BAPTISTS have a history of which they need not be ashamed-a history of noble names and noble deeds, extending back through many ages, in which the present generation well may glory. From the days of John the Baptist until now, a great army of these witnesses for the truth, and martyrs for its sake, has illumined and honored the march of Christian history. The ages since Christ have known no purer, nobler lives, no braver, more faithful witnesses for the Gospel of Christ, no more glorious martyrs for its sake, than many of those who honor us by being called "our fathers in the faith." They were true to conscience and to principle and loyal to Christ, at a cost to which we are strangers. They went gladly to prison and to death in defense of the Gospel which they loved. Social ostracism, bonds and imprisonments, confiscations and fines, whippings, drownings, and burnings at the stake, not only in solitary cases, but by hundreds and thousands, are certified to, even by their enemies. Christian martyrology has no bloodier and no brighter page than that which tells, however imperfectly, of the persecutions and sufferings for conscience' sake of Baptist confessors, received during past ages, not from pagan barbarians so much as from professed fellow-Christians. It is an equal honor to their record that, while they endured persecution for the truth's sake, they never persecuted others for conscience' sake - never! How could they, when one of their cardinal principles was, and is, entire freedom of conscience and liberty of faith and worship, without interference by any? And the one priceless heritage they have given to the world, with which the world's religious life of today - and its secular life as well-has become imbued, is that of entire religious liberty of faith, speech and worship, and entire separation of church and state.
The time was when toleration in religion was hailed as a peculiar boon, granted through a gracious Providence. Baptists have contended and suffered, not for toleration, but for liberty in religion.
The world is slow to acknowledge its indebtedness to them; nevertheless, it remains. With a great price they purchased it. But they did it, not for glory, nor for gain, but for God and humanity.
No Baptist history of adequate value has thus far been written. Not a few attempts have been made, and much valuable material has been collected and preserved. We do not, however, place so much value on written history, as on present con-formity to the teachings of Christ, a maintenance of the doctrines, and an imitation of the lives of the apostles and the first Christians. It matters little whether a church can trace its lineage back one century or twenty. The great question is, does it inherit the spirit of Him who founded the church, and does it hold the doctrines and imitate the examples of Christ and His apostles? Still, whatever of history can be brought within the range of vision to be studied should be claimed and cherished.
If it be asked, When and where did Baptist history begin? Who were the first of their honored line? Without hesitation we reply, They commenced with John the Baptist, or Jesus Christ, the Head of the church. And the first of their faith were His disciples, constituting the primitive churches. And though in the dim, uncertain light of subsequent ages of error and corruption, we cannot at all times follow their trail, or identify their presence with absolute certainty, yet we feel positively assured that they have always existed. Like a stream which pursues its way from the mountains to the sea, and never ceases, though its course at times be through mountain gorges, trackless deserts, and hidden caverns, we know it is somewhere, though we cannot trace it, but we recognize it when again it comes to light, with a grander sweep, a deeper current, and a stronger tide.
Baptists make no pretence of establishing, by documentary evidence, an unbroken succession of churches in form and name, as now existing, extending back to apostolic times. Such a claim would only make them ridiculous, as similar High-Church pretensions have made some other communions. Such a claim would be as impossible to prove as it would be useless if proven. The old is not always true or useful, nor the new false or useless necessarily. Falsehood and error are hoary with age, from Eden until now. Nevertheless, there is a survival of truth often hidden under the accumulated rubbish of human tradition, itself ages old; and he is wise who searches for truth as for hid treasures. Bap-tists trace their lineage, not through corporate designations, or forms of organic life, but by principles avowed, maintained and defended. The doctrines they professed, and the lives they lived, give us title to the inheritance we claim in their history.
