A Concise History Of The Baptists
By G. H. Orchard



"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them," &c.--Rom. 16:17.

1. The history of these churches is not to be understood as comprehending the whole of that immense tract of land which extends from the Mediterranean Sea on the north to the Cape of Good Hope on the south, but that part principally which runs parallel with, and borders on, the Mediterranean Sea. As to the extent and influence of Christianity on the interior nations of Ethiopia, we have now no means of ascertaining. It is not certain by whom these people were first evangelized. The current opinion is, that the Eunuch first, and afterwards Matthias, labored in the part called Ethiopia: and that Mark, in 39, with Simon and Jude, preached in Egypt, Memorica, Mauritania, and other parts of Africa. [Young on Idolatry, v. 2, p. 216, &c. Robins. Bap. p. 584] It is recorded that Mark baptised Auzebius on a confession of his faith, [Vicecomes’ Life of Auzebius] and that this Evangelist was martyred by the people of Alexandria. The hostility of the nations to the gospel, the unobtruding course of the first disciples, with the obscurity of those persons who formed the first communities, are probable reasons why the materials are so few respecting the churches first planted. It is very evident that the churches of this province were introduced into notice and brought prominently into history by their association with those learned men whose names are recorded as some of the first corrupters of the gospel.

2. The first, and the most fatal of all events to the primitive religion, was the setting up of a Christian academy at Alexandria. Christians had been reproached with illiteracy, and this seemed a plausible method to get rid of the scandal. This school was first kept by Pantaenus, whom Clement first assisted, and then succeeded, as Origen did him. [Rob. Res. p. 51. Mosh Hist. c. 2. p. 1. c. 1. ~ 12, and p. 2, c. 1, ~ 4] In this school baptism was first associated with a learned education. Here minor baptism began with young gentlemen under age, and afterwards gradually descended to boys of seven years of age, where it stood for centuries in the hierarchies. [Rob. Bap. p. 155] Here youths were first incorporated and became church members by baptism: before, baptism had only signified a profession of the religion at large. In this school human creeds were first taught and united with baptism. [Id. p. 227]

In apostolic days a simple expression of faith was required of each candidate, Acts 8:37, but in after-periods, to accommodate the ignorance of catechumens, short sentences were drawn up for the candidate to utter. [Wall’s Hist. p. 2, c. 9, sec. 10] These sentences were in this school improved into a creed or compendium of doctrines, a knowledge of which was thought essential to the catechumens, and the acquirement of which occasioned a delay, from forty days to uncertain years, and some put off the ordinance till the close of life. [Rob. Bap. p. 239; Gibb. Rom. Hist. c. 20] "We know," says Dr. Wall, "that every one repeated the creed at his baptism, either by himself or his sponsors. [Hist. Inf. Bap. p. 2, c. 9, sec. 5] And "as abstinence, prayer, and other pious exercises, prepared persons for baptism; it was to answer for such persons, as offered themselves for baptism, having attended to these duties or exercises," observes Mosheim, "that sponsors were appointed." [Ecc. Hist. C. 2, p. 2, c. 2, sec. 13] These exercises of the candidates for baptism were afterward known by the term of exorcising him, or putting him to his oath." [Wall’s Hist. p. 2, c. 9, sec. 9] From which oath probably the term sacrament had its rise. [Dr. P. Smith’s Intro. Essay to Leighton on the Creed]

3. The evils attendant on the union of Christianity with Judaism, Paganism, and philosophy which was effected in this school, occasioned swarms of dissidents in Africa. Among those who were hostile to the Alexandrian school, is to be numbered MONTANUS. His aim evidently was to maintain or restore the scriptural simplicity and native character of the religion of the New Testament, with a constant reliance on the promised aid of the Holy Spirit. He consequently declared himself a mortal enemy to philosophy and religion. He adopted a severe discipline, and yet proved very successful in planting many churches, whose members were far from the lowest orders, over various provinces. He is reproached as a heretic by all state paid clergy, though it is very probable his attempts were designed to recover Christianity to its original spiritual character. [Mosh. Hist. c. ii. p. 2, c. 5, ~ 23-4; Jortin’s Rem. on Ec. Hist. v. 2, pp. 1-3]

