. . . fully after the LORD I Kings 11:6 by Steve Flinchum
THROUGHOUT ALL AGES
In an earlier chapter, we have traced the history, continuation, and existence of some of the true congregations of Christ up to the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain. In this chapter, we will see their migration into America. At this point, someone may ask, "Where does John Smyth fit in?" The answer is that he does not. If the records of history are accurate about his religious activities, there is no way that we can consider the congregation gathered by him, or any of its offspring, as a congregation of Christ's, according to our interpretation of the New Testament. But, because many are so fond of perpetuating the myth that the Baptists in England originated with Smyth, I suppose the matter should be addressed here.
As sources, I will use the encyclopedias, and various "Baptist histories," as well as books of general history. Those things such as names, dates, and places, commonly agreed upon, I will simply present as fact, rather than be overly cumbersome with quotations.
In 1600, John Smyth became a lecturer or preacher of the city of Lincoln, in the established Church of England. After dispute and debate about the discipline and ceremonies of the Church of England, Smyth either left, or as some think, was thrown out of, the Church of England. He then became the pastor of one of the Brownist congregations in Lincolnshire. In 1606, or 1607, Smyth, Thomas Helwys, John Murton, along with Robinson and Clifton, who were co-pastors of another Brownist congregation nearby, and others, left England to escape religious persecution, and went to Amsterdam in Holland. In Amsterdam, these exiles joined a congregation of Brownist where F. Johnson was pastor, and H. Ainsworth was a teacher. After some time, controversey arose between Smyth and the Brownists there. J.J. Goadby, on pages 30-31 of Bye-Pathes in Baptist History, says:
The exclusion of John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and others who agreed with him, resulted in their proceeding to form a congregation of their own. In The Early English Baptists, B. Evans, whose account agrees with that of Goadby's, above, says, in volume I, pages 203-204:
Now that the dust has settled, most who have studied the matter are in agreement, rather than John Smyth "baptizing" himself, as he was accused of, it is most probable that Smyth "baptized" Helwys, Helwys "baptized" Smyth, and then the two "baptized" the rest. It does not matter which way they did it, if the information we have is correct, because neither had any authority to baptize. Since God had not given either of them authority to baptize, as He did John the Baptist, and neither had Jesus or any of His congregations given them that authority, we must conclude that what took place was not baptism.
Most think that the mode of "baptism" used by Smyth and Helwys was pouring, and the weight of evidence agrees. That does not matter either, since they were grossly in error anyway. The Bible does not teach of any such thing as "plan A, plan B, and plan C," for baptism. It is either scriptural and valid, or unscriptural and of no benefit. They were no more able to baptize (with a baptism acceptable unto God) than Mother Goose, Humpty Dumpty, or Donald Duck.
There is no doubt in my mind why the Smyth/Helwys congregation didn't go to the Baptists in Holland who "administered the ordinance by immersion," mentioned in the above quotation from Evans. Those Baptists believed in the Sovereignty of God, and the total depravity of man. They would not have approved of the Arminian profession of faith of Smyth and his followers. It was in 1609 or 1610 that the Smyth/Helwys congregation was founded, and very shortly after, a difficulty arose and John Smyth and others were excluded from it. They then joined a congregation of Mennonites, who by then were practicing baptism by pouring and sprinkling, and had fallen into other error. As Encyclopedia Britannica (1957) says, "The Arminianism of the Mennonites and their rejection of infant baptism appealed to Smyth." Evans, on page 208, vol.I, of Early English Baptists, says:
On page 209, Evans gives the confession and appeal for membership to the Mennonites, and in the appendix on pages 244 and 245, the names of Smyth, his wife Mary, and thirty others who signed it:
The Smyth party was accepted by the Mennonites, who concluded that:
Thomas Helwys continued as sole pastor of the remaining congregation until 1614, when he and some of the rest returned to London. The few remaining then joined the Mennonites in 1615. John Smyth died in Holland of consumption in August, 1612. Helwys and those returning with him formed yet another congregation after they settled in London. Some insist that that was the start of the General Baptists of England, who were of Arminian persuasion. I find no evidence or indication that any of the Particular Baptists of England received their baptism or origin from the Helwys congregation. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that even the General Baptists did not receive their baptism from the Helwys congregation, even though it may have been the first to have claimed the name of "General Baptist church." I believe Thomas Crosby's four volume History of the English Baptists, published in 1738, well supports that opinion. It appears to me that the congregations that showed the most evidence of being Jesus' kind of congregation have been the slower, and more reluctant to give themselves a name. They would describe themselves as "the baptized congregation at _____," or "the baptized church of Christ meeting at ____," or some similar description. Representative of their terminology in the late 1600s is in this inscription on the tombstone of Thomas Lowe, buried at Hill Cliffe:
On page 105 of Baptist Piety, "The Last Will and Testimony of Obadiah Holmes," Edwin S. Gaustad explains:
As to the General Baptists of England originating with the Smyth/Helwys affair, I believe the most probable case is that a few may have recieved their baptism from Helwys, but for the most part, the strongest connection is that existing congregations were seduced and corrupted by the propaganda and teaching of the Helwys organization, and thereby fell into their errors and accepted their name. Either way, if they were corporately and consciously preaching a gospel that involves a God that is less than completely sovereign, and man that is not totally depraved, they were administering a defective "baptism." Remember that baptism is picturing or preaching in typology.
