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Famous Baptist Succession / History Quotes In Context

by Thomas Ross

            Many Baptists have pointed out some amazing quotations made by non-Baptist historians. These quotes affirm Baptist (or Anabaptist) succession.  While non-Baptists (and even some Baptists) have claimed that such quotations never were written or were taken out of context,  careful research indicates that many of these Baptists’ quotations are correct.  Indeed, weighty non-Baptist sources affirm the Baptists’ historical succession from the days of Christ to the present day.

The Roman Catholic Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius Quote on Baptist Succession

The Roman Catholic historian, cardinal, and Papal legate Stanislaus Hosius, writing in the Reformation era, declared:

For if so be, that as every man is most ready to suffer death for the faith of his sect, so his faith should be judged most perfect and most sure, there shall be no faith more certain and true, than is the Anabaptists’, seeing there be none now, or have been before time for the space of these thousand and two hundred years, who have been more cruelly punished, or that have more stoutly, steadfastly, cheerfully taken their punishment, yea or have offered themselves of their own accord to death, were it never so terrible and grievous. . . . If you will have regard to the number, it is like that in multitude they would swarm above all other, if they were not grievously plagued, and cut off with the knife of persecution.

This quotation, often quoted by Landmark Baptist or Baptist successionist historical sources, is accurate.  The English translation above, in modern vernacular, comes from Richard Shacklock’s translation in older English of Hosius’s work The Hatchet of Heresies: A Most Excellent Treaties of the begynnyng of heresyes in oure tyme, compiled by the Reuerend Father in God Stanislaus Hosius, etc. (Antwerp: Aeg. Diest, 1565; Ann Arbor: Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011), 44-49.  In the older English of 1565, the quotation reads:

For if so be, that as euery man is moste redy to suffer deathe for ye faythe of his sect, so his faythe sholde be iudged moste perfect and moste sure, there shall be no faythe more certayne and true, then is the Anabaptistes, seyng there be none nowe, or haue bene before time for ye space of these thowsand and to hundred yeares, who haue bene more cruelly punyshed, or that haue more stoutely, stedfastly, cherefully take theire punishment, yea or haue offred them selues of theire owne accorde to deathe, were it neuer so terrible & grenouse. … If you will haue regarde to the number, it is lyke that in multitude they wolde swarme aboue al other, if they were not greuously plaged, & cut of with the knyfe of persecution.

Shacklock is translating the Latin found in Stalislaus Hosius’ writings.  One place where the original Latin can be located is in the edition of Hosius’ Latin works Stanislai Hosii S. R. E. Cardinalis, Episcopi Varmiensis, In Concilio Tridentino Legati Opera Omnia Hactenus Edita, In Unum Corpus Collecta (Venice: Apud Franciscum Francisci, 1632), 203, sec. De Haeresibus Nostri Temporis.  This book is a compilation of numbers of Hosius’ works into one volume. The Latin quotation reads:

Nam ƒi vt quilq; promptisƒimus eƒt ad mortem pro fide ƒuae partis obeundam, ƒic eius fidei veritas cenƒeri debet exploratiƒƒimia, certiƒƒimaq´; nulla fides erit certior, neq; verior, quàm ƒit Anabaptiƒtarum, cùm nulli ƒint neq; fuerint iam inde à mille ducentis annis, de quibus poenae ƒuerint expetiae grauiores, quiq´; fortius, conflatius, alacrius, ad eas, tum ad mortem etiam ipƒam quamlibet horrendam vltrò ƒe obtulerint. … Si numerum inƒpicias, veriƒimile eƒt, niƒi tam grauiter in eos animaduerteretur, quòd eò quoque ƒuturi eƒƒent ƒuperiores[.]

Hosius’ Latin with plenty of additional context is as follows:

Hosius Baptist succession 1200 years

Roman Catholic Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius Baptist succession 1200 years quote

Those who know Latin can see that the quote concerning Baptist succession is accurate.  For those who do not know Latin, a larger segment of the Shacklock translation is reproduced below:

Albeit the Anabaptistes be more mis∣cheuouse then the Lutherans, or the Zuin¦glians, yet do these with no les audacitie then bothe they stedfastly beleue, and per∣suade them selues surely, that for Christ his sake theyre synnes be forgyuen them, that they be in hyghe fauoure with God, that they shall possesse the kyngdome of heauen. And this they do not only bragg of in wordes but also they declare in their dedes. For they be muche more redy, then ether the Lutherans or the Zuinglians to suffer death, to abyde most cruell punishe∣mentes for the mayntenaunce of theyre faythe. For they run to all kynde of horri∣ble tormētes, with no lesse corage, then thei sholde go to feastes and bankettes: so yf any man thereof wolde gather an argu∣ment, ether of the truthe of there doctrin, ether of the certaynete of theire being in fauoure with God, he myght easyly be brought in to this mynde, that he sholde beleue, that there were none other sect, which had so true faythe, or were so sure of the fauoure of God. But true it is, which Saynt Paule faythe, Althoughe I shal gyue my body so that I burne, & haue not charitie, it dothe me no good. But he hathe not charitie, which deuydeth vnitie. Suche sayth Saynt Cyprian, Althoughe they were kylled for confessing the name of Christe yet cā they not washe oute this spot with theire blode: the syn of discorde stayneth so depely, and is so vnable to be clensed that by very deathe it may not be purged. He can not be a Martyr which is not in the churche, he can not attayne to the kyngdome of heauen, which forsaketh her which shall reigne in the kyngdome of heauen. Christ gaue peace vnto vs, he commaunded vs to agree and to be all of one mynde: He charged vs to kepe the bondes of loue and charitie vncorrupted, and vnbroken. He can not offer vp hym selffe a Martyr, which hathe not heldefast brotherly charitie. Blessed are they, which suffer persecution, saythe Christ, but he addeth, for righteousnes sake. Therefore saythe Saint Augustin, they be true mar∣tyrs which suffer persecution for righte∣ousnes sake, not they which be punished for iniquitie and wycked diuision of Chri∣stian vnitie. Oure Lorde him selff was cru∣cified with theues, but as one passion dyd ioyne them, so diuersitie of cause dyd sepe∣rate them: the punishement of the wicked may be lyke, but the cause of Martyrs is vnlyke. And yt is it which maketh Mar∣tyrs, not the punishment, as Saint Augu∣styne repetyng it often in diuerse places teacheth vs. Wherefore it is to no purpo∣se, that Caluin dothe so highely prayse him and his for this cause, and that in this re∣spect he iudgeth them to be preferred be∣fore the Lutherans, because they be more prest and redy to suffer all kynde of pu∣nishment. For if so be, that as euery man is moste redy to suffer deathe for ye faythe of his sect, so his faythe sholde be iudged moste perfect and moste sure, there shall be no faythe more certayne and true, then is the Anabaptistes, seyng there be none nowe, or haue bene before time for ye space of these thowsand and to hundred yeares, who haue bene more cruelly punyshed, or that haue more stoutely, stedfastly, chere∣fully takē theire punishment, yea or haue offred them selues of theire owne accorde to deathe, were it neuer so terrible & gre∣nouse. Yea in Saint Augustyn his time, as he hym selffe sayth, there was a cer∣taine monstrouse desire of deathe in them. For at what tyme the worshipping of Y∣dolles dyd as yet cōtinue, he wryteth that greate thronges of Donatistes dyd come to the solemnities of the Paganes, that they myght be kylled of the Ydolatours. Also he sayth, that some there were which leaped among the harnessed souldioures, as they passed by, to ye intent they myght be slayne of them: terribly threatning to wounde them, onles they were dispatched oute of theire lyues by them. Some tyme they did by violence compell the iudges to commaund the tormentors and the iusti∣cers to kyll them, in so muche, that one is reported to haue mocked them in this sor∣te, that he commaunded them to be pini∣ond and led away, as thoughe execution sholde haue bene done of them, that so he might escape theire fury with oute blod∣shedde, & harmeles: more ouer they made it but a may game to throwe them selues downe hedlong from ragged rockes, to drowne and to burne them selues. Nether was there suche folyshe hardy heretykes in Saint Augustine his tyme only. For foure hundred yeares agone, at what time S. Bernard lyued, there were Anabapti∣stes, which were no lesse prodigal to spend their lyfe, then were the Bonatistes, some (saythe he) dyd meruayle that they were led to theire deathe not only paciently but as it semed very frolyke and merye. But suche meruayled at them which consyder not well, what poure the dyuell hath, not only vpon the bodyes of men, but also v∣pon the hartes, in ye which by the suffraūce of God, he once hathe gotten possession. Is it not a greater matter for a man to kyll hymselffe, then to suffer that wyllin∣gly at an other man his handes? Experi∣ence teacheth vs, that the dyuell hath bene so strong with many, yt they haue drowned & hanged them selues. For example sake: Iudas hanged hym selffe no doubt by the suggestion of the dyuell. Yet for all that I think it a thing more to be wondered at, that he coulde put this in his hart to be∣tray his master, then to hang him selffe.

