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



"Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." --Rev. 3: 8.

1. The kingdom of Bohemia is, in point of territorial surface, the most elevated ground, the most mountainous, and by nature the strongest in Germany. The country is about three hundred miles long, and two hundred and fifty broad, and is almost surrounded with impenetrable forests and lofty mountains. Bohemia derived its name from Bohmen, which signifies the country of the Boii, 590 a tribe of Celts, who retired into the Hercynian forest, from Gaul, to avoid the Roman yoke. The ancient inhabitants are represented by contemporary historians as a people of a ruddy complexion, and of enormous stature and muscular strength. [Jones’s Ch. Hist., v. ii. p. 195]

2. We have authentic evidence in the writings of the apostle Paul that he preached the gospel of Christ in Illyricun, and that Titus visited Dalmatia; hence the Bohemians infer that the gospel was preached in all the countries of Sclavonia in the first ages of Christianity. They also say that Jerome, who was a native of Stridom, a city of Illyricum, and was a presbyter in a church in Dalmatia, [Vide sup. ch. 1, sect. 4, ~ 4, A.D. 378] translated the Scriptures into his native tongue, and that all the nations of Sclavonian extraction, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Russians, the Wallachians, the Bohemians, and Vaudois, use this translation to this day. [Robinson’s Res., pp. 475-479]

3. For want of records, we are necessitated to pass over the early state and history of this people. It is not improbable that some of the Vaudois who left Spain on the invasion of the Moors, reached Bohemia, since reference is often made to their descendants, and their manner of attending the ordinance. [Taylor’s Hist. of the Gen. Bap., vol. i, p. 25] The persecution experienced by the nonconformists in Greece occasioned many of the Baptists to migrate, and Gibbon says, [Ro. Hist., c. 54] "they effected an entrance into Europe by the German caravans," though Mosheim maintains that it was from Italy the Bulgarians or Paulicians spread themselves, like an inundation, through the provinces of Europe. [Hist. of the Church, Cent. 10, p. 2, ch. 5] That such a people were found at an early period in this kingdom, becomes plain from records.

4. There were two great and powerful families who patronized the Baptists in this quarter, and manifested much attachment to them. The one was the noble family of Bozkovicz, allied by blood or marriage to almost all the grandees of the kingdom, and to several of the kings. In the reign of Uladislaus II (1140), Lady Bozkovicz became patroness to those called heretics, and settled them on the family estate. We do not discover in history the exact source from whence these pious people at this time arose, though it is not improbable they were followers of Peter de Bruys, Henry, or Arnold of Brescia, which circumstance is supported by the era of events, though at a later period they were named Picards. These Baptists obtained this influence over ladies of dignity in a manner highly to their honor. They kept a school for young ladies, and the mode of education and the purity of their manners were in such high repute, that the daughters of a very great part of the nobility of Bohemia were sent thither to be educated: and their bitterest enemies say they kept young ladies from the company of the other sex, and formed their manners with so much innocency, that there was nothing reprehensible but their heresy. Lady Bozkovicz, the patroness, with other women, expounded the Scriptures to her fair pupils, and performed all religious offices among them without a priest. When these young ladies were returned to their parents and married, they influenced their husbands, and children, and friends to favor a people so harmless and so useful to society, and this patronage preserved them nearly two centuries. The other family, patrons and friends of the Baptists, was the very ancient and noble house of SLAVATA. This family descended from the dukes of Saltz, lords of the district, where some of the first French refugees for religion are said to have settled. Lord William was chancellor of the kingdom of Bohemia. This gentleman was educated in one of the Baptist schools until twenty years of age. Many great families protected and employed the Baptists; but when the great and noble lost their love for civil and religious liberty, they neglected or persecuted these people. [Robinson’s Ecc. Res., pp. 532-4]