It is on all hands conceded that from the days of the apostles to the Reformation there existed con-gregations and communities of Christians separate from the prevailing and dominant churches, claim-ing to be of a more primitive and therefore of a purer, faith. As these dominant churches fell into alliance with the state, sought its patronage, became subservient to its spirit, proud, corrupt and carnal, departing from the simplicity and spirituality of the Gospel, these separate communities maintained their distinct existence, worshiped by themselves, and served God according to their understanding of the Scriptures and the dictates of their consciences. They maintained the doctrines of the Gospel nearly in their purity, as they were at first delivered to the saints, and were the true and faithful followers of Christ in the midst of prevailing spiritual darkness and decay. Even in the apostolic age not a few errors from prevailing philosophies had crept into the profession of the Christian faith, but after that faith had been adopted by princes and became na-tionalized, its corruptions became more numerous and its perversions more glaring. All the more did these dissenting communities need to maintain their distinctive existence, not only for conscience' sake, but as a protest against the outrages perpetrated on the cause of Christ by others.
During all the dark ages since the kingdom of Christ appeared, these companies and communities have confessedly existed. They have been known by many names, and have differed somewhat among themselves in different ages and in different countries. By the prevailing and dominant secularized churches they were stigmatized as heretics, and were defamed and persecuted perpetually, not by pagans and barbarians, but by their professed fellow-Christians. Those are usually the heretics who differ from the majority, and have conscience and courage enough to defend their position, and, if need be, suffer for their faith. Thousands on thousands of those dissenting disciples were put to death by the most painful tortures for no other crime than a purer faith than their persecutors possessed, and because they would hold, profess and defend that purer faith. Those who were permitted to live were doomed to endure unequaled cruelties. Emperors, kings and princes, popes, priests and people, senates, synods and councils, pursued them with every device of cruelty which malice could invent or power execute, to waste, blot out and exterminate them from the face of the earth. Language is too weak to portray the diabolical and fiendish cruelties perpetrated upon the innocent, helpless and, for the most part, unresisting people of God by those who were able to invoke the secular power to execute their fell designs.
They were the few among the many, the weak oppressed by the strong; with none to plead their cause, or to defend their rights, they could do nothing but suffer. Though calumniated by their enemies, who accused them of every crime, and charged them with every enormity, they were the purest and the best of the ages and the countries in which they lived. The doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel they maintained nearly, if not quite, in their primitive purity. The greater part had never been connected with the Roman hierarchy, while many who had, separated themselves from the false, that they might enjoy the true church of Christ.
Like some rivulet which pursues its way parallel to, but never mingling with, the broad and turbid stream, these people have come down from the first ages of Christianity, preserving and transmitting to posterity the purest forms of doctrinal faith and practical godliness known to history during those long succeeding ages of darkness and corruption. The reproaches and persecutions they suffered were because they bore witness against prevailing errors and crimes, perpetrated in the name of religion by the papal church. No doubt they had some faults, and; perhaps, held some errors. How could it well be otherwise, surrounded, as they were, by an atmosphere of ecclesiastical falsehood and corruption.
During the first and second centuries, Messalians, Euchites, Montanists, were the names by which some of these sects were known.
In the third, fourth and fifth centuries, the Novatians arose and became exceedingly numerous, spreading throughout the Roman Empire, notwith-standing the destruction wrought among them by persecution.
In the seventh and eighth centuries arose the Paulicians, attracting much attention, becoming very numerous, and drawing upon themselves the hatred and hostility of the papal Church.*
* See Benedict's, Orchard's, Robinson's, Jones's, et al., Histories, with all current Eccl. Hists. of the early ages of Christianity.
JONES states that in the first part of the ninth cen-tury, Claude, bishop of Turin, a truly godly and evangelical man, who preached righteousness, and opposed prevailing corruptions, both as to doctrines and morals:
"By his preaching, and by his valuable writings, he disseminated the doctrines of the kingdom of heaven." "His doctrine grew exceedingly. The valleys of Piedmont were filled with his disciples, and while midnight darkness sat enthroned over almost every portion of the globe, the Waldenses preserved the Gospel among them in its native purity, and rejoiced in its glorious light." -Jones's Ch. Hist., Vol. 1., p. 396; Rob. Eccl. Research., p. 447; Allix. Rem., p. ,52.