Therefore there is no lykelyhode betwene the stedfastnes of Martyrs, and the stub∣bornnes of these heretykes. Because god∣lynes in them, but hardnes of hart in these, doth worke contempt of deathe. Nether haue the Anabaptistes of oure tyme swar∣ued from theyr predecessours, nether haue they bene lesse stoute and cherefull in sus∣tayning all kynde of death in the behalffe of theyr faythe, as among other one Ius∣tus Menius an eye wytnesse of this thing hathe left in wryting, in that booke in the which he confuteth theyr heresyes. So by and by euen at ye beginning, the Anabap∣tistes heresye began to be very hott of spy∣ryt, and after warde so often as it burned, the heate of it was nothing cooled or aba∣ted. But so was it not with the Sacramē∣taries, whose cheyfetayne & fyrst founder whereas one Berengari{is} was, aboute fy∣ue hundred yeares agone so farre of is it that his disciples dyd offer theyr lyfe with lyke cherefulnes to all kynde of hazard & aduenture, that we reade how theyr great Doctor hym selffe dyd twyse recant & for∣sweare his error. who not long after be∣ing taken wt a deadly disease, lying on his deathe bed, at the poynte of deathe shewed him selffe to be meruaylously sory, that he had ledde so manye people in to so fowle an error: and the reporte is that he vtte∣red these wordes depelye syghing: O my God to day shalt thou appeare to me e∣ther to my saluation, as I hope throughe my repentaunce, or elles to my greuouse damnation, as I feare, for them whome I haue deceaued with my peruerse doctrine, whome I could not reclame bake agayne to ye true way of thy Sacrament: as Ihon Gerson doth declare, wryting against Ro∣mantius de Rosa. They haue begone first of all in these oure dayes to bragg & boast of theyre Martyrs, whome notwithstan∣ding bothe for theyr numbre & also for the cōmendation of theyr sufferaunce and pa∣cience in punishment, the Anabaptistes of olde tyme haue excelled, and these of oure age do so farr surmoūt, that if they wold make a Martyrologe of theyre brethern, they might make greater volumes then ye Sacramētaries. It is to no purpose ther∣fore, that Caluine bosteth of the certaine∣te of his doctrine, bycause the truste of it maketh men to feare nether the terrou∣re of deathe, nether the iudgement seate of God. It is not worthe a strawe, that he vaunteth him selffe of ye persecutiōs which he suffreth, & that he calleth his flock sely sheape appoynted to the slaughter. For ye Anabaptistes do speake more braggly, and do more stoutely all these thynges, & haue done it many yeares agone, before any mā heard tell of the Sacramentaries. Reade who that lysteth the epistle of ye Petilian, which saynt Augustyn confuteth, he shall see, howe many complayntes he made for the persecution of his brethern: howe he calleth the Catholyke Prestes blody bu∣chers, which made meanes to the Empe∣roures, to deale so cruelly with his inno∣cent lambes, whome he glorieth to by and purchase heauen with theyr punishmentes and blodesheding: Let hym reade also the epistles of Gaudentius, against the which S. Augustyn wrytt two bookes, he shall fynde there, that he writeth how his disci∣ples reioysed, that for the faythe of Christ they suffred the persecutors, that for the comfort of theyr congregation they abu∣se the saynges of Christ and of S. Paule: Blessed be they whiche suffer persecutiōn. They which wyll lyue Godlyly in Chryst Iesu, do suffer persecution.

But it is to be noted, that Sainte Augu∣styne saythe: If it were allway laudable to suffer persecution, he wolde not adde, for rigteousnes. Agayne: if it were alway blame worthy to do persecution, it sholde not be wrytten in the holy scriptures, A slaunderer of his neighboure priuily, hym dyd I persecute. Therefore, sometyme he that dothe suffer it is vnrighteouse, and he which dothe practise it is righteouse. But with oute doubt, ye euell men haue allway persecuted the good, and the good haue persecuted the euell men. They, hurtyng by doyng of iniury, these seking amende∣ment by disciplyne. They outeragiously, these discretely: they gyuing place to their malitiouse affection, these applying them selues wholy to charitie. For he which murdreth, careth not howe he teareth: but he which healeth taketh aduysemēt howe he launseth: for he cutteth the whole and sownde partes, but this cutteth ye rotting and feastring partes. The wycked men kylled the Prophetes, and the Prophetes kylled the wycked men: the Iues scourged Christ, and Christ scourged the Iues. Men gaue vp the Apostles to mans poure and authoritie, and the Apostles gaue men vp to the poure and thraldome of the dyuell. In all these doinges what is to be marked, but which of them dyd striue for the truthe, which of them for iniquitie, which of them mynded to hurt and auoy, which of them purposed to amend and redresse. Therefore not the lykenes af punishment maketh Martyrs: for an heynouse offen∣der may haue lyke punishment to a martyr, but yet an vnlyke cause: Three hanged on the crosse, one a Sauioure, the second to be saued, the laste to be damned. There∣fore who so departeth from the church to heretykes and Scismatykes, allthoughe afterwarde he be kylled for the name of Christ, beyng oute of the boundes of the churche, and deuided from charitie, he can not, saythe S. Cyprian, be crowned when he dyeth: They can not remayne with God, which wolde not lyue agreably in ye churche of God. Althoughe they be thro∣wen in to the fyar and brent, thoughe thei be torne in peaces with wilde beastes, that shall be no crowne of faythe, but a puni∣shement of infidelitie. That shal be no ho∣norable end of religiouse vertue, but a de∣struction for desperation. Suche an one may be kylled, but he can not be crouned. Therefore they haue no ryght to chalend∣ge vnto them the glory of Martyrs, which be so far from the cause and quarrell of Martyrs, which haue not doubted to suf∣fer deathe for dyuelishe diuision: So then nowe you haue three Gospelles, and them greatly disagreing among them selues. Yf you beholde their cherefullnes in suffring persecutions, the Anabaptistes run farr before all other heretykes. If you will ha∣ue regarde to the number, it is lyke that in multitude they wolde swarme aboue al other, if they were not greuously plaged, & cut of with the knyfe of persecution. Yf you haue an eye to the outewarde appea∣raunce of godlynes, bothe the Lutherans and the Zuinglians muste nedes graunte, that they farr passe them. Yf you wyll be moued with the boasting of the worde of God, these be no lesse bolde thē Caluin to preache, yt theire doctrin must stand aloft aboue all the glory of ye worlde, must stand inuincible aboue al poure, because it is not theyre worde, but the worde of the lyuing God. Nether do they crye with lesse lowdenes then Luther, that with theire doctryn which is the worde of God, they shall iud∣ge the Aungelles. And surely howe many so euer haue wrytten agaynst this heresie, whether they were Catholykes or Here∣tykes, they were able to ouerthrowe it not so muche by the testimony of the scriptu∣res, as by the autoritie of the Churche.[1]

