A brief yet detailed history of the Church from Christ's time until today.
*Please be aware that although the history of the Church is filled with Martyrs at the hand of Religious as well as Secular groups we hold no blame to their descendants.*
Now the history I am going to give you is the history of the oldest Christian denomination. It is not a very well known one. It is not a large one. It is not a prosperous one. It is not a worldly one. It is one that has been known by many names. It is the same group of people that were the target of the Spanish inquisition and other types of persecution. Many of this group of believers have been called dogs, heretics and blasphemers. The first thing I have to do is tell you what we are known by now. We are known by the name, "Primitive Baptist". You may say, as many do, "so you are backwards" You are old. Well if you look at the original definition of the word Primitive it means ORIGINAL. When you say Primitive Baptist you are saying the Original Baptist. Now original is referring to the original practices and beliefs. Some of these practices are gospel baptism and foot washing. (I will explain those practices in later articles).
As for the names, we have been known there are many. Here is a list of some of them.
Novatians, Donatists, Montanists, Cathari, Paulicians, Waldenses, Paterines, Baptist, Ana Baptist, Pedo Baptist and now Primitive Baptist.
The first time you see the early Church is in Asia. I know that there are several different ideas of what faiths came out of these Churches of Asia, but in this article I believe I will be able to show the connection between seven Churches and the Primitive Baptist. (Please realize, I have often said, I am not saying that if you believe different you are wrong and I don't want to offend or ostracize anyone.) While no one is 100% right, some ARE 100% wrong! ~Editor
The first time you hear the name Baptist in the gospel according to Matthew is John the Baptist. "IN THOSE DAYS CAME JOHN THE BAPTIST, PREACHING IN THE WILDERNESS OF JUDEA. Matthew 3:1. Some people have told me that Baptist was John's last name. Not so. No one calls me Dennis the Sieloff. I am Dennis Sieloff the Primitive Baptist. We know that Christ was baptized by John. "AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THOSE DAYS, THAT JESUS CAME FROM GALILEE, AND WAS BAPTIZED OF JOHN IN JORDAN." Mark 1:9.
Christ authorized the apostles to establish Churches. They established Churches in Asia. Some of these were at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.
In the first century A.D. there were Churches in Asia Minor, Southern Europe, England, Wales and North Africa.
By the second century, there are some departures from the faith. Polycarp was the pastor of the Church in Smyrna until he was burned in about 166 A.D.
In the third century, we were called by the names Paterines, Novatians, and Montanists. By now there are wholesale departures and the above names are given to us by those departing. In 251 A.D. the Baptist Churches declared no fellowship with these other Churches and refused to accept baptisms of infants or for Salvation.
In the fourth century, the Baptists are still in the same countries as the in the third century. The Baptists are called Donatists. Some time in this century Pastors of large non Donatists Churches assume authority over smaller non Donatists Churches. Thus the Roman Hierarchy was established. At this time Constantine the Greta became emperor of Rome. Emperor Constantine declared Catholicism the official state religion. The emperor was made head of these Churches and in 370 A.D. we have the first recorded infant baptism. Constantine headed the Church for a time and then was headed by Peter, who, incidentally was not saint Peter. Leo II then claimed the authority as the successor to Peter.
In the fifth century, there was great genocide started. Beginning In 426 A.D. approximately 50 million Christians died Martyrs deaths. Almost all of these were Baptists. But, they were all non-Catholic. The new name for us was Cathari.
In the sixth century, the Catholics were now calling us Ana Baptist for the first time.
By the seventh century, the Church spread to Armenia. The Catholic Church calls these brethren Paulicians. At this time persecution continues.
In the eighth century, the names Ana Baptist and Donatists was the most widely used name for us. The Catholic Church, in the early part of this century, instituted pouring as a legal form of baptism. This was under the Pope Stephen II.
In the ninth century, there were Ana Baptist in Bulgaria. At this time the Greek Catholics, (Greek Orthodox) and Roman Catholics became separate bodies.
Now in the tenth and eleventh centuries, Baptist in Wales, Italy and France were being called Paulicians and Paterines and Ana Baptist in other countries.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Baptist were called Paterines, Henricians, Arnoldists, Petrobrussians, Ana Baptist, Waldenses, Vaudois, Albigenses and Lollards. You may, notice that some of these names appear to be names of men, and that is true. Sometimes the names the Baptists groups were given the names of their leaders. These names were given them by others put side the Church not themselves.
In 1478 the Spanish inquisition started. It lasted until 1834. For those of you who are not familiar with what the Spanish inquisition was all about, it was simply to purify. The Spanish wanted to rid themselves of Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Baptists, and anyone who didn't follow the Roman Catholic Church. The inquisition was for political as well as for religious reasons. In 1483, under the inquisitor General Tomas de Torquemada, there were approximately 2,000 Spaniards killed under the inquisition in 15 years. Under the inquisitional law the accused would be taken top court and given the chance to admit the heresy they committed against the Catholic Church, and turn in other people that were not in line with Church. If they did this they would be either be set free or sentenced a short jail term. If they did not do this they were publicly presented and put to death, which could include, and usually did, burring at the stake, or life in prison.
