în Cristos.  Între ei, se numeau „fraţi” şi doreau să fie cunoscuţi sub numele de „creştini”. Insistau atât de mult asupra acestui aspect, încât numele general prin care sunt cunoscuţi între simpatizanţii lor este acela de „Fraţi” (Fraţii Elveţieni, Fraţii Germani, Fraţii Moravieni, etc.).

Ei susţineau de asemenea Noul Testament ca fiind singura autoritate în materie de credinţă şi practică. Se opuneau clerului şi credeau în egalitatea tuturor membrilor în biserică. Credeau că urmarea lui Cristos însemna trăirea unei vieţi de perseverenţă spre sfinţenie. Aveau credinţa că fiecare om este liber să aleagă ce doreşte să creadă sau în ce biserică să fie membru, indiferent de statul în care se află.

Încă de la început trebuie subliniat că în categoria „Anabaptiştilor”, oponenţii lor au inclus orice grupare care se opunea botezului pruncilor şi asocierii Bisericii cu autorităţile seculare. Astfel, vom întâlni sub această denumire atât grupuri paşnice, cât şi revoluţionare; atât grupuri „evanghelice” cât şi fanatice. Această generalizare nu a fost întâmplătoare, ci intenţionată, cu scopul de a-i face urâţi de oameni. Philip Schaff, unul din cei mai mari istorici ecleziastici, a afirmat: „Există două feluri de Anabaptişti, moderaţi şi fanatici. Eşuarea în a face această distincţie a făcut rău şi a cauzat Baptiştii moderni să nege legătura lor cu Baptiştii Reformei, când de fapt ei sunt descendenţii direcţi ai tipului moderat şi nu au nici un motiv să fie ruşinaţi de predecesorii lor” (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 370). Vom încerca în această lucrare să distingem diferitele grupări catalogate drept „Anabaptiste” şi să îi diferenţiem pe Anabaptiştii „evanghelici” de cei revoluţionari sau fanatici.

Orice istoric se confruntă cu o problemă serioasă atunci când încearcă să studieze obiectiv disidenţa într-o societate monolitică, totalitară. Istoria este scrisă de cei care au câştigat puterea, iar lucrul acesta este valabil şi în cazul istoriei Anabaptiştilor. În nici un stat nu au câştigat puterea – de fapt, nici nu urmăreau acest lucru – iar principiile lor nu au fost puse în practică decât în micile comunităţi pe care le formau. Schaff observă, „Informaţia referitoare la Anabaptişti este în mare parte derivată din surse deficiente şi pline de prejudecăţi” (Ibid.). Marea majoritate a izvoarelor istorice provin de la duşmanii lor, fie de la Catolici, fie de la Protestanţi. Aceştia nu ezitau să le reproşeze cele mai odioase şi mai monstruoase crime, calomnia fiind considerată ca făcând parte din arsenalul „omului lui Dumnezeu”. Franklin Littell spune: „…scrierile şi documentele mişcării au fost suprimate cu succes, pe când polemicile duşmanilor lor aveau o largă circulaţie şi au fost traduse timpuriu în diferite limbi (inclusiv în engleză)” (The Anabaptist Concept of the Church, p. 148).

Pentru multă vreme istoricii le-au construit o imagine folosindu-se de materialele puse la dispoziţie de cei care le erau cei mai mari duşmani… Doar urmaşii lor şi puţini dintre cei care nu făceau parte din cercurile lor nu îi considerau drojdia societăţii, oamenii diavolului, duşmanii lui Cristos şi ai ordinii sociale…

În orice vreme, cei ce se identificau cu Anabaptiştii, tânjeau după achitarea acestora. C.H. Spurgeon spera că „Va sosi probabil timpul în care istoria va fi re-scrisă, iar Baptiştii calomniaţi din Olanda şi Germania vor fi achitaţi de orice complicitate la delirurile fanaticilor nebuni, şi se va dovedi că ei erau avangarda armatei pentru libertatea religiei, oameni care au trăit înaintea timpurilor lor, dar a căror influenţă ar fi putut salva lumea de secole de zbateri în mocirla semi-papalităţii, dacă li s-ar fi permis un joc cinstit” (Cook, The Story of the Baptists, p. 56).

Vremurile după care tânjea Spurgeon au început demult, dar marea parte a urmaşilor lor nu mai sunt interesaţi de istoria Anabaptiştilor.

Anabaptiştii şi Reforma radicală


Prin originea şi particularităţile lor, Anabaptiştii s-au deosebit atât de Catolici, cât şi de Protestanţi. Au format o mişcare distinctă, care nu s-a identificat cu nici una din tabere, rămânând întotdeauna separaţi şi independenţi de ele. George Williams, unul din cei mai importanţi cercetători ai Anabaptiştilor, a afirmat: „Din toate privinţele ajungem să recunoaştem în Reforma Radicală o expresie majoră a mişcării religioase a secolului şaisprezece. Este una la fel de distinctă precum Luteranismul, Calvinismul şi Anglicanismul, şi este prin comparaţie probabil la fel de semnificativă în ascensiunea Creştinismului modern” (Spiritualist and Anabaptist Writers, p. 19).

Mişcarea Anabaptistă se încadrează în ceea ce istoricii numesc „aripa stângă a Reformei” sau „Reforma radicală”. Această aripă cuprindea o largă varietate de idei şi de grupuri între care nu exista cooperare, ci mai degrabă rivalitate.

Henry Bullinger, secundul lui Zwingli, a încercat o clasificare a lor, sugerând existenţa a treisprezece grupări diferite (vezi Christian, A History of the Baptists, Vol. 1, p. 87), dar numărul grupărilor era chiar mai mare. Sebastian Franck, un alt contemporan, nota varietatea existentă printre radicali: „mi se pare că nu există doi care să fie de acord unul cu altul în toate punctele” (Christian, op. cit., p. 87).

Johann Mosheim a văzut aceasta când a scris, în 1726, Fundamentele istoriei ecleziastice: „Dacă originea acestei secte discordante care a cauzat atâta pagubă atât în comunitatea civilă cât şi în cea religioasă trebuie căutată în Elveţia sau în Olanda şi Germania, sau în vreo altă ţară nu este important de ştiut şi imposibil de determinat pe deplin. În opinia mea, nu se poate afirma decât că în acelaşi timp, – adică nu mult după începerea Reformei de Luther – s-au ridicat oameni de acest fel în mai multe ţări diferite. Aceasta se poate deduce din faptul că aproape toţi liderii timpurii de o anumită vază printre Anabaptişti erau fondatori ai unor secte diferite. Căci deşi toţi aceşti reformatori ai bisericii, sau mai degrabă, aceşti proiectanţi de biserici noi, sunt numiţi Anabaptişti, deoarece toţi negau că pruncii sunt subiecţii potriviţi pentru botez şi botezau din nou solemn pe cei ce fuseseră botezaţi în pruncie, cu toate acestea, chiar de la început, la fel cum este şi astăzi, erau împărţiţi în grupuri variate care se contraziceau şi disputau asupra unor puncte nu de mică importanţă” (p. 686).

Philip Schaff afirmă: „Trebuie să deosebim cu atenţie clasa mai bună de Baptişti şi Menoniţii de turbulenţii revoluţionari radicali şi fanatici, asemenea lui Carlstadt, Muenzer şi liderilor tragediei de la Muenster” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII., p. 396).

Fritz Blanke, în Anabaptism and the Reformation spune: „Pe lângă canalul principal al Reformei, curgeau trei alte curente: Anabaptismul, spiritualismul şi anti-Trinitarianismul. Deşi existau tranziţii şi fenomene de frontieră între aceste curente, ele pot totuşi fi socotite ca diferite în esenţă. Anabaptismul la rândul său poate fi împărţit în patru ramuri: Fraţii Elveţieni, Fraţii hutteriţi în Moravia, Melchioriţii, notorii pentru împărăţia lor apocaliptică de la Munster, 1534-35; şi Menoniţii.” (Hershberger, The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision, p. 57).

Mai recent, George Williams a realizat una din cele mai complete catalogări a diferitelor grupări care formau împreună „aripa stângă a Reformei”. „Toţi participanţii în Reforma Radicală au avut în comun dezamăgirea faţă de aspectele morale ale Protestantismului teritorial, aşa cum a fost articulat de Luther şi Zwingli, şi o negare directă a mai multor doctrine şi instituţii ale acestuia. Printre disidenţi în Reforma Radicală există trei mai grupuri: Anabaptiştii propriu zişi, Spiritualiştii şi Raţionaliştii Evanghelici.” (Spiritualist and Anabaptist Writings, p. 20)

Raţionaliştii evanghelici erau în mare majoritate unitarieni (anti-trinitarieni). Erau numeroşi în Polonia şi Transilvania, unde în a doua jumătate a sec. XVI trecuseră la socinianism. Reprezentaţii lor sunt Michael Servetus, Faustus şi Laelius Socinus, iar în Geneva lui Calvin, îi aveau de partea lor pe Castellius şi Crellius, unii din cei mai înfocaţi apărători ai libertăţii conştiinţei.

Spiritualiştii erau numiţi astfel deoarece credeau în inspiraţia imediată a Duhului. Puneau accent pe „cuvântul interior”, considerându-l superior Scripturilor scrise. Urmăreau crearea unei biserici noi, de credincioşi, dar nu considerau necesară o întoarcere la modelul Noului Testament. Respingeau botezul în general, la fel ca celelalte sacramente. Se opuneau asocierii Bisericii cu puterea civilă. Erau porecliţi „Schwarmer”, entuziaşti, fanatici.

Williams indentifică 3 mari tabere între spiritualişti: raţionaliştii (Sebastian Franck este cel mai reprezentativ); evanghelicii (Caspar Scwenckfeld este cel mai reprezentativ) şi revoluţionarii (Thomas Muenzer şi Andreas Carlstadt, fostul asociat al lui Luther). Revoluţionarii vesteau sfârşitul iminent al ordinii sociale şi instaurarea Împărăţiei lui Cristos. Muenzer a devenit liderul religios al Războiului Ţărănimii (1524-1525), încercând să instaureze cu sabia Împărăţia paşnică a lui Cristos.

Anabaptiştii, la rândul lor, sunt clasificaţi de Williams în 3 mari grupuri: evanghelici, contemplativi şi revoluţionari. Cu toţii voiau o biserică spirituală. Toţi botezau adulţii. Toţi militau pentru libertate religioasă. Toţi practicau „ucenicia”, urmarea lui Cristos. Cu toate acestea, cele trei grupări difereau unele de altele în puncte importante, iar cooperarea dintre ele, în rarele momente când exista, era redusă.

Evanghelicii reprezentau principalul curent al Anabaptismului. Printre liderii lor mai cunoscuţi se regăseau: în Elveţia: Conrad Grebel (ca. 1498-1526), Felix Manz (ca. 1498-1527), Georg Blaurock (ca. 1492-1529); în landurile germane sudice, Austria şi Moravia: Michael Sattler (ca. 1490-1527), Wilhelm Reublin (m. după 1559), Balthasar Hubmaier (1480?-1528), Pilgram Marpeck (m. 1556); în Olanda: Menno Simons (1496-1561), Dietrich (Dirk) (1504-1568) şi Obbe Philips (ca. 1500-1568), în prima parte a lucrării sale. Erau caracterizaţi de înalte standarde morale, erau paşnici şi lucrativi. Credeau în libertatea individului de a crede ceea ce îi dicta conştiinţa, credeau într-o biserică constituită din credincioşi veritabili, separată de stat şi de lumea necredincioasă. Se împotriveau uzului armelor şi refuzau să jure sau să servească drept magistraţi, deşi se supuneau ordinelor autorităţii civile. Din corpul principal al Anabaptiştilor evanghelici s-au desprins hutteriţii, un segment important condus de Jacob Hutter, care practicau comunitarianismul (posesia în comun a tuturor bunurilor comunităţii).


Anabaptiştii contemplativi erau cei care, la fel ca Spiritualiştii, puneau un puternic accent pe iluminarea Duhului. Priveau „cuvântul interior” şi litera Scripturii ca 2 talere ale aceleiaşi balanţe. Reprezentanţii lor de seamă au fost Hans Denck (ca. 1500-1527) (pentru un timp el a fost liderul Anabaptiştilor Evanghelici din Augsburg), Hans Hut (m. 1527), (în ultimii săi ani, însă, a lucrat printre Anabaptiştii evanghelici), Ludwig Hatzer (1500-1529), Adam Pastor (m. între 1560-70). Denck şi Hatzer au colaborat la traducerea profeţilor mari din ebraică în germană, anticipând cu cinci ani traducerea lui Luther. Decesul în exil al lui Denck şi execuţia lui Hatzer au oprit traducerea întregului Vechi Testament.

Anabaptiştii Revoluţionari erau cei care insistau asupra instaurării Teocraţiei lui Cristos pe pământ. Aceştia se bazau pe profeţiile Vechiului Testament şi pe propria „inspiraţie divină”. Liderii lor, Melchior Hoffman şi Jan Matthijs se considerau cei doi profeţi din cartea Apocalipsei. Matthijs prevestea venirea apocalipsului şi a Împărăţiei, care avea să aibă capitala în oraşul german Munster. După ce au reuşit să pună mâna pe cetate şi să alunge întreaga opoziţie (1534), în aşteptarea venirii lui Mesia, Matthijs şi apoi succesorul său, Jan Bockold de Leyden au condus oraşul asediat de trupele episcopale şi nobiliare spre abuzuri grosolane, printre care şi poligamia. După tragicul sfârşit al dezordinilor de la Munster (iunie 1535), atât Catolicii cât şi Protestanţii s-au grăbit să îi identifice pe toţi Anabaptiştii cu acel grup de fanatici. Rezultatul a fost un teribil val de persecuţie, în urma căruia multe mii de Anabaptişti nevinovaţi au căzut pradă săbiei călăilor sau focului rugului.

Vastele diferenţe în doctrină şi practică prezente între grupările adunate sub stindardul Reformei radicale nu au scăpat necunoscute autorităţilor Protestante şi Catolice. Identificarea tuturor Anabaptiştilor cu o minoritate fanatică şi revoluţionară a fost intenţionată (acest obicei era vechi în rândul Catolicilor), iar Luther, Zwingli, Calvin şi ceilalţi reformatori nu pot fi achitaţi pentru calomniile lor care au adus valuri repetate de persecuţii şi execuţii asupra unor Anabaptişti nevinovaţi, care condamnau şi respingeau la fel de mult ca ei abuzurile unei minorităţi fanatice. „Cu toate acestea, marii Reformatori Protestanţi şi asociaţii lor au fost cei mai aprigi duşmani şi persecutori ai Anabaptiştilor; şi erudiţii şi polemiştii Protestanţi, începând cu Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingi, Phillip Melanchton, John Calvin şi Henry Bullinger, au desenat şi redesenat un portret compozit al lor ca fanatici şi revoluţionari” (Williams, op. cit., p. 26).

Varietatea era eticheta veacului. Şi nu doar printre radicali. Tabăra Catolică era împărţită. Mulţi se opuneau excomunicării lui Luther şi exprimau sentimente asemănătoare lui. Tot mai multe voci, chiar de pe tronul papal, susţineau nevoia unei reforme morale. Umanismul care cocheta cu filosofia păgână tindea spre o respingere a superstiţiilor şi „misterelor” Bisericii. Cistercienii continuau vechea lor luptă ca şi laicii să aibă acces la paharul cu vin din euharist.

Nici în tabăra Protestantă nu exista mai multă unitate. Sub stindardul lui Luther s-a adunat o mulţime pestriţă care avea interese variate. Hutten, Sickingen şi Rubianus erau mânaţi de naţionalism, nu de vreun sentiment religios. Alţii doreau o reformare a ordinii sociale şi economice. Unii nobili au trecut de partea lui fiindcă urau să vadă cum banii germani se scurg spre Roma. Ţăranii şi orăşenii vedeau în Luther omul care avea să schimbe ordinea socială şi economică, punând punct feudalismului.

Nici în Elveţia nu exista mai multă unitate între Protestanţi. Fritz Blanke a spus: „În 1523-1524 Zwingli însuşi distingea trei grupuri diferite în rândul populaţiei. Erau oameni în Zurich [în oraş şi canton], spunea el, care erau Protestanţi din ură pentru Catolicism. Aceea a fost categoria, încă existentă, a ‚Protestanţilor negativi’, care erau Protestanţi fiindcă nu doreau cu nici un chip să fie Catolici.

Al doilea grup era compus din Protestanţi libertini, care nu văd în Evanghelie altceva decât o oportunitate de a trăi o viaţă şi mai stricată.

Dar mai exista şi un al treilea cerc: cei care ‚lucrează în Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu’, care caută să trăiască după Cuvânt şi să pătrundă mereu mai adânc în Sfintele Scripturi. Acest ultim grup era grupul lui Zwingli, ‚cercul restrâns al colaboratorilor săi’” (Hershberger, Ibid., p. 58, 59).

 Anabaptiştii evanghelici sunt predecesorii Baptiştilor, Menoniţilor şi Hutteriţilor, de aceea, păstrând în minte diferenţele dintre toate grupările catalogate „Anabaptiste”, ne vom concerta eforturile pentru a demonstra că Anabaptiştii Evanghelici nu s-au identificat cu tabăra Protestantă, având o origine, doctrine şi practici diferite.

Din acest moment, nu vom mai folosi termenul „Anabaptist” în sensul său general, ci, dacă nu se va menţiona altfel, termenul va fi folosit pentru a desemna „Anabaptiştii Evanghelici”.

Care a fost originea Anabaptiştilor?


Surprinzător, nici un istoric nu poate da un răspuns cert şi definitiv la această întrebare. Există 2 şcoli principale de gândire, care au formulat 2 teorii. Prima afirmă că Anabaptismul este un „fiu” al Reformei şi parte integrantă a ei. Acest curent trebuie analizat în contextul Reformei, neavând nici o legătură cu grupările separatiste medievale, chiar dacă doctrinele şi practicile erau asemănătoare. Principalele argumente aduse sunt: 1. Nu există dovezi istorice clare care să ateste descendenţa Anabaptiştilor din Waldenzi, din Fraţii Boemi sau din alte astfel de grupări;  2. marea majoritate a liderilor Anabaptişti au trecut de la Catolicism la Anabaptism via Protestantism; 3. Anabaptismul s-a răspândit cu succes doar în zonele în care Reforma câştigase teren (argumentul adus de Fritz Blanke în Anabaptism and the Reformation); 4. Existau diferenţe de doctrină şi practică între Waldenzii din timpul Reformei şi Anabaptişti, iar aceştia au trecut de partea Reformatorilor în 1532, nu a Anabaptiştilor. Câţiva reprezentanţi de seamă ai acestei şcoli au fost: Bender, Blanke, Estep, Littell, Zijpp.