This leading anti-Baptist, anti-Protestant Catholic historian of the Reformation era admitted that the Anabaptists existed far, far before the Protestant Reformation, finding their roots in the early centuries of Christianity.

The Dutch Reformed / Calvinist Leaders Ypeij & Dermount Quote on Baptist Succession

Another commonly cited quote by Landmark Baptists or advocates of Biblical Baptist succession comes from the Dutch Reformed historians Annaeus Ypeij and Isaak Johannes Dermount.  These scholars wrote:

We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists . . . were the original Waldenses; and . . . have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin.  On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages. . . . They were therefore in existence long before the Reformed church of the Netherlands. . . . The perfectly correct external and internal economy of the Baptist denomination[n] tends to confirm the truth, disputed by the Romish church, that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary; and at the same time goes to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics, that their communion is the most ancient.”

Their original Dutch source is Annaeus Ypeij & Izaak Johannes Dermount, Geschiedenis der Netherlandsche Hervomke Kerk (Breda: 1819-1827), 4 vol, I:148.  An English translation appears in John Newton Brown, ed., Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Boston: Shattuck & Co.,1835), 796, Article “Mennonites.”  The encyclopedia continues:  “This testimony, from the highest official authority in the Dutch Reformed church, is certainly a rare instance of liberality towards another denomination.  It is conceding all . . . the Baptists claim.”

J. W. Porter, in The World’s Debt to the Baptists, validates the accuracy of the citation from the Dutch:

Some years since, a Baptist of pedobaptist proclivities is said to have called in question the genuineness of the above report; whereupon Dr. W. P. Harvey addressed a letter in this connection to Prof. George B. Manly, then president of a college of languages in Berlin, Germany. Dr. Manly’s reply was as follows:

Berlin, den 14, Jan. 1896.

Rev. W. P. Harvey, D.D., Louisville, Ky.

My Dear Sir. — In reply to your favor of December 6, 1895, in which you inquire as to the authenticity of a passage quoted in Baptist histories, and now called in question by a prominent writer, I take pleasure in stating that the passage is genuine, and the translation gives the thought correctly.

It is found on page 148, Volume I., of the work entitled ‘History of the Dutch Reformed Church,’ by A. Ypeij, Doctor and Professor of Theology at Groningen, and I. J. Dermout, Secretary of the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church, and Preacher at The Hague, at Breda, 1819. …

Yours fraternally,

  1. W. Manly.

The original work containing this report is now in the Royal Library at Berlin.[2]

The quotation in Brown’s encyclopedia appears with more context below:

MENNONITES ; a society of Baptists in Holland, so called from Menno Simons. . . . This great

man, as Mosheim observes, reduced the system of the scattered sect then called Anabaptists, to consistency and moderation. . . .The Mennonites maintain that practical piety is the essence of religion, and that the surest mark of the true church is the sanctity of its members. They plead for universal toleration in religion, and debar none from their societies who lead pious lives, and own the Scriptures for the word of God. They teach that infants are not the proper subjects of baptism; that ministers of the gospel to receive no salary (from the state.] . . . An “Account of the Origin of the Dutch Baptists,” or Mennonites, was published at Breda, in 1819, by Dr Ypeij, professor of theology at Groningen, and the Rev. J. J. Dermont, chaplain to the king of the Netherlands, learned Pedobaptists. With this account Mr. Ward fills several letters, and from it we shall make some extracts. In the opinion of these learned writers, “the Mennonites are descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into various countries; and who during the latter part of the twelfth century fled into Flanders, and into the provinces of Holland and Zealand, where they lived simple and exemplary lives, in the villages as farmers, in the towns by trades, free from the charge of any gross immoralities, and professing the most pure and simple principles, which they exemplified in a holy conversation. They were therefore in existence long before the Reformed church of the Netherlands.

“There were then two sects among them: the one distinguished by the name of the perfect (who held to a community of goods,) and the other the imperfect. By far the greater part of the first sect, and the whole of the second, were certainly among the most pious Christians the church ever saw, and the worthiest citizens the state ever had. History removes every doubt on this subject.

“In the year 1536, their scattered community obtained a regular state of church order, separate from all Dutch and German Protestants, who at that time had not been formed into one body by any bonds of unity. This advantage was procured them by the sensible management

of a Friezland Protestant, Menno Simons, who had formerly been a popish priest. This learned, wise, and prudent man, was chosen by them as their leader, that they might by his paternal efforts, in the eyes of all Christendom, be cleared from the blame which some of them had incurred. This object was accomplished accordingly: some of the perfectionists he reclaimed to order, and others he excluded. He purified also the religious doctrines of the Baptists.

“We have now seen that the Baptists who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses; and who have long m the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages. The perfectly correct external and internal economy of the Baptist denomination, tends to confirm the truth, disputed by the Romish church, that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary; and at the same lime goes to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics, that their communion is the most ancient.” Thus far, Dr. Ypeij and Dermont.

This testimony, from the highest official authority in the Dutch Reformed church, is certainly a rare instance of liberality towards another denomination. It is conceding all the Mennonites or Baptists claim. It should be added, that they have constantly, but politely, declined the salaries, which the government of Holland offers to all denominations under its authority.

The Mennonites, it appears, form one undivided Christian body. Associations are held at different times, similar to those in England and the United States, though some churches, as among the English and American Baptists, decline all union with any association. The business of the Association connected with Rotterdam is chiefly to provide supplies for destitute churches, and examine into the state of the Mennonite college at Amsterdam. There are no buildings connected with this college ; but the students receive theological instruction in a room, containing the library, over the Mennonite chapel. The lectures are delivered in Latin: and each student before his entrance must be acquainted with Latin and Greek. They attend at a literary institution for instruction in Hebrew, ecclesiastical history, physics, natural and moral philosophy, &c. They have private lodges in different ports of the city. The college was established nearly a century ago, and was at first supported by the Amsterdam Mennonites alone; but lately other churches send in their contributions. Some of the students receive support from the public fund; they are ail intended for the Christian ministry.[3]

The quotation by these leading Dutch Reformed historians and church officials is accurate:  it affirms that the Baptists are the only Christian community which has stood since the time of the Apostles.