Of the John Smyth organization, Thomas Crosby says, on page 99, volume I of his History of the English Baptists, that:
Dr. John Clarke, who was a Baptist preacher in London, came to Boston, Massachusetts, probably in 1636, with his wife Elizabeth. Due to religious persecution, John and Elizabeth Clarke, and others left Boston. In the second edition of The First Baptist Church in America, by J.R. Graves and S. Adlam, Conrad N. Glover writes, on page 219:
They traveled to New Hampshire, but, being dissatisfied with the colder climate, returned south to a place named, by the Native Americans, Pocasset. On page 220 of the above named book, C.N. Glover says:
Later in the same year, a congregation was organized with John Clarke as the pastor. On page 235, Glover says:
The lengthy inscription on John Clarke's tombstone gives this informative and authoratative account:
Of his visit to the site of John Clarke's grave, in 1854, J.R. Graves, on pages 14 and 15 of The First Baptist Church in America, wrote:
On page 162 of The First Baptist Church in America, J.R. Graves wrote:
That statement, made in a note at the bottom of page 455 of Minutes of the Philadelphia Association, published by the American Publication Society, is further evidence as to the correctness of the 1638 date.
In 1663, a congregation was organized in Massachusetts, with John Miles as pastor. John Miles was pastor of a Baptist congregation at Swansea, in Wales, who came to America to escape persecution under Charles II. Page 61 of The American Baptist Heritage in Wales says:
But what about Roger Williams? That is a situation similar to the John Smyth story. All reliable sources are in agreement with the following account of what happened in 1639 (one year after the organization of the congregation at Newport), from page 475, volume I, of A General History of the Baptist Denomination by David Benedict:
It has been much alleged that the Baptists in America began with Roger Williams, and that Williams was the founder and first pastor of the First Baptist Church in Providence, but the facts, and the older records show that not to be the case. The whole mess, at least in great part, appears to have originated with the manufacture of history at the hand of John Stanford, who was pastor of "The First Church in Providence." Benedict says, on page 485, vol.I:
J.R. Graves visited Benedict at his home in Pawtucket, R.I., and on page 21 of The First Baptist Church in America, wrote:
John Callender was called as the sixth pastor of the First Baptist Church of Newport in 1731. In 1738, concerning the First Baptist Church at Providence, Callendar wrote:
On pages 22 and 23 of A History of the Baptists in New England, Henry S. Burrage says:
In A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists, Isaac Backus wrote:
On pages 162 and 163 of The First Baptist Church in America, J.R. Graves introduced a quotation of Cotton Mather, from Thomas Crosby, with this:
The quotation of Mather, from Crosby (Vol.I, p.117) says:
It is conclusive that the Roger Williams organization "came to nothing" within about four months. Although it is known that there were members of the Newport congregation living at Providence, there are no known records, or hint of the existence, of a Baptist congregation at Providence until about 1652. In 1653 or 1654, there was a division in that congregation (the one organized at Providence in 1652), and a new one was organized with Gregory Dexter as pastor. Wickenden and Browne were apparently co-pastors, also. In The Baptist Succession, D.B. Ray says:
The original congregation (organized in 1652) continued until about 1715 or 1718, when, "becoming destitute of an elder, the members were united with other churches," (Callender) and became extinct. The congregation of whom Dexter, Wickenden, and Browne were pastors, has continued to the present at Providence.
Now, let us go back to the congregation at Newport, where John Clarke was pastor. History shows that many, many congregations throughout the country are descendants of that congregation. Another evil myth (like those of the Baptists being started with John Smyth or Roger Williams) is that effective mission work among Baptists is of modern origin. Effective in man's eyes, or God's? How much more effective can you get than doing something God's way? With even the very minimal amount of history I have related here in this book, it is clearly seen that members of Jesus' congregations, in every era, have gone into all the world, preaching the gospel, baptizing those whom God saves, and organizing them into true bodies of Christ, by His authority.
