The Testimony of History – Acts 20:29-30

How many different kinds of churches did the Lord start? Did the Lord say anything about the perpetuity, or continuation, of His church? What do he say? Should we assume that the church, or the KIND of church, that the Lord started is still in existence? From where did all the various different kinds of churches come, if they didn’t come from the Lord? Should it be considered sinful if churches which the Lord started don’t acknowledge those other societies as “churches of Christ?”

Most Protestants and many Baptists believe that we SHOULD fellowship with all those which profess themselves to be “churches of Christ” whether the facts say that they are or not. And many of those “Affiliationists” insist that our policy of not recognizing human and unscriptural societies as churches of Christ, and not recognizing their preachers as ministers of the gospel, and our non-acceptance of their ordinances as valid, is not sustained by church or Baptist history, and is, therefore, not an OLD but a NEW landmark, and that we are heretics and schismatics.

This is a serious charge, and if it can be sustained by the Word of God and the facts of history, then we need to diligently search the scriptures and our own hearts, bringing our behaviour into alignment with the Truth. And we should stop calling ourselves “Landmark Baptists.”

Over the last few weeks we have looked at several things from the scriptures.

Now, what about church history?
Were the churches whose histories are recorded in the Bible models of perfection? Does a church with sinful and heretical members, and innovative practices, cease to be a church of Christ? When in church history did churches begin to truly and obviously apostatize? (Second & third centuries.) At what point in history were there clearly discernable apostate churches? (About the year 300 AD.) Before that time nearly all churches were Biblical in doctrine and practice; they were Baptistic.

History testifies that a general defection from the primitive faith and church order took place throughout the entire Roman Empire in the third century. Those churches which remained true to the New Testament were first called “Cathari,” the Pure, Afterwards they were known by the names of their most prominent leaders – Novatians, Donatists, etc. Eventually, because governmental power lay behind the apostate churches, God’s churches fled into the country and to the mountains to escape their persecutors, And for literally hundreds of years they resided there.

They were given lots of different names in various places in the world, But in central Europe they received the general name of Waldenses and Vaudois, which meant the inhabitants of “valleys” or “valleymen.” Robert Robinson (an Arian) says: “From the Latin ‘vallis,’ came the English ‘valley,’ and before that, the Ecclesiastical words ‘valdenses,’ and ‘Waldenses.’ Peter of Lyons, for example, a rich merchant, became one of these Baptist valley-men, and from them he received the name “Waldo,” or “Waldus” – valley-man. Some say that Peter Waldo gave the Waldenses their name, but actually it was just the opposite. While originally the word only designated the inhabitants of certain valleys in the Alps, ultimately it was applied to all those Christians in most of Europe who held the faith of these original valley-men. These persecuted saints who, in the third and fourth centuries, fled into these valleys are the successors of the apostolic churches, and from them they received their doctrine, their authority and their ordinances.

What does the Historical Record have to say about these people?
Alexis Muston: “The Voudois of the Alps are, in our view, primitive Christians, the inheritors of the primitive church, who have been preserved in these valleys from the alterations successively introduced by the church of Rome into evangelical worship. It was not they who separated from Catholicism, but Catholicism which separated from them in modifying the primitive worship.” ”For three hundred years or more, the Bishop of Rome attempted to subjugate the church of Milan under his jurisdiction; and at last the interest of Rome grew too potent for that church, planted by one of the disciples; insomuch that the bishop [pastor] and people, rather than own their jurisdiction, retired to the valleys of Lucerne and Angrogna, and thence were called Vallenses, Waldenses, or “the people of the valleys.”

Cramp says: “We may safely infer the Novatian churches were what are now called Baptist churches, adhering to the apostolic and primitive practice.” These puritan churches were known as Donatists in North Africa, and they were designated as Cathari and Paulicians by the Roman Catholic Council of Nicea, in A.D. 325. These despised, oppressed, and persecuted Cathari, Novatians, and Waldenses of the third and fourth and following centuries, were our historical ancestors, and not the dominant and corrupt hierarchies at Rome and Constantinople, which called themselves “Catholics.”

These churches did not in any way recognize other denominations than their own, as scriptural churches, and, therefore, they did not acknowledge their ministers as having any authority to preach or administer the ordinances; nor did they receive their immersions as valid, but invariably baptized all who came over to them, and from this fact they became known by the general name of Anabaptists (Rebaptizers).