5. When Waldo sought an asylum in Bohemia, from the pope’s measures, it is certain that kingdom was immersed in great darkness and superstition. Waldo and his friends found the inhabitants tenacious of the rites and ceremonies of the Greek church, which rites were nearly as superstitious as those of the church of Rome. By unceasing efforts, these persons from Picardy, afterward termed PICARDS, introduced more extensively among the Bohemians, the knowledge of the Christian faith in its purity, according to the word of God. [Jones’s Hist. of the Christian Church, vol. ii. p. 198] In this kingdom, the pious reformers and evangelists obtained permission to settle at SALTZ and LUN, on the river Eger, just on the borders of the kingdom: and near one hundred miles from Prague. A description of this people is to be found in the Bohemian records, which is satisfactory as to their denominational aspect. With these and later Puritans, it was customary to settle on the boundaries of kingdoms, so that in case of surprise, they might be able by a few steps to remove themselves out of one kingdom into another. Almost two centuries after, another undoubted record of the same country mentions a people of the same description, some of whom were burnt at Prague, and others still inhabited the borders of the country; and one hundred and fifty years later, we find a people of the same class settled by connivance in the metropolis, and in several other parts of the kingdom. Other testimonies prove their existence to a later date, so that after the twelfth century documents are extant, proving the existence of Baptists in Bohemia [Id. p. 39, and Rob. Res., pp. 480, 527] and Poland.+

[+ It is recorded by Martin Cromer, that in very early ages great numbers of Christians inhabited the woods of Poland, Rob. Res., p. 555. Berenger’s sentiments were here propagated (Id. 557), and owing to the patronage of some nobles, Poland abounded with Picards and Anabaptists. At an after period, this kingdom was visited by Jerome of Prague, and these churches made collections of money for their persecuted brethren in Lombardy. The mode of baptizing in Poland, when the Catholic bishops visited the Poles and the Pomenarians, is stated as follows: "In the 12th century, Otho, a Catholic bishop, travelled through these kingdoms teaching and baptizing. Such as expressed a willingness to be baptized were put under tuition. After instruction, they were to fast three days before baptism. Otho caused large tubs to be put or let into the ground, and filled with water. Three such places were provided for men, women and children, and each was surrounded with curtains like a tent. After some ceremonies, he baptized these all naked, by immersing them in water, pronouncing the usual words." See Basnage’s Obs. in Rob. Hist. Bap., p. 288, &c.]

6. Waldo’s labors in Bohemia were crowned with remarkable success. He spent his concluding years in this promoting the cause of his Master in every commendable way, until 1179, when he was rewarded with a crown that fadeth not away. Waldo’s asylum at Saltz afforded refuge to those Albigenses who, in the ensuing year, being greatly increased in France, and becoming formidable to the pontiffs, were constrained to abandon their native soil from the cruel measures adopted against them. Bohemia, Livonia, and Poland, afforded these pious emigrants shelter from enraged enemies.

7. The religious character of this people is so very different from that of all others, that the likeness is not easily mistaken. They had no priests, as a separate order of men, but taught one another. They had no private property, for they held all things jointly. They executed no offices, and neither exacted or took oaths. They bore no arms, and rather chose to suffer than resist wrong. They professed their belief of Christianity by being baptized, and their love to Christ and one another by receiving the Lord’s Supper. They aspired at neither wealth nor power, and their plan was industry. [Witsius on the Covenants, vol. i., p. 391] "The pious Picardians, as they were called, in Bohemia and Moravia," says Witsius, "valued the article of Justification, at its true price, when in their confession of faith, Art. 6, they thus write: ‘This sixth article is accounted with us the most principal of all, as being the sum of all Christianity and piety. Wherefore our divines teach and handle it with all diligence and application, and endeavor to instil it into others.’" [Robins. Ecc. Res., p. 527]

8. An inquisitor of the church of Rome says of the Bohemians, they say the church of Rome is not the church of Jesus Christ, but an assembly of ungodly men, and that it ceased to be the true church at the time Pope Sylvester (330) presided. They despise and reject all the ordinances and statutes of the church, as being too many and very burdensome. They condemn all the sacraments of the church. Concerning the sacrament of baptism, they say, that the catechism signifies nothing; that the absolution pronounced over infants avails nothing; that godfathers and godmothers do not understand what they answer the priest. That infants cannot be saved by baptism, as they do not believe; [Allix’s Ch. Pied., C. 22, p. 223] they condemn the custom of believers communicating no more than once a year, whereas they communicate every day (or every Lord’s day). They deride the dress of priests; and reproach the church that she raises bastards, boys, and notorious offenders, to high ecclesiastical dignities. Whatever is preached without scripture proof, they account no better than fables. [Allix’s ut. sup.] With this account agrees the history of the Waldenses given by AEneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius 11. [Jones’s Church Hist., vol. ii. p. 39]