In A Brief History of the First Baptist Church of Harrison, Ohio, Larry L. Burton and Berlin Hisel traced the geneology of the First Baptist Church of Harrison, step by step, back to the First Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island. After a paragraph about the organization of the First Baptist Church of Newport, Burton and Hisel wrote:
That "something he [Dungan] did" was to be used of God to instruct and counsel Elias Keach, who was baptized and ordained at the Cold Spring Baptist Church. The circumstance, as recorded by Morgan Edwards in his Materials Toward a History of the Baptists of Pennsylvania, can be found on page 91, volume II, of A History of the Baptists by John Christian, or on pages 581 and 582, volume I, of A General History of the Baptist Denomination by David Benedict, and elsewhere. On pages 581 and 582, Benedict's History says, of Elias Keach:
About the year 1702, the congregation at Cold Spring dissolved. In 1688, a congregation was organized at Pennepeck, in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, called the Lower Dublin Baptist Church. It is often referred to as "the Pennepeck Church." Elias Keach, missionary out of the congregation at Cold Spring, was called as their first pastor. Page 90 of volume II of A History of the Baptists by John T. Christian says:
Benedict adds, on page 581, that:
In 1701, sixteen people were organized as a Baptist congregation in South Wales, and came, as a complete body with Thomas Griffith as pastor, to America on the ship named "James and Mary." In History of the Welsh Baptists, J. Davis says, on page 72:
On pages 106 and 107 of The American Baptist Heritage in Wales, we have, preserved by Joshua Thomas, the following account of the "extracts" translated into English by later members of that congregation from their records which were kept in Welsh until 1732:
And on the next page:
Also on page 108, Thomas says:
For several years, many Baptists came to America from Wales and England. Many Baptist preachers were sent from the congregations there, to work in America. From pages 76 and 77 of The American Baptist Heritage in Wales is the following letter of reccomendation, which is a sample of the order practiced among the Lord's congregations:
According to the minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association (1707-1807), Morgan Edwards, J. Davis, Joshua Thomas, and others, Hugh Davis (spelled David in the above letter) and fifteen others organized a congregation at Great Valley, Chester County, Pennsylvania, April 22, 1711, and chose Hugh Davis as pastor.
In 1710, Nathaniel Jenkins, who was born in Cardiganshire, Wales, in 1678, came to America, and became the first pastor of a congregation of Baptists constituted in 1712 at Cape May, New Jersey. (A General History of the Baptist Denomination by David Benedict, vol.I, p.570)
Abel Morgan, born in 1637 at Llanwenog, in Carmarthen County, Wales, began preaching at nineteen years old. He was ordained at Blaenegwent, in Monmouthshire, and arrived in America on February 14, 1711, and pastored the congregation at Lower-Dublin, at Pennepek, Pennsylvania (mentioned earlier), until he died December 16, 1722. (Benedict, vol.I, p.583)
By migration, sometimes by choice and many times by persecution, and the mission efforts of these and other congregations and their descendant congregations, God used them to take the truth into New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas, and other surrounding territories. People who were saved by God's grace and baptized under the authority granted these congregations by Jesus, covenanted themselves together and were organized into new congregations of Jesus' after the New Testament pattern.
Robert Nordin and Thomas White were ordained in London, and sent by the General Baptists to Virginia in 1714. Benedict says:
Robert Nordin died in 1725. In 1727, Richard Jones and Casper Mintz came from England to Burley, and Jones became their pastor.
On page 25, Benedict says:
Shortly afterwards, according to Morgan Edwards, the congregation at Burley "was broken up, partly by sickness, and partly by the removal of families from hence to North-Carolina, where they gained many proselytes, and in ten years became sixteen churches." [Benedict, vol.II, p.24] Of them, Benedict says, on page 98 of vol.II, that:
John Gano, Benjamin Miller, and Peter P. Vanhorn were instrumental in that transformation. On page 99, Benedict says:
Probably, the first Baptist congregation in North Carolina was organized more than twenty years earlier, about 1727. It was gathered by Paul Palmer at a place called Perquimans, on Chowan-river. He was born in Maryland, and baptized at Welsh tract.