If not technically Baptists, the principal points in which they differed from the dominant churches, and for which they were persecuted, were those which Baptists have always emphasized, and in respect to which they still chiefly differ from other Christian communions. They held that none but regenerate persons ought to be received to membership in the churches; they rejected infant baptism; they baptized by immersion, as did all Christians during those ages; they rebaptized converts received among them from the Romish Church, and hence were called Anabaptists. These are distinguishing marks of them all, more or less clearly defined, as noted by their enemies, from whom we receive the greater part of our knowledge concerning them, their own writings having largely perished in the sore and bloody persecutions to which they were subjected. Robinson, the historian, called them Trinitarian Baptists."
The Paulicians became exceedingly numerous, and were so cruelly persecuted that the Empress Theodora is said to have caused not less than one hundred thousand of these peaceable subjects to be put to death, after having confiscated their property.* They confined the ordinances to the regenerate, rejected infant baptism, and rebaptized converts received to their fellowship. They were also called Bogomilians, a name which became famous in the annals of persecution. These communities continued through several succeeding centuries, and spread through both the East and the West.
*See Orchard, Milner, Gibbon. et al.
Near the close of the tenth century, the Peterines come into notice. They were substantially the same people as had previously existed under other names. Indeed, these various sects were the progenitors and the inheritors of each other's religious faith and practice. It was the irrepressible energy of truth and the spirit of God, working in regenerate souls to develop and reproduce the true Christian life, in the simplicity of Christ, according to the primitive type. Not only the individual, but the church life of the saints. Europe was well nigh flooded with these dissentients. The truly devout welcomed them, since they yearned for something better than the prevailing heartless and secularized religion. And the prevailing and shameless corruptions of the Romish clergy gave those of purer lives great currency with the masses. For there were no vices, however gross and degrading, which the clergy, from the highest to the lowest, from pope to priest, did not practise with greediness and impunity. They were examples to the people in all kinds of sin and iniquity.
In the eleventh and following centuries, the Waldenses, Albigenses, Vaudois, Cathari, poor men of Lyons, and Anabaptists, attracted renewed at-tention through Europe, and for generations continued to increase and to suffer. They differed slightly among themselves, but were variously named according to their locations, or the circumstances in which they attracted the notice of the public. Their prevailing characteristics were the same as have been noticed above. They filled Italy, even the very seat and center of papal power, corruption and crime, with their influence and the truths they held.
In the twelfth century, so great became their influence, especially under the leadership of Arnold of Brescia, a pupil of the renowned Abelard, that the papal throne itself trembled to its foundation. Arnold was as brave a reformer as was Luther four hundred years later, and perhaps as learned. But the times were not ripe for such a work as the German reformer was raised up to lead. Arnold, however, dared to visit Rome itself, and by his attacks on the vices and the unjust authority of the clergy raised a revolt in the very face of the Vatican, which finally compelled the pope to flee, and changed the government for a season. But he had no powerful nobles to espouse his cause, as had Luther, and the people were unorganized and unreliable; while the influence of the clergy, with all their vices, was still most potent. Wise and powerful leaders were needed for a reformation. The people could endure better than contend. This lesson they had learned through generations of suffering. But the time had not come for truth to triumph. A reaction set in, and Arnold, like Savonarola three hundred years later, whose early history was also associated with Brescia, fell a victim to the hatred of his foes, and his immediate followers were scattered.* But their principles survived, as did countless numbers of the various communities of dissentients from the domi-nant communions.
* See Gibbon's Decl. and Fall, Mosheim, Allix, Jones, et al.
WADDINGTON, the historian, gives the following statement, made by Saccho, one of their adversaries and persecutors, as to the Vaudois, or Leonists, of the twelfth century:
"There is no sect so dangerous as the Leonists, for three reasons: First, it is the most ancient - some say as old as Sylvester, others as the Apostles themselves. Secondly, it is very generally disseminated; there is no country where it has not gained some footing. Thirdly, while other sects are profane and blasphemous, this retains the utmost show of piety. They live justly before men, and believe nothing respecting God which is not good. Only they blaspheme against the Roman Church and the clergy, and thus gain many followers."- Waddington, Ch. Hist., p. 290. See Mosheim, 12th Cent.