4. When Pantaneus was called to fill a missionary station in the East, CLEMENS, who had been his assistant, succeeded to the office of catechist in the Alexandrian school. Clemens was born at Athens, and had realized the advantages of an early education. While he sustained the character of a schoolmaster, he directed his attention to the Gospel, with the newly arranged doctrines of Plato, and endeavored, through these opposite sources, to form an imaginary coalition, in order to render learning more palatable to Christians, and to meet in part the prejudices of heathen. Presiding, as Clemens did, over the academy, he tinctured the fountain of knowledge with the poison of his system, which proved of the most serious consequences to the cause of Christianity. The boys under his superintendence were trained to sing his compositions; and a choir of those, who were supposed to be pious, was appointed in the church resembling the heathen orgies. [Rob. Bap. 163]

During his filling this office, he wrote a book entitled "Pedagogue." Jesus was the pedagogue, and all disciples were children. To support this view he selected the words, child, children, little children, little ones, babes, &c. out of the Scriptures, to prove the character of true disciples. He calls the church of Alexandria "a Choir of Infants." For these infants his instructions were intended, as the book is a Christian’s directory, and contains some plain admonitions to avoid the excesses visible in the world. The Egyptian symbols expressive of infancy were honey and milk; Clemens would have these symbols given to newly baptized persons, to remind them of their infancy in grace. [Mosh. Hist. C. 2, p. 2, c. 2, ~ 6; Wall’s Hist. p. 2, c. 9] A door was now opened into the church for Jewish ceremonies, Egyptian images, Pagan rites, and oriental science. "As there were many persons of narrow capacities, the Christian teachers thought it advisable to instruct such in the essential truths of the gospel, by placing those truths, as it were, before their eyes, under visible objects or images." [Mosh. Hist. ubi sup.]

5. Ammonius Saccas, who was born of Christian parents, became a very learned man, and a professor of the Christian religion. He also was a teacher and became very popular in the Alexandrian school. He attempted to reconcile all parties by those general truths all parties held, and by various subtleties in argument, supported by austerities of life, won too successfully on inquiring youths and the carnal multitude. Here we discover a broad entrance into the Christian profession, and it is not difficult to discover the extensive and mixed company that entered. The infirmities of the weak and ignorant were to be accommodated by symbolic instruction. Symbols and images required some learning to explain them; besides ignorance was a disgrace in the Athens of Africa.

The learned men of the school, with the ministers and explainers of symbols, allegorized every thing, and darkened by figures the plainest truths. But what is learning, without gazing and admiring disciples? A system of extensive comprehension must establish the reputation of the deviser, and this stretch of charity and sagacity is awarded rightly to Saccas. Converted Jews came into this new system with their full attachment to the mint, anise, and cummin of their old economy. Heathens, alike converted, professed this Christianity, and at the same time, respected the departed manes of their ancestors. Others were equally accommodated on the ground of allowed truths, and all this motley group were held together by forbearance and charity: and to complete this system of expediency in Africa, the teachers declared, the employment of falsehood in the cause of virtue was harmless! [Mosh. Hist. C. 2, p. 2, c. 1,~6--11]

6. TERTULLIAN was a lawyer at Carthage. He became a Christian, and joined the church in that city. His views on baptism we have already mentioned. He was elected an elder, and wrote ably in defence of the Christian religion. It was reputed in 215, that the tenth part of the inhabitants were Christians, and there were many congregations in other parts. Tertullian thought they had increased too fast, and lost in the crowd the simplicity of the Christian religion. Awhile he had endeavored to stem the torrent, by a strict scrutiny at the admission of members, and as several came to join the church, who had been, or pretended they had been baptized elsewhere, he insisted on re-examining and rebaptizing them, unless they could make it appear that they had been baptized by churches in communion with that of Carthage. [Rob. Hist. Bap. c. 22, p. 183]