The Methodist Scholar John Clark Ridpath Quote on Baptist Succession

Landmark Baptist historians cite the Methodist scholar John Clark Ridpath as follows on Baptist succession: “I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as A. D. 100, though without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists.”  The quotation comes from Willis Anselm Jarrel, Baptist Church Perpetuity (Dallas, TX: Jarrell, 1894), 58-59.  The text records personal correspondence from Professor John Clarke Ridpath of Du Paw University in response to Dr. Jarrel’s written questions:  “When, where and by whom was the first Baptist church originated?”  The word “church” in Prof. Ridpath’s answer was in italics.

There is no objective reason to suspect the reality and accurate reproduction of the correspondence between Dr. Ridpath and Dr. Jarrel.  This quotation on Baptist succession is also accurate.

The Lutheran Historian John Laurence von Mosheim Quote on Baptist succession

Those who believe Baptist churches are the Apostolic churches of Christ, preserved in accordance with His promise from the first century until today (Matthew 16:18; 28:20; Ephesians 3:21), also quote the Lutheran historian J. L. von Mosheim as follows on Baptist succession:

The origin of the … Anabaptists … [can be traced to the] Waldenses . . . and others . . . styled the witnesses for the truth before Luther. . . . [C]enturies before Luther’s time[.] . . . [they] lay concealed in almost every country of Europe[.] . . . [M]any Anabaptists were put to death . . . for [practicing] adult baptism. . . . [T]here most certainly was an intimate conne[ction] between the ancient and the modern Anabaptists. . . . [for the] modern are the descendant[s] of the ancient Anabaptists.

This quotation comes from John Laurence von Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, vols. 1–4, ed. Henry Soames, trans. James Murdock, 2nd rev. ed., vol. 3 (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1850), 522-535.  It is entirely accurate.  Mosheim’s editor likewise notes:

Anabaptist tenets . . . had been advanced, long before the Reformation, by the Cathari, the Albigenses, and the Waldenses. . . . This can be shown by unquestionable documents, from the records of the Inquisition and from confessions. . . . Those sects were indeed oppressed, but not exterminated. Adherents to their tenets were dispersed every where, in Germany, in Switzerland, in Bohemia and Moravia: and they were emboldened by the reformation, to stand forth openly, to form a closer union among themselves, and to make proselytes to their tenets. From them sprang the [Reformation-era] Anabaptists[.][4]

The following provides greater context, starting from the beginning of Mosheim’s chapter on the Anabaptists in his church history (footnotes have been removed from the quotation below):

The origin of the sect, which, from its repetition of the baptism received in other communities, is called that of Anabaptists, but from the very celebrated man, to whom it owes a large share of its present prosperity, that of Mennonites, is involved in much obscurity. For it suddenly started up, in various countries of Europe, under the influence of leaders of dissimilar characters and views; and at a time when the first contests with the papists so distracted the attention of all, that people scarcely noticed any others among those which came up. The modern Mennonites affirm, that their predecessors were the descendants of those Waldenses who were oppressed by the tyranny of the papists; and that they were a most pure offspring utterly averse from any inclination towards political turbulence, as well as from fanatical dreams. On the contrary, their adversaries contend that they are descended from those turbulent and furious Anabaptists, who, in the sixteenth century, involved Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and especially Westphalia, in so many calamities and civil wars; but that, being terrified by the dreadful fate of their associates, through the influence of Menno Simonis especially, they have gradually assumed a more sober character. After duly examining the whole subject with impartiality, I conceive that neither statement is altogether true.

In the first place, I believe the Mennonites to be not altogether in the wrong, when they boast of a descent from those Waldensians, Petrobrusians, and others, who are usually styled the Witnesses for the truth before Luther. Prior to the age of Luther, there lay concealed in almost every country of Europe, but especially in Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, and Germany, very many persons, in whose minds was deeply rooted that principle, which the Waldensians, the Wickliffites, and the Hussites, maintained, some more covertly, and others more openly; namely, that the kingdom which Christ set up on the earth, or the visible church, is an assembly of holy persons, and ought therefore to be entirely free, not only from ungodly persons and sinners, but also from all institutions of human device against ungodliness. This principle lay at the foundation, and was the source of all that was new and singular in the religion of the Mennonites; and the greatest part of their singular opinions, as is well attested, were approved, some centuries before Luther’s time, by those who had such views of the nature of the church of Christ. Some of this class of people, perceiving that such a church as they had formed an idea of, would never be established by human means, indulged the hope that God himself would, in his own time, erect for himself a new church, free from every blemish and impurity; and that he would raise up certain persons, and fill them with heavenly light, for the accomplishment of this great object. Others, more discreet, looked for neither miracles nor inspiration; but judged that the church might be purified from all the contaminations of evil men, and be brought into the state that Christ had intended, by human efforts and care, provided the practice and the regulations of the ancient Christians were restored to their pristine dignity and influence.

The spirits and courage of this people, who had long been severely persecuted and scattered over many countries, revived as soon as they heard that Luther, aided by many good men, was successfully engaged in reforming the very corrupt state of the church. According to their different principles and views, some supposed, that the time was now come, when God himself would take possession of men’s hearts, and would set up his heavenly kingdom on the earth; others concluded, that the long expected and wished for restitution of the church, to be effected indeed under the providence of God, but yet by human agency, was now at hand. With these, as is common in such great revolutions, were joined many every where of similar aims, but of unlike capacities: who in a short time, by their discourses, their dreams, their prophecies, roused up a large part of Europe, and drew over to the party a vast multitude of the ignorant and ill informed people. The leaders of this large multitude, erroneously conceiving that the new kingdom which they foretold was to be free from all evils and imperfections, because they considered the Reformation of the church which Luther had commenced, not to correspond with the magnitude of the case, projected themselves a more perfect reformation of it, or, rather, projected another and altogether a divine church.

Whether the origin of this discordant sect, which caused such mischief in both the civil and religious community, is to be sought for in Switzerland, or in Holland and Germany, or in some other country, it is not important to know, and is impossible fully to determine. In my opinion, this only can be said, that at one and the same time, that is, not long after the commencement of the reformation by Luther, there arose men of this sort in several different countries. This may be inferred from the fact, that the first leaders of any note among the Anabaptists, were, nearly all, founders of distinct sects. For though all these reformers of the church, or rather projectors of new churches, are called Anabaptists, because they all denied that infants are proper subjects of baptism, and solemnly baptized over again those who had been baptized in infancy; yet, from the very beginning, just as at the present day, they were split into various parties, which disagreed and disputed about points of no small importance. The worst part of this motley tribe, namely, the one which supposed that the founders of their ideal and perfect church would be endued with divine powers, and would work miracles, began to raise great disturbances in Saxony and the neighbouring countries, in the year 1521, under the guidance of Thomas Münzer, Mark Stübner, Nicholas Storch, and other chiefs. They first pursued their object by means of harangues, argumentations, and accounts of divine visions, to which the leaders of the party made pretensions. But finding these means less efficient than they could wish, and that their influence was resisted by the arguments of Luther and others, they rushed to arms. Münzer and his associates, having collected a vast army from among the credulous populace, particularly in country villages, in Suabia, Thuringia, Franconia, and Saxony, proclaimed war, in the year 1525, against all law and civil governments, and declared, that Christ alone would reign from that time forward. But these forces were routed without much difficulty by the elector of Saxony and other princes; Münzer, the firebrand of sedition, was put to death, and his aiders and abettors were dispersed.