ORCHARD says of the Piedmontese:
"Though we have no documents proving the apostolical foundation for these churches, yet it becomes evident that some communities did exist here in the second century, since it is recorded they practiced believers' baptism by immersion." -Hist. Bap., p. 255. See also Rollinson, Allix, et al., Hist. Pied.; Wall's Hist. Inf. .Bap.
From the time of the Apostles to the Reformation these various sectaries may be said to have consti-tuted the true Church of God. Their faith was the most scriptural, and their lives were the purest the world had. Of course they were not perfect. How could they be with such environments? And if at times they did not wholly agree among themselves, what marvel in an age of doubt, corruption and unrest, when the truest were the most reviled, and the purest were the most persecuted? In the sixteenth century they came into public notice, largely under the leadership of Menno Simons, whom the historian calls, "a reformer whose apostolic spirit and labors have thus far failed to receive the recognition they deserve." From him they were called Mennonites, and flooded Europe with tens of thousands. "Men-nonites, the Anabaptists of the Netherlands first called themselves in 1536." "They were certainly among the most pious Christians the world ever saw, and the worthiest citizens the State ever had." They crowded into Russia for shelter, where in our times they have been persecuted and exiled. At length they have fled to our own country for peace and freedom which they found nowhere else for the past four hundred years.
At the time of the Lutheran Reformation these various sects to a large extent fraternized with, and were lost in, the multitudes of the reformers. So glad were they to find something, if not wholly to their wish, yet so much better than had previously existed in the papal churches, and to find leaders of power, as also to find some shelter from civil and ecclesiastical persecution, that they welcomed the Reformation, even with its imperfections, as a boon from heaven. The Waldenses of Piedmont, and some others, abandoned dipping for baptism, adopted infant sprinkling, in common with State churches, and the Calvinistic reformers generally identified themselves with, and were largely lost in, the mass of Protestant Pedobaptists. Not so however with the Baptists, or Anabaptists, as by their opponents they were more generally called. They maintained their faith and their position, not only against their papal adversaries, but against their Protestant friends as well, whose reformation they insisted needed still further reforming.
These various protesting peoples through the generations had at times been joined by enthusiasts and fanatics, or such had sprung up within their fellowship, like the "mad men of Münster," whose extravagances brought upon the entire brotherhood reproaches they did not merit - their adversaries being ever ready to find occasion against them, and to magnify every fault and indiscretion to the largest possible extent. But they were, on the whole, so much superior in faith and life to the dominant churches as to command the wonder and admiration of those, who in a spirit of fairness, now study the imperfect fragments of their history. They all more or less strongly pronounced the following statements of their religious beliefs: 1. The Bible as the only and sufficient standard of faith and ap-peal in matters of religion. 2. Entire liberty of conscience, confession and worship for all. 3. Com-plete separation of church and state, the church acknowledging but one Lord, even Christ. 4. The churches to be constituted of spiritual members only, such as were regenerate by the Holy Spirit. 5. Baptism to be administered by immersion. 6. Infant baptism to be rejected, as alien to the New Testament. 7. The churches to be self-governing, and free from the domination of both lords spiritual and lords temporal.
Such facts identify them with Baptists of later ages, what no other denomination can claim.
The secluded valleys and mountain fastnesses of Switzerland and Piedmont have from the earliest ages been the home and refuge of the persecuted people of God. Not only those native to the soil but such as had fled from other countries to find shelter and freedom in those Alpine retreats. Pauli-cians, Albigenses, Vaudois, Pickards, Anabaptists, with many others, are names bound up in history with these wild mountain resorts. "The Vaudois and Waldenses," says a historian, "have from time immemorial inhabited the vales at the foot of the Cottian Alps."
ZWINGLI, the Swiss reformer and co-laborer with Luther, says:
"The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for thirteen hundred years has caused great disturbance in the Church." *
* See Intro. Orchard, p. 17; also Benedict et al, Ch. Hists.
