The most important part of the history of the Lord's
congregations is that which God has inspired in the New Testament. It is written without
any bias, error, or short-sightedness that may be introduced by human writers. It is the
very words of God Himself. As discussed earlier, it contains the pattern for Jesus'
congregation's, with full and complete instructions and examples regarding their faith,
practice, and procreation.
In the previous chapter, I have shown the need and
importance of the knowledge and study of the history of Jesus' congregations beyond that
which is contained in the New Testament. There are, however, a few caveats to note. While
the inspired New Testament must be accepted as absolutely infallible, the writings of man
must not. We are all subject to error.
Many of the writings and records of the Lord's
congregations have been burned, and often the writers have been burned with them. Much of
their history has been written by their enemies, and some by those with no affiliation
with, or affection for, either. That is both good and bad. It is good in that the fact
that the enemies wrote of people whom we consider the Lord's congregations proves that
they existed (and we do have such writings from nearly every decade since Jesus built His
first congregation). It is good in that we have proof of their doctrine by the accusations
and persecutions against them. It is good in that those writings, being written by
enemies, have been preserved. It is bad that their doctrines, being recorded as
accusations or by the spiritually ignorant, have often been misinterpreted and
misrepresented. Much historical research is available concerning the Lord's congregations,
in the writings of apostates and protestants trying to "claim kin" or to justify
some false doctrine. While such writings can be very useful, it is important to beware of
the bias of the writer. For example, the Ecclesiastical History written by Eusebius
records some important history, but as Berlin Hisel pointed out in his Baptist History
It is my opinion that Mosheim and others relate certain charges against
the Montanists because they follow the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. Eusebius was
born about 275 A.D. and died about 339 A.D. He was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and is
revered, by most, as the father of church history. He was a close friend to Constantine,
the ruler of the Roman Empire who united false churches to the state power. It is believed
by many that Constantine commissioned him to write this history and financed his travel
and investigatons. Knowing what Constantine did to our Baptist ancestors should make us
leary of him. Knowing he was a friend of Eusebius should make us careful of Eusebius too.
In the study of the history of the Lord's
congregations, they are found to have been known by many different names at various times
and places. Those names have usually been assigned them by their enemies and in derision.
It can be found that apostate and false congregations sometimes bore the same names as did
those of Christ's. Such is clearly the case at the present time, and probably more
prevalent than in any other period.
Some writers have picked out those apostate and
false congregations of the past, and cite their irregular faith and practice as
representative of all who were known by the same name. That seems usually to be done in
effort to find credibility for their own heresy, or to try to discredit those
congregations that have remained true to Christ.
The same tactics are being used today by many to
advance their agenda of unionism, and sad to say, many true congregations, being ignorant
of their own heritage, are falling for it. It is no more sensible nor honest to make false
allegations or charges by sweeping generalization against the faithful congregations than
it would be to say that all American wives are unfaithful to their husbands, just because
some have been found so to be.
From the time of Cain and Abel, those who have
taught and stood for the truth of the true Christ have found themselves caught in a
fierce, bitter, and often bloody, ongoing battle that started when Lucifer said in his
heart, "I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:13).
With his offering to God, Abel was teaching, with
typology, salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Cain changed the message with the
typology of his offering (Genesis 4:1-8). Rather than repent and accept the truth, Cain
killed the true messenger, Abel.
Read in Luke 11:49-52, what Jesus said to some
religious leaders about the subject:
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and
apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the
prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this
generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the
altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe
unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in
yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
In Matthew 23:33-35, Jesus said:
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation
of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some
of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues,
and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed
upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of
Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
John the Baptist was beheaded for declaring the truth.
Following their Savior in rapid succession fell many other martyred
heroes: Stephen was stoned, Matthew was slain in Ethiopia, Mark dragged through the
streets until dead, Luke hanged, Peter and Simeon were crucified, Andrew tied to a cross,
James beheaded, Philip crucified and stoned, Bartholomew flayed alive, Thomas pierced with
lances, James, the less, thrown from the temple and beaten to death, Jude shot to death
with arrows, Matthias stoned to death and Paul beheaded. (The Trail of
Blood by J.M. Carroll)
The same bloody battle has continued in every period of time since, in
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual
wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
In the introduction of his book, Martyrs Mirror,
Thieleman J. van Braght wrote:
Those who suffered among the pagans were, for the most part, examined
concerning the first article of the Christian faith, wherein we confess: "I believe
in one God, the Father, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth," etc.; and if the
apprehended Christians confessed only this, viz., that they believed in one God, they were
condemned to death: for the pagans recognized many gods.
Those who suffered among the Jews or Mohammedans were examined
concerning the second article, wherein we confess: I believe "in Jesus Christ, the
only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was conceived of the holy Ghost," etc. When
they had confessed this, they had also forfeited their lives; for the Jews and the
Mohammedans do not acknowledge Christ as the Son of God, much less as His only-begotten
(or own) Son, and that He was conceived of the Holy Ghost.
On account of this article many believers were killed among the Arians.
Those who suffered among the false Christians, especially among the
Romanists, were examined concerning nearly all the articles of faith, in regard to which
difference of opinion existed between us and them, viz., the incarnation of Christ, the
office of the secular authorities, the swearing of oaths, etc., but above all others, the
article of holy baptism, namely, whether they were denied infant baptism? or, whether they
were rebaptized? which latter principally caused their death; as sentence of death was
immediately passed upon them, and their life taken.
Martyrs Mirror, written in 1660, is a large 8x10 book of almost
1200 pages of small print, listing and documenting thousands of the names and dates of
martyrdom of, as the title page declares, "The Defenseless Christians Who Baptized
Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their
Saviour, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660."
Of the persecutions of the first three hundred years after Christ's
death, Augustus Neander wrote:
The Christians were often victims of the popular rage. The populace saw
in them the enemies of their gods; and this was the same thing as to have no religion at
all. The deniers of the gods, the atheists, was the common name by which the Christians
were designated among the people; and of such men the vilest and most improbable stories
could easily gain belief: - that in their conclaves they were accustomed to abandon
themselves to unnatural lust; that they killed and devoured children; - accusations which
we find circulated, in the most diverse periods, against religious sects that have at once
become objects of the fanatic hatred of the populace. The reports of disaffected slaves,
or of those from whom torture had wrung the confession desired, were next employed to
support these absurd charges, and to justify the rage of the populace. If in hot climates
the long absence of rain brought on a drought; if in Egypt the Nile failed to irrigate the
fields; if in Rome the Tiber overflowed its banks; if a contagious disease was raging; if
an earthquake, a famine, or any other public calamity occured, the populace rage was
easily turned against the Christians. "We may ascribe this," was the cry,
"to the anger of the gods on account of the spread of Christianity." Thus it had
become a proverb in North Africa, according to Augustine, "If there is no rain, tax
it on the Christians."
(Volume 1, p.92 of 5 volume 9th edition History of the Christian
Religion and Church, published by Crocker & Brewster, Boston).
On page 79 of Martyrs Mirror, van Braght says:
The innocent Christians were accused not only of the burning of Rome,
but also of every wickedness imaginable; that they might be tortured and put to death in
the most awful manner. To this the Roman Tacitus (according to the translation of J.
Gysius, and not that of Fenacolius)* refers, saying: "Then, Nero, in order to avert
this report from himself, caused those called Christians by the common people, to be
accused and exceedingly tormented.
Later, on page 79, van Braght wrote:
Touching the manner in which the Christians were tortured and killed at
the time of Nero, A. Mellinus gives the following account from Tacitus and other Roman
writers: namely, that four extremely cruel and unnatural kinds of torture were employed
against the Christians:
Firstly, that they dressed them in the skins of tame and wild beasts,
that they might be torn to pieces by dogs or other wild animals.
Secondly, that they, according to the example of their Saviour, were
fastened alive on crosses, and that in many different ways.
Thirdly, that the innocent Christians were burned and smoked by the
Romans, with torches and lamps, under the shoulders and on other tender parts of their
naked bodies, after these had been cruelly lacerated with scourges or rods. This burning
was done also with shavings and fagots, they (the Christians) being tied to stakes worth
half a stiver. [about one cent] Therefore they called the Christians sarmenticii,
that is, fagot people, and semissii, that is, half stiver people; because they
stood fastened to half stiver stakes, and were thus burned with the slow fire of fagots.
Fourthly, that these miserable, accused Christian martyrs were used as
candles, torches, or lanterns, to see by them at night.
van Braght then describes how the candles were constructed of those
Christians, and set on fire, and used for light in the theatre for the circuses.
Those martyrs could easily have escaped their
persecution by compromising their religious beliefs, and participating in paganism. They
chose, instead, to follow "fully after the LORD."