7. Tertullian was inquired of, by a rich lady named Quintilla, who lived at Pepuza, a town in Phrygia, whether infants might be baptized on condition, they ask to be baptized and produce sponsors?+ In reply to Quintilla, Tertullian observes, "That baptism ought not to be administered rashly, the administrators of it know. Give to him that asketh? every one hath a right, as if it were a matter of alms? yea, rather say, Give not that which is holy to dogs, cast not your pearls before swine, lay hands suddenly on no man, be not partakers of other men’s sins. If Philip baptized the eunuch on the spot, let us remember that it was done under the immediate direction of the Lord .... the eunuch was a believer of Scripture, the instruction given by Philip was seasonable; the one preached, the other perceived the Lord Jesus, and believed on him; water was at hand, and the apostle having finished the affair was caught away. But Paul, you say, was baptized instantly: true; because Judas, in whose house he was, instantly knew he was a vessel of mercy. The condescension of God may confer his favors as he pleases; but our wishes may mislead ourselves and others. It is therefore most expedient to defer baptism, and to regulate the administration of it according to the condition, the disposition, and the age of the person to be baptized; and especially in the case of little ones. What necessity is there to expose sponsors to danger?* Death may incapacitate them for fulfilling their engagements, or bad dispositions may defeat all their endeavors." [Id. ch. 21] "Jesus Christ said indeed, hinder them not, &c., but that they should come to him as soon as they are advanced in years, as soon as they have learnt their religion, when they may be taught whither they are going, when they are become Christians, when they begin to know Jesus Christ. What is there that should compel this innocent age to receive baptism? and since they are not allowed the disposal of temporal goods, is it reasonable that they should be entrusted with the concerns of heaven?" [Dupin’s Eccl. Hist. cent. 3, p. 80] "They just know how to ask for salvation, that you may seem to give to him that asketh. Such as understand the importance of baptism, are more afraid of presumption than procrastination, and faith alone saves the soul." [Rob. ubi. sup.]

[+ When Baptism was made to convey a saving influence, an inquiry was agitated in the eastern churches, "What becomes of the unbaptized?" The answer was, "None are saved without baptism." For penitents, martyrs, and others, therefore, dying unbaptized, the Greeks allotted a middle place, called by the Latins Limbus Puerorum. Wall, pt. i.p. 160. It was during the agitation of this question in the East, that Quintilla made this inquiry, and what might have encouraged her to submit her anxieties to Tertullian was, the report that in the African churches, particularly at Carthage and Alexandria, a great many infants were employed in the church as readers. Her inquiry amounts to this, "How early might children be baptized after they can speak so as to be understood?" Rob. Bap. ch. 21, p. 171. Mr. Robinson has proved that the words infants, little ones, &c. are terms too vague for argument, or to ground a rite upon. He has amply shown that these words, at this period, were expressive of minors: as infants were employed in the church service, are said to have composed hymns, willed away property, erected churches, were made bishops, and presbyters, suffered martyrdom; various ages expressive of minority were inscribed on tombs; as Menophylus, an infant, who lived eight years and five months. Also it is said infants married, &c. &c. So that the terms in early days among these churches, were expressive of youths under legal responsibility. Hist. Bap. c. 19.]

[* This is plainly the opinion of a lawyer on the delicate situation of sponsors under a heathen government. Minors were not of age till 25. The law had taken no cognizance of baptism, and if persecution should commence, minors and sponsors would be involved in sufferings, for encouraging a community not incorporated by law. Rob. Hist. of Bap. p. 179.]

8. This is the first recorded reference in history to minor baptism. The mildness of Tertullian’s manner evinces the spirit of the Christian, and proves his answer given to be an opinion supported by Scripture and the custom of the church. He is not encountering a rite long established; if it had been so, we should have seen, with his views of baptism, something of that burst of genius against the innovation, as we find so firmly and finely displayed in his defence of Christianity. From the inquiries, we see the New Testament examples alone regulated the female preacher’s views. These were illustrated by Tertullian in a way exhibiting a preparation necessary in order to receive baptism. The lady observed that the eunuch and Paul received baptism as soon as they asked for the ordinance; he shows these to have been extraordinary cases, and therefore cannot be taken to support the case of children, who understand not what they ask for. He refers to Scripture, and says, let them come, let them ask, let them be instructed. Why should they attend an ordinance which is expressive of death to sin, who are innocent of known sins?

The children referred to were not unconscious infants, but those who could ask, just ask, for things without knowing their value; and upon such, men do not confer temporal good, then why spiritual? Besides, a change in the policy of government would render a sponsor’s situation very critical, or an evil disposition in the baptized would rescind his benevolent designs.