By the end of the fourteenth century, the Baptist had Churches in Germany, Poland, France, Italy, Wales, Bulgaria, Armenia and North Africa.
In the fifteenth century, there were Churches in England and the Valleys of Piedmont. On November 10th, 1433, Martin Luther was born. It is important to note that he has no connection with the Baptist. In this century thousands of women and children of the Waldenses were put to death by persecution because of their religious beliefs.
In 1522 the Lutheran Church came out of Rome as a distinct body. In 1527, King Ferdinand, of Germany, put forth an edict that death was the penalty for Ana Baptism. In 1528 a barefoot monk named Leonard Schooner, growing disgusted with the hypocrisy and the wantonness of the monastic orders, became an Ana Baptist. He preached in Bavaria. He was beheaded and his body was then burned in Rottenburg. In 1529, Emperor Charles the V, caused Ana Baptists to be hunted down and killed. In Alzey there was a wholesale slaughter of Ana Baptists. The Episcopal Church came out of the Roman Church in 1534.
In the 1600's John Smyth and a clergyman, Thomas Helwys, an English speaking separatist led a small group of believers from England to Amsterdam, Holland to escape persecution. Smyth and Helwys separated. Eventually Helwys brought the Baptists beliefs back to England. From England, of course, Baptist In America receive their heritage.
Smyth became convinced of baptism by immersion for All true believers and led his entire congregation to be baptized. At this time in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have hundreds of cases recorded of state and church sanctioned killings of Ana Baptists. They were being called Waldenses, Baptists and Ana Baptist.
The first Baptist Church in America was organized in New Port, Rode Island in 1638 by Dr. John Clark and eleven others.
Roger Williams was expelled from the state of Massachusetts because of his view of separation of Church and state. He founded the state of Rhode Island. Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, was founded as the first Baptist institution of higher learning in America.
In 1651 Dr. John Clark, Pastor of the Newport Church, Obadiah Holmes, a brother in the ministry, and Mr. Crandal went to Massachusetts to hold a meeting there, even though they were expelled from the state years before. However, there was a brother there, William Witter, a member of the new Port Church who could not longer enjoy fellowship because he was aged and had physical infirmities. They assembled together with Brother Witter and some other brethren in the same nationhood and began their fellowship. Just as Dr, Clark began his discourse the constables found them and ordered them to disperse. Dr. Clark, Obadiah Holmes and Me. Crandal were taken into custody. You see the Puritans, who ran Massachusetts back then, had laws about what you could preach and it wasn't Baptist doctrine. So Dr, Clark was fined 20 pounds, Mr. Crandal 5 pounds and Obadiah Holmes was fined 30 pounds. Mr. Crandal was released on promise to appear the next court day. Dr. Clark's fine was paid by some of his friends. Obadiah's fine was the largest. They sentenced him in July and he was kept in prison until September. He was publicly whipped. As they began to whip him he said to the people, Though my flesh should fail and my spirit should fail, yet my God mould not fail. SO it pleased the Lord to come in, and to fill my heart and tongue as a vessel full.
Baptists in New England continue to meet in secret as they were able. They were constantly harassed by the courts because they preached against infant Baptism.
In the mid-1700's the New School Baptist movement began in England. In 1758 the Methodist Church became a distinct body that came out of the Episcopal Church.
Persecution in the New England states forced the Baptist to migrate to the southern colonies. Virginia and the Carolinas became important centers for Baptist. However, in the early years, even in these more tolerant areas, Baptist were heavily persecuted and jailed for preaching Bible based sermons in place of the Church of England and Roman Catholic traditions. Famed patriot Patrick Henry voluntarily represented three Baptist pastors hauled into a Virginia court for disturbing the peace. The indictment read, "for preaching the Gospel of the Son of God." Also it is interesting that sometime in this era George Washington, although a member of a different order, was baptized into the Baptist Church.
In the nineteenth century, the Baptists began to split. The New School movement spread to America. The Old School Baptist, (Primitive Baptist or Ana Baptists), withdrew themselves. Campbellites became a distinct sect in 1827.
Into the twentieth century, the Baptists have split into what some people have called, The Heinz 57 varieties. This includes large denominations like First Baptist, Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist and Free Will Baptist. Then you can also add the smaller ones, Immersion Baptist, Reform Baptist, Primitive Baptist the list goes on and on. There are somewhere around 20 or so Denominations that came from the Baptist, and they came out of the Churches of Asia. Of course, there are those who will argue the point and I will not try to change their minds. There is much written about the Church history. A lot of very fine articles and essays on the history have been written by many fine theologians and ministers of the gospel. I have just scratched the surface of a large extensive and complicated history. In your studies you may find that in the bible the history of the Church abruptly stops. That is because the bible stops there. You must, therefore rely on a lot of secular and other religious records. This is due largely because of the persecution the Baptist were under. They left little written history. I hope that this article has been of some useful purpose has been a service to the Lord and his people. No matter, whether you are from the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant or the Baptist we share one thing with each other. The Love of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Please Note: Original article by Brother Dennis Sieloff (References were taken from the web sites: Tracing the Apostolic Church, Christian Friends, Trail of Blood, Ana Baptist Martyrs, Brief Baptist History, The Spanish Inquisition by North Park University.)