More than two months, that is in July, 1880, before Dr. Whitsitt
wrote his articles in The Independent Dr. Dexter had written for his paper, The
Congregationalist, an editorial on "Affused Baptists," in which he quoted
many authorities; and fully took the. position that was afterwards held in his book on
John Smyth, viz.: that Baptists practiced affusion in England in the early part of the
17th century. The book, "The True Story of John Smyth, the Se-Baptist," was
published in December, 1881.
But neither Dr. Dexter nor Dr. Whitsitt was the
"discoverer" of this theory. So far as I am able to judge that position belongs
to Robert Barclay, an English Quaker. His book, "Inner Life of the Religious
Societies of the Commonwealth," was published in 1876, and it contains almost all
that has so far been advanced on the subject.
The Anabaptist of England.
At the dawn of the Reformation there were those in England who
held Baptist views. This statement can be abundantly proved from many writers.
Some trace the Anabaptists to the Lollards. W. Carlos Martyn, an
eminent Pedobaptist historian, says: "The Anabaptists are an innocent and an
evangelical sect, had long been the most hunted and hated of reformers. Not a nation in
Europe but that had anathematized them. Their distinctive tenet was the denial of baptism
to infants. They were indeed often charged with holding various dangerous doctrines, but
their peculiar idea of baptism was of itself sufficient to bring upon them grievous
punishment. The Anabaptists were among the earliest dissenters. The disciples of their
creed were found among the Lollards as well as among the martyrs of the English
Reformation." (A History of the English Puritans, p. 166. New York, 1867).
I shall content myself with giving the words of a few writers.
Barclay, a very strong writer and not a Baptist, says:
"As we shall afterwards show, the rise of the 'Anabaptists' took place long prior to the
foundation of the Church of England, and there are also reasons for believing that on the
Continent of Europe, small hidden 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 the Roman Church."
(Barclay's Inner Life of Religious Societies, P. 12).
W. J. E. Bennett, of Frome, a ritualistic Episcopalian, says:
"The historian Lingard tells us there was a sect of fanatics who infested the north of Germany,
called Puritans; Usher calls them Waldenses; Spelman, Paulicians (the same as Waldenses).
They gained ground and spread over all England. They rejected all Romish ceremonies,
denied the authority of the Pope, and more particularly refused to baptize
infants. Thirty of them were put to death for their heretical doctrines near Oxford,
but the remainder still held on to their opinions in private until the time of Henry II.
(1558), and the historian, Collier, tells us that wherever the heresy prevailed, the
churches were either scandalously neglected or pulled down and infants left
unbaptized." (The Unity of the Church Broken, Vol. II., P. 15).
Robinson, who has long been a standard, says:
I have seen enough to convince me that the, present English Dissenters,
contending for the sufficiency of Scripture, and for primitive Christian liberty to judge
of its meaning, may be traced back in authentic manuscripts to the Nonconformists, to the
Puritans, to the Lollards, to the Vallenses, to the Albigenses, and, I suspect, through
the Paulicians and others to the Apostles." (Robinson's Claude, Vol. II., p. 53).
Evans, who is a very careful writer, says: "Dissidents from
the popular church in the early ages, compelled to leave it from the growing corruption of
its doctrines and morals, were found everywhere. Men of apostolic life and doctrine
contended for the simplicity of the church and the liberty of Christ's flock, in the midst
of great danger. What the pen failed to do, the sword of the magistrate effected. The
Novatians and Donatists, and others that followed them, are examples. They contended for
the independence of the church; they exalted the Divine Word as the only standard of
faith; they maintained the essential purity of the church, and the necessity of a holy
life springing from a renewed heart. Extinguished by the sword, not of the
Spirittheir churches broken and scatteredafter years of patient suffering from
the dominant sect, the seed which they had scattered sprang up in other lands. Truth never
dies. Its vitality is imperishable. In the wild waste and fastnesses of Europe and Africa
it grew. A succession of able and intrepid men taught the same great principles, in
opposition to a corrupt and affluent State church, which distinguish modern English
Nonconformists; and many of them taught those peculiar views of Christian ordinances which
are special to us Baptists."(History Early Eng. Baptists, Vol. I., pp. 1, 2).
The learned President Edwards says:
"In every age of this dark time there appeared particular
persons in all parts of Christendom who bore a testimony against the corruptions and
tyranny of the Church of Rome. There is no one age of Anti-Christ, even in the darkest
times of all, but ecclesiastical historians mention a great many by name who manifested an
abhorrence to the Pope and his idolatrous worship, and pleaded for the ancient purity of
doctrine and worship. God was pleased to maintain an uninterrupted succession of witnesses
through the whole time, in Germany, France, Britain and other countries; as historians
demonstrate and mention them by name, and give an account of the testimony which they
held. Many of them were private persons, and some magistrates, and persons of great
distinction. And there were numbers in every age who were persecuted and put to death for
this testimony." (Edward's Works, Vol. I., P. 460.)
The claim is distinctly made by the above writers that there has
been a succession of witnesses from the days of the Apostles to the present day. I have,
however, not undertaken to trace such a succession, but in the space at my command, to set
forth one of our peculiar principles as held by persons or churches in England since the
Reformation. Oftentimes we have only scant information furnished from persecuting edicts,
and now and then from other sources.
Thus before the time of the Reformation in England Baptist
principles were held by many people, and in many parts of the country. At the very dawn of
the Reformation Baptist principles began to stir the wrath of Henry VIII. In 1511 several
persons were tried by Archbishop Warham for holding Anabaptist opinions. These men held,
so it was charged, that the sacrament of baptism and confirmation is not necessary nor
profitable for a man's soul." (Collier's Eccl. Hist. Vol. IV., P. 4).
In 1529-1534 the Anabaptists are distinctly traceable in England.
John Henry Blount, an Episcopalian, says: "In England the Anabaptists are not
distinctly traceable before the year 1534, although much similarity is to be observed
between their principles and those of sectarians spoken of by the bishops in 1529 as
'certain apostates, friars, monks, lewd priests, bankrupt merchants, vagabonds and lewd
idle fellows of corrupt intent,' who 'have embraced the abominable and erroneous opinions
lately sprung in Germany.'" Froude's Hist. of England, Vol. I., p. 211. Dictionary of
Sects, p. 26).
Blount further says:
"In A. D. 1534, however, a royal proclamation was issued, in
which it was said that many strangers are come into this realm, who, though they were
baptized in their infancy, yet have, in contempt of the holy sacrament of baptism,
rebaptized themselves. They are ordered to depart out of the realm in twelve days, under
pain of death." (Wilkins' Council III., 779. Dictionary of Sects, P. 26. London,
It is certain that they did not return to the Continent and did
remain in England. Cromwell left this memorandum in his pocket: "First, touching the
Anabaptists and what the king will do with them." (Ellis' Orig. Let. II., 120).
The old chronicler Stowe, 1535, gives the following details:
"The 25th day of May werein St. Paul's Church,
Londonexamined nineteen men and six women, born in Holland, whose opinions were:
First, that in Christ is not two natures, God and man; secondly, that Christ took neither
flesh nor blood of the Virgin Mary; thirdly, that children born of infidels may be saved;
fourthly, that baptism of children is of none effect; fifthly, that the sacrament of
Christ's body is but bread only; sixthly, that he who after baptism sinneth wittingly,
sinneth deadly, and cannot be saved. Fourteen of them were condemned; a man and a woman
were burnt in Smithfield; the other twelve of them were sent to other towns, there to be
Froude says of them:
"The details are gone, their names are gone. Poor Hollanders
they were, and that is all. Scarcely the fact seemed worth the mention, so shortly is it
told in a passing paragraph. For them no Europe was agitated, no courts were ordered into
mourning, no Papal hearts trembled with indignation. At their death the world looked on
complacent, indifferent or exulting. Yet here, too, out of twenty-five poor men and women
were found fourteen who by no terror of stake or torture could be tempted to say they
believed what they did not believe. History has for them no word of praise; yet they, too,
were not giving their blood in vain. Their lives might have been as useless as the lives
of the most of us. In their deaths they assisted to pay the purchase-money for England's
freedom." (Froude's History of England, Vol. II., P. 365).
In some articles put forth in 1536 it is declared;
"That the opinions of the Anabaptists and Pelagians are to be
held for detestable heresies." (Strype's Memorials of Archbishop Cramner, Vol. I., p.
85. Oxford Ed. 1848).
The Penny Encyclopaedia says:
"Little is known of the Baptists of England before the
sixteenth century. Their name then appears among the various sects which were struggling
for civil and religious freedom. Their opinions at this early period were sufficiently
popular to attract the notice of the national establishment, as is evident from the fact
that at a convocation held in 1536, they were denounced as detestable heretics, to be
utterly condemned. Proclamations to banish the Baptists from the kingdom were allowed,
their books were burnt, and several individuals suffered at the stake. The last person who
was burnt in England was a Baptist." (Penny Ency., Vol. III., pp. 416, 417).
Goadby thus speaks of the reign of Henry VIII. and his
persecutions of the Baptists:
"Bitterly as he hated the Papist party, after he had broken
with Rome it was not long before he revealed a still more bitter hatred of all Baptists,
English and Continental." "But neither threats nor cajolery prevented the spread
of Baptist opinions. Like the Israelites in Egypt, 'the more they were afflicted, the more
they multiplied and grew.'" (Goadby's Bye-Paths of Baptist History, pp. 72-74).
Strype,1538, says of the king:
"The sect of the Anabaptists did now begin to pester this
church; and would openly dispute their principles in taverns and public places; and some
of them were taken up. Many also of their books were brought in and printed here also;
which was the cause that the king now sent out a severe proclamation against them and
their books. To which he joined the Sacramentarians, as lately with the others come into
the land, declaring, 'that he abhorred and detested their errors; and those that were
apprehended he would make examples.' Ordering that they should be detected and brought
before the king or his council; and that all that were not should in eight or ten days
depart the kingdom." (Strype's Memorials, Vol. p. 155).
After condemning their books the king decreed:
"The king declares concerning Anabaptists and other
Sacramentarians lately come into the realm, that he abhorred and detested their errors,
and intended to proceed against them that were already apprehended, according to their
merits; to the intent his subjects should take example by their punishments not to adhere
to such false and detestable opinions, but utterly to forsake and relinquish them. And
that wheresoever any of them be known, they be detected, and his majesty and council be
informed with all convenient speed, with all manner abettors and printers of the same
opinions. And his majesty charged the same Anabaptists and Sacramentarians not apprehended
and known, that they within eight or ten days depart out of the realm, upon pain of
the loss of their life and forfeiture of their goods." (Strype's Memorials, Vol. I.,
PP, 410-412. Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. IX., pp. 161, 162).
A few months later also an act of Parliament was passed (32 Henry
VIII., cap. 49), granting a general pardon to all the king's subjects excepting those who
said: "That infants ought not to be baptized, and if they were baptized that they
ought to be rebaptized when they came of lawful age."
A Declaration of Faith was then drawn up endorsing the action of
the king in his persecutions of the Anabaptists. One section reads:
"Englishmen detest the Anabaptists, 'Sacramentaries,' and all
other heresies and errors, and with great reverence do solemnize holy baptism, the
sacrament of the blessed body and blood of Christ, and other sacraments and sacramentalls,
as they have done in times past, with all the laudable ceremonies and daily masses; and do
the other service of God in their churches, as honorable and devoutly, paye their tithes
and offerings truely as ever they did, and as any men do in any part of Christendom,"
etc., (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. IX., p. 163).
Some of these were burned. (Stowe's Chronicle, p. 579).
Latimer says: "The Anabaptists that were burnt here in divers
towns in England (as I have heard of credible men, I saw them not myself), went to their
death, even intrepide, as ye will say, without any fear in the world, cheerfully. Well let
them go."(Sermons of Hugh Latimer, Vol. pp. 143, 144).
Latimer says again:
"I should have told you here of a certain sect of heretics
that spake against their order and doctrine; they will have no magistrates nor judges on
the earth. Here I have to tell you what I have heard of late, by the relations of a
credible person and a worshipful man, of a town of this realm of England that hath about
500 of heretics of this erroneous opinion in it." The margin says they were
Anabaptists. (Sermons, p. 151. Parker Society, Vol. V.).
Collier says: "Some few days before, four Dutch Anabaptists,
three men and a woman, had faggots tied to their backs at Paul's Cross, and one man and a
woman, of the same sect and country, were burnt in Smithfield. Cranmer, upon the first of
October, with some others, had a commission from the king to try some Anabaptists, which,
by comparing the dates of the commission with that of the execution, we may conclude the
trial passed upon the persons above mentioned." (Eccl. Hist. Vol. IV., P. 429).
Bishop Burnet, 1547, informs us:
"There were many Baptists in several parts of England."
(Neal's Hist. Puritans, Vol. II., pp. 354, 355).
Of the Baptists of the reign of Edward VI., 1547-1553, Goadby
"In the first year of Edward's reign, Ridley and Gardiner
united together in a commission to deal with two Baptists in Kent. A Protestant
Inquisition was established, with Cranmer at its head. They were to pull up 'the noxious
weeds of heresy.' Their work was to be done with the forms of justice and in secret. They
might fine, imprison, torture, and, in all cases of obstinate heretics, hand them over to
the civil power to be burnt. Four years later this commission was renewed, and in the same
year Baptists were a second time excluded from a general pardon. It was this inquisition
that condemned Joan Bucher and scattered, or tried to scatter, the congregations of
Baptists gathered in Kent. Still their numbers increased. Strype tells us that their
opinions were believed by many honest meaning people; and another writer affirms that the
articles of religion, issued just before the king's death, 'were principally designed to
vindicate the English Reformation from that slur and disgrace which Anabaptists' tenets
had brought upon it,' a clear proof that Baptists were, at that period, neither few nor
unimportant." (Goadby's Bye-Paths of Baptist History, pp. 74, 75).
In 1549 an act was passed against the Anabaptists by the
Parliament of Edward VI. (3 Edward VI., C. 24).
London, June 25, 1549, Bishop John Hooper in a letter to Henry
"The Anabaptists flock to the place and give me much
trouble." (Original Letters Relative to the English Reformation, Vol. I., p. 65.
Cambridge Ed. 1846).
Bishop Vowler Short says: "Complaints had been brought to the
council of the prevalence of Anabaptists. * * * * To check the progress of these opinions
a commission was appointed." (Short's Hist. Church of England, Vol. VI., P. 543).
Dr. Hase says:
"In general, Anabaptism required that those who came over to
it should be possessed of the strict heroic morals of the early Christians, the same
contempt for the world and its pleasures and pains, and even its outward forms. By baptism
a renunciation was made of the devil, the world and the flesh; and a vow taken to do
nothing but the will of God. Any willful sin of an Anabaptist would not be pardoned, and
entailed on its perpetrator hopeless expulsion from the community, and a loss of the grace
of God. It was exactly on this account that the heresy was so dangerous, for the greater
part of its adherents could appeal to the sanctity of their mode of life." (Dr.
Hase's Neue Propheten. Apud Madden, Phantasmata, Vol. II., pp. 439, 440).
"An ecclesiastical Commission in the beginning of this year
was issued out for the examination of the Anabaptists and Arians, that began now to spring
up apace and show themselves more openly." (Strype's Life of Sir Thomas Smith, p.
London, June 29, 1550, Bishop John Hooper writing to Henry
Bullinger in regard to Essex and Kent says: "That district is troubled with the
frenzy of the Anabaptists more than any other part of the kingdom." (Original
Letters, Vol. I., p. 87).
There were such assemblies in Kent." (Memorials, Vol. II., P.
Bishop Ridley's Visitation Articles required:
"Whether any of the Anabaptists' sect, or other, use
notoriously any unlawful or private conventicles, wherein they do use doctrine or
administration of sacraments, separating themselves from the rest of the parish?
"Whether any speak against infant baptism?"
(Cardwell's Documentary Annals of the Reformed Church of England,
Vol. I., p. 91).
Strype gives us additional information:
"In January 27th a number of persons, a sort of Anabaptists,
about sixty, met in a house on a Sunday in the parish of Bocking, in Essex, where arose
among them a great dispute, 'Whether it were necessary to stand or kneel, bare headed or
covered, at prayers? And they concluded the ceremony not to be material, but that the
heart before God was required, and nothing else.' Such other like warm disputes there were
about Scripture. There were, likewise, such assemblies now in Kent. These were looked upon
as dangerous to church and state, and two of the company were thereof committed to the
Marshallsea, and orders were sent to apprehend the rest."(Memorials of Cramner, Vol.
I., p. 337).
The Parliament of 1551 exempted the Anabaptists from the pardon
which was granted to those who took part in the late rebellion.
During the reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603, England was full of
Marsden, one of the calmest of the Puritan historians, says:
"But the Anabaptists were the most numerous, and for some
time by far the most formidable opponents of the church. They are said to have existed in
England since the days of the Lollards, but their chief strength was more abroad,"
etc. (Marsden, p. 144).
Marsden, further says:
In the judgment of the church party, and not a few of the
Puritans, Anabaptists were heretics of the worst kind, and those who denied the necessity
or validity of infant baptism, however orthodox on other points, are constantly classed
'by writers of that period with Donatists, infidels, and atheists." (Marsden, p. 65).
Bishop Cox writing to Gaulter, says:
"You must not grieve, my Gaulter, that sectaries are showing
themselves to be mischievous and wicked interpreters of your most just opinion. For it
cannot be otherwise but that tares must grow in the Lord's field, and that in no small
quantity. Of this kind are the Anabaptists, Donatists, Arians, Papists, and all other good
for nothing tribes of sectaries." (Bishop Cox to Gaulter, Zurich Letters, 285).
"The Anabaptists, with infinite other swarms of Satanistes,
do you think that every pulpit may will be able to answer them? I pray God there may be
many that can," (Bishop Aylmer's Harborough for Faithful Subjects. Maitland, p. 216).
"And in these latter days, the old festered sores newly broke
out, as the Anabaptists, the freewillers, with infinite other swarms of God's enemies.
These "ugly monsters,' 'brodes of the devil's brotherhood.'"(p. 205).
Dr. Barker, in declining the Archbishopric of Canterbury, says in
"They say that the realm is full of Anabaptists, Arians,
libertines, free-will men, etc., against whom I only thought ministers should have need to
fight in unity of doctrine." (Burnet's Reformation, Vol. II., p. 359).
Jewel, in his correspondence with the Swiss divines, complains:
"We found, at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, a
large and inauspicious crop of Arians, Anabaptists, and other pests, which, I know not
how, but as mushrooms spring up in the night and in darkness, so these sprung up in
that darkness and unhappy night of the Marian times. These, I am informed, and hope it is
the fact, have retreated before the light of pure doctrines, like owls at the light of the
sun, and are nowhere to be found." (Works of Bishop Jewel, Vol. IV., p. 1240).
"I am not an Anabaptist, thank God."
A letter was addressed to the "Dutch Church," in London,
1573, rebuking them for sowing discord among English people. (Strype's Annals Ref., Vol.
IV., P. 520).
On Easter day a private conventicle was discovered near Aldersgate
Bar, and twenty-seven were apprehended. Four recanted; but "eleven of them were
condemned in the Consistory of the St. Paul's to be burnt, nine of them were banished, and
two suffered the extremity of the fire in Smithfield, July 22, 1575." (Neal's Hist.
Puritans, Vol. I., p. 340. Ed. 1732. Strype's Annals Ref., Vol. III., p. 564. Ed. 1824).
Collier says: "To go back a little: On Easter day this spring
a conventicle of Dutch Baptists was discovered at a house without the bars at
Aldgate." (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. VI., P. 543).
"Now began the Anabaptists wonderfully to increase in the
land; and as we are sorry that any countryman should be seduced with that opinion, so we
are glad that (the) English as yet were free from that infection. For on Easter day, April
3, was disclosed a congregation of Dutch Anabaptists without Aldgate in London, whereof
seven and twenty were taken and imprisoned; and four, bearing faggots, at Paul's-Cross
solemnly recanted their dangerous opinions." (Fuller's Church Hist. Britain, Vol.
II., p. 506).
Collier, 1589, says: "This provision was no more than
necessary; for the Dutch Anabaptists held private conventicles in London and perverted a
great many."' (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. VI., P. 452).
Dr. Some admits the same fact in his reply to Barrowe. He affirms
that "there were several Anabaptisticale conventicles in London and other places.
"They were not all Dutchmen, for he further says: "Some persons of these
sentiments have been bred at our universities."
The Baptists of England from this date to 1641 underwent
severe persecutions, but they increased in numbers. After the abolition of the Court of
High Commission and the Court of Star Chamber in 1641, when they were able to assert
themselves, there were a surprising number of them in London and throughout England.
Dexter himself gives the names of eleven churches in England as early as 1626. (The True
Story of John Smyth, p. 42).
Herbert S. Skeats, a Pedobaptist, says:
"It has been asserted that a Baptist Church existed in England in
A. D. 1417. (Robinson's Claude, Vol. II., p. 54). There were certainly Baptist Churches in
England as early as the year 1589 (Dr. Some's reply to Barrowe, quoted in Guiney's Hist.,
Vol. I., p. 109); and there could scarcely have been several organized communities without
the corresponding opinions having been held by individuals, and some churches established
for years previous to this date."(Hist. Dissenting Churches of England, p. 22).
Neal says that in 1644 there were 54 Baptist Churches in England.
(Neal's Hist. Puritans, Vol. III., p. 175).
Baillie said in 1646:
"Hence it was that the Anabaptists made little noise in England,
till of late the Independents have corrupted and made worse the principles of the old
Separatists, proclaiming for errors a liberty both in Church and State; under this shelter
the Anabaptists have lift up their head and increased their numbers much above all other
sects of the land. (Anabaptism the True Fountaine, ch. i.).
There is no proof whatever that these churches came from Smyth's
or Blount's, or that they ever practiced sprinkling for baptism. They evidently were
IMMERSION IN ENGLAND.
I have not space, nor has the busy reader time to read, a complete
history of immersion in England. It began with Christianity in England, continued as the
general practice till the seventeenth century and is even now the theory of the
Established Church. France was the first country that tolerated sprinkling for baptism in
the fourteenth century. Although the climate, in England was cold, immersion did not give
place to sprinkling till long after. Scotland under the influence of Calvin and Knox, soon
after the Reformation, began to practice sprinkling and pouring, but it had but little
effect upon England. These facts are fully set forth by the historians, but I shall take
space for the words of but a few of them.
Dr. Wall, an Episcopalian, says:
"One would have thought that the cold countries should have
been the first that should have changed the custom from dipping to affusion, because in
cold climates the bathing of the body in water may seem much more unnatural and dangerous
to the health than in the hot ones (and it is to be noted, by the way, that all of those
countries of whose rites of baptism, and immersion used in it, we have any account in the
Scriptures or other ancient history, are in hot climates, where frequent and common
bathing both of infants and grown persons is natural, and even necessary to the health).
But by history it appears that the cold climates held the custom of dipping as long as
any; for England, which is one of the coldest, was one of the latest that admitted this
alteration of the ordinary way." (Wall's Hist., Vol. I., p. 575).
I will let Dr. Schaff tell something of the universality of
immersion in England:
King Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth were immersed. The first Prayer
Book of Edward VI. (1549) followed the Office of Sarum, directs the priest to dip the
child in water thrice: "first, dipping the right side; secondly, the left side; the
third time, dipping the face toward the font." In the second Prayer Book (1652) the
priest is simply directed to dip the child discreetly and warily; and permission is given,
for the first time in Great Britain, to substitute pouring if the godfathers and
godmothers certify that the child is weak." During the reign of Elizabeth," says
Dr. Wall, "many fond ladies and gentlewomen first, and then by degrees the common
people, would obtain the favor of the priests to have their children pass for weak
children too tender to endure dipping in the water." The same writer traces the
practice of sprinkling to the period of the Long Parliament and the Westminster Assembly.
This change in England and other Protestant countries from immersion to pouring, and from
pouring to sprinkling, was encouraged by the authority of Calvin, who declared the mode to
be a matter of no importance; and by the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643-1652),
which decided that pouring and sprinkling are "not only lawful, but also
sufficient." The Westminster Confession declares: " Dipping of the person into
the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling
water upon the person." (Teach., pp. 51, 52).
Sir David Brewster says:
During the persecution of Mary, many persons, most of whom were
Scotchmen, fled from England to Geneva, and there greedily imbibed the opinions of that
church. In 1556 a book was published in that place containing "The Form of Prayer and
Ministration of the Sacraments, approved by the famous and godly learned man, John
Calvin," in which the administrator is enjoined to take water in his hand and lay it
upon the child's forehead. These Scotch exiles, who had renounced the authority of the
Pope, implicitly acknowledged the authority of Calvin; and returning to their own country,
with Knox at their head, in 1559, established sprinkling
in Scotland. From Scotland this practice made its way into England in the reign of
Elizabeth, but was not authorized by the Established Church. In the Assembly of Divines,
held at Westminster in 1643, it was keenly debated whether immersion or sprinkling should
be adopted: 25 voted for sprinkling and 24 for immersion; and even this small majority was
obtained at the earnest request of Dr. Lightfoot, who had acquired great influence in that
assembly. Sprinkling is therefore the general practice of this country. Many Christians,
however, especially the Baptists, reject it. The Greek Church universally adheres to
immersion. (Edin. Ency., Vol. III., p. 236).
I shall give but one other authority in this connection and that
is the scholarly Dean Stanley. He says:
We now pass to the changes in the form itself. For the first thirteen
centuries the almost universal practice of baptism was that of which we read in the New
Testament, and which is the very meaning of the word baptize; that those who were baptized
were plunged, submerged, immersed into the water. That practice is still, as we have seen,
continued in Eastern Churches. In the Western Church it still lingers among Roman
Catholics in the solitary instance of the Cathedral of Milan; amongst Protestants in the
numerous sect of the Baptists. It lasted long into the Middle Ages. Even the Icelanders,
who at first shrank from the water of their freezing lakes, were reconciled when they
found that they could use the warm water of the geysers. And the cold climate of Russia
has not been found an obstacle to its continuance throughout that vast empire. Even in the
Church of England it is still observed in theory. The Rubric in the public baptism for
infants enjoins that, unless for special causes, they are to be dipped not sprinkled.
Edward VI. and Elizabeth were both immersed. But since the beginning of the seventeenth
century the practice has become exceedingly rare. With the few exceptions just mentioned,
the whole of the Western Churches have now substituted for the ancient bath the ceremony
of letting fall a few drops of water on the face. (Christian Institutions, pp. 17, 18).
Many events of English history show how deeply imbedded in the
English mind was the idea of immersion. In the year 429 the Britons won a great battle
over the Saxons. The following events then occurred;
"The holy days of Lent were also at hand and were rendered
more religious by the presence of the priests, insomuch that the people being instructed
by daily sermons, resorted in crowds to be baptized; for most of the army desired
admission to the saving water; a church was prepared with boughs for the feast of the
resurrection of our Lord, and so fitted up in that martial camp as it were in a city. The
army advanced, still wet with the baptismal water; the faith of the people was
strengthened, and whereas human power had before been despaired of, the Divine assistance
was now relied upon. The enemy received advice of the state of the army, and not
questioning their success against an unarmed multitude, hastened forward, but their
approach was, by the scouts, made known to the Britons, the greater part of whose forces
being just come from the font, after the celebration of Easter, and preparing to arm and
carry on the war, Germanus declared he would be their leader." (Bede's Eccl. Hist.,
B. I. c. XX.).
One of the most notable events of English history was the baptism,
A. D. 596, of ten thousand Saxons in the river Swale. Fabyan, the old chronicler, thus
speaks of the success of the work of Augustine:
"He had in one day christened xm. of Saxons or Anglis in ye
west ryur, yt is called Swale." (Fabyan's Chronicle, Vol. I., p. 96).
Pope Gregory in a letter to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria,
informs him of this great success of Augustine's. He says:
"More than ten thousand English, they tell us, were baptized
by the same brother, our fellow bishop, which I communicate to you to announce to the
people of Alexandria, and that you may do something in prayer for the dwellers at the ends
of the earth." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. LXXVII, p. 951).
Gregory understood this baptism to be an immersion. He said:
"We baptize by trine immersion." (Patrol. Lat., Vol.,
LXXVII, p. 498).
Gocelyn, in his life of Augustine, says:
"He secured on all sides large numbers for Christ, so that
on the birthday of the Lord, celebrated by the melodious anthems of all heaven, more
than ten thousand of the English were born again in the laver of holy baptism, with an
infinite number of women and children, in a river which the English call Sirarios, the
Swale, as if at one birth of the church from the womb. These persons, at the command of
the divine teacher, as if he were an angel from heaven, calling upon them, all entered the
dangerous depths of the river, two and two together, as if it had been a solid plain; and
in true faith, confessing the exalted Trinity, they were baptized one by the other in
turns, the apostolic leader blessing the water. * * * So great a prodigy from heaven born
out of the deep whirlpool." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. LXXX, p. 79).
It is also reported that Paulinus, A. D. 629, baptized ten
thousand in the same river. Camden says the Swale was accounted sacred by the ancient
Saxons, above the ten thousand persons, besides women and children, having received
baptism in it in one day from Paulinus, Archbishop of York, on the first conversion of the
Saxons to Christianity. (Britannia, Vol. III., P. 257).
Alcuin says of King Edwin and his Northumbrians:
"Easter having come when the king had decided to be baptized
with his people under the lofty walls of York, in which by his orders, a little house was
quickly erected for God, that under its roof he might receive the sacred water of baptism.
During the sunshine of that festive and holy day he was dedicated to Christ in the saving
fountain, with his family and nobles, and with the common people following. York remained
illustrious, distinguished with great honor, because in that sacred place King Edwin was
washed in the water." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CI., p. 818).
Bede, referring to a period shortly following the baptism of the
"So great was there the fervor of the faith, as is reported,
and the desire of the washing of salvation among the nations of the Northumbrians, that
Paulinus at a certain time coming with the king and queen to the royal country seat, which
is called Adgefrin, stayed with them thirty-six days, fully occupied in catechizing and
baptizing; during which days, from morning till night, he did nothing else but instruct
the people, resorting from villages and places, in Christ's saving word; and when
instructed, he washed them with the water of absolution in the river Glen, which is close
by." (Bede's Eccl. Hist., B. II. c. xiv.).
Bede also tells us of the baptism of the Deiri:
"In that of the Deiri also, when he [Paulinus] was wont often
to be with the king, he baptized in the river Swale, which runs by the village Cateract;
for as yet oratories, or fonts, could not be made in the early infancy of the church in
these parts." (B. II. c. xiv.).
Bede says that a priest, A. D. 628, by the name of Deda told him
that one of the oldest persons had informed him, that he himself had been baptized at
noonday, by the Bishop Paulinus, in the presence of King Edwin, with a great number of
people, in the river Trent, near the city, which is called in the English tongue
Tiovulfingacestir. (B. II. c. xvi.).
Alcuin states that after the death of Penda, Osway the king of the
Mercians caused them to be washed in the consecrated river of baptism. (Patrol. Lat., Vol.
Cl., p. 824).
The Venerable Bede, A. D., 674-735, gives this testimony:
" For he truly who is baptized is seen to descend into the
fountainhe is seen to be dipped into the waters; but that which makes the font to
regenerate him can by no means be seen. The piety of the faithful alone perceives that a
sinner descends into the font, and a cleansed man ascends; a son of death descends, but a
son of the resurrection ascends; a son of treachery descends, but a son of reconciliation
ascends; a son of wrath descends, but a son of compassion ascends; a son of the devil
descends, but a son of God ascends." (In John Evan. Ex. 3:5. Patrol. Lat., Vol.
XCII., pp. 668, 669).
Alcuin tells of the baptism of Caedwalla, the king of the West
Saxons, at Rome. He says:
"Whilst the happy king was deemed worthy to be immersed in
the whirlpool of baptism." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CL, p. 1310).
The Council of Cealchythe, held under Wulfred, A. D. 816, says:
"Let presbyters also know, that when they administer baptism
they ought not to pour the consecrated water upon the infants' heads, but let them always
be immersed in the font; as the Son of God himself afforded as example unto all believers,
when he was three times immersed in the river Jordan." (Hart's Eccl. Records, p. 197.
Collier, the English Church historian, says of this canon:
"By enjoining the priests not to sprinkle the infants in
baptism shows the great regard they had for the primitive usage; that they did not look
upon this as a dangerous rite, or at all impracticable in those northern climates; not
that they thought this circumstance essential to the sacrament, but because it was the
general practice of the primitive church, because it was a lively instructive emblem of
the death, burial and resurrection of our Saviour; for this reason they preferred it to
sprinkling." (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., p. 354).
Hastine, the Dane, A. D. 893, gave his two sons hostages to
Alfred, king of England, with the as understanding if "he wished he might imbue them
with the sacraments of faith and baptism," and the boys soon afterwards were
"regenerated in the sacred font." (Roger de Wendover's Flowers of History, p.
Fridegod, a monk of Canterbury, about A. D. 900, says in his life
"He showed that those to be saved should be immersed in the
And elsewhere he says:
Common people seeking holy baptism are immersed." (Patrol.
Lat., Vol. CXXXIII., pp. 993, 1003).
The Constitution of the Synod of Amesbury, 977, was drawn up by
Oswald and required:
"All children to be baptized in nine days after their
Collier remarks upon this canon:
"It is plain, as will be shown further, by and by, that the
English Church used the rite of immersion. It seems that they were not at all discouraged
by the coldness of the climate, nor thought the primitive custom impracticable in the
northern regions; and if an infant could be plunged into the water at nine days old
without receiving any harm, how unreasonable must their scruples be who decline bringing
their children to public baptism for fear of danger? How unreasonable, I say, must this
scruple be when immersion is altered to sprinkling?" (Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., p. 474).