A doua teorie afirmă că Anabaptiştii sunt moştenitorii grupărilor evanghelice medievale. Câţiva reprezentanţi importanţi ai acestei şcoli sunt istoricii Keller, Vedder, Christian, Jarrel, Verduin. Se recunoaşte absenţa unor dovezi incontestabile ale unei descendenţe directe din grupările medievale, dar se subliniază următoarele aspecte care dovedesc o origine mai veche decât 1517 (anul iniţierii Reformei):

1. Toţi istoricii, chiar cei ce îi încadrează pe Anabaptişti în cercul larg al Reformei recunosc că Anabaptismul a început deodată, în Elveţia, Germania, Olanda, şi în alte părţi ale Europei occidentale aparent fără vreo legătură directă între ele. Schaff este un exemplu elocvent: „Opiniile radicale s-au răspândit cu mare rapiditate sau au apărut simultan, în Berna, Basle, St. Gall, Appenzell, pe tot cursul superior al Rinului, în partea sudică a Germaniei şi Austria” (op. cit., vol. VIII, p. 58).

Creşterea lor extraordinară nu poate fi explicată decât prin existenţa unui material pregătit anterior. Istoricul Henry Vedder afirmă: „Apariţia evident bruscă a Anabaptiştilor şi creşterea lor rapidă în Germania este un fenomen remarcabil – unul din cele mai ciudate lucruri din istorie, dacă refuzăm să privim dincolo de suprafaţă.  Unii istorici insistă că Anabaptiştii nu au avut o existenţă anterioară; că este în zadar să se privească înapoi dincolo de prima menţionare a lor pentru a le afla originea. Dar aceasta înseamnă a spune că un eveniment a avut loc fără o cauză adecvată. Nici o sectă sau grupare în istorie nu a avut o creştere aşa extraordinară ca cea avută de Anabaptişti în primii ani ai Reformei decât dacă au avut o istorie anterioară… Numele ‚Anabaptist’ nu îl întâlnim ca aplicat vreuneia din aceste secte înainte de Reformă; dar gruparea Anabaptistă din perioada Reformei şi-a avut rădăcinile în aceste secte preexistente, şi a găsit în rămăşiţele lor materialele pentru o creştere surprinzătoare” (A Short History of the Baptists, p. 146, 147).

2. Începutul Anabaptismului nu poate fi atribuit unui singur lider, nici măcar unui grup. Bisericile Protestante pot imediat să identifice persoana care i-a fondat. Mosheim admite că: „Originea acelei secte care, de la repetarea botezului primit în alte comunităţi, sunt numiţi Anabaptişti, dar care de asemenea sunt numiţi Menoniţi… este foarte obscură (într-o altă traducere, expresia este redată prin: „ascunsă în adâncimile antichităţii”). Fiindcă ei au apărut deodată, în diferite ţări ale Europei sub influenţa unor lideri cu caractere şi opinii diferite…” (op. cit., p. 384, 385).

3. doctrinele lor specifice nu sunt noi. Schaff spune: „Anabaptiştii nu au inventat opoziţia lor faţă de botezul pruncilor, fiindcă întotdeauna au existat grupări în Biserică ce au fost antipedobaptiste.” (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, vol. I, p. 370) Translatorul lui Mosheim spune: „Nici Menno şi nici primii Anabaptişti nu au avut intelecte atât de disciplinate încât să fie capabili să îşi lege sistematic gândurile. Doctrinele lor au fost avansate cu mult înainte de Reformă, de Catari, Albigenzi şi Waldenzi, precum şi de Husiţi. Aceasta se poate arăta prin documente incontestabile, din înregistrările Inchiziţiei şi din Mărturisiri; şi Mosheim însuşi susţine acest fapt în secţiunea 2 din acest capitol. Acele secte au fost într-adevăr oprimate, dar nu exterminate. Aderenţi ai doctrinelor lor au fost împrăştiaţi pretutindeni în Germania, Elveţia, Boemia şi Moravia; şi au fost încurajaţi de Reformă să iasă la iveală în mod deschis, să formeze o uniune mai apropiată între ei şi să facă prozeliţi la doctrinele lor. Din ei au ieşit Anabaptiştii, ai căror învăţători erau în mare parte oameni fără învăţătură, care au înţeles Scripturile după literă şi au aplicat cuvintele Bibliei fără deduceri filosofice, conform modului lor pervers de interpretare, doctrinelor lor particulare despre biserică, anabaptism, războaie, pedepse capitale, jurăminte, ş.a.m.d. Chiar şi doctrina lor referitoare la magistraţi şi-au derivat-o din Luca 22:25 şi 1 Corint. 6:1, iar maniera în care au fost trataţi de magistraţi ar fi putut avea o influenţă considerabilă asupra doctrinei lor despre ei” (Mosheim, op. cit., p. 694, notă).

Leonard Verduin spune: „Ceea ce a erupt în cel de-al Doilea Front [aripa stângă, radicală a Reformei] a fost o resurgenţă a acelor tendinţe şi opinii care existau deja de secole împotriva ordinii medievale; a fost legată de cercurile antice în care, în ciuda persecuţiei, un corp de opinii şi convingeri antice erau încă în viaţă. Nu a fost ceva care s-a ridicat, fără o rădăcină mai adâncă, din evenimentele care au avut lor în 1517.” (The Reformers and their Stepchildren, p. 14) „Disidenţa împotriva ordinii medievale era deja veche de un mileniu şi extrem de răspândită” (Ibid., p. 15). „Stânga Protestantă a fost moştenitoarea lumii subterane medievale. Avea categorii de gândire şi un vocabular apărut din ereziile medievale târzii,…, un vocabular care a existat înaintea Reformei şi avea propria-i putere şi propriu-i impuls, cu totul separat de Luther (Ibid, p. 35-36). „sursele nu disting nici o persoană ca întemeietor al rebotezării în secolul şaisprezece… Cum a apărut anonim o asemenea practică atât de radicală este mai mult decât ciudat – dacă se presupune, aşa cum este voga, că Anabaptismul a fost un simplu produs al secolului şaisprezece. Dar această tăcere în privinţa aceluia care trebuie creditat cu ideea devine întru totul explicabilă imediat ce se realizează că ceea ce a fost cunoscut ca Anabaptism în timpurile Reformei nu a fost nicidecum ceva nou… Nimeni nu este creditat cu inventarea Anabaptismului secolului şaisprezece pentru motivul suficient că nimeni nu l-a inventat” (Ibid., p. 189). „Rebotezarea este tot atât de veche pe cât constantinianismul [doctrina lui Constantin cel Mare care unea puterea imperială cu cea ecleziastică]” (Ibid, p. 190).

Argumentul trecerii multor lideri la Anabaptism de la Catolicism via Protestantism nu este unul cu aplicaţie universală. Este adevărat că lideri precum Grebel, Manz, Blaurock sau Hubmaier au trecut întâi de partea Protestanţilor, şi apoi au devenit Anabaptişti, dar au existat de asemenea lideri care au trecut de la Waldenzi la Anabaptişti. Printre ei se numără Hans Hoch, Leonard Meister şi alţii (vezi Thieleman van Braght, Martyr’s Mirror, p. 413, 416).

Argumentul că Anabaptismul s-a dezvoltat doar în spaţiile în care Protestantismul câştigase proeminenţa nu este valid. Anabaptismul a fost larg răspândit în Austria, unde Protestantismul a avut puţin succes. Mai mult, Protestantismul câştigase lupta împotriva Catolicismului în zonele în care „erezia” medievală era larg răspândită şi acceptată, slăbind astfel autoritatea papală. Anabaptismul, care de asemenea a avut succes în zonele în care „erezia” medievală era comună, datorează puţin Protestantismului în această privinţă.  

John T. Christian afirmă: „În locurile în care au înflorit Waldenzii, Baptiştii au prins rădăcini adânci. Această afirmaţie rămâne valabilă în fiecare ţară şi în fiecare oraş” (op. cit., p. 89). Will Durant, marele istoric al civilizaţiilor, spune: „La început, Anabaptiştii s-au manifestat în Elveţia, unde se poate să se fi strecurat creştinismul paşnic al valdensilor din Sudul Franţei sau al fraţilor cerşetori din Ţările de Jos” (Civilizaţii istorisite, vol. 18, p. 85).

Mosheim, istoricul luteran, declară: „În primul rând, eu cred că Menoniţii nu greşesc în totalitate atunci când se laudă cu o descendenţă dintre acei Waldenzi, Petrobrusieni şi alţii, care sunt de obicei denumiţi Martori ai adevărului înainte de Luther. Înainte de epoca lui Luther, existau ascunşi în aproape toate ţările Europei, dar în special în Boemia, Moravia, Elveţia şi Germania, foarte multe persoane, în a căror minţi era adânc înrădăcinat acel principiu pe care Waldenzii, Wickliffiţii şi Hussiţii l-au susţinut, unii mai ascuns, alţii mai deschis” (Ibid., p. 385)

La argumentul diferenţei dintre Waldenzi şi Anabaptişti şi al unirii dintre primii cu Reformatorii, se răspunde că doar Waldenzii piemontezi [cei din regiunea Piemont, din nord vestul Italiei] au acceptat pactul, şi nu toţi, fiindcă generaţia mai în vârstă de barbi [păstori] au refuzat compromisul, considerându-l o trădare; au trimis delegaţii la fraţii lor din Strassburg, iar apoi în Boemia şi Moravia (vezi Verduin, op. cit., p.179). Picarzii [numele dat Waldenzilor care s-au stabilit în aceste zone], Fraţii Boemi şi Husiţii nu s-au unit niciodată cu Reformatorii.

Reformatorii au recunoscut originea distinctă şi antică a Anabaptiştilor. Christian îl citează pe Zwingli ca spunând: „Învăţătura Anabaptismului nu este o noutate, ci pentru o mie trei sute de ani a cauzat mare tulburare în biserică, şi a căpătat aşa putere, încât încercarea în această epocă de a lupta contra ei pare zadarnică pentru un timp” (Christian, op. cit., p. 86).

Luther afirmă acuzator: „În vremurile noastre doctrina Evangheliei, restabilită şi curăţită, a atras la ea şi a câştigat pe mulţi care în vremuri mai vechi au fost suprimaţi de tirania Antihristului, a Papei; totuşi, au plecat de la noi Wiedertaufer, Sacramentschwarmer und andere Rotengeister [Anabaptişti, fanatici în privinţa sacramentelor şi alţi făuritori de partide]… căci nu erau dintre noi, deşi pentru o vreme au mers împreună cu noi” (Verduin, Ibid., p. 18).

Într-adevăr, grupările separatiste au salutat acţiunea călugărului augustin şi au sperat într-o mare trezire. Sola Scriptura erau cuvintele care îi atrăgeau şi i-au determinat să îl sprijine pe Luther. Dar când acesta a făcut compromisul cu puterea seculară, aceste grupări nu s-au mai identificat cu el, ci l-au condamnat fiindcă s-a oprit la jumătatea drumului spre o reformă completă.

Robert Barclay, care nu s-a identificat cu Anabaptiştii, a afirmat despre ei: „După cum vom arăta, ascensiunea ‚Anabaptiştilor’ a avut loc cu mult timp înaintea formării Bisericii Angliei [1534], şi există de asemenea motive să credem că pe continentul European societăţi creştine mici, ascunse, care susţineau multe din opiniile ‚Anabaptiştilor’, au existat încă din vremurile Apostolilor. În sensul transmiterii directe a Adevărului Divin, şi al naturii adevărate a religiei spirituale, pare probabil că aceste Biserici au o descendenţă sau succesiune mai veche decât cea a Bisericii Romane” (The Inner Life of the Religious Societies, p. 11, 12).

Anabaptiştii susţineau că aveau o origine mai veche decât cea a Protestanţilor. Reformatorii şi Catolicii au recunoscut şi ei aceasta. Unii din cei mai mari istorici au recunoscut legătura dintre Anabaptismul secolului XVI şi grupările disidente medievale. Aceasta este poziţia istorică baptistă, deoarece Baptiştii au susţinut întotdeauna că traseul lor istoric nu s-a intersectat nici cu cel Catolic, nici cu cel Protestant.

Doctrinele specifice ale Anabaptiştilor, comparate cu doctrinele echivalente Catolice şi Protestante

Diferenţele dintre cele trei tabere sunt cel mai clar vizibile pe terenul doctrinar. Vom încerca să prezentăm diferenţele teologice (împreună cu aplicaţiile lor practice) dintre tabăra Catolică, cea Protestantă şi cea Anabaptistă.

  1. 1.      Autoritatea Scripturilor


Diferenţa fundamentală între Anabaptişti şi celelalte grupări constă în modul în care aceştia percepeau Scriptura. Toate celelalte diferenţe dintre Anabaptişti, Protestanţi şi Catolici sunt derivate din această percepţie. La personajele care au avut o perioadă de tranziţie de la Catolicism la Anabaptism via Protestantism, se poate observa că prima doctrină pe care au crezut-o a fost aceea a suficienţei Scripturii în materie de credinţă şi practică.

Biserica Catolică nu considera Biblia ca normativă pentru credinţă şi practică, dogmele sale fiind fundamentate pe tradiţie şi pe decretele conciliilor şi ale papilor (vezi Neander, History of Christian Dogmas, Vol. II, p. 623, 624). Aceste dogme contraziceau litera Scripturii, de aceea papalitatea a încercat să îngroape Biblia. Biblia nu era tradusă în limbile vorbite de mase, iar laicilor li se interzicea să o citească. Nici chiar preoţii nu o cunoşteau. Menno Simons, povestea că, pe când era preot Catolic, se ferea să citească Biblia, ca nu cumva să fie dus în eroare. „ ‚Biblia este ca ceara moale pe care orice om o poate modela după cum doreşte’, spunea Glapion, duhovnicul lui Carol V lui Spalatin, capelanul electorului Frederic, avertizând că nici un sistem de credinţă nu poate fi construit, fără riscuri, numai pe Biblie” (Durant, Civilizaţii istorisite, vol. 18 p. 38).

Poziţia de început a Protestanţilor a fost similară cu cea a Anabaptiştilor. Ei considerau Scriptura ca fiind suficientă şi normativă pentru credinţă şi practică. Atunci când Martin Luther a stat înaintea Dietei imperiale de la Worms, el a cerut să fie judecat cu Scriptura, consimţind să retracteze tot ceea ce scrisese şi era dovedit ca nefiind conform Scripturii. Johann Eck, reprezentantul Catolic înaintea Dietei i-a răspuns:

„Martin, cererea ta de a fi judecat după Scripturi este aceea a tuturor ereticilor. Nu faci nimic altceva decât să repeţi greşelile lui Wyclif şi Huss. Cum poţi pretinde că eşti singurul care înţelege semnificaţia Scripturilor? Consideri a ta judecată mai presus de a atâtor oameni iluştri şi pretinzi că ştii mai multe decât ei? Nu ai nici un drept să pui la îndoială sfânta credinţă orânduită de Cristos, legiuitorul desăvârşit, răspândită în lumea întreagă de apostoli, pecetluită cu sângele martirilor, confirmată de conciliile sfinte, definită de Biserică … şi despre care papa şi împăratul ne interzic să vorbim, întrucât această discuţie nu duce la nimic. Te întreb, Martin, şi să răspunzi sincer şi fără ascunzişuri, retractezi sau nu scrierile tale şi greşelile pe care le conţin?” (Durant, op. cit., p. 41).

Luther a răspuns: „Doar dacă o să fiu convins să o fac prin mărturii din Scriptură sau prin raţiunea evidenţei (căci nu cred nici în papă şi nici în concilii: este cert că au greşit prea des şi s-au contrazis), altfel sunt legat prin textele pe care le-am adus; conştiinţa mea este închisă în cuvintele lui Dumnezeu. Să revoc ceva, nu pot şi nu vreau să o fac. Căci a acţiona împotriva conştiinţei tale este periculos şi nu este cinstit. Dumnezeu să mă ajute. Amin!” (Febvre, 131).

În anul 1521, Zwingli, în Zurich, sprijinit de consiliul cantonal, le-a cerut preoţilor din jurisdicţie să nu predice nimic din ce nu se găsea în Sfânta Scriptură (Durant, op. cit. p. 99). Printre tezele apărate de Zwingli în disputa din 25 ianuarie 1523, se regăseau următoarele: „1. Toţi cei ce spun că Evanghelia nu valorează nimic fără aprobarea Bisericii greşesc şi Îl hulesc pe Dumnezeu…; 15. Căci crezând Evanghelia suntem mântuiţi şi necrezând suntem condamnaţi, căci întreg adevărul este clar revelat în ea; 24. Creştinii nu sunt obligaţi să săvârşească nici o faptă care nu a fost poruncită de Dumnezeu…” (Noll, Confessions and Cathechisms of the Reformation, p. 40-42).

Sola Scriptura! Numai Scriptura! Acesta a fost strigătul Reformatorilor. Întotdeauna au recurs la acest strigăt în disputele cu Catolicii. Dar atunci când s-au văzut în faţa unei decizii majore, de a păstra sau nu Tradiţia, Reformatorii au şovăit. Strigătul lor a scăzut în intensitate. Reformatorii au dat înapoi şi s-au văzut puşi în faţa unei situaţii delicate, fără ieşire. Erau încă legaţi de Tradiţie. Viziunea lor asupra bisericii şi societăţii nu era cea a creştinismului ante-nicean, ci post-nicean. Nu erau pregătiţi ca în reforma lor să treacă dincolo de Împăratul Constantin. Atunci şi-a ridicat vocea Anabaptismul, care apela doar la Biblie şi îi acuza pe reformatori de inconsecvenţă, de oprire la jumătatea drumului. În acel moment apare separarea clară între Protestanţi şi Anabaptişti. „Martin Luther a spart ulciorul papei, dar a păstrat bucăţile”, spunea un Anabaptist (Liechty, Early Anabaptist Spirituality, p. xvi).

Protestanţii se vedeau prinşi, fără ieşire, între două fronturi. Schaff spune despre Reforma în Elveţia: „Aceasta a fost plasată între cele două focuri ale Romanismului şi Ultra-Protestantismului. A fost atacată din faţă şi din spate, din afară şi dinăuntru, de Romanişti pe baza tradiţiei, de Radicali pe baza Bibliei. În unele privinţe, pericolul din partea ultimilor era mai mare…” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 8, p. 56). Zwingli însuşi mărturisea că lupta contra Catolicilor era „o joacă de copii” în comparaţie cu lupta contra Anabaptiştilor (Verduin, op. cit., p. 11).

Samuel Haskell remarcă: „Luther, Zwingle şi alţii, în combaterea corupţiilor papale, au pretins a sta doar pe cuvântul lui Dumnezeu; dar încercarea lor de a aplica acest principiu a fost doar parţială. Se spunea despre ei în acea vreme, adevărat şi pe bună dreptate, că atunci când disputau cu Papiştii, ei luau poziţia Baptistă, dar când disputau cu Baptiştii, treceau la poziţia Romană” (Heroes and Hierarchs, p. 100, 101).