Polycarp was given a choice, before he was set on
fire and burned to death during a pagan festival at Smyrna in A.D. 155. Encyclopedia
Britannica (1957) gives this account:
The proconsul Statius Quadratus was present on the occasion, and the
asiarch Philip of Tralles was presiding over the games. Eleven Christians had been
brought, mostly from Philadelphia, to be put to death. The appetite of the populace was
inflamed by the spectacle of their martyrdom. A cry was raised, "Away with the
atheists. Let search be made for Polycarp." Polycarp took refuge in a country farm.
His hiding-place, however, was betrayed and he was arrested and brought back into the
city. Attempts were made by the officials to induce him to recant, but without effect.
When he came into the theatre, the proconsul urged him to "revile Christ," and
promised, if he would consent to abjure his faith, that he would set him at liberty. To
this appeal Polycarp made the memorable answer, "Eighty and six years have I served
Him and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I speak evil of my King who saved me?"
Shame on those today who will compromise their faith and practice just
to be more popular, or in order to gain or retain some "influential" person or
family in their membership.
The persecution and martyrdom of Christians
continued almost daily, varying in intensity and location, and is documented by many
historians. Encyclopedia Britannica (1957) says:
Decius was the first Roman emperor to institute an organized
persecution of the Christians throughout the empire. Previous persecutions had been
sporadic and local in character.
Eusebius says, in his Ecclesiastical History:
Philip, after a reign of seven years, was succeeded by Decius, who, in
consequence of his hatred to Philip, raised a persecution against the church, in which
Fabianus suffered martyrdom, and was succeeded as bishop of Rome by Cornelius.
In A Manual of Church History (p.164) Alfred H. Newman wrote:
The fact that Christians had been especially favored by the predecessor
probably led Decius to suspect them of disloyalty to himself. It may be assumed from what
we know of this ruler that his exterminating measures against Christianity did not proceed
from sheer wantonness, but were from his point of view a political necessity.
Of this imperial edict which was issued in the year 250 to suppress
Christianity, Newman says:
In each official district all Christians were required within a
definite time to offer sacrifices to the gods. The flight of Christians before the
expiration of time allowed was not hindered, but the property of fugitives was confiscated
and death was the penalty of returning. Those who were not in a position to prove that
they had fulfilled the requirement were brought before a commission composed of officials
and citizens. First they were threatened with the direst punishments in case of obstinacy.
Threats were followed by torture. This failing, imprisonment and repeated tortures,
including hunger and thirst, were resorted to as means of breaking down the wills of the
victims. All the influence and machinery of the imperial government were employed to
prevent laxity on the part of the officials. The magistrates were enjoined to use special
severity toward bishops and other influencial leaders. Immunity from persecution had
brought into the churches multitudes of people who had no proper idea of the obligations
of the Christian life and many who cannot be regarded as possessing a saving knowledge of
the truth. Lamentable worldliness characterized many of the clergy, who were spending
their energies in secular pursuits rather than in the ministry of the word. The imperial
edict struck terror to the hearts of all whose faith was weak. "Before the
battle," writes Cyprian, "many were conquered, and without having met the enemy,
were cut down; they did not even seek to gain the reputation of having sacrificed against
their will. They indeed did not wait to be apprehended ere they ascended, or to be
interrogated ere they denied. Many were conquered before the battle, prostrated before the
attack. Nor did they even leave it to be said for them that they seemed to sacrifice to
idols unwillingly. They ran to the market place of their own accord." Many were so
impatient to deny their faith that they could hardly wait their turn. Cyprian himself
retired before the fury of the persecution and thereby greatly injured his reputation
among the stricter sort. Many who would neither flee nor sacrifice suffered the most
terrible tortures and died in prison or were at last cruelly executed. Some by bribing the
officials procured certificates of having sacrificed without committing the overt act.
Some allowed others to say that they had sacrificed or to procure certificates for them.
Holders of these fraudulent certificates were called libellatici and were regarded
as scarcely less culpable than the Lapsi or those who actually denied their faith.
Eusebius gives this account of a woman named Quinta, sometimes called
Cointha, who stood firm in her profession of faith:
Next they led a woman called Quinta, who was a believer, to the temple
of an idol, and attempted to force her to worship; but when she turned away in disgust,
they tied her by the feet, and dragged her through the whole city, over the rough stones
of the paved streets, dashing her against the millstones, and scourging her at the same
time, until they brought her to the same place, where they stoned her.
Another woman who was also martyred in Alexandria in the same year
(252) was Apollonia. Martyrs Mirror gives this account:
Apollonia was an aged virgin, whom the enemies of truth apprehended,
and with their fists and blows in the face, knocked every tooth out of her head. In the
mean time a large fire of wood was kindled, and they threatened to burn her alive, if she
would not worship the gods, and forsake Christ. But notwithstanding this miserable death,
she would rather go into the fire, and lose her temporal life, than save it by abandoning
Christ and losing her soul. Touching the manner of her death, and her great willingness to
die, A. Mellinus makes this statement: "This virgin was sentenced to be burned, or to
blaspheme the name of Christ; but as she abhorred the latter, she wished to show that she
was ready and willing to die for Christ."
Eusebius says, of Apollonia, that:
She appeared at first to shrink a little, but when suffered to go, she
suddenly sprang into the fire and was consumed.
Another period of intense persecution came during
the rule of Diocletian. On pages 172-173, of Martyrs Mirror, T.J. van Braght wrote
the following in 1660, ". . . ACCORDING TO THE ACCOUNT OF P.J. TWISCK, FROM VARIOUS
ANCIENT AND CELEBRATED AUTHORS":
These two Emperors (namely, Diocletian and Maximian) jointly governed
the empire, in harmony and constancy, and remained undivided. However, when they had
reigned about ten years, they took counsel together, and resolved to exterminate the
Christians, because the discord of religion caused great dissensions, both in the
households and in the Roman Empire.
Then, from his quotation of P.J. Twisck:
". . . in the nineteenth year of his reign, which coincides with
A.D. 302, issued a public decree (as was done in the days of Antiochus), that everyone, in
every place, should sacrifice to the gods of the Emperors; and that he who should refuse
to do so, should be punished with death; also, that the churches or meeting places, and
the books of the Christians should be utterly destroyed. Yea, there was scarcely a large
city in the empire, in which not daily a hundred Christians, or thereabouts, were slain.
It is also recorded that in one month seventeen thousand Christians were put to death in
different parts of the empire, so that the blood which was shed colored red many rivers.
Some were hanged, others beheaded, some burned, and some sunk by whole shiploads in the
depths of the sea."
As touching the fearful tortures inflicted, he then writes thus:
"These tyrants had some of them dragged through the streets, tied to the tails of
horses, and after they were mangled and bruised, they had them put back into prison, and
placed upon beds of potsherds, so that rest might be more excruciating for them than
actual torment. Sometimes they bent down with great force the branches of trees, and tied
one leg to one branch, and the other to another, and then let the branches spring back
into their natural position, so that their limbs were shockingly rent in pieces. They cut
off the ears, noses, lips, hands, and the toes of many, leaving them only the eyes, to
inflict still more pain upon them. They sharpened wooden pegs, which they inserted between
the flesh and the nails; and had lead or tin melted, and poured as hot as possible over
their bare backs."
Many who professed Christianity in that period did compromise with
paganism during the times of most severe persecution, and then when times were better,
sought to return to Christian worship in the fellowship of the Lord's congregations. When
they were accepted back, they often brought some of the pagan ways with them. Some refused
to admit those who had departed the faith back into the fellowship of the Lord's
congregation. That, in fact, is the main thing that led to what is known as the Novation
In Ecclesiastical Researches (1792) Robert
Robinson says (p.126):
The case in brief, was this: Novation was an elder in the church at
Rome. He was a man of extensive learning, and held the same doctrine as the church did,
and published several treatises in defense of what he believed. His address was eloquent
and insinuating, and his morals were irreproachable. He saw, with extreme pain, the
intolerable depravity of the church. Christians, within the space of a very few years,
were caressed by one emperor, and persecuted by another. In seasons of prosperity, many
rushed into the church for base purposes. In times of adversity they denied the faith and
ran back to idolatry again. When the sqall was over, away they came again to the church,
with all their vices, to deprave others by their example. The bishops, fond of proselytes,
encouraged all this, and transferred the attention of Christians from the old confederacy
for virtue, to vain shows at Easter, and a thousand other Jewish ceremonies, adulterated,
too, with paganism. On the death of Bishop Fabian, Cornelius, a brother elder, and a
vehement partisan for taking in the multitude, was put in nomination. Novation opposed
him; but as Cornelius carried his election, and he saw no prospect of reformation, but on
the contrary, a tide of immorality pouring into the church, he withdrew, and a great many
with him. Cornelius, irritated by Cyprian, who was just in the same condition, through the
remonstrances of virtuous men at Carthage, and who was exasperated beyond measure with one
of his elders named Novatus who had quitted Carthage and had gone to Rome to espouse the
cause of Novation, called a council, and got a sentence of excommunication passed against
Novation. In the end, Novation formed a church and was elected bishop. Great numbers
followed his example and all over the empire Puritan churches were constituted, and
flourished through the succeeding two hundred years. Afterward, when penal laws obliged
them to lurk in corners, and worship God in private, they were distinguished by a variety
of names, and a succession of them continued till the Reformation.