All Bohemian writers state that the Picards or Waldenses settled early in this kingdom, and that these people baptized and re-baptized such persons as joined their churches, and that they had always done so. [Robins. Res. pp. 506, 508, 517] They are said in the 14th century to have numbered 80,000 in this kingdom. [Jones’s ut sup., p. 119, and Allix’s Pied. c. 23]

9. Two monks, in the ninth century, introduced popery into Bohemia, after five centuries; and under Charles IV it was fully established. Some opposition was made by two of his Majesty’s chaplains, who persuaded the emperor to curb the pope and reform the church; but these friends to the cause of liberty were banished, and the advocates of reform lost all hopes of succeeding by the favor of the emperor. [Robins. Res. p. 480] By the banishment of those two noblemen, the voice of reform at court was silenced; ignorance, profligacy, and vice prevailed among all orders of men in the national church; the inquisition was introduced to enforce uniformity in matters of religion. The consequence was, that multitudes withdrew themselves from the public places of worship, and followed the dictates of their own consciences, by worshipping God in private houses, woods, and caves. Here they were persecuted, dragooned, drowned, and killed; and thus matters went on, till Huss and Jerome of Prague appeared. [Jones’s ut sup. p. 199]

10. In the latter part of Wickliff’s life, Richard II, king of England, married Anne, sister to the king of Bohemia, and consequently opened a free intercourse between the two kingdoms. Peter Payne, Principal of Edmund Hall, in the University of Oxford, who became obnoxious to papal violence for his opposition to the rites of that church, fled into Bohemia, to which place he brought a number of Wickliff’s tracts. These were highly esteemed by Huss and Jerome, and the greater part of the university. The introduction of these writings into the university gave great offence to the catholic clergy, and the Archbishop of Prague issued his orders for all persons possessing such books to bring them to him; consequently two hundred volumes of them, finely written, and adorned with costly covers and gold borders, were committed to the flames. This conduct in Archbishop Sbynko excited great disgust in the minds of the students of the university of Prague, and Huss in particular. [Robins. Res., p. 480]

11. JOHN HUSS was born in the village of Hussinetz, in 1373, of parents in affluent circumstances. He studied in the University of Prague. At the age of twenty-one he was raised to the dignity of Professor, and in 400, he was appointed to preach in one of the largest churches of that city. He was irreproachable in his life, his manners were the most affable and engaging; his talents were popular; he was the idol of the people; but in gaining their esteem, he drew on himself the execration of the priests. He continued, like Claude of Turin and Wickliff of England, in the catholic establishment, lamenting its corruptions, while he strove to effect a reformation. He appeared in the character of a reformer so early as 1407. He was distinguished by erudition, eloquence, and his assiduity to his pastoral functions. He is said to have embraced the sentiments of the Waldenses. [Chamb. Dic., Art. Huss] He openly advocated the reforming doctrines of Wickliff. His bold position in the cause of reform, his appeal to the pope from the mandate of the archbishop, in burning Wickliff’s books, proves his connection, while it led his Holiness to understand how deeply the reformers’ writings had taken root in Bohemia; in consequence of which, the pope issued a bull against the new doctrine. Huss and the members of the university entered a protest against the proceedings of the archbishop, who had sent out processes against four eminent members, for refusing to deliver up the proscribed works. Huss was therefore cited before the pope; but he excused himself from visiting Rome, and was supported in his plea by all the leading persons in the kingdom, excepting the clergy. Huss was excommunicated by the pope for contumacy, and all his followers were involved in the same censure. He, however, realized protection for some time from the king, queen, and nobility of Bohemia; but in 1415, he was shamefully betrayed, and afterwards tried for heresy, convicted, and burnt. It is difficult to say what his religious views were. His sermons are full of anabaptistical errors, as they were so called, and many of his followers became baptists. [Robins. Res., pp. 482] His views found a prepared people in Bohemia, in the persons of the Waldenses, Picards, or Beghards, of which party he has often been considered the head.

12. Though we cannot decide on Huss’s views, yet his followers are easily deciphered, from a letter written by Erasmus, wherein he states, that "the Hussites renounced all rights and ceremonies of the catholic church, they ridicule our doctrine and practice (as reformers) in both the sacraments, they admit none until they are dipped in water, and they reckon one another, without distinctions of rank, to be called brothers and sisters;" [Ivimy’s Hist. of the Eng. Bap., vol. i., p. 70] which accords with what is said of the early Waldenses in Bohemia, as detailed by Dr. Allix. [Ch. Pied. c. 22, p. 214] These Hussites prevailed in Hungary, Silicia, and Poland; [Lon. Ency., Art. Huss and Refor.] though his followers were most numerous in those cities of Germany that lay on the Rhine, especially at Cologne, [Mosh Hist., vol ii., p 509] where anon we shall find the Lollards.