Cardinal Hosius, president of the Council of Trent (A.D. 1550), declared that the Anabaptists had for 1,200 years suffered generally, and the most cruel sorts of punishments. “The Anabaptists are a pernicious sect, of which kind the Waldensian brethren seem also to have been. Nor is this heresy a modern thing, it existed in the time of Austin.” Cardinal Hosius, concedes that as Rebaptizers, we had a separate church existence in the fourth century, and were most cruelly persecuted.

Zwingle, the Swiss Presbyterian, said (A.D. 1534): “The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for thirteen hundred years has caused great disturbance in the church,” [the apostate church].

Says Robinson: “They call Novatian the author of the heresy of Puritanism; and yet they know that Tertullian had quitted the church near fifty years before for the same reason; and Privatus, who was an old man in the time of Novatian, had, with several more, repeatedly remonstrated against the alterations taking place, and, as they could get no redress, had dissented and formed separate congregations.”

Sir Isaac Newton, the great astronomer, but still greater student of the Scriptures and ecclesiastical history, declared: “The modern Baptists, formerly called Anabaptists, are the only people that never sypathized with the papacy.”

Mosheim: “The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion . . . is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is, therefore, extremely difficult to be ascertained.” The prime reason the Anabaptists would not recognize the ordinances of the Catholic and other sects, was that they did not agree that they were churches, and consequently they were utterly without any authority to baptize or to preach.

Bro. John Owen: “The Donatists rebaptized those who came to their societies because they professed themselves to believe that all administration of ordinances, not in their assemblies, was, null, and that they were to be looked on as no such thing. Our Anabaptists do the same thing.”

Baptists and the Protestants.
Most Baptists today are extravagant in their praises of the reformers: Luther, Calvin, Zwingle, and Knox, and they speak of them as evangelical ministers; and of their societies as evangelical churches; But our fathers – the hated Anabaptists of the days of the Reformation – did not.

Henry Bullinger, the successor of Calvin, in the sixteenth century wrote: “The Anabaptists think themselves to be the only true church of Christ, and acceptable to God; and teach that they, who by baptism are received into their churches, ought NOT to have communion with evangelical, or any other whatsoever: for that our churches are NOT true churches, any more than the churches of the Papists.” But he added: “Let others say what they will of the dippers: we see in them nothing but what is excellent; and hear from them nothing else but that we should not swear or do wrong to any one; that every one ought to live godly and holy lives; we see no wickedness in them.”

Professor J. S. Reynolds, of the University of South Carolina, prepared a paper in 1848 upon the practice of Baptists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. “The conclusion is irresistible, that they did not consider even immersion valid, when it was the act of an unimmersed administrator. The principle of action, doubtless, was, that there could be no valid baptism unless the administrator was authorized to baptize by a properly constituted church. Hence, in a vindication of the Baptists of London, published in 1615, the ground is taken, that all baptism, received either in the church of Rome or England, is invalid; because it was received in a false church and from Antichristian Ministers.”

Protestant Historian Wall testified that there was a body of Baptists in England as early as A.D. 1587, who would have no religious intercourse with those teachers who perverted the faith of the gospel. “Many of them hold it necessary, as I said, to renounce communion with all Christians that are not of their way. Many of them are so peremptory in this, that if they be in the chamber of a sick man, and any Pedobaptist minister or other, come in to pray with him, they will go out of the room. And if they be invited to the funeral of any Pedobaptist, they will go to the house and accompany the corpse with the rest of the people to the door; but there they retreat – they call it the Steeple House. They seem to judge thus: Those that are not baptized are no Christians. So that they make not only baptism itself, but also the time, or age, or way of receiving it a fundamental.”