Notice the statements that "Great numbers followed his example and
all over the empire Puritan churches were constituted, and flourished through the
succeeding two hundred years," and that a succession of them continued till the
On page 163 of volume 1 of his 5 volume A
Compendium of Ecclesiastical History, John Gieseler states:
Though the other bishops, and especially Cyprian at Carthage, and
Dionysius at Alexandria, were on the side of Cornelius, great numbers in all parts joined
the stricter party.
Under "Carthage," Encyclopedia Britannica (1957) says
that in A.D. 311 the Donatist "heresy," was supported by 270 African bishops.
These congregations that refused to apostatize and
had withdrawn from the disorderly, as well as those that remained intact and sided with
them, became known as Novations, Cathari, Puritans (not to be confused with those of more
recent times), and Paterins. At about the same time, in other places there were
congregations that had taken the same, or similar stands, and became known as
Cataphrygians, Quintillianists, Pepuzians, Montanists, and Donatists.
Do not assume that every congregation that was
called by one of these names was, or remained, true bodies of Christ. I believe that there
has hardly been a time since Jesus built His first congregation, that there has not been a
counterfeit or apostate congregation using the same names as the true ones. The Devil is a
About the year 200, baptismal regeneration began to
be taught by some, and in 370, or earlier, infant baptism began to be practiced. Along
with these false doctrines, the hierarchical ambitions of some, which we considered in a
previous chapter, had been developing. As should be expected, those false doctrines and
practices had little trouble finding acceptance among the apostate congregations. The
political ambitions of a hierarchical system necessitated a "universal church"
concept, and thus the term "catholic" (with a small "c") began to be
Writing of the Novations, on page 55 of A Concise
History of Baptists, G. H. Orchard says:
On account of the church's severity of discipline, the example was
followed by many, and churches of this order flourished in the greatest part of those
provinces which had received the gospel. Many advenient rites had been appointed, and
interwoven with baptism, with a threefold administration of the ordinance, in the old
interests, which obscured the original simplicity and design of the institutor. To remove
all human appendages, the Novationists said to candidates, "If you be a virtuous
believer, and will accede to our confederacy against sin, you may be admitted among us by
baptism, or if any catholic has baptized you before, by rebaptism." They were at
later periods called anabaptists. The churches thus formed upon a plan of strict
communion and rigid discipline, obtained the reproach of PURITANS; they were the
oldest body of Christian churches, of which we have any account, and a succession of
them, we shall prove, has continued to the present day. Novation's example had a
powerful influence, and puritan churches rose in different parts, in quick succession. So
early as 254, these Dissenters are complained of, as having infected France with their
doctrines, which will aid us in the Albigensian churches, where the same severity
of discipline is traced, and reprobated.
Constantine came to the throne in 306, and in 312,
after allegedly seeing Christ in a dream and being victorious in a battle, inquired and
was instructed by some of the leaders of the apostate "Christianity."
Constantine then embraced and became affiliated with their so called
"Christianity." In 313, the "Edict of Milan" was issued by Constantine
and Licinius, granting religious liberty to all. That edict stated, in part:
. . . we have granted liberty and full freedom to the Christians, to
observe their own mode of worship; which as your fidelity understands absolutely granted
to them by us, the privilege is also granted to others to pursue that worship and religion
they wish. Which it is obvious is consistent with the peace and tranquility of our times;
that each may have the privilege to select and to worship whatsoever divinity he pleases.
But this has been done by us, that we might not appear in any manner to detract any thing
from any manner of religion, or any mode of worship. And this, we further decree, with
respect to the Christians, that the places in which they were formerly accustomed to
assemble, concerning which also we formerly wrote to your fidelity, in a different form,
that if any persons have purchased these, either from our treasury, or from any other one,
these shall restore them to the Christians, without money and without demanding any price,
without any superadded value, or augmentation, without delay or hesitancy. . . .
(Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, book X chapter V)
The change in situation brought temporary relief to
the true Christian congregations as well as the apostate ones. Encyclopedia Britannica
(1957) says of Constantine:
His claim to greatness rests mainly on the fact that he divined the
future which lay before Christianity, and determined to enlist it in the service of his
empire . . .
The leaders in the apostate congregations, having already been in
pursuit of hierarchical ambitions, were eager to "enlist" in the service of
World Book Encyclopedia (1985) says:
Constantine made many gifts to the Christian church, including huge
estates which he gave to the church in Rome. He built the first great Christian cathedral,
the Lateran Basilica in Rome. He built other famous churches in and near Rome; and in
Antioch, Syria (now Antioch, Turkey); Constantinople; and Jerusalem.
On page 31 of The History of Romanism, John Dowling wrote:
Soon after Constantine professed conversion to Christianity, he
undertook to remodel the government of the church, so as to make it conform as much as
possible to the government of the state. Hence the origin of the dignities of patriarchs,
exarchs, archbishops, canons, prebendaries, etc., intended by the Emperor to correspond
with the different secular offices and dignities, connected with the civil administration
of the empire. Taking these newly constituted dignitaries of the church into his own
special favor, he loaded them with the wealth and worldly honors, and richly endowed the
churches over which they presided, thus fostering in those who professed to be the
followers and ministers of Him who was "meek and lowly of heart" a spirit of
worldly ambition, pride,and avarice.
Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History lists a "Copy of an
Epistle in which the Emperor grants money to the churches," in book X, chapter VI,
which states, in part:
CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS to Cecilianus bishop of Carthage. As we have
determined, that in all the provinces of Africa, Numidia, and Mauritania, something should
be granted to certain ministers of the legitimate and most holy catholic (universal)
religion, to defray their expenses, I have given letters to Ursus, the most illustrious
lieutenant- governor of Africa, and have communicated to him, that he shall provide, to
pay to your authority, three thousand folles.* [If the follis be estimated at 208 denarii,
according to the usual computation, this sum would amount to about 10,000 dollars.]
The apostate congregations were now developed into a "universal
church" and married to the state. The true Christians, the Lord's congregations,
previously considered as "the atheists" under paganism, were now known as
"heretics." Constantine's main concern being the strength and greatness of his
empire, and his recognition of religion as being a valuable tool in accomplishing his
goals, religious unity became a high priority to him. The leaders of the apostate
congregations which had become the "state church," still angered at the true
congregations of Christ for their stand for truth, and no doubt desirous of bringing their
numbers under their own power and control, were easily employed in an effort to subdue
those true congregations which they called heretics. Those true congregations were
considered trouble-makers and disruptive to unity because they would not conform and
compromise. They were hated because they went "fully after the LORD." That has
always been the case, and will be until the end of the age. I have found that the
uncompromising, true worshipers of God, are almost always considered as divisive. In Acts
17:6, Paul and Silas were accused of turning the world upside down. In Matthew 10:35-39,
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the
daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a
man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than
me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of
me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that
findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
In Luke 14:25-27:
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto
them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,
and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And
whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
In Matthew 10: 16-18 and 22, Jesus said:
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye
therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will
deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye
shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that
endureth to the end shall be saved.
John, in I John 3:12-13, speaking of Cain killing Abel, said:
. . . And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and
his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Here are two of Constantine's letters, recorded in
Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, that show the early development of authority
given to the "State church" by Constantine. In book X, chapter V, is the
following "Copy of the Emperor's Epistle, in which he ordains a council of bishops to
be held at Rome, for the unity and peace of the church":
CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS, to Miltiades bishop of Rome, and to Marcus. As
many communications of this kind have been sent to me from Anulinus, the most illustrious
proconsul of Africa, in which it is contained that Caecilianus, the bishop of Carthage,
was accused, in many respects, by his colleagues in Africa; and as this appears to be
grievous, that in those provinces which divine Providence has freely entrusted to my
fidelity, and in which there is a vast population, the multitude are found inclining to
deteriorate, and in a manner divided into two parties, and among others that the bishops
were at variance; I have resolved that the same Caecilianus, together with ten bishops,
who appear to accuse him, and ten others, whom he himself may consider necessary for his
cause, shall sail to Rome. That you, being present there, as also Reticius, Maternus, and
Marinus, your colleagues, whom I have commanded to hasten to Rome for this purpose, may be
heard, as you may understand most consistent with the most sacred law. And, indeed, that
you may have the most perfect knowledge of these matters, I have subjoined to my epistle
copies of the writings sent to me by Anulinus, and sent them to your aforesaid colleagues.