13. After Huss’s death, we are informed by Sleidan, "that the Bohemians were divided on the articles of religion into three classes or sects. The first were such as acknowledged the pope of Rome to be head of the church, and vicar of Jesus Christ; the second were those that received the Eucharist in both kinds, and in celebrating mass, read some things in the vulgar tongue, but in all other matters differed nothing from the church of Rome; the third were those who went by the name of Picards or Beghards; these called the pope of Rome and all his party antichrist, and the whore described in the Revelation. They admitted of nothing in the affairs of religion, but the Bible; they chose their own priests and bishops, rather than teachers; denied marriage to no man; performed no offices for the dead; and had but very few holy days and ceremonies." It is obvious, from what has been stated, that the latter class alone were the genuine Waldenses; [Hist. of the Reform., b. iii., p. 53] to whom we constantly refer.

14. JEROME OF PRAGUE was the intimate friend and companion of Huss, inferior to him in age, experience, and authority, but his superior in all the liberal endowments. He was educated in the university of his native city. When he had finished his studies, he travelled into many countries of Europe, where he was admired, particularly for his graceful elocution. During his travels he visited England, where he obtained access to Wickliff’s writings, which he copied out and returned with them to Prague. He had distinguished himself by an active cooperation with Huss in all his hostility to the abominations of the times, which caused him to be cited before the council of Constance on the 17th of April, 1415, at the time his friend Huss was confined in a castle near that city. Hearing how his friend had been used, when he got near Constance, he prudently retraced his steps to Iberlingen, an imperial city, from whence he wrote to the emperor and tim council, requesting a safe conduct; but not obtaining one to his satisfaction, he was preparing to return into Bohemia, when he was arrested at Hirsechaw, and conveyed-to Constance. Huss and Jerome were tried by the same council, and afterwards burnt by their order. Huss suffered, July, 1415. He sustained his sentence with the most heroic fortitude, praying for his persecutors. The dread of suffering at first intimidated Jerome, which caused his sentence to be delayed. His enemies took the advantage of those symptoms, in hopes of gaining him over; but he recovered his wonted vigor, and avowed his sentiments in the most open manner, and supported them with increasing confidence to the last. He expired in the flames, singing, "Hanc animam, in flammis, offero, Christe, tibi; i.e. This soul of mine, in flames of fire, O Christ, I offer thee." [Jones’s Christian Ch., vol. ii., p. 205. Robin. Res., p. 513; Clark’s Lives, p. 116]

15. Poggius, who was secretary to the pope, a frank ingenuous man, saw and heard Jerome in the council, and wrote, in a letter to his friend Leonard Aretin, an eulogium on him, in a spirit of admiration and love. The letter being interesting, we subjoin a copy somewhat abridged. He says, "Since my return to Constance, my attention has been wholly engaged by Jerome, the Bohemian heretic, as he is called. The eloquence and learning which this person has employed in his own defence, are so extraordinary, that I cannot forbear giving you a short account of him. To confess the truth, I never knew the art of speaking carried so near the model of ancient eloquence. It was, indeed, amazing to hear with what force of expression, with what fluency of language, and with what excellent reasoning, he answered his adversaries. Nor was I less struck with the gracefulness of his manner, the dignity of his action, and the firmness and constancy of his whole behavior. It grieved me to think so great a man was laboring under so atrocious an accusation. Whether this accusation be a just one, God knows: for myself, I inquire not into the merits of it; resting satisfied with the decision of my superiors. But I will just give you a summary of his trial. After many articles had been proved against him, leave was at length given him to answer each in its order; but Jerome long refused, strenuously contending that he had many things to say previously in his defence, and that he ought first to be heard in general, before he descended to particulars. When this was over-ruled, ‘Here,’ said he, standing in the midst of the assembly, ‘here is justice--here is equity! Beset by my enemies, I am pronounced a heretic--l am condemned before I am examined. Were you Gods omniscient, instead of an assembly of fallible men, you could not act with more sufficiency. Error is the lot of mortals; and you, exalted as you are, are subject to it. But consider, that the higher you are exalted, of the more dangerous consequence are your errors. As for me, I know I am a wretch below your notice; but at least consider, that an unjust action in such an assembly will be of dangerous example.’ This, and much more, he spoke with great eloquence of language, in the midst of a very unruly and indecent assembly; and thus far, at least, he prevailed; the council ordered that he should first answer objections, and promised that he should then have liberty to speak. * * * It is incredible with what acuteness he answered, and with what amazing dexterity he warded off every stroke of his adversaries. Nothing escaped him: his whole behavior was truly great and pious. If he were, indeed, the man his defence spoke him, he was so far from meriting death, that, in my judgment, he was not in any degree culpable. In a word, he endeavored to prove, that the greater part of the charges were purely the inventions of his adversaries. Among other things, being accused of hating and defaming the holy see, the pope, the cardinals, the prelates, and the whole estate of the clergy, he stretched out his hands, and said, in a most moving accent, ‘On which side, reverend fathers, shall I turn for redress? Whom shall I implore? Whose assistance can I expect? Which of you hath not this malicious charge entirely alienated from me? Which of you hath it not changed from a judge into an inveterate enemy? It was artfully alleged indeed! Though other parts of their charge were of less moment, my accusers might well imagine, that if this were fastened on me, it could not fail in drawing upon me the united indignation of my judges.’"

It appears from this secretary, Poggio Bracciotini, that on the third day of his trial, Jerome obtained leave to defend himself. He first began with prayer to God, whose assistance he pathetically implored. He then referred to profane history, and to unjust sentences given against Socrates, Plato, Anaxagoras. He next referred to the Scriptures, and exhibited the sufferings of the worthies; and then he dwelt on the merits of the cause pending, resting entirely on the credit of witnesses, who avowedly hated him; and here his appeal made a strong impression upon the minds of his hearers, and not a little shook the credit of the witnesses. "It was," says the secretary, "impossible to hear this pathetic speaker without emotion. Every ear was captivated, and every heart touched. But wishes in his favor are vain; he threw himself beyond a possibility of mercy. Braving death, he even provoked the vengeance which was hanging over him. Through this whole oration, he showed a most amazing strength of memory. He had been confined almost a year in a dungeon, the severity of which usage he complained of, but in the language of a great and good man. In this horrid place, he was deprived of books and papers; yet notwithstanding this, and the constant anxiety which must have hung over him, he was at no more loss for proper authorities and quotations, than if he had spent the intermediate time at leisure in his study." In his defence, "his voice was sweet, distinct and full; his action every way the most proper, either to express indignation or to raise pity, though he made no affected application to the passions of his audience. Firm and intrepid, he stood before the council, collected in himself, and not only contemning, but seeming even desirous of death. The greatest character in ancient story could not possibly go beyond him. If there is any justice in history, this man will be admired by all posterity. What I admired, was his learning, his eloquence, and amazing acuteness. God knows whether these things were the ground-work of his ruin. * * * With cheerful countenance, and more than stoical constancy, he met his fate; fearing neither death itself, nor the horrible form in which it appeared. * * *" He suffered martyrdom, May 20, 1416. [Jones’s Hist. of the Ch., vol. ii., pp. 207-11]

16. It is recorded of Jerome, that he was baptized by immersion, by some of the Greek church. This view of Jerome’s, with his being a layman, will account for many historians omitting his name altogether. The neglect of some writers has been amply repaid by the secretary’s statement, which we felt called on to detail. Jerome held almost the same doctrines as Wickliff had taught, and took unwearied pains to convince the common people that they might, without any authority from the pope or the clergy, read, judge, and explain the Holy Scriptures; that any one who could might preach, baptize, and administer the Lord’s Supper, and that these exercises were as effectual to answer all the ends for which they were instituted, in the hands of the laity as in those of the clergy. He travelled into Russia, Poland, Silicia, and Lithuania for the same purpose, and was everywhere heard with admiration and respect. He was one of the most eminent of the reformers, though little is said of him in history. [Robins. Res., p. 523] Huss and Jerome both taught those errors charged on the Anabaptists. This accusation can be brought against those reformers, who advocated a separation from worldly establishments, and a liberty to choose the way of preferring devotion to the great Head of the church. It is true some reformers, as Claude, Wickliff, Huss, stated Christian liberty, but these, with others, set forth no example of its value, or the duty involved in the command, by coming out of corrupt communities; while other reformers left the Roman church, and formed new associations, on the same principle, and with similar materials, to the one from which they had seceded. A few were found at different periods, who left the hierarchy, and these carried their views and principles into practice before the world, and are now denominated by historians witnesses for the truth, though they encountered the odium of heresy from Rome, and the stigma of anabaptism from their German brethren and their successors. [Robins. Res., p. 482]

17. The Baptists, from the time of their early settlement, lived about the forests and mines. These people were now multiplied by accessions from other kingdoms, and by those converted under Huss and Jerome. These people were of different sentiments on doctrinal subjects, but in general they entertained the same ideas of religion as the old Vaudois did. They were all indiscriminately called Waldenses and Picards, and it is said they all rebaptized. Huss, while in prison, wrote a letter to a friend at Prague, in which he said, "Salute also my brother teachers in Christ, shoemakers, tailors and writers; and tell them to attend diligently to the Holy Scripture." The effects of Huss and Jerome’s instruction were now visible in the multitude, in the disregard they paid to relicts and the Catholic priests. The priesthood suffered every indignity from these aroused people. Crato, physician to the emperor Maximilian, was one day riding with him in the royal carriage, when his imperial Majesty asked the doctor what sect he thought came nearest the simplicity of the apostles? Crato replied, "I verily think the people called Picards;" the emperor replied, "I think so too." [Robins. Res., pp. 508-21]

18. To resume our details: the proceedings of the Council of Constance flew like lightning all over the kingdom, and Bohemia was all in an uproar. The king, Winceslaus, was seldom sober, and paid little regard to the welfare of his subjects. The nation was divided into three religious bodies, and the nobles were divided into factions, some zealous to resent the insult offered to the nation by the council, and to repel the forces of foreigners, who had been excited by the pope to visit and suppress heresy in Bohemia, and to oblige that fierce nation to establish uniformity in religion. The king put himself under the emperor, and the latter gave his support to the Catholic party, promising to suppress heresy, and settle the affairs both of church and state. The measures now adopted by the priesthood to suppress heresy aroused all men, particularly the patriot and plebeian. These were changed from a harmless inquisitive multitude into a resentful community. Feeling their importance, and seeing the union of efforts in order to suppress their privileges, they gathered together in multitudes in the country, about five miles from Prague, where the people met for worship: they elected their own preachers, who administered to this company of various sentiments, the Lord’s Supper, at three hundred tables (boards laid on casks), to forty thousand people. The conflict now commenced between the Hussites and Catholics; confusion ensued, riots and murders were frequent. In the city of Prague, the enraged citizens threw twelve imperial officers out of the windows of the council-chamber. The emperor entered Bohemia with an armed force, while the Protestants, to defend their rights, took up arms, and chose Ziska as their general.

19. The protestant army was made up of different parties, uniting in one common cause of defence from various causes; but it would appear that the Vaudois, Waldenses, or Picards did not enter Ziska’s army during the war. We know their principles were opposed to war, and they do not seem to have borne arms at any time. During such commotions, it is said of them, that "they were always going and coming, retiring from the cities while others were coming to reside. When they were persecuted in one city, they fled to another. They do not seem to have had any regular (i.e., separate class) minister. [Robins. Res. p. 517] A portion of this people, called Waldenses, came down from the mountains to live in peace under the protection of Ziska. This state of civil discord lasted upwards of twelve years. The agitated state of the kingdom for so many years must have been very injurious to the cause of undefiled religion. The Council of Basil, in 1433, took great pains to bring the Protestant delegates to submit implicitly to the council; but they utterly refused. After many intrigues by the Catholics, a division was effected among the Protestants, consequently their importance became lessened. The affairs of the kingdom remained in a very unsettled state even to the middle of this century, about which time Rokyzan, archbishop of Prague; tired with contentions, advised the advocates of reform to retire to the lordship of Latitz, about twenty miles from Prague, a place desolated by war, where they might establish their own way of worship, choose their own ministers, introduce their own discipline and order, according to their own consciences and judgments. Numbers adopted the suggestion, and embraced the privilege, and in 1457 they formed themselves into a society. This body being made up of persons entertaining religious views wide of each other, they chose the name of UNITAS FRATRUM, OR THE UNITED BRETHREN, though they were generally called PICARDS. These brethren bound themselves to a vigorous discipline in church affairs, and not to defend themselves with the sword, but suffer the loss of all for conscience sake. [Robins. Res. pp. 498-9] In 1459 these godly people, made up of all classes, obtained from their king, Pogiebracius, a place to worship in, where they established a society on the model of primitive simplicity. [Clark’s Martyr. p. 127] These brethren re-baptized all such as joined themselves to their congregation.+

[+ Buck’s Theo. Dict, 4 Ed.; Lon. Ency. art. Bohem. Brethren. The brethren in their writings retain the early mode. Trobe says of Christ’s baptism, externally his body was washed with pure water, nay, even dipped into it, and as it was, buried by the ministry of a servant of Christ. S 238. Again, "The dipping or overstreaming with water cannot of itself procure us salvation, see 1 Pet. 3:21; but the participation of the death of Jesus, which faith lays hold of, is that upon which all depends in baptism." ~ 139. Exposition of the Christian doctrine of the United Brethren, by Benj. La Trobe.]

20. Three years had scarcely elapsed before their numbers were considerable; pious persons flocked to them, not only from different parts of Bohemia, but even from every distant quarter of the whole empire: and churches were gathered every where throughout Bohemia and Moravia. Many of the old-fashioned Waldenses, who had been lurking about in dens and caves of the earth, as well as upon the tops of mountains, now came forward with alacrity, joined themselves to the "United Brethren," and became eminently serviceable to the newly-formed societies, in consequence of their more advanced state of religious knowledge and experience. Many persons who had previously held infant baptism renounced those views, and the ministers baptized them before they received them into church communion. [Robins. Res. p. 449] The multiplication of these brethren raised a clamor among the Catholic priesthood; the archbishop was censured, and reproached with the terms used to signalize the brethren; consequently he changed his course of conduct towards them. Three years had scarcely elapsed from their establishment in religious freedom, when a terrible persecution broke out against them, and which trial was calculated to prove what spirit they were of. They were declared by the state unworthy the common rights of subjects; and in the depth of winter, expelled from their homes in towns and villages, with the forfeiture of all their goods. Even the sick were cast into the open fields, where numbers perished through cold and hunger. Every kind of indignity was realized by these inoffensive people, with the loss of all that was dear. Many retired into the woods, caves, &c., so that almost every society of these people in the kingdom became scattered. In the ensuing reign, the dispersed brethren were suffered to return to their homes, to occupy their lands, and were allowed ease and prosperity. They now took such deep root, and extended their branches so far and wide, that after this settlement it was impossible to extirpate them. In 1500, there were two hundred congregations of the united brethren in Bohemia and Moravia. Many counts, barons, and noblemen joined their churches, who built them meeting-houses in their cities and villages. These Baptists got the Bible translated into the Bohemian tongue, and printed at Venice: when that edition was disposed of, they obtained two more, printed at Nuremberg. Finding the demand for the Holy Scriptures continuing to increase, they established a printing-office at Prague, another at Bunzlaw, in Bohemia, and a third at Kralitz, in Moravia, where at first they printed nothing but Bohemian Bibles. [Robins. Res. p. 502]

21. The disposition of the king of Bohemia might be perceived from the import of the prayer he preferred morning and night. His anxiety for peace in his empire led him to offer these words continually: "Give peace in my time, O Lord." The Catholic clergy were unceasingly teasing him to suppress heresy. He in return ordered them to converse with the Picards, in order to convince them of their errors. Taking hold of the queen’s grave situation, they thought it a favorable opportunity to move his fears, in which they were but too successful; for at length they obtained an edict for the suppression of the Picards. The king, on the recollection of what was done, was grieved at his conduct, and professedly sought forgiveness of God for his act. The edict became law four years after, when the brethren were prohibited from holding any religious assemblies, public or private; commanding that all their meeting-houses should be shut up, and that within a given time the Picards or Brethren should all hold communion with either Calixtines or Catholics.* The clergy could not prevail with all to pursue their cruel measures, though many of the brethren were called to severe sufferings. Some of them emigrated, others retired into the forests and caves, worshipping God in private. Those detected in their devotions were arrested and brought before priests, who required them to own them as their shepherds. They replied, "Christ is the Shepherd of our souls;" upon which they were convicted and burned. In this confused and suffering state the affairs of the brethren continued, until Luther appeared as a reformer in Germany. So wearied were the United Brethren of sufferings, that they had been meditating a compromise with the Catholic church; and when the reformer appeared, they actually wrote to him for his advice on the subject. Luther’s admonitions in the end brought them to submit their creed to him, who revised it, and prefaced it with praises for orthodoxy, admiring the agreement of this modern creed with their ancient church. They now, under his protection, agreed to leave off re-baptizing, which should in future be called ana-baptism.