In 1683, some Baptists moved to near Charleston, South Carolina, from Piscataway, in Maine, to escape persecution by the Pedobaptists of New England. They organized a congregation, with William Screven as pastor, and about the same time were joined by some emigrating from England, who were Particular Baptists. [Benedict, vol.II, p.120] On May 24, 1736, twenty-eight members of that Congregation at Charleston were organized into a separate congregation at Ashley River. [Benedict, vol.II, p.125] The following year, in 1737, thirty members moved from Welsh Tract church [mentioned earlier], to South Carolina, and constituted the third congregation of Baptists in that state. David Benedict gives the following account on page 130, vol.II, of A General History of the Baptist Denomination:
Now, let us go back to Virginia, where a congregation was organized on Opeckon Creek in 1751. Volume II, pages 26 and 27, of Benedict's History says:
The congregation at Opeckon united with the Philadelphia Association soon afterwards, in the same year. Congregations in the Philadelphia Association continued to send missionaries to Virginia, as well as many other places. Some of those emigrating from England were Particular Baptists. As the population grew, and evangelistic efforts continued, new congregations were organized. In 1760, the above mentioned David Thomas moved, permanently, from Pennsylvania to Virginia, where he worked for thirty years, and then moved to Kentucky. Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia, by Lewis Peyton Little, says, on pages 76 and 77, that:
On November 20, 1767, a congregation was organized with twenty-five members, called Upper Spottsylvania. In November, 1770, Lewis Craig was ordained and became pastor at Upper Spottsylvania. [A History of Kentucky Baptists by J.H. Spencer, p.27, vol. I.] Baptist preachers were regularly whipped, jailed, fined, and otherwise persecuted in Virginia at that time. On page 29 and 30, vol.I, of A History of Kentucky Baptists, Spencer says:
That congregation at Gilberts Creek was, as far as is known, the third of its kind in Kentucky. The first, Severns Valley, (near Elizabethtown) had been constituted earlier the same year, on June 18, 1781, with 18 members, and on the same day ordained John Gerrard as pastor. On page 21, vol. I, of A History of Kentucky Baptists, Spencer quotes Samuel Haycraft in the Christian Repository of April, 1857, in which he says:
Sixteen days later, another was organized. On page 23, vol. I, Spencer says:
Now, back to the congregation at Gilberts Creek, of which, on page 31, vol.I, Spencer says that:
During the years that followed, many other congregations were organized. One of the most sound congregations in existence today was organized just five years later at Bryants Station, now written Bryan Station. On page 112, vol.I, of A History of Kentucky Baptists, J.H.Spencer says:
About a month later, Ambrose Dudley became the first pastor at Bryants Station. Ambrose Dudley came from Spottsylvania County, Virginia. On page 113, vol.I, Spencer says, of Dudley, that:
About two months later, a congregation was organized nearby, at Town Fork. On page 115, vol.I, Spencer says:
John Gano, who has been earlier mentioned, became the first pastor at Town Fork. These congregations, and others, continued to multiply, both near and far. Page 220 of A General History of the Baptist Denomination by David Benedict, vol.II, says:
Lengthy as it has become, this is but a very brief sketch of history of some of Jesus' congregations, hopefully arousing an increased awareness and appreciation of how that He has propagated them, just as He promised, almost two-thousand years ago. Although they have been despised, persecuted, and most of the time seen in the world's eyes as insignificant, there has been a continued existence of Jesus' kind of congregation ever since He built the first one as a pattern and declared, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). It is very clear that it was Jesus' intention that His kind of congregation continue until the day that all the saved are called up to meet Him in the air. Matthew 16:18 sounds like Jesus was confident in His ability to preserve His kind of congregation. He surely would not make such a bold statement and undertake something that He would not be able to accomplish. To have done so would have been to ignore His own advice in Luke 14:28-31, where He said:
The counterfeiters of Christianity have assailed and taunted Jesus' congregations with John Smyth and Roger Williams fables, "universal church" theories, and other such absurdities, until the day has come when most, unaware of their own heritage, and weak in the faith, have sold, or are about to sell, their birthright for a mess of unionism and compromise.
If God is able to create man, and accomplish a continued existence of the human race by procreation, through fire, flood, famine, and disease, for six thousand years without any change of method, and is able to save lost sinners and keep them saved throughout all eternity without any change of method, He is surely able to accomplish the perpetuity and baptismal succession of His congregations without any change of method for two thousand years! Is God sovereign or not? He is not just partly sovereign, He either is, or is not. My God is sovereign! "He's got the whole wide world in his hands."
Rather than be repetitious of matters already discussed in this and previous chapters, allow me to simply re-state some conclusions drawn that are relative to the subject at hand.
*Jesus built something that He called His ekklesia, which can best be translated in English as assembly, or congregation.
*Jesus built His congregation as a pattern by which He would build all others.
*Jesus' kind of congregation is spoken of as a body, is compared to a human body, is claimed to be a body of Christ, with Him and no other as its head.
*Jesus has given a commission exclusively to His bodies, with the promise of perpetuity.
*A congregation ceases to be Jesus' congregation when He is no longer its head or when it is no longer declaring the true gospel, in word or in picture, regardless of its past virtue or the name over its door.