 Anabaptiştii nu ezitau să le amintească reformatorilor de poziţia lor de început, de „Sola Scriptura”. În încercarea lor de a dovedi că nu au abandonat această poziţie şi căutând cu disperare garant scriptural pentru ceea ce credeau, Reformatorii au ajuns în numeroase cazuri la o hermeneutică ciudată şi elastică pe care nu o puteau apăra decât cu mare dificultate. Majoritatea Reformatorilor se foloseau mai mult de legămintele şi teocraţia Vechiului Testament, care le permitea să facă analogii cu propria concepţie despre biserică şi societate. Însă în încercarea de a formula un sistem doctrinar consecvent, Reformatorii au ajuns să pună un accent tot mai mare pe tradiţie, ajungând să condamne ceea ce la început susţinuseră cu tărie.

Anabaptiştii erau „Biblicişti”. Pentru ei, Scripturile reprezentau standardul final pentru credinţă şi practică, iar după modul în care se raportau la Scripturi, ei judecau dacă persoana este creştină sau doar aşa-zis creştină.

„Tot aşa cum strămoşii noştri au căzut de la adevăratul Dumnezeu şi de la Cuvântul unic, adevărat, împărtăşit de toţi, divin şi de la instituţiile divine, de la dragostea şi viaţa Creştină şi au trăit fără legea lui Dumnezeu şi fără evanghelie în obiceiuri şi ceremonii necreştine, nefolositoare şi omeneşti, şi s-au aşteptat să obţină mântuirea prin ele, totuşi neajungând nici pe departe la ea, după cum au declarat predicatorii evanghelici, şi până la un punct încă declară, tot aşa şi astăzi, orice om vrea să fie mântuit prin credinţă superficială, fără rodul credinţei, fără botezul încercării şi probării, fără dragoste şi speranţă, fără practici Creştine corecte, şi vrea să persiste în tot felul vechi al viciilor personale, şi în obiceiurile comune anti-Creştine şi ritualiste ale botezului şi Cinei Domnului, în lipsă de respect pentru Cuvântul divin şi în respect faţă de cuvântul papei şi al predicatorilor anti-papali, care nu este totuşi egal cu Cuvântul divin, şi nici în armonie cu el.” (Scrisoarea lui Grebel către Muntzer, Williams, op. cit., p. 74); „…orice nu suntem învăţaţi prin pasaje şi exemple clare trebuie considerat ca interzis…” (Ibid, p. 75), „Nu trebuie să urmăm părerile noastre, nu trebuie adăugat nimic la cuvânt şi nu trebuie scos nimic din el” (Ibid., p. 76). „Este mult mai bine ca puţini să fie învăţaţi corect de Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu, crezând şi umblând drept în virtuţi şi practici, decât ca mulţi să creadă fals şi să fie înşelaţi de doctrină contrafăcută” (Ibid., p. 77).

Pentru Anabaptişti, Noul Testament era normativ. Prescripţiile Noului Testament nu erau doar recomandabile, dezirabile dar totuşi opţionale, ci obligatorii şi posibile. Ei respingeau teologia Protestantă a legământului. Vechiul era considerat o umbră, revelaţia considerând-o progresivă. În disputa de la Berna (1538), Anabaptiştii au declarat: „Noi credem în şi ne considerăm sub autoritatea Vechiului Testament, atât cât acesta este o mărturie despre Cristos; atât cât Isus nu l-a abolit; şi atât cât slujeşte scopului trăirii creştine. Noi credem în şi ne considerăm sub autoritatea Legii atât cât aceasta nu contrazice noua lege, care este Evanghelia lui Isus Cristos. Noi credem în şi ne considerăm sub autoritatea profeţilor atât cât ei îl proclamă pe Cristos” (Estep, The Anabaptist Story, p.141).

Încă în 1523, în disputa de la Zurich, Balthasar Hubmaier, înainte de a deveni Anabaptist, afirma: „De asemenea, acele erori care au apărut în legătură cu imaginile şi mesa, trebuie examinate şi corectate după singura lege a Cuvântului lui Dumnezeu. Mai mult, orice va fi întemeiat pe această voie va ţine pentru totdeauna; deoarece Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu este etern şi nemuritor” (Estep, op. cit., p. 141). Provocându-l pe Eck, fostul său mentor, într-o polemică, unul din articolele pe care Hubmaier anunţa să le apere era acela că „în neînţelegeri privitoare la credinţă, Scriptura este singurul standard” (Estep, op. cit., p. 122).

Anabaptiştii considerau litera simplă a Scripturii ca normativă atât pentru viaţa individului, cât şi pentru cea a bisericii. Această opinie despre autoritatea Scripturilor a fost cauza tuturor celorlalte poziţii doctrinale şi practice pe care le vom studia.

2. Doctrina mântuirii


A doua mare doctrină care i-a adus pe Anabaptişti în conflict direct cu Catolicii şi cu Protestanţii a fost doctrina mântuirii.

Catolicismul susţinea că mântuirea este conţinută de Biserică şi era administrată tuturor membrilor prin intermediul sacramentelor, începând cu botezul pruncilor. Credinţa, în viziunea Catolică, era încuviinţarea intelectuală a dogmelor formulate de Biserică. Teologia Catolică răspundea sentimentului de vină datorat păcatului prin doctrinele confesiunii păcatelor şi a penitenţei. Păcătoşii puteau avea acces la neprihănire şi rai datorită excedentului de merit al sfinţilor şi al lui Isus, excedent care a fost încredinţat Bisericii pentru administrare. Biserica administra acest surplus celor care îşi împlineau datoriile faţă de ea. Omul îşi putea, deci, câştiga mântuirea prin faptele sale.

Oricine consideră Scriptura ca fiind normativă, va ajunge să pună la îndoială mântuirea prin sacramente, prin fapte. La fel a făcut şi Luther. Citirea Scripturii l-a dus spre afirmarea mântuirii prin credinţă, nu prin fapte, prin har, nu prin merit, aşa cum pretindea Biserica Catolică. Sola fide! Sola gratia! Numai credinţa! Numai harul! – striga el. Mântuirea este prin har! Justificarea este prin credinţă! Teologia lui Luther era concentrată asupra eliberării de sub vină. Credinţa era privită în sensul tradiţional, de acceptare intelectuală a lucrării Cristosului istoric, dar Luther îi adăuga sensul de fide, încredere deplină în Dumnezeu. Faptele bune, viaţa schimbată, erau o consecinţă dezirabilă a experienţei unui creştin, dar absenţa lor nu însemna lipsa mântuirii.

Teologia lui Luther conţine o inconsecvenţă majoră, pe care ceilalţi Reformatori au eliminat-o. El privea botezul pruncilor ca un sacrament mântuitor, în vreme ce afirma că mântuirea este prin credinţă. Estep remarcă just că „…în Luteranism a existat dintotdeauna o contradicţie ireconciliabilă între teologia justificării prin credinţă şi susţinerea teologică a botezului pruncilor” (op. cit., p. 145).

Şi pentru Zwingli, credinţa – dar al lui Dumnezeu – putea exista fără fapte. El spune: „Împotriva celor care acceptă ideea de neconceput că semnele [faptele] confirmă credinţa, putem opune cazul botezului pruncilor, căci botezul nu poate confirma credinţa în prunci, deoarece pruncii nu sunt capabili să creadă (Bromiley, op. cit. p. 139).

Anabaptiştii recunoşteau mântuirea prin har, prin credinţă, dar pentru ei credinţa nu era doar o încuviinţare mentală a anumitor adevăruri, ci sursa unei noi vieţi în Cristos, urmând naşterii din nou a Duhului. Nu putea exista credinţă în viziunea lor, fără naşterea din nou, acea transformare totală prin care omul devenea predispus spre sfinţenie, urând păcatul. „Tocmai acest element constitutiv [necesitatea naşterii din nou] i-a diferenţiat pe Anabaptişti atât de ‚neprihănirea prin fapte’ romano-catolică cât şi de ‚sola fida’ luterană” (Franklin Littell, Ibid., p. 84).

Hubmaier, în articolele sale de credinţă de la Waldshut, face deosebirea între credinţa teoretică a lui Luther şi credinţa practică a Anabaptiştilor.

„1. Doar credinţa ne face sfinţi înaintea lui Dumnezeu; 2. Această credinţă este o recunoaştere a milei lui Dumnezeu pe care ne-a arătat-o dându-l pe singurul Său Fiu. Aceasta exclude orice creştini prefăcuţi, care nu au mai mult decât o credinţă istorică în Dumnezeu. 3. O asemenea credinţă nu poate rămâne pasivă ci trebuie să erupă (aussbrechen) spre Dumnezeu în mulţumiri şi spre omenire în tot felul de fapte de dragoste frăţească. Astfel, orice acte religioase deşarte, cum ar fi lumânările, ramurile de palmier şi apa sfinţită trebuie respinse” (Estep, op. cit., p. 145).

Pentru Anabaptişti, credinţa mântuitoare era o credinţă vie, care producea fapte şi putea fi testată prin ele. Această credinţă nu producea doar justificarea, ca pentru Protestanţi, ci sfinţirea.

3.  Doctrina uceniciei

Opiniile diferite ale celor trei tabere, Catolice, Protestante şi Anabaptiste, cu privire la autoritatea Scripturii a dus la percepţii diferite asupra felului credinţei şi a rolului ei în mântuire. Percepţiile diferite ale credinţei au dus la moduri diferite de trăire a vieţii.

Biserica Romei predica virtutea faptelor, dar nu o practica. Laicii erau îndemnaţi spre fapte bune şi trăire virtuoasă, dar Biserica punea la dispoziţia păcătosului şi mijloacele de a-şi cumpăra sau câştiga dreptul de a ajunge în rai.

Luther şi ceilalţi reformatori au înlocuit faptele pentru câştigarea mântuirii cu credinţa. Credinţa a fost centrul teologiei Protestante. Luther a mers atât de departe încât a refuzat să recunoască Epistola lui Iacov ca inspirată, considerând-o „epistolă de paie” deoarece insista asupra unei credinţe validate prin fapte. Dar combinaţia doctrinelor incapacităţii omului de a face ceva pentru a se mântui cu credinţa teoretică mântuitoare a dus la o concepţie nefericită şi la un eşec moral al Protestantismului. „Dacă cineva are credinţă, adulterul nu este păcat”, spunea Luther în faimoasa sa predică despre căsătorie (Jarrel, Baptist Church Perpetuity, p. 228).

Luther scria lui Philip Melachton de la Wartburg, într-o scrisoare datată 1 August 1521: „Hai, acceptă! Fii păcătos! Şi nu păcătui pe jumătate: păcătuieşte de-a dreptul, până la capăt! Păcate făcute pe jumătate? Nu; ci din cele adevărate, serioase, păcate enorme! (Lucien Lefabvre, Martin Luther, un destin, p. 112). În 1530, îi scria lui Weller, „Sunt momente în care trebuie să bei un pahar în plus şi să te distrezi, pe scurt, să comiţi vreun păcat din ură şi dispreţ faţă de diavol, ca să nu-i laşi destul loc pentru prostiile minuscule din care să facă un caz de conştiinţă… Deci, dacă diavolul vine în faţa ta şi-ţi spune: ‚Să nu bei!’, răspunde-i imediat: ‚Ba chiar o să beau pentru că tu nu-mi dai voie, şi-o să beau zdravăn!’ Trebuie întotdeauna să faci ceea ce Satana îţi interzice!” Şi adaugă: „Ce alt motiv crezi că am să beau din ce în ce mai mult din vinul meu curat, să spun tot mai multe vorbe fără nici o reţinere şi să iau parte din ce în ce mai des la mese bogate? Ca să-mi bat joc de diavol şi să-l supăr, aşa cum el îşi bătea joc de mine şi mă supăra odinioară!” Şi apoi, „Oh, dac-aş putea în sfârşit să imaginez un păcat enorm ca să-l decepţionez pe diavol şi să înţeleagă odată că nu recunosc nici un păcat şi conştiinţa mea nu-mi reproşează nici unul!” (Ibid, p. 193).

Mesajul lui Luther este şocant, dar chiar dacă ar fi să luăm în considerare argumentul că Luther exagera doar, cum făcea adesea, o analiză a efectului predicilor sale printre populaţia protestantă va arăta că aceste lucruri nu se rezumau doar la teorie, dar erau luate în serios şi practicate. Doctrinele voinţei sclave, supuse naturii păcătoase, a predestinării şi a salvării prin credinţă teoretică a dus în Protestantism la scuzarea păcatului. Această combinaţie periculoasă a provocat asaltul Anabaptist asupra eticii Protestante.

Hans Denck scria: „Pe de o parte, unii spun că au libertate a voinţei. Cu toate acestea nu sunt dispuşi să facă nici cel mai mic lucru pentru a fi plăcuţi lui Dumnezeu. Pe de altă parte sunt cei care spun că nu au voinţa liberă deoarece văd că nu pot face ce este bine. Cu toate acestea, nu permit cuvântului [adică cuvântului interior – mărturiei Duhului şi a conştiinţei] să lucreze în ei (Matei 23).

În ele însele, ambele opinii sunt adevărate, dar ambele sunt şi false. Fiindcă ambele vorbesc despre fiinţa umană ca neexistând altă temelie decât a ei înşişi. Una este lăudăroasă şi arogantă cu privire la libertatea umană în vreme ce cealaltă caută doar scuze. ‚Dumnezeu este responsabil’.

Prima opinie, aceea că voinţa este liberă, este o pretenţie neruşinată şi prostească ce nu lasă loc pentru teama de Dumnezeu. Presupune arogant, Pot face ceea ce vreau să fac (Iacov 4, Proverbe 12 şi 28). A doua opinie este o smerenie ipocrită şi o viclenie care vrea să ne facă să credem că se acordă onoare lui Dumnezeu şi nu omului. Dar cu siguranţă că nu este o negare a sinelui – de fapt, creşte egoismul. Aceasta este cea mai înaltă formă de aroganţă şi mândrie” (Liechty, Early Anabaptist Spirituality, p. 129-130).

„De aceea, întregul creştinism nominal este plin de adulterini, avari, beţivi şi alţii de aceeaşi teapă” (Williams, op. cit., p. 106). „Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu este deja în tine înainte să îl cauţi, îţi dă înainte ca tu să ceri, îţi deschide înainte ca tu să baţi. Nimeni nu vine de la sine la Cristos decât dacă îl trage Tatăl, ceea ce El face cu adevărat, după bunătatea Sa. Cine vrea să vină, ne-tras, din proprie iniţiativă, presupune că îi dă lui Dumnezeu ceva ce nu a primit de la El. Doreşte să merite ceva de la Dumnezeu, pentru a nu trebui să Îi mulţumească pentru harul Său … De aceea, nimeni nu se poate lăuda înaintea lui Dumnezeu pentru faptele sau credinţa sa, fiindcă oricine se mândreşte, are suficientă mulţumire de sine şi este unul din acei bogaţi pe care Dumnezeu îi izgoneşte. Plinătatea de sine otrăvitoare a firii pe care omul şi-a asumat-o împotriva lui Dumnezeu şi fără Dumnezeu ar trebui şi trebuie mortificată. Când aşa ceva a început într-o persoană, iar aceasta şi-o atribuie sieşi, Îl jefuieşte pe Dumnezeu de onoarea cuvenită şi soarbe otrava şi laptele diavolului, şi mai mult, toate pentru dorinţa sa de a fi cineva înaintea lui Dumnezeu, ceea ce nu este. Dar oricine nu vrea să îndure această lucrare de mortificare, ci preferă să practice lucrările întunericului, nu se va putea scuza înaintea nici unei fiinţe, cu atât mai puţin înaintea lui Dumnezeu” (Ibid, p. 107, 108).

Hubmaier spunea: „Tocmai sub mantia acestor jumătăţi de adevăruri mai sus menţionate, [1. ‚Noi credem. Credinţa ne mântuieşte. 2. Nu putem face nimic bun, Dumnezeu lucrează în noi voinţa şi înfăptuirea, nu avem voinţă liberă”] au ajuns să domine toate felurile de răutate, infidelitate şi nedreptate. Căci după cum toate istoriile demonstrează, lumea este mai rea acum (să ne audă Dumnezeu plângerea) decât a fost acum o mie de ani. Toate acestea au loc, din păcate, sub aparenţa evangheliei. Căci imediat ce le spune cineva, este scris (Ps. 37:27): Depărtaţi-vă de rău şi faceţi binele – imediat ei răspund „Nu putem face nimic bun; toate lucrurile au loc după hotărârea lui Dumnezeu şi din necesitate” – înţelegând prin aceasta  că li se permite să păcătuiască. Dacă cineva spune mai departe: Este scris (Ioan 5:29; 15:6; Mat. 25:41) că cei ce fac răul vor merge în focul veşnic, imediat ei găsesc un şorţ de frunze de smochin cu care îşi acoperă infracţiunile şi spun: „Doar credinţa ne mântuieşte, nu faptele noastre.” Într-adevăr, am auzit de la mulţi oameni că de mult timp nu s-au rugat, nici nu au postit, nici nu au dăruit din milă deoarece preoţii lor le spun cum faptele lor nu sunt de nici un folos înaintea lui Dumnezeu şi de aceea ei renunţă imediat la ele” (Williams, op. cit., p. 115).

Hans Hut afirma: „oricine se încrede în ei [în Reformatori] va fi înşelat, căci doctrina lor nu este altceva decât credinţă, şi nu merge mai departe… Oh, cât de lamentabil înşeală ei întreaga lume în vremurile noastre… cu credinţa lor falsă şi născocită, o credinţă care nu este urmată de nici o îmbunătăţire morală” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 105). Michael Sattler îi condamna pe Reformatori pentru acelaşi lucru, spunând că ei „aruncă faptele fără credinţă atât de mult într-o parte încât construiesc o credinţă fără fapte” (Ibid.).

În nici un alt domeniu nu au ieşit Anabaptiştii mai mult în evidenţă decât în acest aspect practic. Philip de Hesse, pe ale cărui domenii Anabaptiştii s-au bucurat de mai multă toleranţă decât în celelalte landuri germane, spunea: „Eu văd cu adevărat mai multă îmbunătăţire morală printre ei decât printre cei care sunt luterani” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 108). Aşa de mare era diferenţa dintre Anabaptişti şi ceilalţi încât oricine încerca să ducă o viaţă curată era suspectat de a fi Anabaptist. Harold Bender, în faimosul său eseu „Viziunea Anabaptistă”, a citat o mărturie pozitivă din partea unuia dintre marii adversari ai Anabaptiştilor, Franz Agricola: „Printre sectele eretice existente, nu este nici una care în aparenţă duce o viaţă mai pioasă decât Anabaptiştii. Cât priveşte viaţa lor publică, exterioară, ei sunt ireproşabili. Între ei nu se găseşte nici o minciună, înşelăciune, înjurătură, ceartă, limbaj respingător, mâncare şi băutură intemperată, afişare a bunurilor personale, ci umilinţă, răbdare, dreptate, îngrijire, cinste, cumpătare, sinceritate într-o aşa măsură că s-ar putea presupune că ei aveau Duhul lui Dumnezeu” (Hershberger, Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision, p. 45).