If it had existed thirteen hundred years before Zwingli, it must have extended back to within two centuries of Christ, to say the least. And it is confidently affirmed that it can be traced as far back as to the fourth century. They too, in common with their brethren of similar faith, suffered persecution unto death, against which the strongholds of nature, in the midst of which they dwelt, could not wholly protect them.* The horrid massacre of these in-nocent people by the Duke of Savoy, about the middle of the seventeenth century, equaled the dreadful scenes of St. Bartholomew's day, and was protested against by Cromwell, then in power.
*See Robinson, Allix, Danvers; especially Burrage and Schaff
Few denominations have better claim to antiquity than have the Welsh Baptists. They trace their descent directly from the Apostles, and urge in favor of their claim arguments which never have been confuted.
When Austin, the Romish monk and missionary, visited Wales at the close of the sixth century, he found a community of more than 2,000 Christians quietly living in their mountain homes. They were independent of the Roman See, and wholly rejected its authority. Austin labored zealously to convert them - that is, to bring them under the papal yoke - but entirely failed in the effort. Yielding things in general, he reduced his demands upon them to three particulars: 1. That they should observe Easter in due form, as ordered by the Church. 2. That they should give Christening or baptism to their children. 3. That they should preach the Word of God to the English, as directed. This demand proves that they neither observed the popish ordinance of Easter, nor baptized infants. They, however, rejected all his overtures, whereupon he left them with many threats of war and wretchedness. Not long after Wales was invaded by the Saxons, and many of these inoffensive Christians cruelly put to death, as was believed, at the instigation of this bigoted zealot, the exacting and heartless Austin.*
*See Neal's Hist. Puritans; Rob. Hist. Bap.; Benedict.
The Baptists of Holland are acknowledged by historians to have had their origin at a very remote period.
MOSHEIM, the historian, says:
"The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, is hid in the remote depth of antiquity, and consequently extremely difficult to be ascertained. "-Eccl. Hist., Vol. IV., p. 427, Murd. ed.; Introd. Orchard's Hist.
DR. DERMONT, chaplain to the king of Holland, and Dr. Ypeij, professor of theology at Graningen, a few years since received a royal commission to prepare a history of the Reformed Dutch Church. This history, prepared under royal sanction, and officially published, contains the following manly and generous testimony to the antiquity and ortho-doxy of the Dutch Baptists:
"We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and have long in the history of the Church received the honor of that origin. On this account, the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the Apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages. "-Hist. Ref. Dutch Ch., Breda, 1819. See Hist. Mennonites.
MOSHEIM says of the persecutions of this people in the sixteenth century:
"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 they had embraced." And their innocency he vindicates thus: "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, who were condemned by the old canon laws. For the error of adult baptism was in that age looked upon as a horrible offense." That was their only crime.-Eccl. Hist., Cent. 16, sec. 3, part II., ch. 3; Fuller's Ch. Hist., B. IV.
This testimony is all the more welcome, because it comes from those who have no ecclesiastical sympathies with Baptists, but who, in fidelity to history, bear honest testimony to the truth which history teaches. The circumstances under which their evidence was produced give it additional force.
CARDINAL Hossius, chairman of the Council at Trent says:
"If the truth of religion were to be judged of by the readiness and cheerfulness which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinions and persuasions of no sect can be truer or surer than those of the Anabaptists; since there have been none, for these twelve hundred years past, that have been more grievously punished." -Orchard's Hist. Bap., sec. 12, part XXX., p. 364.
Many thousands of the Dutch Baptists, called Anabaptists and Mennonites, miserably perished by the hands of their cruel persecutors for no crime but their refusal to conform to established churches."*
* Benedict's Hist. Baptists, ch. 4; Neal's Hist. Puritans, Vol. II., p. 355, Supplement; Fuller's Ch. Hist., B. IV.
At what time the Baptists appeared in England in definite denominational form, it is impossible to say. But from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, many of them suffered cruel persecutions and death by burning, drowning, and beheading, besides many other and sometimes most inhuman tortures. And this they suffered both from Papists and Protestants, condemned by both civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, only because they persisted in worshiping God according to the dictates of their consciences, and because they would not submit their religious faith and worship to the dictates of popes and princes.* In 1538 royal edicts were issued against them, and several were burnt at the stake in Smithfield.