9. In the creed bearing Tertullian’s name, no reference is made to infant baptism: [Jortin’s Rem. v. ii. b. 2. pt. 2. p. 25] and though Christians were charged with eating their own offspring,--which calumny they considered the most cruel, and this slander he refers to in his Apology, chap. 7, and all their books are full of the subject;--yet not one syllable transpires about infant baptism. [Robins. Res. p. 49] Tertullian could recommend expediency in religion, and was an admirer of those rites and ceremonies adopted in the Alexandrian school. He advocated giving honey and milk to the newly baptized, signing with the cross, triune immersion and anointing the baptized. [Wall’s Hist. pt. 2. pp. 281-291] A man who could so far lose sight of the beautiful simplicity of the gospel would never have opposed the infant rite, had such practice been known in his days. His eldership in the church at Carthage, his careful examination of candidates, with his rebaptizing those who came over from other churches, prove that this rite was unknown in the Carthaginian church. On the subject of minor baptism we find nothing more for forty years. The corruption of the church with which Tertullian stood connected at Carthage, was more than a match for his reforming zeal, he consequently quitted it, and united himself to the Montanists, about six years after he had given them his views on baptism. In this society Tertullian’s principles met encouragement; his austerity was indulged; and the purity of communion sought in the old church, was realized in its wished-for sanctity. A separate congregation of these people was formed by him at Carthage, which continued two hundred years. Tertullian’s method of admitting members with the Montanists, was by severe examination, and they rebaptized all such as joined them from other communities. He advocated every Christian man’s preaching, baptizing, and administering ordinances; and for dispensing with a separate order of men termed clergy. [Robins. Bap. 183]

10. ORIGEN was a native of Alexandria, and was born of Christian parents: he received his education under Clemens and Ammonius Saccas. He assisted Clemens as catechist when eighteen years of age. In this school pupils were not baptized at their first admission into the academy, which is clear by the case of six martyrs, two of whom died unbaptized. Origen is said to have accompanied his pupils to the place of execution. When the school was broken up, some were catechumens, and others had been lately baptized. Origen was a man of sober morals: but he was an eccentric genius, and his theological speculations were the most wild and extravagant in the world. [Rob. Bap. pp. 223, 224, 227] It was held as a maxim in this school, and Origen supported it, "that it was not only lawful, but even praiseworthy to deceive, and even to use the expedient of a lie, in order to advance the cause of truth and piety." About the time Origen went to school, the affairs of religion underwent a very considerable change. As the old pastors were removed by death, the new ones, and particularly those from the Alexandrian school, were for introducing the new doctrines and discipline, so that a mixture of Jewish, Gentile, and Christian modes, formed a code of laws for religious affairs. Origen embraced eagerly this new species of doctrines, explaining the Scriptures in the most licentious manner, which proved exceedingly pernicious to the interests of true religion. His symbolic views were auxiliary to his own mutilation. He advocated strongly the new system of education, and though many of the pious opposed it, from their convictions of its pernicious consequences on the minds of ministers, yet Origen’s influence prevailed, and Platonism and Christianity triumphed.

Origen’s views of believers’ baptism we have detailed. The genuine Greek works of this writer contain nothing in favor of infant baptism, but on the contrary, baptism is always spoken of in relation to the adult. The Latin pieces of this Father do speak of infant baptism,* but they are proved by Dr. Gale to be spurious parts. [Reflec. on Wall. Let. 13, pp. 417-19]

[* Dr. Wall quotes the following to prove the uninterrupted practice of infant baptism. Origen is made to say, "Having occasion given in this place, I will mention a thing, that causes frequent inquiries among the brethren: Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Of what sins? or when have they sinned? None is free from pollution, though his life be the length of one day upon earth: and it is for that reason, because by the sacrament of baptism the pollution of this birth is taken away, that infants are baptized." [Hist. pt. 1. p. 5] If this quotation was genuine, it would prove from the frequent inquiries, paedobaptism to have been a modern thing. But Origen’s infants were not babes, but the boys and girls of the church school. See Rob. Res. p. 53, and authorities.]