In following these conclusions, we are immediately led to the fact that when one of Jesus' congregations compromises the truth of the gospel in its preaching, either verbally, or in its practice or typology, regardless of man's opinion or designation, that congregation forfeits its status as one of Jesus' congregations, as well as its authority to administer a baptism that is acceptable to God. Now, this brings it down to the point that we begin to feel uncomfortable, and many will say that that is drawing the line too close, but what does God say? Has God passed some ammendments to His Word, or is the Bible still to be our final authority for all faith and practice?
When a congregation receives a person as a member, whose baptism was administered by another congregation, organization, or individual, that congregation is declaring that that baptism in its entirety (administrator, mode, candidate, authority, and design and purpose) is acceptable. When they declare that it is acceptable, and it is not, they are declaring a lie. People often take offense at the "L" word, but it is a Bible word. The receiving and approving congregation is declaring that the "picture preaching" of the administrator is acceptable, and in doing so, declaring that they are alike, that they are fellows, that one is as good as the other in that respect. Any congregation knowingly, without repentence and rectification of the matter, making such a false declaration, CANNOT be Jesus' kind of congregation, though they may have been yesterday.
The same conclusion must be drawn concerning pulpit affiliation. When a congregation knowingly and willfully places someone in their pulpit who, by their affiliation with some denomination, professes belief in, or allowance for, a salvation that is not wholly of grace (obtained by praying through, holding on, holding out, baptism, membership, sacraments, easy believism, or any other works of man), that congregation is showing approval of the same and is partaker of the evil deeds. To be consistent, I believe we must say the same for those who "minister in song." The same reasoning must be applied in the sending and supporting of missionaries. Participation and dabbling in such practices must be considered as spiritual adultery, just as the idolatry of the Israelites. Any carelessness, compromise, and indiscretion in those regards should be considered as conduct unbecoming of any engaged to be the bride of Christ.
Whenever those practices surface within a body, where there still exists a congregation of true disciples who are committed to going "fully after the LORD," there will be a reaction. The true disciples will rebuke and try to counsel and correct those in error. If the counsel is accepted, repentance and rectification will take place. If the admonition is not accepted, those in error are to be rejected (Titus 3:10, Romans 16:17, and II Timothy 3:5). If the true disciples find themselves the minority, and their admonition rejected, they must "come out from among them," and be separate (II Corinthians 6:17), and the Head, and the authority will go with them. That is what happened to the Novations, Donatists, and others, in the third century. Their refusal to accept the defective baptism of those in error resulted in the label of Anabaptist, which has been given the Lord's congregations all the way into the nineteenth century.
Study Revelation 2:1-7, with the interpretation given in Revelation 1:20. In those verses, Jesus dictated a letter addressed to the pastor of the congregation at Ephesus. In that letter, Jesus made the accusation that, "thou hast left thy first love." The first love of any person that has been saved by the grace of God should be a love for God and all that He is. I John 4:19 says, "We love him, because he first loved us." We can not really love the real Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, without a jealous and fervent love for truth. In John 14:6, Jesus declared that He, Himself, is the truth. The love for truth, especially in regard to salvation and the gospel, will be directly proportional to our love for God. The plea and advice given to that pastor was, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works" (preach and uphold all the truth). The consequence of not doing so was that Jesus would remove His congregation from that place, "quickly," and we can be sure that Jesus, and its authority, went with it.
Just the fact someone calls something "the gospel" does not make it the true gospel. Just the fact that someone calls something "baptism" does not make it acceptable to God. Just the fact that someone calls something "a church" does not make it the Lord's.
So, what happens when a true congregation of Jesus' shows its approval of the preaching or the baptism of something that claims to be the same, uses the same name, and claims to be of like faith and order, but are known to be guilty of the errors discussed above? I believe the answer is obvious. Irregular congregations are not to be given approval or recognition by Jesus' congregations. We are to "mark" them, and "avoid" them. The scriptural reaction is:
Before going this far with the subject, someone will usually say, "Perhaps you have not considered all the implications of this." I have. I have seriously considered the implications (and there are many) of this stand for the past fifteen years, and have made an intense study of the subject for five years. We had better be concerned with the implications of rejecting and disobeying an unchanging God's instructions in such an important matter! What will be God's reaction to those who are willing to advance a false gospel? "The pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15) must uphold the truth. We must take side with God, even if it causes the sky to fall on the front steps, and causes the creek to run backward.
Truth cannot be altered. Our fear of implications or disregard for reality does not change the truth. It appears that these doctrines are often shunned or rejected out of fear that one's own baptism will be proven irregular. If such information were to ever be made manifest that would indicate that my baptism is improper, I pray that God will grant me the soundness of mind to get it done right and to not worry about implications.
Congregations finding their garments dirtied by their affairs with false religion and false doctrine must "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works." For disciples finding themselves in unrepentant company, it is high time to "come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. . . ."