In which your gravity will read and consider in what way the aforesaid cause may be most
accurately investigated and justly decided. Since it neither escapes your diligence, that
I show such regard for the holy catholic church, that I wish you, upon the whole, to leave
no room for schism or division. May the power of the great God preserve you many years,
And then, a "Copy of the Epistle in which the Emperor commanded
another council to be held, for the purpose of removing all the dissension of the
CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS to Chrestus bishop of Syracuse. As there were some
already before who perversely and wickedly began to waver in the holy religion and
celestial virtue, and to abandon the doctrine of the catholic (universal) church,
desirous, therefore, of preventing such disputes among them, I had thus written, that this
subject, which appeared to be agitated among them, might be rectified, by delegating
certain bishops from Gaul, and summoning others of the opposite parties from Africa, who
are pertinaciously and incessantly contending with one another, that by a careful
examination of the matter in their presence, it might thus be decided. But since, as it
happens, some, forgetful of their own salvation, and the reverence due to our most holy
religion, even now do not cease to protract their own enmity, being unwilling to conform
to the decision already promulgated, and asserting that they were very few that advanced
their sentiments and opinions, or else that all points which ought to have been first
fully discussed not being first examined, they proceeded with too much haste and
precipitancy to give publicity to the decision. Hence it has happened, that those very
persons who ought to exhibit a brotherly and peaceful unanimity, rather disgracefully and
detestably are at variance with one another, and thus give this occasion of derision to
those that are without, and whose minds are averse to our most holy religion. Hence it has
appeared necessary to me to provide that this matter, which ought to have ceased after the
decision was issued by their own voluntary agreement, now, at length, should be fully
terminated by the intervention of many.
Since, therefore, we have commanded many bishops to meet together from
different and remote places, in the city of Arles, towards the calends of August, I have
also thought proper to write to thee, that taking a public vehicle from the most
illustrious Latronianus, corrector of Sicily, and taking with thee two others of the
second rank, which thou mayest select, also three servants to afford you services on the
way; I would have you meet them within the same day at the aforesaid place. That by the
weight of your authority, and the prudence and unanimity of the rest that assemble, this
dispute, which has disgracefully continued until the present time, in consequence of
certain disgraceful contentions, may be discussed, by hearing all that shall be alleged by
those who are now at variance, whom we have also commanded to be present, and thus the
controversy be reduced, though slowly, to that faith, and observance of religion, and
fraternal concord, which ought to prevail. May Almighty God preserve thee in safety many
The oppression continued to escalate, and soon, those who refused to
compromise truth and refused to unite with the State church or recognize their baptisms
and authority, were again being severely persecuted, this time by the catholic church with
Constantine's oppressive measures prompted many to leave the scene of
sufferings, and retire into more sequestered spots. Claudius Seyssel, the popish
archbishop, TRACES the rise of the Waldensian heresy to a pastor named Leo, leaving Rome
at this period, for the Valleys.
(A Concise History of the Baptists, G.H. Orchard, p.58)
In History of the Donatists, David Benidict
quotes from Augustine's record of a local council held in Carthage in 404, in which it was
It is now full time for the emperor to provide for the safety of the
Catholic church, and prevent those rash men from terrifying the weak people, whom they
In 413, an edict was issued by emperors, Theodosius and Honorius:
. . . declaring that all persons rebaptized, and the rebaptizers,
should be both punished with death. Accordingly, Albanus, a zealous minister, with others,
was punished with death, for rebaptizing. . . . . . . . . . These combined modes of
oppression led the faithful to abandon the cities, and seek retreats in the valleys of
Piedmont, the inhabitants of which began to be called Waldenses.
(A Concise History of Baptists, G.H. Orchard, p.60-61)
Augustine wrote much against the Donatists, and pope
Gregory the Great wrote against them as late as 604. Orchard says of the Novationists,
"That they subsisted towards the end of the sixth century, is evident from the book
of Eulogius, Bishop of Alexander" (p.63).
We can be certain that there were true congregations
of the Lord dwelling in the valleys of Piedmont from the time of Constantine, having gone
there to flee persecution. I believe that there were true congregations already
On page 28 of The Waldenses: Sketches of the
Evangelical Christians of the Valleys of Piedmont, A.W. Mitchell wrote:
Their own account of the matter uniformly has been, that their religion
has descended with them from father to son by uninterrupted succession from the time of
the apostles. There certainly is no improbability in the conjecture that the gospel was
preached by some of those early missionaries who carried Christianity into Gaul. The
common passage from Rome to Gaul at that time lay directly through the Cottian Alps, and
Gaul we know received the gospel early in the second century at the latest, probably
before the close of the first century. If the apostle Paul ever made that journey into
Spain (Rom. 15:28) which he speaks of in his epistle to the Romans, and in which he
proposed to go by way of Rome, his natural route would have been in the same direction,
and it is not impossible that his voice was actually heard among those retired valleys.
The most common opinion among Protestant writers is, that the conversion of the Waldenses
was begun by some of the very early Christian missionaries, perhaps by some of the
Apostles themselves, on their way to Gaul, and that it was completed and the churches more
fully organized by a large influx of Christians from Rome, after the first general
persecution under Nero. The Christians of Rome, scattered by this terrible event, would
naturally flee from the plain country to the mountains, carrying with them the gospel and
The mountains and valleys of the Alps and the
Piedmont area were a natural refuge for the persecuted Christians from surrrounding
territories in every age. In the words of Samuel Morland:
These Valleys, especially that of Angrogna, Pramol, and S. Martino, are
by nature strongly fortified, by reason of their many difficult Passages, and Bulwarks of
Rocks and Mountains, as if the All-wise Creator had from the beginning designed that place
as a Cabinet, wherein to put some inestimable Jewel, or (to speak more plainly) there to
reserve many thousands of souls, which should not bow the knee before Baal.
[The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont,
book 1, ch.1, p.3]
These persecuted Christians, given various nick-names in derision at
various places and times, fled to the Valleys of Piedmont, and in time became generally
known as Waldenses. Ever trying to rob Jesus' true congregations of their heritage and
discredit them, the Romish persecutors invented the allegation that the Waldensian
Christians originated with Peter Waldo, and got their name from him. The History of the
Ancient Christians by Jean Paul Perrin, written in 1618, and The History of the
Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of the Piemont by Samuel Morland, written in 1658,
contain various documents, writings, and confessions of faith, dating back to 1120, which
describes their faith and practice, as well as their well established existence, fifty
years before Peter Waldo (almost four hundred years before the time of Luther or Calvin).
Samuel Morland's book records "a certain Epistle of the Waldenses, inscribed":
An Epistle to the most serene King Lancelau, the Dukes, Barons, and
most ancient Nobility of the Realm. The little troop of Christians falsely called by
the name of poor people of Lions, or Waldenses. By which it is most evident, that they had
not their original from the said Waldo, but that this was a meer nick-name or reproachfull
term put upon them by their Adversaries, to make the world believe, that their Religion
was but a Novelty, or a thing of yesterday. . . . . . . . . [book 1, ch.3, p.12]
Of the etymology of the name, Waldenses, most historians agree with
Robert Robinson, who says, in his Ecclesiastical Researches, written in 1792:
From the Latin word vallis, came the English word valley,
the French and Spanish valle, the Italian valdesi, the Low Dutch valleye,
the Provencal vaux, vaudois, the ecclesiastical Valdenses, Ualdenses,
and Waldenses. The words simply signify vallies, inhabitants of vallies, and
no more. [p.302]
Reinerius Sacco was one of the first employed in the Inquisition by
Rome, for the purpose of detecting and punishing the "heretics." Reinerius
testified often against the Waldenses and, in 1254, wrote a book of accusation against
them. Samuel Morland (p.28) quotes this from Reinerius:
Amongst all the sects which are or ever were, there is none more
pernicious to the Church of God, than that of the poor people of Lyons, for three Reasons,
First because it is of a longer duration. Some say that it has remained from the time of
Silvester, others, from the time of the Apostles.
In History of the Ancient Christians, Jean Paul Perrin, in
"History of the Waldenses, book II, ch.I, quotes Reinnerius' second reason given:
Because that sect is universal, for there is scarce any country where
it hath not taken footing.