Chiar şi Reformatorii admiteau aceasta. Capito mărturiseşte că radicalii „se păzeau de viciile ofensatoare atât de comune printre ai noştri” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 108). Predicatorii Reformaţi din Berna observau: „Anabaptiştii au asemănarea unei pietăţi exterioare într-un grad mult mai ridicat decât noi sau celelalte biserici care, în uniune cu noi, îl mărturisesc pe Cristos; şi ei evită păcatele ofensatoare care sunt foarte comune printre noi” (Verduin, op. cit., 109). Luther recunoaşte aceasta, dar încearcă să scape astfel: „Doctrina şi viaţa trebuie deosebite una de cealaltă. La noi, conduita este la fel de rea ca cea a papiştilor. Noi nu ne opunem lor pe baza conduitei. Hus şi Wyclif, care subliniau conduita, nu erau conştienţi de asta… dar să tratezi doctrina, aceasta înseamnă să faci faţă cu adevărat problemelor” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 108).

Caspar Schwenckfeld, discipol al lui Luther, care mai târziu a devenit Spiritualist, afirma: „Sunt calomniat, atât de predicatori cât şi de alţii, că sunt Anabaptist, la fel cum tuturor celor care trăiesc o viaţă creştină adevărată, pioasă, li se dă aproape peste tot acest nume” (Hershberger, op. cit., p. 46-47). „Bullinger însuşi se plângea că ‚există unii care în realitate nu sunt Anabaptişti, dar şi-au pronunţat aversiunea faţă de senzualitatea şi frivolitatea lumii, prin urmare condamnând păcatul şi viciul, fiind în consecinţă numiţi sau numiţi greşit Anabaptişti de persoane capricioase.’ Vasta colecţie de materiale originale Anabaptiste, numită comun Taufer-Akten, care se află în curs de publicare, conţine un număr de ilustraţii specifice ale acestui fapt. În 1562 un anume Caspar Zacher din Wailblingen în Wittemberg a fost acuzat că ar fi fost Anabaptist, dar registrele curţii relatează că din moment ce acesta era un om invidios care nu se putea înţelege cu alţii, şi care începea deseori certuri, făcându-se de asemenea vinovat de faptul că înjura şi blestema şi avea asupra lui o armă, el nu a fost considerat a fi Anabaptist. Pe de altă parte, în 1570, un anume Hans Jager din Vohringen în Wurttemberg a fost adus înaintea curţii sub suspiciunea de a fi Anabaptist în primul rând fiindcă nu înjura şi trăia o viaţă ireproşabilă” (Ibid.).

Anabaptiştii erau dedicaţi teologiei „uceniciei”. Pentru ei, creştinul era mântuit din păcatele sale, nu în ele. Creştinul putea să cadă în păcat, dar nu putea trăi în el. Cine trăia în păcat nu era considerat a fi mântuit, indiferent cât de drept era în doctrină. Călăuzirea Duhului nu se rezuma doar la călăuzirea în adevărata doctrină, ci în aplicarea acesteia în viaţa de zi cu zi. Bender susţine că „Marele cuvânt al Anabaptiştilor nu a fost ‚credinţa’, ca pentru reformatori, ci ‚urmarea’ (nachfolge Christi)”  (Hershberger, op. cit., p. 43).

Pentru ei, iubirea aproapelui era dovada naşterii din nou. Thomas Manz spunea din închisoare în una din ultimele sale scrieri: „De aceea, urmându-l pe Cristos pe adevărata cale pe care El Însuşi ne-a arătat-o, adevăraţii Săi slujitori nu trebuie să urască pe nimeni. Avem înaintea noastră această lumină a vieţii şi ne bucurăm să mergem pe acea cale. Dar oricine este plin de ură şi invidie, oricine trădează, acuză, bate şi se ceartă în mod mizerabil, nu poate fi Creştin” (Liechty, op. cit., p. 19).

Acest fel de viaţă le-a atras simpatia şi aderenţa multora. Wenger îl citează pe Sebastian Franck care scria în 1530: „S-a ridicat din litera Scripturii, independentă de bisericile de stat, o nouă sectă care a fost numită Anabaptişti… Prin impresia bună a acestei secte şi chemarea lor la litera Scripturii la care ei aderau strict, şi-au atras în sânul lor multe mii de inimi temătoare de Dumnezeu care aveau zel pentru Dumnezeu” (Hersberger, op. cit., p. 175). Harold Bender îl citează pe Franck: „Anabaptiştii … au câştigat în scurt timp o mare mulţime de discipoli… atrăgând multe suflete sincere care aveau râvnă pentru Dumnezeu, căci ei nu învăţau altceva decât iubirea, credinţa, şi crucea. Se arătau a fi umili, răbdători sub multă suferinţă; ei frâng pâinea între ei ca dovadă a unităţii şi iubirii. Se ajută cu credincioşie unii pe alţii şi îşi spun unii altora fraţi… Au murit ca martiri, cu răbdare şi umilinţă îndurând orice persecuţie” (Hershberger, op. cit., p. 46).

Anabaptiştii se luptau, asemenea grupărilor disidente dinaintea lor, împotriva standardului moral mediocru comun acceptat în societate/Biserică. Din această cauză au fost identificaţi cu Donatiştii şi Catharii.

Au fost acuzaţi că se cred sfinţi, fără păcat. Însă ei întotdeauna au respins perfecţionismul. Menno spunea: „Să nu credeţi că ne lăudăm că suntem perfecţi şi fără păcat. Deloc. Cât despre mine, eu mărturisesc că deseori rugăciunile mele sunt amestecate cu păcat şi neprihănirea mea cu prihana” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 103). Hubmaier răspunde aceleiaşi acuzaţii: „Dar acuzaţia că ne lăudăm că nu mai putem păcătui după botez şi alte asemenea lucruri, este o nedreptate monstruoasă. Fiindcă noi ştim că atât înainte cât şi după botez, suntem nişte bieţi păcătoşi mizerabili, şi dacă spunem că nu păcătuim, suntem mincinoşi şi adevărul nu este în noi” (Estep, op. cit., p. 155).

Urmarea lui Cristos, imitarea Lui, le aducea ură, dispreţ, suferinţe, persecuţie şi de multe ori sfârşitul tragic în mâinile călăilor. Experimentarea „Cristosului amar”, după cum numeau toate aceste suferinţe, era pentru ei o dovadă incontestabilă a adevăratei ucenicii.  Persecuţia şi martirajul le întăreau convingerea că ei reprezintă adevărata turmă a lui Cristos, care a profeţit că urmaşii Lui vor fi persecutaţi. Într-adevăr, mulţi au murit cu o rugăciune, o cântare sau un îndemn pentru spectatori pe buze, demni şi neclintiţi în hotărârea de a-L urma pe Domnul lor până la capăt.

Cele trei mari tabere promovau un „creştinism” diferit nu doar în aparenţă, ci în esenţă. Catolicismul vede în primirea harului prin intermediul unei instituţii sacramentale-sacerdote esenţa creştinismului. Protestantismul are ca esenţă experimentarea harului lui Dumnezeu în adâncul fiinţei prin credinţă. Pentru Anabaptism, esenţa creştinismului este transformarea vieţii prin credinţă, în imitarea lui Cristos. Aceste trei concepte nu se puteau amesteca.

Standardul moral Anabaptist era cel găsit, prin intermediul Scripturilor, în persoana lui Isus Cristos. Ei considerau lumea Catolică şi Protestantă ca fiind căzută în păcat şi despărţită de Dumnezeu, fiind deci o piedică în încercarea lor de a se apropia cât mai mult de standardul lor. De aceea, în încercarea de a persevera spre sfinţenie, Anabaptiştii promovau o separare a credinciosului de cei necredincioşi. În Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim, ei declarau:

„IV. Noi suntem de acord [după cum urmează] asupra separării: O separare va fi făcută de răul şi de ticăloşia pe care diavolul a sădit-o în lume; în acest fel, pentru a nu avea pur şi simplu părtăşie cu ei [cei răi] şi să nu alergăm împreună cu ei spre mulţimea abominaţiilor lor. Aşa stau lucrurile: Din moment ce toţi cei care nu umblă în ascultare faţă de credinţă, şi nu s-au unit cu Dumnezeu aşa încât să dorească să Îi împlinească voia, sunt o mare abominaţie înaintea lui Dumnezeu, nu este posibil ca altceva să crească sau să iasă din ei decât lucruri abominabile. Căci cu adevărat toate făpturile se găsesc în doar două clase, buni şi răi, credincioşi şi necredincioşi, întuneric şi lumină, lumea şi cei [care au ieşit] din lume, templul lui Dumnezeu şi idolii, Cristos şi Belial; şi nici unul nu poate avea parte de la celălalt” (Noll, Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation, p. 52, 53).

Deoarece nu credeau într-o izolare a individului de restul oamenilor, doctrina separării i-a condus spre cea mai mare doctrină „radicală” predicată de ei, doctrina despre biserică.

4.  Doctrina despre biserică.

După doctrina despre autoritatea Scripturilor, doctrina despre biserică reprezintă al doilea mare punct de divergenţă dintre tabăra Anabaptistă şi cea Catolică şi Protestantă. De asemenea, această doctrină ne ajută să îi diferenţiem pe Anabaptiştii propriu-zişi de restul Radicalilor.


1. Componenţa bisericii. Cu toţii recunoşteau că societatea se împărţea în oameni pioşi şi oameni necredincioşi. Polemicile izvorau din atitudinea fiecăruia faţă de necredincioşi. Trebuiau aceştia să fie acceptaţi în biserică şi acolo învăţaţi în speranţa îmbunătăţirii lor? Sau biserica trebuia să fie constituită doar din credincioşi? În acest punct, existau doar două tabere, deoarece Protestanţii aveau aceeaşi poziţie cu Catolicii.

Pentru Catolici, nu conta dacă cineva era virtuos sau nu atât timp cât îşi împlinea datoriile faţă de biserică. Nici o îmbunătăţire a vieţii nu era pretinsă pentru a fi membru în Biserica Romană, ea recrutându-şi membri încă de la naştere.

Pentru Protestanţi, problema era mai delicată, deoarece ei încercau să îşi construiască bisericile ajutându-se de Scriptură. Aceasta arăta spre o biserică a credincioşilor în mijlocul unei societăţi necredincioase. Reformatorii păreau tentaţi de o astfel de perspectivă, dar le era teamă să adopte o atitudine atât de radicală, căci ar fi pierdut atât susţinerea autorităţilor, cât şi cea a populaţiei. Biserica nu era pregătită să îi dea afară pe membri necredincioşi. Societatea nu era pregătită să fie dată afară din Biserică. Au ales varianta acceptării necredincioşilor în rândurile lor – măcar pentru un timp, până vor fi învăţaţi adevăratul creştinism, se gândea Luther. El avea chiar un proiect în care vieţile membrilor să fie atent urmărite, iar cei care dovedeau că aveau o conduită creştină să fie trecuţi într-un registru separat şi să fie adunaţi aparte de restul, pentru un studiu mai atent al Scripturilor. Ecclesiola in ecclesia, propunea Luther. A fost însă nevoit să abandoneze proiectul, deoarece nu erau destui care să întrunească condiţiile…

Anabaptiştii, care construiau o Biserică după modelul apostolic, pretindeau că doar cei credincioşi sunt candidaţi potriviţi pentru membralitatea în biserică. Biserica trebuia să fie păstrată curată şi să se purifice în mod continuu. Aceasta a fost una din cauzele ruperii legăturilor dintre Protestanţi şi Anabaptişti şi a migrării multor Protestanţi în tabăra radicală.

Datorită luptei lor pentru puritate, atât la nivel de individ cât şi la nivel de biserică, Anabaptiştii au fost acuzaţi ca fiind Donatişti şi Catari. Justus Menius, asociatul lui Luther şi unul din cei mai mari duşmani ai Anabaptiştilor,  spunea despre ei: „Asemenea Donatiştilor cu mult timp în urmă, ei caută să se rupă de Biserică deoarece noi permitem oamenilor răi să rămână în Biserică. Ei caută să adune o Biserică pură, şi oriunde se petrece aşa ceva, este sigur că ordinea publică va fi răsturnată, deoarece o Biserică pură nu este posibilă, după cum Cristos a menţionat deseori – noi trebuie prin urmare să îi tolerăm” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 104).

Luther afirma: „De la începutul Bisericii ereticii au menţinut că Biserica trebuie să fie sfântă şi fără păcat. Deoarece au văzut că unii în Biserică erau servi ai păcatului, de aceea au negat că Biserica era Biserică, şi au organizat secte… Aceasta este originea Donatiştilor şi a Catarilor… şi a Anabaptiştilor din vremurile noastre. Toţi aceştia strigă într-un cor mânios că Biserica adevărată nu este Biserică deoarece văd că păcătoşi şi oameni fără Dumnezeu sunt amestecaţi în ea, şi s-au separat de ea… Schwarmer [fanaticii], … arată că… prin această sfinţenie prea mare nu sunt nici o Biserică, ci doar o sectă a diavolului” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 107). Mai târziu, Calvin afirmă acelaşi lucru. „Demult erau două feluri de eretici, Catarii şi Donatiştii. Aceştia, atât primii cât şi ultimii, se aflau în aceeaşi fantezie în care sunt şi visătorii contemporani atunci când caută o Biserică în care să nu fie nimic de cenzurat. Ei se despart de creştinism pentru a nu fi murdăriţi de imperfecţiunile altora… Să fie aceasta o dovadă pentru noi că vine de la diavolul, care, sub acoperirea zelului pentru perfecţiune ne umflă de mândrie şi ne seduce prin ipocrizie aşa încât să abandonăm turma lui Cristos… Căci deoarece nu există iertare de păcate nici vreo mântuire nicăieri altundeva, Fapte 4:12 [Calvin răstălmăceşte acest verset, care afirmă de fapt că nu există mântuire în afara persoanei lui Isus, nu în afara vreunei biserici]. De aceea, chiar dacă am avea aparenţa unei sfinţenii mai mult decât angelice, dacă printr-o astfel de presupunere ajungem să ne separăm de societatea creştină am devenit diavoli” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 102).

Dezvoltând argumentele lui Luther şi Calvin, ajungem la concluzii bizare: dacă trăirea unei vieţi cât mai imaculate este o dovadă clară că cineva este condus de diavol, atunci şi reciproca trebuie să fie valabilă: cu cât cineva ar trăi mai murdar, cu atât ar aduce o dovadă mai clară că vine de la Dumnezeu.

Anabaptiştii susţineau opusul în Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim: „De aici ar trebui să învăţăm că orice nu este unit cu Dumnezeul nostru şi cu Cristos nu poate fi altceva decât o abominaţie pe care ar trebui să o alungăm şi de care ar trebui să fugim. Prin aceasta se înţelege toate lucrările şi serviciile bisericeşti Catolice şi Protestante, întrunirile şi participarea la slujbele bisericilor lor, casele de băutură, treburile civice, jurămintele rostite în necredinţă şi alte lucruri de acest fel, care sunt înălţate de lume, şi cu toate acestea sunt îndeplinite în contradicţie clară faţă de porunca lui Dumnezeu, în conformitate cu toată nelegiuirea care este în lume. De toate aceste lucruri noi vom fi separaţi şi nu vom participa la ele, căci nu sunt decât o abominaţie, şi sunt cauza pentru care noi suntem urâţi înaintea lui Isus Cristos., care ne-a eliberat din sclavia cărnii şi ne-a pregătit pentru slujirea lui Dumnezeu prin Duhul pe care ni l-a dat” (Noll, Ibid., p. 53).

În viziunea Anabaptiştilor, biserica adevărată era compusă doar din credincioşi, Îl servea pe Cristos conform învăţăturii sănătoase şi se purifica în mod continuu pentru a se asemăna tot mai mult cu Capul ei.

2. Natura bisericii

Catolicii afirmau că Biserica lor era singura adevărată, că era universală şi vizibilă şi că individul nu putea ajunge la Cristos decât prin medierea Bisericii. Neander spune: „Întregul punct de vedere Catolic se bazează pe aceasta, că relaţia dintre conştiinţa religioasă şi Cristos este făcută a depinde de medierea efectuată de Autoritatea Bisericii şi astfel aceasta din urmă este făcută a fi punctul capital şi fundamental” (Ibid., p. 684). Din moment ce nu se putea ajunge la Cristos decât prin Biserică, nu putea exista mântuire în afara ei; astfel s-a dezvoltat doctrina extra ecclesia nulla salus – nu există mântuire în afara bisericii.

Când Luther a fost excomunicat din Biserica Catolică, el s-a folosit de vechiul argument pe care Augustin l-a adus în polemica cu Donatiştii. Luther a afirmat existenţa unei Biserici universale invizibile, asupra căreia papa nu avea nici o putere. Interpretarea luterană a Ecclesiei Catholica [Biserica Universală] din Crezul Apostolic a fost următoarea: Biserica era „o comunitate de oameni răspândiţi în întreaga lume, dar care sunt într-un acord în ce priveşte Evanghelia, care au în comun acelaşi Cristos, acelaşi Duh Sfânt, aceleaşi Sacramente, fie că adoptă obiceiuri identice sau diferite” (Neander, op. cit., p. 686). Zwingli a dezvoltat şi mai mult ideea. El învăţa că Biserica este „comunitatea oamenilor legaţi împreună de o credinţă şi un duh” (Ibid.). El diferenţiază între Biserica vizibilă, compusă din toţi credincioşii declaraţi, şi cea invizibilă, compusă doar din credincioşii adevăraţi. Calvin înţelegea că Biserica era compusă din toţi aleşii care au trăit, trăiesc sau vor trăi vreodată.

În organizarea vizibilă a bisericilor lor, Reformatorii au păstrat formula Catolică. Ei au organizat masele în biserici teritoriale, compuse din toţi locuitorii teritoriilor respective [Volkskirche]. Bisericile lor vizibile se asemănau foarte mult cu cea Catolică, exceptând faptul că nu erau „universale”. În statele Protestante, frontierele administrative erau şi frontierele religioase. Biserica se confunda cu Statul.

Între radicali existau de asemenea opinii diferite în ce priveşte natura bisericii. Spiritualiştii Franck şi Schwenckfeld vedeau o biserică pur invizibilă, neadunată, spirituală, care nu avea nici un sacrament extern. Munzer şi mai apoi Anabaptiştii Revoluţionari identificau Biserica cu Împărăţia lui Cristos şi cu Statul secular. Anabaptiştii hutteriţi vedeau Biserica şi comunitatea ca fiind identice, ei formând comunităţi închise separate de societate. Anabaptiştii evanghelici se opuneau tuturor acestor concepte.