Many have assumed that Jesus has given His congregations all power in heaven and in earth, but He has not. Jesus declared, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," but He has never transferred or assigned all power to anyone or anything. He has given much power to His kind of congregation, but He is still the head. Jesus certainly has not authorized His congregations, or anyone else, to disobey, or to change the rules as we go. As already seen, Jesus not only gave His congregations the exclusive authority to teach and to baptize, but has commissioned them to. They are, of course, by design, authorized to do such things as purchase and own buildings and property, use electricity, choose furniture, have a bank account, and other things of expediency, but never to disobey, or to teach false doctrine. Jesus' congregations have the authority to bind only in accordance with what has been bound in heaven. They have the authority to loose only in accordance with what has been loosed in heaven. Our binding and loosing must be confined to the limits predetermined by God in heaven (Matthew 16:19, 18:18).
Many, many congregations and pastors have been seduced into apostasy by peer pressure, association, pride, and ambition, resulting from participation in various schemes that men have invented for the execution of mission work, training, pension plans, and other programs by boards, or co-operative arrangements rather than adhering to Jesus' method. Jesus authorized His congregations, exclusively, as the only kind of organization authorized to do His work. They are His bodies. Jesus has not given His congregations the authority, nor permission, to delegate, or re-assign that authority to anything other than one of His congregations.
To be consistent with the belief in an unchanging God, with unchanging ways, and an unchanging plan of salvation, we are forced to admit that the qualifications, consequences, and implications of apostasy are the same today as they were when the New Testament was written. God has not issued a "grandfather clause", nor does He make any exceptions just because someone continues to use (abuse) a good name. Those who refuse to have Christ as their head today are just as much in error as those from whom the Novations and Donatists withdrew in the third century.
Since the succession of authority is lost in apostacy, and in consideration of the facts of history, it is conclusive that the only true congregations of Jesus in existence today are found among those known as Baptists, and sadly, we must say, most congregations by that name have also fallen away.
If we use the New Testament as the "measuring stick," the latest date that we could credit the Catholics, either Roman or Greek, with any possibility of having any succession of authority is about the year 251, before they were ever known as catholic, when the irregular and apostate congregations, being rebuked for their errors, refused to repent and submit to Christ as their head and choosing, instead, to do as they pleased. In 313, only sixty-two years later, they openly acknowledged Constantine as their head rather than Christ.
None of the Protestant denominations existed until the sixteenth century, with whatever authority they may claim coming from the Roman Catholics who had no authority from God, and possessing a "baptism" that was no baptism.
The Lutheran Church was started in 1520 by Martin Luther, with Roman Catholic "baptism." The Episcopal, or Church of England, was started in 1534 by King Henry VIII, with Roman Catholic "baptism." The Presbyterian Church was started two years later, in 1536, by John Calvin, also with Roman Catholic "baptism." The Reformed Churches originated late in the sixteenth centuy, being, as the name would suggest, a product of the Reformation, with a "baptism" received from the Roman Catholics or Presbyterians. Congregationalism was started in 1580 or 1581, by Robert Browne, in Norwich, England, with Church of England "baptism." The Methodist Church was started sometime around 1740, by John and Charles Wesley, with Church of England "baptism."
It was noticed earlier, the presence of those who were called General Baptists, in England, who were of Arminian persuasion, and the earlier appearance of some in Virginia, but, as David Benedict wrote, in 1813, on pages 410 and 411, volume II, of A General History of the Baptist Denomination:
They, in teaching that salvation is obtained or lost as much or more by man's will and works, reject the salvation taught by Jesus and the apostles, and thereby teach a "gospel" that is no gospel, and administer a "baptism" that is no baptism.
The Christian Church, or Disciples of Christ, was started in the early 1800's by the work of Alexander Campbell. World Book Encyclopedia (1985) says, with a note that the article was "Critically reviewed by the Disciples of Christ," that:
The following pages of Spencer's History relate the like action taken by congregations and associations throughout Virginia and Kentucky, where the Campbellite heresy had infiltrated some of the Baptist congregations in their areas. Although Campbell and his disciples practiced the proper mode (immersion only), and some of the congregations might have once had authority, in teaching and practicing the immersion for obtaining salvation, they rejected Jesus' salvation by grace through faith alone, and in so doing, rejected His authority as well. In immersing a person thinking himself to be a lost sinner until the act was completed, they were immersing an improper candidate. They were and are, therefore, immersing an improper candidate for an improper purpose with improper authority.