This bloody defeat rendered the others, whom the same turbulent and fanatical spirit actuated, more timid, but not more wise. It appears that, from this time onward, there roamed about Germany, Switzerland, and Holland, many persons infected with the same criminal principles which had proved the ruin of Münzer: that in many places they disturbed both the church and the state by their seditious discourses; gathered here and there larger or smaller congregations; in the name of God, announced sudden destruction as about to overtake the magistrates and the civil governments; and while they pretended to be ambassadors of God, often insulted audaciously the Divine majesty by their shameful conduct and crimes. Infamous with posterity, beyond others of this senseless tribe, were the names of Lewis Hetzer, Balthazar Hubmeyer, Felix Mantz, Conrad Grebel, Melchior Hofmann, George Jacobs, who would, if their means had allowed, have involved all Switzerland, Holland, and Germany, in tumults and wars. Among these people there were some strangely delirious, who fancied, that they had incredible visions: but such of them as were not utterly without common sense taught in substance the following doctrines: I. That the church of Christ ought to be free from all sin. II. That a community of goods and universal equality should be introduced. III. That all usury, tithes, and tributes, were to be abolished. IV. That the baptism of infants was an invention of the devil. V. That all Christians had a right to act as teachers. VI. That the Christian church, of course, had no need of ministers or teachers. VII. Neither was there any need of magistrates under the reign of Christ. VIII. That God still made known his will, to certain persons, by dreams and visions. I omit other opinions. It would, however, betray ignorance or want of candour, to deny that there were every where others, given up in general to the same opinions, who lived more quietly and peaceably; and in whom no great fault can be found, except their erroneous notions, and their zeal to disseminate them among the people. Nor do I fear to add, that among the followers, not only of these more sober Anabaptists, but even of those altogether misguided, there were many persons of honest intentions, and of real piety, whom an unsuspecting simplicity, and a laudable desire to reform the church, had led to join the party.

While this tumultuous sect was spreading itself through nearly all Europe, the emperors, kings, princes, and magistrates resisted them with very severe edicts, and at last with capital punishments. But here also the maxim was fully verified, which long experience has proved true, that the human mind, when either agitated by fanatical fury, or strongly bound by the cords of religion, is not easily cured by terrors and dangers. Vast numbers of these people in nearly all the countries of Europe, would rather perish miserably, by drowning, hanging, burning, or decapitation, than renounce the opinions which they had embraced. And therefore the Mennonites, at this day, show us ponderous volumes, filled with the accounts of the lives and sufferings of those of their party, who expiated by death the crimes which they were supposed to have committed against either the church or the state. I could wish there had been some distinction made; and that all who believed that adults only are to be baptized, and that the ungodly are to be expelled the church, had not been indiscriminately put to death. For they did not all suffer on account of their crimes, but many of them, merely for their erroneous opinions, which they maintained with honesty and good faith. Yet most of them told the people of their dreams about a new church of Christ soon to be set up, which would abolish all magistracies, laws, and punishments: hence the very name of Anabaptist presented at once before the mind the idea of a seditious person, that is, one who was a public pest. It is indeed true, that many Anabaptists were put to death, not as being bad citizens, or injurious members of civil society, but as being incurable heretics, and condemned by the old canon laws: for the error concerning adult baptism, or Catabaptism and Anabaptism, was in that age looked upon as a horrible offence. But it is also true, that very many were put to death for holding opinions dangerous to the commonwealth and to the civil authorities; and numbers also suffered for their temerity, their imprudences and their criminal deeds.

The saddest example of this is afforded in the case of those Anabaptists from Holland, who came to Munster, a city of Westphalia, in the year 1533, and there committed deeds, which would be scarcely credible, were they not so well attested as to compel belief. These infatuated men, whose brains were turned by that dream of a new kingdom of Christ about to be erected on the earth, which bewildered the great body of Anabaptists, under the guidance of certain illiterate and plebeian men, John Matthæi, John Bockhold, a tailor of Leyden, one Gerhard, and some others, persuaded not only the common people, but likewise some of the religious teachers, that their blessed heavenly Jerusalem was about to be established at Munster, and would thence be extended to other places. Under this pretext, they deposed the magistrates, took command of the city, and ventured upon all the criminal and ridiculous measures, which their perverse ingenuity could devise. John Bockhold was created king and lawgiver to this celestial republic. But the issue of the scene was tragical and distressing. For after a long siege, the city was captured, in 1536, by its bishop, who was also its temporal lord, Francis, Count Waldec; this New Jerusalem of the Anabaptists was destroyed, and its king punished with the utmost severity. As it was but too manifest, from this and from other events of a similar nature, whither the principles of this school might lead unstable and incautious men, it is not strange that the magistrates were eager to extirpate the roots of such mischief with fire and sword.

To this miserable sect, when stricken with the greatest terrors, while its members grieved over the extinction of all their hopes from the men of Munster, and were anxiously inquiring what they could do for safety, as both the good and the bad among them were daily hurried away to inevitable destruction; great consolation and support were afforded, by Menno Simonis, of Friesland, once a popish priest, and, as he himself confesses, a debauched character. He first covertly and secretly united with the Anabaptists; but afterwards, in the year 1536, quitting the sacred office which he had hitherto held among the papists, he openly espoused their cause. And now in the year 1537, he listened to the entreaties of several of these people, whom he describes as sober, pious persons, that had taken no part in the criminal transactions at Munster; though others think them to have been associates of the Westphalian rabble, that had become wiser by the calamities of their brethren; and consented to assume the functions of their religious teacher. From this period to the end of his days, or for about five-and-twenty years, he travelled, with his wife and children, amidst perpetual sufferings and daily perils of his life, over very many regions of country; first in West Friesland, the territory of Groningen, and East Friesland, then in Gelderland, Holland, Brabant, Westphalia, and the German provinces along the shores of the Baltic as far as Livonia; and gathered an immense number of followers, so that he was almost the common father and bishop of all the Anabaptists, and may justly be considered the founder of the flourishing sect that has continued down to our times. The reasons why he had so great success may readily be conceived, if we consider the manners and spirit of the man, and the condition of the party, when he joined it. Menno possessed genius, though not much cultivated, as his writings prove, and a natural cloquence. Of learning, he had just enough, to be esteemed very learned and almost an oracle, by the raw and undiscerning multitude. Moreover, if we may give credit to his statements and declarations, he was a man of integrity, mild, accommodating, laborious, patient of injuries, and so ardent in his piety, as to exemplify in his own life the precepts which he gave to others. A man of such a character, would readily obtain followers, among any sort of people; but among none more than among such as the Anabaptists then were, a people simple, ignorant of all learning, accustomed to teachers that raved and howled rather than instructed them, very often deluded by impostors, worn out with perpetual suffering, and now in constant peril of their lives.