Anabaptiştii respingeau doctrina „bisericii invizibile”’ (deşi Hubmaier, Philips şi alţii fac referiri la ea). Franklin H. Littell spune, „Încuviinţez din toată inima denunţarea lui Robert Friedmann a doctrinei ‚bisericii invizibile’ ca străină de Anabaptism. Această învăţătură, care are ca efect şi probabil ca origine atribuirea unui înţeles spiritual [nu literal] termenului, a fost, din secolul 16 până astăzi principalul tunel subteran prin care liderii Bisericilor Protestante recunoscute au putut scăpa din locul în care insurgenţa lor biblică i-a condus la început” (Hershberger, op. cit., p. 122, [notă]).

Bender afirmă: „Mişcarea Anabaptistă originală a respins ideea unei biserici invizibile, care a fost o invenţie a lui Luther, susţinând căci comunitatea creştină din orice loc anume este la fel de vizibilă pe cât creştinul, iar caracterul ei creştin trebuie să fie ‚vizibil’” (Mennonite Encyclopedia, capitolul Church, doctrine of).

În locul Bisericii universale invizibile şi a bisericii maselor [Volkskirche, Corpus Christianum] ei puneau biserica locală vizibilă, „adunarea credincioşilor” [Gemeinde, Corpus Christi]. Doar cei care mărturiseau credinţa în Isus aveau dreptul şi onoarea de a fi membri în Biserica Sa. „Accentul Anabaptismului secolului şaisprezece a fost asupra preocupării Noului Testament pentru adunarea bisericii celor regeneraţi” (Estep, op. cit., p. 182).

Această biserică vizibilă nu putea fi decât o asociere voluntară a credincioşilor. Anabaptiştii aveau repulsie faţă de utilizarea forţei. Conceptul de membralitate forţată, de botez forţat (Catolicii şi Protestanţii practicau botezarea forţată a copiilor evreilor şi Anabaptiştilor) le era complet străin. Hans Denck spunea: „în materie de credinţă, totul trebuie să fie liber, voluntar şi fără constrângere” (Vedder, op. cit.,  p. 160).

Despre Grebel şi grupul său de la Zurich, Fritz Blanke spune: „Ei au căutat o biserică liberă într-un sens dublu: o congregaţie liberă faţă de stat şi bazată pe o membralitate voluntară. Acesta a fost primul ţel al Anabaptiştilor” (Hershberger, Ibid., p. 60).

Anabaptiştii au urmat principiul nou testamentar, construind biserici independente, compuse doar din credincioşi, care se asociau voluntar în jurul a trei mari scopuri comune: închinarea înaintea lui Dumnezeu, slujirea reciprocă şi continuarea lucrării începute de Cristos.

5.  Doctrina despre botez


Mulţi istorici consideră că doctrina principală care i-a marcat pe Anabaptişti ca diferiţi de Catolici, Protestanţi şi de restul grupărilor radicale a fost doctrina botezului. [notă: Bender, însă, consideră ca punct culminant ucenicia, iar Estep, biserica. Este opinia autorului că atitudinea lor faţă de Scripturi a fost caracteristica lor fundamentală. Acceptarea autorităţii supreme a Scripturii şi interpretarea ei literală a dus logic la toate celelalte diferenţe. Dacă reformatorii ar fi aplicat total, nu doar parţial, principiul Sola Scriptura – aşa cum au început să o facă în prima parte a lucrării lor – aceştia ar fi ajuns la poziţii cel puţin asemănătoare cu cele susţinute de Anabaptişti.]

Dar doctrina botezului deriva din cea a bisericii şi era secundară acesteia ca importanţă. „Radicalismul [în Elveţia] a fost identic cu mişcarea Anabaptistă, dar problema botezului a fost secundară. Implica o întreagă reconstruire a Bisericii şi a ordinii sociale” (Schaff, op. cit., p. 56). Blanke afirmă că „Adevăratul lor interes nu era în botez, ci în biserică… Botezul credincioşilor nu era decât cea mai izbitoare manifestare externă a acestui nou fel de biserică” (Hershberger, op. cit, p. 60). Aceasta a fost cauza pentru care ei îl considerau atât de important.

Botezul practicat de Biserica Catolică era cel al pruncilor. Era asociat cu mântuirea, deoarece oferea har participantului. Însemna încadrarea lui în Biserică şi în societate. Clerul Catolic îşi aroga dreptul de a fi administratorul autorizat al botezului creştin. În Conciliul de la Trent, care marca tactica Contra-Reformei, canoanele referitoare la sacramentul botezului afirmă:

 „3. Oricine va afirma că adevărata doctrină a sacramentului botezului nu este în Biserica Romană, care este mama şi stăpâna tuturor bisericilor: să fie blestemat.” „5. Oricine va afirma că botezul este indiferent – adică – nu este necesar pentru mântuire – să fie blestemat” (J. M. Cramp, History of the Council of Trent, p. 129).

Protestanţii au eliminat ritualurile inutile, saliva, sarea, uleiul, dar au păstrat practica. Deşi puţini îi dădeau valenţe mântuitoare, cei care se opuneau botezului pruncilor erau acuzaţi că predică pierzania pruncilor care mureau înainte de a ajunge la maturitate.

Pentru Luterani, botezul era pecetea credinţei, primindu-se har prin intermediul său (vezi Neander, op. cit., p. 688). Mărturisirea de credinţă luterană de la Augsburg afirmă la Articolul IX: „Despre Botez învăţăm că este necesar, şi că se oferă har prin el. Copiii de asemenea trebuie să fie botezaţi, căci în botez ei sunt oferiţi lui Dumnezeu şi devin plăcuţi Lui.

Datorită acestui fapt, Anabaptiştii, care învaţă că botezul pruncilor nu este drept, sunt respinşi” (Noll, Confessions, p. 90).

Zwingli nu vedea botezul pruncilor ca având rol mântuitor, ci mai degrabă ca un semn al noului legământ, continuarea circumciziei din vechiul legământ şi făcea aluzie la pasajul din 1 Corinteni 7:14, în care Pavel discută sfinţenia copiilor credincioşilor.

Anabaptiştii îi cereau lui Zwingli să aducă dovezi scripturale în favoarea botezului pruncilor. Hubmaier i-a scris: „Ai spus în opoziţie faţă de Faber [vicarul general al episcopului de Constance] că tot adevărul este clar revelat în Cuvântului lui Dumnezeu. Acum, dacă botezul pruncilor este un adevăr, arată-ne scriptura în care se găseşte. Dacă nu o faci, vicarul se va plânge că ai folosit împotriva lui o sabie pe care acum o pui deoparte” (Haskell, Heroes and Hierarchs, p. 101).

În cartea scrisă împotriva Anabaptiştilor, Despre Botezare, Rebotezare şi botezarea pruncilor (1525), Zwingli a încercat să aducă dovezile cerute. Hermeneutica lui, însă, i-a făcut pe mulţi să privească cu îndoială spre argumentele sale. Iată un exemplu:

„În Matei 3 citim: ‚În acele zile a venit Ioan Botezătorul, predicând în pustia Iudeii,’ etc. Iar aici ei [Anabaptiştii] strigă: Nu vedeţi că Ioan a predicat înainte să boteze? Noi nu doar vedem aceasta, ci admitem deschis. Şi noi înşine urmăm aceeaşi practică, căci noi nu permitem pruncilor să fie aduşi la botez decât după ce părinţii au fost învăţaţi mai întâi… Noi mărturisim cu convingere că Ioan a învăţat întâi şi apoi a botezat. Dar nu se poate nega că odată ce ascultătorii săi au fost învăţaţi, ei şi-au botezat de asemenea şi copiii neînvăţaţi, adică, i-au dedicat lui Dumnezeu în botez… Chiar dacă au fost prezenţi copii şi ei au fost botezaţi – şi nu putem dovedi aceasta în mod absolut – încă ar fi adevărat  că oamenii şi-au mărturisit păcatele, căci toţi cei care au putut şi au fost suficient de luminaţi să îşi mărturisească păcatele, au făcut-o, fără îndoială” (Bromiley, op. cit., p. 146, 147).

Pentru a scăpa de problema re-botezării ucenicilor din Efes (Faptele Apostolilor 19), Zwingli inventează un nou înţeles pentru botez: „Atunci Pavel a spus: ‚În ce aţi fost botezaţi?’ adică, în ce aţi fost instruiţi? După cum vom vedea mai târziu. Ei au răspuns că au fost instruiţi în botezul, adică în învăţătura lui Ioan” (Ibid, pag. 173).

Replica lui Hubmaier nu s-a lăsat aşteptată. I-a răspuns lui Zwingli prin Botezul creştin al credincioşilor, tratat considerat a fi una din cele mai bune apologii pentru botezul credincioşilor scrise vreodată.

„Fiecare creştin pios poate vedea şi înţelege că acela care vrea să se cureţe cu apă trebuie înainte să aibă o bună înţelegere a Cuvântului lui Dumnezeu, şi o conştiinţă bună faţă de Dumnezeu; adică trebuie să fie sigur că are un Dumnezeu bun şi plin de har, prin mijlocirea lui Cristos…

De aceea nu botezul în apă este ceea ce curăţă sufletul, ci ‚da-ul’ unei conştiinţe bune faţă de Dumnezeu, dată în interior de credinţă.

De aceea botezul în apă este numit un botez in Remissionem Peccatorum (Fapte al doilea capitol), adică, pentru iertarea păcatelor. Nu că prin el păcatele sunt iertate, ci prin virtutea ‚da-ului’ interior, pe care omul îl mărturiseşte în exterior în supunerea faţă de botezul în apă, spunând că el crede şi este sigur în inima sa că păcatele sale sunt iertate prin Isus Cristos” (Estep, op. cit., p. 59).

Protestanţii erau, din nou, într-o poziţie delicată. Se aflau între ciocan şi nicovală. Catolicii admiteau deschis că Scriptura nu oferă fundament pentru botezul pruncilor. Pentru ei, nici nu era nevoie. Ei îşi bazau argumentaţia pe Tradiţie.

Anabaptiştii susţineau şi ei că Scriptura nu oferă fundament. Bazându-se doar pe Scriptură, respingând Tradiţia, ei respingeau complet botezul pruncilor.

La început, Protestanţii înclinau spre a-l respinge şi ei. Zwingli se plângea la începutul carierei sale: „Nimic nu mă întristează mai mult decât faptul că în prezent trebuie să botez copii, fiindcă ştiu că aceasta nu trebuie făcut.” „Eu las botezul neatins, nu îl numesc corect sau greşit; dacă ar fi să botezăm după cum Cristos l-a instituit, atunci nu am boteza nici o persoană până nu a ajuns la anii de discernământ; căci nu găsesc niciunde scris că botezul pruncilor trebuie practicat” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 198, 199). Anabaptiştii nu au ezitat să îi aducă mai târziu aminte lui Zwingli de această poziţie. Hubmaier îi scria: „Şi tu obişnuiai să susţii aceleaşi idei, le-ai scris şi le-ai predicat în mod deschis de la amvon; multe sute de oameni le-au auzit din gura ta. Dar acum, toţi cei ce spun asta despre tine sunt numiţi mincinoşi. Da, spui cu curaj că niciodată nu ţi-au trecut prin minte astfel de idei, şi mergi dincolo de aceasta, lucruri despre care voi păstra tăcerea pentru moment” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 200). Răspunzându-i lui Hubmaier, Zwingli admite ezitant, „Pentru un timp eu însumi am fost înşelat de această eroare [botezul ca semn al credinţei] şi am crezut că este mai bine să nu botez copiii până nu au ajuns la anii de discernământ. Dar nu eram atât de dogmatic în această opinie încât să iau calea unora de astăzi, care deşi sunt mult prea tineri şi neexperimentaţi în această problemă, susţin şi afirmă nechibzuit că botezul pruncilor derivă din papalitate  sau de la diavolul sau ceva la fel de lipsit de sens” (Bromiley, op. cit. p. 139).

Protestanţii au ales să păstreze botezul pruncilor, dar între ei existau opinii diferite în privinţa efectelor ritului, „…ei au unit anumite beneficii invizibile cu botezul: unii presupuneau că este o curăţare fizică de păcat; alţii, o transmitere a unor calităţi morale; şi alţii o pecete sau semn al unui contract între Dumnezeul Atotputernic şi credinciosul şi copiii credinciosului; sau, cum se exprimau ei prin figura evreiască, sămânţa celor evlavioşi, insinuând că evlavia, şi declarând direct că păcatul, erau ambele propagate prin generarea naturală” (Robinson, The History of Baptism, p. 478).

Protestanţii se vedeau puşi în situaţia de a justifica cu Scriptura practicarea botezului pruncilor. După ce argumentele lor au eşuat, Reformatorii şi-au trădat poziţia Sola Scriptura. Luther a afirmat în mod surprinzător: „Nu există suficiente dovezi în Scriptură pentru justificarea introducerii botezului pruncilor în vremea creştinilor timpurii de după perioada apostolică… Dar este evident că nimeni nu se poate aventura cu o conştiinţă bună să respingă sau să abandoneze botezul pruncilor, care este practicat de aşa de mult timp” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 203, 204).

 Oecolampadius le striga Anabaptiştilor în termeni total ne-Protestanţi, „Ştiu prea bine că voi tot cereţi ‚Scriptură! Scriptură!’ după cum doriţi cuvinte clare pentru a ne dovedi punctul… Dar dacă Scriptura ne-ar învăţa toate lucrurile, nu am mai avea nevoie de ungerea care ne învaţă toate lucrurile” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 204).

Melanchton a apărat botezul pruncilor cu Tradiţia (vezi Neander, op. cit., p. 693). Zwingli a adus împotriva Anabaptiştilor argumentul tăcerii Scripturii, afirmând că Scriptura nu interzice în cuvinte clare botezarea pruncilor. Hubmaier, în numele Anabaptiştilor, îi răspunde într-un pasaj plin de umor sarcastic:

„Este destul de clar pentru cel care ochi să vadă, dar nu este exprimat în aceste cuvinte, literal, ‚nu botezaţi pruncii’. Poate atunci cineva să îi boteze? La aceasta, eu răspund: „dacă da, eu îmi pot boteza câinele sau măgarul, sau pot circumcide fete… Pot să îmi fac idoli din Sf. Pavel sau Sf. Petru, pot aduce pruncii la Cina Domnului, să binecuvântez ramuri de palmier, legume, sare, pământuri sau ape, să vând Mesa ca jertfă. Căci nicăieri nu se spune în cuvinte exprese că noi nu trebuie să facem aceste lucruri” (Estep, op. cit., p. 60).

Pentru Anabaptişti, botezul era uşa de intrare în Biserică, în adunarea credincioşilor. Hubmaier a spus: „Unde nu există botezul în apă, acolo nu există Biserică, nu există frate, nici soră, nici disciplina frăţească, excludere sau restaurare… Primind botezul, candidatul mărturiseşte public că… s-a supus fraţilor şi surorilor sale… adică Bisericii” (Ibid., p. 60).

Mărturisirea Schleitheim afirmă:

„I. Observaţi în privinţa botezului: Botezul va fi acordat tuturor celor care au învăţat pocăinţa şi îmbunătăţirea vieţii, şi care cred cu adevărat că păcatele lor sunt îndepărtate de Cristos, şi tuturor acelora care umblă în învierea lui Isus Cristos şi doresc să fie îngropaţi împreună cu el în moarte, pentru a fi înviaţi împreună cu El, şi tuturor celor care cu această semnificaţie ni-l cer [botezul] şi îl pretind pentru ei înşişi. Aceasta exclude orice botez al pruncilor, cea mai mare şi principala abominaţie a Papei. În aceasta aveţi temelia şi mărturia apostolilor. Matei 28, Marcu 16, Fapte 2, 8, 16, 19. Aceasta dorim să susţinem simplu, dar ferm şi cu siguranţă” (Noll, op. cit., p. 51, 52).

Concepând biserica drept adunarea celor credincioşi şi botezul ca uşă de intrare în biserică, pruncii nu puteau fi consideraţi a fi candidaţi potriviţi pentru acest act. Ei nu găseau nici o aluzie de botezare a pruncilor în Scripturi, de aceea o condamnau ca o invenţie a diavolului. Nu asociau mântuirea cu botezul, de aceea nu credeau, aşa cum erau acuzaţi, că pruncii care mor nebotezaţi vor ajunge în iad. Unii credeau că pruncii care mor merg în rai. Hubmaier lăsa copiii care mureau „în mâinile unui Tată plin de har”; „În mâinile Sale îi încredinţez.” „Facă-se voia Lui. Şi aici las problema. Fără voia Lui, nu m-ar ajuta cu nimic să fiu botezat de o mie de ori. Căci apa nu mântuieşte” (Estep, op. cit., p. 158, 159).

Într-adevăr, toţi Anabaptiştii insistau asupra acestui adevăr. „Apa nu mântuieşte”. „A nu fi botezat nu te condamnă… Dar a nu crede, aceasta condamnă”, spunea Hubmaier (Estep, op. cit., p. 158). Anabaptiştii insistau că botezul este un semn al credinţei existente, „da-ul” lui Hubmaier faţă de învăţătura lui Dumnezeu. Pentru ei, botezul era o promisiune faţă de Dumnezeu şi faţă de Biserica în care intrau, că vor trăi în ascultare faţă de Cuvintele lui Dumnezeu până la capătul vieţii.

La rândul său, Luther striga: „Cum poate botezul să fie pângărit şi dizgraţiat mai cumplit decât atunci când spunem că botezul administrat unui necredincios nu este botez bun şi autentic!… Ce, botezul făcut ineficient deoarece eu nu cred? … Ce doctrină mai blasfematoare şi ofensatoare putea inventa şi predica diavolul însuşi? Cu toate acestea, Anabaptiştii şi Rotengeister-ii [făuritorii de partide] sunt plini până la urechi cu această învăţătură. Eu aduc în discuţie următoarea situaţie: Iată un Evreu care acceptă botezul, după cum se întâmplă destul de des, dar nu crede [Luther se referea la botezurile forţate, când sub ameninţări, mulţi evrei au acceptat să fie botezaţi], poţi spune că acela nu este botez real deoarece el nu crede? Aceasta ar fi să crezi ca un nebun, dar mai mult, să îl huleşti şi să îl dizgraţiezi pe Dumnezeu” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 201).

Anabaptiştii vedeau că, odată cu impunerea acestui botez prin lege, se schimba drastic natura bisericii. Aceasta nu mai era adunarea celor credincioşi într-o societate necredincioasă, ci o instituţie care cuprindea întreaga societate, credincioşi şi necredincioşi. Grâul şi neghina din pilda lui Isus nu mai reprezenta adunarea (grâul) şi societatea (neghina), ci credincioşii şi necredincioşii în Biserica-societate. Botezul pruncilor devenea un semn nu doar al apartenenţei la Biserică, ci la societate. A-l respinge însemna a respinge ordinea socială. Grebel şi Manz ştiau bine acest lucru. Grebel afirma că ordinea medievală „poate fi demolată prin nimic mai eficient decât prin încetarea practicării botezului pruncilor” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 205). Un Anabaptist, Hans Seckler spunea, „Botezul pruncilor este stâlpul de susţinere al ordinii papale şi atât timp cât nu este îndepărtat nu poate exista congregaţie creştină” (Ibid.). Anabaptiştii identificau şi Protestantismul cu această ordine, numind doctrina reformată semi-papalitate.