11. CYPRIAN, a high churchman, and a paragon to clergymen of every age, was born at Carthage. In 246 he entered on a Christian profession, and united himself to the dominant church in that city. Robinson says, he was an ignorant fanatic, and as great a tyrant as ever lived. His affluence was considerable, and probably from his largesses, and benevolent distribution of property, he was chosen two years after to the bishopric. In this situation Cyprian described the generality of professors as "worldly-minded, and greedy of gain. Luxury and effeminacy were very prevalent; profaneness was unrestrained. The intermarriages of Christians and heathens, by no means rare. The most outrageous quarrels and disputes were carried on among them with bitter and malignant acrimony. Even pastors were not only neglectful of their flocks, but entirely deserted them. Covetous, fraudulent, and usurious, they travelled through distant provinces in quest of pleasure and gain." Many of the clergy were unmarried, but, who, however, kept single sisters, or beloveds of singular beauty and in the prime of life. This abuse as well as all others mostly prevailed in Africa, and to the honor of Cyprian, he endeavored to reform or remove these corrupt practices. But the subject was found too indelicate to unfold, and these virgins and mothers were too closely married to the religious establishments to be put asunder.* These proceeds of sinful practices were evidently the result of forty years’ peace. During this time the emperor and governors had been tolerant in their measures, and as before observed, professors were found in almost every station under government. Cyprian’s reforming measures were supported by the efforts and labors of Donatus; but from some cause a separation ensued, probably from the former’s jealousy of a rival, consequently the beneficial services of Donatus do not appear.

[* Dupin, Cyprian; Mosh. Hist. C. 3. p. 2. c. 2. ~ 4-6; Robins. Hist. Bap. 201; Morris’ Biog. note. It is very natural to conclude that these "holy fathers" would make provision for their offspring in their respective churches; such no doubt was the case in the infant singers, infant readers, which were found in the churches of Africa at this period. Robins. Hist. Bap. pp. 171, 172, 178.]

12. In the year 249, Decius ascended the throne. His edicts required all persons to embrace the pagan worship. The churches were unprepared for measures so severe. Apostacy or death were the only terms proposed; and to see these enforced, officers were especially appointed. The consequences were very serious to professors. Cities and towns were depopulated, hills and mountains swarmed with inhabitants. It is very evident that Africa abounded at this period with persons who professed the gospel. Fox says, Donatus fell a martyr, but Cyprian sequestered himself. This state of things lasted about two years, when Cyprian returned to Carthage.

On resuming his charge and station in the church, he assumed considerable self-importance. He pleaded the cause of the clergy with more than ordinary zeal, exhibiting their claims and rights from different sources unknown before. Those who had apostatized during the "fiery and bloody trial" Cyprian considered had, by their conduct, renounced their previous faith and baptism; and that, as expressions of sorrow and re-conversion, they should again profess their repentance and faith, and be again baptized in order to reenter the communion of the church. This act of re-baptizing separated the Roman and Carthaginian churches, and they in solemn assembly mutually anathematized each other. Cyprian’s conduct and proceeding, not meeting the approbation of Novatus, he with others withdrew, and united with Novatian at Rome. How soon after his seceding from the church of Carthage, Novatus returned to that city, we know not; but it is evident the Novatianists, with the Montanists, had a church or churches in Cyprian’s diocese.

13. It is stated that a country minister, named Fides, wrote a letter to Cyprian in 257, to ascertain how soon after birth, children might be baptized. The existence of such a letter has been questioned [Rob. Hist. of Bap. 195]: and Jortin admits that some statements of Cyprian’s are not to be credited, [Daille’s Use of the Fathers, b. 2. c. 2. reas. 2. p. 11] and particularly since many of the Fathers of this age contradict themselves and each other. [Remarks, &c. v. ii. b. 2. pt. 2. p. 77] But admitting all the circumstances to be correct, the inquiry proves that the subject was novel and the practice unestablished. Cyprian, not having any such practice in the church at Carthage, could not answer this letter: he consequently called together, in a private way, those brethren in the vicinity;* and to them he submitted the business. The characters of those pastors we have already exhibited from Cyprian’s own lamentation, which is supported by Mosheim, who asserts, that "many of the sacred order, especially in Africa, consented to satisfy the desires of the people, by abstaining from the pleasures of a conjugal life, and endeavored to do this in such a manner, as not to offer an entire violence to their own inclinations. For this purpose, they formed connections with those women who had made vows of perpetual chastity; and it was an ordinary thing to admit one of these fair saints to the participation of his bed, but, still under the most solemn declarations, that nothing passed in this commerce that was contrary to the rules of chastity and virtue." [Mosh. Hist. C. 3. pt. 2 c. 2. ~ 6] Credat Judaeus Apella. Sixty-six bishops, without frocks or state pensions, as thus described, were brought together, and "Agreed that the grace of God should be withheld from no son of man--that a child might be kissed with the kiss of Christian charity as a brother, so soon as born--that Elisha prayed to God, and stretched himself on the infant. That the eighth day was observed in the Jewish circumcision, was a type going before--which type ceased when the substance came. If sinners can have baptism, how much sooner infants, who being newly born, have no sin, save being descended from Adam. This, therefore, dear brother, was our opinion in this assembly that it is not for us to hinder any person from baptism and the grace of God, who is merciful and kind, and affectionate to all. Which rule as it holds for all; so we think it more especially to be observed in reference to infants and persons newly baptized," &c. [Wall’s Hist. C. 3. pt. 2. c. 2. ~ 6]