Menno had struck out a system of doctrine, which was much milder and more tolerable than that of the furious and fanatical portion of the Anabaptists; yet perhaps somewhat harsher, though better digested, than that of the wiser and more moderate of them, who merely wished (but had indefinite conceptions about it) to see the church restored to its long-lost purity. He therefore condemned the expectation of a new kingdom of Jesus Christ, to be set up in the world, by violence and the expulsion of magistrates; which had been the prolific cause of so many seditions and crimes: he condemned the marvellous restitution of the church, by a new and extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit: he condemned the licentiousness of polygamy and divorce: and he would not endure those, who believed that the Holy Spirit descended into the minds of many, as at the first establishment of Christianity, and manifested his presence by miracles, prophecies, divine dreams, and visions. What the Anabaptists had commonly taught, respecting infant baptism, respecting a coming thousand years’ reign of Christ, before the end of the world, respecting the inadmissibility of magistrates in the Christian church, respecting the prohibition of wars, and of oaths, by Christ, respecting the inutility and the mischief of human learning, he retained, indeed; but he so corrected and improved these doctrines, that they appeared to come nearer to accordance with the common tenets of Protestants. Thus he formed a system of religion, which, being highly recommended, by the nature of the precepts themselves, by the eloquence of the preacher, and by the circumstances of the times, gained a hold upon the minds of most of the Anabaptists with astonishing facility. The result was, that, by the influence of Menno, the Anabaptists of both sorts, excluding fanatical persons, and rejecting opinions pernicious to the state, became consolidated, as it were, into one family or community.

Menno must have possessed more than human power if he had been able to diffuse peace and good order through a body so discordant, made up of members too, actuated by different spirits, and had bound it altogether in one harmonious whole. About the middle of the century, a violent dispute arose among the Anabaptists, [or Mennonites,] respecting excommunication, occasioned chiefly by Leonard Bouwenson and Theodore Philippi, and its effects have continued down to the present time. The men just named maintained, not only that all transgressors, even those that seriously lamented and deplored their fall, ought to be at once cast out of the church, without previous admonition: but also, that the excommunicated were to be debarred from all social intercourse with their wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children, and other relatives. They likewise required obedience to a very austere and difficult system of morals. But to many of the Anabaptists this appeared to be going too far. And hence, suddenly, the Anabaptists became split into two sects; the one more lenient towards transgressors, the other more severe; the one requiring a sordid style of living and very austere morals, the other yielding a little to the weakness of nature and to the elegances of life. Menno laboured indeed to restore harmony to his community, but, discovering no possible way to effect it, he fluctuated as it were, during his whole life, between those two sects. For at one time he seemed to favour the severer party, and at another the more lax brethren. And this inconstancy of one in so high authority, tended not a little to increase disquietude and commotion.

These two large sects of Anabaptists [or Mennonites] are distinguished by the appellations of the Fine and the Gross, (die Feinen und die Groben, Subtiles et Crassi,) i.e. the more Rigid, and the more Lax. Those called the Fine hold and observe, more strictly than the others, both the ancient doctrines, and the morals and discipline of the Anabaptists: the Gross depart further from the original opinions, morals, and discipline of the sect, and approach nearer to those of the Protestants. The greater part of the Gross or lax Mennonites, at first, were inhabitants of a region in the North of Holland, called Waterland; and hence this whole sect received the name of Waterlanders. A majority of the severer sect were inhabitants of Flanders; and hence their whole sect received the name of Flemings or Flandrians. Among these Flandrians, soon after, there arose new broils and contentions; not indeed respecting doctrines, but respecting the transgressors who ought to be excommunicated, and other minor matters. And hence, again, arose the two sects of Flandrians and Frieslanders, disagreeing in morals and discipline, and receiving their appellations from the majority of their respective partizans. To these were added a third sect of Germans; for many had removed from Germany, and settled in Holland and Belgium. But the greatest part of the Flandrians, the Frieslanders, and the Germans, gradually came over to the moderate sect of Waterlanders, and made peace with them. Such of the more rigid as would not follow this example, are at this day denominated the old Flemings or Flandrians; but they are far inferior in numbers to the more moderate [or the Waterlanders].

As soon as senseless fanaticism subsided among the Mennonites, all their sects, however diverse in many respects, agreed in this, that the principles of religion are to be derived solely from the Holy Scriptures. And to make this the more manifest, they caused Confessions of faith, or papers containing a summary of their views of God, and the right mode of worshipping him, to be drawn up, almost in the very words of the divine books. The first of these Confessions, both in the order of time, and in rank, is that which the Waterlanders exhibit. This was followed by others; some of them common ones, presented to the magistrates; and others peculiar to certain parties. But there is ground for inquiry, whether these formulas contain all that the Mennonites believe true; or whether they omit some things, very necessary for understanding the internal state of the sect. It will be seen indeed, by every reader who bestows on them but a moderate degree of attention, that the doctrines which seem prejudicial to the public interests, particularly those respecting magistrates and oaths, are most cautiously guarded and embellished, lest they should appear alarming. Moreover, the discerning reader will easily perceive, that these points are not placed in their proper attitude, but appear artificially expressed. All this will be made clear from what follows.

The old Anabaptists, because they believed themselves to have the Holy Spirit Himself for their teacher, did not so much as think of drawing up a system of religious doctrines, and of imbuing the minds of their people with a sound knowledge of religion. And hence they disagreed exceedingly, on points of the greatest importance; for instance, respecting the divinity of the Saviour, which some professed and others denied, and respecting polygamy and divorces. A little more attention was given to the subject by Menno and his disciples. Yet there was even subsequently to this age, great license of opinion on religious subjects among the Mennonites, and especially among those called the Fine, or the more rigid. And this single fact would be sufficient proof, if other arguments were not at hand, that the leaders of the sect esteemed it the smallest part of their duty to guard their people against embracing corrupt error; and that they considered the very soul of religion to consist in holiness of life and conduct. At length necessity induced first the Waterlanders, and afterwards the others, to set forth publicly a summary of their faith, digested under certain heads: for that rashness of dissenting and disputing on sacred subjects, which had long been tolerated, had drawn upon the community very great odium, and seemed to threaten to bring upon it banishment, if not something worse. Yet the Mennonite Confessions appear to be rather shields, provided for blunting the points of their enemies’ arguments, than established rules of faith, from which no one may deviate. For, if we except a portion of the modern Waterlanders, it was never decreed among them, as it is among other sects of Christians, that no one must venture to believe or to teach, otherwise than is laid down in the public formulas. It was an established principle with them all, from the beginning, (as the general character and spirit of the sect evinces), that religion consists in piety; and that the holiness of its members is the surest index of a true church.

If we are to form our judgment of the Mennonite religion from their Confessions of faith, which are in every body’s hands, it differs but little, in most things, from that of the Reformed, but departs more widely from that of the Lutherans. For they attribute to what are called the sacraments, no other virtue than that of serving for signs; and they have a system of discipline not much different from that of the Presbyterians. The doctrines by which they are separated from all other Christian sects, as by a wall, are reducible to three heads. Some of them are common to all sects of Mennonites: others are received only in certain of the larger associations; (and these are the doctrines for which Menno himself was not acceptable to all;) and lastly, others exist only in the minor and more obscure associations. These last rise and sink, by turns, with the sects that embrace them: and therefore deserve not a more particular notice.