William Malmesbury, A. D. 979-1009, says of the baptism of king
"When the little boy was immersed in the font of baptism, the
bishops standing round, the sacrament was marred by a sad accident which made St. Dunstan
utter an unfavorable prophecy." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CLXXIX., p. 1131).
Roger Wendover gives an account of Sweyn, king of the Danes, and
Anlaf, king of the Norwegians, coming against London in 994. They were repulsed but
over-ran the provinces so that king Ethelred had to pay them a bounty. Wendover continues:
"King Ethelred dispatched at this time Elfege, Bishop of
Winchester, and Duke Athelwold to King Anlaf, whom they brought in peace to the royal vill
where King Ethelred was, and at his request dipped him in the sacred font, after which he
was confirmed by the bishop, the king adopting him as his son and honoring him with royal
presents; and the following summer he returned to his own country in peace." (Flowers
of History, p. 272).
Lanfranc, the thirty-fourth archbishop of Canterbury, 1005-1089,
was born in Italy and came to England by way of Normandy. Commenting on Philippians iii:20
"For as Christ lay three days in the sepulcher, so in baptism
let there be a trine immersion." (Patrol. Lat., Vol. CL., P. 315).
Cardinal Pullus, 1144, was born in England, became a professor in
Paris, and was highly honored of the Pope. In his book on Divinity he says:
"Whilst the candidate for baptism in water is immersed, the
death of Christ is suggested; whilst immersed and covered with water, the burial of Christ
is shown forth; whilst he is raised from the waters, the resurrection of Christ is
proclaimed. The immersion is repeated three times, out of reverence for the Trinity and on
account of the three days' burial of Christ. In the burial of the Lord the day follows the
night three times; in baptism also trine emersion accompanies immersion." (Patrol.
Lat., Vol. CLXXXVI., p. 843).
The Synod of Cashel, A. D. 1172, was held under Henry II.:
"It was ordained that children should be brought to the
church and baptized in clear water, being thrice dipped therein, in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Roger de Wendover's Annals, p. 352).
We have an account of the baptism of Arthur, the oldest son of
Henry VII. He married Catherine of Aragon, who after his death became the wife of Henry
VIII. Leland says of the baptism of Arthur:
"The body of all the cathedral church of Westminster was hung
with cloth of arras, and in the middle, beside the font of the said church, was ordained
and prepared a solemn font in manner and form of a stage of seven steps, square or round
like, an high cross covered with red worsted, and up in the midst a post made of iron to
bear the font of silver gilt, which within side was well dressed with fine linen
cloth, and near the same on the west side was a step, like a block, for the bishop to
stand on, covered also with red saye; and over the font, of a good height, a rich canopy
with a great gilt ball, lined and fringed without curtains. On the north side was ordained
a traverse hung with cloth of arras, and upon the one side thereof, within side, another
traverse of red scarsnet. There was fire without fumigations, ready against the prince's
coming. And without, the steps of the said font were railed with good timber. * * * And
Queen Elizabeth was in the church abiding the coming of the prince. * * * Incontinent
after the prince was put into the font the officers at-large put on their coats, and all
their torches were lighted." (Lelandi Collectanea, Vol. IV., pp. 204-206.London,
Leland also gives a description at great length of the baptism of
Margaret, the sister of Arthur, 1490, and of Queen Elizabeth, 1533. The royalty were all
Walker says of baptism during the reign of Edward VI., 1537-1553:
"Dipping was at this time the more usual, but sprinkling was
sometimes used." (Doctrine of Baptism, Ch. X., p. 147. London, 1678).
The prayer book of Edward VI. provides:
"Then the priest shall take the child in his hands and ask
the name; and naming the child shall dip it in the water thrice. First dipping the right
side; second, the left side; the third time dipping the face toward the font; so it be
wisely and discretely done; saying, I baptize, &c. And if the child be weak, it shall
suffice to pour upon it, saying the words." (Collier's Eccl. Hist., Vol. II., P.
The Sarum or Saulsbury Liturgy, 1541, according to Collier,
"Upon Saturday, Easter-even, is hallowed the font, which as
it were vestigium, or a remembrance of baptism, that was used in the primitive
church; at which time, and Pentecost, there was used in the church two solemn baptizings,
and much concourse of people came into the same.
"The first was at Easter, because the mystery of baptism
agrees well to the time. For like as Christ died and was buried, and rose again the third
day, so by putting into the water is signified our death to sin, and the immersion
betokens our burial and mortification to the same; and the rising again out of the water
declares us to be risen to a new life, according to the doctrine of St. Paul. (Rom. vi.)
"And the second solemn baptizing, i. e., at Pentecost, was
because there is celebrated the feast of the Holy Ghost, which is the worker of that
spiritual regeneration we have in baptism. And therefore the churches used to hallow the
font also at that time." (Eccl. Hist., Vol. II., p. 196).
We select a part of the ceremony omitting the explanations:
"Then follow the questions to the godfathers and godmothers,
as representatives of the child. Forsakest thou the devil? Ans. I forsake him. All
his works? Ans. I forsake them. And all his pomps and vanities? Ans. I forsake
them. Satisfied with these, the minister then anoints the child with holy oil upon
breast and betwixt the shoulders. Questions to ascertain the orthodoxy of the child- are
propounded. Then follows another series: For example, to the child the minister says: What
asketh thou? Ans. Baptism. Wilt thou be baptized? Ans. I will. Satisfied
with these replies the minister calling the child by name, baptizes it in the name of the
Father, Son and Holy Ghost (putting it into the water of the font and taking it out again,
or else pouring water upon it.) Hist., Vol. II., Pp. 192, 193. Note A.).
In 1553 instructions were given to the archdeacons as follows:
"Whether there be any who will not suffer the priest to dip
the child three times in the font, being yet strong and able to abide and suffer it in the
judgment and opinion of discreet and expert persons, but will needs have the child in the
clothes, and only be sprinkled with a few drops of water." (Hart's Eccl. Records, p.
Watson, Bishop of Lincoln, 1558, says:
"Though the old and ancient tradition of the Church hath from
the beginning to dip the child three times, etc., yet that is not such necessity; but if
he be once dipped in the water, it is sufficient. Yea, and in times of great peril and
necessity, if the water be poured on his head, it will suffice." (Holsome and
Catholic Doctrine Concerning the Seven-Sacraments, Pp. 22, 23. London, 1558).
The baptism of James I., King of England was by immersion. He was
born in the Castle of Edinburgh, 1556. Of his baptism it is said:
"At convenient time you are to present her the font of gold,
which we send with you. You may pleasantly say that it was made as soon as we heard of the
prince's birth, and then it was big enough for him; but now he being grown, he is too big
for it. Therefore it may be better used for the next child, provided it be christened
before it outgrow the font." (Turner, Vol. IV., P. 86, note).
James refers to "the font wherein I was christened."
(Works, London, 1616).
Bishop Horn, of England, in writing to Henry Bullinger, of Zurich,
in 1575, says of baptism in England:
"The minister examines them concerning their faith, and
afterwards dips the infant in the water." (Zurich Letters, Second Series, Parker
Society, P. 356).
The Greek lexicons used in England in the first half of the
seventeenth century were Scapula, Stephens, Mincaeus, Pasor and Leigh. These all define baptizo
as dipping or submerging.
Dr. Joseph Mede, 1586-1638, was a very learned English divine. He
"There was no such thing as sprinkling or rantism used in
baptism in the Apostles' days, nor many ages after them." (Diatribe on Titus iii.2).
Henry Greenwood in 1628 published "A Joyful Tract of the most
blessed Baptism that ever was solemnized." It is printed in black letter. When I
first read it I was led to think that it was by an Anabaptist preacher, but after further
examination I found that he was of the Episcopal Church. He says of the baptism of Jesus :
"The place where he baptized Christ was in the River Jordan *
* * A duplicate River, so-called, because it was composed of two Fountains, the one called
Jor, the other Dan, and therefore the river hath this name Jordan: In which
River Naaman was washed and cleansed from his leprosy 2 Kings, 5.14; which River Elijah
and Elisha divided with their cloak, 2 Kings, 2:8,13. In this Jordan did John baptize our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (pp. 7, 8.)
Daniel Rogers, 1633, published A Treatise of the two Sacraments of
the Gospel Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. He was an Episcopalian. He says:
"Touching what I have said of Sacramental dipping to explain
myself a little about it; I would not be understood as if schismatically I would instill a
distaste of the Church into any weak minds, by the act of sprinkling water only. But this
(under correction) I say: That it ought to be the churches part to cleave to the
Institution, especially it being not left arbitrary by our Church to the discretion of the
minister, but required to dip or dive the Infant more or less (except in cases of
weakness), for which allowance in the church we have cause to be thankful; and suitably to
consider that he betrays the Church (whose officer he is) to a disordered error, if he
cleaves not to the institution; To dip the infant in water. And this I do so aver as
thinking it exceeding material to the ordinance, and no slight thing: yea, which both
Antiquity (though with some addition of a threefold dipping: for the preserving of the
doctrine of the impugned Trinity entire) constantly and without exception of countries hot
or cold, witnesseth unto: and especially the constant word of the Holy Ghost, first and
last, approveth: as a learned Critique upon chap.3, verse ii, hath noted,
that the Greek tongue wants not words to express any other act as well as dipping, if the
institution could bear it." (p. 77. London, 1633).
It is a very significant fact that Daniel Rogers was quoted by the
Baptists of 1641 as having upheld their opinion. This could not have been if the Baptists
of that period had been in the practice of sprinkling.
Stephen Denson, 1634, says:
"Bee Baptized. The word translated baptizing doth
most properly signify dipping over head and ears, and indeed this was the most
usual manner of baptizing in the primitive Church: especially in hot countries, and after
this manner was Christ himself baptized by John. Mat. 3:16.For there is said of
him, that when he was baptized he went out of the water; Which doth imply that in
his baptizing he went under the water, and thus all those that were baptized in rivers
they were not sprinkled but dipped." (The Doctrine of Both Sacraments, pp. 39, 40.
Edward Elton, 1637, says:
"First, in sign and sacrament only, for the dipping of the
party baptized in the water, and abiding under the water for a time, doth represent and
seal unto us the burial of Christ, and his abiding in the grave; and of this all are
partakers sacramentally." (An Exposition of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the
Colossians, p. 293. London, 1637),
John Selden, 1584-1654, was regarded as the most learned
Englishman of his time. He says: "The Jews took the baptism wherein the whole body
was not baptized to be void." (De Jure Nat., C. 2).
Bishop Taylor, 1613-1677 says:
"If you would attend to the proper signification of the word,
baptism signifies plunging into water, or dipping with washing." (Rule of Conscience,
I., 3, c. 4).
The Rev. Thomas Blake, who lived in Tamworth, Staffordshire, A. D.
"I have been an eye witness of many infants dipped, and I
know it to have been the constant practice of many ministers in their places for many
years together." (The Birth Privilege, p. 33. London, 1644).
Alexander Balfour says:
"Baptizing infants by dipping them in fonts was practiced in
the Church of England (except in cases of sickness or weakness) until the Directory came
out in the year 1644, which forbade the carrying of children to the font."
(Anti-PedoBaptism Baptism Unveiled, p. 240. London, 1827).
Wall is even more definite. He says of the Westminster Assembly of
"So (parallel to the rest of their reformations) they
reformed the font into a basin. This learned Assembly could not remember that fonts to
baptize in had been always used by the primitive Christians, long before the beginning of
popery, and ever since churches were built; but that sprinkling as the common use of
baptizing was really introduced (in France first, and then in other popish countries) in
times of popery." (Hist. Inst. Bapt., Vol. II., p. 403). And in another place he
remarks: "And for sprinkling, properly called, it seems that it was at 1645 just then
beginning, and used by very few. It must have begun in the disorderly times of 1641."
(Hist. Inst. Bapt., Vol. II., p. 403).
Sir John Floyer, one of the most careful writers, says:
"I have now given what testimony I could find in our English
authors, to prove the practice of immersion from the time the Britons and Saxons were
baptized till King James' days; when the people grew peevish with all ancient ceremonies
and through the love of novelty and the niceness of parents, and the pretense of modesty,
they laid aside immersion, which never was abrogated by any canon, but is still
recommended by the present rubric of our church, which orders the child to be dipped
discreetly and warily." (History of Cold Bathing, p. 61).
But dipping was not then left off, for Floyer further says:
"That I may further convince all of my countrymen that Immersion
in Baptism was very lately left off in England, I will assure
them that there are yet Persons living who were so immersed; for I am so informed
by Mr. Berisford, minister of Stutton in Derbyshire, that his
parents Immersed not only him but the rest of his family at his Baptism." (P.
182 London, 1722).
Walter Cardiac preached a sermon before the House of Commons at
St. Margaret's, July 21, 1646. Among other things he said:
"There is now among good people a great deal of strife about
baptism; as for divers things, so for the point of dipping, though in some places in
England they dip altogether." (P. 100).
From the testimony introduced above we reach the conclusion from
the introduction of Christianity in Britain to 1650 immersion was common in
England, and was the prevailing practice among all Christian denominations. It is manifest
that dipping was the prescribed order of
The Catholics. The Catholic ritual in use in England in 1641 was
not opposed to immersion. In fact, the Roman Church never has been opposed to immersion.
The Episcopalians. The Episcopal prayer book and ritual prescribed
immersion as the ordinary act of baptism then as now. But there was the difference that
immersion was often administered in the Episcopal Church of that day, as is not the case
The Presbyterians. We have already seen that sprinkling, or rather
pouring, was introduced in Scotland by John Knox and his followers from Calvin. But it did
not prevail in England among Presbyterians until the Westminster Assembly excluded
immersion by a vote of 25 to 24, Dr. Lightfoot, the president, casting the deciding
vote. This was only done after the most heated debate. Dr. Lightfoot himself gives this.
Then we fell upon the work of the day, which was about baptizing
"of the child, whether to dip him or to sprinkle." And this proposition,
"It is lawful and sufficient to besprinkle the child," had been canvassed before
our adjourning, and was ready now to vote; but I spoke against it, as being very unfit to
vote; that it is lawful to sprinkle when every one grants it. Whereupon it was fallen
upon, sprinkling being granted, whether dipping should be tolerated with it. And here fell
we upon a large and long discourse, whether dipping were essential, or used in the first
institution, or in the Jews' custom. Mr. Coleman went about, in a large discourse, to
prove tbilh to be dipping overhead. Which I answered at large. After a long dispute
it was at last put to the question, whether the Directory should run thus, "The
minister shall take water, and sprinkle or pour it with his hand upon the face or forehead
of the child;" and it was voted so indifferently, that we were glad to count names
twice; for so many were so unwilling to have dipping excluded that the votes came to an
equality within one; for the one side were 24, the other 25, the 24 for the reserving of
dipping and the 25 against it; and there grew a great heat upon it, and when we had done
all, we concluded upon nothing in it, but the business was recommitted.
Aug. 8th. But as to the dispute itself about dipping, it was thought
safe and most fit to let it alone, and to express it thus in our Directory: "He is to
baptize the child with water, which, for the manner of doing is not only lawful, but also
sufficient, and most expedient to be by pouring or sprinkling of water on the face of the
child, without any other ceremony." But this lost a great deal of time about the
wording of it. (Works, Vol. XIII., p. 299. London 1824).
Sir David Brewster is regarded as high authority. He says:
"In the Assembly of Divines, held at Westminster in 1643, it was keenly
debated whether immersion or sprinkling should be adopted: 25 voted for sprinkling, and 24
for immersion; and even that small majority was obtained at the earnest request of Dr.
Lightfoot, who had acquired great influence in that assembly." (Edinburgh Ency., Vol.
III., p. 236).
All this took place three years after the alleged
"invention"of immersion by the Baptists.
4. The Baptists. In this connection I only wish to say that if the
Baptists between 1509 and 1641, in England, were not in the practice of immersion, they
hold the world's record for dissent. Here are all denominations who recognize and practice
immersion and the Baptists alone standing out against them all. As soon as the other
denominations adopt sprinkling as their custom, all of a sudden, the Baptists change their
practice from sprinkling to immersion. There is no reason for all of this. For my part I
do not believe any such charge, and, I think, the following pages will demonstrate, that
they did no such thing.
ANABAPTISTS OF THE CONTINENT.
Dr. Whitsitt makes the broadest claims that all of the Anabaptists
of Germany and Holland practiced sprinkling. His words are:
"But none of the Anabaptists of Holland, or of the adjacent
sections of Germany, were immersionists. So far as any account of them has come to light,
they were uniformly in the practice of pouring or sprinkling for baptism, excepting the
Collegiants, who, at Rhynsburg, began to immerse in 1620." (Page 35).
"The Anabaptists of Holland appear to have been, without
exception, engaged in the practice of pouring and sprinkling." (Page 42).
Here is the affirmation of a universal negative, which would
require omniscience to prove. He would be compelled to know every circumstance of every
baptism which took place among many thousands of persons scattered over many countries for
more than one hundred years. If just one Anabaptist was immersed, his thesis falls to the
ground. Beyond the impossibility of sustaining such a position, two considerations will
answer all that Dr. Whitsitt has said in regard to the Anabaptists of Holland and Germany
1. All who were called Anabaptists were not Anabaptists. It was a
general name for many classes of people, and the true Anabaptists had to suffer much for
the sins of others. Many who went under this name, were Lutherans and other Pedobaptists,
who had embraced certain fanatical opinions, and were denounced as Anabaptists. In reality
they never embraced the Anabaptist faith at all. Fuslin very properly remarks:
"There was a great difference between Anabaptists and
Anabaptists. There were those among them who held strange doctrines; but this cannot be
said of the whole sect. If we should attribute to every sect whatever senseless doctrines
two or three fanciful fellows have taught, there is not one in the world to which we could
not ascribe the most abominable errors." Beytrage Vol. II).
It is certain, that many persons who were called Anabaptists were
never such in reality; and it is also certain that many such practiced sprinkling.
2. It must be remembered that this was a time of revolution. Men
were constantly changing their minds. The opinion of a man yesterday would not be the
opinion of the same man today. On no point was this more true than on the subject of
baptism. The ranks of the Anabaptists were constantly augmented from the ranks of the
Catholic and Reformed Churches. The investigation of the word of God was a new thing, and
some arrived at the truth slowly. This was eminently true of the act of baptism. Men came
out of the Reformed Churches and for a time held on to sprinkling and pouring, and they
were termed Anabaptists, but this was not Anabaptist doctrine, any more than it is Baptist
doctrine today. This may be illustrated by Grebel, one of the most noted Anabaptist
preachers of his day. It is said of Mantz, to whom Dr. Whitsitt refers that "he fell
upon his knees, and Grebel baptized him." (Cornelius, Geschichte des Munsterischen
Aufrouhrs, Leipsig, 1860. Vol. II., s. 26, 27). And yet shortly after that Grebel became a
full Anabaptist and only practiced immersion. This will explain some apparent cases where
sprinkling seemed to be practiced among the Anabaptists. The normal mode of baptism among
the early Anabaptists was immersion, and I shall point out an abundance of testimony to
confirm this proposition.
Dr. Henry S. Burrage, very beautifully says on this point:
"The Bible was read, its divine lessons were earnestly and
tenderly unfolded, and sinners were urged to flee from the wrath to come. It was a new
gospel to thousands, and multitudes with tears of repentance asked the privilege of
confessing faith in Christ, retiring to some mountain stream to exclaim with the Eunuch,
'See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?' The solemn ordinance was
administered, and coming forth from the water both the convert and the bearer of the glad
tidings 'went on their way rejoicing."' (The Anabaptists of Switzerland, p. 108,
We are not at all shut up to a negative view of this question.
Fortunately we have much positive evidence that the Anabaptists did practice dipping.
Luther was a firm believer in dipping, and understood the Anabaptists to be dippers.
Indeed some charge that the Anabaptists took the cue for their immersions from Luther
himself. Robinson says:
"Luther bore the Zuinglians dogmatizing; but he could not
brook a further reformation in the hands of the dippers. What renders the great man's
conduct the more surprising is, that he had himself, seven years before, taught the
doctrine of dipping. * * * The Catholics tax Luther as being the father of the German
dippers, some of the first expressly declare, they received their first ideas from him,
and the fact seems undeniable, but the article of reforming without him he could not bear.
This is the crime objected against them, as it had been against Carolostadt. This
exasperated him to the last degree, and he became their enemy, and notwithstanding all he
had said in favor of dipping, persecuted them under the title of re-dippers, re-baptizers,
or Anabaptists. It. is not an improbable conjecture, that Luther at first conformed to his
own principles, and dipped infants in baptism." (Ecclesiastical Researches, pp. 542,
543. Cambridge, 1792).
The translator of Luther's Controversial Works, speaking of
Luther's sermon on baptism says: "The sermon and letters are directed principally
against the Anabaptists, a fanatical sect of reformers who contended that baptism should
be administered to adults only, not by sprinkling, but by dipping."
Zuingle, 1527, entitles his great work against the Anabaptists,
Elenchus contra Catabaptistas. (Zuinglii Operum, Vol. II., pp. 1-42. Ed. 580).8o). He
gives an early Confession of Faith of the Anabaptists. He upbraids his opponents as having
published these articles, but declares that there is scarcely any one of them that has not
a written copy of these laws which have been so well concealed. The articles are in all
seven. In reality it is the Schleitham Confession of Faith. The first, which we give in
full, relates to baptism:
"Baptism ought to be given to all who have been taught
repentance and change of life, and who in truth believe that through Christ their sins are
blotted out, and the sins of all who are willing to walk in the resurrection of Jesus
Christ, and who are willing to be buried with him into death, that they may rise
again with him. To all, therefore, who in this manner seek baptism, and of themselves ask
us, we will give it. By this rule are excluded all baptism of infants, the great
abomination of the Roman pontiff. For this article we have the strength and testimony of
Scripture; we have also the practice of the apostles; which things we simply and also
steadfastly will observe, for we are assured of them."
Zuingle makes all manner of fun of the Anabaptists, calling
them " immersionists, dying people, re-dying them, plunging them into the darkness of
water to unite them to a church of darkness, they mersed," etc.
In 1525 Zuingle calls the Anabaptists "bath (I should have
said) Baptist, companions." (Zuingle's Works, Vol. II., s. 240).
It will be seen from the above that not only does Zuingle declare
the Anabaptists to be dippers, but he calls them Catabaptists. This term will be found in
many places in this book, and so I wish to have a definition of the term. My first witness
as to the meaning of the word Catabaptist shall be Dr. Whitsitt. When Dr. Whitsitt is
writing under constraint and trying to establish a case, Catabaptist means "against
baptism," but when he was writing without constraint the word meant "a
Dr. Whitsitt in The Independent,
The ceremony referred to was anabaptism, rebaptism by sprinkling and
not "catabaptism," or baptism by immersion.
Dr. Whitsitt in his book, 1896:
It used to be said that the word Kata baptist, so often applied to
Anabaptists by their opponents during the Reformation period, contained indisputable proof
that they were immersionists. The preposition kata, in its primary or local usage,
means down, and so, it was argued, Katabaptist must have been one who baptized downwards,
that is, immersed. But just as ana, meaning primarily up,came to be used in the
sense of again,so kata, in several technical terms, means against.
Which statement of Dr. Whitsitt shall we believe? The first of
course, for that is in accord with all scholarship. Liddell and Scott, the great Greek
lexicographers, in their seventh edition, say:
Katabaptizo to dip under water, to drown.
Katabaptistas, one who drowns.
Dr. K. R. Hagenbach says of the Anabaptists:
"'Since,' says Bullinger, 'kindness was of no avail with
them, they were put into the high tower in the lower town, the one called the Witches' or
New Tower. There were fourteen men and seven women of them. There they were fed on bread
and water, to see whether it was possible to turn them from their error.' The threat of
drowning was even administered in barbarous irony, for 'he who dips,' it was declared,
'shall himself be dipped."' (History of the Reformation in Germany and Switzerland,
Vol. II., p. 33).
That the Anabaptists, or Mennonites, of Holland immersed we have
many proofs. One of Dr. Whitsitt's principal witnesses is Baillie, and I show, in the
chapter on English Baptists, that he admits that the Mennonites were dippers. Another one
of Dr. Whitsitt's witnesses is Robinson. He is clear enough on this point. Robinson says:
"Menno, the father of the Dutch Baptists, says, 'after we
have searched ever so diligently, we shall find no other baptism beside dipping in water
(doopsel inder water) which is acceptable to God and maintained in his word.'
(Mennonis Simonis, Opera, 1539, page 24). Menno was dipped himself, and he baptized
others by dipping; but some of his followers introduced pouring, as they imagined through
necessity, in prison, and now the practice generally prevails." (History of Baptism,
pp. 694, 695. Nashville, 1860).
I now introduce an authoritative witness. It is Gerard Brandt, the
brilliant historian of the Low Countries. This work was first published in 1671. He says:
"The Reformation exclusive of Infant-baptism, was set on foot
in Switzerland about the year 1522, by the zeal of Conrad Grebel and Felix Mans,
both men of learning, who fell out with Zuinglius, about the said opinion. Upon-account of
this difference was the first Edict against Anabaptists published at Zurich; in which
there was a Penalty of a Silver Park (or two Guilders, Dutch money) set upon all such as
should suffer themselves to be Re-baptized, or should withhold Baptism from their
Children. And it was further declared, That those who openly opposed this Order, should be
yet more severely treated. Accordingly the said Felix was drowned in Zurich upon the
sentence pronounced by Zuinglius, in these four words: *Qui iterum mergit, mergatur; that
is, he that rebaptizes with water, let him be drowned in the water. This happened in the
year 1526; but about the same time, and since, there were more of them put to death: A
procedure which appeared very strange to some: The Zuinglians, they said, were scarce got
out of the reach of Persecution themselves, and saw those fires in which their
fellow-believers were burnt, still daily smooking most of them condemned the putting
hereticks to death, where it came home to themselves, where they were uppermost. Thus
doing to others what they would not have done to them. Others abused fire, they water.
Those who knew better things ought to have done better. Neither
*Those who immerse again, shall be immersed.
were they acted by a good spirit, they could lead the Wanderer
into the ditch, instead of setting him in the right way; they could drown the infected
instead of washing and cleansing him; or burn the Blind instead of restoring him to the
"The first Anabaptists so far as I can gather from their own
Writings, that were put to death for their persuasions in Holland, during the reign of
Popery, were John Wadon, and two of his fraternity of Waterlandt; and all of these three
were, with a slow fire, rather roasted than burnt to death in the Hague, in the year 1527.
At Brussels the Dean of Louvain, Inquisitor of Brabrant, Holland, and the neighboring
Counties, condemned partly and partly received as Penitents, about sixty persons. At the
same time the Provost of the Regular Canons of Typres was Inquisitor in Flanders, and the
parts adjacent, and the Provost of the Scholars of Mons in Hainault, was Inquisitor in
that district." (The History of the Reformation in the Low Countries, Vol. I., P. 57.
Two things are evident from the above quotation from Brandt:
First, the Anabaptists were dippers, and secondly the Anabaptists were of the same
"persuasion in Holland."
On November 19, 1526, the Council of Zurich confirmed the edict of
March 7, that Anabaptism should be punished by drowning, and that the man should be
delivered to the executioner, who should bind his hands, place him in a boat and throw him
bound into the water, there to die. (Fusslin, Beytrage, I., s. 271. Engli, Actensammlung,
5 14, Nr. 107). Mantz, who had become an immersionist, received this sentence January 5,
1527. It was carried into execution. Bullinger says: "As he came down from the
Wellenberg to the fish market and was led through the shambles to the boat, he praised God
that he was about to die for his truth; for Anabaptism was right and founded upon the word
of God, and Christ had foretold that his followers would suffer for the truth's sake. And
the like discourse he urged much, discussing with the preacher who attended him. On the
way his mother and brother came to him and exhorted him to be steadfast, and he persevered
in his folly even to the end. When he was bound upon the hurdle and was about to be thrown
into the stream by the executioner, he sang with a loud voice: In manus tuas, Domine,
commendo spiritum meum. 'Into thy hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit;' and herewith was
drawn into the water by the executioner and drowned." (Reformationsgeschchte, II., s.
382. Frauenfeld, 1838).
The reason for this punishment by drowning was that the penalty
might be according to the offense. This is fully explained by many writers. The
Anabaptists were immersionists therefore they should be drowned.
The senate of Zurich decreed that any one immersing a candidate in
baptismqui merserit baptismoshould be drowned is a significant hint. (Zuingli,
Opera, III., s. 364).
John Stumpf, who during the period under survey, lived in the
vicinity of Zurich and was familiar with the Anabaptist movement, says that generally the
early Anabaptists of Switzerland were "rebaptized in rivers and streams."
(Gemeiner Loblicher Eydgenossenschaft).
Gastins, sarcastically, used to say, as he ordered the Anabaptists
drowned: "They like immersion so much let us immerse them."
In Appenzell, 1525, the Anabaptists had three places where
meetings were held. The largest was Teufen, with a second at Herrisau, and the third at
Brunnen. In all of these places the services were under the open sky, while the converts
were baptized in the neighboring brooks and streams. (Burrage, p. 119).
Sender, an old historian of Augsburg, says of the Anabaptists of
"The hated sect in 1527 met in the gardens of houses, men and
women, rich and poor, more than 1,100 in all, who were rebaptized. They put on peculiar
clothes in which to be baptized, for in their houses where their baptisteries were, there
were a number of garments always prepared."
Wagenseil, a later historian of Augsburg, says:
"In 1527 the Anabaptists baptized none who did not believe
with them; and the candidates were not merely sprinkled with water but wholly
In the Bekenntniss von beiden Sacramenten, which at Minster,
October 22, 1533, was subscribed by Rothman, Klopriss, Staprade, Vienne, and Stralen, and
was made public on the 8th of November following, occurs this statement:
"Baptism is an immersion in water, which the candidate
requests and receives as a true sign that, dead to sin, buried with Christ, he rises to a
new life, henceforth to walk, not in the lusts of the flesh, but obedient to the will of
We have many instances of immersion at St. Gall's. It is said that
Kessler, the pastor of the church in St. Gall, in 1523, was expounding the book of Romans.
When he reached the sixth chapter, and was considering the significance of the ordinance
of baptism, Hochrutiner interrupted him, saying, "I infer from your words that you
are of the opinion that children may be baptized." "Why not?" asked
Kessler. Hochrutiner appealed to Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall
be saved," and added that to baptize a child was the same as dipping in water any
irrational creature. (Burrage, pp. 116, 117. Kessler, Sabatta, s. 264).
In March, 1525, Grebel baptized Ulimann by immersion. The account
of the baptism is taken from Kessler, who says:
"Wolfgang Ulimann, on the journey to Schaffhausen, met Conrad
Grebel, who instructed him so highly in the knowledge of Anabaptism that he would not be
sprinkled out of a dish, but was drawn under and covered over with the waters of the
Rhine." (Sabbata, Vol. I., s. 266). It is plain that immersion is here declared to be
a distinctive view of the Anabaptists. He was "instructed" in Anabaptism,
therefore he would not be sprinkled but was dipped.
"Wolfgang Ullmann, on his return to St. Gall, after his
baptism at Shaffhausen by Grebel, gave a new impulse to the Anabaptist movement. Grebel
soon followedprobably late in March, 1525and on Palm Sunday, April 9, he
baptized a large number in the Sitter river. The St. Gall Anabaptists now withdrew from
the churches, leaving them almost empty, and holding religious services in private houses,
and in open fields. In a short time the Anabaptist Church numbered eight hundred
members." (Burrage, pp. 117, 118. Kessler, Sabbata, s. 267).
Dr. Howard Osgood, who was at St. Gall in 1867,says:
"A mountain stream, sufficient for all sprinkling purposes,
flows through the city; but in no place is it deep enough for the immersion of a person,
while the Sitter river is between two and three miles away, and is gained by a difficult
road. The only solution of this choice was, that Grebel sought the river, in order to
Kessler tells us that at St. Gall's the Anabaptists had a
(Taufhaus), or baptistery. (Sabbata, s. 270).
Sicher, a Roman Catholic eye-witness, says: "The number of
the converted (at St. Gall) increased so that the baptistery could not contain the crowd,
and they were compelled to use the streams and the Sitter River." (Arx, Geschichte d.
Stadt, St. Gallen, II., s. 500.
August Naef, secretary of the Council of St. Gall, in a work
published in 1850, on p. 1021 says, speaking of the Anabaptists of 1525:
"They baptized those who believed with them in rivers and
lakes, and in a great wooden cask in the butchers' square before a great crowd."
Dr. Burrage gives a resume of the subject in these words:
"Now we know that immersion was practiced among the Swiss
Anabaptists two years before. How do we know? Not from the controversial writings of the
period, but from the diary of John Kessler, the ZwInglian pastor at St. Gall, who,
fortunately, one day recorded the immersion of Wolfgang Uliman by Conrad Grebel in the
Rhine, at Schaffhausen, in April, 1525, and of others a little later, in the Sitter River,
near St. Gall. And so the fact has come to us. Were it not for that diary, inasmuch as
Zwingle did not publish his Contra- Catabaptists' until 1527, and inasmuch as the
decree of the Council of Zurich against the Anabaptists, in which occur the words qui iterum
mergat mergatur, was not issued until 1527, the Independent might claim that
the Baptists of Switzerland did not practice immersion before 1627." (Early English
and American Baptists, by Henry S. Burrage, Independent, October 21, 1880).
It was claimed by the Baptists of the sixteenth century in most
all of their controversies that the Dutch translation of the New Testament rendered the
word baptizo by doop, which meant to dip. Many instances were given of the
use of this word doop. I could well nigh fill a book with citations from Baptist authors
on this point. I shall give a letter written to Dr. William Russell to this effect. He had
made this statement in a public debate, and he presents this letter in confirmation of his
statement. The letter reads:
"Sir, I have read your narrative of the Portsmouth
Disputation with some ministers of the Presbyterians, and have also seen another book
published by your adversaries intitled An Impartial Account of the Portsmouth
Disputation by Samuel Chandler, William Leigh, Benjamine Robinson, wherein I find such
unchristian reflections and wrong done you that suites not with the Profession they make
of true Religion, but greatly demonstrates the badness of their cause. And I wonder at
their Impudence in putting so plain a cheat upon the World as I find in pag. 79, in these
words, viz., whether he might not have spared all his Dutch? Seeing Doop in that
language signifies only to wash, and is used when they only pour on water. That this
account of the word Doop is notoriously false appears from the common use of the word, and
the account of it which is given in their Dictionaries. One I have by me, which I believe
is the largest and best in that Tongue, it being a double Dictionary of Dutch and English,
and English and Dutch, with Grammars to each of them: by Hendrick
Hexham and Daniel Manly and printed at Rotterdam, 1675 and 1678, wherein
the English word Dip is render'd Doop: as, to dip in a sauce, Doopen in een sausse;
to dip to the bottom, Doopen tot den grondt Zoe: Dipped Gedoopt; a dipping, een
doopinge; and Doop, Doopfel Baptism; Doopen to baptize, Dooper, baptizer,
Doop dagh the day of Baptism; Doopen onder her water, to duck or dive under
water. I also find that to wash or rinse is in Dutch, wasschen ofte sprolen; to
sprinkle, stroyen spreyden sprencken; and also Besprengen is to sprinkle,
besprinkle or to strow: to pour is in, Dutch Gietenor spocten; poured upon, Opgegoten
ofte op Gestort. Now seeing that there is nothing of truth in what thae say in
contradiction to you of the word Doop, but that it undeniably appears from the Dutch Dictionary
to signify to dip, to duck or dive, and that it has nothing in its signification on either
to sprinkle or wash by pouring water, which things are render'd by other Dutch words:
I know not how they can clear themselves from the guilt of a wilful Lie to cheat the
People of the true form of gospel Baptism which, in my opinion, is a greater sin than to
cheat them of their money, and its greatly to be lamented that any professing Godliness
should so grossly stain their Religion for the sake of Infant-sprinkling, a meer human
Tradition, which has neither Command nor Example for it in the holy Scriptures. Sir, I was
willing to communicate this unto you, that if you need the- Evidence of this Dictionary
and have not already met with it, you may have recourse unto it, and so heartily wishing
you the increase of true wisdom and Christian courage for the defence of the truth of
Christ, which you are engaged in, I rest your loving Christian Friend and Brother.
Leominster, Nov. 17, 1699.
This claim was urged as late as early in the eighteenth century.
Thomas Davye says:
"And the Dutch Translators almost everywhere translate
the Words Baptize and Baptism, to dip or dipping.Mat. 3-1. 'John the
dipper.' And v. 6. 'Dipp'd in Jordan.' And v. 16. 'Jesus being dipp'd (climb'd
or) came up out of Ike Water.' And Mat. 28. 19. 'Instruct all People, dipping
them in the Name of the Father, etc. And Acts 8:36. 'What hinders me to be
dipped?' And V. 38. 'And he dipp'd him.' And v. 12. 'They were dipp'd both Men
and Women.' And Rom. 6.3. 'Know ye not that so many of us as were dipp'd into Christ
Jesus were dipp'd into His death.' (The Baptism of Adult Believers, p. 113. London,
If the Anabaptists of Holland sprinkled it is strange that the
Baptists of England knew nothing of it. Joseph Hooke, who wrote an able book on baptism,
"What Mr. Erratt hath placed in the margin concerning
the Anabaptists so-called in Holland, I cannot credit; I never heard that they only
pour water upon, or dip the head as he affirms, yet I was well acquainted with a Baptist
Preacher that lived some years there, who never gave me an account of any such thing.
Besides a credible author signifies that some tender persons of his acquaintance, being
desirous to be rightly Baptized, have had water warmed for that use in the
Netherlands." (A Necessary Apology for the Baptized Believers, pp. T12, 113. London,
I shall now introduce some general historians and writers Who have
examined the subject, and they are unanimous in their opinion that the true Anabaptists
"The Anabaptists (rebaptizers, generally by immersion) were
of almost every sort, from the wildest fanatics to the later and more sober Christians,
who came to be called Baptists, the Mennonites from the second race of Anabaptists."
(History of the Christian Church, p. 4 16).
"They naturally disowned the name of Anabaptists, as they
declared infant baptism invalid, they rather called themselves Catabaptists. (Fussli III.,
229)." (A Compendium of Eccl. Hist., Vol. V., pp. 355, 356,).
William Robertson, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, says:
"The most remarkable of their religious tenets related to the
sacrament of baptism, which, as they contended, ought to be administered only to persons
grown up to years of understanding, and should be performed not by sprinkling them with
water, but by dipping them in it; for this reason they condemned the baptism of infants
and rebaptizing all whom they admitted into their society, the sect came to be
distinguished by the name of Anabaptists. To this peculiar notion concerning baptism,
which has the appearance of being founded on the practice of the church in the apostolic
age, and contains nothing inconsistent with the peace and order of human society, they
added other principles of a most enthusiastic as well as dangerous nature." (The
History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V., p. 246. New York, 1829).
Gregory and Ruter say:
They first made their appearance in the provinces of upper Germany
where the severity of the magistrates kept them under control. But in the Netherlands and
Westphalia they obtained admittance into several towns, and spread their principles. The
most remarkable of their religious tenets related to the sacrament of baptism, which, as
they contended, ought to be administered only to persons grown up to years of
understanding, and should be performed, not by sprinkling them with water, but by dipping
them in it. For this reason they condemned the baptism of Infants, and rebaptizing all
whom they admitted into their society, the sect came to be distinguished by the name of
Anabaptists."(A Concise History of the Christian Church, p. 345. New York, 1834).
Schaff very fully discusses the act of baptism among the
Anabaptists. He says:
"The Anabaptist leaders, Hubmaier, Denck, Hatzer, Hut,
likewise appeared in Augsburg and gathered a congregation of eleven hundred members. They
held a general synod in 1527. They baptized by immersion."
Schaff makes it very clear that these Anabaptists, or
Catabaptists, or dippers, were the same in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, and were
gathered by the same leaders. He says:
"All the Reformers retained the custom of infant baptism, and
opposed rebaptism (Wiedertaufe) as a heresy. So far they agreed with the Catholics
against the Anabaptists, or Catabaptists, as they were called, although they rejected the
name, because in their view the baptism of infants was no baptism at all.
"The Anabaptists, or Baptists (as
distinct from Pedobaptists), sprang up in Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and organized
independent congregations. Their leaders were Hubmaier, Denck, Hatzer, and Grebel. They
thought that the Reformers stopped half way, and did not go to the root of the evil. They
broke with the historical tradition, and constructed a new church of believers on the
voluntary principle. Their fundamental doctrine was, that baptism is a voluntary act, and
requires personal repentance and faith in Christ. They rejected infant baptism as an
anti-scriptural invention. They could find no trace of it in the New Testament, the only
authority in matters of faith. They were cruelly persecuted in Protestant as well as Roman
Catholic countries. We must carefully distinguish the better class of Baptists and the
Mennonites from the restless revolutionary radicals and fanatics, like Carlstadt, Munzer
and the leaders of the Munster tragedy.
The mode of baptism was not an article of controversy at that
time; for the Reformers either preferred immersion (Luther'), or held the mode to be a
matter of indifference (Calvin).
"Luther agreed substantially with
the Roman Catholic doctrine of baptism. His Taufbuchlein of 1523 is a translation
of the Latin Baptismal service, including the formula of exorcism, the sign of the cross
and the dipping." (History of the Christian Church, Vol. VI., pp. 578, 607, 608).
Dr. William R. Williams, one of our very best Baptist historians,
very closely connects the Baptists of the Continent, and especially those of Holland, with
the Baptists of England. He had no doubt that the Anabaptists of Holland and the Baptists
of England practiced immersion. He says:
"But there were Anabaptists and Anabaptist martyrs in Holland
before Menno himself had yet left the Roman communion. That some of these professed and
practiced immersion, we infer from the fact that their persecutors, who delighted in
fitting the penalty, as they cruelly judged it, to the fault, put many of them to death by
full immersion, swathing the sufferers in large sacks with confined arms and feet, and
then huddling the sacks with their living contents into huge puncheons, where the victims
were drowned. So the Swiss Anabaptists, some of them at least, immersed in rivers. This
appears from the work Sabbata of Knertz, a contemporary Lutheran. The Dunkers, too, on our
shores, who were driven from a Swiss or a German source, are immersionists in their own
"A small, but in its day a very distinguished, branch of the
Mennonites, too, were on principle immersionists. These were the Collegiants, or
Rhynsburgers. * * *
"In times later than these, in the following century, this
same community of Holland immer-sionists received the accession of Wagenaar, one of
the historians of Holland, whose work, in numerous volumes, is still consulted. The body
has nearly ceased to exist. Some funds for orphans that it possesses are still applied by
the other branch of the Mennonites to youths, who have the choice of baptism by the method
of the Collegiants or that of the Mennonites.
"Thus in people so distinct in some periods of their history,
and so clearly allied at other eras, as the nations of Holland and Britain, it has been
seen that God's free Bible, in the hands of a free church, has not been without its
approximating effects in the judgments to which it has led its students." (Lectures
on Baptist History, pp. 246-248).
Dr. J. B. Thomas, Newton Theological Seminary, says:
"Usually they insisted upon immersion as the only
In a recent and very ably written book, William E. Griffis, says:
"The Nederlanders who first claimed the right of free reading
and interpretation of the Bible demanded the separation of the church and state, and
filled their country full of ideas hostile to all state churches, were called the
Anabaptists, or rebaptizers, because they believed in the baptism of adults only, and
usually by immersion." (Brave Little Holland, p, 135. Boston, 1894).
This question, however, only incidentally con-cerns the Baptists
of England. It has never been shown that all of the English Baptists received their
baptism from Holland. It is absolutely certain that the English Baptists did not all
originate with John Smyth, and according to Dr. Whitsitt's theory John Smyth baptized
himself. His baptism was not therefore from Holland. And his contention is that Richard
Blount's baptism was by immersion. Neither has it been shown that all of the English
Baptists of the sixteenth century came from Holland, for we know from many sources that
many of them were natives of England. And there is not a line of proof that the Dutch
Baptists who did conic practiced sprinkling. Dr. Whitsitt is not only under obligation to
prove that some Dutch Baptists were sprinkled, but that every one who came to England had
been sprinkled. He has assumed a universal negative, and the best he has attempted is to
show that some persons who were called Anabaptists, were sprinkled, and I have shown that
some of these afterwards became immersionists.
I can but feel that entirely too much importance has been given to
the so-called se-baptism of John Smyth. It is a matter of little moment whether he dipped
himself or was baptized by another. Crosby says that his 'baptism did not affect the
baptism of the Baptist Churches of England. His words are:
"If he were guilty of what they charge him with, 'tis no
blemish on the English Baptists; who neither approved of any such method, nor did they
receive their baptism from him." (Hist. English Baptists, Vol. I., pp. 99, 100).
It is sufficient to say of the personal history of John Smyth that
he was a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, that he was born some time in the sixteenth
century and died in 1611. There are two theories of his baptism. 1. Dr. Dexter's theory,
the one followed by Dr. Whitsitt, and the one generally followed by Pedobaptists, is that
he was baptized in 1608. (The true story of John Smyth, p. 10). After a long dissertation,
in which Dr. Dexter tries to prove that sprinkling was the general form of baptism
apparently from the earliest days of the church, he says of Smyth:
"Thus gathered together, after quietly waiting until all with
one consent had laid the duty of beginning upon himself, I conceive of Mr.
Smythdisrobed sufficiently to allow of the easy washing of the upper portion of his
body by himselfas walking into the stream, lifting handsful of water and pouring
them liberally upon his own head, shoulders and chest, until clean and white they
glistened under the purifying streams, solemnly repeating as he did so that formula which
the Saviour bequeathed to his people to the end of time. Then turning, I imagine as
receiving his associates, Helwys, Murton, Pygott, Seamer, Overton, Bromhead, Jessop,
Hodgkins, Bywater, Grindal, Halton, and the others, not forgetting Mary Smyth, Ann
Bromhead, Ursula Bywater, the Dickens sisters, and the rest, and, one by one, after the
same manner, reinitiated each into the earthly kingdom of God. And I have ventured here to
introduce, as possibly with considerable exactitude pictorially representing the service
performed by Mr. Smyth upon himself, a tracing from an ancient engraving representing the
selfbaptism in earlier days of a 'Hermobaptist."' (pp. 30, 31 ).
This description is manifestly absurd. Nobody but an enemy of the
Baptists ever presented a baptism in this manner. If the nude picture given by Dr. Dexter
teaches anything, it is that John Smyth was immersed. And there is not one whit of
testimony presented by Dr. Dexter himself to prove that Smyth was sprinkled. It is purely "from fancy which may be truth
"(p. 31), from
which he draws his conclusions. The fact is that the whole account as given by Dr. Dexter
is full of guesses, uncertainties, and nowhere is there a definite statement that John
Smyth did actually baptize himself. Every one of his witnesses may be explained away
without difficulty. No one who was an eye-witness has described the baptism according to
this account, and we are left to conjecture as to whether it was by Smyth baptizing
himself or by some one else baptizing him. Dr. Whitsitt gives no authorities which are not
found in Dexter, and not one of them intimates that Smyth was sprinkled.
Barclay, who holds to the affusion view, was compelled to admit
question of the manner of baptism does not come up." (Inner Life of the Religious
Societies, p. 70).
Thomas Price, D. D., one of the very best writers on this
subject, gives us some very important data. We must remember that Smyth's enemies are
responsible for this history, and that Is not always trustworthy. Dr. Price says:
"Much has been said about Mr. Smith
having baptized himself. Ainsworth, Jessop, and some others of his opponents charge him
with having done so, and make use of the alleged fact to awaken the ridicule of their
readers, or to invalidate his administration of the ordinance. I confess that the matter
does not appear to me to be of so much importance as some Baptist authors deeem it; nor do
I think it so easy to determine the truth or falsity of the statement as the writers on
both sides conclude it to be. The mere fact that such a statement was made by the
contemporaries of Smith, and that no direct denial of it has come down to us, gives it
some appearance of truth. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the parties
making the statement were angry controversialists, who spared no invective or abuse, but
seemed to think that every epithet appropriate and every assertion lawful, by which they
could injure the reputation, or render ridiculous the proceedings of their opponent. Mr.
Smith's defenses of himself are not known. His enemies adduce long quotations from his
writings, but no one of them admits the fact with which he was charged, or attempts to
justify it. He doubtless must have referred to it, and had he, in doing so, made the
slightest admission, they would readily have retailed his language. It is a further
confirmation of this view of the case that contemporaneous writers, referring to the
baptismal controversy amongst the Brownists, and that with no friendly design, make no
reference to such a fact." (The History of Protestant Nonconformity, Vol., p. 497).
It will be worth while to note that Jessop, a backslider and
renegade, and Ainsworth both wrote books to sustain infant baptism and to overthrow the
position of believers-baptism as held by Smyth. A close reading of these books would
easily convince any one that they had no love for Smyth nor the doctrines that he held.
"His principles and conduct soon drew upon him an host of
opponents, the chief of whom were Johnson, Ainsworth, Robinson, Jessop and Clifton. The
controversy began in 1606, about the time Smyth settled in Amsterdam. Soon afterwards he
removed with his followers to Leyden, where he continued to publish various books in
defence of his opinions, till his death in the year 1610." (The History and
Antiquities of Dissenting Churches, Vol. I., p. 30).
I will further refresh the memory of the reader by reminding him
that this company which persecuted Smyth were those who settled in New England. They fled
from persecution in England and Holland, and were hardly settled in New England until they
were burning witches and whipping Anabaptists. I do not think that Smyth and his opinions
met with much justice at their hands.
2. There is another account given in certain church records of the
Baptist Churches of Epworth and Crowle in the Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire, England. The
church Covenant, dated January 4, 1599, is recorded in these words:
We, this church of Christ, meeting at Epworth, Crowle and West
Butterwick, in the county of Lincolnshire, whose names are underwritten, give up ourselves
to the Lord and one to another according to the will of God. We do promise and covenant in
the presence of Christ, to walk together in the laws and ordinances of baptized believers
according to the rules of the Gospel through Jesus Christ, so helping us. James Rayner,
John Morton, Henry Helwise, William Brewster, William Bradford, elders of ye church.
There are appended thirty-two names, some with the X. It is
further stated that William Bradford was "baptized in the old river Don below Epworth
town at midnight, 1595." There is also a record that the church desired to leave for
Holland, "where we hear there is freedom for all men."
It is further recorded:
4. It affirms that John Smith, vicar of Gainsborough enquired about
baptism in February 4, 1604, was convinced of its truth May 7th and "at
midnight on the 24th of March, 1606, he was baptized by Elder John Morton in the river
Don, and walked to Epworth, a distance of two miles, in his wet clothes."
And the document also records that "John Smith, John Morton
(who immersed him), Henry Helwise and others held a meeting in regard to removing the
church to Holland." This was the 4th of April, 1609.
The authenticity of these records has been violently assailed by
Dr. Whitsitt. He says:
A generation has passed away since 1862, and yet the only English
production in Baptist history that has come to the attention of the general public has
been the fraud at Epworth, Crowle and West Butterwick, that brings blushes to the cheeks
of intelligent Baptist people in all parts of the world. (p. 15).
On pp. 62, 63, Dr. Whitsitt uses many words of censure on these
documents. He calls them "a fabulous statement," "fabrication,"
"no sadder humiliation has ever been inflicted upon our Baptist name and cause,"
"fill up the cup of our mortification," etc. Dr. Whitsitt is very severe against
Dr. Clifford who published these records. Dr. Whitsitt always praises those who praise
him. He cannot say enough of Prof. Hoop Scheffer, of Amsterdam, who complimented him and
agrees with him (p. 17). But Dr. Clifford and the English Baptist historians generally,
who ought to know something of this subject, all differ with Dr. Whitsitt, and so their
investigations reflect "a painful light upon the condition of studies among Baptists
in England." (p. 63).
My position holds good that John Smyth was immersed
irrespective of these records, but it is absolutely essential for Dr. Whitsitt to prove
that these records are false.
I would also suggest that both of these theories might be true. It
might be true that Smyth was baptized in the Don river and afterwards baptized himself.
The Baptists of that generation were much disturbed on the subject of a proper
administrator of baptism, and were often rebaptized. If Smyth was the visionary man that
Dexter declares him to be, nothing would be more probable than that he should do this very
It is a strong fact that cannot be overcome that the historians
declare that Smyth was immersed. The array of writers who affirm this is a very formidable
one, I shall give some of them.
Joseph A. Adshead, Manchester, says:
"Mr. Smyth (who had been a Brownist) and his followers
settled in Amsterdam in 1608. He was led to RENOUNCE. INFANT SPRINKLING and came to the
conclusion that immersion was the true and proper manner of baptism; and that it should be
administered only to those who are capable OF PROFESSING FAITH IN CHRIST." (The
Progress of Religious Sentiment, p. xix. London, 1852).
George Punchard says:
"Mr. Smyth proceeded first to rebaptize himself, by
immersion, and then to immerse Mr. Helwise, his associate, and several others, his
followers." (The History of Congregationalism, p. 319. Salem, 1841).
W. M. Blackburn, D. D., Methodist, says:
"Among the English Separatists in Holland was Rev. John
Smyth, who, probably immersed himself, felt so adverse to liturgies that he thought that
the Bible ought not to be read publicly in churches, nor psalms sung from a printed page,
gave an Arminian shape to his vague theology and at Amsterdam (1608-9) gathered a flock of
English Baptists, who began to be more clearly distinguished from the Anabaptists."
(History of the Christian Church, p. 553. Cincinnati, 1879).
Ivimey, the Baptist historian, says:
"Upon a further consideration of the subject, he saw reason
to conclude that immersion was the true and proper meaning of the word baptism and that it
should be administered to those only who were capable of professing faith in Christ."
(A History of the English Baptists, Vol. I., p. 114).
David Masson, M. A., LL. D., Professor of English Literature in
the University of Edinburgh, spent a great deal of time in the British Museum gathering
material for his great life of Milton. He gives an interesting account of his work. He
Of the multiplicity and extent of the researches that were required,
any general account would be tedious. Perhaps, however, I may allude specially to my
obligations to the State Paper Office in London, where there were printed calendars of the
State papers; the task of consulting them is easy. Unfortunately, when I began my readings
in the great national repository, the domestic papers of the period of most interest to
mefrom 1640 to 1643were utterly uncalendared. They had, therefore, to be
brought to me in bundles and inspected carefully, lest anything useful should be skipped.
In this way I had to persevere at a slow rate in my readings and note papers; but I
believe I can now say for much the greatest part of the time embraced in the present
volume (III 1640 to 1643there is not a single domestic document extant of
those that used to be in the "State Paper Office," which has not passed through
my hands and been scrutinized. (Preface to Vol. Ill.).
Now Smyth, adhering to the tenet, had pushed it to a logical
consequence not ventured on by the Separatists before him. If the ordination of the Church
of England were rejected, so that her ministers had to be reordained when they became
pastors and teachers of Separatist congregations, why was the baptism of the Church. of
England accounted valid; why were not members of the Church rebaptized when they became
Separatists? Through the prosecution of this query, aided by other investigations, Smyth
had developed his Separatism into the form known as Anabaptism, not only requiring the
rebaptism of members of the Church of England, but rejecting the baptism of infants
altogether, and insisting on immersion as the proper Scriptural form of the rite."
(The Life of John Milton, Vol. II., p. 540. London, 1871).
Daniel Neal, M. A., the standard Puritan historian, says:
He was for refining upon the Brownist scheme, and at last
declared for the Principles of the Baptists; upon this he left Amsterdam, and settled with
his disciples at Leyden,where, being at a loss for aproper administrator of the
Ordinance of Baptism, he plunged himself, and then performed the ceremony upon others,
which gained him the name of Se-Baptist." (The History of the Puritans, Vol. II., p.
29. London, 1732).
Thomas Price says:
"But his views on the subject of baptism were still more
obnoxious, and awakened an angry and fierce controversy, in which the sacredness of
character and the charity of the gospel were alike disregarded. His sentiments on this
latter point were substantially as those now held by the English Baptists; and the mode in
which he arrived at them was as follows, etc." (The History of Protestant
Nonconformity in England, Vol. I., p. 495).
Taylor, the historian of the General Baptists of England, says;
In reviewing the subject of separation, Mr. Smyth discovered that
lie and his friends acted inconsistently in rejecting the ordination received from the
Church of England, because they esteemed her a false church, and yet retained her baptism
as true baptism. This led him to examine the nature and ground of baptism and he
perceived, that neither infant baptism nor sprinkling had any foundation in Scripture.
With his usual frankness he was no sooner convinced of this important truth than he openly
professed and defended his sentiments. He urged the inconsistency of their practice on his
former associates so clearly that the bishop before mentioned tells Mr. Robinson, 'There
is no remedy; you must go forward to anabaptism or come back to us; all of your Rabbins
cannot answer the charge of your rebaptized brother (Mr. Smyth). If we be a true church,
you must return; if we be not (as a false church is no church of God), you must rebaptize.
If our baptism be good, then is our ordination good. He tells you true: your station is
unsafe; either you must forward to him or back to us."(Hall's Works, Vol. IX., pp.
384,400. The History of the English General Baptists, Vol. I., p. 68).
Walter Wilson, who is one of the best of the Puritan historians,
Upon a further consideration of the subject he saw grounds to
consider immersion as the true and only meaning of the word baptism, and that it should be
administered to those alone who were capable of professing their faith in Christ."
(The History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches, Vol. I., p. 29).
Thomas Wall, 1691, was a very bitter opponent of the Baptists. In
explaining the immersion of John Smyth he says:
"A third Devise these People have found to Deprive Infants of
their Rights to Water Baptism, perswading People of years they were not Baptized at all,
if not Dip'd or Plung'd in Water." (Baptism Anatomized, p. 107. London, 1691).
Giles Shute, in writing against the Baptists in 1606, was very
bitter. He says:
"Now let the wise judge in what abominable disorder they
retain their Baptisme ever since from Mr. Smyth; and whether it stinketh not in the
nostrils of the Lord ever since as the ministry of Corah and his company did. In
his Table of particulars wherein this passage is directed to it, is querqed, who began
Baptisme by way of Dipping among English People that call themselves Baptists? The answer
is, John Smith, who Baptized himself. Thus you may see upon what a rotten foundation the
Principles of the Anabaptists is built and at what Door that Anticovenant Doctrine came in
among us in England; therefore it is of the Earth, and but a Human Innovation, ought to be
abhor'd and detested by all Christian People." (A General Challenge to all
I think that we may easily reach the conclusion, which ever of
these two theories we hold, that John Smyth was immersed. I know not a line of original
testimony which teaches the contrary. The very best in favor of sprinkling is some
strained inferences. The historians are unanimous in favor of immersion, and as I have
shown from Pedobaptist writers of the seventeenth century, it was the concurrent opinion
of that century.
Dr. Whitsitt makes a labored argument to prove that John Smyth
baptized himself (p. 64) but he does not produce a line of proof that the baptism was
performed by sprinkling. He only infers that the Mennonites practiced sprinkling,
therefore Smyth was sprinkled. But Smyth's baptism was in no wise connected with the
Mennonites. It is possible that Smyth received his views in regard to immersion from the
New Testament. I am sure there is no proof that Smyth was an affusionist.
Smyth appears to have remained pastor of this congregation till
his death in 1611 "when he was succeeded by a Thomas Helwisse, one of the oldest
members, a plain man, of pragmatic notions, .and quite self taught." (Masson's Life
of Milton, Vol. II, p. 540). But Masson does not leave us in doubt as to the views of this
new pastor. He says:
"Now, this Helwisse, returning to England shortly after 1611,
drew around him, as we saw, the first congregation of General or Arminian Baptists in
London; and this obscure Baptist congregation seems to have become the depositary for
all England of the absolute principle of Liberty of Conscience expressed in the Amsterdam
Confession as distinct from the more stinted principle advocated by the general body of
the Independents. Not only did Helwisse's folk differ from the Independents generally on
the subject of Infant Baptism and Dipping; they differed also on the power of the
magistrate in matters of belief and conscience." (Life of John Milton, Vol. II., p.
Leonard Busher appears to have been a noted member of this
congregation of Helwise's. "It was," says Masson, "in short, from their
little dingy meeting house, somewhere in Old London, that there flashed out, first in
England, the absolute doctrine of religious liberty. 'Religious Peace: or, a Plea for
Liberty of Conscience,' is the title of a little tract first printed in 1614, and
presented to King James and the English Parliament, by 'Leonard Busher, citizen of
London.' This Leonard Busher, there is reason to believe, was a member of Helwisse's
congregation and we learn from the tract itself that he was a poor man, laboring for his
subsistence, who had his share of persecution. He had probably been one of Smyth's
Amsterdam flock who had returned with Helwisse. The tract is certainly the earliest known
English publication in which full liberty of conscience is openly advocated. It cannot be
read now without a throb. The style is simple and rather helpless, but one comes on some
touching passages." Masson's Life of Milton, Vol. III., p. 102). His testimony
on the subject of dipping is clear and concisive, Busher says:
"And therefore Christ commanded his disciples to teach all
nations, and baptize them; that is, to preach the word of salvation to every creature of
all sorts of nations that are worthy and willing to receive it. And such as shall
willingly and gladly receive, He has commanded to be baptized in the water; that is,
dipped for dead in the water." - (Plea for Liberty of Conscience, p. 50).
From this tract it is certain that Busher held three distinctive
Baptist doctrines: 1. Liberty of conscience; 2. Immersion or dipping, and 3.
Believers' baptism. In order to break the force of this clear and unequivocal testimony
Dr. Whitsitt makes the surprising declaration that there is no proof that Busher
was a Baptist.
Mr. Leonard Busher, a citizen of London, published in 1614 the well
known "Plea for Liberty of Conscience." He may have been a Baptist, but there is
no proof of it. He believed in immersion, which the Baptists had not then revived, and
describes it as "being dipped for dead in the water;" but it has not been shown
that he ever put this tenet into practice. If he did the Baptists of 1641 had never been
informed of it. (Religious Herald, May 7, 1896).
But in his book (pp. 69, 70) Dr. Whitsitt changes his mind and
Busher is declared to be an Anabaptist. But with the declaration of Busher before him that
dipping was baptism Dr. Whitsitt says:
It is sometimes too confidently assumed that this passage proves Mr.
Busher to have been an immersionist in practice as well as in principle, but we know too
little regarding him to venture distinct assertions on that point. * * * The act of
baptism observed by him would in that case become a question for Dutch archaeologists. But
either Dutch or English archaeologists, founding on the mere fact that he was an
immersionist in principle, must jump a long distance to the conclusion that he was also an
inimersionist in practice. In brief words, Mr. Busher is a shadowy figure, and it is
entirely uncertain whether be spent his last years in England or Holland. Therefore we are
not entitled, for the present at least, to establish any definite conclusions regarding
him or his people, except that if he had practiced immersion at Amsterdam in 1611 we
should have been likely to hear a good deal more about him than has been brought to light
hither to. * * * The most that can be safely claimed for Mr. Busher is that he was an
advance herald of genuine Baptist principles in Holland, that were shortly to be reduced
to practice in England.
We have the surprising declarations that Busher was an Anabaptist,
was a believer in, and advocate of immersion, and yet that he did not practice it. This is
only on a line with much of the rest of this remarkable book. . Every effort is made to
discredit all who practice immersion and to explain away the facts, and a like effort is
made to exalt all who practice sprinkling and to magnify the number of such examples among
I know of no Pedobaptist author who denies that Busher was a
Baptist; and with the exception of Dr. Whitsitt, there is no difference of opinion on this
subject among Baptist authors. I give the testimony of a few Pedobaptist writers:
"In 1614, Leonard Busher, who is believed to have been a
member of Helwys' and Morton's church, presented to King James and the Parliament his
petition for liberty of conscience, which was published in 1614." (The Inner Life of
Religious Societies, p. 98).
Rev. A. H. Drysdale, M. A., a Presbyterian historian, says:
"Unquestionably it was the Baptists who first repudiated,
clearly and strongly, all coercive power whatever in religion. (see especially Leonard
Busher's Religious Peace; or, a Plea for Liberty of Conscience, 1614); and they
were constant to this principle throughout." (History of the Presbyterians in
England, p. 353, note).
John Stoughton says:
The Baptists were foremost in the advocacy of religious freedom,
and perhaps to one of them, Leonard Busher, citizen of London, belongs the honor of
presenting in this country the first distinct and broad plea for liberty of conscience. It
is dated 1614, and is prefaced by an epistle to the Presbyterian reader; and a very
remarkable epistle it is, deserving a renown which it has never acquired."
(Ecclesiastical History of England, p. 231).
"'Religious Peace; or, a Plea for Liberty of Conscience,' by
Leonard Busher, a citizen of London, and a Baptist, 1614." (Memorials, Vol. I., p.
The Baptists have been equally as explicit as the Pedobaptists in
declaring that Leonard Busher was a Baptist. B. Evans, (Early English Baptists, Vol. I.,
pp. 229-231); Richard B. Cook, (The Story of the Baptists, pp. 86, 87); George B. Taylor,
(Religious Freedom, p. 32); and Armitage, (History of the Baptists, PP. 440, 441), all so
affirm. I shall quote some words from Prof. Vedder, of Crozer Seminary, whom Dr. Whitsitt
claims sustains his position. He has made two declarations on the subject. The first
(Baptists and Liberty of Conscience, p. 18. Cincinnati, 1884) was before this controversy
began, and the second in The Examiner, May 21, 1896. I quote from the latter. Prof.
"That honor belongs, as far as known, to Leonard Busher, who
wrote a tract in favor of liberty of conscience in 1614, called Religion's Peace. Dr.
Whitsitt indeed says that there is no proof that he was a Baptist. I can only mildly
express my surprise that it takes so much Proof to convince the good doctor of some
things, and so little to convince him of others. It seems to me that nobody who reads
the book of Busher can be in any real doubt as to who and what he was. If Edward Barber
was a Baptist, Leonard Busher was a Baptist; and the latter wrote: 'And such as gladly
receive it [the Gospel] he hath commanded to be baptized in water; that is, dipped for
dead in the water.' We do not find such a sentiment, outside Baptist literature, in the
first half of the seventeenth century."
It does not seem to me that anything could be clearer than that
Busher was a Baptist. No man save a Baptist, in the early part of the seventeenth century,
held such views on liberty of conscience and baptism. If we had no other authority, this
statement of Busher's alone ought to settle the question of dipping among the English
Dr. Whitsitt says:
I have often declared it to be my opinion that the immersion of adult
believers was a lost art in England, from the year 1509, the accession of Henry VIII., to
the year 1641, following the imprisonment of Archbishop Laud. Western Recorder, July 9,
This statement is neither true in reference to the Episcopalians
nor the Baptists. In regard to the Episcopalians we have direct testimony. The Catechism
of Edward VI., A. D. 1553, has:
"Master: Tell me (my son) how these two sacraments be
ministered: baptism, and that which Paul calleth the supper of the Lord.
"Scholar: Him that believeth in Christ; professeth the
articles of the Christian Religion; and mindeth to be baptized (I speak now of them that
be grown to ripe years of discression, sith for young babes their parents' or the Church's
profession sufficeth), the minister dippeth in or washeth with pure and clear water only,
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and then commendeth him
by prayer to God, into whose Church he is now openly as it were enrolled that it may
please God to grant him his grace whereby he may answer in belief and life agreeably to
his profession." (P. 516, The Two Liturgies, 1549 and 1552. Parker Society,
I shall give a more extended statement of the Baptists. The
Baptists of this period had been greatly persecuted. They seldom dared to write anything,
and to keep church records would only endanger their lives. They were banished, imprisoned
and burned. For an account of the Anabaptists we must for the most part look to their
enemies, and we must remember the bitter malignity of these enemies. The persecutions Of
Laud were scarcely more severe than those which went before. Laud had almost absolute
authority. He was suspected of trying to restore Romanism, and there is no doubt that he
possessed the Roman Catholic spirit of persecution. In order to carry out his designs he
was compelled to silence all opposers. William Lee says of him:
"The fact now referred to is of itself sufficient; and it is
hardly necessary to go into the question, how, under Laud's rule, the repression of the
nonconformists was carried out. He is said to have preferred persuasion to force; but it
is not denied that, when necessary, the most horrible severities were employed under his
sanction to enforce conformity. The cases of Leighton, Prynnes, Bostwick and Burton are
well known, with hundreds of cases of dissenters, who, if not shockingly mutilated and
condemned to perpetual imprisonment, were silenced and compelled to seek liberty of
conscience beyond seas, or, worse than all, to violate their own sense of duty, and lose
their spiritual, in seeking to save their bodily, life and well-being. Nor is it disputed
that of the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission, by which these men were condemned,
Laud was the moving spirit; nay, that if, in these courts, any voice was for more than
ordinarily severe measures, it was sure to be his. (Gardiner: Personal History, I., 6).
But perhaps the worst charge against Laud in this connection is the alleged fact, that to
gain the power of suppressing the nonconformists and otherwise securing the restoration of
a pure and catholic church according to his own ideal, Laud did not hesitate to encourage
in the king those absolute principles, which, if he had prevailed, instead of the
Parliament, would have been fatal to the liberties of the English people."
(Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol. II., pp. 1284, 1285).
Under such conditions the Baptists, the most despised of all the
people of England, could not be expected to preserve records.
Their doctrines were misrepresented and maligned. Here is a
"To these doctrines you may join their practice. The
seditious pamphlets, the tumultuous rising of rude multitudes threatening blood and
destruction; the preaching of the cobblers, feltmakers, tailors, grooms and women; the
choosing of any place for God's service but the church; the night meetings of naked men
and women; the licentiousness of spiritual marriages without legal form; these things if
they be not looked into will bring us in time to community of wives, community of goods,
and destruction of all." (A Short History of the Anabaptists of High and Low Germany,
pp. 55,56. London, 1642).
It is to be observed, however, that very soon after there was
liberty of conscience, or rather toleration, some Calvinistic Baptist Churches of London
adopted one of the most famous Confessions of Faith in the world. It stands only second to
the Westminster Confession in importance among the Dissenting Churches of England.
Formulas of like those contained in this confession are matters of growth. The presumption
is that these doctrines had long lived in the hearts of these people before they were
expressed in this formal manner. There is no indication from this confession and its
history of any change of mind on the subject of baptism. There is not a trace of
information, from friend or foe, that during the adoption of this confession there was any
discussion on the subject of dipping. We know that the Presbyterians, in their assembly,
were badly divided on the subject of dipping. But if there were such dissensions among the
Baptists it is passing strange that we have no intimation of them, nor were there any
protests. These seven churches presented this as their unanimous opinion to Parliament,
and published it broadcast to the world. The presumption is altogether in favor of the
supposition that the Baptists had long been immersionists, and that this was the honest
expression of their sentiments, and it will take powerful arguments, which have not been
presented, to set aside these convictions.
I give the XL. Article of the "Confession of Faith of those
Churches which are commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptists:"
"That the way and manner of dispensing this ordinance
is dipping or plunging the body under water; it being a signe, must answer the thing
signified, which is, that interest the Saints have in the death, burial and resurrection
of Christ: and that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and rises again, so
certainly shall the bodies of the Saints be raised by the power of Christ in the day of
the resurrection, to reigne with Christ." (P.20).
There is a note appended, as follows:
"The word Baptizo signifies to dip or plunge yet so as
convenient garments be both upon the administrator and subject, with all modesty."
It is necessary for Dr. Whitsitt to prove that these eight Baptist
Churches of London that signed the confession of 1644 and the 54 Baptist Churches in
England that Neal and other authors mention all originated with John Smyth or with the
Jessey Church. This has never been proved, and Dr. Whitsitt attempts no proof. If the
Jessey records are a forgery, as I think, and if John Smyth was immersed, there is
absolutely no foundation for this theory, If I should admit the authenticity of the Jessey
Church records, which I do not, and that John Smyth was sprinkled, of which there is not a
line of proof, even then Dr. Whitsitt's case is in no wise made out. He must prove that
every one of these churches originated from one or the other of these sources. The one
which did not so originate might have practiced immersion, and as Dr. Whitsitt has
affirmed a universal negative this would be fatal to his argument. As a matter of fact, he
has not proved that even one of the London churches had such an origin, much less any of
the other churches of England.
But we have positive testimony against this theory. William
Kiffin, who certainly knew declared: "IT IS WELL KNOWN TO MANY, AND ESPECIALLY TO
OURSELVES, THAT OUR CONGREGATIONS WERE ERECTED AND FRAMED ACCORDING TO THE RULE OF CHRIST,
BEFORE WE HEARD OF ANY REFORMATION." As this was Written in 1645, no one can doubt
that Kiffin was an immersionist, and this statement puts the question forever at rest.
As far back as 1589 Some, who wrote at that date, declares there
were Anabaptist Churches in London. They doubtless had existed long before this. The words
of Some are:
"To preach without an external calling, is Anabaptisticall.
The consequents of such preaching are the deprauing of the holy scriptures, abusing of the
Auditors, disturbing both of Church and commonwealth. The Anabaptisticall conventicles in
London, and other places, are sufficient proof of this." (Chapter 7).
These Anabaptists of whom Some was writing were not Dutch or
Germans, but native born. Some says:
"If any shall reply, that many Papists, Anabaptists, etc.,
haue bene bredde in our Universities: my answere is, that the goodliest gardens haue some
weedes in them. Cham was in Noahs arke, as well as Sem; Ismael in Abrahams house, as wel
as Isaac: Judas in Christes companye as well as Peter: and yet Noahs arke, Abrahams house,
and Christes companie were singularlie to bee accounted of. The wheate field may not be
destroyed, because of the tares: Nor the vine, because of a few wilde grapes; nor the
garden, because of the weedes. The tares, wilde grapes, and weedes, are wisely to be
remoued by the husbandman and gardener," etc.
But I have still other testimony as to the origin of these
churches. Hanserd Knollys knew all about the origin of these London churches. He was
intimately connected with the Baptists, or Anabaptists.
I have before me a book, which seems to have escaped the eye of
all other writers on this subject. It knows nothing about Blount nor Blacklock, nor the
trip to Holland, nor the introduction of immersion. It tells in simple language the story
of the planting of these London Baptist Churches in the days of persecution before 1641.
The title of this book is: 'A Moderate Answer Unto Dr. Bastwick's Book Called
'Independency Not God's Ordinance.' Wherein is declared the manner how some Churches in
this city were gathered, and upon what tearmes their members were admitted; that so both
the Dr. and the Reader may judge how near some Believers who Walk together in the
Fellowship of the Gospell do come in their practice to the Apostolicall rules which are
propounded by the Dr. as God's Method in gathering Churches and Admitting Members. By
Hanserd Knollys. London, 1645." Of course, such a book is authoritative and worth a
thousand guesses. Knollys says:
"I shall now take the liberty to declare, what I know by
mine own experience to be the practice of some Churches of God in this City. That so far
both the Dr. and the Reader may judge how near the Saints, who walk in the fellowship of
the Gospell, do come to their practice, to these Apostolicall rules and practice
propounded by the Dr. as God's method in gathering churches, and admitting Members, I say
that I know by mine own experience (having walked with them), that they were thus
gathered, viz.: Some godly and learned men of approved, gifts and abilities for the
Ministrie, being driven out of the Countries where they lived by the persecution of the
Prelates, came to sojourn in this great City, and preached the word of God both publikely
and from house to house, and daily in the Temple, and in every house they ceased not to
teach and preach Jesus Christ: and some of them have dwelt in their own hired houses, and
received all that name in unto them, preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those
things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. And when many sinners were converted by their
preaching of the Gospell, some of them believers, consorted with them, and of professors a
great many, and of the chief women not a few. And the condition which those Preachers,
both publikely and privately propounded to the people, unto whom they preached, upon which
they were to be admitted into the Church was Faith, Repentance, and Baptism, and none
other. And whosoever (poor as well as rich, bond as well as free, servants as well as
Masters), did make a profession of their Faith in Christ Jesus, and would be baptized with
water, in the Name of the Father, Sonne, and Holy Spirit, were admitted Members of the
Church; but such as did not believe, and would not be baptized, they would not admit into
Church communion. This hath been the practice of some Churches of God in this City,
without urging or making any particular covenant with Members upon admittance, which I
desire may be examined by the Scripture cited in the Margent, and then compared with the
Doctor's three conclusions from the same Scriptures, whereby it may appear to the
judicious Reader, how near the Churches some of them come to the practice of the Apostles
rule, and practice of the primitive churches, both in gathering and admitting
members." (Pp. 24, 25).
Nothing can be plainer than that these London churches were not
organized on the plan indicated by Dr. Whitsitt.
As to the practice of dipping among the Anabaptists of England
there has been no difference of opinion among historians, till of late, a few
controversial writers have affirmed that they practiced sprinkling. I will let the
historians speak for themselves.
Neal, in whose hands the Baptists placed their gathered material
for a history, says:
"Their confession consisted of 52 articles and is strictly
Calvinistical in the doctrinal part, and according to the independent discipline, it
confines the subjects of baptism to grown Christians and the mode to immersion. The
advocates of this doctrine were for the most part of the meanest of the people; the
preachers were generally illiterate and went about the country making proselytes of all
who would submit to immersion.
The people of this persuasion were most exposed to the public
resentments, because they would hold communion with none but such as had been dipped. All
must pass under the cloud before they could be received into their churches; and the same
narrow spirit prevails too generally among them to this day." (History of the
Puritans, Vol. III., pp. 174-176).
Prof. Vedder says:
"Furthermore, though this Confession is the first to define
baptism in explicit terms as immersion, this was not a novel idea among the Baptists.
Indeed the practice of immersion had not yet died out of the English Church, though it was
rapidly becoming uncommon." (Short History of the Baptists, p. 116).
And again he says:
"Dr. Whitsitt, as I pointed out in my article in the Examiner
some weeks ago, seemed to me to make a broader inference than his facts warranted when
he said in effect that no English Baptists immersed before 1641. I think he will see that
he must modify that statement." (Western Recorder, Sept. 24, 1896).
The Rev. W. H. Pinnock, LL. D., an Episcopalian, in speaking of
the English Anabaptists of this whole period, says:
"They rebaptized their disciples, whence their name; and
taught that the baptism of infants was invalid; they also rejected aspersion, holding
immersion to be the only valid form of baptism. From these sprang shortly after the sect
of the Baptists." (History of the Reformation of the English Church, p. 153. London,
Henry M. Mason, M. A., says:
"The Baptists of England were derived from, and originally
adopted the doctrine of, the German and Dutch Anabaptists. They declined, however, in
process of time, from the principles of their ancestors, and hold, in common with them,
only the administration of baptism by immersion and the refusal of that rite to any but
adults." (A Compend of Ecclesiastical History, P. 337).
J. B. Marsden, M. A., says:
"Baptists, or Anabaptists, so called (from Gr. ana,
again, and baptizo, to wash or plunge) because they again baptize those adults who,
in their infancy, have once received baptism. But they deny the validity of infant baptism
(on which account they are also termed, sometimes, Antipaedo-Baptists).and, therefore,
reject the charge of anabaptism, and consider the word itself reproachful. By the older
writers they are occasionally designated Cata-Baptists, an epithet of nearly similar
import. They themselves adopt the name of Baptists.
"They differ from other Christian Churches upon two points:
First, as to the mode in which baptism ought to be administered; and, secondly, as to the
persons who are qualified for the reception of the rite. Of these, however, the second is
by far the most important question." (History of the Christian Churches and Sects
from the Earliest Ages of Christianity, Vol. I., p. 77).
Robert Howard, M. A., says:
"In point of church polity, the Baptists remained
Independents. But they held that they were justified in forming themselves into a separate
communion on these grounds: First, for the stricter maintenance of Calvinistic doctrines;
secondly, for the exercise of a stricter discipline; and, thirdly, for the practice of a
mode of baptism in stricter accordance with the words of Scripture and the practice of the
Apostolic age." (The Church of England and Other Religious Communions, P. 42).
David Bogue, D. D., and James Bennett, D. D., say:
"It is sufficiently manifest by their name, that this
denomination of Dissenters differ from others on the subject of baptism. They believe,
that the original word, which the New Testament employs to express this rite, conveys the
idea of immersion, or plunging the whole body under water: hence they conclude that
sprinkling, affusion, or pouring of water, is not baptizing. To this distinguishing
sentiment and practice concerning the mode, they add one which relates to the proper subjects
of baptism." (The History of Dissenters, Vol. I., p. 183).
W. J. E. Bennett, vicar of Froome-Selwood, says:
"Wherein then, proceeding from this, do the Anabaptists raise
their cry of objection to the Church, and separate from her? They raise it upon this
ground, that it is not lawful in any case to baptize otherwise than by immersion. The
Anabaptists say, all persons ought to be immersed. The Church says the same; but the
Church goes on to say, but in case of children being weak, it shall suffice to pour the
water. No, rejoin the Anabaptists; it does not suffice. Both agree upon the principle. But
the one separates from the other on the ground of permitting a certain exception. The
whole question then narrows itself into this: Is it permissible to baptize by pouring
water, or does such an act invalidate baptism altogether? In other word, it is as much the
essence of the baptism, that it should be performed by immersion, as it is that the water
should be used at all?" (The Church's Broken Unity. Anabaptism, Vol. II., p. 63).
Mr. Bennett devotes large space to a general discussion of the
Anabaptists, going very fully into their history and doctrines, but he nowhere intimates
that any of them ever practiced sprinkling.
"In spite of much persecution, continued even after the Long
Parliament met, the Baptists of these congregations, propagated their opinions with such
zeal that by 1644 the sect had attained considerably larger dimensions. In that year they
counted seven leading congregations in London, and forty-seven in the rest of England,
besides which they had many adherents in the army. Although all sorts of impieties were
attributed to them on hearsay, they differed in reality from the Independents mainly on
the subject of baptism. They objected to the baptism of infants, and they thought
immersion or dipping under water the proper mode of baptism; except in these points and
what they might involve they were substantially at one with the Congregationalists. This
they made clear by the publication, in 1644, of a Confession of their Faith in 52
Articles, a document which, by its orthodoxy in all essential matters, seems to have
shamed the more candid of their opponents." (Life of John Milton, Vol. II., p. 585).
W. M. Blackburne, D. D., Methodist, says:
"The Baptists were differentiated from the Dissenters
early in the seventeenth century by holding that immersion is essential to baptism, and
that believers and not infants are the proper subjects of it. They rebaptized believers
who had not been immersed." (History of the Christian Church, p. 622).
Alexander Balfour, Edinburgh, gives a very full account of the
Baptists and Anabaptists of England. He says:
"The Particular Baptists are those who entertain no more of
the tenets of the ancient Anabaptists than the administration of the ordinance of baptism
by immersion and the refusal of it to infants; in everything else they resemble the
religion of other Calvinists." (Anti-Pedobaptism Unveiled; or, An Inquiry into the
Origin and Progress of the Baptists, p. 87).
Dr. W. H. King, London, who has made a very extensive
investigation of the pamphlets in the King George collection, says:
"In connection with this, controversy I have carefully
examined the titles of the pamphlets in the first three volumes of this catalogue, more
than 7,000 in number, and have read every pamphlet which has seemed by its title to refer
to the subject of baptism, or the opinions and practices of Baptists, with this result:
that I can affirm, with the most unhesitating confidence, that in these volumes there
is not a sentence or a hint from which it can be inferred that the Baptists generally, or
any section of them, or even any individual Baptist, held any other opinion than that
immersion is the only true and Scriptural method of baptism, either before the year 1641
or after it. It must be remembered that these are the earliest pamphlets, and cover
the period from the year 1640 to 1646." (The Western Recorder, June 4, 1896).
Dr. Schaff says:
"The mode of baptism was no point of dispute between
Anabaptists and Pedobaptists in the sixteenth century. The Roman Church provides for
immersion and pouring as equally valid. Luther preferred immersion and prescribed it in
his baptismal service. In England immersion was the normal mode down to the middle
of the seventeenth century. It was adopted by the English and American Baptists as the only
mode." (History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII., p. 79).
He then goes on to discuss the Anabaptists of the Continent, to
which we refer in another place.
J. Rawson Lumby says:
"The first notice of the Anabaptists (afterwards known as
Baptists) as a distinct communion is about the time of Luther. The sect had its origin in
Germany, and, as its name implies, differed from the other reformed churches in the
opinions held by its members on the subject of baptism. The Anabaptists maintained that
only those who personally professed their faith in Christ were proper recipients of that
sacrament, and they also considered that baptism should be administered not by sprinkling,
but by immersion. In most of the other points of their teaching the Anabaptists were
exactly at one with the Independents, but they did not make Independency the most
prominent feature of their doctrines." (Compendium of English Church History, p. 16).
Mosheim, one of the oldest and most reliable historians, has much
to say of the Anabaptists. He says:
"The origin of the sect, which, from their repetition of the
baptism received in other communities, are called Anabaptists but who are also
denominated Mennonites, from the celebrated man to whom they owe a large
share of their present prosperity, is involved in much obscurity." He calls them
"Catabaptists" or "incurable heretics." He then goes on
to say of the English Baptists: "They have almost nothing in common with the other
Anabaptists except they baptize only adults and immerse totally in the water whenever they
administer the ordinance." (Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. Ill., pp.
E. T. Hiscox, D. D., the scholarly Baptist author, says:
"It is precisely as I had supposed and had said and publicly
stated, namely, that Dr. Whitsitt was mistaken as to his sources of information in the
famous pamphlets. It is no sin to be mistaken; but this mistake will doubtless somewhat
shake public confidence in Dr. Whitsitt's reliability as a student of history. And the
peculiar and unaccountable way in which the Doctor has reached this point through an
Encyclopędia and a Pedobaptist journal, rather than through Baptist channels, and without
conference with Baptist brethren, makes his friends marvel, and is yet to be
explained." (Western Recorder, June 18, 1896).
Prof. T. Harwood Pattison, Rochester Theological Seminary, says:
"There is in the article a good deal more of this conjectural history. Dr. Whitsitt
seems sometimes to be indebted to his imagination for his facts." (The London Freeman,
April 17, 1896).
Dr. George C. Lorimer, who has given much attention to Baptist
history, said in an address Sept. 14, 1896, before the students of Newton Theological
"I insist that it is due our Baptist Churches that their action on
the world's progress should not be ignored. As a rule, they do not receive the recognition
they deserve. Dr. Dexter in his "True Story of John Smythe" has, let us believe
unintentionally, put them in an entirely false light; and his representation that Edward
Barber originated the practice of immersion in England, and that before the publication of
his book (1641) the Baptists poured and sprinkled, is, to put it mildly, incorrect. I have
just returned from the British Museum where I went over the documents which are supposed
to substantiate such a view, and I solemnly declare that no such evidence exists. It
cannot be made out from the pamphlets of Edward Barber, Praise-God Barebones, Dr. Featly,
or of those signed A. R., or by Thomas Killcops. In the title page of the first we have
the design of the treatise thus announced: "Of Baptism or dipping, wherein is clearly
shewed that the Lord Christ ordained dipping for those only that profess repentance and
faith." Here is the key to the whole controversy, and to the misapprehensions that
exist. These writers were either assailing or defending infant baptism, and the newness of
the ordinance to Englishmen was not the mode but the subject; though Dexter observes this
by introducing into of the citations the word "dipping which is not in the original.
Dr. Featly, in his rancorous pamphlet in which he reports a controversy with the
Anabaptists held at Southwark in 1642, admits that they immerse, and writes about it not
as something new, and declares that they have been showing their "shining head and
speckled skin" near his residence for more than twenty years.
I accuse no man of misrepresentation, but I am sure many rush to a
conclusion and pain multitudes of good people by their garbled quotations. I, at least,
may be allowed to express my dissent: The Baptists of England did immerse before 1641,
even as they did on the Continent. This I claim on the authority of the George III.
pamphlets in the British Museum, arid from the fact that even the Church of England, in
young King Edward's time, directed that babes should be dipped. These humble people
deserve to be faithfully dealt with, for they have been history makers of no mean
importance. They dared the face of kings and taught the world the right of men to worship
God according to the dictates of conscience; they turned their face against oppression of
every kind, and were the harbingers of this age.
Dr. Joseph Angus, President of Regents Park College, London,
England, a very scholarly Baptist, says:
During this period, it is objected, very little is said about
immersion, and the silence of the writers on the mode is said to be deeply significant.
But it is overlooked that in that age immersion was the generally accepted mode of baptism
in England. The Prayer Book has all along ordered the child "to be dipped
warily" in the water. The practice of dipping was familiar in the days of Henry
VIII., and both Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth were dipped in their childhood. In that
century it was not necessary to lecture on the meaning of the word, or to insist on the
mode of baptizing, which is still described in the English service as "dipping."
I remember a clergyman who resolved to carry out the instructions of the Rubric. The child
was stripped and dipped. "I did it once," he reported, "but I resolved
never to do it again!" Once change a positive institution in one particular, and the
whole may be robbed of its force and beauty.
That there was no such delay in forming Baptist Churches as our,
American friends have supposed, is proved by the dates of the formation of a number of
them. Churches were formed, chapels built and doctrines defined long before 1641, and
others, down to the end of that century, owed nothing probably to the discussions of that
The following churches formed in the years mentioned still remain
Braintree, Eythorne, Sutton, all in 1550; Warrington, 1522; Crowle and Epworth, both
1,597; Bridgewater, Oxford, and Sadmore, 1600; Bristol (Broadmead), 1640; King, Stanley,
Newcastle, Kilmington (Devon), Bedford, Sutton, Cirencester, Commercial-street (London),
Lincoln, Dorchester, and Hamsterley, 1633; Lyme Regis, Chipping Sodbury, Upottery, Boston,
etc , 1650 to 1658.
Many others that belong to similar dates have since become extinct
through change of population and other causes. Most of these churches hold the common
faith, and most of them have received it without special reference to the creed of 1641.
Dates and particulars of more churches may be seen in any recent number of the Baptist
Handbook, published by the Baptist Union.
But there is another kind of evidence even more decisive, showing that
"the immersion of believers" was the common faith and practice of our fathers. I
refer to the books published by them and against them in the century to which 1641
The unanimous testimony of these historians is a powerful argument
for dipping. Commencing with the earlier portion of the seventeenth century, and to some
extent during the sixteenth century, a great controversy sprung up in England on the
subject of baptism. For the most part, infant baptism was the question involved. Beginning
with 1641 to the end of the century, I suppose fifty times more was written on the subject
of infant baptism than there was on the subject of dipping. Frequently whole books were
written on baptism, and dipping was not mentioned, and often in these books on infant
baptism dipping was taken for granted. Usually when the act of baptism was discussed it
had reference to infant sprinkling as an innovation. Waiving at present, for special
discussion, some of the strongest statements in favor of immersion, I shall refer to
certain writers who lived in those times, in proof that dipping was received among the
Baptists as the act of baptism. This will appear from the writings of both Baptists and
The first book I quote is "An Anabaptist Sermon which was
preached at the Re-baptizing of a Brother at the new or holy Jordan, as they call it, near
Bow, or Hackney River; together with the manner how they used to perform their
Anabaptisticall Ceremonies. London, 1643." It is worth while to note that this report
was written by an enemy, who refers to the Anabaptists as "they." It will also
be noted that it describes a past event, and that the baptism was at some considerable
time before 1643, for the writer says that it was "the manner they use to perform
their Anabaptisticall ceremonies." This baptism by dipping was not a new thing,
according to this enemy, for it was their' "manner" or custom. Indeed, he
mentions former persecutions which undoubtedly took place before 1641. The account says:
"Some say our Religion is cleane contrary to the Protestant
profession, but such are cleane out of the way, but if we should be persecuted againe by
bishops as formerly we have bin, and would run cleane out of England unto Amsterdam, but
we are all cleane people, full of purity of the Spirit; our sins are but motes in God's
eyes, but our brothers sinnes are beams that have so put out the sight of his Divine
justice, that He cannot or will not see our small iniquities."
He takes dipping as a matter of course. He says:
"For it is impossible to wash them white or cleane; but wee
that are brethren of the elect; we may wash ourselves in a River from the spots of our
Carnality in every River, as Bow River, Hackney River, and other Rivers are to us a cleane
Jordan, wherein we may baptize one another as we meane to do this day our late lost
brother." (P. 2).
We have a book before us, "The Summe of a Conference at
Terling in Essex. Januarie ii.1643," which was held between three "ministers
"and two "Catabaptists." This book is edited by John Stalham, one of the
ministers. He says of the Anabaptists:
"The Catabaptists excuses, that the chiefe Respondent was too
weake, for such an encounter. * * * Secondly then, my request is: That the practice of
Antiquitie may fully be cleared, and laid before them: what it was, touching this subject
of Baptisme, and what therein was agreeable to the rule of the Scripture, what not, for
they have boasted much; as if they had all Antiquitie on their side." (Pp. 4-7).
The Baptists were called in this one-sided discussion
Catabaptists, or dippers; and it is clear that this dipping was not regarded as a
novelty, because it is nowhere so designated, and the Anabaptists "boasted" that
"they had all Antiquitie on their side."
John Ollyffe, Rector of Almer, 1644, says:
"Thus I hope I have made out that there is no necessity of
baptizing by Dipping to be proved by Scripture. And nobody pretends, as I know, the
Necessity of any particular determinate." (A Brief Defence of Infant Baptism, with an
Appendix, wherein is shewed that it is not necessary that Baptism should be administered
by Dipping. P. 67).
Then he gives a number of "inferences" why he thinks
sprinkling may be sustained against the Anabaptists, but not one to the effect that
dipping is "a new invention."
Ch. Blackwood, 1644, was a Baptist. He says:
"I prove the proposition that the Baptisme of Christ is
dipping, three waies:
"1. From the Greek lexicon.
"2. From the difference twixt Baptizing and Sprinkling in
"3. That Baptisme signifies no other thing than Dipping,
appeares from the proportion and lively resemblance twixt dipping into the water and
rising up again; Dipping signifieth death, and Buriall with Christ, and rising up above
the water, Resurrection with Christ. Rom. vi, 3, 4." (The Storming of Antichrist, pp.
Blackwood had never heard of dipping as a new thing.
Thomas Edwards, 1645, published some very scandalous books against
the Baptists. They are full of bitterness. While some of the statements are infamous they
demonstrate that the Baptists were dippers. I could quote many places from his books in
proof of this declaration, but one is sufficient. Edwards says:
"I here declare myself, that I could wish with all my heart
there were a publike Disputation, even in the point of Pedobaptism and of Dipping, between
some of the Anabaptists and some of our Ministers; and had I an interest in the Houses to
prevaile to obtaine it (which I speak not as to presume of any such power, being so meane
and weak a man), it should be one of the first Petitions I would put up to the Honorable
Houses for a publike Disputation, as was at Zurich, namely, that both Houses would give
leave to the Anabaptists to chuse for themselves such a number of their ablest men, and
the Assembly leave to chuse an equall number for them, and that by Authority of Parliament
publike Notaries sworne, might be appointed to write down all, some members of both Houses
present to see to the Peace kept, and to be judges of the faire play and liberty given the
Anabaptists, and that there might be severall dayes of Disputation leave to the utmost
given the Anabaptists to say what they could, and upon such faire and free debates it
should be found the Anabaptists to be in the Truth, then the Parliament not only to
Tolerate them, but to Establish and settle their way throughout the whole Kingdome, but if
upon Disputation and debate, the Anabaptists should be found in an Error (as I am
confident they would.) that then the Parliament should forbid all Dipping, and take some
severe course with all Dippers, as the Senate of Zurich did after the ten severall
Disputations allowed the Anabaptists." (The Third Part of Gangraena, p. 177).
Here is the double admission that the Anabaptists of Zurich and of
England were dippers.
John Brinsley, 1645, violently opposed "that spreading
Gangrene of Anabaptism, which, unless timely prevented, may prove fatall to the whole body
both of the Church and State." (The Doctrine and Practice of Pedobaptism Asserted and
Vindicated, preface). Their dipping was a matter of course. He says of them:
"The maine businesse we have to deale with, and that which I
chiefly aimed at, when I fell upon this subject, is touching the Baptisme of Infants; whether
they, or, any of them, may be baptized. Here the Anabaptists and we are at
variance. We allow it to some; they deny it to all. Whence it is that they are called by
the name both of Anabaptists and Catabaptists; because they oppose the
Baptisme of all Infants, as a thing not onely inconvenient, but unlawfull; and in case any
of them bee baptized in their infancie, they looke upon that Baptisme as a nullity, and so
impose upon them a Rebaptization when they come to yeares of discression." (P. 9).
Fredericke Spanhenius, 1646, wrote a history of the Anabaptists
from 1521 to the date of his book. It was written in English for the English people. His
testimony on dipping is conclusive. He says:
"And I shall consider this division, not their opinions
alone, which all the Anabaptists or Catabaptists have anciently maintained,
or which all of them doe maintaine at this day; but those also which many of them, or at
least some of them, have anciently, or do at present defend; that so the partition may be
the more perfect, and that I may present the Reader with the whole body of their Errors,
which they have also erred, and yet do erre." (P. 27).
Mr. Richardson, 1647, in his reply to Featley, says:
"We confess that when any one is to be rebaptized at the
water's side the administrator goeth to prayer suitable to the occasion, and after both go
into the water and useth the words, Matt .28, part of the 19th verse; and coming forth
again they go to prayer, and also return thanks to God." (Some Brief Considerations,
John Tombes, B. D., one of the best posted men of his day, says:
"But now instead of it [believer's baptism], there is used
the corrupt innovation of infant sprinkling, a fruitless or rather pernicious rite to the
souls of many who are hardened in deadly presumption, as thereby sufficiently made
Christians, and of all influence on the Church of God, by taking ignorant and unclean
persons, even the dregs of a nation, to be church members. * * * The most eminent
opposition to the work of restoring the right use of water baptism, necessary to the
orderly forming of Christian Churches, hath been by their learned men, who maintain still
by their agency, and colabored pretenses, still the corrupt innovations of infant
baptism." (Anti-Pedobaptism, The Introduction).
Richard Baxter wrote a great number of controversial. books. After
having looked over the most that he has written on the subject of baptism, I find that he
was violently opposed to the Anabaptists; that he opposed their dipping in many ways; that
he declared that it was a breach of the commandments; but he does not say that it was a
new thing. He says:
"My sixth argument shall be against the usual manner of their
baptizing, as it is by dipping over head in a river or other cold water. This is known to
be the ordinary way of the Anabaptists." (Plain Scripture Proofs, pp. 134-137).
Richard Carpenter, 1653, wrote "The Anabaptist Washt and
Washt, and Shrunk in the Washing," in which he says:
Because God looked upon the End in every practicall touch
of his Power, which End is the chiefein all the course, and
the first intentionally though executively the last: and Grace, the Gift
of God, is an attendant upon the Thing signified And therefore, Baptism given
with a threefold Emmersion, doth not more justify, than Baptism conferred by
one Immersion or Inspersion: and yet the first is more expresse and visible
signe of Sacramentall Grace; because it washeth more perfectly; and
furthermore, adumbrates the most blessed Trinity, in whose most blessed Name the Baptisme
is given." (Page 80).
He not only does not say that baptism by dipping was a new thing,
that the former Anabaptists were sprinklers, but he goes so far as to admit their baptism
to be most impressive.
John Reading, B. D., 1655, in his book "Anabaptism
Anabaptists not only deny believers' children baptism, as the
Pelagians and Donatists did of old, but affirm, That dipping the whole body under water is
so necessary, that without it none are truly baptized (as hath been said)." (Pp. 171,
John Cragge, 1656, gives an account of a discussion between Henry
Vaughn, M. A., and John Tombes. Tombes boldly claimed sprinkling an innovation and this
was admitted by his opponent. I read:
"T. Here Mr. Tombes interrupted me, and desired the people
to take notice of my ingenious confession, that baptism was then practiced by plunging. He
read also a passage out of Casaubons Annot. on the New Test. where he saith that baptizein
denoteth a plunging of the whole body, etc. Had he read out the passage he might have
found how that great scholar affirmes this to be a slender Argument against such as only
sprinkle at Baptisme: for, saith he, the vertue and efficacie of Baptisme consistes not in
that, meaning the manner of washing.
"V. I shall satisfie the audetours herein anon; in the
meantime I desire Answer to my Argument, the Analogie between circumcision and baptism
being so evident in this place; but receiving none, I addressed myself to the people,
according to promise, saving, that indeed it seemed to me that for some centuries of years
that baptism was practiced by plunging. For sprinkling was first brought in use by
occasion of the Clinicks (as Cyprian Epist. a Magnum states), being men which deferred
their baptism till some extremitie of sickness, who then in such case were only sprinkled
with water lest the plunging of their bodies might over offend them in that feeble
"T. Here take notice that sprinkling took
its rise from a corrupt custom.
"V. Though plunging be confessed the most ancient way, yet is
this no ground for this overuncharitable speech of yours, in your sermon yesterday: That
our baptism, meaning of infants, and by sprinkling, was but a nullitie, and mockery, which
concludes ourselves, and all our Ancestours, even all in the Western Church for 1,500
years, under damnation.
"For the Church hath power upon the sight of any
inconvenience, and for order and decencies sake, to alter the circumstances and externalls
of any ordinance." (The Arraignment and Conviction of Anabaptism, pp. 5, 6).
If immersion had been so recent a novelty such a discussion could
hardly have taken place without some mention of it.
Denne said in a discussion in 1656, with Mr. Gunning:
Dipping of infants was not only commanded by the Church of
England, but also generally practiced in the Church of England till the year 1600; yea, in
some places it was practiced until the year 1641 until the fashion altered, * * * I can
show Mr. Baxter an old man in London who has labored in the Lord's pool many years;
converted by his ministry more men and women than Mr. Baxter hath in his parish; yea, when
he hath labored a great part of the day in preaching and reasoning, his reflection hath
been (not a sackporrit or a candle), but to go into the water and baptize converts."
(A, Contention for Truth. P. 40).
Here are fourteen writers who were all alive in 1641, and, for
many years before, who wrote in fifteen years and less of that date, some of them only a
year or two away, all of them engaged in the controversy and wrote books or tracts. Some
of them were friends and some of them were enemies. They were thoroughly posted on the
subject and several of them engaged in public debates on the subject. It is certain that
if immersion had been an invention of recent date some of those men would have made a
powerful point against their opponents on this subject. And it is equally certain that we
would have found some defense in the writings of these Baptists. These opponents did bring
serious charges against dipping; they said it was opposed to the sixth and seventh
commandments, but never that it was a new invention. This is a strong argument when we
remember that these men were eye witnesses and participants in the discussion of baptism.
There is not a line, which I have discovered in English
literature, written before 1641, which will go to prove that the English Anabaptists ever
practiced sprinkling. The literature is not very abundant, but what there is of it is all
on one side. I will present the testimony at hand and the reader may judge for himself.
This will be the subject of the next chapter.
ENGLISH BAPTISTS BEFORE 1641.
We have already seen that the Baptists before 1641, while
numerous, suffered greatly from persecutions. They did not leave much literature, and so
we must largely depend upon their enemies for references to them. We have enough proof,
however, to show that they practiced dipping.
A book was published in 1523 by the Anabaptists in Holland, and
translated and widely circulated in England, called the Sum of the Holy Scriptures. On
baptism the author says:
"So we are dipped under as a sign that we are, as it were,
dead and buried, as Paul writes, Rom. 6 and Col. 2. The life of man is a battle upon the
earth, and in baptism we promise to strive like men. The pledge is given when we are
plunged under the water. It is the same to God whether you are eighty years old when you
are baptized, or twenty; for God does not consider how old you are, but with what purpose
you receive baptism. He does not mind whether you are Jew or heathen, man or woman,
nobleman or citizen, bishop or layman, but only he who with perfect faith and confidence
comes to God, and struggles for eternal life, attains it as God has promised in the
Gospel." (Armitage's History of the Baptists, P. 409).
The old English Church Historian Fuller, telling of November 24,
1538, declares the Anabaptists to be dippers. He says:
"A match being now made up, by the Lord Cromwell's
contrivance, betwixt King Henry and Lady Anne of Cleves, Dutchmen flocked faster than
formerly into England. Many of them had active souls; so that, whilst their hands were
busied about their manufactures, their heads were also beating about points of divinity.
Hereof they had many rude notions, too ignorant to manage themselves and too proud to
crave the direction of others. Their minds had a byestream of activity more than what
sufficed to drive on their vocation; and this waste of their souls they employed in
needless speculations, and soon after began to broach their strange opinions, being
branded with the general name of Anabaptists. These Anabaptists, for the main, are but
'Donatists new dipped'; and this year their name first appears in our English Chronicles;
for I read that four Anabaptists, three men and one woman, all Dutch, bare faggots at St.
Paul's Cross, Nov. 24th, and three days after a man and a woman of their sect were burned
in Smithfield." (Church History of Britain, Vol. II., p. 97).
In 1551 William Turner, "Doctor of Physick,"
devysed" "A Preservative or triacle, agaynst the poyson of Pelagius, lately
renued, & Styrred up agayn, by the furious secte of the Anabaptistes." This book
undoubtedly settles the question that the Anabaptists of England practiced immersion. He
repeatedly calls them Catabaptists. (See pp. 19, 27, 28, 49). The Anabaptist in making his
argument for believers' immersion is represented as saying:
"That such a lyke costome was once in our most holye
relygyon, as was in colleges and in orders of relygyon, wher as none were admitted, before
they had a year of probation, wher unto ye put this that they that came to be baptized,
demanded, and desyred to be received to fellow ship of the Christians after dewe proofe of
unfayned repentance and thereby were called competentes. Yonge men, and wymen requyrynge
baptysme: and then were taught the principles of the Christian faith and were fyrst called
Catechumeni. And after those principles learned, were upon certayne solemne dayes, at two
tymes of the yeare approved, therefore baptysed: which was upon Easter even, and Whit
Sunday even: promysyng for themselves the observance of Gods law, with the renouncyng of
the devell and the worlde in theys owne person without God-father or God-mother, seven
score yeares longe: tyll Ignius, Byshop of Rome ordered to baptyse an infante, a
god-father and god-mother answeryng for hym.
"Where as ye say the lyke maner was in our most holy
religion, as the scolers and religious men had: that none should be admitted, until they
had been proved a yeare, and first called competentes, and then catechumeni. I marvayl
what religion ye meane of: whether ye meane of the Popes religion, or Christes religion,
or of the Catabaptistes relygion, which is your religion indede." (Pp. 6, 7).
There are two very significant statements in these passages;
(I)The Anabaptist quotes against his opponent the well known practice of immersing on the
two days of Easter and Whit Sunday. (Schaff's Hist. Christian Church, Vol. II., p. 252).
And (2) he says of the Anabaptist "of the Catabaptistes [dippers] religion, which is
your religion indede." This shows that they were certainly dippers,
The following is conclusive:
"And because baptism is a passive sacrament, & no man can
baptise himselfe, but is baptised of another: & childes may be as wel dipped in to the
water in ye name of Christ (which is the outward baptysm and as myche as one man can gyve
another) even as olde folke: and when as they have the promise of salvation, as well as
olde folkes & can receive the signe of the same as wel: there is no cause why that the
baptyme of childes should be differed." (Pp. 39, 40).
Here he says that the "olde folke" that the Anabaptist
baptized are dipped. This is certainly sufficient.
The Rev. John Fox, the distinguished author of the Book of
Martyrs, was born in England, A. D. 1517, and died April 15, 1587. The first complete
English edition appeared in 1563. There is no doubt as to his testimony. He says:
"There were some Anabaptists at this time in England, who
came from Germany. Of these there were two sorts; the first only objected to the baptizing
of children, and to the manner of it, by sprinkling instead of dipping. The other held
many opinions, anciently condemned as heresies; they had raised a war in Germany, and had
set up a new king at Munster; but all these were called Anabaptists, from their opposition
to infant baptism, though it was one of the mildest opinions they held." (Alden
Edition, P. 338).
John Penry, who was well known in England, became a Baptist
preacher, in 1586.and had been a very acceptable preacher before this in both of the
Colleges, at Cambridge and Oxford. The Welsh historian says of him:
He was noted for piety, ministerial gifts, and zeal for the
welfare of his countrymen. He was a native of Brecknockshire, and the first who publicly
preached the gospel among the Baptists in Wales, after the reformation; which implied that
the gospel was, more or less privately preached among the Baptists, on the Welsh
mountains, during the whole reign of popery. He also wrote and published two books. Mr.
Anthony Wood, an Episcopalian Minister, says that John Penry was the worst enemy the
Church of England had through the whole reign of Queen Elizabeth." (J. Davis' History
of the Welsh Baptists, pp. 25, 26).
David Davies makes this statement:
"The religious condition of Wales at this time was
deplorable. The light which John Penry, the young Apostle of Wales in the sixteenth
century, also a Baptist, who had been hanged like a criminal at Thomas-a-Watering, old
Kent Road, on May 29th, 1593 at the early age of thirty- four, twenty-four years before
the birth of Powell, had been almost extinguished, although traditions of his heroism
lived on, as indeed they do to this day." (Vavasor Powell, The Baptist Evangelist of
Wales in the seventeenth century, by David Davies, p. 14. London, 1896).
Davies continues in a foot note:
"Of John Penry the Rev. Joshua Thomas writes: 'Possibly he
was the first that preached believers' baptism openly and publicly to his countrymen since
the Reformation. I am strongly inclined to think that he was the first that administered
that ordinance by immersion upon a profession of faith in and about Olchon.' He also adds:
'A word in Ath. Oxon. * * * speaks out plainly that Penry was a notorious Anabaptist, of
which party he was the Corypheus. * * * Strype owns that Mr. Penry expressed a great
concern for his native country, and yet charged him with Anabaptistry.'" (History of
the Baptist Churches in Wales, p. 43, MS. copy in the Library of the Baptist College at
But this is not all the information we have in regard to Penry,
though this would be sufficient for our purposes. Robert Some, 1589, says of him:
"Master Penry, jumpeth with the Anabaptistical recusants in
this Argument; his words are these. Where there is no true Christ whereunto men can be
engraffed by Baptisme, there true Baptisme as touching the substance, cannot be gotten:
for what baptisme is that, which is not ingraffing into the true Christ? but in Poperie
there is no true Christ, whereunto men may be ingraffed, &c. I haue answered this and
such like Arguments of Master Penries, Chap. 23 of my last Treatise: I rest in those
answeres." (Chapter 12).
Some goes on with details of the Anabaptists, of their churches in
London, and of their connection with the universities.
When we consider together this testimony it is strong and
striking. There were in 1589 Anabaptist English speaking churches, with graduates from the
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, with many members, in London and elsewhere. All of
these details are associated with John Penry, who was an immersionist, and there is
nothing to indicate any difference of opinon on this subject between the churches and
Penry; indeed, the proof all points to their practicing immersion.
John Smyth was associated with John Norcott on the subject of
baptism on March 24th, 1609. This baptism was certainly by immersion, for we find Norcott
writing a book to substantiate dipping. This book of Norcott was edited and reprinted by
Chas. H. Spurgeon. I give a portion of Chapter IV.:
"1. The Greek word Baptizo means to plunge, to overwhelm.
Thus Christ was plunged in water, Matt. 3. 16. Thus he was plunged or
overwhelmed in his sufferings, Luke 12. 50. 'I have a baptism to be
baptized with; and how am I straightened till it be accomplished.'
"2. The Dutch Translation reads, In those days came
John the Dipper, Matt. 3. 1. And in John 3. 23, that version reads, John was
dipping in AEnon because there was much water there. What need much water were it not
3. They did baptize in rivers. They came to John, and were
baptized in Jordan, Matt. 3, 6. John was baptizing in AEnon because there was much
water there, John 3. 23. Why need it be in a river, and where there was much water?
Would not a little water in a Bason serve to Sprinkle the Face?
"4. Baptism signifies the Burial of Christ. Therefore we
are buried with him by baptism into death, Rom. 6. 4. Buried with him in Baptism,
Col. 2. 12. Now we do not recon a man buried when a little earth is sprinkled on his
Face, but he is buried when covered; thus you are buried in Baptism.
"5. Christ's sufferings are called a Baptism, Luke 12.
50. I have a Baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straightened till it be
accomplished! When Christ suffered he was plunged into pains. Did his sufferings lie
only on his Head or on his Forehead? No, no; there was not one part free; he was from head
to foot in pain; his head was crowned with piercing Thorns, his hands and feet were nailed
to the Cross; and his whole person was so stretched out on the Cross that a man might have
told all his bones, Ps. 22. 17. There was not one part free. Man hath sinned, Body,
Soul and Spirit, and therefore the whole Christ must suffer for sin. Christ was baptized
into pain, plunged into sorrow, not any part free: this he called his Baptism. Thus one
baptized is plunged under water, to show how Christ was plunged into sorrow for our sakes.
"6. Baptism is a putting on Christ. As many of you
as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Gal, 3. 27. The text means that
as a servant wears his Lord's Livery, a Garment which demonstrates him to be a Servant to
such a great Personage, so in Baptism we put on our Lord's Livery, and he himself clothes
us from head to foot. It is thus that by Baptism we put on Christ.
"7. When Christ was baptized, he came up out of the
Water, Matt. 3. 16. Was his baptism performed by having a little Water thrown
on his Face? Then he had not been in the Water, and could not have come out of it;
but because he was baptized in the Water, therefore being baptized he came up out of the
Water. Philip and the Eunuch went down both into the Water, (and being there in the
Water) Philip baptized the Eunuch. Both of them came up out of the Water, Acts
8. 39; but to what End had they gone down if Philip did merely Sprinkle the Eunuch, or
Pour water upon his head ?
"Thus you see the place where these various persons
were baptized was a River, or a certain water; their Action was on this
wisethey went down into the Water, then, being in the Water, they were
baptized. This was done in places where there was much water. The end was to show
forth Christ's Burial; now if there be not a Burial under water to show Christ's Burial,
the great end of the Ordinance is lost: but Burial is well set forth by Dipping under
Water." (Baptism Discovered Plainly and Faithfully, according to the Word of God. Pp.
Then there follow some questions and answers to show that
sprinkling is "strange fire "on the altar of God.
Edmond Jessop had been an Anabaptist, and had departed from the
faith. In 1623 he published "A Discovery of the Errors of the English
Anabaptists." This book was on infant baptism, but in referring to the position of
the Anabaptists he mentions their use of Rom. 6. While dipping is not mentioned it is
plain that Jessop assumes it in relation to the Anabaptists. Jessop says:
"In which words (I say) he setteth downe expresly that the
baptisme which saueth, the baptisme whereby we put on Christ, the baptisme whereby our
hearts are purged and sanctified, and the sinnes of our flesh done away, whereby we are
buried with Christ, and doe rise with him, euen that which is through the faith and
operation of the Spirit, is one and the same, with the circumcision of the heart, which he
therefore calleth, the circumcision made withou thands, the circumcision of Christ, whereby
also it appeareth clearly, and beyond all contradiction, that the circumcision, or the
cutting of the foreskin of the flesh, was a signe and a true representation of the doing
away of their sinnes, of the cleansing of the heart by faith (as the now doing away of the
filth of the flesh with the baptism of water is); for which vse and end, it was also given
to Abraham at the first, as this Apostle also declareth in another place,"
etc. (P. 62).
Vavasor Powell is a brilliant instance of a man baptized by
immersion upon a profession of his faith before 1641. Davis says of him:
"He was inclined to suffer affliction with the people of God
rather than to proceed in the ways of sin and folly. Soon afterwards he was baptized on a
profession of his faith, and became a very popular preacher among the Baptists in Wales in
the year of our Lord in 1636. He was one of the most zealous and useful preachers in the
Principality. He often preached throughout Wales and in many parts of England. Being a man
of liberal education, he was remarkably fluent in both languages." (History of the
Welsh Baptists, p. 28. Pittsburg, 1835).
Powell himself is very clear upon the act of baptism. He says:
"Water baptism is a solemn, significant dipping into, or
washing with water the body in (or into) the name of the Father, &c. (Matt. 28, 19).
It signifies the death, the burial and resurrection of Christ, also the spiritual
cleansing and washing of justification and regeneration or sanctification." (Life,
Edward Barber refers to the Independents in these words:
"Again, others who pretend to come neerest in that way in
separating, yet hold the baptisme they there received though on no ground; for if they
were truly baptised into that Church I conceive with submission to better judgments, they
ought to continue, and to separate for corruptions, as is clearly proved by B. Hall, in
his Apology against the Brownists, shewing that either they must goe forward to baptisme,
or come backe again to the Bishops and Church." (A Small Treatise of Baptisme,
Preface, sec. 6. London, 1641).
The work of Bishop Hall to which reference is here made is called:
"A common apologie of the Church of England against the unjust challenges of the over
just sect commonly called Brownists." The title page shows that this book was written
in 1610. Barber always understood baptism to be an immersion, and quotes Bishop Hall in
support of his position that the Brownists must go back to Episcopacy or forward to
baptism. Barber would not have quoted Hall as sustaining his immersion views unless he had
strong reasons for so doing. This reference will carry the practice of immersion back
among Baptists till 1610, at any rate. Indeed, there is no doubt about the concession of
Bishop Hall, for I find in the work of A. R., 1642, the first part of "The Vanity of
Childish Baptism," P. 34, a very striking passage from Bishop Hall. The Bishop called
the Anabaptists Catabaptists, or dippers. I quote from A. R.:
"Yea and much lesse in the judgment of Bishop Hall,
who in this point expresses himselfe in these words (viz) I am for my heart so confident
of the Divine Institution of the majority of Bishops above Presbyters, that I dare boldly
say, that there are weighty points of faith which have not so strong evidence in holy
Scripture, (and there be instanceth in two particulars). The power by sacred orders given
to the ministers alone for the Consecration and distribution of the holy Eucharist, and
the receiving of Infants to holy Baptisme, which (saith he) is a matter of so high
consequence, that we justly brand the Catabaptists with heresie for denying it, yet let me
with good assurance, say, that the evidences of this truth come farre short of that which
the Scriptures have afforded us for the superiority of some Church Governor even those who
otherwise indeed, in a sole respect of their Ministerial Function, are equall; and then he
shuts up the point in these very words (viz) He therefore that would upon pretence of want
of Scripture quarrell at the Divine institution of Bishops might with much better colour
cavill at these blessed Ordinances of God." (P. 35).
Here is undoubted contemporaneous evidence in 1610 that the
Baptists were immersionists.
THE KIFFIN MS. AND THE JESSEY CHURCH RECORDS.
The foundation upon which Dr. Whitsitt builds his entire
superstructure is the so-called Kiffin manuscript. The authority, authenticity and
clearness of the application of this document to the Baptists must be put beyond question.
He must have "irrefragable proofs "to sustain this manuscript. There must be no
mistake or doubt on a vital point like this. It is upon this manuscript that he gets his
date of 1641. It is from this manuscript that he establishes immersion from the Dutch
through Blount. It is from this manuscript that he traces his line of succession, and
indeed it is from this manuscript that he gets all the details of his theory. It is the
only Baptist document that he quotes that is at all vital to his position. What we demand
of Dr. Whitsitt just here is clear, certain and unequivocal proof. At this vital point he
fails and the testimony is against him.
After quoting from Hutchinson, Crosby says:
"This agrees with an account given of the matter in an
ancient manuscript, said to be written by Mr. William Kiffin, who lived in those times,
and was a leader among those of that persuasion:
"This relates that several sober and pious persons belonging to
the Congregations of dissenters about London were convinced that believers
were the only proper subjects of baptism and that it ought only to be
administered by immersion or dipping the whole body into water in resemblance of burial
and resurrection according to 2 Colos. ii. 12, and Rom. vi. 4. That they often
met together to pray and confer about this matter and consult what methods they should
take to enjoy the ordinance in its primitive purity. That they could not be satisfied
about any administrator in England to begin this practice, because though
some in this nation rejected the baptism of infants yet they had not as they knew
of revived the ancient custom of immersion. But hearing that some in the Netherlands
practiced it, they sent over one Hr. Richard Blount, who understood the Dutch
language; That he went accordingly, carrying letters of recommendation with him, and
was kindly received both by the church there and by Mr. John Batte, their teacher; That on
his return he baptized Mr. Samuel Blacklock, a minister; and those two baptized the
rest of the company, whose names are in the manuscript, to the number of
fifty-three."(Crosby I., 101-2).
Dr. Whitsitt was led to see that this testimony from the so-called
Kiffin manuscript was not conclusive, so he cast around to find something to sustain it.
He virtually confesses that the Kiffin manuscript is not authoritative p. 83). He thinks
he finds this confirmation in the Rev. George Gould's account of the Norwich Chapel case
in England. The book is entitled "Open Communion and the Baptists of Norwich,"
by Rev. George Gould, and was published in 1860. This new evidence that Dr. Whitsitt
discovers is called the "Jessey Church Records." He says of them:
These singularly valuable records, which must be still in existence
since Gould had them in his possession in 1860 (Open Communion, Introduction, p. cxxiii),
ought by all means to be published in fac-simile, and whoever accomplishes that
task will render an important service to Baptist history. Mr. Gould prints only
"certain entries" found in them (Introduction, p. cxxii), and these do not quite
cover all the ground occupied by the so-called Kiffin manuscript. To facilitate comparison
both documents will be found printed in parallel columns below, the one under the title of
"Jessey Church Records "and the other as the so-called Kiffin manuscript (P.
He devotes a whole chapter to these "Genuine Ancient
Records." And throughout the remainder of the book he makes the greatest use of them,
referring to them no less than 28 times. He quotes them on all important occasions, and
indeed without the "Jessey Church Records" his case goes to the wall. They are
the keystone in the arch. Here is where he gets his 1641, and this is the extent of his
discovery. Here are Dr. Whitsitt's parallel columns:
1633. There having been much discussing, These denying Truth of ye
Parish Churches, and ye Church being now become so large yt it might be prejudicial, These
following desired dismission, that they might become an Entire Church, and (2) further ye
Communion of those Churches in Order amongst themselves, wch at last was granted to them,
and performed Sept. 12, 1633, viz.:
HenryParker & wife.
Widd. Fearne. Arnold.
To These Joyned Rich. Blunt, Tho. Hubert, Rich Tredwell, and his Wife
Kath., John Trimber Wm. Jennings and Sam Eaton, Mary
Greenway, (3) Mr. Eaton with some others receiving a further baptism.
Others Joyned to them.
1638. These also being of ye same judgment
with Sam Eaton, and desiring to depart and not be censured, our intrest in them was
remitted, with Prayer made in their behalf, June 8, 1638. They haveing first forsaken Us,
and Joyned with Mr. Spilsbury, viz.
Mr. Peti Ferrer,
Mrs. Allen (died 1639),
Gould, Open Communion and the Baptists of Norwich, Intro., p. cxxii.
1640. 3d Mo. [May]. The Church [whereof Mr. Jacob and Mr. John Latborp had been
Pastors], became two by mutual consent, just half being
with Mr. P. Barebone, and ye other halfe with Mr. H. Jessey. (8.) Mr. Richd. Blunt wth him, being convinced of Baptism, yt also it
ought to be by diping ye Body into ye Water, resembling Burial and riseing again. (Col.
ii., 12; Rom. vi., 4): had sober Conferance about it in ye Church, and and then with
some of the forenamed, who also were so convinced: And after Prayer and Conferance
about their so enjoying it, none having then so Practiced in England to Professed
Believers, and hearing that some in the Nether Lands had so practiced, they agreed and
sent over Mr. Rich'd Blunt (who understood Dutch), with Letters of Comendation, who was
kindly accepted there, and Returned with Letters from them, Jo. Batten a Teacher there,
and from that Church to such as sent him.
1641. They proceed on therein, viz.: Those
persons yt ware perswaded Baptism should be by dipping ye Body, had mett in (9) two
Companies, and did intend so to meet after this: all these agreed to proceed alike
together: and then Manifesting (not by any formal Words) a Covenant (wch Word was Scrupled
by some of them), but by mutual desires and agreement each testified: These two Cornpanyes
did set apart one to Baptize the rest, so it was Solemnly performed by them.
Mr. Blunt baptized Mr. Blacklock, yt was a Teacher amongst them, and
Mr. Blunt being baptized, he and Mr. Blacklock Baptized ye rest of their friends yt ware
so minded, and many being added to them they increased much.
Gould, Open Communion and the Baptists of Norwich, Intro., pp.
There was a congregation of Protestant Dissenters of the independent Persuasion in
London, gathered in the year 1616, whereof Mr. Henry Jacob was the first pastor; and after
him succeeded Mr. John Lathorp, who was their minister at this time. In this society
several persons finding that the congregations kept not to their first principles of
separation, and being also convinced that (1) baptism was not to be administered to
infants, but such only as professed faith in Christ, desired that they might be dismissed
from that communion, and allowed to form a distinct congregation in such order as was most
agreeable to their own Sentiments. The church considering that they were now grown very numerous, and so more than could in these times of
persecution meet together, and believing also that those persons acted from a principle of
conscience, and not obstinacy, agreed to allow them the liberty they desired, and that
they should be constituted a distinct church, which was performed the 12th of September,
1633. And as they believed that baptism was not rightly administered to infants, so they
looked upon the baptism they had received in that age as invalid; whereupon most or all of
them received a new baptism. (5) Their minister was Mr. John Spilsbury. What number they
were is uncertain, because in the mentioning of the names of about twenty men and women it
is added, with divers others.
In the year 1638 Mr. William (6) Kiffin,
Mr. Thomas Wilson, and others being of the same judgment, were upon their request,
dismissed to the said Mr. Spilsbury's congregation.
(7) In the year 1639 another congregation of Baptists was formed, whose
place of meeting was in CrutchedFryars; the chief promoters of which were Mr. Green,
Mr. Paul Hobson and Captain Spencer.
Crosby, Vol. I., pp. 148-9.
For in the year 1640, this church became two by consent; just half,
says the manuscript, being with Mr. P. Barebone, and the other half with Mr. Henry Jessey.
Crosby, Vol. III, p. 41.
Several sober and pious persons belonging to the Congregations of the dissenters about
London were convinced that believers were the only proper subjects of baptism, and that it ought to be administered by immersion
or dipping the whole body into the water, in resemblance of a burial and resurrection
according to Colos. 11., 12, and Rom. VI, 4. That they often met together to pray and
confer about this matter, and to consult what methods they should take to enjoy this
ordinance in its primitive purity: That they could not be satisfyed about any
administrator in England to begin this practice; because tho' some in this nation rejected
the baptism of infants, yet they had not as they knew of revived the ancient custom of
immersion: But hearing that some in the Netherlands practiced it, they agreed to send
over one Mr. Richard Blunt, who understood the Dutch lanuage; that he went accordingly,
carrying letters of recommendation with him and was kindly received both by the church
there and Mr. John Batten, their teacher.
That upon his return he baptized Mr. Samuel
Blacklock, a minister, and these two baptized the rest of their company [whose names are
in the manuscript to the number of fifty-three.]
Crosby, Vol. I., pp. 101-2.
Dr. Whitsitt divides these "Jessey Church Records" into
two parts. The first part contains the two paragraphs under "Jessey Church
Records," under the dates of 1633 and 1638. These two paragraphs contain nothing on
the subject of baptism and are of no importance in this discussion. These "Jessey
Church Records" are introduced by Gould with these words:
"Amongst the MSS. of H. Jessey, who in 1637 became pastor of
the Church from which these persons had seceded, are 'The Records of an Antient
Congregation of Dissenters from Wch many of ye Independent and Baptist Churches in London
took their rise,' and there I find these entries:"
Then follows all that is found above under the dates of 1633 and
The second part is under the dates of 1640 and 1641. Of this
second division Dr. Whitsitt says:
The second division of the Jessey Church Records, beginning with the
disruption of Jessey's church in 1640, is perhaps the most important. (P. 85).
This contains all that is said on the subject of baptism. In it is
found the quotation he has made so many times in the body of the book, "none having
then so practiced in England to professed believers. "If this is overthrown all is
gone. His book is gone, for this is the keystone of the whole superstructure. I now assert
on the authority of Gould himself, from whom Dr. Whitsitt quotes, that there is nothing of
this sort in the "Jessey Church Records" at all. The records make no such
reference to the years 1640 and 1641. No such words are found in them. How Dr. Whitsitt
came to place these two paragraphs in the "Jessey Church Records" I cannot
attempt to explain. It is sufficient to say that they are not there. And Gould, from whom
he quotes, does not place them there. So all of this ado about the "Jessey Church
Records" goes into thin air.
From whence, then, did Dr. Whitsitt get these two Paragraphs? They
have no connection with the Jessey Church Records whatever, but are another version of the
Kiffin Manuscript, and Gould so quotes them. Gould widely separates these paragraphs from
the Jessey Records and distinctly says that these paragraphs are from the Kiffin
Manuscript. His words are:
"Crosby appeals for confirmation of Hutchinson's account to
'an antient manuscript by Mr. William Kiffin,' and of which he proceeds to give the
substance. As I have the same document lying before me, I shall allow the writer to tell
his own tale." (Open Communion and the Baptists of Norwich, p. cxxiii). And then he
proceeds to give the words Dr. Whitsitt put under the "Jessey Church Records"
dated 1640 and 1641. Here, then, Dr. Whitsitt has placed in the Jessey Church Records
things which are contained in the Kiffin Manuscript. This not only destroys all reference
to the Jessey Church Records as authority, but likewise weakens the Kiffin Manuscript.
Which one of these versions are we to believe? Crosby gives one and Gould gives another.
If Dr. Whitsitt had read even Armitage he would have found that Armitage gives this exact
quotation and properly ascribes it to Kiffin. (Armitage's History of the Baptists, P.
But in order that I may be perfectly clear on this point, at the
risk of repeating somewhat, I give the entire statement of Gould. A comparison of Gould
with the statement of Dr. Whitsitt is all that is necessary to prove that Dr. Whitsitt has
placed words in the Jessey Church Records which belong to the Kiffin Manuscript. Gould
AMONG THE MSS. OF MR. H. JESSEY, WHO IN 1637 BECAME PASTOR OF THE
CHURCH FROM WHICH THESE PERSONS HAD SECEDED, ARE "THE RECORDS OF AN ANTIENT
CONGREGATION OF DISSENTERS, FROM WCH MANY OF YE INDEPENDENT AND BAPTIST CHURCHES IN LONDON
TOOK THEIR FIRST RISE," AND THERE I FIND THESE ENTRIES:* *Capitals
1633. There having been much discussing. These denying Truth of ye
Parish Churches, and ye Church being now become so large yt it might be prejudicial. These
following desired dismission, that they might become an Entire Church, and further ye
Communion of those Churches in Order amongst themselves, wch at last was granted to them,
and performed Sept. 12,1633, viz.:
Henry Parker and wife, Jo. Milburn,
Widd. Fearne, Arnold,
(Green) Hatmaker, Mr. Wilson,
Mark Luker, Tho. Allen,
To These Joyned Rich. Blunt, Tho. Hubert, Rich. Tredwell, and his wife
Kath., John Timber, Wm. Jennings and Sam Eaton, Mary Greenway. Mr. Eaton with some others
receiving a further baptism.
Others Joyned to them.
1638. These also being of ye same judgment with Sam Eaton, and desiring
to depart and not be censured, our interest in them was remitted, with Prayer made in
their behalf, June 8, 1638. They having first forsaken Us, and Joyned with Mr. Spilsbury,
Mr. Peti Ferrer, Wm. Batty,
Hen Pen, Mrs. Allen (died 1639),
Tho. Wilson, Mr. Norwood.
From these minutes I infer that Mr. Spilsbury, believing that
baptizedness is not essential to the administrator," felt no difficultie in
administering the rite of baptism to "Sam Eaton with some others." This would
account for his vindication of such a course in the following terms as quoted by Crosby:
"And because some make it such an error, and so far from any rule
or example for a man to baptize others, who is himself unbaptized, and so think thereby to
shut up the ordinance of God in such a Strait, that none can come by it but thro'
the authority of the Popedom of Rome; let the reader consider who baptized John
the Baptist, before he baptized others, and if no man did, then whether he did not
baptize others, he being himself unbaptized. We are taught by this what to do upon like
"Further, says he, I fear that men put more than is of right due
to it, that so prefer it above the church, and all other ordinances besides; take
in and cast out members, elect and ordain officers, and administer
the supper, and all anew, without any looking after succession, any further than the
Scriptures. But as for baptism, they must have that successfully from the Apostles, though
it comes thro' the hands of Pope Joan. What is the cause of this, that men can do
all from the Word but only baptism?"
It is evident, therefore, that some persons scrupled the correctness of
Mr. Spilsbury's conduct. Edward Hutchinson, in his "Treatise concerning the Covenant
and Baptism," incidentally confirms this conclusion, for he says that, when several
persons resolved to practice the baptism of believers according to their light:
"The great objection was the want of an administrator, which,
as I have heard, was removed by sending certain messengers to Holland, whence they
Crosby applies for confirmation of Hutchinson's account to "an
ancient manuscript, said to have been written by Mr. William Kiffin," of which he
proceeds to give the substance. AS I HAVE THE SAME DOCUMENT NOW LYING BEFORE ME, I SHALL
ALLOW THE WRITER TO TELL HIS OWN TALE:* *Capitals mine.-C.
"1640, 3d Mo. (May). The Church [whereof Mr. Jacob and Mr. John
Lathrop had been Pastors], became two by mutual consent, just half being with Air. P.
Barebone and ye other halfe with Mr. H. Jessey. Mr. Rich'd Blunt with him being convinced
of Baptism, yt also it ought to be by dipping ye Body into ye Water, resembling Burial and
riseing again, Col. II., 12; Rom. VI., 4; had sober Conference about it in ye Church, and,
then with some of the forenamed, who also were so convinced: And after Prayer and
Conference about their so enjoying it, none having then so Practiced in England to
Professed Believers, and hearing that some in the Nether Lands had so practiced, they
agreed and sent over Mr. Rich'd Blunt (who understood Dutch) with Letters of Commendation,
who was kindly accepted there, and returned with Letters from them, Jo Batten a Teacher
there, and from that Church to such as sent him.
"1641. They proceed on therein, viz.: Those persons yt ware
perswaded Baptism should be by dipping ye Body, had mett in two Companies, and did intend
so to meet after this; all these agreed to proceed alike together; and then Manifesting
(not by any formal words) a Covenant (Word wch was Scrupled by some of them) but by mutual
desires and agreement each testified: These two Companyes did set apart one to Baptize the
rest, so it was Solemnly performed by them.
"Mr. Blunt baptized Mr. Blacklock, yt was a Teacher among them,
and Mr. Blunt being baptized, he and Mr. Blacklock baptized ye rest of their friends yt
ware so minded, and many being added to them they increased much."
But there is another consideration which I have not as yet
mentioned. Are the Jessey Church Records a forgery? Dr. Henry S. Burrage is constrained to
"It will be noticed that in our reference above to the Jessey
Church Records, we say 'if they are authentic.' We have not forgotten the 'Crowle and
Epworth' records. These made their appearance about the same time as the Jessey Church
Records, and it is now known that they are clumsy forgeries. The Jessey Church Records may
be genuine, but their genuineness has not yet been established." (Zion's Advocate,
Sept. 30, 1896).
We have no external proof of the genuineness of these Records.
They stand wholly unauthenticated. Before we accept them we must have undoubted proof of
their genuineness. Outside of the fact that we have not one iota of external evidence that
these Records are genuine, the internal evidence is all against them. Examine the title
"The Records of an antient Congregation of Dissenters from wch many of ye Independent
and Baptist Churches took their rise." This title is enough to forever condemn these
Records as a forgery. Allow me to point out a few considerations:
1. This was not, in 1640,. an ancient congregation. At that
time this church had been organized less than twenty-five years, and in that land of
ancient churches no man would have called this Jessey Church an "antient
2. In 1640 "many of ye Independent Churches " had
not taken "their rise" from it.
3. In 1640 it was not the Mother of "many"
4. The name "Baptist Churches "was not then in use, and
conclusively proves these Records a fraud. The term "Baptist" was not used till
some years after this period.
Thus Dr. Whitsitt's principal authority has no existence in fact.
His whole book is founded upon this error. As much has been said about the so-called
Kiffin Manuscript, I will now proceed to review it. It is scarcely worth while, after this
remarkable exploit with the Jessey Church Records, but I desire to give a complete review
of the subject.
This theory, as presented from the so-called Kiffin Manuscript,
presents insuperable difficulties:
1. Dr. Whitsitt presents no proof, and none has been found, that
Kiffin wrote this Manuscript. Crosby, who wrote his history about one hundred years after
this event, is said to have happened, ventured to say:
"This agrees with an account of the matter in an ancient
manuscript said to have been written by Mr. Wm. Kiffin, who lived in those times."
(Crosby, Vol. I, p. 100).
Cathcart, a Baptist writer, says this transaction of Blount's may
have happened, but he further remarks:
"We would not bear heavily on the testimony adduced by
these good men." (Baptist Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 572).
2. There is no proof that the Manuscript was written by anyone
near the year 1641. Dexter, upon whom Dr. Whitsitt has constantly relied, gives up this
Manuscript. He says:
"Crosby says he derived his information from an 'antient
manuscript said to be written by Mr. William Kiffin, who lived in those times, and
was a leader among those of that persuasion.' Conceding the genuineness of this
manuscript, and its value in testimonyboth of which might be open to
questionlet us note its exact words as to the point before us." (The True Story
of John Smyth, P. 43).
"On the other hand, had not Kiffinas it is
supposedin made the statement, it would be suspicious for its vagueness, and for the
fact that none of the historians, not even Wilson, Calamy, Brook, or Neal, know anything
about either Blount or Blacklock, beyond what is here stated." (P. 54).
Armitage says of the entire transaction:
"A feeble but strained attempt has been made to show that
none of the English Baptists practiced immersion prior to 1641, from the document
mentioned by Crosby in 1733, Of which he remarks that it was 'said to be written by Mr.
William Kiffin.' Although this manuscript is signed by fifty-three persons, it is evident
that its authorship was only guessed at from the beginning, it may or may not have been
written by Kiffin." (History of the Baptists, P. 440).
3. No authoritative copy of this manuscript is known to be in
existence and no Baptist historian, unless we may call Gould such, appears to have
ever seen it. Crosby does not quote it, nor does he say he ever saw it, but he only makes
general statements from it without quoting the exact words. Dr. Whitsitt makes no claim of
having seen this manuscript. His reference is to Crosby.
4. The statements in the quotation are vague and uncertain. It
only speaks of "several sober and pious persons belonging to the Congregations of the
dissenters about London." There is nothing to prove that these persons ever organized
a Baptist Church. There is no proof that Blount or Blacklock were Baptist preachers. Their
names are not appended to the Confession of Faith of 1644, which almost certainly would
have been the case had they organized the first Baptist Church of England and introduced
immersion among them. No record of such an event was kept, and the only reference I have
found in the century to it is in the words of Hutchinson, 1676, or thirty-one years later,
who reports on hearsay that "certain messengers went to Holland." The dates are
as conflicting as the so-called facts. Barclay, who was the first to discover the
"invention" of immersion among the Baptists, says Blount went to Holland in
1633. Newman puts the date 1640 and Dr Whitsitt 1641.
Evans says :
"This statement is vague. We have no date and cannot tell
whether the fact refers to the Separatists under Mr. Spilsbury or to others."
(History Early English Baptists, Vol. II., p. 78).
Dr. A. H. Newman, who has been so industriously quoted, says:
"A few remarks seem called for by the obscurity of some of
the statements quoted above. It is not possible out of the material that has thus far come
to the light to trace in detail the evolution of the seven churches that signed the
confession of 1644. The statement quoted from the so-called 'Kiffin Manuscript' with
reference to the division of 1640 involves a number of difficulties. P. Barebone, with
whom half of the church withdrew, has commonly been regarded by Baptist writers as a
Baptist. Yet in 1642 he published 'A Discourse tending to prove the Baptism in, or under,
the Defection of Antichrist to be the Ordinance of Jesus Christ, as also that the Baptism
of Infants or Children is Warrantable and Agreeable to the Word of God,' and in 1643 and
1644 he published other polemical tracts against Antipedobaptism. If in 1641 he was the
leader of the Antipedobaptists and immersionist half of the divided congregation he must
soon after have abandoned his position. This is, of course, possible. From the
construction of the sentence Jessey might be taken to be the leader of the Baptist half,
but it appears that Jessey did not become a Baptist till five years later. This difficulty
seems inexplicable without further material." (A History of the Baptist Churches in
the United States, pp. 52, 53).
It is altogether possible that these "dissenters" may
not have known that there were immersionists in London, and that such persons may have
lived on the same square with them. Under the persecutions of the Court of High Commission
and the Court of Star Chamber it was not safe for one to announce himself a Baptist.
6. The account that Hutchinson gives is very different from the
so-called Kiffin Manuscript. He makes no mention of dipping, but declares that the trouble
was in regard to an administrator. The edition of Hutchinson from which I quote bears
date, London, 1676. He says:
"When the professors of these nations had been a long time
wearied with the yoke of superstitions, ceremonies, traditions of men, and corrupt
mixtures in the worship and service of God, it pleased the Lord to break these yokes,
and by a very strong impulse of his Spirit upon the hearts of his people, to
convince them of the necessity of Reformation. Divers pious, and very gracious people,
having often sought the Lord by fasting and prayer, that he would show them the pattern of
his house, the goings-out and comings-in thereof, &c. Resolved (by the grace of God), not
to receive or practice any piece of positive worship which had not precept or example from
the word of God. Infant baptism coming of course under consideration, after long search
and many debates, it was found to have no footing in the Scriptures (the only rule and
standard to try doctrines by); but on the contrary a mere innovation, yea, the
profanation of an ordinance of God. And though it was proposed to be laid aside, yet what
fears, tremblings, and temptations did attend them, lest they should be mistaken,
considering how many learned and godly men were of an opposite persuasion. How gladly
would they have had the rest of their brethren gone along with them. But when there was no
hopes, they concluded that a Christian's faith must not stand in the wisdom of men;
and that every one must give an account of himself to God; and so resolved to practice
according to their light. The great objection was, the want of an administrator; which, as
I have heard, was remov'd by sending certain messengers to Holland, whence they were
supplied." (A Treatise Concerning the Covenant and Baptism Dialogue-wise. Epistle to
the Reader. London, 1676).
There is no question about the authenticity of this work of
Hutchinson and the question of "dipping does not come upon the boards." The
whole question hinged upon the lawfulness of infant baptism and a proper administrator.
7. There is nothing in this manuscript to prove that there were
not other Baptists in England who had nothing to do with this transaction. We have shown
that there were many such churches. Crosby says:
"But the greatest number of English Baptists looked upon all
of this as needless trouble, and what proceeded from the old Popish Doctrine of right to
administer sacraments by an uninterrupted succession which neither the Church of Rome, nor
the Church of England, much less the modern Dissenters, could prove to be with them."
(Vol. I., P. 103).
The voice of Kiffin himself is against any such interpretation of
this manuscript, for he would not have contradicted himself. Kiffin certainly said:
"IT IS WELL KNONW TO MANY, ESPECIALLY TO OURSELVES, THAT OUR CONGREGATIONS WERE
ERECTED AND FRAMED ACCORDING TO THE RULE OF CHRIST, BEFORE WE HEARD OF ANY
REFORMATION." (A Brief Remonstrance, p. 11).
I do not think it possible with an unauthenticated, vague
statement like the one contained in this manuscript to revolutionize Baptist history.
Neither is there anything new in all this, for it was recorded long ago by Crosby, and has
been before the Baptists more than two hundred years. Dr. Whitsitt is the only man who has
drawn from it such startling conclusions.
Of Mr. Praise-God Barebones, Dr. Whitsitt makes great use. He
wrote, if indeed he is the author, two books, under the initials P. B., which appeared in
1642-3. Dr. Whitsitt claims that while he was not a Baptist, as some other writers
supposed, he was very friendly to them. He says:
It is true that The Bapitist Encyclopaedia has blundered in
claiming Mr. Barebone as a Baptist minister, yet it was not a very great blunder. There
was some reason for this conclusion, for he was closely connected with the Baptists,
having been a member of the Jessey Church prior to the year 1640. (P. 102).
Dr. Whitsitt further says that he was answered by R. B., whom he
claims to be Richard Blunt, of which, however, there is no proof. After reading this
eulogy of P. B., I turned to his book called "A Reply to the Frivolous and
impertinent Ansvver of R. B., to the discourse of P. B.," and I did not find it
friendly to the Baptists. It was altogether hostile. I can only give a few of his phrases:
"Boaster," "liar," "bray a fool," "evil dealing,"
"willing to deceive," "he deals as the Divell dealt with the Lord, keeps
back a mayne part, and so the shewing the mind to smother the truth and keep it in
unrighteousness," etc., etc. These are only samples that are found all through this
abusive writer. And yet this enemy is one of Dr. Whitsitt's principal witnesses.
I charged, through The Western Recorder, that Dr. Whitsitt
copied from Dexter his quotation from P. B., as found in The Religious Herald, May
7, 1896. This is admitted, for in the book he uses an entirely different form of the
quotation, as follows:
"But now very lately some are mightily taken as having found out a
new defect in the Baptisme under the defection, which maketh such a nullitie of Baptisme
in their conceit that it is none at all, and it is concerning the manner of Baptizing
wherein they have espyed such default as it maketh an absolute nullity of all person's
Baptisme but such as have been so Baptized according to their new discovery; and so partly
as before in regard of the subject and partly in regard of so great default in the manner:
They not only conclude as is before sayd a nullity of their present Baptisme, And so but
addresse themselves to be Baptized a third time after the true way and manner they have
found out, which they account a precious truth. The particular of their opinion and
practice is to Dip, and that persons are to be Dipped, all and every part to be under the
water, for if all the whole person be not under the water then they hold they are not
Baptized with the Baptisme of Christ. As for sprinkling or pouring water on the face it is
nothing at all as they account, and so measuring themselves by these new thoughts as
unbaptized they addresse themselves to take it up after the manner of Dipping: but truly
they want [lack] a Dipper that hath authority from heaven, as had John whom they please to
call a Dipper, of whom it is sayd that it might be manifested his Baptisme was from
heaven. A man can receive nothing, that is, lawful authority or power to Baptize, unlesse
it be given from heaven, which I desire they would be pleased to mind and they will easily
see their third baptism is from the earth and not from heaven, as John's was. And if this
case be further considered it will appeare at the most to be but a defect in the manner
and a coming short in the quantity of the Element. It is a wonderful thing that a nullity
should thereof follow forthwith, of which more may be seen in the same case before. Againe
that the substance of an Ordinance of so high a nature and great concernment should be
founded in the criticknesse of a word and in the quantity of an element is no lesse
marveilous, to say no more. Oh, but Baptismeisa is a Buriall as it is written, We are
buried with him in Baptisme, etc., and we are raised up also to newness of life. This
Buriall and resurrection only Dipping can import and hold forth . . . But inasmuch as this
is a very new way, and the full growth of it and settling is not yet known, if it be to
themselves, yet not to me and others: I will forbeare to say further to it." (Pp. 12,
The extract taken from Dexter had been terribly garbled. Sentences
had been taken from different parts of the book and pieced together, and sometimes the
sentences did not even stop with a comma. The exact form of the quotation as given above
may be found in The Independent, Oct. 7, 1880. The article appeared as an
editorial, and the author's name does not appear; but Dr. Whitsitt very closely follows
the line of proof and quotations in that editorial and some dozen others which may be
found in The Independent from June 24, 1880, to Dec. 13, I883. But this quotation
does not sustain Dr. Whitsitt's contention, for P. B. was not discussing the newness of
dipping, but a proper administrator and rebaptism. And he taunts his opponent in "A
Reply, To the Reader," London, 1643, with:
"A man that had a minde to come to R. B. in his third
Baptisme, before a yeare or two spent in the serious weighing of the matter, would find
happily that R. B. had left his third Baptisme, and taken up a church."
But P. B. did not think dipping was a new thing. In the quotation
as given are found some dots. Those dots indicate the omission of a significant statement.
P. B. there declares that dipping was not a new thing. He says:
"The Romanists, some of them, and some of the poor ignorant
Welsh do use dipping."
And in A Reply he asks whether they learned dipping from the
Romanists or the Welsh?
1. I do not regard this anonymous author, P. B., as of any weight.
One of the officials of the British Museum wrote me: "The book is not considered here
as of any particular value, only an ordinary controversial pamphlet." His name,
Praise-God Barebones, is enough to condemn him. It is said his two brothers assumed the
names, respectively, of "Christ came into the World to save Barebones" and
"If Christ had not Died Thou hadst been Damned Barebones." I am surprised that
any one would quote such an author as decisive on any point. Yet this man is one of Dr.
Whitsitt's chief witnesses.
2. It is perfectly apparent that the words of. P. B. have been
wofully misused. It leads us to suspect that all the authors that Dr. Whitsitt has quoted
need further light thrown on them. Even as quoted by Dexter, P. B. does not sustain Dr.
Whitsitt's theory; and the original is certainly against him.
3. "Praise-God Barebones" defended sprinkling, but he
nowhere says dipping was a new thing. That it was practiced in the days of the apostles,
that it was used in hot countries, that "the Romanists, some of them, and some of the
poor ignorant Welsh do use dipping." He was a Pedobaptist, and believed in
sprinkling, and so tried to refute the opinion of the Anabaptists on dipping; but he does
not declare that dipping or a denial of infant baptism to be a new thing. "The new
way of Baptizing," or as it is called here "the new dipping," because the
act had been repeated, over and over again, in his book he declares to be rebaptizing, or
denying the perpetuity of the Roman Catholic Church.
Thomas Kilcop, a Baptist, 1642, who wrote a book called "A
Short Treatise on Baptisme," does not think so highly of "Praise-God
Barebones" as Dr. Whitsitt does. He says he spoke "evil of us," and his
"sin was open." Dr. Dexter is surprised that Kilcop in replying to P. B.
"makes no allusion whatever to Barbon's charge of the newness of the dipping
way." (True Story of John Smyth, P. 48). To me there is nothing strange in this, for
.the simple reason "Barbon," or P. B., had made no such charge. This position of
Kilcop's is in full confirmation of the position that I took in regard to P. B., that the
discussion was in regard to the authority of the baptism of Rome. But Dr. Whitsitt is very
brave and says:
One of our moderns would have denied out of hand that adult immersion
had ever become extinct in England; but Mr. Kilcop knew more about the matter. He conceded
that point without any question, and argued that even though immersion had become extinct
the Baptists had as much right 'to erect baptisme' as the Independents had 'to erect a
church state.' It would be impossible for a man to urge an argument like this, who took
immersion for granted; on the contrary, that was the very thing he did not take for
granted. (P. 121).
The only reference that Dr. Whitsitt gives is out of Dexter, and
after reading this statement of Dr. Whitsitt I have not only examined Dexter but have read
Kilcop's book through, and I find nothing like such conclusions. As a matter of fact, the
first thing Kilcop does after announcing his text is to declare that "Baptisme is a
word and most properly signifies dipping in English; and therefore
the parties baptised are said to be baptised not at, but in, Jordan. Then note, that the
baptizing or dipping in water belongs to Christ's disciples and none else." (P. 1).
And there is not another word that I have found about dipping in
the book. Certainly this is taking dipping for granted, and certainly there is nothing
that would intimate that dipping was a new thing.
The testimony of Edward Barber, 1641, to immersion is clear and
decisive. Throughout this discussion Barber takes dipping for granted and gives reasons
why infant baptism should not prevail. The full title of his book is: *"A small
treatise of baptisme, or dipping, wherein is cleerely shewed that the Lord Christ ordained
dipping for those only that profess repentance and faith. 1. Proved by scriptures. 2. By
arguments. 3. A paralell betwixt circumcision and dipping. 4. An answere to some
objections by P. B. Psal. 119, 130. By Edward Barber. Printed in the yeare 1641."
I give a few extracts from Barber, and many more might be added:
"The thesis that Christ ordained dipping for those only that
profess repentance and faith' is mentioned under four heads; viz.: '1. Proved by
Scriptures. 2. By Arguments. 3. A Parallel betwixt circumcision and Dipping. 4. An Answere
to some objections by P. B. Psal. 119. 130.'"
* I quote from the original, but a reprint
may be had from the Baptist Book Concern, Louisville. Ky., for 10 cents.
"But the dipping of beleevers is that good old way of Christ,
and infants is not." (P. 14). "But for infants' dipping there is no expresse
description of the persons, condition, time, whereas true dipping, which is that one
dipping Ephes. 4. 5., which is the dipping of repentance for remission of sinnes, Mark 1.
4. it is most evidently and faithfully set down for persons, conditions and times,
viz.," etc. (P. 15).
"Thus for true dipping there is a certain time appointed as
was for circumcision, Acts 8. 37. yea commanded, Acts 10. 48." (P. 16).
So that this covenant standeth between God and man, manifested by
Holy Writ is: That as there is but one Lord; one Faith; and one Dipping, Eph. 4. 5. which
is the Dipping of Repentance for Remission of sinnes, Mark 1. 4. so there is but one way
of entrance into the Covenant under the Gospel," etc. (P. 18).
"Quest. 5. But what is the true ordinance of the dipping of
Christ, and wherein doth it differ from childrens Dipping, which is the best way to show
the truth; and what benefit doth Beleevers receive by it." (P. 19).
"Eighthly, that the Beleever may in that day roll away all
the reproach of Egypt, or Antichristianisme, renouncing the marke of the Beast in our
right hands, by holding or fighting for him, or in our forehead. Revel. 13. 14, by dipping
of Infants, that false Constitution of Rome to beget grece, thus it is cleere: who are the
true subjects of Dipping, And who are not." (P. 21).
"In short, all these holy ends that God aimed at in true
dipping, are wholly made voide, and of no effect in the dipping of Infants, which the Lord
Christ commanded not. Jere. 7.3. 1. Revel. 22. 18. Matth. 28. 19. 20. nor
came into his heart." (P. 22).
"6. If the dipping of Infants be God's Ordinance, Christ was
not so faithfull over his House a sonne, as Moses a servant was; For Moses made
and set out all things, according to the patterne, Heb. 8. 5. but if Christ
received any patterne for dipping infants, he hath left no rule for it, by precept, or
"But the dipping of Infants was never heard of in all the
Institutions of Christ, or preachings of the Apostles," etc. (P. 30).
The book nowhere intimates that there were ever any Baptists who
practiced sprinkling, or that the immersion of believers was a new thing. Dr. Whitsitt
makes the following quotation from Barber:
Beloved Reader, it may seem strange that in these times when such
abundance of Knowledge of the Gospell is professed in the World, that there should
notwithstanding be generally such ignorance, especially in and amongst those that professe
themselves Ministers thereof, of that glorious principle True Baptisme or Dipping,
Ephe. 4, 5, Instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, which all that look for life and
salvation by him ought to be partakers of; it being that onely which was received by the
Apostles and Primitive Churches, and for a long time unviolably kept and practiced by the
Ministerie of the Gospel in the planting of the first Churches, and that the Lord should
raise up mee a poore Tradesman to devulge this glorious Truth, to the World's Censuring.
(Pp. 112, 113). ,
Even if Barber had said that believers' immersion was a new thing
in England that would not have made it so. Prof. Vedder makes answer to this point:
"But a thing is not necessarily true because Barber says it;
he wasas he frankly confesses, and his treatise attests itan unlearned man,
and was not acquainted with the history or literature of his own people. We positively
know that he was not the first to 'devulge this glorious truth."'
But I can reply more directly in two ways:
1. The word devulge does not mean to make known a thing for
the first time. It does not mean that Barber was a discoverer. The word means only to
publish a thing, according to Webster, and it may or may not have been known before. Henry
Denne, who was baptized in 1643, and had been since that date a preacher, was sent on a
special mission, by the Baptist Church at Fenstanton, October 28, 1653, and it is
said of him:
"On that day he was chosen and ordained, by imposition of
hands, a messenger to divulge the Gospel of Jesus Christ." (Adam Taylor's History
General Baptists, Vol. I., p. 150).
No one would fail to know that the word meant in this passage
simply to proclaim.
2. The thing that Barber was to divulge, and his whole treaty
shows it, was not dipping, but believers' baptism. He had been imprisoned for denying
infant baptism and his release gave him an opportunity for affirming believers' baptism.
His words are:
By Edward Barber, Citizen, and Merckant- Taylor of London; late
Prisoner, for denying the sprinkling of Infants, and requiring tithes now under the Gospel
to be Gods Ordinance."
There is not a word in this entire book which could by any
possible construction be forced to mean that immersion was a new thing. Indeed, in the
very passage that Dr. Whitsitt quotes Barber claims:
"Instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, which all that look for
life and Salvation by him ought to be partakers of, it being that onely which was received
by the Apostles and Primitive Churches, and for a long time unviolably kept and practiced
by the ministerie of the Gospel in the planting of the first Churches."
But what about Barber himself? Crosby declares that he was
baptized long before 1641, and thus we have another witness to immersion before 1641.
"Mr. Edward Barber, a gentleman of great learning, was first
a minister in the established church, and embraced the principles of the Baptists, long
before the breaking out of the civil wars. He was the means of convincing many that infant
baptism had no foundation in Scripture, and soon gathered a numerous
congregation."(Vol. III., p. 3).
A very scholarly Baptist of those times was A. R., 1642, who wrote
two books on the Vanity and Childishness of Infants Baptisme. The first book was against
infant baptism as held in the Episcopal Church and the second as held by Dissenters. A. R.
readily refers to the Greek language. In the first part, in the beginning, there is a
discussion of dipping. There is no intimation that it is a new thing. Indeed, every
argument presented by A. R. might be profitably used by a Baptist author of today. But Dr.
Whitsitt makes a characteristic mistake. He says:
The work of A. R., which comes under notice in this place, is entitled:
The Second Part of the Vanity and Childishness of Infants Baptisme, London, 1642. On Page
29 of this Second Part Dr. Dexter has found the following quotation, which
demonstrates that A. R. did not take immersion for granted. (p. 119).
Dr. Whitsitt here copies Dexter, mistake and all, and without any
apparent effort to verify the passage. There is no such quotation in "the second
part" of A. R.'s book. This so-called quotation is found in the first part. This goes
to show that Drs. Dexter and Whitsitt are not accurate, and that they cannot be
depended upon. But as a matter of fact words have been placed in this quotation which
change the meaning of the author.
If any shall thinke it strange and unlikely that all the godliest Divines and best
churches should be thus deceived on this point of baptisme for so many yeares together [i.
e., as never before to know that true baptism is dipping and dipping alone true baptism);
let them consider that all Cristendome (except here and there one, or some few, Or no
considerable number) was swallowed up in grosse Popery for many hundred yeares before
Luther's time, which was not until about 100 yeares agone. (Dexter, True Story, p. 49).
A. R.'s Words,
And if any shall think it strange and unlikely that all the godliest Divines and best
churches should be thus deceived on this point of baptism for so many yeares together, let
him consider that all Christendome (except here and there one, or some few, or no
considerable number) was swallowed up in grosse Popery for many hundred yeares before
Luther's time, which was not until about 100 yeares agone.
You will notice that the words have been added: ["i. e., as
never before to know that true baptism is dipping and dipping alone true baptism."]
There is not a word about dipping in this quotation from A. R. nor for pages near it. The
author has been made to say things he did not say. A. R. is singularly clear on dipping,
but he did not have dipping under discussion at this time. This is manufactured testimony.
A. R. met with a very bitter opponent by the name of William
Cooke; Although he called his book a "Learned and Full Answer to a Treatise Intitled;
the Vanity of ChiIdish Baptisme" it is very certain he knew little of the Baptists
and that he was a very bitter enemy, I give in full his third and fourth reasons against
dipping as practiced by the Baptists:
"Thirdly, this dousing over head, and under water that A. R.
pleads for, as essential to baptisme, seems directly against the Sixth Commandment, and
exposeth the person baptized to the danger of death. For first, suppose the party be fit
for baptism (as they account) in the sharpe Winter as now beleeving, professing, &c.
He must immediately be taken to the river (as his tenet seems to hold) and there plunged
in over head and eares, though he came forth covered with yce. But if he escaped perishing
with cold; how can he escape being choaked and stiffled with the water, to signifie his
buriall: and, thirdly, be taken up, as this Disputer seems to reason? But whatsoever be
the danger of freezing, or suffocation; it seems this he holds the onely baptisme, and
must not therefore be swerved from."
Then follows the fourth reason which Dr. Whitsitt partly quotes;
but he omits matters which are necessary to a complete understanding of this fourth
reason. I will place side by side the original and Dr. Whitsitt's version.
William Cooke's words, 1644
Fourthly, will not this their new manner of dipping be found also against the Seventh
Commandment in the Decalogue? For I would know with these new. dippers, whether the
parties to be dowsed and dipped, may be baptized in a garment or no? If they may, then
happily the garment may keep, the water from some part of the body, and then they are not
rightly baptized; for the whole man, say they, must be dipped. Againe, I would aske what
warrant they have for dipping, or baptizing garments, more than the Papists have for
baptizing Bells? Therefore belike the parties must be naked, and multitudes present as at
John's baptisme, and the parties men and women of ripe yeares, as being able to make
confession of their faith and repentance: yet though they both sinne against the Sixth
Commandment, indangering life, and against all common honestie and civilitie, and
Christian modestie required in the Seventh Commandment, they must have this way observed,
because they fancie it the onely baptisme. Shall we thinke this way the baptisme of John,
Christ and his Apostles?" (Pp. 21, 292).
Fourthly, will not this their manner of dipping be found also against the Seventh
Commandment in the Decalogue? For I would know with these new dippers whether the parties
to be dowsed and dipped may be baptized in a garment or no? If they may then happily the
garment may keep the water from some part of the body, and then they are not rightly
baptized; for the whole man, say they, must be dipped. Againe, I would aske what warrant
they have for dipping or baptizing garments, more than the Paptists have for baptizing
Bells? Therefore belike the parties must be naked and multitudes present as at John's
baptisme, and the parties men and women of ripe yeares, as being able to make a confession
of their faith and repentance,"etc. (Pp. 21, 22).
And this is the witness? An enemy, a man who must sustain his
position by slander, and manifestly betrays ignorance. If his information had been equal
to his knowledge his testimony would have been conclusive. Any one would know that these
slanderous statements are justified by no facts. And even this witness does not sustain
Dr. Whitsitt. He says nothing about 1641, and while he calls dipping new he likewise makes
the assertion that the Scriptures teach sprinkling. This is the only date he mentions.
Does he mean that dipping is "new," since it was not taught in the Scriptures?
And then dipping might have been "new" to him, and with his knowledge of the
Baptists it may have been practiced among them for a long time. He manifestly was ignorant
of their rites and ceremonies.
The Baptists in 1641 had a resolute and violent opponent in the
person of Daniel Featley. He was born in 1582, and died in 1645. He was long the
determined opponent of the Baptists. In 1642 he held a discussion with four Baptists in
Southwark. His account of the discussion is to be found in "The Dippers Dipt; or, the
Anabaptists Duckt and Plunged Over Head and Ears at a Disputation at Southwark." I
have examined the first three and the sixth editions of this work. He was so bitter that
he declared: "I could hardly dip my pen in any thing but gall." He nowhere
intimates that the Baptists or dipping were novelties. In the Epistle Dedicatory, Featly
"Now, of all Hereticks and Schismaticks, the Anabaptist in
three regards ought to bee most carefully looked ' into, and severely punished, if not
utterly extermmated and banished out of the Church and Kingdom."
His reasons are as follows:
"First. In regard of their affinity with many other damnable
Heretiques, both Ancient and Later, for they are allyed unto, and may claim kindred
And then he gives a catalogue of all manner of heretics:
"Secondly. In regard of their audacious attempts upon Church
and State, and their insolent acts committed in the face of the Sun, and in the eye of the
high Court of Parliament."
Under this second heading Featley says:
"They preach, and print, and practise their Hereticall
impieties openly, and hold their Conventicles weekly in our chief Cities, and Suburbs
thereof, and there prophesie by turnes; and (that I may use the phrase of Tertullian)
aedificantur in ruinam, they build one another in the faith of their Sect, to the ruine of
their souls; they flock in great multitudes to their Jordans, and both Sexes enter
into the River, and are dipt after their manner, with a kind of spell containing the
head of their erroneous Tenets, and their eugageing themselves in their Scismaticall
Covenants, and (if I may so speake) combination of separation. And as they defile
our Rivers with their impure washings, and our Pulpits with their false Prophecies, and
Phanaticall Enthusiasmes, so the Presses sweat and groane under the load of their
blasphemies. For they print not only Anabaptisme, from whence they take their name; but
many other most damnable doctrines, tending to carnall liberty, Familisme, and a medley
and hodge-podge of all Religions.
"Thirdly. In regard to the peculiar malignity this heresie
hath to magistracy," etc.
He then proceeds to say that "with these Hereticks I enter
into Lists in the ensuing Tractate." He then proceeds to tell us that he has known
these "new upstart sectaries" for twenty years near his own home. His words are:
"As Solinus writeth, that in Sardinia where
there is a venemous serpent called Solifuga, (whose biting is present death) there
is also at hand a fountain, in which they who wash themselves after they are bit, are
presently, cured. This venemous serpent (vere Solifuga) flying from, and shunning
the light of Gods Word, is the Anabaptist, who in these later times first shewed his
shining head and speckled skin, and thrust out his sting near the place of my residence
for more than twenty yeers."
Here we have the explicit testimony of Featley that the Baptists
were dippers as far back as 1620. Prof. Vedder very truthfully says:
"These words of Dr. Featley are specially significant. He
professes to speak of Baptists from personal knowlege, and though he was bitterly
prejudiced, there is no reason why he should exaggerate in such a particular. Since he
wrote in 1644, his 'twenty years,' however carelessly he used the phrase, evidently carry
the date of immersion far back of 1641."
There is also a conclusive passage in The Preface to the Reader.
By leaving off some sentences Dr. Whitsitt makes Featley give a date to the introduction
of immersion in England which Featley does not give. Featley begins with the Anabaptists
in Germany in the time of Stock; that he was a blockhead and kindled a fire out of the
chips from this block, that this fire was in England in the time of Elizabeth and other
sovereigns, and that lately it has burned very brightly. This is a very different thing
from what Dr. Whitsitt makes Featley say. I give the two versions in parallel columns.
Featley's words, 1644:
Of whom we may say, as Irenaeus sometime spake of the Heretick Ebon,
the Father of the Ebonites, his name in the Hebrew signifyeth silly, or simple,
and such God wat was he: So we may say, the name of the father of the Anabaptists
signifieth in English a senselesse piece of wood or block and a very
blockhead was he: Yet out of this block were cut those chips that kindled such a
fire in Germany, Halsatia, and Suevia that could not be fully quenched, no
not with the bloud of 150,000. of them killed in war, or put to death in severall places
This fire in the reigns of Q. Elizabeth and K. James and our gracious
Sovereign, till now, was covered in England under the ashes; or if it brake out at any
time, by the care of the Ecclesiasticall and Civil Maglistrate, it was soon put out. But
of late since the unhappy distractions which our sins have brought upon us, the Temporall
Sword being other ways employed, and the Spirituall locked up fast in the scabberd, this
sect, amon others, hath so far Presumed upon the Patience of the State that it hath held
weekly Conventicles, re-bapitized hundreds of men and women together in the twilight in
Rivilets, and some arms of the Thames and elsewhere, dipping them over head and ears. It
hath printed divers pamphlets in defense of their heresie, yea and challenged some of our
Preachers to disputation. Now although my bent hath been hitherto against the most
dangerous enemy of our Church and State, the Jesuit, to extinguish such balls of
wildfire as they have cast in the bosome of our Church, yet seeing this strange
fire kindled in the neighbouring parishes, and many Nadabs and Abihu's offering
it on God's Altar, l thought it my duty to cast the waters of Siloam upon it
to extinguish it.
But of late, he says, since the unhappy distractions which our sins have
brought upon us, the Temporall Sword being, other ways employed and the Spirituall locked
up fast in the Scabbard, this sect among others hath so far presumed upon the
patience of the State that it hath held weekly Conventicles rebaptized hundreds of men and
women together in the twilight, in Rivelets and some arms of the Thames and Elsewhere,
dipping them over head and ears.
There is still another proof from Featley that the Baptists dipped
and that dipping was the practice of the Anabaptists on the Continent and in England from
the time of Henry VIII. Featley was answering a tract, which we quote in another place,
written by A. R. The title of this book was the Vanity of Childrens Baptisme, in which the
author declares dipping to be the only act of baptism. Featley does not deny that this was
the way the Anabaptists performed this act nor does he say that it was a new thing, but
rather affirms what the author says and goes on to declare that the Anabaptists always
dipped. You will remember that A. R. wrote in the year 1642, and here is the answer that
Featley makes to this English Baptist:
"At Zurick after many disputations between Zuinglius
and the Anabaptists, the Senate made an Act, that if any presumed to rebaptize
those that were baptized before, they should be drowned.
At Vienna many Anabaptists were so tyed together in chains,
that one drew the other after him into the river, wherein they were all suffocated. (Vide
Supra, p. 61).
"Here you may see the hand of God in punishing these
sectaries some way answerable to their sin according to the observation of the wise man
(Gastius, p. 18), quo quis peccat eo puniatur, they who drew others into the
whirl-pool of errour, by constraint draw one another into the river to be drowned; and
they who prophaned baptisme by a second dipping, rue it by a third immersion. But the
punishment of these Catabaptists we leave to them that have the Legislative power
in their hands, who though by present connivence they may seem to give them line: yet,
no doubt, it is that they more entangle themselves and more easily bee caught. For my
part, I seek not the confusion of their persons, but the confusion of their
errours, two whereof A. R. undertaketh strenuously to defend." (P. 73).
The two "errours" which A. R. "strenuously
defended" were immersion and believers' baptism. Featley declares that these were the
common errors of the Anabaptists in England and elsewhere. Featley in another place, after
quoting the law as given above, says:
"Let the punishment bear upon it the print of the sin: for
as these sectaries drew one another into their errors, so also into the gulfe; and as they
drowned men spiritually by re-baptizing, and so prophaning the holy sacrament, so also
they were drowned corporally. In the year of our Lord, 1539, two Anabaptists were
burned beyond Southwark, in Newington; and a little before them, five Dutch
Anabaptists were burned in Smithfield." (P. 57).
Here is a direct admission that the Anabaptists of England, as
early as 1539, were dippers.
Dr. Featley quotes the article on dipping, which is given
elsewhere, from the Confession of 1644 and then says:
"This Article is wholly sowred with the new leaven of
Anabaptisme: I say new leaven, for it cannot be proved that any of the antient
Anabaptists maintained any such position, there being three wayes of baptizing, either by
dipping, or washing, or sprinkling, to which the Scriptures alludeth in sundry places: the
Sacrament is rightly administered by any of the three; and whatsoever is here
alleged for dipping, we approve of, so farre as it excludeth not the other
two." (P. 182).
Dr. Whitsitt quotes this passage with evident delight.
Unhappily for Dr. Whitsitt, and "happily for us," the
passage is perfectly clear when we consult Featley, and know exactly what he did say. It
is very evident from this passage that there were two classes of Anabaptists, the
"antient" and the "new." Featley divided the Anabaptists into three
classes, two ancient and one "new." He says:
"The first broached their Doctrine about the year 250, which
was this: That all those who had been baptized by Novatus, or any other
hereticks, ought to be rebaptized by the orthodox Pastors of the Church.
"The second broached theirs about the year 380, which was
this: That none were rightly baplized but those that held with Donatus, and
consequently, that all others who had received Baptisme in the Catholic Church, by any
other save those of his party, ought to be rebaptized.
"The third broached theirs in the year 1525, which was this: That
Baptisme ought to be administered by none, but such as can give a good account of their
Faith; and in case any have been baptized in their Infancy, that they ought to be
rebaptized after they come to years of discression, before they are to be admitted to the
Church of Christ." (P. 28).
Now it is clear that Featley regards the "new as dating back
to 1525, or 126 years before 1641. And in giving an account of the tenets of these
Anabaptists since the Reformation he says the first tenet, which is "peculiar to
their sect," is "that none are rightly baptized but those who are
In 1644 an anonymous author wrote a tract called the Loyall
Convert. Of this tract Dr. Whitsitt says:
The first of these belongs to the year 1644 and is entitled "The
New Distemper,' written by the author of the "Loyal Convert." Dr. Dexter, who
appears to be the only person that has examined this pamphlet, reports that the whole book
takes its name as an attack upon the 'prophanations' of these dippers." ("True
Story," page 50, with note). Dipping being for the author a "new distemper,' it
is manifest that he did not take it for granted, but was perfectly aware of the change
from pouring or sprinkling to immersion, which took place in the year 1641. (Pp. 134,
I did not have this tract in hand, so I wrote to the British
Museum in regard to it. The reply was: "There is nothing in this tract, either on
dipping or infant baptism or rebaptism. It is simply on the subject of church government
and reforming the Liturgie."
1. Knutton wrote a book, 1644, against the Baptists called Seven
Qvestions abovt the Controversie betweene the Chvrch of England and the Separatists and
Anabaptists. Dr. Whitsitt thus refers to him:
"In that place (p. 23) Mr. Knutton had said, 'this opinion
[of rebaptizing by dipping] being but new and upstart, there is good reason they should
disclaim it and be humbled for it.' (Dexter, True Story, p. 50). No finer opportunity was
ever presented to deny a charge with indignation if it had been untrue." (P. 123).
Knutton said no such thing. Here are his words in answer to query
5.: "Whether it is lawful to be baptized or no? When they heard this they were
baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul laid his hands upon them the Holy
Ghost came on them and they spake with tongues and prophesied. So that there is no ground
for rebaptization. Wherefore Separatist does very ill opposing our baptizing of infants,
as, proved before Lydia with all her household were baptized; likewise we find no negative
precept against paedobaptism. Then such as oppose it do ill; for they follow those
pestilent heretics called Anabaptists in Germany, who sprang up there (when the light of
the gospel began to shine) not very long since, being but new and upstart, there is good
reason they should disclaim it and be humbled for it."
There is not a word in regard to dipping in this quotation. And
the words "new and upstart" have reference to "Luther's time," and not
Ephraim Pagett, 1645, is Dr. Whitsitt's next witness. He declares
there were fourteen kinds of Anabaptists, and following his method of enumeration he could
have numbered a thousand kinds just as well. John Stoughton in his Ecclesiastical History
of England, From the opening of the Long Parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell, says
"Certain parties under the Commonwealth had the habit, and
the fashion still exists, of exagger-ating the number of religious denominations. Ephraim
Pagitt in his 'Heresiography,' published in 1654, gives a list of between forty and fifty
the historical worth of which enumeration we may estimate, when we observe that he
distinguishes between Anabaptists and plunged Anabaptists, between Separatists and
Semi-Separatists, between Brownists and Barrowists and then proceeds to specify three
orders of Familists." (P. 365).
It is very certain that Stoughton has no very high regard for the
authority of "Old Ephraim," as Pagett was contemptuously called.
Masson's description of "Old Father Ephraim" is rich. He
"A well-known personage in London, of humbler pretensions
than Featley was a certain Ephraim Pagett (or Pagit), commonly called 'Old Father
Ephraim,' who had been parson of the church of St. Edmund, in Lombard Street, since 1601,
and might therefore have seen and been seen by Shakespeare. Besides other trifles, he had
published in 1635 a book called 'Christianographia,' or a descriptive enumeration of the
various sorts of Christians in the world out of the pale of the Roman Catholic Church.
Perhaps because he had thus acquired a fondness for the statistics of religious
denominations, it occurred to him to write, by way of sequel, a 'Heresiography; or a Description
of the Heretics and Sectaries of these later times.' It was published in 1645, soon
after Featley's book, from which it borrows hints and phrases. There is an Epistle
Dedicatory to the Lord Mayor and aldermen of the city of London very similar in its syntax
and punctuation, and containing this touching appeal: 'I have lived among you almost a
jubilee, and seen your great care and provision to keep the city free from infection, in
the shutting up of the sick and in carrying them to your pest houses, in setting warders
to keep the whole from the sick, in making of fires and in perfuming the streets, in
resorting to your churches, in pouring out your prayers to Almighty God, with fasting and
alms, to be propitious to you. The plague of heresy is greater, and you are now in more
danger than when you buried five thousand a week.' Then after an epistle to the reader,
signed 'Old Ephraim Pagit,' there follows the body of the treatise in about 160 pages. The
Anabaptists are taken first and occupy 55 pages; but a great many other sects are
subsequently described, some in a few pages, some in a single paragraph. There is an
engraved title page to the volume, containing small caricatures of six of the chief sort
of sectaries, Anabaptism being represented by one plump, naked fellow dipping another,
much plumper, who is reluctantly stooping down on all-fours. The book, like Featley's,
seems to have sold rapidly. In the third edition, published in 1646, there is a postscript
in which the poor old man tells us that it had cost him much trouble. The Sectaries among
his own parishioners had quarreled with him on account of it, and refused to pay him his
tithes; nay, as he walked in the streets he was hooted at and reviled, and somebody had
actually affirmed 'Doctor Featley's devil to be transmitted into Old Ephraim Paqet.' This
seems to have cut him to the quick, though he avows his sense of inferiority in learning
to the great Doctor. In short, we can see Father Ephraim as a good old silly body, of whom
people make fun." (Life of John Milton, Vol. III., p. 139).
This picture is not overdrawn. My edition, 1647, in the
Postscript, tells plainly that the "Sectaries," even of his own congregation,
would not pay tithes because, they said, he had slandered them. Here is a book confessedly
repudiated by the Anabaptists, and yet this very book is one of Dr. Whitsitt's principal
testimonies. Surely we are not to believe the enemies of the Anabaptists when they
directly say that they are slandered. Certainly we would not expect this from a
Dr. Whitsitt makes this quotation under Pagett:
Yea at this day they have a new crochet come into their heads,
that all that have not been plunged nor dipt under water, are not truly baptized, and
these also they rebaptize: And this their error ariseth from ignorance of the Greek word
Baptize, which signifieth no more then washing or ablution, as Hesychus, Stephanus,
Scapulae, Budeus, great masters of the Greek tongue, make good by many instances and
allegations out of many authors. (P. 30).
But this quotation, as it stands, out of its connection, does not
properly reflect the mind of Pagett. He had been discussing fourteen kinds of Anabaptists,
and declared they were constantly changing their minds. He now comes to the Anabaptists
who originated in the times of Luther, and these Anabaptists had taken up this "new
crotchet." He then proceeded to argue that sprinkling was permitted in the Scriptures
and sometimes it had been permitted in practice. But he declares that both dipping and
sprinkling were allowed in his church. His words are:
"And both are allowed by our church; and sprinkling hath been
rather used among us, by reason of the coldness of our climate, and the tenderness of our
infants." (P. 31).
He emphatically declares that dipping was then in practice,
and that it was not a new thing. The trouble with the Anabaptists is that they would not
recognize sprinkling. That was the contention of Pagett. He mentions no date and says
nothing about 1641. He contends that "true baptism to be as well by sprinkling as by
dipping." (P. 31). But the Anabaptists did not think,: so, and so
Pagett proceeds to say:
Of their manner of rebaptizing, and other rites. They flock in
great multitudes to their Jordans, and both Sexes enter into the River and are dipt
after their manner with a kind of spell, containing the heads of their erroneous Tenets,
and their ingaging themselves schismaticall Covenants and combination of separation. In
the Thames and Rivers, the Baptizer and the party baptized goe both into the Rivers, and
the parties to be baptized are dipt or plunged under water." (Pp. 32, 33).
The careful reader will at once recognize these as the words of
Dr. Featley. Such was Ephraim Pagett.
Dr. Whitsitt introduces as a witness Robert Baillie, 1646, a
violently prejudiced Scotchman. He had some opportunities for observation, and had he been
less prejudiced and more honest his testimony would have some weight. He says in the
margin: "The pressing of dipping and the exploding of sprinkling is but an yesterday
conceit of the English Anabaptists."
And his statement in the body of the book is:
Among the new inventions of the late Anabaptists, there is none
which with greater animosity they set on foot, then the necessity of dipping over head and
cars, then the nullity of affusion and sprinkling in the administration of baptisme. Among
the old Anabaptists, or those over the sea to this day so farre as I can learn, by their
writs or any relation that yet has come to my ears, the question of dipping and sprinkling
came never upon the table. As I take it, they dip none, but all whom they baptize they
sprinkle in the same manner as is our custome. The question about the necessity of dipping
seems to be taken up only the other year by the Anabaptists in England, as a point which
alone they conceive is able to carry their desire of exterminating infant baptisme; for
they know that parents upon no consideration will be content to hazard the life of their
tender infants by plunging them over headand ears in a cold river. Let us, therefore,
consider if this sparkle of new light have any derivation from the lamp of the Sanctuary,
or the Sun of righteousnesse, if it be according to Scripturall truth or any good
reason." (Anabaptism, the True Fountaine of Independency, &c., p. 163. London,
Upon these words Dr. Whitsitt puts forward this argument:
Baillie in the above passage expressly declares that dipping was
"a new invention of the late Anabaptists," "an yesterday conceit of the
English Anabaptists,' "taken up onely the other year," 'a sparkle of new
light." He does not indicate the precise year in which it was introduced, but
these expressions agree to a nicety with the position that this event took place only
about five years before he published his book. Every word of his testimony confirms the
deliverance of the Jessey Church Records to the effect that prior to the year 1640
"none had so practiced in England to professed believers," while he in the year
1641 the change from pouring and sprinkling to immersion was duly inaugurated.
But Baillie's testimony and Dr. Whitsitt's claims are open to
several very serious drawbacks, viz.:
1. Baillie nowhere says the Baptists began dipping in 1641. It
might have been an hundred years before this, for the word "new," as we have
seen, is a very flexible one on the pen of this class of controversialists.
2. Baillie is very guarded in his language. He does not speak
positively, for he only says that seems to be taken up," "so far as I can
learn," that has come to my ears," "as I take it," etc. He does not
say that dipping is a new thing, but the pressing of dipping and the exploding of
sprinkling is a yesterday conceit. Yet it is upon these evasive statements that Dr.
Whitsitt founds one of his principal arguments.
3. Baillie distinctly holds and maintains with the same process of
guarded words that infant sprinkling is taught in the Word of God. Indeed, this very
passage says that dipping is not recent "but a sparkle of new light," because it
is not Scriptural. Baillie says:
Consider farther, that we doe not oppose the lawfulnesse of
dipping in some cases, but the necessity of it in all cases: Neither do they impugn the
expediency of sprinkling in some cases, but the lawfulnesse, of it in any case. So both
their doctrine and practice makes the state of the question to be this; Whether in
Baptisme it be necessary to put the whole baptized person over head and ears in the water
or if it be lawfull and sufficient, at least in some cases, to poure o r sprinkle the
water upon the head of the person baptized? For the lawfulnesse of the sprinkling and
against the necessity of dipping. I reason thus. First, that action which the Spirit of
God in divers Scriptures expresses formally by the name of baptisme is lawfull and
expedient to be used in baptism. But sprinkling and pouring out of water upon the party
baptized without any dipping is by the Spirit of God in divers Scriptures formally
expressed by the name of baptisme." (P. 164).
4. Baillie on this very point of dipping among the Anabaptists
contradicts himself. Baillie here says that it is "a yesterday conceit," and
that it is the "new invention of the late Anabaptists." But elsewhere in this
book he declares that the Anabaptists practiced dipping. In Chapter I. he says:
"Who are pleased to read the late little accusate and learned
treatise of Clopenburgh may perceive that the Mennonist dippers do oppose
the truth of Christ's human nature."
Here is a direct refutation, from Dr. Whitsitt's principal
witness, of the position that he has taken that Mennonites practiced sprinkling.
In Chapter II. Baillie says:
"For the stricter ingagement of the Saints and godly party
their adherents, and for the clearer distinction of them from the prophane multitude of
all other congregations they thought meet to put upon them the mark and character of a new
Baptisme, making them renounce their old as null, because received in their infancy, and
in a false church. At the beginning this rebaptization was but a secondary and less
principall doctrine among them, for Muncer himself was never rebaptized, neither in his
own person did he re-baptize any, yet, thereafter it became a more essential note of a
member of their church, and the crying down of infants baptism came to be a most
principall and distinctive doctrine of all in their way. Unto their new gathered churches
of rebaptized and dipped saints they did ascribe very ample privileges," etc.
In Chapter IV. Baillie says of the Anabaptists:
"Sixthly, they esteem sprinkling no baptism at all; they will
have the whole body to be plunged over head and ears in the water; this circumstance of
plunging they account so necessary and essential to baptism, that the change thereof into
sprinkling makes the baptism to be null." (P. 91).
And in Chapter V. he says:
"Although many of the Tenets mentioned in the former chapter
may be dissembled and denied by divers of this sect, yet all of them will acknowledge as
their own, whatever almost is practiced either by the Independents or Brownists, and
besides, two Tenets more, Antipedobaptism and Dipping. All who carry the name of
Anabaptisme, though, through ignorance, they know not; or through better instruction they
dissent from many positions of their brethren, yet will avowedly, and oft with passion,
professe their mind against the sprinkling of infants, pedorantisme, to all of them I ever
heard of is an abomination." (Page 137)
Here in the same book, by the same author, are found a passage
which declared the Anabaptists practiced sprinkling and four which say they practiced
dipping. I am not responsible for this contradiction. Yet this is Dr. Whitsitt's witness.
5. We can prove by the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1644 that
Baillie was guilty of slander. That Confession declared:
"The word baptizo signifies to dip or plunge (yet so as
convenient garments be both upon the Administrator and subject, with all modesty)."
This same declaration was made by other Baptists. Mr. Richardson,
a very able Baptist, whom Baillie quotes in his book, is pleased to say of nude baptism,
as charged by Dr. Featley:
"But saith the Doctor, they goe men and women together stark
naked into their Jordans (Pp. 36 and 203). Wee answer, wee abhor it, and deny that ever
any of us did so, and challenge him to prove it, against us, if he can; and if he cannot,
it is fit, he should be known for a slanderer, if he deserve no punishment for it."
(Some Brief Considerations, p. 11. London, Feby. 25, 1645).
In the face of these denials Baillie affirms:
"As for chastity, must it not be a great scandall, in the
face of all the Congregation where alone, Sacraments can be duly celebrated, for men and
women to stand up naked, as they were born; and naked men to go into the water with naked
women, holding them in their arms till they have plunged them into the water? " (Ch.
Here Baillie manifestly bore false witness against the
Anabaptists. If we do not believe Baillie in this matter, why should we in the other?
6. Baillie attacked the motives of the Anabaptists, and called
them liars. In the margin of the chapter from which Dr. Whitsitt takes his quotation are
these words: "The lying spirit of Anabaptisme." (Page 163). If you will notice
the extract which Dr. Whitsitt gives, you will see that Baillie attacks the motives of the
Anabaptists. He says:
"The question about the necessity of dipping seems to be
taken up only the other year by the Anabaptists in England, as a point which alone, as
they conceive, is able to carry their desire of exterminating infant baptism; for they
know that parents, upon no consideration, will be content to hazard the life of their
tender infants by plunging them over head and ears in a cold river." How did Baillie
know, that the Anabaptists were not honest in the belief that they were following the
Scriptures, and that their only motive in dipping was to "exterminate infant baptism?
Baillie goes further, and charges the Baptists with hypocrisy, and
that they did not believe the Confession of 1644, and that it was only put forth to
mislead. His words are:
"Their ways as yet are not well known; but a little time it
seems will discover them, for their singular zeal to propagate their way will not permit
them long to lurk; only the Confession of faith, which the other year seven of their
Congregations did put forth, and late again in a second corrected Edition, have set out
with a bold preface to both the Houses, of Parl.; may no more be taken for the measure of
this faith, then that Confession, which the Elder brethren in Holland did not long
ago in the name of all their company."
Surely no one will endorse this prejudiced onslaught and slander
of Baillie's; and yet this is the man whom we are asked to follow.
7. Baillie was the bitter enemy of the Anabaptists and desired
their destruction. The passages which I have taken from his writings to this effect are so
numerous that I cannot give them all. A few selections must suffice. He says:
"We have ended our directorie for baptism. Thomas Goodwin one
day was exceedinglie confounded. He, has undertaken a publicke lecture against the
Anabaptists; it was said, under pretence of refuting them, he betrayed our cause to them;
that if the Corinthians, our chief ground for the baptisme of infants, 'Your children are
holy,' he expounded of reall holiness, and preached down our ordinarie and necessare
distinction of reall and foederall holiness. Being passed hereupon he could no wayes
cleare himselfe, and no man took his part. God permits these gracious men to be many wayes
unhappie instruments; as yet their pride continues; but we are hopefull the Parliament
will not own their way so much as to tolerate it, if once they found themselves masters.
For the time they are loath to cast them off, and to put their partie, lest they desert
them." (The Letters and journals of Robert Baillie. 1637-1662, Vol. II., p. 218).
"Our next worke, to give our advyce what to doe for
the suppressing of the Anabaptists, Antinomians, and other sectaries. This will be a hard
work; yet so much as concerns us will be quicklie dispatched, I hope in one session."
"We spent a number of sessions on some propositions of advyce
to the Parliament, for suppressing Antinomians, Anabaptists, and these who preaches a
libertie for all religions. Even in these our good Independents found in great
difficultie; and, when we had carried our advyces against their minds, they offered
to give in contrare reasons to the Parliament." (P. 228).
"Many of them preach and some print, a libertie of
conscience, at least the great equitie of a toleration for all religions; that every man
should be. permitted, without any feare so much as of discountenance from the magistrate,
to professe publicklie his conscience, were he ever so erroneous, and also live according
thereunto if he trouble not the public peace by any seditious or wicked practice."
Professor Vedder, after giving a number of quotations to this
effect from Baillie, remarks:
But enough, and more than enough, of quotations like these.
Surely, no scholar who has an atom of reputation to lose will venture to deny, in the face
of the proofs that have been produced, that the Scotch Presbyterians, at least, advocated
persecuting principles of the plainest kind. Were it worth the while equally satisfactory
proofs might be produced that these principles were carried out into appropriate
action." (Baptist Quarterly Review, January-July, 1884).
A man who would not tolerate free speech and liberty of conscience
among the Anabaptists, and worked for severe legislative enactments against them, could
not be expected to be impartial in his statements about them. Such a man was Robert
8. Baillie was a Scotchman, and he thought that Anabaptism would
be contrary to the peace of Scotland, and therefore he did all in his power to cast
reproach upon them. Hanbury, one of the foremost writers on Congregational matters, after
referring to this book on "Anabaptism," feels called upon to apologize for it.
His words are:
"The object of the author being to deal particularly with the
Baptists, so called, we feel it difficult, or invidious rather, to set out his positions
in any way which shall not involve the present representatives of that denomination in
some of the odium which he shows attaches to it. That the descendants have rolled away the
reproach thus laid on their forefathers, is the shortest and most efficient answer to
Baillie's representation, where he writes, 'The errors of the Anabaptists, and their
divisions among themselves, are so many that to set them down distinctly and in good
order, is a task which I dare not undertake; much less can I give assurance what is common
to them all, and what proper to their several sects.' (P. 29). It will help to expose the
political ground of his hostility by his nationality, thus: 'This immoderate love of
licentiousness * * * puts them upon a high degree of hatred and indignation against the
Solemn League and Covenant, against the Scottish nation whence it came; as two great
impediments to their quiet enjoying of that self-destroying and God-provoking liberty
which, so passionately, they lust after. Though for fear and other base respects, many of
them have swallowed down the Covenant in such equivocal senses as are evidently contrary
both to the express words and known intentions of the States which enjoin it; yet since
the time their strength and hopes are increased, these of them who pretend to ingenuity
and courage do not only with bitterness reject it, but it is now become the object of
their public invectives as the most unhappy plague that did ever come to England. (P.
57).'" (Historical Memorials, Vol. III., p. 223).
Thus Hanbury continues at some length. When we consider this
mixture of political hatred and religious intolerance I do not think from the writings of
Robert Baillie that we would be justified in reaching the conclusion that dipping was an
"invention" among the Baptists about 1641.
Another authority quoted by Dr. Whitsitt is J. Saltmarsh. He was a
Quaker, and opposed to all baptism. Dr. Whitsitt says:
Dr. Dexter also brings forward the performance of J. SaItmarsh,
entitled, "The Smoke in the Temple, Wherein is a Design for Peace and Reconciliation
of Believers of the several Opinions of these Times about Ordinances, to a Forbearance
each other in Love, and Meeknesse, and Humility," etc. London, 1645. Mr. Saltmarsh
here pp. 15,16, speaks of "the dipping them in the water . . . . as the new
baptism." (True Story, p. 50), showing that he was entirely aware of the recent
change, from pouring and sprinkling, to immersion. (Page 135).
I am amazed at this quotation. I give parallel columns:
John Saltmarsh, 1646:
5. That the form by which they baptize, viz.: I baptize thee in the
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is a form of man's devisinga tradition
of man, a new consequence drawn from supposition and probabilityand
not a form left by Christ, to say over them at the dipping them in the water: If
Christ had said, when you baptize them, say this over them, I baptize thee in the name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and unless Jesus Christ had left this form thus
made up to their hands, they practice a thing made up by them selves, and drawn or forced
out of Jesus Christ's words, in Matt. 28,18. (Pp. 15,16).
"the dipping them in the water, . . . as the new baptism."
One-half of the sentence used by Dr. Whitsitt from Saltmarsh I was
able to find; but I read diligently for the phrase, "as the new baptism." If it
is in Saltmarsh's book, it is certainly nowhere near the other words, "the dipping
them in the water." This is marvelous in my eyes.
I have been somewhat more successful with the next authority of
Dr. Whitsitt, viz.: J. Parnell, 1655. I parallel Dr. Whitsitt's quotation with the
The words of J. Parnell,
Now within these late yeers the Light of Christ, beginning to stir peoples hearts, so
that they come to see themselves in much darkness and ignorance of these things which they
read of in the scripture, and also the corrupted of the Priests and Teachers, and what at
Reprobates they were concerning the faith, and that they profited not the people at all,
but they had heard them so long, and still minds not being directed to the light, which
showed them this, and should have led them out of this condition, upon which they should
have waited for direction to have found the way of truth, but they run without to the
Letter in their own wils and wisdome, and so would find out a way by their own wisdome and
imagination, and so went out to search the scripture, but with a wrong eye, giving their
own meanings upon the scripture, and one cries this is my judgment, and thus they are
confounded and divided into their several judgments and opinions, yet all still in one
life and one nature, but onely confounded and divided in their judgments of what the
Prophets meant, and Christ meant, and which the Apostles meant, but it is as a Book
sealed, both to the learned and the unlearned, and none is found worthy to open the seals,
who is the light wherein lies the ministrie; as this is the cause why they whose mindes
are from the light, are so divided and scattered in their judgments and opinions, and one
sets up a forme in his imagination, and another sets up a forme in his imagination and one
runs abroad into the world with his wisdome, and he will go preach up his form and
judgment to be the truth, and another he will cry down that form for delusion, and preach
up his form for a truth, and so many deceivers and false spirits, are entered into the
world, and one cries, lo here is Christ if you can believe and be baptized you shall be
saved; so they that can say that is the way, and that they believe Christ dyed for them,
then they must be dipped in the water, and that they call baptizing of them, and then they
are of their church, and they call themselves Saints, though they are still in the old
nature. (Pp. 16, 17).
"Now within these late yeares . . . . . .
they (the Anabaptists) say . . . . . they must be dipped in the water, and that they
call baptizing." (True Story, p. 51).
From the above it will appear that I have been able to find the
first phrase now within these late yeers," and the last phrase they must be dipped in
the water, and that they call baptizing," but the middle phrase "they (the
Anabaptists) say" does not appear. Did anyone ever see such garbling? And when we
really find what the author did say there is nothing about 1641 or dipping being a
new thing. This garbling was done by Dr. Dexter from whom Dr. Whitsitt took the quotation,
without ever reading the original. These are but samples of many other cases that could be
The challenge has been put forth to name three individual
believers who were dipped before 1641. I accept the challenge and answer it in
1. There existed in England whole churches of baptized believers
before 1641. I refer to another chapter for the existence and number of Baptist
churches in England before 1641. In this connection I mention the names of only
three churches. Goadby, who has written an able Baptist history, and the facts of which,
so far as I know, have never been disputed, says:
"But the three churches we have mentionedHill Cliffe,
Eythorne and Bockingdeservedly rank as the most ancient Baptist churches in
England." (Goadby's Bye-Paths in Baptist History, p. 28. London, 1871).
In regard to the Hill Cliffe Church, Rev. D. 0. Davies, Rochdale,
England, who attended the sessions of the Southern Baptist Convention, at Birmingham,
gives an interesting account. He says:
"The oldest Baptist church in the country is Hill Cliffe, in
Cheshire, but on the borders of Lancashire. The old church was built in a secluded spot,
far removed from public roads and enclosed by a thick wood, Tradition declares that the
church is five hundred years old. A tombstone was recently discovered in the burial ground
of the place, bearing date 1357. In digging the foundation to enlarge the old chapel, a
large baptistery was discovered which was made of stone and well cemented. The baptistery
must have belonged to a previous chapel. Oliver Cromwell worshipped at this church, and
one of his officers occupied the pulpit. It is one of the pre historic churches, and a
regular Baptist church." (Shackleford's Compendium of Baptist History, P. 274.
Here are some of the statements that I take from Goadby in
reference to this church:
"We have reliable evidence that a Separatist, and probably a
Baptist church, has existed for several centuries in a secluded spot of Cheshire, on the
borders of Lancashire, about a mile and a half from Warrington. No spot could be better
chosen for concealment than the site on which this ancient chapel stood. Removed from all
public roads, enclosed by a dense wood, affording ready access into two counties, Hill
Cliffe was admirably suited for the erection of a 'conventicula illicita,'
an illegal conventicle. The ancient chapel built on this spot was so constructed that the
surprised worshippers had half a dozen secret ways of escaping from it, and long proved a
meeting place suited to the varying fortunes of a hated and hunted people. Owing to the
many changes inseparable from the eventful history of the church at Hill Cliffe, the
earliest records have been lost. But two or three facts point to the very early existence
of the community itself. In 1841 the then old chapel was enlarged and modernized; and in
digging for the foundation, a large baptistery of stone, well cemented, was discovered.
How long this had been covered up, and at what period it was erected, it is impossible to
state; but as some of the tombstones in the graveyard adjoining the chapel were erected in
the early part of the sixteenth century, there is some probability for the tradition that
the chapel itself was built by the Lollards who held Baptist opinions. One of the dates on
the tombstones is 1357, the time when Wickliffe was still a fellow at Merton College,
Oxford; but the dates most numerous begin at the period when Europe had just been startled
by Luther's valiant onslaught upon the papacy. Many of these tombstones, and especially
the oldest, as we can testify from a personal examination, look as clear and as fresh as
if they were engraved only a century ago. * * * * Hill Cliffe is undoubtedly one of the
oldest Baptist churches in England. * * * * The earliest deeds of the property have been
irrecoverably lost, but the extant deeds, which go back considerably over two hundred
years, described the property as being for the Anabaptists."' (Goadby's Bye Paths,
pp. 21 23).
These facts are also confirmed by Cramp.
To show how deep seated is the conviction among English Baptists
that this Church reaches into great antiquity I give an extract from The Baptist,
London, June 5, 1896. The writer says:
"One fact, however, and one of some importance, seems to
stand out with sufficient clearness, viz.: that so far as England is concerned the
Church at Hill Cliffe is the linknot, of course that there are no others, for these
there are, as Mr. Compton's article shows, but this is a material and tangible link of
historic continuity between the Baptist Churches of the present and those of the
Pre-Reformation period. Here, at any rate, we get away from the miserable and truculent
negatives, 'Nonconformity' and 'Dissent,' and reach an altitude where our position is not
weighed and measured by its relation to a 'Church' which, however imposing politically and
socially, is one to which we owe no kind of allegiance whatever, and with which we have
nothing to do."