At about the same time, the Primitive Baptists, or "Hard-Shell Baptists," were started in much the same way as the Campbellites by the work of Daniel Parker. Not only is being "missionary" an integral and inseparable part of the commission given by Jesus to His congregations in Matthew 28:19-20, mission activity is seen to have been practiced in every age by His true congregations. Spencer, speaking of the Baptists in Kentucky in regard to this subject and period of time, on page 581, volume I, says that in 1820, "The spirit of missions had been greatly revived and the churches were contributing more liberally to Foreign Missions than those of any other portion of the United states." In 1820, and again in 1824, Daniel Parker published a 38 page Pamphlet titled, "A Public Address to the Baptist Society," in opposition to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. Two years later, about 1826, Parker published a pamphlet on his "Doctrine of the Two-Seeds," and in 1829, he began a monthly publication called The Church Advocate, devoted to the opposition of missions. [Spencer, pages 576-578, volume I.] The spread of Parker's propaganda resulted in the splitting of some congregations and associations, about the year 1832, with the seceders adopting the Anti-mission, Two-seedism, and Non-resurrectionism doctrines of Parker. In The Baptist Succession, D.B. Ray says, on pages 93-94, that:
They, in departing from the "one faith," departed from the "one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5) as well.
The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830. In 1834, after two name changes, they settled on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [Mormonism by Kurt Van Gorden, page 11] They believe that God continues to reveal and inspire new truths having equal authority with, and even superseding or amending the Bible and previous revelations. They believe and teach that the atonement of Jesus Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation, but must be obtained by works of man. Page 670 of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie says:
That must be a different "Jesus Christ" than the one who said:
In 1863, the Seventh-day Adventists were organized by followers of William Miller, a so-called "Baptist minister," who had predicted that the second coming of Christ would occurr in the spring of the year 1844. [The World Book Encyclopedia. "Critically reviewed by the Seventh-day Adventists"] Regardless of the background of William Miller, or any of his followers, they, in believing and teaching of man's works for the obtaining of salvation, rather than works as a result of salvation, teach another "gospel" which is no gospel.
The Pentecostal and Holiness denominations have originated in the present century, within the lifetime and memory of persons still living. As The World Book Encyclopedia (1985) says:
Also, The World Book Encyclopedia, in an article titled "Assemblies of God," which it says was "Critically reviewed by the Assemblies of God," says:
Of "Churches of God," The World Book Encyclopedia says:
And, The World Book Encyclopedia says, of "The Church of God in Christ," that it:
Notice that although they profess and teach some sort of belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour, each of these denominations adds some kind of works for the obtaining of salvation. That makes their faith a different faith. Things cannot be different and still be the same. Ephesians 4:5 teaches that there is but "one faith" that is acceptable to the "One God and Father of all" (v.6), and only "one baptism" that can declare that faith in a manner that God will approve. That "one faith" and "one baptism" are the only ones we should approve of, also. I am not saying that there are none saved that are affiliated with one of those denominations. The contention is that if they are saved, they are not declaring it properly. They are not giving God all the glory, and by that improper declaration, people are being misled about a matter of eternal life or death. Certainly, those who believe what they claim, that their faith is not in Jesus alone, but in Jesus plus their own works, or the works or merit of their "church," or any other formula, do not possess a saving faith. I realize that the making of such a statement will procure much hatred, but I would rather be hated for just a little while for telling the truth, than to be hated for eternity for concealing the truth.
I wish that this narrative of departure from the faith could be concluded here, but it cannot. Although the Lord's true congregations have for many years been found among those called Baptists, the present situation is that most have departed rather than to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Observation and investigation will show that many congregations who still hang on to the name of Baptist are filled with teachers, deacons, and even pastors who will concede that "we are all (denominations) pretty much alike, and have only minor differences." Many insist that, "The Baptists started with John Smyth, in the seventeenth century." Most have accepted a "universal church" theory, and many insist that one immersion is as good as another. Many will agree that some other congregation of the same name teaches false doctrine, or "don't know what they believe," but are eager to recognize their baptism. Most will accept the baptism of anything called a "Baptist church," even though it recognizes and accepts the baptisms administered by other denominations. Many send all their mission money to unscriptural and ungodly missionaries, schools, and programs which they have no control of. Many praise and glorify their adulterous and scandelous members, instead of disciplining them. Many show no reservation or hesitation about inviting someone from another denomination to fill their pulpit. If the Bible means anything at all, if it is worth the paper it is written on, that is not Jesus' kind of ekklesia. We can see in the New Testament that Jesus' congregations can sometimes be terribly in error about some things, and ignorant about some things, and still be His; but when God's simple plan of salvation gets changed, it becomes the congregation of someone else.