That our historical ancestors did not affiliate with Catholics, who, for twelve hundred years, endeavored to exterminate them with fire and sword, no one will claim: “They came into contact with the Reformers everywhere. And they were reviled and persecuted by them all – by Lutherans, and Episcopalians, and Puritans, and Presbyterians. Even the Romanists did not denounce them so bitterly as did Melancthon and Luther, Calvin and Zwingle, and Knox, Cranmer, and Ridley and Latimer. When Bishop Hall sneered at them as ”sectaries, instructed by teachers fit for them, cobblers, tailors, felt-makers, and such like trash,” he expressed what most Protestants felt about the Baptists. There was no sect among which these outraged and long-suffering believers could find refuge. They had to meet apart, baptize apart, commune apart. Their independent church organization was necessitated by the spirit of the age. And yet now, these people who hated and persecuted our forefathers are considered to be ourbrethren, and are expected to be treated as such.

J. Newton Brown: “They held that the Catholics had so departed from the original constitution of the church, in this respect, as to have forfeited their claim to that honor; and hence invariably baptized all who joined them from the Catholic churches. Hence, they are the first in history who are called Anabaptists, that is, rebaptizers; although, of course, they denied the propriety of the appellation, as they believed the baptism administered by a corrupt church to be null and void.”

So we say today, and, therefore, should no more invite the ministers of corrupt “churches” – human societies – into our pulpits to preach for us, than we would papistical ministers. The Donatists baptized all persons coming from other professing [Christian] communities. This conduct Augustine disapproved, and observed: “You [Donatists] say that we are baptized in an impure church, by heretics”

The Anabaptists.
In the year 1120, we find a “Treatise Concerning Antichrist,” etc., among the writings of the Waldenses. In defining Antichrist, they say: “It is not any particular person ordained to any degree, or office, or ministry, ‘but a system of falsehood,’ opposing itself to the truth, covering itself with a show of beauty and piety, yet very unsuitable to the church of Christ, as by names and offices, the Scriptures and the sacraments, and various other things may appear.

The system of iniquity thus completed with its ministers, great and small, supported by those who are induced to follow it with an evil heart and blindfold – this is the congregation, which, taken together, composes what is called ”Antichrist or Babylon,” etc. One of the marks of an Antichristian system was paedobaptism – “He teaches to baptize children into the faith, and attributes to this [baptism] the work of regeneration, thus confounding the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, with the external rite of baptism.” So our Baptist forefathers considered both the Catholics and the Protestants as Antichrist.

And to quote another Anabaptist statement: “And since it hath pleased God to make known these things to us by his servants, believing it to be his revealed will, according to the Holy Scriptures, and admonished thereto by the command of the Lord, we do, both inwardly and outwardly, depart from Antichrist.”

If these Baptists affiliated with Catholics, by calling them “brethren,” and recognizing their priests as Christian ministers, by inviting them into their pulpits to preach for them, would they have appeared to the world to have “outwardly” departed from them as the ministers of an Antichristian society?

The descendants of those very Protestants who joined with the Catholics, in the attempt to exterminate our churches from the earth, as too vile and pernicious to exist, today authoritatively demand that we shall recognize their societies as scriptural churches; their doctrine and ministers as evangelical; and their ordinances as valid and scriptural as our own.

Here is a quote from Albert Barnes, Presbyterian author of Barnes” Notes, in which so many Baptists delight: “We claim and demand of the Baptists that they shall not merely recognize the ministry of other denominations, but their membership also – [ie., infants, etc.]; that while, if they prefer it, they may continue the practice of immersion in baptism, as a part of their Christian liberty, they shall concede the same liberty to others – [ie., to practice sprinkling and pouring for baptism]; and while they expect that their acts of baptism shall be recognized by others as valid, they shall not offer an affront to the Christian world by rebaptizing all who enter their communion, or by excluding from their communion all who have not been subjected to the rite of immersion. And we claim and demand of the Baptist Churches that they shall recognize the members of other churches as members of the church of Christ. We do not ask this as a boon, we claim it as a right.”

Can any Baptist read this, and doubt for one moment that Bro. Barnes, and all Presbyterians who indorse him, would, by imprisonment, fines, and flames, attempt to compel us to recognize their societies and human traditions, as Calvin and Luther, Zwingle and Knox, did in the sixteenth centuries and their ancestors – the Catholics – did for twelve hundred years before?

In order to silence the opposition of the Protestants like Barnes, and to become popular with them and the world they influence, so many Baptists are giving in to demands like this.

Those who disagree and stand upon the Old Landmarks are being attacked today by professing “Baptists” just as they have been in the past by the Catholics and Protestants.