I will now turn to the Church at Eythorne, Kent. If the reader
will turn to a former chapter he will find much in regard to the Baptists in Kent. Without
repeating these statements I shall relate some additional facts as given by Goadby. He
"The Church at Eythorne, Kent, owes its origin to some Dutch
Baptists, who settled in this country in the time of Henry the Eighth. They were,
doubtless, tempted to make England their home by the brisk trade that sprang up between
this country and Holland, soon after the marriage of Henry with Anne of Cleves (1540). * *
* In the Calendar of State Papers (Domestic Series, 1547-1580), under the date of October
28th, 1552, we have this entry: 'Northumberland, to Sir William Cecill. Wishes the King
would appoint Mr. Knox to the Bishopric of Rochester. He would be a whetstone to the
Archbishop of Canterbury, and a confounder of the Anabaptists lately sprung up in Kent.' *
* * One singular fact, perhaps without a parallel, in the history of this ancient General
Baptist Church at Eythorne, deserves to be mentioned; the names of the pastors, from the
close of the Sixteenth Century to the last quarter of the Seventeenth Century, were John
Knott. The first John Knott became the pastor of Eythorne somewhere between 1590 and 1600,
and the last John Knott removed to Chatham in 1780." (Bye Paths in Baptist History,
Dr. Howard Osgood, the eminent Baptist scholar, makes this
"If we would make the first Baptist church to appear under
Helwise, in 1614, then we must deny the historical evidence of the conventicles of
Baptists in the previous century. If we make the church founded in London in 1633 the
first Calvinistic Baptist Church in England, we assume that all the Baptists and Baptist
churches of the sixteenth century were Arminian in their views, which has never been
shown, and is contrary to all probability. Baptists were found in the north and west but
principally in the east of England. Under the dreadful persecution of the Tudors, the
churches knew little of each other, unless they were situated near together. We hear more
of the Calvinistic church formed in 1633, because it was situated in London and performed
an important work in the following years. Joan Bucher, who was a member of the Baptist
church in Eythorne, Kent, burned by order of Henry VI., held this doctrine." (The
Standard, 1875, Chicago).
Goadby is equally confident of the history of the church at
Bocking and Braintree, Essex. He says:
"In Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials we find these
words, under date 1550: 'Sectaries appeared now in Essex and Kent, sheltering themselves
under the profession of the Gospel, of whom complaint was made to the Council. These were
the first that made separation from the Church of England, having gathered congregations
of their own.' They were the first, that is, of which Strype had heard. The congregation
in Essex was mentioned to be at Bocking; that at Kent was at Faversham, as I learnt from
an old register. From whence I also collect that they held the opinions of the Anabaptists
and the Pelagians; that there were contributions among them for the better maintaining of
their congregations; that the members of the congregation in Kent went over with the
congregation in Essex, to instruct and join with them; and that they had their meetings in
Kent, and in divers places besides Faversham.' In other words, the Kent churches at
Eythorne, Faversham, Sandwich, Canterbury, perhaps, and other places, helped to build up,
if they did not actually originate, the church at Bocking.'
"Bocking and Braintree are two parishes divided by the main
road, and the whole is now known as Braintree. The 'complaints' by whomsoever made,
against the Baptists at Bocking, led to their being watched, and about sixty persons were
in the house when the sheriff interrupted their assembly. They confessed to the Council
that they had met to talk the Scriptures, and that they had not communed at the parish
church for two years. Some were fined and set at liberty, others were imprisoned, and
remained until Queen Mary came to the throne, when they were released, only to be taken
into custody, and by and by to the stake. * * *
"The Bocking Braintree church book, still in existence,
carries back the authentic records of the church for more than two hundred years; but
there is no question that the origin of the church itself dates back to the days of Edward
the Sixth." (Bye Paths in Baptist History, pp. 26-28).
Here is an answer that is sufficient, if we had no other. We
present not three believers but three Baptist churches which had existed long before 1641.
2. I mention as three believers who were immersed before 1641,
William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, and John Canne.
William Kiffin seceded from the Independents in 1638. Of this
Five years after the above date (1638), a further secession from
the original church strengthened their hands. Among the seceders were William Kiffin and
Thomas Wilson. Kiffin, to whose pen we are indebted for the account of the origin of the
first Calvinistic Baptist church in England, thus speaks of the reasons which led him to
join Mr. Spilsbury:'I used all of my endeavours, by converse with such as were able,
also by diligently searching the Scriptures, with earnest desires to God that I might be
directed in a right way of worship; and, after some time, concluded that the safest way
was to follow the footsteps of the flock, namely, that order laid down by Christ and his
Apostles, and practiced by the primitive Christians in their time, which I found to be,
after conversion they were baptized, added to the church, and continued in the Apostles'
doctrine and fellowship, and breaking of bread, and prayers."' (Bye-Paths in Baptist
History, p. 351).
This Independent church to which Mr. Kiffin belonged was organized
in 1616. Mr. Henry Jacob was its first pastor and Mr. John Lathrop was the second. In
1633, during the pastorate of Mr. Lathrop, there was a division on the subject of
immersion and a Baptist church was organized under the leadership of Mr. Spilsbury.
Lathrop in 1634 removed to America with part of his church, where he still had trouble
with his church on the subject of immersion. Dean, who was a very able historian and
editor of a number of the works of the Massachusetts Historical Society, says:
"Controversy respecting the mode of baptism had been agitated in Mr. Lathrop's church
before he left England, and a part had separated from him and established the first
Baptist (Calvinistic) church in England in 1633. Those that came seem not all to have been
settled on this point, and they found others in Scituate ready to sympathize with
It was to this church that Kiffin united. Indeed so greatly was
Kiffin in favor of immersion that he soon left Spilsbury's church because they
occasionally admitted ministers to preach for them who had not been immersed. Crosby says:
"He was first of an Independent congregation, and
called to the ministry among them; was one of them who were concerned in the conferences
held in the congregation of Mr. Henry Jessey; by which Mr. Jessey and the
greatest part of the congregation became proselyted to the opinion of the Baptists. He
joined himself to the church of Mr. John Spilsbury, but a difference arising about
permitting persons to preach amongst them that had not been baptized by immersion, they
parted by consent." (History of the Baptists, Vol. III., p. 3-4).
All of this took place before 1641. Ivimey's History of the
Baptists, Vol. II., p. 297). This settles the fact Kiffin was baptized before 1641.
I now refer to Hanserd Knollys. M'Clintock and Strong say: "A
few years before (1635), though unknown to Williams, a Baptist preacher of England,
Hanserd Knollys, had settled in New Hampshire and taken charge of a church in Dover; but
he resigned in 1639 and returned to England." (Encyclopędia Biblical Theology and
Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. I., p, 654). To confirm this statement we have
contemporaneous evidence. Cotton Mather mentions a number of Baptists among the first
planters of New England, and that some ministers of that persuasion came over He says of
"Of them there were some godly Anabaptists; as namely, Mr.
Hanserd Knollys (whom one of his adversaries called absurd Knowles), of Dover, who
afterwards moved back to London, lately died there, a good man, in a good old age."
(Magnalia Christi Americana, Vol. I., p. 243. Hartford, 1855).
He wrote an autobiography of himself, which was edited and
completed by William Kiffin. Knollys died September 19, 1691, and from the words of Kiffin
it is probable that he became a Baptist as early as 1631. Kiffin's words are:
"The author of these ensuing experiences was that ancient and
faithful servant of God, Mr. Hanserd Knollys, who departed this life in the ninety third
year of his age, having been employed in the works and service of Christ, as a faithful
minister, for above sixty years; in which time he labored without fainting under all the
discouragement that attended him, being contented in all conditions, though never so poor
in this world; under all persecutions and sufferings, so that he might therein serve his
blessed Lord and Saviour. I have myself known him for above fifty-four years, and can
witness to the truth of many things left by him under his own hand."(Life and Death
of Hanserd Knollys, p. 47. London, 1812).
The Rev. George P. Gould, M. A., a learned Baptist scholar of
England, is now editing and bringing out a series of Baptist Manuals, historical and
biographical. In 1895 he published one on Hanserd Knollys by James Culross, M. A., D. D.,
president of Bristol Baptist College. After stating that Hanserd Knollys became a sectary,
probably in 1631, he declares:
"Had Baptists thought anything depended on it, they might
have traced their pedigree back to New Testament times, and claimed apostolic succession.
The channel of succession was certainly purer, if humbler, than through the apostate
church of Rome. But they were content to rest on Scripture alone, and, as they found only
believers' baptism there, they adhered to that. (P. 39, note).
The Rev. John Canne, author of the marginal references of the
Bible was an eminent minister of those times. When he became a Baptist is uncertain but it
was certainly before 1640. He was found in Bristol in 1640, preaching in "public
places" and was declared to be a "baptized man," or an immersed man as that
phrase was used. I give a conclusive statement from the Broadmead Records. These Records
"Anno, 1640. And thus the Lord led them by His Spirit in a
way and path that they knew not, having called them out of darkness into his
marvelous light by Jesus Christ our Lord. So that in the year of our ever blessed
Redeemer, the Lord Jesus (1640), one thousand six hundred and forty, those five persons,
namely, Goodman Atkins, of Stapleton, Goodman Cole, a butcher of Lawford's Gate, Richard
Moone, a farrier in Wine street, and Mr. Bacon, a young minister, with Mrs. Hazzard, at
Mrs. Hazzard's house, at the upper end of Broad street, in Bristol, they met together, and
came to a holy resolution to separate from the worship of the world and times they lived
in, and that they would go no more to it. And with godly purpose of heart (they) joined
themselves in the Lord, only thus covenanting, that they would in the strength and
assistance of the Lord come forth of the world, and worship the Lord more purely,
persevering therein, to their end." (Broadmead Records, pp., 17, 18).
The Records continue:
"At this juncture of time the providence of God brought to
this city one Mr. Canne, a baptized man; it was that Mr. Canne that made notes and
references upon the Bible. He was a man very eminent in his day for godliness, and for
reformation in religion, having great understanding in the way of the Lord."
Mrs. Hazzard, who was the wife of the parish priest, found him and
fetched him to her home. Then the Records say:
"He taught the way of the Lord more perfectly, and settled
them in church order, and showed them the difference betwixt the church of Christ and
anti-Christ, and left with them a printed book treating of the same; and divers printed
papers to that purpose. So that by this instrument Mr. Canne, the Lord did confirm and
settle them; showing them how they should join together, and take in members." (Pp.
Mr. Canne then attempted to preach in a suburb of the city and a
wealthy woman placed some obstructions in his way. The Records say:
"The obstruction was by a very godly great woman, that dwelt
in that place, who was somewhat severe in the profession of what she knew, hearing that he
was a baptized man, by them called Anabaptists, which was to some sufficient cause of
prejudice, because the truth of believers baptism had been for a long time buried, yea,
for a long time by popish inventions, and their sprinkling brought in room thereof. And
(this prejudice existed) by reason (that) persons in the practice of that truth by baptism
were by some rendered very obnoxious; because, about one hundred years before, some beyond
the sea, in Germany, that held that truth of believers baptism, did, as some say, did some
very singular actions; of whom we can have no true account what they were but by their
enemies; for none but such in any history have made any relation or narrative of
them." (P. 19, 20).
"For good measure " I will also mention Paul
Hobson. Ivimey says of him:
"He is mentioned among the rejected ministers. Dr. Calamy
supposes that he was chaplain of Eaton College, and that he had a place of command in the
army; but observes, that if he had conformed afterwards it would have made some atonement,
as was the case in other instances. In addition to these circumstances, We find that he
was engaged as early as 1639, as one of the chief promoters of founding a Baptist church
in London. He was one of the pastors who signed the Confession of faith of the seven
churches in London in 1644." (History of the English Baptists, Vol. I., p. 88).
This statement of Ivimey that Paul Hobson was a preacher is
confirmed by Edwards. Edwards who was a contemporary says that he had been an Anabaptist
preacher "a long time." This was written in 1645, and an Anabaptist in the mouth
of Edwards was always a "dipper." Edwards' words are:
"There is one Paul Hobson a taylor, who comes out of Buckinghamshire
and is now a Captain, having been in the Armies, who hath been a Preacher a great
while. This man when he was in the Army, where ever he came he would Preach publikely in
the Churches, where he could get pulpits, and privately to the Souldiers; the subject
matter of his Sermons was much against Duties, and of Revelations, what God had revealed
to him; he was a means to corrupt some precious hopeful young men who went out of London;
and preaching one time against Holy Duties (as an understanding man who heard him,
related to me and other company), he spake thus. "Then this further statement is
volunteered: This Paul Hobson is one of those whose hand is subscribed to the Confession
of Faith of the Anabaptists, set forth last Winter." (Gangraena, p. 33. London,
Here is positive contemporaneous proof that Paul Hobson was an
immersionist in 1639, for he was engaged in forming a Baptist church, and the inference is
that he had been a Baptist many years before this.
The Reader will also call to mind that in the chapter "On the
Baptists before 1641 "I give an account of a number of persons who were dipped before
1641 in England.
3. The proof is positive that noted Baptists after 1641, who were
certainly dippers, positively state that Baptist Churches, as they were then organized,
had long existed in England.
The first witness is William Kiffin. He makes this declaration in
a book called "A Briefe Remonstrance of the Reasons and Grounds of those people
commonly called Anabaptists, for their separation," etc. A Mr. Poole had addressed to
him certain Queries for an answer. The second Query was:
"By what Scripture Warrant doe you take upon you to erect new
framed congregations, separated to the disturbance of the great Worke of Reformation now
To this Kiffin replied:
"Ans. This querie hath in it these two parts.
1. That we erect new framed separate congregations. 2. Wee do by
this disturbe the great Worke of Reformation now in hand."
He then says:
"To the first, it is well knowne to many, especially to
ourselves; that our congregations were erected and framed according to the rule of Christ,
before wee heard of any Reformation, even at that time when Episcopacie was in the height
of its vanishing glory."
He further states:
"And for the second part of your querie That we disturb
the great Worke of Reformation now in hand; I know not what you meane by this charge,
unless it be to discover your prejudice against us, in Reforming ourselves before you, for
as yet we have not in our understanding, neither can we conceive anything of that we shall
see reformed by you according to truth, but that through mercie wee enjoy the practice of
the same already; tis strange this should be a disturbance to the ingenious faithful
Reformer; it should bee (one would think) a furtherance rather than a disturbance, and
whereas you tell us of the work of Reformation now in hand, no reasonable men will force
us to desist from the practice of that which we are perswaded is according to Truth, and
waite for that which we knowe not what it will be; and in the meantime practice that which
you your selves say must be reformed." (Pp. 12 14. London, 1645).
Here is a declaration by one of the most intelligent Baptists of
the times, whose sources of information were of the best, who declares inside of four
years of 1641 "that our congregations were erected and framed according to the rule
of Christ, before we heard of any Reformation;" and then he goes on to defend at
length that these congregations possessed the whole Truth. I do not see how a statement
could be more conclusive.
We are not shut up to this statement. Daniel King, 1650, only nine
years after 1641, wrote a treatise called "A Way to Zion, Sought Out, and Found, for
Believers to Walk In." This startling proposition in the first part is proved,
"1. That God hath had a people on earth, ever since the
coming of Christ in the flesh, throughout the darkest times of Popery, which he hath
owned as Saints and as his people."
The third part
"Proveth that Outward Ordinances, and amongst the rest the
Ordinance of Baptism, is to continue in the Church, and this Truth cleared
up from intricate turnings and windings, clouds and mists that make the way doubtful and
Certainly that would be a very arrogant claim if the Baptists of
England only began in 1641. And what is more, this book of King's is indorsed by Thomas
Patient, John Spilsbury, William Kiffin, and John Pearson. These men declared that the
assertion that "there are no true churches in the world" and "no true
ministers" has been of "singular use in hands of the devil." I quote a
portion of their words:
"The devil hath mustered up all his forces of late to blind
and pester the minds of good people, to keep them from the clear knowledge and practice of
the way of God, either in possessing people still with old corrupt principles; or if they
have been taken of them, then to perswade with them that there are no Churches in the
world, and that persons cannot come to the practice of Ordinances, there being no true
ministry in the world; and others they run in another desperate extreme, holding Christ to
be a shadow, and all his Gospel and Ordinances like himself, fleshy and carnall. This
generation of people have been of singular use in the hand of the Devil to advance his
kingdom, and to make war against the kingdom of our Lord Jesus. Now none have been more
painfull than these have been of late, to poison the City, the Country, the Army, so far
as they could; inasmuch as it lay upon some of our spirits as a duty to put out our weak
ability for the discovering of these grosse errors and mistakes; but it hath pleased God
to stir up the spirit of our Brother, Daniel King, whom we judge a faithfull and
painfull minister of Jesus Christ, to take this work in hand before us; and we judge he
hath been much assisted of God in the work in which he hath been very painfull. We shall
not need to say much of the Treatise; only in brief, it is his method to follow the
Apostles' rule, prove everything by the evidence of Scripture light, expounding Scripture
by Scripture, and God hath helped him in this discourse, we judge beyond any who hath
dealt upon this subject that is extant, in proving the truth of Churches, against all such
that have gone under the name of Seekers, and hath very well, and with great evidence of
Scripture light answered to all, or most of their Objections of might, as also those
above, or beyond Ordinances."
Henry D'Anvers was one of the most influential and best informed
Baptists of the seventeenth century. He was a distinguished colonel in the Parliamentary
army and Governor of Stafford. He wrote the most powerful book of the century on baptism.
He makes the most positive claims of the long continuance of Baptists in England, and that
the Baptists had continued in "the good old way." I quote two paragraphs:
"In the sixteenth year of King James, 1618,
that excellent Dutch piece, called A very plain and well grounded Treatise concerning
Baptism, that with so much authority both from Scripture and Antiquity, proves the
baptizing of Believers and disproves that of Infants, was printed in English.
"Since when (especially in the last thirty or forty years)
many have been the conferencesthat have past, and many the Treatises that have been
written pro and con upon the subject, and many have been the sufferings both in old and
new England, that people of that perswasion have undergone, whereby such light hath
broken forth therein that not only very many learned men have been convinced thereof, but
very many congregations of Baptists have been, and are daily gathered in that good
old way of the Lord that hath so long lain under so much obloquy and reproach, and been
buried under so much Antichristian rubbish in these nations." (A Treatise on Baptism,
p. 308. London, 1674).
Thomas Grantham was one of the greatest Baptist writers of the
seventeenth century. Under date of 1678 he wrote:
"That many of the learned have much abused this age, in
telling them that the Anabaptists (i. e. the Baptized Churches) are of a late
edition, a new sect, etc., when from their own writings the clean contrary is so
evident." (Christianismus Primitivus, pp. 92, 93. London, 1678).
I shall give the words of a Baptist, who closed the century with a
book on baptism. He speaks with no uncertain sound. Joseph Hooke had read largely on the
subject, and his book shows that he was scholarly. He claims a succession from the days of
the apostles. Mr. Hooke says:
"Thus having shewed negatively, when this sect called Ana-Baptists
did not begin: we shall shew in the next place affirmatively, when it did begin; for a
beginning it had, and it concerns us to enquire for the Fountain Head of this Sect;
for if I was sure that it were no older than the Munster-Fight that Mr. Erratt puts
in mind of, I would Resolve to forsake it, and would persuade others to do so too.
"That religion that is not as old as Christ and his apostles,
is too new for me.
"But secondly, affirmatively, we are fully perswaded, and
therefore do boldly, tho' humbly, assert, that this Sect is the very same sort of People
that were first called Christians in Antioch, Acts 11, 26. But sometimes
called Nazarenes, Acts 24, 5. And as they are every where spoken against now, even
so they were in the Primitive Times. Acts 28, 22." (A Necessary Apology for
the Baptists, London, 1701, p. 19).
I have read, and re-read, Dr. Whitsitt's chapter upon "The
Baptism of Roger Williams" with increasing surprise. He argues at great length in
favor of sprinkling and then ends the chapter with this remarkable concession:
In the present state of information it would be unwise to pronounce
with certainty any conclusion regarding this question. However, within the limits of the
uncertainty which is freely acknowledged, the weight of evidence apears to incline very
clearly towards the view that Roger Williams was sprinkled and not immersed at Providence
in 1639. (P. 164).
Dr. Whitsitt nowhere intimates that there is an author who States
that Williams was sprinkled. His argument rests wholly upon inferences and those
inferences are not well grounded. His inferences are: 1. That the Baptists of England were
in the practice of sprinkling, and therefore Roger Williams was sprinkled. His words are:
Is there any a priori reason for supposing that he was in
advance of them in this regard? It has been suggested that he was a person of unusual
independence of mind, but has any proof ever been given to show that his independence was
employed in this particular direction? (P. 150).
We demand proof for the very thing he takes for granted. I have
already shown that this inference is false, and that the Baptists of England were not in
the practice of sprinkling. And 2. Williams was not dominated by the English Baptists.
Williams was an independent man, and appears to have been controlled by his own
impressions of the teachings of the New Testament.
Dr. Whitsitt has declared that it was "probable" that
William's was sprinkled. All the world has believed, and still believes, that he was
immersed. The burden of proof rests upon Dr. Whitsitt. He must present proof to establish
his position. This he has utterly failed to do. All that he has attempted is to explain
away the force of certain authors, and to quibble over the meaning of the word wash. Then
he admits that he does 41 not positively settle the question regarding the
act employed." (P. 151).
I invite attention to some of the evidence in favor of immersion.
Every contemporary who mentions his baptism, Williams himself included, and all the later
writers, declare that the act was an immersion.
I shall first give some side lights on the subject. Dr. Whitsitt
dismisses the fact of Mr. Chauncy practicing immersion with this, remark:
But nobody has shown that Mr. Williams regarded the view of Chauncy
with any sort of favor at the time when it was advanced. For aught we know to the contrary
he may have felt a prejudice both against the man and his contention. (P. 149).
But Mr. Chauncy cannot be dismissed so lightly. There is a clear
connection between the immersions of Mr. Chauncy and the Providence men. I shall give the
explicit testimony of Governor Bradford, then governor of Plymouth Colony. He shows not
only that Chauncy was an immersionist but that the whole of New England was agitated on
the subject of immersion. He says:
I had forgotten to inserte in its place how ye church here had invited
and sent for Mr. Charles Chansey, a reverend, godly and very larned man, intending upon
triall to chose him pastor of ye church hear, for ye more comfortable performance of ye
ministers with Mr. John Reinor, the teacher of ye same. But ther fell out some difference
aboute baptising, he holding that it ought only to be by dipping, and putting ye whole
body under water, and that sprinkling was unlawfull. The church yeelded that immersion, or
dipping, was lawfull, but in this could countrie not so conveniente. But they could not
nor durst not yeeld to him in this, that sprinkling (which all ye churches of Christ doe
for ye most parte at this day) was unlawfull & an humane invention, as ye same was
prest; but they were willing to yeeld to him as far as yey could, & to ye utmost; and
were contented to suffer him to practise as he was perswaded; and when he came to minister
that ordnance he might so doe it to any yt did desire it in yt way, provided he could
peacably suffer Mr. Reinor, and such as desired to have theirs otherwise baptized by him,
by sprinkling or powering onof water upon them; so as ther might be no disturbance in ye
church hereaboute. But he said he could not yeeld hereunto. Upon which the church procured
some other ministers to dispute ye pointe with him publikly; as Mr. Ralfe Patrick, of
Duxberie, allso some other ministers within this governmente. But he was not satisfied; so
ye church sent to many other churches to crave their help and advise in this matter, and,
with his will & consente, sent them his arguments wiitten under his owne hand. They
sente them to ye church at Boston in ye Bay of Massachusetts, to be communicated with
other churches ther. Also they sent the same to ye churches of Conightecutt and New Haven,
with sundrie others; and received very able & sufficient answers, as they conceived,
from them and their larned ministers, who all concluded against him. But him selfe was not
satisfied therwth. Their answers are too large hear to relate. They conceived ye church
had done what was meete in ye things, so Mr. Chansey having been ye most parte of 3 years
here, removed himself to Sityate, wher he now remaines a minister to ye church ther. (Of
Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford, pp. 382, 384).
These extracts show that the whole of New England was agitated on
the subject of immersion before the baptism of Roger Williams. The churches took action on
the matter. We learn from Keyne's MS. that the Boston Church returned answer to the
Plymouth Church, June 21, to "whether it be lawful to use sprinkling in baptism, or
rather dipping; Mr. Chauncy being of the mind, that it is a violation of an ordinance to
use sprinkling instead of dipping." (Bradford's Hist. N. E., Vol. I., p. 331, note).
But as much as Chauncy was admired at Plymouth the church did not employ him, on account
of his views on the subject of immersion. This is set forth by Hooker in a letter to his
son-in-law, Shepherd, November 2, 1640. He says:
I have of late had intelligence from Plymouth. Mr. Chauncy and the
church are to part, he to provide for himself, and they for themselves. At the day of
fast, when a full conclusion of the business should have been made, he openly professed he
did as verily believe the truth of his opinion as that there was a God in heaven, and that
he was as settled in it as that the earth was upon the center. If ever such confidence
find success I miss my mark. Mr. Humphrey, I hear, invites him to Providence, and the
coast is most meet for his opinions and practice. (Felt's Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., p. 443).
It will be seen from this letter of Hooker that Mr. Chauncy was
invited on his leaving Plymouth to go to Providence, for "that coast is most meet for
his opinions and practice." That is to say, they believed in immersion at Providence.
It cannot mean anything else, for Chauncy still held to infant baptism. This is perfectly
plain, for Felt says of Chauncy, July 7, 1642:
Chauncy at Scituate still adheres to his practice of immersion. He bad
baptized two of his own children in this way. A woman of his congregation who had a child
of three years old, and wished it to receive such an ordinance, was fearful that it might
be too much frightened by being dipped as some had been. She desired a letter from him,
recommending her to the Boston Church, so that she might have the child sprinkled. He
complied and the rite was accordingly administered. (Felt's Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., P. 497).
So there is no difference between Chauncy and the Providence men
on the act of baptism.
This will also turn light on the banishment of
Roger Williams in 1633 from Plymouth. He held Anabaptist opinions,
which meant that he rejected infant baptism and believed in immersion. The more you look
into this the more probable it becomes. I can only briefly present the facts. In 1633 he
was "already inclined to the opinions of the Anabaptists." (Publications of the
Narragansett Club, Vol. I., p. 14). For on requesting his dismissal back to Salem in the
autumn of 1633, we find the elder, Mr. Brewster, persuading the Plymouth Church to
relinquish communion with him, lest he should "run the same course of rigid
Separation and Anabaptistery which Mr. John Smith, the Se Baptist of Amstersdam had
done." (Pub. Nar. Club, Vol. I., p. 17).
Win. Gammel, after stating that Williams was immersed, says very
The very mention of the name of Anabaptism called up a train of
phantoms, that never failed to excite the apprehensions of the early Puritans. Hence it
was when Mr. Brewster suggested even the remotest association of Roger Williams with this
heresy, the church at Plymouth were easily induced to grant his dismission which he
requested. A considerable number of its members, however, who had become attached to his
ministry, were also dismissed at the same time and removed with him to Salem. (Gammel's
Life of Roger Williams, p. 27).
Thus we are duly prepared for the statement of Governor Winthrop, March
At Providence things grew worse; for a sister of Mrs. Hutchinson, the
wife of one Scott, being infected with Anabaptistery, and going last year to live at
Providence, Mr. Williams was taken (or rather emboldened) by her to make open profession
thereof, and accordingly was rebaptized by one Holliman, a poor man late of Salem. Then
Mr. Williams rebaptized him and some ten more. They also denied the baptizing of infants,
and would have no magistrates. (Winthrop's Hist. N. E., Vol. I., p. 293).
Putting all of these facts and side lights together, it would
prove that the Providence men practiced immersion and that Roger Williams was immersed.
We are not shut up to side lights but we have positive testimony.
We have just given the statement of Governor Winthrop.
The argument of Dr. Guild, the learned Librarian of Brown
University, upon this statement of Winthrop's is conclusive. He says:
"Perhaps Prof. Whitsitt makes the point that re-baptism was
not immersion. It has always been so regarded in these parts from the beginning. Williams
himself has placed himself on record as a believer in dipping." This argument cannot
be overturned by mere suppositions, and nothing has yet been offered to upset it.
Coddington, who appears to have been an eye witness, is
conclusive. Coddington was governor of Rhode Island and had an opportunity to know what he
was stating. He says:
"I have known him about fifty years; a mere weather cock,
constant only in inconsistency. * * * One time for water baptism, men and women must be
plunged into the water, and then threw it all down again." (Letter to Scott, 1677).
Prof. A. H. Newman, D. D., LL. D., says of Coddington's testimony:
"It seems highly probable that Roger Williams was immersed,
though I once was of the contrary opinion; Coddington, who seems to have witnessed the
ceremony, described it some time afterward as immersion."
Prof. Vedder after giving the testimony of Williams and Coddington
"I quite agree with my friend, Dr. Newman, that this cannot
be explained as other than a reference to the baptism of Williams and others by Ezekiel
Holliman, nor do I see how Coddington's knowledge of the facts can be successfully
questioned. Taken in connection with the negative testimony of silencethat we have,
in all the contemporary literature, not the slightest hint of any change of method among
American Baptiststhis seems to me virtually to settle the question in favor of
immersion in the case of Roger Williams. While I would not affirm positively that he was
immersed, I feel that the balance of probability is decidedly on that side. In fine,
anybody who asserts that anything but immersion has been practiced from the beginning
among American Baptists assumes the burden of proof; and ingenious guesses about
Mark Lukar and things of that sort are not proofs. They may satisfy the guesser, but he
cannot fairly ask that anybody else should be satisfied with them." (The
Examiner, May 21, 1896).
Richard Scott, who appears to have been an eye witness of this
baptism, for a time a Baptist himself, and afterwards a Quaker, writing against Williams
thirty eight years afterwards, says:
"I walked with him in the Baptists' way about three or four
months * * * in which time he broke from his society and declared at large the ground and
reason for it; that their baptism could not be right because it was not administered by an
apostle. After that he set upon a way of seeking, with two or three of them that had
dissented with him, by way of preaching and praying; and then he continued a year or two
till two of them left him. * * * After his society and he in a church way had parted he
went to England." (Appendix to Fox's Firebrand Quenched, p. 247).
Scott makes no mention of a change of opinion of the Baptists on
the subject of dipping, for it is very certain that the Baptists at the time Scott wrote
this practiced dipping.
Williams' own opinion on the subject of baptism was always
singularly clear. He declares that it is immersion. In a tract which was supposed for a
long time to be lost, but which is now in the British Museum, called "Christenings
Make not Christians," 1645, he says:
"Thirdly, for our New England parts, I can speake uprightly
and confidently, I know it to have been easie for my selfe, long ere this, to have brought
many thousands of these Nations, yea the whole country, to a far greater Antichristian
conversion then was ever yet heard of in America. I have reported something in their
Chapter of their Religion, how readily I could have brought the whole Country to have
observed one day in seven; I adde to have received a Baptisme (or washing) though
it were in Rivers (as the first Christians and the Lord Jesus himself did) to have
come to a stated Church meeting, &c." (P. 11).
In a letter which we find among the Winthrop papers, dated
Narragansett, 9, 10, 1649, Williams says:
"At Seekonk a great many have lately concurred with Mr. John
Clarke and our Providence men about the point of a new baptisme, and the manner by
dipping, and Mr. John Clarke hath been there lately, and Mr. Lucar, and hath dipped them.
I believe their practice comes nearer the first practice of our great founder Christ Jesus
than any other practices of religion do." (Massachusetts Historical Collections,
Fourth Series, Vol. VI., p. 274).
There is absolutely no proof that Williams thought anything but
immersion was baptism.
All writers and authorities, till recently, have taken the ground
that Williams was immersed. I shall add a few of these witnesses.
John Callender, 1706-1738, says:
"But to take things in their order, Mr. R. Williams is said,
in a few years after his sitting in Providence, to have embraced the opinions of the
people called (by way of reproach) Anabaptists in respect to the subject and mode of
baptism; and to have formed a church there, in that way, with the help of one Ezekiel
Holliman."(Historical Discourse on Rhode Island, pp. 109, 110).
"Williams as stated by Winthrop, was lately immersed."
(Eccl. Hist., Vol. I., p. 402).
Dr. A. H. Newman says:
"Contemporary testimony is unanimous in favor of the view
that immersion was practiced by Williams. As this fact is generally conceded, it does not
seem worth while to quote the evidence."
Dr. George P. Fisher, Professor of Church History, Yale
"Roger Williams was baptized by immersion." (History of
the Christian Church, p. 472).
Bishop John F. Hurst, Methodist, says:
"Williams was immersed." (Short History of Christian
Church, p. 516).
The Watchman, Boston, May 14, 1896, says:
"When he affirms that the re-baptism of Roger Williams was by
sprinkling, he states what has not been proved by historical evidence, and the
presumptions are altogether against such a statement."
Dr. Newman says of Dr. Dexter:
"Knowing that Dr. Dexter was master of the literature
pertaining to Roger Williams, and supposing that his inclination would be wholly in favor
of the non-immersion view, I sought his opinion on the question. His answer was entirely
in accord with my own conclusion. He expressed the opinion that, in the absence of
contemporary evidence against immersion, Coddington's statement must be accepted as
probably correct. In matters of this kind an ounce of fact is worth a ton of
conjecture." (The Examiner, May 21, 1896).
"In 1638 he became a Baptist; he was immersed by Ezekiel
Holliman and in turn immersed Holliman and ten others." (Creeds of Christendom, Vol.
I., p. 851).
Against the inferences of Dr. Whitsitt that Williams was
sprinkled, I put the solid facts that he was immersed. "An ounce of fact is worth a
ton of conjecture." Thus goes to pieces the last proof of Dr. Whitsitt's theory.