The authority to baptize must come from God. God gave John the Baptist the authority to baptize. God could have given direct authority, if He wanted to, to Philip to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, (we can certainly see that He made all the other arrangements for the occasion), but I believe that Philip had been granted the authority by the congregation of which he was a servant and member, to conduct such a matter in that manner. The same can be said about Ananias, who baptized Paul. Acts 9:17-18 says:
But, I believe that in this case, also, the most probable is that Ananias was pastor of Jesus' congregation at Damascus, and had been granted the authority by that congregation to baptize those he thought to be proper candidates. As has already been shown, Jesus gave His kind of congregation the authority to teach and baptize. If the Bible is to be our final authority for all faith and practice, we must reject any and all revelation or authority claimed to have been received contradictory to the Bible, or since it was written. The fact that obedience in following our Lord in proper baptism is basic and elementary to any further following or walk with Him insists that only properly baptized persons can properly be a member of one of Jesus' congregations. If a congregation must consist of saved and properly baptized persons joined together and teaching the true gospel in order to qualify as one of Jesus' congregations, then any congregation that is made out of persons who obtained their "baptism" from an improper source cannot be one of Jesus' congregations, no matter how saved they may be, nor how sound their teachings are otherwise. And, a true congregation can never evolve from it. That is a conclusive fact, and no quantity of time or variety of circumstance and opinion can change it.
It is important that the doctrine of baptismal succession be taught. The consequence of neglect is disaster. A doctrine that is neglected by one generation will be abandoned, ridiculed, and rejected by the next. The result will be a congregation that is highly susceptible to the ever intensifying efforts of counterfeit Christianity to seduce and defile them. Where Baptist succession is not taught and defended, alien immersion is likely to soon be accepted. Someone may say, "As long as I'm there, it will not." That brings up a good point. You may not be, and if you are, you may be so much in a minority that it will be the occasion of your departure. Baptist succession must be taught, not just on Wednesday night, not just to a fourth of the congregation, not just to the older folks, and not just once in fifteen or twenty years.
Notice that each of the Protestant denominations (Jesus' congregations are not Protestant) have held on to "something old" from the Roman Catholics, some sort of works for salvation. All, except Jesus' congregations that have earnestly contended for the faith once delivered to the saints, have invented "something new" that is contradictory to God's Word. Most, even many that I believe are still Jesus' congregations (if they will repent and turn from their error), have "something borrowed" from the Roman Catholics, and that is the "Christian" holidays that were adopted from paganism, and change the truth of God into a lie. It seems that there are a blue million gimmicks, plans, programs, methods, and devices that have come along to distract congregations from doing "the first works" (Revelation 2:5). There is much talk these days about the bride of Christ. The bride of Christ will not be dressed in "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue"!
All "guests" (Matthew 22:11-13) will be required to have on a "wedding garment" which is the imputed righteousness of God (Romans 4:6). No one will be present except those whom God has clothed with the work of Christ. All efforts of our own to cloth ourselves will be worthless, as far as gaining admittance into heaven and attending the wedding. But, notice in Revelation 19:7-8, that, the bride of Christ will not only be clothed in the righteousness of God, but will have additional clothing, also. It is seen in verse 7, that, the Lamb's wife will have "made herself ready." Not only will the bride be clothed in the righteousness of God, but it is seen in verse 8 that she will "be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white," which "is the righteousness of saints." If we look at the "Textus Receptus" (the original Greek), or in Strong's Concordance, it is seen that the word translated, "righteousness" in Revelation 19:8 to describe "the righteousness of saints" is different to the Greek word translated, "righteousness" to describe "the righteousness which is by faith," as in Hebrews 11:7. The Greek word in Revelation 19:8 is dikaioma (Strong's # 1345), which Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines:
The Greek word in Hebrews 11:7 is dikaiosune (Strong's # 1343), which Thayer's Lexicon defines:
Berry's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament translates the word in Revelation 19:8 as "righteousnesses" (plural). The bride of Christ will be made up of persons who not only have been saved by God's grace, but have also, by God's grace, gone "fully after the LORD," no matter what the cost.
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In 1554, Cardinal Hosius, a Catholic, and chairman of the Council of Trent, wrote:
Cardinal Hosius was admitting that the Anabaptists had existed since at least 354 A.D.
John Clark Ridpath, a Methodist who was Professor of History at DePauw University, and author of the three volume Cyclopaedia of Universal History, A History of the United States, and Ridpath's History of the World wrote, in a letter to W.A. Jarrell, author of Baptist Church Perpetuity or History, that:
In 1819, two men, both members of the Dutch Reformed Church, were appointed by the King of Holland to write a history of the Dutch Reformed Church. They were J.J. Dermout, the Kings chaplain, and A. Ypeij, a professor of theology in Groningen. They wrote History of the Dutch Reformed Church, which, on page 148 of Volume I, says: