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



"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and I will receive you."--2 Cor. 6:17.

1. At the commencement of the fourth century, distinct and separate bodies of professed Christians continued to exist throughout the Roman empire. Each church had an elder to preside, while in every province one bishop was invested with a superiority over others, in point of rank and authority. The ancient method of church government seemed, in general, still to subsist, while at the same time, by imperceptible steps, it varied from the primitive rule, and degenerated towards the form of a religious monarchy. This change in church affairs, which commenced last century, was followed by a train of vices which dishonor the character of those who presided over ecclesiastical affairs. [Mosh. Ec. Hist. v.i.p. 193, c. 2] In 303, Diocletian, the emperor, after repeated importunities from the pagan priests and others, who were alarmed at the increase of Christians, and the dangers attending their ancient superstition; issued an edict, requiring the Scriptures to be given up to his officers. A fire breaking out in the palace was charged upon Christians, which excited the emperor to severe measures. All bishops were now imprisoned. The third edict encouraged tortures, and every diabolical means were used in order to bring Christians over to sacrifice to the gods. Afflictions disgracefully sinful were inflicted, which cannot decently be explained. Africa is said by Eusebius [Ec. Hist. lib. 8. cap. 1--10] to have produced vast numbers of martyrs. The diligence and zeal of the Roman magistrates, in executing these edicts, had like to have proved fatal to the Christian interest. In 306 Constantine, born in to Britain, was saluted emperor, and in 311, Galerius published an edict, ordering all persecution to cease, which was confirmed by Constantine, who in 313 granted a toleration to all persons professing Christianity.

2. On peace being realized in 311, the members, presbyters, and others, in the Carthaginian church, made choice of a pastor to preside over that interest. This business was managed without calling together the various members of the community, and a serious rupture ensued. [Claude’s Del. of the Reform, v. ii. p. 3. c. 4] One objection raised against Cecilian, the new bishop, was, that during the persecution he had delivered the holy Scriptures to the officers of Diocletian. One Donatus took a prominent station in opposition to the choice of the church, and many persons supported his views. "By his superior abilities and virtues," says Gibbon [Ro. Hist. c. 21], "he was the firmest supporter of his party." This controversy, in a short time, spread far and wide, not only throughout Numidia, says Mosheim, but even throughout all the provinces of Africa, which entered so zealously into this ecclesiastical war, that in most cities there were two bishops, one at the head of the catholic party, and the other presiding over the Donatists. [Ec. Hist. C. 4, c. 5, ~ 2] The churches of the latter amounted to four hundred. [Rob. Hist. of Bap. p. 213]

3. These seceders or dissenters in Africa, were called DONATISTS, from the name of their reformer, though by some they were called Montenses. The Donatists did not differ from the catholics in doctrine, [Camp. Ec. Lect. p. 240] but in morals, and they seceded on the grounds of discipline from the community. [History of the Donatists, p. 60] The Donatists maintained that the church ought to be made up of just and holy men, or at least of those who are such in appearance; and that although wicked men might lurk in the church it would not harbor those who were known to be such. [Dupin’s Ch. Hist. C. 4, c. 3] They were zealous in requiring penitence of all those who united with them, and the narrow and solitary way, observes Gibbon, which their first leaders marked out, continued to deviate from the great society of mankind. [Rob. Hist. c. 21] They thought the church ought to be kept separate from the world, a religious society voluntarily congregated together for pious purposes. With this view they admitted none to fellowship without a personal profession of faith and holiness; and them they baptized. [Rob. Hist. of Bap. p. 215] They baptized converts from paganism, and they re-baptized all those persons who came over to their fellowship from other communities; [Mosheim. ib.] they were very careful to remove from their places of worship every thing that bore any resemblance to worldly communities. [Gibbon’s Ro. Hist. c. 21] While the Catholics, under Constantine, were ornamenting their sanctuaries, so as to resemble heathen temples, the Donatists’ zeal prompted them to clear the walls and floors of their places of worship of all vestiges of the ancient superstition. The regard which they paid to purity of communion, occasioned their being stigmatized with the term Puritans. [Jones, ubi sup.]

4. The Donatists and Novatianists very nearly resembled each other in doctrines and discipline; [Id. v. i. 472] indeed they are charged by Crispin, a French historian, with holding together in the following things: First, For purity of church members, by asserting that none ought to be admitted into the church but such as are visibly true believers and real saints; Secondly, For purity of church discipline; Thirdly, For the independency of each church; and, Fourthly, they baptized again those whose first baptism they had reason to doubt. [Danver’s Treat. p. 272] They were consequently termed Re-baptizers, and Anabaptists. [Baronius’ Ann. see above ch. 2, sect. 1st. ~ 5, note 9, references] Osiander says, our modern anabaptists were the same with the Donatists of old. [Danvers, ib.] Fuller, the English church historian, asserts, that the Baptists in England, in his days, were the Donatists new dipped [Idem.]: and Robinson declares, they were Trinitarian Anabaptists. [Hist. of Bap. p. 216]

5. The disputes between the Donatists and Catholics were at their height, when Constantine became fully invested with imperial power: A.D. 314. The catholic party solicited the services of the emperor, who, in answer, appointed commissions to hear both sides, but this measure not giving satisfaction, he even condescended to hear the parties himself; but his best exertions could not effect a reconciliation. The interested part that Constantine took in the dispute led the Donatists to inquire, What has the emperor to do with the church? What have Christians to do with kings? or What have bishops to do at court? Constantine, finding his authority questioned and even set at nought by these Baptists, listened to the advice of his bishops and court, and deprived the Donatists of their churches.

This persecution was the first which realized the support of a Christian emperor, and Constantine went so far as to put some of the Donatists to death. The Circumcellians, men of no religion, saw these Puritans oppressed, and from sympathy, and a love of native freedom, actually took up arms in their defence. [This conduct of these men is always represented to the disparagement of the Donatists, but later records of Protestants leave the Donatists with credit in this defensive war.] Every thing now combined to disturb the peace of the province, to prevent which the emperor found it necessary to abrogate those laws he had previously made against the Donatists. His superstitious regard to the rites of the church, and the Catholic clergy, increased as he declined in life, and consequently through their influence he issued, in 330, his edict against all Dissidents and Seceders from the orthodox cause. These views and measures he supported till 337, when death terminated his career.

The ensuing emperors were influenced generally by the stipendiary bishops, consequently chequered circumstances attended dissenters. In 362 Julian permitted the exiled Donatists to return and enjoy the sweets of liberty, which revived the denomination, and by their zeal and unceasing efforts, brought over, in a short time, the greatest part of the African provinces to espouse their interest. From various sources of information, it is most evident that the Donatists were a most powerful and numerous body of dissenters, [Mosheim’s Ec. Hist. ubi supra.] almost as numerous as the catholics, which, considering the strictness of their discipline, and their close adherence to the laws of Zion, is a subject of pleasing reflection. Their influence must have been considerable, since as Mr. Jones remarks, "There was scarcely a city or town in Africa in which there was not a Donatist church." [Ecc. Lect. v. i. p. 474]

6. OPTATUS, Bishop of Mela, or Milevi, a city of Numidia, wrote a book against the Donatist separation, addressed principally to Parmenianus, a minister of that persuasion. In this book he charges the Donatists with removing sacred things out of those places of worship, which came into their possession from other denominations; with washing the walls of such sanctuaries; and thinking themselves more holy than others. He charges them with re-baptizing catholics as if they were heathens; and asserts, in opposition to the views held by the Donatists, that "all men that come into the world, though they be born of Christian parents, are filled with an unclean spirit, which must be driven away by baptism. This is done by the exorcism, which drives away the spirit, and makes it fly into remote places. After this the heart of man becomes a most pure habitation, God enters and dwells there; when therefore you re-baptize men, you drive out God from his habitation, and the devil re-enters." He does not charge them with unsoundness in the faith, but declares, "All Christians have one faith and one creed." Speaking of the persecution they experienced, he considered the justice of God sent it upon the Donatists to revenge the dishonor they had done to the waters of baptism. Their success in proselyting catholics occasioned Optatus to call them thieves and heretics. [Rob. Hist. of Bap. p. 189. 96. Optatus] To make baptism valid, he says, three things are necessary, The Trinity, the faith of him that receives it, the faithfulness of the minister; and then there is no occasion of re-baptizing. He argues, that the faith of him who receives baptism, is necessary to the validity of the sacrament. This view of exorcising the candidate proves Optatus to have been ignorant of modern paedobaptism. [Dupin’s Ch. Hist. C. 4. v. ii. pp. 87--96. Optatus]

7. In 377, the emperor Gratian, influenced probably by the catholic party, who envied the growing prosperity of the Donatists, deprived them of their churches, and prohibited all their assemblies, public and private; but their number and influence prevented the edict being fully executed. At some period during this century, and very probably while under suppressing edicts in Africa, the doctrines and discipline of the Donatists were established in Spain and Italy; but their influence in other kingdoms bore no comparison to their numbers, importance, and operations in their native province. These people maintained their popularity through the century, and continued formidable to their enemies through the ensuing age, but afterwards we shall trace them declining in credit and numbers. Two circumstances combining about the end of this century, operated prejudicially to their interests; the one was a division among themselves about a man named Maximin, which discord was very considerably aided by the catholics, in order to weaken their energies and importance; the other was, the rise, credit, efforts, and influence of Augustin, bishop of Hippo, with the court of Rome. [Mosh. Hist. C. 4 p. 2. c. 5. ~ 6]

8. AUGUSTIN was born at Thagaste in Numidia (Algiers) A.D. 354, of Christian parents. He was not baptized in infancy. His early life was dissolute, from which conduct he had been unfavorably represented by various writers.* His change of views on religion took place while he was under Ambrose’s ministry at Milan, by whom he was first baptized. It is probable that Augustin imbibed from the Milanese bishop, the spirit of usurpation and tyranny so prominent in his proceedings. Some parts of this Father’s works are excellent, the reading of which will convince any Christian, that he was well acquainted with the innate depravity of the heart. Soon after his baptism he gave up his profession, and returned to Africa, where he was again baptized by Valerius, bishop of Hippo. Here he rose to eminence in the church, and contended with four classes of dissenters from various motives. The Arians he disputed with on the doctrine of the Trinity: the Pelagians, on the points of original sin, and the ingenite state and power of the human will to spiritual duties:++ the Manicheans, on the origin of virtue and vice, and the Donatists on the ceremonies of the church and the expediency of infant baptism. It is probable that Augustin, in the heat of controversy expressed himself on different subjects more energetically than he would have done in the absence of exciting causes. Innocent of Rome, Ambrose of Milan, Augustin of Hippo, with others, had united their influence in supporting the catholic church, and these bishops in 390 received the sanction of the emperor Honorius, in establishing superstitious rites against the zeal and efforts of many pious and judicious Christians. [Mosh. Hist. C. 4. ~ 22] This union of secular and spiritual power operated alike on all dissenters. In 398 a council of bishops at Carthage petitioned the emperor for the removal of all heathen temples, and the destruction of all images, which was granted. In 399 the temples were razed, and Christianity was said to be much extended. [Baronius Ann. C. 4 c. 9, A.D. 399] This combination was prejudicial to the Donatists, whose churches were numerous in this province, "and which were served by no less than four hundred bishops." [Mosh. Hist. C. 4, ~ 7]

9. The Donatists had hitherto maintained themselves in reputation, and their affairs were in a good state. The catholics having Augustin as their head, with other zealous adjutors, exerted every means for their suppression; but finding their preaching and writing effect very little alteration; they, in 404, sent a deputation to the emperor Honorius, requesting him to enforce those edicts, made in previous reigns, against the Donatists. The emperor first imposed a fine on all those who refused to return into the bosom of the church, banishing the pastors of the refractory. The year following, severe measures were adopted, but the magistrates were remiss in their execution. This occasioned a council at Carthage, which sent a deputation to the emperor, soliciting the appointment of special officers to execute his edicts with vigor. Though weakened by these severe measures, the Puritans were yet quite strong.

[* There is an obscurity about Augustin’s motives and conduct, which is at variance with Christianity; virtues and vices to the extreme have been attached to him. See Dupin’s and Mosheim’s Histories, with Bayle’s Dictionary, and Robins. Hist. of Bap. ch. 23.]

[++ The advocates of Pelagianism, say, that Augustin first discovered and propagated those sentiments since termed Calvinistic, but this is an error. The early writers expressed themselves equally decisive on election, predestination, &c., with Austin, though not so frequently; and it is equally evident, that the early churches held his views. The ministers of religion had, for about two centuries, been more engaged in adjusting the new philosophy and arranging ceremonies, than in discussing the doctrines of grace: but the views of Pelagius, when made known, awakened all the native energies of Austin’s mind. Pelagius, in conference, found all the valuable learning and authority of previous ages against him, which no doubt regulated him in abjuring his error. See Dupin’s Lives and Works of the Fathers; Cave’s ditto; Daille’s Use of the Fathers; Toplady’s Hist. Proof; Gill’s Cause of God and Truth.] In 408, after Stilicho, the general, had been put to death, they increased in strength, and in the ensuing year, they had accessions to their interests, when from their rising importance the emperor granted a law in favor of religious liberty; but the united exertions of catholics occasioned the abrogation of this law the following year. Tired with the appeals of these contending parties, the emperor sent a tribune with full power to conclude the unhappy contest. Consequently a public meeting was called, and as Lardner says, "a famous conference was held at Carthage in 411." [Lardner’s Cred. of the Gospel Hist., vol. iv. pt. 2, c. 67, p. 96] In this celebrated synod, the number of ministers from the different churches, in both denominations, was found to be nearly equal; though some ministers of the dissenting party were unavoidably absent. [Ibidem.] The catholics numbered two hundred and eighty-six, and the Donatists, two hundred and seventy-nine. The defeat of the latter is not attributed to the catholics’ majority, but principally to Augustin’s influence at court and his writings. The defeated Donatists appealed to the emperor, but without attaining any beneficial result. [Mosheim’s Ec. Hist. C. 5, p. 2, ch. 5]

10. In 412 Cyril was ordained bishop of Alexandria. One of his first acts was to shut up all the churches of the Novationists, and strip them of every thing of value. Augustin, supported by a kindred spirit in Cyril, exercised all his influence, and consequently the edicts procured against the Donatists, were now of a more sanguinary character. The Catholics found by experience, that the means hitherto used had been ineffectual against the Donatists: they now prevailed on Honorius, and Theodosius, emperors of the east and west to issue an edict, decreeing, That the person re-baptizing, and the person re-baptized, should be punished with death. In consequence of this cruel measure martyrdoms ensued. Gibbon remarks on these edicts, that "three hundred bishops, with many thousands of the inferior clergy, were torn from their churches, stripped of their ecclesiastical possessions, banished to the islands, proscribed by law, if they presumed to conceal themselves in the provinces of Africa. Their numerous congregations, both in cities and the country, were deprived of the rights of citizens, and the exercise of religious worship. A regular scale of fines, from ten to two hundred pounds of silver, was curiously ascertained according to the distinctions of rank and fortune, to punish the crime of assisting at a schismatic conventicle; and if the fine had been levied five times, without subduing the obstinacy of the offender, his future punishment was referred to the discretion of the imperial court. By these severities, which obtained the warmest approbation of Augustin, great numbers were reconciled to the catholic church: but the fanatics (or faithful) who still persevered in their opposition, were provoked to madness and despair. [Ro. Hist. Ch. 33] Augustin owned, the city of Hippo had been full of conventicles, till he procured penal laws for their suppression. When the Donatists reproached him with making martyrs of their bishop and elders, and told him God would require an account of their blood at the day of judgment; he replied, "I know nothing about your martyrs, martyrs! martyrs to the devil. There are no martyrs out of the church, beside, it was their obstinacy, they killed themselves."

11. The Donatists rebaptized all persons coming from other professing communities; this conduct Augustin disapproved, and observes, "You (Donatists) say they are baptized in an impure church, by heretics; but the validity of the baptism depends upon God’s authority, not on the goodness or sanctity of the person who officiates." Their objections to his infant baptism, he endeavors to answer, remarking, "Do you (Donatists) ask for divine authority in this matter? Though that which the whole church practises, is very reasonably believed to be no other than a thing delivered by the apostles, yet we may take a true estimate, how much the sacrament of baptism does profit infants, by the circumcision which God’s former people received." [Wall’s Hist. pt. 1, p. 182--7]

This question shows, that the Donatists required scriptural authority for their faith and practice in all the affairs of God’s house.

Innocent fell in with this practice and infant communion, and after Zosimus, Boniface, in 418, was bishop of Rome. This Boniface inquires of Augustin, "Suppose I set before you an infant, and ask you whether, when he grows up, he will be a chaste man or a thief? Your answer, doubtless, will be, I cannot tell. And whether he, in that infant age, have any good or evil thoughts? you will say, I know not. Since you therefore dare not say any thing, either concerning his future behaviour, or his present thoughts; what is the meaning, that when they are brought to baptism, their parents, as sponsors for them, make answer and say, to the inquiry, Does he believe in God? they answer, he does believe. I entreat you to give me a short answer to these questions, in such a manner, as that you do not urge to me the prescription of the customariness of the thing, but give me the reason of the thing," Augustin felt the difficulty of giving a reason for his own custom, and subjoined a silly reply, gets angry, and concludes by saying, "I have given such an answer to your questions as I suppose is to ignorant or contentious persons not enough, and to understanding and quiet people, perhaps more than enough." Again, "He that does not believe it [infant baptism], and thinks it cannot be done, is indeed an infidel." [Wall’s Hist. pt. 1, c. 15, p. 196]

Augustin being required to answer so many questions, and explain its utility, proves how great a share he had in introducing the rite, and in his reply, he considers scripture and tradition on an equal footing in the church, while the catholic community is the only church.

Augustin was requested by the Donatists to state "what good the sacrament of Christ’s baptism does to infants?" He says in reply, "As to which matter it is piously and truly believed, that the faith of those by whom the child is presented, or offered to be consecrated, profits the child." But Augustin does not say what advantage attends the child where the sponsors have no faith, as is so common in the present day. These inquiries from the dissidents of Africa, are similar to those often made by the Baptists of the present day, satisfactorily proving their denominational character. This assertion is further established by Mr. Long, who says, "though there were great feuds between the Donatists and others, yet they were professed Anabaptists." [History of the Donatists, p. 60] "They did not only re-baptize the adults, that came over to them, but refused to baptize children, contrary to the practice of the catholic church"! [Id. p. 103. Ecbertus and Emericus, two catholic writers, assert the same, Danver’s Hist. Bapt. p. 272, &c.] Though Augustin confines the church to the catholic body, yet it must not be forgotten, that there were churches more or less extensive throughout Africa, besides the Donatists, and known as Manicheans, Montanists, Novationists, and other, whose morals were far more excellent than even Saint Augustin’s [Bayle and some French historians say he was a hard drinker], but all these were heretics in his view, and objects of his most virulent animosity.

12. The difficulty of establishing infant baptism, even among the licentious clergy and people of Africa, [rules were made in every council at this period, to restrain the licentious clergy] suggested to Austin [Augustin] the expediency of calling together a number of his brethren, which he effected at Mela, in Numidia. Amidst ninety-two ministers, Augustin presided; he, with them in this assembly, since called a council, issued the following manifesto of their charity to dissenters, That it is our will that all that affirm that young children receive everlasting life, albeit they be not by the sacrament of grace or baptism RENEWED; and that will not that young children, which are newly born from their mother’s womb, shall be baptized to the taking away original sin, THAT THEY BE ANATHEMATIZED." [Mag. Cent., in Danver’s Hist. pp. 118-9] Having attained eminency in the church, and the support of his brethren to enforce the doctrine of infant salvation from water baptism, another assembly of divines was convened the same year at Carthage, to enforce the rite, and occasion its universality if possible. The council solemnly declared, "We will that whoever denies that little children by baptism are freed from perdition and eternally saved, that they be accursed."+ So little regarded were the proceedings of this first assembly, that disputes have existed as to its date; but Innocent, Bishop of Rome, having expressed his concurrence to Augustin, a little before his dissolution, which took place in 417, we place the Milevitan council in the preceding year.++ Believers’ baptism has never borrowed a foreign aid for its support; it originated from heaven, John 1:33, and has been maintained to this day among the followers of the Lamb, by the same divine teaching and sustaining power; while every cruel and oppressive measure has been engaged to suppress the practice, and to substitute infant baptism and rhantism in its room. The establishment of this rite by these severe censures, in time, raised the catholic community into numerical importance, and by patronizing the infant cause, the bishop of Rome became a father (papa) to the church. His authority was allowed or disallowed by the adoption or refection of this rite,* as in England, in 596, and among the Albigenses in 1178, which shall be fully shown. His advice was sought by Spanish bishops, respecting the mode of baptizing children, and he has devised or sanctioned means for sanctifying by water the foetus and embryo in every stage. Every class of servants under his holiness, in the church and out, who received this his mark, from the crowned head to the lowest menial, has felt the pope’s honor involved in the infant rite. Consequently they all have advocated, and enforced by fire and sword, the sanctifying ceremony in opposition to the Baptists in every age. Every national establishment, as a daughter or division of the Romish community, adopts the measure as the best palladium to its constitution. But to return from this digression; the instruction sought by many ministers from Augustin and Innocent, on church affairs, respecting this rite and other discipline [Dupin’s Ecc. Hist C. 5, v. iii pp. 195-8], the former’s controversy with Petilianus, a pastor among the Donatists on infant baptism, with his calling together and presiding in those assemblies which issued such decided measures--show Augustin to have been the active innovator, at the same time the difficulty he realized in imposing the ceremony on the Africans, proves the novelty of the thing. These features point Augustin out as the first who ventured to attack at law, believers’ baptism. The innovators went, therefore, on the forlorn hope, and a plain tale puts them down. They did not pretend to ground infant baptism on Scripture, but tradition; and as they could not cite a law, human or divine, they ventured to place it on universal custom."* Yet strange as it may appear, that which was said to be a universal custom, required the penalty of damnation to enforce! How sadly does the Carthaginian curse descend on the heads of Austin’s successors in practice, who hold his rite, but who deny his doctrine! [Rob. Hist. of Bap. p. 281]

[+ Danvers, ubi sup. This practice commenced as here, with a mistaken view as to children’s condition. "Jesus himself did not baptize children, nor did he order his disciples to do it; nor would they have forbidden infants to be brought unto him, if they had known anything about infant baptism; if while he declared infants to be of his kingdom, if while he had such a fair opportunity of being explicit as to their baptism, and of setting an example of it, &c., we may learn, that infants may be acknowledged of Christ’s kingdom, brought unto him, and obtain his blessing without being baptized."--M’Lean on Christ’s Commission, p. 123.]

[++ Ivimey’s Hist. of the Bapt. v. i, p. 23. Note. "The necessity of paedobaptism was never asserted in any council, till about the year 418." Episcopius and Limborch, in Gibbs on Bap. p. 129.]

[* Consequently the extension of the pure church and kingdom of Jesus Christ, can be traced only where this rite and all human ceremonies are repudiated, and where the law of Zion alone regulates.]

The laws, edicts, and canons were more or less oppressive to the Puritans for twenty-eight years. The invasion of the Vandals in 428 relieved the oppressed from the scourge of licentious bishops and a cruel court. These invaders entered Africa from Spain; many who followed the army were protected by them in full liberty, under the ancient name of Goths, Gothmen, or Goodmen. The Vandals, like other German tribes, had no king, no priest, and consequently were the avowed friends of liberty. [Robinson’s Ecc. Research, ch. 7, p. 106] The Donatists’ situation and circumstances became ameliorated under this new dynasty, though they never regained their former extent, nor recovered their early popularity and vigor. For one hundred years, Africa was governed by people called barbarians, yet their conduct was milder towards the followers of the Lamb and the Christian interest, than the Catholics had ever been. During this period, the Vandals allowed the Donatists to enjoy the sweets of civil and religious freedom, which, probably, did not really conduce to their spiritual prosperity; but when the empire of the Vandals was overturned, in 534, the privileges of religious freedom ceased to the Donatists, with the government of these barbarians.

13. The Donatists still, however, remained a separate body, possessed their churches, and defended themselves from the reproach of their enemies. They industriously tried every means to resuscitate their interests; but the hostility of the rising pope, Gregory, operated considerably on society, to their prejudice. This pope wrote to two African bishops, requiring them to exert themselves in every possible way, to suppress the Donatists. Marked out for vengeance, and realizing opposition and persecution in every form, they disappeared. It is presumed these people, "of whom the world was not worthy," emigrated to Spain and Italy, or mingled with the pagans in the interior, and worshipped the Redeemer as opportunities offered. From their conduct in assembling in caves and dens of mountains to worship, they obtained the name of Montenses, i.e., moutaneers. [Idem, p. 112; in Abyssinia, and Africa, immersion is now practised; Millar’s Geo., v. i. pp. 356 and 367] In the seventh century, the Donatists dwindled away almost into obscurity, but about the middle of the eighth century, the gospel light was quite extinguished in Africa; and, as Gibbon observes, it never after enlightened any territory, nor can it be considered as having any extensive existence in the present day. [Ro. Hist. ch. 51; see Dupin, Donatus and Optatus. Mosh. Ecc. Hist.; Hist. of Donatists, by Mr. T. Long, Prebendary of St. Peter’s, Exon.; Claude’s Defence of the Reform, v.i. part 8, ch.. 4; Lardner’s Works, v. iv. p. 2, c. 67, pp. 91--103; Mr. W. Jones’s Lect. on Ecc. Hist. lect. 25.]

14. To review the history of such a People, so correct in morals, simple in spiritual worship, scriptural in faith and practice, for the period of above four centuries, is a pleasing employment. The continued preservation which the Donatists realized amidst trials the most formidable from crowned and mitred heads, is a satisfactory proof of their character, as forming part of that church against which the gates of hell shall never successfully prevail. We cannot help realizing a sacred respect for the memories of this body of people, whose religious profession and views were so nearly allied to our own; and some feelings of pleasure may be lawfully indulged at the remembrance of being their legitimate successors.



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