În gândirea Protestantă, Biserica şi Statul erau una. Pentru ei, dărâmarea din temelii a Bisericii însemna şi dărâmarea ordinii sociale. „Ei nu vor să audă de botezul pruncilor, nici să îl permită; dar aceasta va aduce în final sfârşitul conducerii sociale”, spunea un funcţionar public (Ibid.).

Pentru Anabaptişti, Biserica era o facţiune a societăţii, iar botezul era semnul care făcea distincţia dintre credincioşi şi necredincioşi.

Modul în care era practicat botezul de Anabaptişti a cauzat multă polemică. Istoricii Protestanţi afirmă că nu exista un mod anumit prescris, că Anabaptiştii insistau asupra candidatului potrivit, nu asupra modului potrivit, deci este posibil să fi privit cu indiferenţă spre modul administrării (stropire, turnare sau imersie), la fel ca Reformatorii.

Menoniţii practică turnarea de apă, iar istoricii Menoniţi sunt tentaţi să privească imersia ca fiind o excepţie de la regula generală. Baptiştii practică exclusiv imersia, iar istoricii Baptişti încearcă să dovedească faptul că doar acest mod era practicat. Ce ne învaţă istoria?

După ce grupul lui Grebel s-a separat de Zwingli în 17 ianuarie 1525, ei s-au întâlnit la Zollikon, un sat de lângă Zurich practicând acolo botezul credinciosului, cel mai probabil în 21 ianuarie, noaptea. O cronică anonimă începută în jurul anilor 1560, numită Marea Cronică a Fraţilor Hutterieni, cunoscută şi sub denumirea de Cronica Moraviană, menţionează că Blaurock a fost botezat de Grebel prin turnare de apă, iar la rândul său, Grebel i-a botezat la fel pe cei prezenţi. Acurateţea raportului a fost îndelung dezbătută. Relatarea a fost scrisă la aproximativ patruzeci de ani după eveniment şi are ca sursă cel mai probabil tradiţia orală. Trebuie de asemenea observat că relatarea nu este conferită de curentul principal al Anabaptiştilor Evanghelici, ci o ramură a lor cu care colaborarea era restrânsă. Nu ne-a rămas nici o mărturie directă a nici unei persoane implicate în acel eveniment.

La o lună după acest eveniment în care Grebel ar fi fost botezat prin turnare – dacă luăm relatarea Cronicii ca validă – acesta se găsea în cantonul St. Gall, predicând şi învăţând imersia adulţilor pe baza mărturisirii credinţei ca fiind singurul botez valid. Kessler, predicatorul reformat din St. Gall şi adversarul lui Grebel, relatează în lucrarea sa, Sabbata, despre „Wolfgang Ulimann, care, fiind învăţat de Laurenz Hochrutiner împotriva botezului pruncilor, s-a grăbit să facă o călătorie la Schaffhausen, la Conrad Grebel, şi ajungând prin el la o cunoştinţă atât de înaltă despre Anabaptism, nu a vrut a fi udat dintr-o farfurie cu apă, ci, complet dezbrăcat de haine şi gol, a fost afundat [lit: tras sub apă şi acoperit] de Grebel afară în Rin” (vol. I, p. 266). Trebuie notat că nuditatea nu făcea parte din rit, aşa cum au fost acuzaţi în mod maliţios. A fost practicată, însă, în cazuri izolate, când botezurile erau făcute în râuri, iar candidaţii nu aveau haine de schimb.

Afundarea este numită aici „cunoştinţă înaltă despre Anabaptism”. În această cunoştinţă, ei respingeau stropirea şi turnarea. Nu cunoştinţa anterioară a lui Ulimann l-a determinat să nu accepte să fie botezat prin turnare, ci cunoştinţa pe care a primit-o de la Grebel. Ar fi cel puţin ciudat ca Grebel să respingă autoritar în februarie ceea ce a practicat în ianuarie. Mai mult, botezul lui Ulimann a avut loc iarna. Luând în considerare teama omului medieval de apa rece, dacă ei ar fi considerat ca lipsit de importanţă modul botezului, ar fi ales orice alt mod în afară de afundare în apele reci ale Rinului. De aceea, înclinăm să ne îndoim că Grebel a fost botezat prin turnare.

Istoricul elveţian Arx scrie despre botezul practicat de Grebel la St. Gall: „Ei [Grebel şi Hochrutiner] au căutat să îi convingă pe toţi să se lase botezaţi încă o dată şi au predicat în St. Gallen sub teii din Multerthore, pe câmpuri şi în păduri. Ei au avut aşa succes, încât oamenii din teritoriul St. Gall, din Appenzell şi din Toggenburg au roit spre oraşul St. Gall întrebând de baptisteriu şi lăsându-se botezaţi acolo. Numărul convertiţilor a ajuns atât de mare încât mulţimea candidaţilor pentru botez nu mai încăpea în baptisteriu, iar ei au fost nevoiţi să folosească apele râului Sitter; spre care, în zilele de duminică, cei care doreau botezul mergeau în număr la fel de mare, marşul lor în procesiune făcându-i imediat observaţi” (Geschichten des Kantons St. Gallen, vol. 2, p. 501).

Aceste evenimente au avut loc în luna martie. Baptisteriul era un butoi mare de lemn. Christian oferă următoarea mărturie: „Augustus Naef, Secretar al Conciliului din St. Gall, într-o lucrare publicată în 1850, menţionează succesul mişcării Baptiste. El spune: ‚Ei botezau pe cei care au crezut la fel ca ei în râuri şi lacuri, într-un butoi mare de lemn în Piaţa Măcelarului înaintea unei mari mulţimi” (op. cit., p. 119).

Zwingli de asemenea depune mărturie în favoarea afundării ca practică a Anabaptiştilor, când le răspunde sarcastic: „Veste bună! Să mergem toţi pentru o afundare în Limmat!” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 217). Citându-l pe Manz, care vorbea despre botez ca o „intrare sub [apă]”, Zwingli a afirmat: „Cel care vorbeşte de intrare sub [apă], să intre [de tot]” (Ibid.). Cuvintele lui au inspirat legea dată de magistraţi, „Qui mersus fuerit mergatur”, „cine afundă va fi afundat”, sub care Manz a pierit înecat în apele Limmat-ului (Christian, op. cit., p. 122).

În landurile germane sudice, imersia era modul practicat de Anabaptişti. „Liderii Anabaptişti, Hubmaier, Denck, Hatzer, Hut, au apărut de asemenea în Augsburg şi au adunat o congregaţie de o mie o sută de membri. Ei botezau prin afundare. Rhegius a întărâtat pe magistrat împotriva lor: liderii au fost aruncaţi în închisoare, iar unii executaţi”  (Schaff, op. cit., vol. VII, p. 377).

Jarrel citează definiţia pe care o dă Hubmaier botezului în Despre botezul creştin al credincioşilor. „A boteza în apă înseamnă a acoperi mărturisitorul păcatelor sale în apă externă, conform poruncii divine şi a-l înscrie în numărul celor separaţi pe baza propriei mărturisiri şi dorinţe” (Jarel, op. cit., p. 200).

Menno Simons spune: „după ce vom căuta cu cea mai mare stăruinţă, nu vom găsi un alt botez în afară de afundarea în apă [doopsel inden water] care să fie primit de Dumnezeu şi susţinut în Cuvântul Său” (Robinson, op. cit., p. 499).

Deşi Protestanţii priveau cu indiferenţă înspre mod, imersia era preferată. Luther o prescria pentru serviciul de botezare. Zwingli scria despre înţelesul cuvântului botez: „În primul rând este folosit pentru afundarea în apă prin care suntem dedicaţi individual vieţii creştine” (Bromiley, op. cit., p. 132). Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim nu menţionează modul, dar nu fiindcă Anabaptiştii îl priveau cu indiferenţă, ci fiindcă opoziţia faţă de ei nu se datora acestui punct.

Botezul era atât de important pentru Anabaptişti datorită înţelesului lui. „Botezul unui credincios este un simbol al scufundării în moartea lui Cristos şi al învierii (‚naşterii din nou’) în învierea Sa. Nimeni nu poate intra în Împărăţie dacă nu a fost născut din nou (Ioan 3:3), iar acesta era evenimentul spiritual simbolizat de botezul în apă în comunitate” (Littell, op. cit., p. 84). Imersia era singurul mod care putea simboliza corect „scufundarea în moartea lui Cristos” şi aducerea la viaţă în învierea Sa. Nici turnarea, nici stropirea cu apă nu simbolizează exact evenimentul spiritual portretizat de botez.

Dovezile în favoarea imersiei sunt copleşitoare. Dacă au existat într-adevăr excepţii de la regula botezului prin imersie, acestea au fost sporadice şi s-au datorat perioadei de tranziţie de la Catolicism sau Protestantism la Anabaptism al persoanelor implicate.

Anabaptiştii considerau că doar adulţii sunt candidaţi potriviţi pentru botez, din moment ce se cerea o anumită înţelegere a responsabilităţilor unui Creştin; ei învăţau că apa este doar un simbol al spălării şi curăţirii interioare; considerau imersia ca fiind ilustraţia potrivită a lucrării interioare a Duhului Sfânt în regenerare; ei considerau că doar bisericile lor botezau corect şi îndeplineau lucrarea lui Cristos.

6. Doctrina disciplinei în Biserică

Disciplina bisericească reprezenta un alt punct important în care Anabaptiştii difereau de oponenţii lor. În timpul acela, disciplina era o particularitate Anabaptistă, ei fiind singurii care o practicau după modelul nou testamentar. 

Biserica Catolică nu practica decât excomunicarea, prin care înţelegea pierderea mântuirii. Nu exista o purificare morală în rândurile ei, ci doar una doctrinară. Ereticii erau confruntaţi cu dogma, iar dacă nu se conformau, erau condamnaţi la moarte, pedeapsă care a fost de cele mai multe ori executată. Nimeni nu a fost ars însă pentru că a fost depravat şi imoral.

Problema disciplinei între Protestanţi se asemăna cu cea din tabăra Catolică, deşi Reformatorii doreau o îmbunătăţire a moralităţii. Dar, păstrând viziunea sacrală a societăţii, nu puteau exclude pe cineva din biserică decât dacă îl excludeau şi din societate. Au preferat să încerce să corecteze acest neajuns din interior, dar eşecul lor este arhi-cunoscut.

Adunarea credincioşilor era, în viziunea Anabaptistă, reprezentanta lui Cristos în lume, şi de aceea trebuia păstrată curată. Pentru păstrarea purităţii, ei au recurs la modelul nou testamentar din Matei 18. Oricine trăia în păcat sau devia de la credinţa biblică era întâi învăţat, iar dacă nu se schimba, era exclus, „lăsat în pace”, cum spunea Grebel. Excluderea era necesară pentru perseverenţa spre sfinţenie la nivel de membru şi pentru o conducere spirituală şi scripturală la nivel de biserică.

Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim afirmă:

„II. Noi suntem de acord în privinţa excluderii după cum urmează: Se va recurge la excludere faţă de toţi cei care s-au dat pe ei înşişi Domnului, să umble în poruncile Lui, şi faţă de toţi cei care au fost botezaţi în trupul lui Cristos şi care sunt numiţi fraţi şi surori, şi care totuşi au alunecat uneori în eroare şi păcat, fiind din neglijenţă biruiţi. Acela [care a fost biruit] va fi mustrat de două ori în secret iar a treia oară disciplinat sau exclus public conform poruncii lui Cristos (Mat. 18). Dar aceasta se va face conform rânduielii Duhului (Mat. 5) înainte de frângerea pâinii, aşa încât să putem frânge şi mânca o singură pâine, într-un singur gând şi o singură dragoste, şi să bem dintr-o singură cupă” (Mark Noll, Ibid., p. 52).

Doctrina excluderii aruncă o lumină suplimentară asupra concepţiei Anabaptiste despre biserică. În primul rând, o astfel de practică arată că Anabaptiştii nu considerau biserica doar ca o părtăşie a credincioşilor, în care să existe vaste diferenţe doctrinare şi practice. Pentru ei, biserica era un trup, a cărui unitate şi puritate era păzită de o disciplină strictă. Acesta a fost scopul principal al doctrinei disciplinei.

Scopul secundar al disciplinei era acela al îndreptării celui exclus. Nu se urmărea răzbunarea comunităţii pe cel căzut în păcat, ci restaurarea lui, ajutându-l să se întoarcă la părtăşia bisericii, pe care a pierdut-o prin excludere.

Mai târziu, între Menoniţii olandezi, excluderea a ajuns să afecteze nu doar relaţia celui exclus cu biserica, ci şi cu familia şi cunoscuţii. Se spunea că celui exclus nu trebuia să i se spună nici o vorbă îngăduitoare, să nu i se arunce nici o privire compătimitoare până nu se căieşte şi se întoarce. Aceasta, însă, nu a fost practica generală a Anabaptiştilor.

Disciplinarea se făcea public, de întreaga biserică, ce acţiona democratic. Hubmaier spunea „Primind botezul, candidatul mărturiseşte public că… s-a supus fraţilor şi surorilor sale … adică, Bisericii” (Estep, op. cit., p. 60).

„În perfecţiunea lui Cristos [în biserică], totuşi, doar excluderea este folosită pentru avertizare şi pentru excomunicarea celui care a păcătuit, fără ca trupul să fie omorât – doar avertizarea şi porunca de a nu mai păcătui” (Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim, Noll, op. cit., p. 54).

Disciplina bisericească a fost una din particularităţile Anabaptiste care i-a păzit de păcate grele, şi i-a ajutat să trăiască o viaţă virtuoasă.

7. Doctrina Cinei Domnului


Pentru Catolici, Euharistul, sau Mesa, era o sacrificare perpetuă a lui Cristos de către preot. Sub medierea sacerdotului – şi numai a lui, pâinea, sau ostia şi vinul se transformă miraculos în trupul şi sângele lui Cristos. Această dogmă poartă numele de transsubstanţiere. Congregaţia nu are acces decât la „trupul” Său, „sângele” fiind consumat numai de preot. Mesa era considerată un sacrament, conferea har mântuitor participanţilor. Era unul din cele mai importante rituri, deoarece coagula în jurul ei întreaga societate a cărei graniţe se confundau cu cele ale Bisericii.

Luther a respins doctrina transsubstanţierii, care afirma o „prezenţă reală” a lui Cristos în sacrament, dar proclama o prezenţă a sa literală alături de elemente. Această doctrină se numeşte consubstanţiere. „La fel cum într-un fier înroşit focul şi metalul nu îşi pierd identitatea, a explicat el [Luther], aşa este şi Cristos în, cu şi sub elementele euharistului. Sau, tot aşa cum Dumnezeu şi omul au devenit una în Cristos, tot aşa elementele şi trupul lui Cristos devin una, totuşi, amândouă reţinându-şi esenţa distinctă” (Loewen, Luther and the Radicals, p. 41).

Zwingli respingea atât transsubstanţierea Catolică, cât şi consubstanţierea Luterană, acesta fiind unul din punctele de doctrină datorită cărora luteranii şi zwinglienii nu au colaborat. Pentru Zwingli şi pentru Reformatorii elveţieni, Cina nu reprezenta decât un simbol, o comemorare a jertfirii lui Cristos. Aceasta a fost una din doctrinele cu care Zwingli şi-a început Reforma. Una din tezele pe care Zwingli şi partizanii săi, printre care se numărau şi Hubmaier, Grebel, Manz la acea vreme, le-au apărat în disputa din octombrie 1523 a fost următoarea: „18. Hristos, care s-a oferit pe Sine, o dată ca jertfă, este pentru veşnicie o jertfă perpetuă şi suficientă pentru păcatele tuturor credincioşilor. Prin urmare, conchidem că Mesa nu este o jertfă, ci o comemorare a unicei jertfe şi o pecete a răscumpărării pe care Cristos a făcut-o pentru noi…” (Mark Noll, Ibid., p. 41).  Aceasta a devenit principala caracteristică a teologiei lui Zwingli. „‚Zwinglianismul’ a ajuns să fie identificat nu cu vreo construcţie pozitivă teologică sau liturgică, ci cu o negare a prezenţei lui Cristos în Euharist” (Lindberg, The Reformation Theologians, p. 157). Conform lui Zwingli, Cristos este prezent spiritual la Cină, nu fizic. Sacramentul prezintă lucrarea din trecut a lui Cristos, dar şi cea din prezent. De aici rezultă importanţa ritului. „‚Acesta este trupul Meu’, adică acesta reprezintă trupul Meu, mâncarea acestei pâini fiind semnul şi simbolul căci Cristos, adevărata hrană şi mângâiere a sufletului, a fost răstignit pentru noi” (Bromiley, op. cit., p. 226).

Radicalii au respins doctrina prezenţei reale. Cel mai înflăcărat oponent a fost Carlstadt, care a publicat mai multe tratate împotriva acestei doctrine. „Carlstadt trebuie făcut responsabil pentru iniţierea aşa-zisei controverse sacramentale ce a cauzat atât de multă dezbinare între Protestanţi. Opiniile lui Carlstadt despre Cina Domnului au fost împărtăşite, cu mici diferenţe, de majoritatea radicalilor şi de Anabaptiştii secolului şaisprezece” (Harry Loewen, Luther and the Radicals, p. 40). Unii istorici cred că Luther nu a renunţat niciodată la doctrina prezenţei reale datorită controversei sale continue cu Carlstadt. De fapt, această doctrină a fost una din cauzele care l-a transformat pe Luther dintr-un „eretic” persecutat într-un „papă” persecutor. Toţi care se opuneau acestei doctrine, Protestanţi, Spiritualişti sau Anabaptişti, au fost persecutaţi de Luther şi de urmaşii săi.

Chiar dacă Anabaptiştii credeau, la fel ca Zwingli şi Carlstadt, în Cină ca memorial, în elemente ca simboluri, ei mergeau mai departe decât ei. Pentru Anabaptişti, Cina reprezenta atât amintirea morţii lui Cristos, cât şi unitatea bisericii. Zwingli nu a putut merge mai departe decât a declara că cei care iau parte fiind „nevrednici”, se condamnă singuri. Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim afirmă:

III. În frângerea pâinii suntem într-un singur gând şi de acord [după cum urmează]: Toţi cei care vor să frângă o pâine în amintirea trupului frânt al lui Cristos, şi toţi cei care vor să bea o băutură ca amintire a sângelui vărsat al lui Cristos, vor fi uniţi înainte prin botez în trupul lui Cristos care este Biserica lui Dumnezeu şi al cărei Cap este Cristos. Căci după cum arată Pavel, noi nu puteam bea în acelaşi timp cupa Domnului şi cupa diavolului. Adică, toţi cei care sunt în părtăşie cu faptele moarte ale întunericului nu au nici o parte în lumină. De aceea, toţi cei care îl urmează pe diavol şi lumea nu au nici o parte cu cei care sunt chemaţi de Dumnezeu din lume. Toţi cei ce zac în răutate nu au nici o parte în bine.

De aceea, este şi trebuie să fie [astfel]: Oricine nu a fost chemat de singurul Dumnezeu la o singură credinţă, la un singur botez, la un singur Duh, la un singur trup, împreună cu toţi copiii bisericii lui Dumnezeu, nu poate fi făcut [într-] o singură pâine cu ei, după cum trebuie într-adevăr să se facă, dacă cineva vrea să frângă pâinea cu adevărat conform poruncii lui Cristos.

Poziţia Anabaptistă implica purificarea bisericii înainte de ritual, prin mustrarea, disciplinarea sau excluderea celor care nu erau în unitate spirituală cu ei. Unitatea bisericii, atât de mult râvnită de Protestanţi – dar atât de absentă în bisericile lor – a fost atinsă în cel mai magnific şi simplu mod de congregaţiile locale ale Anabaptiştilor.

8.  Închinarea publică

Închinarea Anabaptiştilor era o parte importantă a vieţii religioase a Anabaptiştilor. Slujirea şi închinarea lor în cadrul bisericii era drastic diferită de a celorlalte tabere.

Închinarea publică Catolică era un ritual complex, anunţat în comunitate prin tragerea clopotelor. Locurile de închinare, având o arhitectură unică, şi simbolică, erau decorate cu multe reprezentări ale lui Dumnezeu şi ale sfinţilor (statui, picturi şi vitralii). Serviciile erau liturgice, adică se desfăşurau conform unor ritualuri prescrise. Liturghia anuală era dezvoltată pe baza sărbătorilor bisericeşti. Pentru rostirea rugăciunilor, a anumitor predici şi pentru citirea Scripturilor se folosea incantaţia.

Protestanţii aveau o închinare publică asemănătoare Catolicilor. Ei au păstrat ierarhia clericală, ritul botezului pruncilor şi sărbătorile. În locurile în care au câştigat majoritatea populaţiei de partea lor, ei au ocupat clădirile bisericeşti Catolice, păstrând uneori chiar şi imaginile. Liturghia se asemăna cu cea Catolică, dar incantaţia era respinsă, şi se punea accent mai mare pe predicare decât pe ritual.

Închinarea publică era şi pentru Anabaptişti un element central al vieţii lor bisericeşti. Întrunirile lor nu erau anunţate de clopote, ci, de cele mai multe ori, erau ţinute în cel mai mare secret, datorită persecuţiei. Nu au ocupat niciodată abuziv vreo clădire bisericească, ci se întruneau în case particulare, în păduri, pe câmpuri şi uneori în bărci. Caracterul secret al întrunirilor lor le-a atras porecla de „Winckler”, adică oameni care se adună într-un colţ, sau într-un loc ascuns. Predicatorii lor erau porecliţi „predicatori de lângă gard”.

Anabaptiştii se opuneau utilizării reprezentărilor lui Dumnezeu şi nu aveau nevoie de reprezentări ale sfinţilor, căci respingeau doctrina mijlocirii sfinţilor (susţineau că fiecare credincios are acces direct la Dumnezeu prin Cristos). Nu aveau o clasă sacerdotală, considerând că fiecare credincios este preot înaintea lui Dumnezeu.

Se opuneau folosirii incantaţiilor în predici şi rugăciuni, dar obişnuiau să cânte cu întreaga adunare. Melodiile erau preluate de la piesele populare ale acelor zile. Cântările lor exprimau, poate mai bine decât tratatele lor doctrinare, starea lor spirituală şi emoţională. Mai multe cântări au fost compuse în timpul şederii autorului în închisoare, în aşteptarea execuţiei. Cântare din care sunt extrase versurile următoare este un astfel de exemplu. Aceasta a fost compusă de Annelein din Freiberg. Nu se ştie nimic despre această femeie în afară de faptul că a fost înecată şi arsă în 1529, unele surse indicând că avea vârsta de şaptesprezece ani când a fost arestată.

„Tată veşnic din Ceruri,

Te chem cu aşa ardoare,

Nu mă lăsa să mă lepăd de tine,

Păstrează-mă în adevărul tău

Până voi închide ochii.

Oh, Dumnezeule, păzeşte-mi inima şi gura,

Doamne, veghează peste mine în orice vreme

Nu lăsa nimic să mă despartă de tine,

Fie necaz, strâmtorare sau nevoie,

Păstrează-mi curăţia-n bucurie.

Domnul şi Tatăl meu cel veşnic,

Arată-mi şi învaţă-mă

Aşa cum sunt, copil nevrednic,

Să văd drumul şi calea ta.

Aceasta e dorinţa mea.

Să păşesc prin puterea-ţi în moarte

Prin suferinţă, tortură, teamă şi lipsuri,

Susţine-mă în toate,

Oh, Dumnezeule, aşa încât niciodată

Să nu mă despart de iubirea ta. …”

(Snyder şi Hecht, Profiles of Anabaptist Women, p. 199, 200).

Serviciul bisericesc Anabaptist era uimitor de simplu. Era compus din trei elemente: rugăciune, cântare şi predicarea sau expunerea Bibliei. Cel mai mare accent îl puneau pe ultimul element, deoarece cunoaşterea Scripturii era necesară pentru a-i putea fi, aşa cum doreau, credincioşi lui Cristos în toate lucrurile.

9.  Slujitorii bisericii


Într-o biserică a Anabaptiştilor, toţi membrii erau egali. Predicatorii şi păstorii erau consideraţi servii bisericii, şi nu formau o clasă aparte, un cler conducător. Aceştia aveau datoria de a veghea la bunăstarea spirituală şi morală a „turmei”.

Bisericile „Fraţilor” considerau că slujitorii lor trebuie să ştie să practice o meserie care să le aducă venit. Se opuneau taxelor impuse prin lege pentru susţinerea clerului, considerând că suplinirea nevoilor slujitorilor este datoria fiecărei biserici locale. „Acesta [păstorul] de asemenea va fi susţinut de biserica ce l-a ales, în caz că va fi în nevoie, aşa încât cel care slujeşte Evanghelia să trăiască din Evanghelie, după cum a rânduit Domnul Isus” (Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim, Noll, op. cit., p. 54). Cu toţii prezentau o puternică aversiune faţă de predicatorii plătiţi din bugetul public. Hans Hut scria, „De aceea îndemn pe toţi oamenii evlavioşi care caută şi iubesc neprihănirea să se păzească cu stăruinţă de toţi erudiţii cămătari, trufaşi şi ipocriţi care predică pentru bani. Ei nu se îngrijesc de binele vostru, ci doar de pântecele lor” (Liechty, op. cit., p. 65).

A fi fost păstor sau predicator Anabaptist în acea vreme însemna a avea permanent viaţa pusă în pericol. Dacă membrii obişnuiţi erau amendaţi sau exilaţi, liderii erau întotdeauna executaţi. Nu se bucurau nici de privilegii, nici de recunoaşterea autorităţilor civile nici de cea a liderilor Protestanţi şi Catolici. În repetate rânduri li s-a cerut să îşi sigileze mărturia cu propriul sânge. Chiar şi în astfel de momente, ei căutau să îl onoreze pe Regele lor, să fie un exemplu şi o încurajare pentru mica lor turmă. Atunci când flăcările rugului au ars funiile cu care era legat, eliberându-i mâinile, cu un ultim efort, Michael Sattler, autorul mărturisirii de la Schleitheim, şi-a ridicat mâinile, arătând spre cer, dându-le semnul hotărât celor biserică ce priveau consternaţi oribila scenă, că se poate trece învingător şi prin suferinţa martirajului.

10.  Rolul credinciosului şi al Bisericii în societate.

În nici o altă caracteristică a sa nu iese Anabaptismul mai mult în evidenţă, atunci când este privit doar din exterior, decât în poziţia radicală a locului pe care creştinul şi Biserica trebuie să îl ocupe în societate.

Biserica Catolică predica doctrina lui Constantin cel Mare, confundarea graniţelor Bisericii cu cele ale Statului. Biserica era „Corpus Christianum”, totalitatea creştinilor. Cum botezul pruncilor era impus prin lege, aceasta însemna totalitatea cetăţenilor. Autoritatea civilă era considerată vasală celei ecleziastice, motivul invocat fiind acela că prima este temporară, ultima este veşnică. În Evul Mediu, papa era cel care instala şi detrona pe împăraţi. De asemenea, autoritatea civilă trebuia pusă în slujba celei ecleziastice. Împăratul trebuia să slujească papei. Magistratul trebuia să slujească preotului.

Thomas Aquinas afirma: „Statul, prin care se ating obiectivele pământeşti, trebuie să fie subordonat Bisericii; Biserica şi Statul sunt două săbii pe care Dumnezeu le-a dat creştinismului pentru protecţie; aceste amândouă săbii sunt date de El papei, iar sabia temporală este atunci încredinţată de papă conducătorilor Statului” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 43). Această doctrină nu a fost doar o subtilitate scolastică, ci a fost un instrument pe care papalitatea l-a folosit frecvent pentru a-şi atinge scopurile, atunci când calea negocierilor şi a convingerii prin argument eşua. Acestei concepţii i-au căzut victime un număr enorm de „eretici”.

Reformatorii nu s-au putut debarasa de această doctrină constantiniană. Au rămas în această privinţă tributari Romei până la capăt. Oriunde au câştigat puterea, botezul pruncilor era impus prin lege tuturor cetăţenilor. Datoria magistraţilor era de a se îngriji de bunăstarea cetăţenilor, inclusiv de cea spirituală. Cei care subminau autoritatea Bisericii şi căutau să rătăcească poporul, trebuiau pedepsiţi de magistraţi.

Urbanus Rhegius, liderul Protestant din Augsburg scrie: „Dumnezeu ridică magistraţii împotriva ereticilor, făuritorilor de partide şi schismaticilor în Biserica Creştină pentru ca Agar să fie zdravăn bătută de Sara. Donatiştii ucid sufletele oamenilor, îi fac să meargă în moarte veşnică; şi apoi se plâng atunci când îi pedepsesc cu moartea temporală. De aceea un magistrat Creştin trebuie să facă din păstrarea religiei Creştine pure întâia sa preocupare” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 50). Calvin era în asentimentul său. „Principala datorie a magistraţilor nu este să menţină pacea între supuşii lor în ce priveşte trupul; ci mai degrabă să se asigure că Dumnezeu este servit şi onorat pe domeniile lor”  (Ibid., p. 58).

La fel ca în cazul botezului pruncilor, atunci când Anabaptiştii le cereau argumente scripturale Protestanţilor, aceştia apelau la cele mai fanteziste interpretări. Textul de sprijin al acestei doctrine a fost găsit de Beza, susţinătorul lui Calvin, în Cartea Faptelor. „Cu ce putere, mă rog, i-a omorât Petru pe Anania şi pe Safira? Şi cu ce putere l-a lovit Pavel pe Elima cu orbire? Cu puterea investită în Biserică? Bineînţeles că nu. Atunci, deci, trebuie să fi fost cu puterea investită în magistrat, căci nu există un al treilea fel de putere” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 54).

Anabaptiştii, în mărturisirea de la Schleitheim, afirmă: „VI. Am căzut de acord după cum urmează în privinţa săbiei: Sabia este rânduită de Dumnezeu în afara perfecţiunii lui Cristos [adică Biserica lui Cristos]. Aceasta pedepseşte şi omoară pe cel rău, şi păzeşte şi protejează pe cel bun… Cu toate acestea, în perfecţiunea lui Cristos, doar excluderea este folosită ca avertizare şi pentru excomunicarea celui care a păcătuit, fără să fie omorât trupul – ci doar avertizarea şi porunca de a nu mai păcătui” (Noll, op. cit., p. 54).

Anabaptiştii nu voiau să răstoarne ordinea socială. Nu erau anarhişti sau fanatici revoluţionari, aşa cum erau acuzaţi. Hubmaier a spus: „Noi mărturisim deschis că trebuie să existe guvern secular care trebuie să poarte sabia. Pe acesta suntem dispuşi şi obligaţi să îl ascultăm în orice nu este contrar lui Dumnezeu” (Vedder, op. cit., p. 160). Se opuneau unei societăţi sacrale, monolitice, în care Biserica nu se deosebea de lume. Recunoşteau autorităţile civile ca fiind rânduite de Dumnezeu, dar „în afara perfecţiunii lui Cristos”, adică a bisericii. Făceau diferenţa între „harul general” acordat de Dumnezeu societăţii şi reprezentat de ordinea socială şi „harul special” acordat credincioşilor şi reprezentat de Biserică. Dar în societatea din care făceau parte, în care Biserica reprezenta totalitatea cetăţenilor [Volkskirche], iar statul totalitatea creştinilor, credinciosul adevărat nu putea sluji statului în calitate de magistrat, fiindcă aceasta însemna să slujească şi Bisericii pe care o considera apostate. De aceea, Anabaptiştii afirmau că un creştin nu poate să ocupe funcţii în stat.

Anabaptiştii nu cereau nimic autorităţilor. Nu doreau avantaje monetare, nu tânjeau după un statut de grupare recunoscută. Cereau doar dreptul – acum banal, dar atunci inacceptabil – de a li se îngădui să i se închine lui Dumnezeu aşa cum le dictează conştiinţa. Viziunea lor era aceea a unei societăţi în care autorităţile civile supravegheau doar treburile sociale, în care cetăţenii îşi puteau exersa dreptul de a alege dacă doresc să facă parte dintr-o anume biserică sau nu.

11. Lupta pentru libertate


Baptiştii au fost dintotdeauna campionii apărării libertăţii şi drepturilor omului. Predecesorii lor Anabaptişti nu au fost cu nimic mai prejos. Gândirea lor în această privinţă era mult superioară epocii în care trăiau. Întreaga societate modernă se bazează pe principiile pentru care Anabaptiştii secolului XVI au trăit şi au murit.

Societatea sacrală, în care autorităţile civile recunosc o religie (Biserică) de stat, nu poate permite ca cetăţenii ei să fie liberi să îşi aleagă religia. Nu poate permite disidenţa, facţiunea, secta [cuvânt care provine din latinescul sequor, care transmite ideea de urmare, iar în contextul ecleziastic, urmarea unei alte căi decât cea impusă sau recunoscută]. Nu îşi poate îngădui luxul de a acorda libertate individului de a judeca şi a lua o decizie în privinţa credinţei. În această viziune, o religie centralizată şi controlată este absolut necesară bunului mers al societăţii.

Într-o astfel de societate poate exista cel mult toleranţă, acolo unde relaţia Stat-Biserică este mai puţin „intimă”. Dar toleranţa nu este libertate. Prin însăşi definiţia ei, toleranţa este o abatere îngăduită de la un anumit standard. Într-o societate sacrală, Statul nu recunoaşte ca validă decât o singură credinţă. Restul sunt considerate abateri.

Biserica Catolică este cel mai bun exemplu al acestei mentalităţi monolitice. Înarmată cu doctrina celor două săbii, Biserica papală a pornit la lupta pentru convertirea celor care difereau de ea. Se crede că în timpul Evului Mediu milioane de oponenţi ai Romei au fost ucişi de autorităţile civile care acţionau sub controlul pontifului roman. În timpul Reformei, după Dieta de la Spires (1529) (care decreta ca „orice Anabaptist şi persoană rebotezată de orice sex va fi ucisă prin foc, sabie sau în alt fel” –  Hershberger, op. cit., p. 32) represiunile împotriva lor au luat o amploare rar întâlnită.

Înainte de 1529, valurile persecuţiei au dus la decapitarea Anabaptismului timpuriu. Pe teritoriile Catolice şi-au găsit sfârşitul Michael Sattler, Balthasar Hubmaier, Georg Blaurock şi Wolfgang Ulimann arşi pe rug, iar Hans Hut a fost ucis în închisoare. Numeroşi alţi lideri locali au fost de asemenea ucişi. Cruzimea acestor acte nu poate fi descrisă în cuvinte. Procesul şi execuţia lui Michael Sattler, din 21 mai 1527, relatată în Oglinda Martirilor, p. 416-418, este un exemplu elocvent. Verdictul judecătorilor a fost următorul: „În cazul Guvernatorului Majestăţii sale Imperiale versus Michael Sattler, se hotărăşte predarea lui executorului, care îl va duce la locul execuţiei şi îi va tăia limba; apoi va fi aruncat în car şi acolo îi va sfâşia trupul de două ori cu cleşti înroşiţi şi după ce va fi dus în afara porţii, va fi strâns cu cleştii de cinci ori în acelaşi fel”; „iar apoi trupul îi va fi ars, ca arhi-eretic, până va fi cenuşă”, adaugă Estep, citând o altă sursă (op. cit., p. 40). Estep descrie scena martirajului: „Tortura, preludiu al execuţiei, a început în piaţă, unde a fost tăiată o bucată din limba lui Sattler. De două ori au fost sfâşiate cu cleşti înroşiţi bucăţi de carne din trupul său. Apoi a fost urcat cu greutate într-un car. Pe drumul spre locul execuţiei, cleştii au mai fost folosiţi de cinci ori. În piaţă şi în locul execuţiei, fiind capabil încă să vorbească, Sattler, neclintit, s-a rugat pentru persecutorii săi. După ce a fost legat de o scară cu frânghii şi împins în foc, i-a îndemnat pe oameni, pe judecători şi pe primar să se pocăiască şi să se convertească. Apoi s-a rugat: ‚Dumnezeule etern, Atotputernic, Tu eşti calea şi adevărul: fiindcă nu mi s-a arătat că greşesc, cu ajutorul Tău în această zi voi depune mărturie pentru adevăr şi îl voi sigila cu sângele meu.’

Imediat ce frânghiile de la încheieturile mâinilor au fost arse, Sattler şi-a ridicat ambele degete arătătoare ale mâinilor, dând semnalul promis fraţilor că moartea de martir a fost suportabilă. Apoi, mulţimea adunată a auzit venind de pe buzele sale arse, ‚Tată, îmi încredinţez duhul în mâinile Tale’” (Estep, op. cit., p. 47).

După această perioadă, execuţiile nu s-au rezumat doar la lideri. Văzând însă că execuţiile publice le îngroşau rândurile, autorităţile din Suabia au creat o miliţie specială pentru depistarea şi vânarea Anabaptiştilor. Aceştia aveau autoritatea de a-i ucide pe loc, fără proces şi indiferent de sex şi vârstă pe toţi cei consideraţi a fi Anabaptişti. Multe mii de Anabaptişti au pierit astfel. Istoricul Romano-Catolic C.A. Cornelius descrie o parte a rezultatelor persecuţiei declanşate după Dieta de la Spires:

„În Tirol şi Gorz, numărul execuţiilor în anul 1531 a atins deja o mie; în Ensisheim, şase sute. La Linz şaptezeci şi trei au fost ucişi în şase săptămâni. Ducele William de Bavaria, depăşindu-i pe toţi ceilalţi, a emis temutul decret de a decapita pe cei care retractau şi de a-i arde pe cei care refuzau să retracteze… Peste tot în cea mai mare parte a Germaniei Superioare persecuţia s-a dezlănţuit ca o sălbatică hăituire… Sângele acestor bieţi oameni a curs ca apa, aşa că au strigat la Dumnezeu pentru ajutor… Dar sute dintre ei, de toate vârstele şi de ambele sexe au suferit durerile torturii fără murmur, şi au dispreţuit cumpărarea vieţilor lor prin retractare, şi s-au dus spre locul execuţiei cu bucurie şi cântând psalmi” (Citat de Vedder, op. cit., p. 165).

Tratamentul de care au avut parte Anabaptiştii pe teritoriile Protestante nu a fost mai blând. Poziţia de început a Reformatorilor, pe când se aflau în pericol din partea Catolicilor,  a fost una similară cu cea a Anabaptiştilor. Luther spunea în 1520, „Noi trebuie să învingem ereticii cu cărţi, nu cu foc, aşa cum au făcut-o vechii Părinţi. Dacă ar fi vreo iscusinţă în învingerea ereticilor prin foc, călăul ar fi cel mai învăţat doctor din lume” (Vedder, op. cit., p. 162). În 1527, scriind împotriva Anabaptiştilor, Luther spunea: „Nu este drept şi îmi pare foarte rău că aşa oameni nenorociţi sunt atât de mizerabil ucişi, arşi şi crud omorâţi. Oricui ar trebui să i se permită să creadă ce doreşte…  (Vedder, op. cit., p. 162, 163). Însă revolta de la Munster iniţiată de Anabaptiştii revoluţionari l-a determinat pe Luther să recomande folosirea săbiei împotriva tuturor, paşnici sau revoluţionari (vezi Durant., op. cit., 92).

Bullinger, la începutul Reformei, susţinea: „Cineva nu poate şi nu are voie să folosească forţa pentru a obliga pe altcineva să accepte credinţa, căci credinţa este un dar gratuit de la Dumnezeu. Este greşit să fie obligat cineva prin forţă sau constrângere să îmbrăţişeze credinţa, sau să fie omorât cineva pentru credinţa sa eronată. Este o eroare aceea de a se folosi în biserică orice altă sabie alta decât cea a Cuvântului divin. Împărăţia seculară ar trebui să fie separată de biserică, şi nici un conducător secular nu ar trebui să exercite autoritate în biserică. Domnul a poruncit simplu să se predice Evanghelia, nu să fie constrâns cineva prin forţă să o accepte. Adevărata biserică a lui Cristos este caracterizată de faptul că suferă şi îndură persecuţia dar nu aplică nimănui persecuţia” (Hershberger, op. cit., p. 31).

Dar imediat ce reformatorii au câştigat supremaţia într-o regiune, s-au dezis de aceste principii şi au promovat vechea doctrină Catolică. Persecuţia pe care Anabaptiştii au suferit-o pe teritoriile Protestante a fost la fel de cruntă ca cea a Catolicilor. Pe teritoriile Protestante, Felix Manz a fost condamnat la moarte prin înec, Grebel şi Denck, hăituiţi şi slăbiţi fizic, au căzut pradă unei epidemii, scăpând de mâna călăilor. Balthasar Hubmaier reproşa evanghelicilor elveţieni că au închis într-un turn douăzeci de persoane, bărbaţi, femei însărcinate, văduve şi fete tinere, dându-li-se sentinţa ca atât timp cât vor trăi, să se hrănească doar cu pâine şi apă şi să nu mai vadă vreodată nici soarele, nici luna. Sentinţa afirma în continuare că toţi aceştia, morţi sau vii, vor fi lăsaţi să putrezească împreună, până va muri şi ultimul dintre ei. „ ‚Oh, Dumnezeule’, scrie el mai departe, ‚ce sentinţă riguroasă, severă şi teribilă împotriva unor creştini pioşi, despre care nu s-a putut spune nici un lucru rău, ci doar că ei, conform poruncii lui Cristos, au primit botezul în apă!” (van Braght, Martyrs’ Mirror, p. 465).  Zwingli, după ce a câştigat supremaţia în Zurich, sfătuia ca cei care sunt afundaţi în botez, să fie afundaţi de tot, adică înecaţi.

Calvin, la rândul său, a fost la fel de intolerant: „Oricine va susţine că este nedrept ca ereticii şi blasfematorii să fie omorâţi, conştient şi voluntar îşi atrage asupra sa chiar vina acestora. Aceasta nu este fundamentat pe autoritate umană; Dumnezeu este Acela care vorbeşte şi prescrie o regulă perpetuă pentru Biserica Sa. Nu în van alungă El toate acele sentimente umane care ne înmoaie inimile; El porunceşte ca iubirea paternă şi toate sentimentele binevoitoare dintre fraţi, rude şi prieteni să înceteze; într-un cuvânt, El îi privează aproape pe oameni de natura lor pentru ca nimic să nu le stăvilească sfântul zel. De ce este pretinsă o aşa severitate implacabilă dacă nu pentru ca noi să ştim că Dumnezeu este deposedat de onoarea Sa, dacă pietatea datorată lui nu primează în faţa tuturor datoriilor omeneşti, şi că atunci când gloria Sa este afirmată, umanitatea trebuie ştearsă din memoria noastră” (Schaff, op. cit., vol. VIII, p. 545, 546).

Erasmus nu a ezitat să reproşeze Protestanţilor inconsecvenţa lor: „Cei ce solicită atât ca ereticii să nu fie omorâţi, cu toate acestea au pedepsit capital pe Anabaptişti, care au fost condamnaţi pentru mult mai puţine articole şi despre care se spune că au în mijlocul lor o mare mulţime de oameni convertiţi de la o viaţă foarte rea la una mult îmbunătăţită; şi care, deşi îşi iubeau nebuneşte opiniile, nu au luat cu forţa nici o biserică, nici o cetate şi nici nu s-au întărit ei înşişi prin nici o ligă împotriva forţelor principilor, şi nici nu au alungat pe nimeni de pe moştenirea sau proprietatea lor”  (Epistolarum de Erasmus, XXXI. 59. A. D. 1530, citat de Christian, op. cit., p. 100).

Poziţia lui Hubmaier este comună tuturor Anabaptiştilor. Într-o carte intitulată Despre eretici şi cei care îi ard, el pleda nu doar pentru Anabaptişti, dar chiar şi pentru atei şi pentru turci. „Arderea ereticilor nu poate fi justificată cu Scripturile. Cristos Însuşi ne învaţă că neghinei trebuie să i se permită să crească alături de grâu. El nu a venit să ardă, sau să ucidă, ci să dea viaţă, şi aceasta din belşug. De aceea, noi trebuie să sperăm în îmbunătăţirea oamenilor atât timp cât ei trăiesc. Dacă nu pot fi convinşi prin apeluri la raţiune sau prin Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu, trebuie lăsaţi în pace. Cineva nu poate fi făcut să îşi vadă erorile nici prin foc, nici prin sabie. Dar dacă este o crimă să ucizi pe cei ce resping batjocoritor Evanghelia lui Isus Cristos, cu cât mai mare este crima de a ucide pe cei care expun şi exemplifică cu adevărat Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu. Un astfel de zel aparent pentru Dumnezeu, pentru bunăstarea sufletului şi pentru onoarea bisericii este o înşelăciune” (citat de Christian, p. 102). El continuă: „De aici rezultă că inchizitorii sunt cei mai mari eretici dintre toţi, din moment ce ei, împotriva doctrinei şi exemplului lui Cristos condamnă ereticii la foc, şi înainte de vremea secerişului smulg grâul împreună cu neghina… Şi acum, trebuie să fie clar pentru toţi, chiar pentru orbi, că o lege de ardere a ereticilor este o invenţie a diavolului. Adevărul este nemuritor” (Vedder, op. cit. p. 161).

Anabaptiştii s-au numărat printre primii apărători ai drepturilor omului. Ei militau pentru toţi oamenii, nu doar pentru cei de aceeaşi credinţă cu ei. Martirii Anabaptişti, erudiţi iluştri sau ţărani necunoscuţi, au sigilat cu propriul sânge pledoaria pentru libertate şi puritate. Dacă strigătul lor ar fi fost ascultat, istoria lumii şi cea a creştinismului în ultimele cinci secole s-ar fi desfăşurat altfel.


Cine au fost, deci, Anabaptiştii şi care este locul pe care îl ocupă în istorie? Bender citează răspunsul dat de Rufus Jones la această întrebare: „Judecând după primirea avută din partea celor aflaţi la putere, atât în Biserică cât şi în Stat, atât în ţările Romano-Catolice cât şi în cele Protestante, mişcarea Anabaptistă a fost una din cele mai tragice din istoria creştinismului; dar, judecând după principiile care au fost puse în joc de oamenii care au purtat acest nume de reproş, trebuie pronunţată a fi una din cele mai spectaculoase şi semnificative întreprinderi în memorabila luptă religioasă a omului după adevăr. A strâns răsplăţile muncii mişcărilor anterioare, este solul spiritual din care au răsărit toate sectele non-conformiste, şi este prima vestire clară în istoria modernă a unui program pentru un nou tip de societate creştină pe care lumea modernă, în special în America şi Anglia, începuse încet să o realizeze, o societate religioasă absolut liberă şi independentă, şi un Stat în care fiecare om contează ca om şi îşi aduce contribuţia în formarea atât a Bisericii, cât şi a Statului” (Hershberger, op. cit., p. 29).

S-a împlinit speranţa lui Spurgeon, şi a multora asemenea lui, aceea că „Va sosi probabil timpul în care istoria va fi re-scrisă, iar Baptiştii calomniaţi din Olanda şi Germania vor fi achitaţi de orice complicitate la delirurile fanaticilor nebuni…” (Spurgeon, citat de Richard Cook, The Story of the Baptists, p. 56).

Salutăm sosirea acelor timpuri, şi ne bucurăm că Anabaptiştii sunt achitaţi, deşi tardiv, de multele calomnii aduse împotriva lor. Salutăm întronarea drepturilor omului şi a libertăţii de alegere, eliberarea Statului din servitutea faţă de vreo dogmă religioasă sau politică, şi constituirea unei societăţi democratice şi compozite.

„Adevărul înfloreşte în libertate”!!!



Ce reprezintă însă mişcarea Anabaptistă pentru noi? Un capitol dramatic din istorie, îngropat însă în praful timpului? În ce măsură doctrinele lor, practica lor, viziunea lor mai sunt de actualitate?

Philip Schaff conchide: „Sângele martirilor nu este niciodată vărsat în zadar. Mişcarea Anabaptistă a fost înfrântă, dar nu distrusă; a reînviat printre Menoniţi, printre Baptiştii din Anglia şi America şi mai recent printre congregaţii izolate pe Continent.” (Schaff, op. cit., vol. VIII, p. 64). Într-adevăr, ei nu au fost distruşi. Spiritul lor este viu şi, prin succesorii lor, ei încă trăiesc şi ne vorbesc.

Deşi poziţiile Anabaptiste sunt în mare parte dezertate, ele sunt la fel de actuale astăzi şi provoacă atacuri la fel de furibunde şi controverse la fel de aprinse ca în trecut. Urmaşii lor se află astăzi sub acelaşi asediu şi sunt chemaţi să ia poziţie şi să apere doctrinele predecesorilor lor, doctrinele Scripturii.

Doctrina Anabaptistă fundamentală – Scriptura ca autoritate finală – este puternic asaltată. Nicicând autoritatea Bibliei nu a fost mai mult discreditată şi subminată decât acum. Chiar şi cei ce îşi spun „Baptişti”, care ar fi trebuit să fie „oameni ai Cărţii”, acceptă doctrine şi practici nebiblice, părăsind vechea poziţie Anabaptistă. Teologia liberală, care învaţă „odată mântuit pentru totdeauna mântuit” (omul se mântuieşte printr-o decizie şi apoi poate trăi cum vrea, căci rămâne mântuit) devine tot mai populară, înlocuind vechea teologie a uceniciei, cauzând ca standardul spiritual şi moral să fie în regres constant…

Doctrina separării este puternic asaltată de cei implicaţi în mişcarea ecumenică. Liderii Baptişti caută şi acceptă sprijinul autorităţilor seculare, recunosc biserici false ca surori şi colaborează cu ele, trădând poziţia pentru care predecesorii lor au luptat şi murit! Cei care iau poziţie pentru separare sunt acuzaţi de legalism, ipocrizie şi îngustime. Aceasta este însă vechea poziţie baptistă!

Mărturisirea de la Schleitheim declară: „De aici ar trebui să învăţăm că orice nu este unit cu Dumnezeul nostru şi cu Cristos nu poate fi altceva decât o abominaţie pe care ar trebui să o alungăm şi de care ar trebui să fugim. Prin aceasta se înţelege toate lucrările şi serviciile bisericeşti Catolice şi Protestante, întrunirile şi participarea la slujbele bisericilor lor…” (Noll, op. cit., p. 53).

Bullinger descrie separarea lor din perspectivă Protestantă, „evanghelică”: „De la început a fost în principal o problemă de separare cu scopul de a crea o biserică împărţită…, deoarece doreau să-i abandoneze pe papistaşi şi pe evanghelici… şi să trăiască într-o rânduială nouă Baptistă, pe care ei o numesc Biserica creştină adevărată şi binecuvântată, de aceea liderii lor au primit botezul… ca un semn al separării” (Verduin, op. cit., p. 208)

Mişcarea baptistă modernă se dezice de această separare, şi cooperează cu „papiştii” şi cu „evanghelicii”. Făcând aceasta, însă, oare nu abandonează însăşi „ordinea baptistă”, schimbând astfel taberele?

Botezul era pentru Anabaptişti un semn al separării, al identităţii. Refuzau să accepte botezurile practicate de grupurile care nu erau în acord doctrinar cu ei, nu îi recunoşteau ca biserici adevărate, iar actele lor de cult erau privite ca invalide. Pentru aceasta au fost urâţi şi persecutaţi de evanghelici.

Zwingli le spunea: „Alergaţi alături de noi, trăiţi cum vreţi voi de creştineşte…, dar lăsaţi deoparte re-botezările, căci este limpede ca lumina zilei că prin acestea faceţi o facţiune!” (Verduin, Ibid.). Care sunt implicaţiile compromisului oferit de Zwingli? A-l accepta înseamnă a călca o parte însemnată din Scriptură şi a renega cele mai importante doctrine ana/baptiste (autoritatea Scripturii – deoarece s-ar accepta sau tolera ceea ce Scriptura condamnă; întreaga doctrină a bisericii – natura ei, rânduielile, conducerea, disciplina, etc.; doctrina separării – de autorităţile civile, de bisericile false, de pretinşii fraţi, etc.).

Prin originea şi doctrinele lor, Anabaptiştii nu se pot încadra în tabăra Protestanţilor. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin au încercat să reformeze vechea biserică Catolică pe care o priveau ca Biserica adevărată, dar pângărită şi coruptă. Asemenea predecesorilor lor, Anabaptiştii priveau Catolicismul şi apoi Protestantismul ca diferite forme ale aceleiaşi apostazii. Ei denunţau Reforma ca semi-papalitate, iar doctrinele reformate ca jumătăţi de adevăruri, considerate mai rele decât eroarea.

Baptiştii nu sunt Protestanţi sau Neo-protestanţi. Cei care acceptă compromisul lui Zwingli încetează să mai fie Baptişti, deşi pot păstra numele şi aparenţa. Aceştia pot fi orice, Protestanţi, Neo-protestanţi, Evanghelici, dar nu Baptişti în sensul istoric al termenului. Însă nu toţi Baptiştii au acceptat compromisul lui Zwingli, şi anume, botezul Protestant, „evanghelic”. O minoritate îl refuză cu aceeaşi încăpăţânare cu care înaintaşii lor Anabaptişti îl refuzau.

Viziunea Anabaptistă ne cheamă astăzi la atitudine, la luarea unei poziţii. A sta pe aceeaşi poziţie cu ei înseamnă a trăi o viaţă de ucenicie, de perseverenţă spre sfinţenie, de separare de rău, indiferent că ar fi activitate lumească, anturaj păcătos sau doctrină falsă. Înseamnă a te separa de bisericile compromise, apostate şi de a te uni cu bisericile adevărate ale lui Cristos, care iau poziţie pentru învăţăturile Sale şi le aplică cu fidelitate în viaţa cotidiană!

Dacă lupta Anabaptiştilor a fost greşită, dacă au murit în zadar, să schimbăm taberele, să abandonăm credinţa Baptistă, căci luptăm contra lui Dumnezeu! Dar dacă au suferit pentru o cauză dreaptă, pentru adevăr, pentru Dumnezeu, suntem chemaţi să mergem pe aceeaşi cale, să le urmăm exemplul şi credinţa, căci duce la destinaţia dorită!


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Braght, Thieleman J. van, Martyr’s Mirror, Herald Press, Pennsylvania, 1950

Bromiley, Geoffrey W., Zwingli and Bullinger, Westminster John Knox Press, Philadelphia, 1953

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Liechty, Daniel, Early Anabaptist Spirituality, Paulist Press, New York, 1994. Aceasta este o compilaţie de scrieri originale ale mai multor lideri Anabaptişti traduse în limba engleză. Următoarele scrieri au fost citate în această lucrare: Thomas Manz, Letter from Prison; Hans Hut, On the Mistery of Baptism; Hans Denck, Divine Order

Lindberg, Carter, The Reformation Theologians, An Introduction to Theology in Early Modern Period, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2002

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Noll, Mark A., Confessions and Cathechisms of the Reformation, Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, BC, 2004. Din această lucrare s-au citat Cele Şaizeci şi şapte de articole ale lui Ulrich Zwingli (1523), Mărturisirea Anabaptistă de la Schleitheim (1527), Mărturisirea luterană de la Augsburg (1530)

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Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Ed. a doua revizuită, vol. VII şi VIII. Christian Classics Ethereal Library,

Snyder, C. Arnold and Linda Agnes Hubert Hecht, Profiles of Anabaptist Women: Sixteenth Century Reforming Pioneers, Publicată de Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, ON, 1996

Vedder, Henry, A Short History of the Baptists, The American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1958

Verduin, Leonard, The Reformers and their Stepchildren, Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1964

Williams, G. şi Mergal A., Spiritualist and Anabaptist Writers, Westminster John Knox Press, Philadelphia, 1957. Aceasta este o compilaţie de mai multe scrieri ale celor mai importanţi lideri ai Reformei Radicale. Următoarele scrieri au fost citate în această lucrare: Conrad Grebel, Letters to Thomas Muntzer; Hans Denck, Whether God is the Cause of Evil; Balthasar Hubmaier, On Free Will