*See Histories of Baptists, by Crosby, Ivimey, Danvers, and Benedict.
BRANDE writes that:
"In the year 1538, thirty-one Baptists that fled from England, were put to death at Delft, in Holland; the men were beheaded, and the women were drowned."-Hist. Reformers. See Benedict's Hist. Bap. p. 303; Neal's Hist. Puritans, Vol. I., p. 138; Note Vol. II., p. 355, Sup. What crime had they committed to merit such treatment as this?
BISHOP LATIMER declares that:
"The Baptists that were burnt in different parts of the kingdom went to death intrepidly, and without any fear, during the time of Henry VIII. "-Lent. Sermons; Neal's Hist. Purit., Vol. II., p. 356.
Under the rule of the popish Mary, they suffered perhaps no more than under that of the Protestant Elizabeth. During the reign of the latter a congre-gation of Baptists was discovered in London, where - upon several were banished, twenty-seven imprisoned, and two burnt at Smithfield.
DR. FEATLEY, one of their bitter enemies, wrote of them, in 1633:
"This sect, among others, hath so far presumed upon the patience of the State, that it hath held weekly conventicles, rebaptizing hundreds of men and women together in the twilight, in rivulets, and in some arms of the Thames, and elsewhere, dipping them all over head and ears. It hath printed divers pamphlets in defense of their heresy; yea, and challenged some of our preachers to disputation."-Eng. Bap. Jubilee Memor., Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 304.
BAILEY wrote, in 1639, that:
"Under the shadow of independency they have lifted up their heads, and increased their numbers above all sects in the land. They have forty-six churches in and about London. They are a people very fond of religious liberty, and very unwilling to be brought under bondage of the judgment of others."-Benedict's Hist., p. 304.
The first book published in the English language on the subject of baptism was translated from the Dutch, and bears date 1618. From this time they multiplied rapidly through all parts of the kingdom. The first regularly organized church among them, known as such in England, dates from 1607, and was formed in London by a Mr. Smyth, previously a clergyman of the established church.
In 1689 the Particular Baptists, so called, held a convention in London, in which more than one hundred congregations were represented, and which issued a Confession of Faith, still in use and highly esteemed.
The last Baptist martyr in England was Edward Wightman, of Burton upon Trent, condemned by the Bishop of Coventry, and burnt at Litchfield, April 11, 1612.*
*Eng. Bap. Jubilee Memor., Benedict's Hist. Bap.
The history of American Baptists runs back a little more than two and a quarter centuries. In this country, as elsewhere, they were cradled amid persecution, and nurtured by the hatred of their foes. This has been their fortune in every age and in every land.
ROGER WILLIAMS, a distinguished and an honored name, was identified with the rise of the de-nomination in America. He has been called their founder, because he organized the first church, and was intimately connected with their early history. Williams was born in Wales, 1598, educated at Oxford, England, came to America in 1630, and settled as minister of the Puritan Church in Salem, Massachusetts. Not long after he adopted Baptist views of doctrine and Church order, on account of which he was banished by his fellow Puritans, and driven out of Massachusetts, in the depth of a rigorous winter, in a new and inhospitable country. Having wandered far and suffered much, finding the savage Indians more generous and hospitable than his fellow Christians, he finally reached and fixed his future home at what is now Providence, R. I. Here, with a few associates of like faith, he founded a new colony, calling both the city and the colony Providence, in recognition of the divine guidance and protection, which he had in so remarkable a manner experienced.
In 1639 Mr. Williams received baptism from one of his associates, there being no minister to perform that service. He in turn baptized his associates, and a church was organized, of which he was chosen pastor. He was also appointed first governor of Rhode Island. Full liberty was granted in matters of religion. Thus Roger Williams became the first ruler, and Rhode Island the first State which ever gave entire freedom to all persons to worship God, according to their own choice, without dictation or interference from civil or ecclesiastical authorities.
On account of this unrestricted liberty many Baptists, as well as other persecuted religionists from other colonies, and from Europe, collected in considerable numbers at Providence, and spread through the colony.