[* It is said that some of the brethren, to ward off this law, had presented to the king, while in Hungary, a confession of their faith. This confession is called Waldensian by the Paedobaptists, and was presented in 1508. The confession is entitled, ‘A Confession of Faith of the Waldensian Brethren,’ and is addressed to king Uladislaus, in Hungary. It begins with informing the king that they were not Waldenses, though they were persecuted under that name. It goes on to speak of their sufferings, and the reason for laying before him the most sacred articles of their religion, which they say were revealed by the Holy Spirit, and deposited in the Holy Scriptures, and are perfectly agreeable to the apostles’ creed, and the faith of the primitive church. Then follows the creed, which consists of fourteen short articles. The sixth is on baptism, viz.: "Whoever, having arrived at years of discretion, hath believed by hearing the word, and hath acquired power over sin by renewing and enlightening of his mind, ought to profess the inward cleansing of his mind by exterior washing, and is to be baptized into the unity of the holy church, in the name of, &c. This our profession extends to children, who, by an apostolic canon, as Dionysius writes, ought to be baptized." On this confession we observe there were eight editions in twenty-five years; each was improved; and the last was prefaced by Luther, when their anabaptism ceased. The brethren complained that their creed was translated into German by some one who knew not the Bohemian language, and who had altered some things, and added others. There was apparently no Hungarian king in the sixteenth century of the name of Uladislaus, and the petitioners deny being Waldenses. Now we believe this creed emanated from the Calixtines, a mixed body of professors, while the confession indirectly confirms this view, since it is expressive of believers’ and unbelievers’ baptism. Dr. Allix’s Ch. Pied. c. 24; and this date and society in 1440 agree with Uladislaus’ reign. The Picards or Brethren ever boasted of their Waldensian ancestors, and were ever found regulating all their religious affairs by the Scriptures alone, discarding the writings of the Fathers as fables. It is recorded at a later period, that the Bohemian brethren, or the successors to these people, were comprehended in the Lutheran church, when they consented to leave off re-baptizing; but re-baptizing and Paedobaptism have ever been at variance. Rob. Res. pp. 503 and 507. Osiander in Danver’s, pp. 328, &c. See Dr. Allix’s Ch. Pied. p. 241. See Appendix to the Waldensian History.]

Luther said, "He had formerly been prejudiced against the brethren called Picards; though he had always admired their aptness in the Holy Scriptures; and it was no wonder they had expressed themselves obscurely, because the learned languages had been little understood in general, and as these people had entertained such an aversion to the subtleties of the school." To this creed and people we shall again refer. [Robins. Res. ch. 13]

22. It is certain that the ancient Waldensian church subsisted at the Reformation, and that they left off baptizing adults on their profession of faith. Whether all those churches of the brethren ultimately fell into the Lutheran community, and consequently were comprehended by imperial law, cannot be positively decided. It is plain here that the patience of the saints was worn out. Dan. 7:25. It appears the assistance rendered them by able divines, and which enabled them to conclude there was no need to re-baptize, regulated the conduct of many; yet the Baptists were still a scattered community, and were named now Anabaptists [Ency. Brit. Art. Anab.] and Picard Calvinists. The emperor expressed his astonishment at their numbers, and horror at their principal error, which was, that, according to the express declarations of Scripture, they were to submit to no human authority, 1 Cor. 7:23. Some of them kept schools, and preached; others practised physic. Luther strongly objected to those Anabaptists, who taught and followed a worldly calling. These people lived in forty-five divisions, called colleges, exactly as their ancestors had done previously to their banishment from France, about four hundred and fifty years before. But their views of liberty occasioned the emperor’s displeasure, he consequently banished all Anabaptists from his dominions on pain of death; [Jones’s Church Hist., vol. ii., c. 5. Robins. Res., c. 13] though it was found very difficult to get rid of these Baptists. They must be comprehended in future in the term Anabaptist, since this term, which originated in Germany among the reformers, was given to all those who denied infant sprinkling. [Good and Gregory’s Cyclop. art. Anap.] The Moravians contend that they are the descendants of these churches of the unitas fratrum. [Dav. Crantz’s Hist. of the Brethren; Bost. Hist. of the Brethren] See Anabaptists, sect. 12, 19.



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