In chapter XVI of the same book, Perrin says:
In the year 1229, the Waldenses had already spread themselves in great
numbers throughout all Italy. They had ten schools in Valcamonica alone, and sent money
from all parts of their abode into Lombardy, for the maintenance and support of the said
schools. Rainerius saith, that about the year of our Lord 1250, the Waldenses had churches
in Albania, Lombardy, Milan, and in Romagna, likewise at Vincence, Florence, and Val
Spoletine. In the year 1280, there were a considerable number of Waldenses in Sicily, as
Haillan observes in his History.
In the next chapter, XVII, Perrin says:
The monk Rainerius, in his book of the form or method of proceeding
against the heretics, in that catalogue that he made of the Waldenses, or poor of Lyons,
observes, that in his time, in the year 1250, there were churches in Constantinople, in
Philadelphia, Sclavonia, Bulgaria, and Diagonicia.
From these statements, we can see that the inquisitor, Rainerius Sacco,
expressed no doubt about the continuance of these "heretics" from the time of
the apostles. It is also evident from this, the testimony of their bloody persecutor, that
there was, in his words, "scarce any country where it hath not taken footing."
That is definitely not a situation that would develop overnight, but had come about as
results of earlier scattering by persecutions and the fact that they had been obedient in
the mission to:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
The inquisitor, Rainerius Sacco, also wrote extensively of the
"heresies" that these faithful congregations were guilty of. I will quote a few
of those accusations here which tell us some important facts about their doctrines in the
words of the enemy. In volume II, pages 21-27 of The History of the Christian Church,
William Jones gives the English translation of those charges which can be seen in the
original Latin, in the Ecclesiastical History of Ancient Churches of Piedmont and the
Albigenses (original page numbers 188-191) by Peter Allix, written in 1690. Rainerius
Their first error is a contempt of ecclesiastical power, and from
thence they have been delivered up to Satan, and by him cast headlong into innumerable
errors, mixing the erroneous doctrines of the heretics of old with their own inventions.
And being cast out of the Catholic church, they affirm that they alone are the church of
Christ and his disciples. They declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have
apostolical authority, and the keys of binding and loosing. They hold the church of Rome
to be the whore of Babylon, (Rev. ch. xvii.) and that all that obey her are damned,
especially the clergy that have been subject to her since the time of pope Sylvester. They
deny that any true miracles are wrought in the church, because none of themselves ever
worked any. They hold that none of the ordinances of the church, which have been
introduced since Christ's ascension, ought to be observed, as being of no value. The
feasts, fasts, orders, blessings, offices of the church, and the like, they utterly
reject. They speak against consecrating churches, church-yards, and other things of the
like nature, declaring that it was the invention of covetous priests, to augment their own
gains, in spunging the people by those means of their money and oblations. They say, that
a man is first baptized when he is received into their community. Some of them hold that
baptism is of no advantage to infants, because they cannot actually believe. They reject
the sacrament of confirmation, but instead of that, their teachers lay their hands upon
their disciples. They say, the bishops, clergy, and other religious orders are no better
than the Scribes and Pharisees, and other persecutors of the apostles. They do not believe
the body and blood of Christ to be the true sacrament, but only blessed bread, which by a
figure only is called the body of Christ, even as it is said, "and the rock was
Christ," &c. Some of them hold that this sacrament can only be celebrated by
those that are good, others again by any that know the words of consecration. This
sacrament they celebrate in their assemblies, repeating the words of the gospel at their
table, and participating together, in imitation of Christ's supper. . . . . . . .
According to them there is no purgatory, and all that die, immediately pass either into
heaven or hell. That therefore the prayers of the church for the dead are of no use,
because those that are in heaven do not want them, nor can those that are in hell be
relieved by them. And from thence they infer, that all offerings made for the dead are
only of use to the clergymen that eat them, and not to the deceased, who are incapable of
being profited by them. They hold, that the saints in heaven do not hear the prayers of
the faithful, nor regard the honours which are done to them, because their bodies lie dead
here beneath, and their spirits are at so great a distance from us in heaven, that they
can neither hear our prayers nor see the honours which we pay them. They add, that the
saints do not pray for us, and that therefore, we are not to entreat their intercession,
because, being swallowed up with heavenly joy, they cannot attend to us, nor indeed to any
thing else. Hence they deride all the festivals which we celebrate in honour of the
saints, and all other instances of our veneration for them. Accordingly, wherever they can
do it, they secretly work upon holy days, arguing, that since working is good, it cannot
be evil to do that which is good on a holy day. . . . . . . . .
Looking in the Encyclopedia Britannica
(1957), under "COUNCIL," it is found that the subject of the third Lateran
council, called in 1179, was "Albigensians; Waldensians." Under the article,
"LATERAN COUNCILS," the same encyclopedia says, of the fourth Lateran council,
The seventy decrees of the council begin with a confession of faith
directed against the Cathari and Waldenses, which is significant if only for the mention
of a transubstantion of the elements in Lord's Supper. A series of resolutions provided in
detail for the organized suppression of heresy and for the institution of the episcopal
inquisition (Canon 3). On every Christian, of either sex, arrived at years of discretion,
the duty was imposed of confessing at least once annually and of receiving the Eucharist
at least at Easter (Canon 21). . . . . . .
Under the heading, "ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH," Encyclopedia
Britannica has this:
At the fourth Lateran council (1215) Innocent III (1198-1216) published
a definition of the faith which, after affirming the doctrine of the Trinity, the
Incarnation and the Judgement, says:
"There is moreover one universal Church of the faithful, outside
which no man at all is saved, in which the same Jesus Christ is both the priest and the
sacrifice, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under
the peices of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body and the wine
into the blood by the divine power, in order that, to accomplish the mystery of unity, we
ourselves may receive of His that which He received of ours. And this thing, the sacrament
to wit, no one can make (conficere) but a priest, who has been duly ordained,
according to the keys of the Church, which Jesus Christ Himself granted to the apostles
and their successors.
But the sacrament of baptism, which is consecrated in water at the
invocation of God and the undivided Trinity, that is of the Father, and of the Son and
Holy Spirit, being duly conferred in the form of the Church by any person, whether upon
children or adults, is profitable to salvation. And if anyone, after receiving baptism,
has fallen into sin, he can always be restored (reparari) by true penitence.
Not only virgins and the continent, but also married persons, deserve,
by right faith and good works pleasing to God, to come to eternal blessedness" (cited
by Alexander Hamilton Thompson, Cambridge Medieval History, vol. vi, p.635).
The last article of the definition quoted above refers to the Catharist
or Albigensian heresy, which in the 12th and 13th centuries threatened large areas of
Hungary, Germany, Italy and France. It rejected infant baptism, purgatory, the communion
of saints, the use of images and the doctrine of the Trinity. Above all, the Cathars
attacked the institution of marriage, which was the basis of all social custom and law,
sacred and secular, in the west. Catharism was anarchy and heresy at once. It implied the
complete subversion of the social structure and the complete denial of the Christian
faith. . . . . . . .
Most of those charges of Catharist/ Albigensian/ Waldensian
"heresy," when using the Bible as the final authority for all faith and
practice, sound very complimentary to me. It is to be noted that the statement by Encyclopedia
Britannica, that they rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, does not agree with the
preponderance of evidence. Not only was there agreement in matters of faith and practice
between the Cathars, Albigenses, and Waldenses, but the Roman Catholic persecutors, as
well as the encyclopedia at issue, as we have seen, considered the heresy of each as
synonymous. In book I, chapter VI, of The History of the Evangelical Churches of the
Valleys of Piemont, Samuel Morland exhibits a discourse which he labels, "The
noble Lesson written in the Language of the ancient Inhabitants of the Valleys, in the
Year 1100. Extracted out of a most authentick Manuscript, the true Original whereof is to
be seen in the publick Library of the famous University of Cambridg." "The noble
Lesson" is there given in the original, and in the Old English (which the entire book
is written in). I will quote a few lines with modern spelling. "The noble
Lesson" says, "There are already a thousand and one hundred years fully
acomplished, Since it was written thus, For we are in the last time." That statement
dates "The noble Lesson" at about a hundred years previous to the fourth Lateran
council. On the next page, after mentioning "God the Father," "his glorious
Son," and "the Holy Ghost," it says, "These three (the holy Trinity)
as being but one God, ought to be called upon." The third reason given by Rainerius
as to why "there is none more pernicious" to the Roman Catholic Church was:
Because all others beget in people a dread and horror of them by their
blasphemies against God. But this on the contrary hath a great appearance of godliness,
because they live righteously before men, and believe rightly of God in all things, and
hold all the articles contained in the Creed, hating and reviling the church of Rome; and
in this they are easily believed of the people. (Perrin, book II, ch.I)
Had the "heretics" rejected the Trinity, Rainerius would not
have said that they, "believe rightly of God in all things." The Creed that
Rainerius claimed, in 1254, that they "hold all the articles contained in,"