All the opinions which are common to the whole body are founded on this one principle, as their basis; namely, that the kingdom which Christ has established on the earth, or the church, is a visible society or company, in which is no place for any but holy and pious persons; and which therefore has none of those institutions and provisions that human sagacity has devised for the benefit of the ungodly. This principle was frankly avowed by the earlier Mennonites: but the moderns, in their confessions, either cover it up under words of dubious import, or appear to reject it: yet they cannot actually reject it; at least, if they would be self-consistent, and would not deprive their doctrines of their native basis. But in regard to the most recent Mennonites, as they have departed in very many things from the views and the institutions of their fathers, so they have abandoned nearly altogether this principle respecting the nature of the Christian church. And in this manner, sad experience, rather than either reason or the holy Scriptures, has taught them wisdom. They therefore admit, first, that there is an invisible church of Christ, or one not open to human view, which extends through all Christian sects. And in the next place, they do not place the mark of a true church, as they once did, in the holiness of all its members; for they admit, that the visible church of Christ consists of both good and bad men. On the contrary, they declare, that the marks of a true church are, a knowledge of the truth as taught by Jesus Christ, and the agreement of all the members, in professing and maintaining that truth.

In the mean time, from that doctrine of the old Anabaptists respecting the church, flow the principal opinions by which they are distinguished from other Christians. This doctrine requires, I. that they should receive none into their church, by the sacrament of baptism, unless they are adults, and have the full use of their reason. Because it is uncertain, with regard to infants, whether they will become pious or irreligious; neither can they pledge their faith to the church, to lead a holy life.—It requires, II. that they should not admit magistrates; nor suffer any of their members to perform the functions of a magistrate. Because, where there are no bad men, there also magistrates are not necessary.—It requires, III. that they should deny the justice of repelling force by force, and of waging war. Because, as those who are perfectly holy cannot be provoked by injuries nor commit them, so they have no need of the support of arms, in order to their safety.—It requires, IV. that they should have strong aversion to all penalties and punishments, and especially to capital punishments. Because punishments are aimed against the wickedness and the crimes of men; but the church of Christ is free from all crimes and wickedness.—It forbids, V. the calling God to witness any transactions, or confirming any thing by an oath. Because minds that are actuated solely by the love of what is good and right, never violate their faith, nor dissemble the truth.—From this doctrine follow, VI. that severe and rigid discipline of the old Anabaptists, which produced so many commotions among them.[5]

Mosheim, thus, likewise provides hostile testimony in favor of Baptist succession.

The Quaker Historian Robert Barclay Quote on Baptist Succession

Baptist writers frequently cite Quaker historian Robert Barclay as follows on Baptist succession:

[T]he rise of the Anabaptists took place long prior to the formation of the Church of England, and there are also reasons for believing that on the Continent of Europe small hidden Christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists, have existed from the time of the Apostles … a lineage or succession more ancient than that of the Roman Church.

The quotation comes from Robert Barclay, Inner Life of the Societies of the Commonwealth, 2nd ed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 11-12.  Once again, the quotation is accurate.  Greater context for the quotation follows (footnotes have been removed, with one exception):

It is impossible to take a correct and reasonable view of the opinions and practices of any of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, unless we endeavour clearly to understand the causes which led, first, to the temporary abolition of Episcopacy and the overthrow of the Established Church, and, in the second place, how certain religious opinions were gradually formed; which produced, as their practical result, the English Presbyterian party, the Independent and Baptist Churches, and the Society of Friends.

George Fox commenced his ministry in the year 1648, and therefore our subject will lead us to look both backwards and forwards from this historical standpoint. We shall endeavour to trace how, under the excitement of the stirring events of the time, certain phases of religious truth were preached in every part of the United Kingdom, principally by “lay” or private persons, and produced an outburst of religious activity and energy which has always been regarded with some degree of astonishment.

The Society of Friends was the last religious society formed during the extraordinary period we are about to contemplate, and those facts which explain its relation to other religious societies, will be found to throw considerable light on their internal history and mutual relations. Considerable obscurity rests upon the history of the religious societies of Commonwealth times, from the fact that each Church was “independent.” The internal history of the Society of Friends is more clear and connected, from the fact that it was the first free Church formed in England which was not “independent,” but connexional in its character. In subsequent chapters we shall shew the structure of this Church, the difficulties experienced by its founders, the changes which took place in its constitution, and its consequent decline in numbers.

It is, however, of the utmost importance to have a clear view of the origin and the distinct character of the religious opinions of the persons who are termed “Puritans,” and to distinguish them from those of the people called Separatists, Brownists, Barrowists, Johnsonists, and afterwards Independents and Congregationalists; and those again who are termed Anabaptists or Baptists. This is the more needful, because most of these names were invented in order to hold up to public ridicule three important and distinct lines of religious thought, and to some extent, of religious practice; and they have thus been, too successfully, confused under the common idea of a factious opposition to the reformed Church of England.

As we shall afterwards shew, the rise of the “Anabaptists” took place long prior to the formation of the Church of England, and there are also reasons for believing that on the continent of Europe small hidden christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the “Anabaptists,” have existed from the times of the Apostles. In the sense of the direct transmission of Divine Truth, and the true nature of spiritual religion, it seems probable that these Churches have a lineage or succession more ancient than that of the Roman Church.

[Footnote:] In the year 1140, one Enervinus, “the humble minister of Steinfield” in the diocese of Cologne, addressed St. Bernard for instruction as to the manner in which certain heretics were to be treated. “They also confess that besides the baptism of water they have been baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” He mentions some among them who denied the dogma of transubstantiation, made void the priesthood of the Church, denounced the Sacraments, baptism only excepted, which is administered to adults. They claimed antiquity for their doctrine, and that “it had been hidden from the time of the Martyrs.” I am indebted for this interesting quotation to a MS. sketch of the History and Literature of the Baptist Denomination previoustotheyear1700, by Dr. Underhill. These were the Catharists, and Neander says they abstained from swearing, their yea and nay being a substitute for the strongest attestations. They had a membership of “auditors” and “perfects,” and cared for then own poor. The rise of the Waldenses, according to Dr. Pius Melia, took place at Lyons in 1170, certainly not earlier than 1160 (see pp. 2 and 5, “Origin of the Waldenses,” London, 1870), and it is obvious from Dr. Melia’s own authorities that the Waldenses asserted that their Church had its origin prior to Peter Waldo, and that Father Moneta, in the year 1244, challenged them to prove the fact, and Brother Reinerius, also writing in the year 1250, distinctly states that “some people say that it (the sect of the Leonists) has endured from the time of Silvester, and some say from the time of the Apostles,” although he does not give any approval to the assertion. The refutation of Jean Legers’ misrepresentations, Dr. Melia furnishes, and other evidence from Waldensian MSS., &c, is most valuable and important. [End of footnote.]