It is a mistake to suppose that all the Baptist churches in America grew out of the one which Roger Williams founded. It is even doubtful whether any single church arose as an outgrowth of that. As immigration increased, other churches grew up, having no connection with that; and with considerable rapidity the sentiments of Baptists spread into adjoining colonies, particularly west and south. For a long time, however, they were sorely persecuted, especially in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Persecuted even by those who had themselves fled from persecution in their native land, to find freedom and refuge in these distant wilds.
In 1644 the present First Church in Newport, R. I., was organized. But whether the present First Church in Providence was constituted before this date is still a disputed point. Both claim prior-ity. In 1656 the Second Church, Newport, was formed. Then followed, in order of time, the Church in Swansea, Massachusetts, 1663; First, Boston, 1665; North Kingstone, R. I., 1665; Seventh-Day Church, Newport, 1671; South Kingstone, R. I., 1680; Kittery, Me., 1682; Middletown, N. J., 1688; Lower Dublin, Pa., 1689; Charleston, S. C., 1690; Philadelphia, Pa., 1698; Welsh Tract, Del., 1701 Groton, Conn., 1705. Others, not mentioned, arose within this period in these and other colonies. With the increase of population Baptists rapidly multiplied, and spread widely abroad over the country.
For the first hundred years of Baptist history in America their growth was slow. The population was small and scattered. They were still dissentients from the majority of their fellow Christians, by whom they were defamed, opposed, and persecuted. Though, in this country, none were burned, hanged, or drowned, because of their faith, yet in New England they were banished, fined, imprisoned, and publicly whipped at the stake, because they insisted on religious liberty, and would not submit to the magistrates in matters of faith and conscience. In the then condition of the country they lacked in organization, intercourse, and mutual help. The first Baptist church known to American history was organized by Roger Williams in Providence, R. I., in 1639.
Edwards' Tables gives the number of churches in 1768, more than a hundred years afterward, as one hundred and thirty-seven.
Asplund's Register reported for 1790, 872 churches, 722 ordained ministers, and 64,975 church members.
Benedict's History states that in 1812 there were 2,633 churches, 2,143 ordained ministers, and 204,185 members.
Allens' Register, for 1836, enrolls 7,299 churches, 4,075 ministers, and 517,523 Church members.
The Baptist Almanack, for 1840, gives the following figures: 7,771 churches, 5,208 ministers, and 571,291 members.
The Baptist Year Book, for 1860, reports the following numbers, 12,279 churches, 7,773 ministers, and 1,016,134 members.
It must be borne in mind, however, that the figures given are always less than the facts would warrant, since complete returns can never be obtained from churches and associations.
From the various sources of information accessible, the following table of statistics is compiled, and is doubtless approximately correct; though, as to the earlier dates the figures differ somewhat, according to the sources from which they are derived.
The Baptist family of the United States is sometimes spoken of as included in three sectional divisions: First, Baptists of the North, of whom there are, according to reports of 1927, 1,385,709; Second, White Baptists in the South and Southwest, numbering (1927) 3,708,253; Third, Negro Baptists of whom there are 3,253,369. It may be noted that the Northern Baptists reported, in 1927, something more than $6,323,985 expended the previous year in Home and Foreign Missions. The Southern white Baptists reported, in 1927, total receipts for Home and Foreign Missions of $8,228,281. The Negro Baptists have their mission and educational enterprises under their own management, for which they raise and expend amounts very creditable to them, considering their circumstances.
The following table of historical data, believed to be correct, presents facts which may prove of substantial value for reference. The first Baptist Church in each State was organized at the date here given.*
*This table was compiled after laborious care in ascertaining the facts, and published by Rev. David Spencer, D. D.
During the decade from 1874 to 1884 there was re-ported the following increase: churches, 7,086; minis-ters, 3,313; members, 1,806,542. Full returns in many cases, not obtainable.
Some years have been marked by peculiar revival power in the churches, when the numbers baptized were very large. In 1886 there were reported 163,300 baptisms; in 1887, 158,373; in 1888, 134,563; in 1889, 140,058; in 1890, 155,300; in 1891, 160,247; in 1892, 166,322; in 1927, 325,386. Of course, it is possible that some of these persons baptized may not have been truly regenerate. There is always a liability to hasty admission to church fellowship, especially in times of high revival fervor. But they all profess to be genuine converts, and the rule universally recognized for admission is, that none except such as give evidence of the new birth can be received to baptism and church-membership.
Of the 325,386 reported as baptized during the church year of 1927, there were 65,486 among the Northern Baptists, 195,858 among the Southern white Baptists, and 64,042 among the Negro Baptists.
There are in the United States various other smaller sections of the great Baptist family practising immersion, but differing in many other respects from our own churches. It is a satisfaction to know that no longer is there any division between the Free-Will Baptists of the North and the other churches of the Northern Baptist Convention, the Free-Will churches having entered into unity of fellowship and work with the Baptists of the North. Concerning some of the smaller branches of the Baptist family the Year-Book of 1927 reports: Dunkards (Brethren), 156,768; United Brethren in Christ, 410,631; Adventists, 150,891; Church of God (Winebrenner), 29,011; Disciples of Christ, 1,754,512; Mennonites, 90,310.
American Baptists have 18 theological seminaries, with 224 teachers, and 2,688 pupils, with property valued at $8,441,600; endowments, $7,807,916; volumes in the libraries, 246,700. They have 70 universities and colleges, with 3,493 instructors, 111,555 pupils, $85,955,000 value in property; $108,849,218 in endowments; 2,454,900 volumes in the libraries.
They have 32 institutions (including theological seminaries) for the education of women and girls, with 673 teachers and 9,872 pupils, with property worth $15,082,600 and $4,360,456 in endowments, with 205,100 volumes in their libraries.
They have 195 coeducational institutions (including theological seminaries), with 4,196 teachers, 69,114 pupils, $95,472,800 value of property, $104,887,239 in endowments, and 2,591,100 volumes in their libraries.
There are some 60 schools (including theological seminaries) for Negroes, 3 schools among the Indians, and 11 among the people in Mexico. There are also schools for Chinese and other foreign-speaking peoples in the United States.
*The statistics given are quoted with reserve, because of difficulties encountered in obtaining full returns to requests for information.
The churches reported 29,137 Sunday schools for 1927, with an enrolment of 3,859,734; that is, there are about six-sevenths as many Sunday schools as churches, and the enrolment in the schools reaches nearly four-fifths of the number of church-members.
Within the last two decades vigorous efforts have been made to increase the contributions of the denomination to missionary objects. According to the latest and most reliable reports available, they are credited with giving for foreign missions in the fiscal year 1927, $3,636,325; for home missions, $4,503,270; for education, $1,089,870; for miscellaneous purposes, in the neighborhood of two million dollars, or more; for salaries of pastors and other home expenses of the churches, $61,490,538; an aggregate of over seventy-two million dollars. The value of church property as reported was $426,416,000. It seems difficult to reconcile these facts with a sense of duty to Christ and the world, that they should expend nearly sixty-two million dollars on the churches at home and less than four millions for the conversion of the heathen world; or, that they should lock up more than $426,000,000 in church properties when there is so much need of funds for disseminating the gospel. At the same time they have more than $240,000,000 in property and endowments of educational institutions, or a total of more than $666,000,000 in property and endowments of churches and schools. Highly creditable in one sense, but the active work of giving the gospel to the world should claim a larger share.
|In the Canadas, about||140,474|
|West India Islands||57,944|
|Europe, exclusive of Great Britain||1,220,295|
It may properly be added that in all parts of the world where Baptists exist they are steadily, and in many places rapidly, increasing, both as to numbers, culture, wealth, and influence. But their polity is most in harmony with free civil governments and liberal institutions. In Russia, in common with some other religionists, they still suffer oppression and persecution. No missions among the heathen have shown such large results, in proportion to the means employed, as theirs; a fact in which they duly recognize the most gracious favor of God, to whom be the praise.*
* For many other facts see American Baptist Year Book for 1928.