1. I believe in one God, the Father, the almighty Creator of heaven and
2. And in Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, our Lord.
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin Mary.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(Martyrs Mirror p.27)
Note, also, that the encyclopedia article, quoted earlier, stated that
"the Cathars attacked the institution of marriage." The true Christians were
often charged with that accusation. The truth is, they did not attack the institution of
marriage; in fact, they believed strongly in the institution of marriage. The Roman
Catholics insisted that only their own clergy had the authority to perform a valid wedding
ceremony. They held that the "heretic" pastors had no legal authority to marry
anyone, and as a result, those married by them were adulterers. The members of the Lord's
congregations, of course, refused to submit to the Catholics, and thus were charged with
attacking or rejecting the institution of marriage. Representative of their position at
that time, is the following statement, in book I, chapter V of The History of the
Evangelical Churches of the Piemont. In what is labeled, "The ancient Discipline
of the Evangelical Churches in the Valleys of PIEMONT. Extracted out of divers Authentick
Manuscripts, written in their own Language several hundreds of Years before either Calvin
or Luther," ARTICLE VIII states:
Marriage ought to be performed according to the rules prescribed by
God, and not within those degrees which he hath forbidden. And there need no scruple of
conscience be made concerning what the Pope hath forbidden, although we give him no money
for a dispensation; for that which God hath not forbidden may very well be done without
The bond of holy marriage ought not to be made without the consent of
friends on both sides, for as much as children ought to be wholly at the disposal of their
Many of those true congregations of Christ's continued to earnestly
contend for the faith through good times and bad. Besides the names already mentioned,
some were called Arnoldists, Henricians, Paulicians, and other names. All came to be
commonly called Ana-Baptists (rebaptizers). During times of most severe persecution, they
were forced to take refuge in the mountains, living in caves and among rocks, and meeting
in secret. In times of less severe persecution, missionaries were sent throughout the
world. Wherever they went, they were hated and persecuted.
William Jones' The History of the Christian Church (volume I,
p.486-488) tells this story:
Towards the middle of the twelfth century, a small society of these Puritans,
as they were called by some, or Waldenses, as they are termed by others, or Paulicians,
as they are denominated by our old monkish historian, William of Neuburg, made their
appearance in England. This latter writer speaking of them, says, "they came
originally from Gascoyne, where, being as numerous as the sand of the sea, they
sorely infested both France, Italy, Spain, and England." The following is the account
given by Dr. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, vol. viii.p.338. Oct. ed. of this
emigrating party, which, in substance, correspondence with what is said of them by Rapin,
Collier, Lyttleton, and other of our writers.
"A company, consisting of about thirty men and women, who spoke
the German language, appeared in England at this time (1159), and soon attracted the
attention of government by the singularity of their religious practices and opinions. It
is indeed very dificult to discover with certainty what their opinions were, because they
are recorded only by our monkish historians, who speak of them with much asperity. They
were apprehended and brought before a council of the clergy at Oxford. Being interrogated
about their religion, their teacher, named Gerard, a man of learning, answered in their
name, that they were Christians, and believed the doctrines of the apostles. Upon a more
particular inquiry, it was found that they denied several of the received doctrines of the
church, such as purgatory, prayers for the dead, and the invocation of saints; and
refusing to abandon these damnable heresies, as they were called, they were condemned as
incorrigible heretics, and delivered to the secular arm to be punished. The king, (Henry
II.) at the instigation of the clergy, commanded them to be branded with a red hot iron on
the forehead, to be whipped through the streets of Oxford, and, having their clothes cut
short by their girdles, to be turned into the open fields, all persons being forbidden to
afford them any shelter or relief under the severest penalties. This cruel sentence was
executed in its utmost rigour; and being the depth of winter, all these unhappy persons
perished with cold and hunger. These seem to have been the first who suffered death in
Britain, for the vague and variable crime of heresy, and it would have been much to the
honour of the country if they had been the last."
It appears that there remained many of the true
congregations of the Lord in the Piedmont valleys and surrounding mountains up to the
sixteenth century. Let me not be mistaken to imply that all congregations up till that
time, or at any time, going by the names previously mentioned, were the Lord's true
congregations. Many were, but many were not. Rainerius Sacco, the thirteenth century
inquisitor, quoted earlier, wrote that some of those "heretics":
. . . frequent our churches, are present at divine service, offer at
the altar, receive the sacrament, confess to the preists, observe the church fasts,
celebrate festivals, and receive the priest's blessing, bowing their heads, though in the
meantime they scoff at all these institutions of the church, looking upon them as profane
and hurtful. They say it is sufficient for their salvation if they confess to God, and not
(The History of the Christian Church by William Jones, vol.II,
Those were not true disciples. They disliked and disapproved of Papal
authority, but were willing to compromise their faith and practice for social acceptance.
Such practice led to the existence of many irregular congregations among the Waldenses of
the Piedmont valleys. Those irregular congregations had little problem unionizing with the
protestants of the Reformation, and were soon practicing infant baptism. In the year 1655
came a very intense and severely bloody perscution to the Piedmont valley area. Many
cases, giving specific names, dates, locations, witnesses, and gory details of martyrdom,
are catalogued in The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont,
by Samuel Morland. Probably most, if not all, the congregations remaining true to the Lord
in that area were exterminated or driven out at that time.
Not only was the truth preserved among many of
Jesus' true congregations in the Piedmont area and taken by them into surrounding
countries, but it is often found that the Lord already had true congregations established
in those places. That should not be surprising when we consider the territory covered by
the apostles, as recorded in the New Testament. Not only that, but most of the other
members of those first congregations were preaching the gospel everywhere they went.
Throughout most of the centuries, Jesus' congregations have usually been small, scattered,
and through the world's eyes, pretty insignificant. Much of the time they have had only
very modest, or no, meeting houses; and when they did, they have many times been
dispossessed of their buildings through persecution. Sometimes that dispossession has come
by violent persecution, and sometimes, as in more recent times, by simply being
"rooted out" by an apostate or unregenerate element of the membership. The world
would have us think, "You can't have a church without a building," but I have
concluded from history and from personal observation, that the Lord's congregations are
often their most effective when they do not have a building. I do not mean that they
should not have a building, or that it should not be a nice one, but it should definitely
not be a top priority, or be considered a requirement. The New Testament certainly lists
no such requirement.
Let us now back up to the first century and study
briefly the existence of believers in another locality that has been used by Christ to
plant His congregations throughout the world. On page 6 of History of the Welsh
Baptists, published in 1835, J. Davis wrote:
That the apostle Paul also preached the gospel to the ancient Britons,
is very probable from the testimony of Theodoret and Jerome; but that he was the first
that introduced the gospel to this island cannot be admitted; for he was a prisoner in
Rome at the time the good news of salvation through the blood of Christ reached this
region. That the apostle Paul had great encouragement to visit this country afterwards,
will not be denied.
Continuing, on pages six and seven, Davis says:
About fifty years before the birth of our Saviour, the Romans invaded
the British Isle, in the reign of the Welsh King, Cassibellan, but having failed in
consequence of other and more important wars, to conquer the Welsh nation, made peace with
them, and dwelt among them many years. During that period many of the Welsh soldiers
joined the Roman army, and many families from Wales visited Rome, among whom there was a
certain woman of the name of Claudia, who was married to a man named Pudence. At the same
time, Paul was sent a prisoner to Rome, and preached there in his own hired house, for the
space of two years, about the year of our Lord 63.
Acts 28:30-31 says:
And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all
that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which
concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
Back to Davis, on page seven:
Pudence and Claudia, his wife, who belonged to Ceasar's household,
under the blessing of God on Paul's preaching, were brought to the knowledge of the truth
as it is in Jesus, and made a profession of the Christian religion. These together with
other Welshmen, among the Roman soldiers, who had tasted that the Lord was gracious,
exerted themselves on the behalf of their countrymen in Wales, who were at that time vile
Paul mentioned Claudia and Pudens in the closing of a letter, written
while he was imprisoned at Rome, to Timothy, in II Timothy 4:21, which says:
Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and
Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.
Of this verse, Matthew Henry says, in his Commentary:
One of the heathen writers at this time mentions one Pudens and his
wife Claudia, and says the Claudia was a Briton, whence some have gathered that it was
this Pudens, and that Claudia here was his wife, and that they were eminent Christians at
In his introduction to the "Memoirs" in Sermons and
Memoirs of Christmas Evans, Joseph Cross, gives the same account as Davis.
In the second preface to his The History of the English Baptists,
published in 1738, Thomas Crosby said:
Now amongst the converts of the natives of this island, in the first
age to Christianity, Claudia surnamed Ruffina, is refuted a principle; she was the wife to
Pudence, a Roman senator; and that this is the Claudia, a Briton born, mentioned by St.
Paul, then living at Rome.
In the account in the previously mentioned memoirs of Evans, Joseph
About a century after this, Faganus and Daminicanus went to Rome, were
converted there, and became "able ministers of the New Testament." In the year
of our Lord 180, they were sent back to Wales, to preach to their own countrymen. They
were zealous and successful laborers. They opposed the pagan superstitions of the Welsh
with wonderful energy. They pursued Druidism to its dark retirements, and poured upon it
the withering blaze of the gospel. Through their preaching, Lucius, king of Wales, was
brought to embrace Christianity.
Bede, a Catholic priest who wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the
English Nation, in 731, wrote:
After the days of Lucius, the Britons preserved the faith which they
had received, whole and inviolate, in a quiet and peaceable manner, until the reign of
Tertullian wrote that in 209, "those parts of Britain into which
the Roman arms never penetrated have yielded subjection to Christ."
Encyclopedia Britannica (1957), under "WALES," says:
As to the coming of Christianity, there is nothing to associate it with
Roman rule in Wales.
Back to Davis' History of the Welsh Baptists, on page nine, he
About the year 300 the Welsh Baptists suffered a terrible and bloody
persecution which was the tenth pagan persecution under the reign of Diocletian. All
history bearing on the subject testifies that the action of baptism in those times among
these martyrs, was "immersion only."
Diocletian's strict orders were to burn up every Christian, every
Meeting house, every scrap of written paper belonging to the Christians, or that gave any
account of their rise and progress, and, no doubt many valuable documents were burnt that
would have been very interesting to the present generation; and it is a wonder that any of
them were preserved from the flames.
The Welsh Christians stood firm, resisting the inventions and
innovations of the Roman Catholics under the rule of Constantine.
On page 190, volume I, of A General History of the Baptist
Denomination, printed in 1813, David Benedict wrote:
About sixty years after the ascension of our Lord, christianity was
planted in Britain, and a number of royal blood, and many of inferior birth, were called
to be saints. Here the gospel flourished much in early times, and here also its followers
endured many afflictions and calamities from pagan persecutors. The British christians
experienced various changes of prosperity and adversity until about the year 600. A little
previous to this period, Austin the monk, that famous Pedo-baptist and persecutor, with
about forty others, were sent here by pope Gregory the great, to convert the pagans to
popery, and to subject all the British christians to the dominion of Rome. The enterprise
succeeded, and conversion (or rather perversion) work was performed on a large scale. King
Ethelbert and his court, and a considerable part of his kingdom, were won over by the
successful monk, who consecrated the river Swale, near York, in which he caused to be
baptized ten thousand of his converts in a day.
Having met with so much success in England, he resolved to try what he
could do in Wales. There were many British christians who had fled hither in former times
to avoid the brutal ravages of the outrageous Saxons. The monk held a synod in their
neighbourhood, and sent to their pastors to request them to receive the pope's
commandment; but they utterly refused to listen to either the monk or pope, or to adopt
any of their maxims. Austin, meeting with this prompt refusal, endeavoured to compromise
matters with these strenuous Welshmen, and requested that they would consent to him in
three things, one of which was that they should give christendom, that is, baptism to
their children; but with none of his propositions would they comply. "Sins
therefore," said this zealous apostle of popery and pedobaptism, "ye wol not
receive peace of your brethren, ye of other shall have warre and wretche," and
accordingly he brought the Saxons upon them to shed their innocent blood, many of them
lost their lives for the name of Jesus.
Joseph Cross, in the previously mentioned introduction to the memoirs
of Christmas Evans, wrote:
Twelve hundred ministers and delegates were slaughtered, and afterward
many of their brethren. Their leaders being slain, the majority of the survivors
reluctantly purchased peace at the sacrifice of conscience, submitting to the creed and
usages of Rome. Yet there were some who repudiated the doctrine of the pope's supremacy,
and maintained for a season the simplicity of the gospel. But they lived among the
mountains, in seclusion from the world, like the inhabitants of the vale of Piedmont.
Let us now continue with the quotation of David Benedict, on page 191,
vol. I. The memoirs he refers to here, are the "Memoirs of the English
Baptists," written by Josiah Taylor of Calne, Wiltsshire, England, in the English
Baptist Magazine. Benedict says:
The Baptist historians in England contend that the first British
christians were Baptists, and that they maintained Baptist principles until the coming of
Austin. "We have no mention," says the author of the Memoirs, "of the
christening or baptizing children in England, before the coming of Austin in 597; and to
us it is evident he brought it not from heaven but from Rome. But though the
subject of baptism began now to be altered, the mode of it continued in the national
church a thousand years longer, and baptism was administered by dipping, &c."
From the coming of Austin the church in this island was divided into two parts, the old
and the new. The old or Baptist church maintained their original principles. But
the new church adopted infant baptism, and the rest of the multiplying superstitions of
Austin's requesting the British christians, who opposed his popish
mission, to baptize their children, is a circumstance which the English and Welsh Baptists
consider of much importance. They infer from it, that before Austin's time, infant baptism
was not practised in England, and that though he converted multitudes to his pedobaptist
plan, yet many, especially in Wales and Cornwall, opposed it; and the Welsh baptists
contend that Baptist principles were maintained in the recesses of their mountainous
Principality all along through the dark reign of popery.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William the Conqueror ascended the
British throne in 1066. During his reign, the Waldenses and their disciples from France,
Germany, and Holland, began to emigrate to and abound in England. About the year 1080,
they are said to have propagated their sentiments throughout England; so that not only the
meaner sort in country villages, but the nobility and gentry in the chiefest towns and
cities, embraced their doctrines, and of course adopted the opinions of the Baptists, for
we have no information that any of the Waldenses at this period, had fallen off to infant
baptism. For more than a hundred years, that is from 1100 to 1216, during the successive
reigns of Henry I. Stephen, Henry II. Richard I. and John, the Waldenses increased and
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . We must now pass on to the reign of
Edward II. in 1315, when Walter Lollard, a German preacher of great renown among the
Waldenses, and a friend to believers baptism, came into England and preached with great
effect. His followers and the Waldenses generally in England for many generations after
him were called Lollards . . . .
Just as with all the other names, not all that were called Lollards
were true congregations of Christ's, but many were.
Although it was no little matter to be an
Ana-baptist, or even express agreement with their beliefs, there is good evidence of their
continuous existence during this time throughout England and Wales. We are no doubt
deprived of much of their history from the 1300s to the 1600s, because of the persecution
which forced them to live simple, inconspicuous lives in "out of the way"
places. Not only would records and writings have likely been avoided, many probably were
destroyed by the enemies. Much of their meeting was done in hiding, and in secret. There
were at least some regular "meeting houses" maintained and used when possible.
One is that known as Hill Cliffe. In History of the Baptist Church at Hill Cliffe,
James Kenworthy wrote:
We cannot go back to the foundation of the Hill Cliffe Church, but at
the time that the earliest reference is made to it, it is then in a flourishing condition,
and the very reference itself points to its earlier existence.
The selection of Hill Cliffe as a place of meeting for Christian
worshippers can only be accounted for on the ground that the great object in view was
concealment from their persecutors. It would be impossible to have chosen a better place
for the purpose. Surrounded as it was until recent times by woods, at a safe distance also
from the public highways, and very near the boundary of the counties of Lancaster and
Chester, it was as safe a place as could possibly have been found in those dark days of
persecution. Whenever the persecuting spirit was strong in Lancashire, then the people
would worship at Hill Cliffe, but when the persecuting spirit in Cheshire was the
stronger, the people worshipped in Warrington, there being at the earliest time of which
there remain any records of the existence of Hill Cliffe Chapel, a meeting-house in
connection therewith at Warrington.
On page 31, Kenworthy says:
The earliest evidence of the existence of Hill Cliffe is found on a
stone in the burial ground and bearing date 1357. Another stone has been found with the
date 1414. Another has the date 1523, another 1599, but the dates of the greater portion
of the old stones are lost.
The following are copied from stones in the burial ground:-
HERE LYS YeBODY
OF ELIZABETH PYCROFT WHO
DIED DECEMBER 6,
HERE LYETH THE BODY OF
WILLIAM BATHO OF CHESTER
WHO DIED NOVEMBER 13TH IN YEAR
EXIT FEBRY. J
Many others are then listed, up to about the time the book was written,
the last of which is:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
THE BELOVED PASTOR OF THIS CHURCH,
WHO FELL ASLEEP IN JESUS,
AUGUST 3RD, 1892.
AGED 46 YEARS.
On page 39, Kenworthy says:
During the rebuilding of the chapel in 1800 a stone baptistery, well
cemented, was found in the ground. As no one at the time knew of its existence and it was
evidently of great age, it is likely that as the more troublous times had passed, it fell
into disuse, and the baptism of believers in the brooks and streams in the neighborhood
took place. (From the ministry of the Rev. John Thompson up to recent times, the chief
places of baptisms were at Lower Walton, near the brook that ran through the centre of the
village, and in Cann Lane, Appleton.) This stone baptistery points to the great age for
the chapel and the practice of immersion there.
The first minister of Hill Cliffe of whom anything is known was Mr.
Weyerburton. . . He remained with the people to the end of his days, his death taking
place in 1594.
In Bye-Paths in Baptist History, published in London, in 1871,
J.J. Goadby, on pages 22-23, says:
Although Mr. Weyerburton is the first minister of Hill Cliffe of whom
anything is known, he is not necessarily to be regarded as the earliest minister of the
congregation. Mr. Dainteth succeeded Mr. Weyerburton. The graveyard contains the tomb of
his successor--Thomas Slater Leyland, "a minister of the Gospel," as the
inscription tells us. He was buried in the year preceeding the death of Queen Elizabeth.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mr. Tillam was the minister of Hill Cliffe. Oliver
Cromwell worshipped at the chapel when his army lay at Warrington, and one of his officers
occupied the pulpit. . . . . . . . . . The earliest deeds of the property have been
irrecoverably lost, but the extant deeds, which go back considerably over two hundred
years [this was published in 1871], describe the property as being "for the use of
the people commonly called Anabaptists."
Also, on page 23, Goadby says:
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).
On the next page, he says:
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." It would be historically inaccurate to regard this as the first
intimation of the existence of Baptists, as a separate community in England. Apart from
the probabilities about the still earlier origin of Hill Cliffe Church, it should not be
forgotten that Henry the Eighth had long before 1550 proclaimed to the nation how,
"like a good Catholic priest, he abhorred and detested their (the Anabaptists')
wicked and abominable errors and opinions;" that in his second proclamation, he had
warned all Anabaptists and Zwinglians to depart out of the country, under pain of death;
and that in the third proclamation, when Cranmer was a Protestant archbishop, Cranmer and
eight others were authorized to make diligent search for Anabaptist men, Anabaptist
letters, and Anabaptist books, full power being put into Cranmer's hands to deal capitally
with each offender. The Baptists, in King Edward's days, might have lately sprung up in
Kent, but these proclamations show that they were not then known for the first time in
Goadby also speaks of a John Knott, who, "became the pastor of
Eythorne somewhere between 1590 and 1600."
In The Church in the Hop Garden, "A
Chatty Account of the Longworth-Coate Baptist Meeting: Berks and Oxfordshire (Ante
1481-1935) and its Ministers," John Stanley tells of an Anabaptist meeting-place
being at Longworth, in England, about fourteen miles west of Oxford, in the year 1481, and
then its history up to 1934. In chapter V, Stanley tells of the "first-known definite
fact of the history of the Meeting":
A member of the family, Benjamin Williams, F.S.A., a keen antiquarian,
a hundred years ago compiled the annals of his family, and some very full geneological
tables. He spent many years and much labour on his researches. He starts with an original
Parchment Lease, still in the archives of the family. This is the lease of the Homestead
and Farm in Aston (Coate is now a hamlet of Aston) granted to Richard Williams in the
twenty-first year of Edward IV. (1481), a hundred years after the death of Wycliffe. From
1547, when Thomas Cromwell made the keeping of Parochial Records compulsory, there is a
continuous flow of the family name in the Bampton registers, and the local Court of
So Richard Williams, the farmer, of the days of Edward IV., is regarded
as the founder of the family. The story of the settling is this. A religious persecution
in Wales drove out two brothers named Williams. They were sheep farmers, and brought their
flocks with them. They wandered on until they came into the neighborhood of Witney-- into
a high road between Witney and Bampton. Here is the field known for a thousand years as
Kingsway Field, the great field that Alfred the Great crossed to hold his Parliament at
Shifford. Tempted by the fresh, sweet grass, the sheep broke through the great boundary
hedge into the field. The break is still known as the Welshman's Gap. The Gap is mentioned
in a Bishop's Terrier (an Episcopal "Doomsday Book," now in the Bodleian
Library) as a well-known landmark, in 1577--ninety-six years after one of the emigrants
had obtained the lease at Aston. They crossed the field into Aston. Hungry, weary and
perplexed, they knelt down and besought the Divine Guidance. After the sign-seeking manner
of the times, they threw a straw into the air, determined to follow its direction. It flew
in the direction of Coate. At Coate they came across a friendly farmer, and settled there.
One of the Welshmen married the farmer's daughter and became the progenitor of John
Williams, the Martyr-Missionary. This would be Richard Williams, who leased the Homestead
at Aston. The other brother remained unmarried.
The friendly farmer was an Anabaptist, and worshipped with the
Anabaptist Meeting at Longworth, across the river.
The point to be noted is this: that an Anabaptist Meeting is found at
Longworth about a hundred years after Wycliffe's death, and fifty years before Henry VIII.
formed his new Church of England.
Another congregation that should be mentioned here
was organized in London, in 1633. The following is from pages 138-139 of D.B. Ray's Baptist
Succession, where he quotes from volume I of Thomas Crosby's four volume History of
the English Baptists, published in 1738. Ray says:
Mr. Crosby introduces the testimony of William Kiffen as follows:
"This agrees with an account given of the matter in an ancient manuscript, said to be
written by Mr. William Kiffen, 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 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. 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 this 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 agreed to send over
one Mr. Richard Blunt, 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 Mr. John Batte, 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.
So that those who followed this scheme did not receive their baptism
from the aforesaid Mr. Smith, or his congregation at Amsterdam, it being an
ancient congregation of foreign Baptists in the low countries to whom they
sent." Crosby, vol.I,pp.101, 102; see also, Ivimey, vol.I,p.143; Neal's
Hist. Pur., vol.II, p.361; Orchard, vol.II, p.260.
Here we have the undisputed historic fact, that the Baptists of London
were so careful to obtain valid baptism that they delegated Richard Blunt, formerly a
Pedobaptist minister, to visit a regular Baptist church at Amsterdam, in Holland, which
belonged to the old Waldensean succession. And after the baptism of Richard Blunt by John
Batte, by the authority of said church, he returned to London and baptized Samuel
Blacklock, and they baptized the rest of the company, to the number of fifty-three
members; and thus was formed a Baptist church, which was afterward recognized as a
Particular Baptist church.
After examining Richard Blunt and the letters he brought with him, the
congregation in the Netherlands baptized him and sent him home to London with the
authority, approval, and express purpose of baptizing the fifty-three others and
organizing them into a true congregation. It may seem strange that they did not know of a
congregation in England or Wales from which they could obtain scriptural baptism, but we
must remember the situation of the time and place. The climate of persecution from the
Church of England of those who would not conform dictated that the Lord's congregations
not be very well known about. That they were the same kind, or of like faith and order, is
evident in their fellowship, shortly after, with the other Sovereign Grace Ana-Baptist
congregations of England and Wales, already in existence. The American Baptist Heritage
in Wales, transcribed from the manuscript of "History of the Baptist Churches in
Wales" by Joshua Thomas, a Baptist preacher in Wales who lived from 1719-1797, on
pages 28-29, speaking of the congregation at Olchon, in Wales, says:
No doubt the aged people there well remembered the former troubles,
before 1640. From 1660 to 1688 they were much persecuted despised, yet a remnant continued
through the whole.
They met to worship in various places where they could; sometimes in a
friend's house and often out. One day or night they would meet in some retired place of
the Black Mountain, but when they understood that the informers had heard of the place;
then they would change it and fix upon another spot; thus they shifted from place to
place. A noted rock, they frequented for the purpose, is called, Y Darren ddn, on the west
side of Olchon, and well known still. A little below it, there was then a large wood,
there is part of it now; that wood was often their meeting place. That was the estate of
Mr. Hugh Lewis, a gentleman of property and influence but no persecutor. His son, Mr.
Nathan Lewis, was a strong advocate for the persecuted Baptists. Mr. Thomas Lewis, another
son, was a Baptist after and lived at Abergavenny. There was also a daughter, who was a
member. So on the whole they had favor and interest there.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Notwithstanding all favors and cautions,
the good people were often taken, beaten, abused, fined, and imprisoned. They were hunted
like David, through woods, through mountains, and the rocks of wild goats. Of whom the
world was not worthy, they wandered in desert, mountains, dens and caves. At times when
they met to worship at friends' houses, it was running great risk and hazards.
In a later chapter, we will see the migration of members from these
very congregations, and their offspring, into America.