The question is, however, rather interesting as an obscure historical problem, than important in a Christian point of view. It must also be borne in mind that the continental Baptist societies which sprang into vigorous life in the time of Luther, were “Independent” churches. But in England, although traces are found in our history of the existence of the opinions of the “Anabaptists” from the earliest times, and particularly subsequent to the time of the Reformation, it is doubtful whether any churches or societies of purely English Baptists had a distinct consecutive existence prior to 1611. In 1536, however, certain Baptist Societies in England sent a deputation to a great gathering of the Anabaptists near Buckholt, in Westphalia. As remarked by Bishop Burnet, the “Anabaptists” between the period of the Reformation and this date were principally Germans, who were driven by the troubles on the Continent to find refuge in England. It is stated by Governor Bradford, of New England, that the first Separatist or Independent church in England was that of which “Mr. Rough was pastor, and Cuthbert Symson a deacon, in the time of Queen Mary,” when they were burnt by Bonner. The church book containing the names of the congregation was left with Simpson’s wife, and, although Mr. Rough was three times placed on the rack, he would not discover either the book or the names. Prior to 1571 a Separatist Congregational Church was formed of which Richard Fitz was pastor, and Thomas Bowland deacon. A Mr. Bolton was one of the “elders” of this church.[6]

When Baptists cite this leading Quaker historian, they do so accurately and appropriately.

The Quote by Alexander Campbell, Founder of the Church of Christ Sect

on Baptist Succession

Alexander Campbell, founder of the “Christian Church,” “Disciples of Christ,” and “Church of Christ” denominations, is quoted by Baptist writers as affirming the following on Baptist succession:

[C]louds of witnesses attest the fact, that before the Reformation from popery, and from the apostolic age to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists, and the practice of baptism have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced.

The quotation comes from Alexander Campbell, A Debate on Christian Baptism Between W. L. MacCalla and Alexander Campbell (Buffalo: Campbell & Sala, 1824), 378-379.  Once again, the quotation is accurate.  Further context for the quotation is as follows:

I would engage to shew, that baptism as viewed and practised by the Baptists, had its advocates in every century up to the Christian era. That communities of Christians practised it in every age since its institution. That the first FORTY FOUR WRITERS after the apostles now called orthodox, never once mentioned any other baptism than that for which we contend. That all the writers of the first and second centuries, inspired and uninspired, speak of a believer as the only subject, and of immersion as the only baptism. In the third century infant baptism was introduced but only in certain cases; that Jerome, Athanasius, Epiphanius, the Council, of Laodicea, of Niocesaria, in the fourth century; Chrysostom, Faustus, Regiensis, and Evegrius in the fifth; Gregory and the Council of Agatha in the sixth. The Bracaren’s Council, and that of Toletanus, Paulinus, and his associates in England, in the seventh; Bede, Haime, the Council of Paris, and that of Laodicea, in the eighth; Rabanus and Albinus in the ninth: Smaragdo in the tenth, Anslem, the Waldenses and Albigenses, Peter de Bruis and his numerous associates in the eleventh; Alburtus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas in the twelveth ; Jacob Merningus records that many in Poland, Lombardy, Germany, and Holland, in the thirteenth; Carlous, bishop of Meyland, the Thaborites, and many Bohemians in the fourteenth; The Hungarians and Waldenses in their confession of faith, A. D. 1521, and hosts in the 16th century have advocated the Baptists’ sentiments and practice. And we might more reasonably tell of the bloody deeds of the Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, &c. and impute them to their followers, than Mr. M. to tell us of the German Anabaptists, whom we disclaim ; and independent of whose existence, clouds of witnesses attest the fact, that before the Reformation from popery, and from the apostolic age, to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists, and the practice of baptism have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced. See Strictures on Ralston, pp. 260—272.[7]

Baptists properly cite the testimony of the leading founder of the Campbellite religious movement about their own history from the time of the Apostles.

The Baptist Charles Spurgeon Quote on Baptist Succession

Naturally, Bible-believing Baptists also affirm their own succession, in accordance with the promises of Jesus Christ to preserve His church (Matthew 16:18; 28:20). The famous Baptist, Charles H. Spurgeon, stated:

[We] hold the pure primitive ancient Apostolic faith. We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man.[8]

This quotation is likewise in context.  One who wishes for more background can note the following:

In inviting our Baptist Brethren to meet together this evening, it was in the hope that something might be suggested which might promote our success as a united body, and that words of encouragement from comrades in the same regiment might gladden all hearts. We offer the heartiest welcome to our beloved friends: this chapel belongs not to me nor to my Church specially, but to all the Baptist denomination. I feel to-night as if I were rendering up the trust deeds to the proper proprietors,—acknowledging that this house belongs not to any man, but, first, to the God of the whole world, and, next, to those who hold the pure primitive ancient Apostolic faith. We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men. I will now resign the meeting to my esteemed friend, Sir Morton Peto, who has many a stone in this building, and who, I trust, will honour us with his presence on many future occasions.[9]

Baptists interpret the Bible properly and in context when they affirm that the church is a local, visible assembly, not something universal and invisible; when they affirm that their church polity and practice of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper matches that taught in Scripture; and when they recognize that Christ has promised the perpetuity of His congregations until His return.[10]  Baptists’ citations of famous Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Quaker, Methodist, Campbellite, and earlier Baptist writers on their own succession are also justified by the context of their quotations.  Uninspired history validates the promises of the inspired and infallible Scriptures that God the Father, through the Spirit, would receive “glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end,” that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against the church, and that Christ would be “with” His assemblies of immersed disciples “alway, even unto the end of the world” (Ephesians 3:21; Matthew 16:18; 28:20). Amen!

Faithsaves.net

[1]           Stanislaus Hosius, trans. Richard Shacklock, trans., The Hatchet of Heresies: A Most Excellent Treaties of the begynnyng of heresyes in oure tyme, compiled by the Reuerend Father in God Stanislaus Hosius, etc. (Antwerp: Aeg. Diest, 1565; Ann Arbor: Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011), 43-49.

[2]           J. W. Porter, The World’s Debt to the Baptists (Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1914), 150–151.

[3]           John Newton Brown, ed., Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Boston: Shattuck & Co.,1835), 796, Article “Mennonites.”

[4]           John Laurence von Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, vols. 1–4, ed. Henry Soames, trans. James Murdock, 2nd rev. ed. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1850), 542.

[5]           John Laurence von Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, vols. 1–4, ed. Henry Soames, trans. James Murdock, Second Revised Edition., vol. 3 (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1850), 522–542.

[6]           Robert Barclay, Inner Life of the Societies of the Commonwealth, 2nd ed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 10-13.

[7]           Alexander Campbell, A Debate on Christian Baptism Between W. L. MacCalla and Alexander Campbell (Buffalo: Campbell & Sala, 1824), 378-379.

[8]           Charles Spurgeon, “Public Meeting of Our London Baptist Brethren,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 7 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1861) 225.

For more information on the history of Christ’s churches, please ask us for a free copy of the pamphlet The Trail of Blood:  Following the Christians Down Through the Centuries, or The History of Baptist Churches from the Time of Christ, their Founder, to the Present Day, J. M. Carroll.  A book-length study is John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, 2 vol. (Texarkana, TX: Bogard Press, 1922). Both Carroll’s pamphlet and Christian’s book are available free at https://faithsaves.net/ecclesiology/.

[9]           Charles Spurgeon, “Public Meeting of Our London Baptist Brethren,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 7 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1861), 225.

[10]         Cf. the resources at https://faithsaves.net/ecclesiology/.

More Resources on Ecclesiology: The Doctrine of the Church 

More Historical Studies