[* These meetings could not be held publicly because of the jealousy and persecution of the emperors. Dupin. c. 3. v. i. p. 172. The council of Sinuessa in Africa, A.D. 303, was held in a grotto. Id. C. 4. v. ii. p. 2’{0.]

14. Here infant baptism is entirely different from that proposed in the time of Tertullian. That was the baptism of little ones, who asked to be baptized; this, of new-born babes. That was supported and rejected by New Testament texts and arguments; this is grounded on, and defended, and regulated by Jewish law. That required the consent of sponsors; this mentions none. That was a joining them to the church; this is a dedicating of them to God. [Rob. His. of Bap. p. 198] This assembly made no reference to any command; the ministers allude to no example going before; if the custom had prevailed at Carthage, no assembly would have been required to answer the inquiries; and when the ministers decide, they only render an opinion which they call their agreement, nor do they support their opinion by reference to any of the previous Fathers, nor do their reasons agree with those fostered on Origen a few years before. The views of these ministers imply that, in withholding baptism, the grace of God would not be conferred on the sons of men; a sufficient evidence of their degeneracy. While the churches remained independent of each other, this association of ministers could only give an opinion, and recommend the practice; but any part of the assembly was at perfect liberty, at any time, to depart or abstain from the recommendation. "It does not appear,’’ says Robinson, "that infants were baptized at Carthage, or any where else, except in the country where Fidus lived. An opinion of council, that Fidus ought to baptize infants, is very far from proving that the advisers did so, who were in different circumstances." [Rob. Bap. p. 199] Mr. R. Baxter acknowledges "that Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian, do all of them affirm that, in primitive times, none were baptized without an express covenanting, wherein they renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil, and engaged themselves to Christ, and promised to obey him." [Danver’s Hist. p. 63] This concession of Mr. Baxter is supported by history, and proves Cyprian and his colleagues to have been the first supporters of infant baptism. An eye-witness says of these Africans, "in spite of their vain boast of orthodoxy, they were pagans and blasphemers, who worshipped idols in secret, and dedicated their children in their infancy to demons."+ They were more wicked in morals than the pagan Romans had ever been; there was no crime they did not practise." [Rob. His. of Bap. c. 22, p. 183] The rules of discipline adopted in general assemblies of ministers, for retaining the clergy, exhibit an awful picture of lewdness. Yet to these men infant baptism is traced, and the persons among whom the practice afterward flourished were men whose mental characters and pretensions in religion were far below zero in the Christian thermometer. [Vossius De Baptismo, Disp. 1, c. 6, 7, 8, and Bap. Mag. v.i.p. 435. Dupin, Council of Elvira.]

[+ It is a fact that infant dedication to God by baptism, was first heard of in Africa. A mistaken charity probably first suggested infant baptism. Fides, the inquirer, lived among the barbarians who sacrificed children their gods. Tertullian complained of this custom, and it was long before the Africans left it off. The Bible taught Fides how the Jews dedicated children to God, and it was very desirable to rescue children from the fire and dedicate them to Christ. Reeve’s Apologies of the Fathers, v.2,~ 30 p. 148. Rob. Bap.. p. 199. In the services of the church, youths were ployed in Africa. Now, if the fixed time of their admission could be the eighth day, instead of the eighth year, Fides hoped to rescue babes from the service of idols. For this early date he sought advice. "This view is supported," says Robinson, "by the writings of Tertullian, Cyprian, Victor, Optatus, Arnobius, Minueius," &c. Bap. pp. 185-195.]

15. Africa, towards the close of the third century, presents nothing of a lovely feature. We should have refrained detailing such protuberances of corruption, had not the sources of infant baptism been assiduously and logically kept from inquirers. So far from the practice of paedobaptism prevailing, there is no evidence of its existence, after the opinions of these sixty-six bishops were given. One hundred years after, complaints were common, that the tender mothers could not be prevailed with to put their children into the water at baptism. [Wall’s Hist. pt. 1, c. 10, p. 111] The fact is allowed, that youths were admitted into the old African churches, on repeating a creed, and these were employed in singing and reading; but "no one," says Wall, "could hold office, or devote himself to the service of the church, who was not baptized." [Hist. pt. 1, c. 17, p. 256] It is also equally evident that minors’ baptism, with infant baptism, was first heard of in Africa. [Rob. Bap. p. 449] But as to the practice of paedobaptism at the end of this third century, we shall here subjoin testimonies that cannot be refuted.

16. The Magdeburgh Centuriators say, "Concerning the African churches, great corruption did prevail respecting the ordinance of baptism, at least in opinion, both as to the subject, time, manner, and ceremonies, though as to practice, they could not give any particular instance." [Cent. 3. in Danver’s, 0. 62] "None," says Mosheim, "were now admitted to baptism, until by menacing and formidable shouts and declamations of the exorcists, they had been delivered from the dominion of the Prince of darkness, and consecrated to the service of God." [Hist. of the Ch. cent. 3, p. 2. c. 4, ~4] Gibbon says, "the severity of ancient bishops exacted from the new converts a novitiate of two or three years." [Ro. Hist. c. 20] See references above, ch. i. s. 3, ~ 6, 7.

17. The importance attached to baptism, in this century, led corrupt bishops to consider the case and situation of those who were in prison on account of religion, and who at the same time expressed their anxiety to be perfected in the Christian character by the ordinance. Penitents on their dying couches also desired the waters of salvation with those catechumens who, viewing the ordinance as conveying purity, had deferred baptism till sickness prevented immersion. Such persons in these circumstances were accommodated, as in the case of Lawrence, who poured a pitcher of water on a soldier in prison. This mode of proceeding in case of necessity, and the trifling importance as to the quantity of water under such circumstances, is argued by Cyprian. [Wall’s Hist. pt. 2, c. 9, ~ 2, p. 354] Pouring as a substitute for baptism, and afterwards its co-partner, sprinkling, appear to have been invented in Africa, particularly the latter; though the most depraved catholic owned it to be no baptism, and cases are on record of those who could hold no office in the church until they had been immersed, though they had received baptism by aspersion in sickness. [Wall, ib.]

18. Persons, professing the Christian religion, and who never stood connected with the Carthaginian church, abounded through Africa. The sects or denominations were very many, though the African interest over which Cyprian presided, has claimed most of the attention of historians from furnishing the readiest materials. Its assumed authority, its spiritual tyranny, and its excessive corruptions, stand prominent on the records of those times. Among the denominations of that day may be named, the Bardesanes, Basilides, Valentinians, Ophites, Monarchians, Patropassians, Hieracites, Sabellians: these, with others, appear to have originated in Africa. Perhaps the most numerous sect were the Manicheans, who appear to have abounded in this province. There were some churches of the Montanists and the Novatianists in this quarter, but as to their extent or influence we are ignorant. These African dissidents, if we may so call them, present fulness and variety. They were found in every degree of distance from the ruling party, by whom they were all termed heretics, and by whom they were all persecuted without regarding their proximity or remoteness of faith; so that it is apparent their hatred arose, not from heresy, but from the quintessence of their dissent, the love of religious liberty, the Upas tree to all religious hierarchies. See Rob. Hist. of Bap. c. 22, and Mosh. Eccl. Hist. cent. 2, p.



Home | Salvation | Statement of Faith | Baptist History

Bible Doctrine | False Doctrines and Cults | Bible Versions Issues

Biblical Prophecy | Biblically Relevant News | Discussion Forums

Missions | Patriotic American Issues | On Line Christian Library