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The Baptist Quarterly, 1869
{A Review}
By Howard Osgood

Howard Osgood

Baptist History: from the foundation of the Christian Church to the close of the Eighteenth Century. By J. M. CRAMP, D. D., author of "A Text-Book of Popery," "The Reformation in Europe," Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 530 Arch St.

     THIS work supplies a lack which has long been felt. Dr. Cramp deserves the gratitude of every Baptist. He has wrought a good work and wrought it well. He makes no pretence of encyclopaedic learning. He does not ballast his pages with multitudinous references, for a vain show. But no one can read this work without recognizing the genuine piety, the sincere desire for truth, the diligence, sound judgment, and caution of the author. He does not profess to know the secret of God, where the church was after God drove her into the wilderness. He marks the fading of her light as she is withdrawn, and hails with joy her reappearance. When the record stops he is not ashamed to confess that he knows no more, and does not hazard mere conjectures. Where the record is clear, he does not fail to give us, with hearty sympathy, in good terse English, the simple story of the people, to whom, under God, we owe the transmission, through blood and tears, of the precious principles we hold.

     At the present day it is thought by some eminent Christians, Principal Cunningham among the number, to be of small account how we define a church, except that it consists of believers. But the reformers, and the giant theologians of the seventeenth century, thought it of vast importance to set forth very carefully-worded definitions of a church. The Romish apostasy, as well as Protestants, holds that the church consists only of the faithful (fideles), those who have faith; but she understands this faith to mean subjection to the church, all who have been brought in and consecrated by baptism. The Protestant confessions unite in setting forth three marks of a true church: The profession of the true faith; the unmutilated administration of the sacraments; and the exercise of discipline. As Baptists, we would not be unwilling to accept these marks, if we interpret what is meant by the unmutilated administration of the sacraments. Deeply impressed with the truth that the churches are the earthly types of the Bride of the Lamb, and that we can only read ecclessiastical [sic] history aright, when we clearly perceive the New Testament model of a church. Dr. Cramp first sets before us this model, before proceeding, by the light of history, to trace these churches through the centuries. Like the "annals of the poor," the tale is "short and simple." Paul's fear with respect to the Corinthian Church was soon realized in all the churches. "As the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtility, [sic] their minds were corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." The name of Christian spread far and wide, but the cross was exchanged for the Labarum, and, decked with the tinsel and gaudy hues of the Roman and Byzantine courts, a fair form, said to be of perfect virginity, was accepted in place of the Bride.

     The sections of this work which Dr. Cramp would rewrite, were strength and time given him, are those relating to Baptists just before and during the Reformation. The desperate, heroic contest of the Baptists, during the Reformation, all over central Europe, against Rome and Reformation run mad, has never been written. The records of this battle of "babes and sucklings," by whom God ordained strength against "enemies and avengers," are in the archives of the courts of that day, or are written in the pamphlets which Baptists were able to publish secretly. Thank God, many of these records are coming to light. Within the last thirty years several studious Germans, Roman Catholics and Protestants, have written monographs on prominent Baptists of the reformation period, Schreiber on Hubmeyer, Keim on Hetzer, Heberle on Grebel, Hast on the Anabaptists, Rohrich on Baptists in Alsace, Professor Cornelius now of Munich, on the Munster Uproar. His chapter on the hymns of the Baptists is so full of sympathy, that one can forgive him much of his erroneous conception of them in other respects. These and other writers have no sympathy with the views of the Baptists, but their works serve to help us in our investigations.

     The researches of Hahn, Dieckhoff, Herzog, Todd, Maitland, Gilly, Bradshaw, and others, have thrown a flood of light on Waldensian history, and tend to dispel the illusions and perversions of their history by Perrin and Leger, the Calvinistic historians of the Waldenses. The late discovery of Waldensian manuscripts in the libraries of Dublin and Cambridge, have proven these falsifications. The libraries of Dublin, Cambridge, Geneva, and Grenoble, contain the only authentic manuscripts of the Waldenses known to exist. A few have been published. Those a Baptist would most like to see are awaiting the enlightened liberality of some of our generous promoters of learning, to be deciphered and copied, that the long-disputed question, as to what the Waldenses believed and practiced, may be decided by the best authorities. Several facts touching the Waldenses, are most interesting to Baptists. First They were the inheritors of the faith the Albigenses sealed with their blood, and that faith, set forth by the preaching of Peter of Bruis, Henry of Lausanne, and in the records of the Inquisition, included churches of believers, baptized upon a profession of their faith. The Waldensian commentary on Canticles 4:8, says, that the baptism of the Spirit must precede the baptism of water, for the former lends to the latter all its worth. And in another Waldensian work, Novel Confort, the signs of the new birth are said to be, "putting away the works of the former birth, walking in the way of regeneration, washing the conscience with spiritual water, purifying the heart from carnal thoughts, and putting on purity the wedding-garment." It is amazing, if the Waldenses were pedo-baptists, that Bucer should labor through many pages to prove to them the validity of infant baptism, and urge them to reject the baptism on a profession of faith of those who had been baptized in infancy. Secondly There is a striking parallel1 between the pre-Reformation principles of the Waldenses and the principles of the earliest defenders of what was called, by Luther and Zwingle, anabaptism, or catabaptism. The Waldenses held most sacredly that it was unlawful to take an oath, to defend themselves, to go to war, or for a Christian to take a civil office that would require him to pass sentence of death on his fellow men, and for these views they were willing to give their lives. These were the views of the Baptists of 1525, in Switzerland; tenets for which they suffered the loss of all things at the hands of Swiss and German Reformers. Thirdly Goebel, in his excellent work on "Christian Life in the Rhine Provinces,"2 has acknowledged this similarity between the Wa1denses and Baptists, and the fact that, where the Waldenses were most numerous before the Reformation, there they disappear at the time of the Reformation, and Baptists are most numerous. Switzerland, Moravia, and the Netherlands, were the countries where the Waldenses were most numerous just before the Reformation, and these are the lands where the epithets of scorn and reproach, anabaptist and catabaptist were applied to vast numbers of men. Cardinal Hosius, who thoroughly knew the state of Europe at the time of the Reformation, declares (Opera 112, 213,) that the Waldenses rejected infant baptism, and baptized all who came to them, yet that some of them were pedobaptists. And his account agrees with the Romish writers of preceding centuries. Again, a resolution of the town-council of Groningen in Friesland, Holland, dated 1517, i.e., before the Reformation, warns away all anabaptists (Ypeij en Dermout, Anteekeningen, vol. 1. p. 49), and Ypeij and Dermout (Geschiedenis der Nederl. Hervormde Kerk, vol. 1, 141, 147,) assert that Waldenses and Baptists, were one and the same people. We might cite many more proofs, but only add, that thoroughly organized, well disciplined Baptist churches appeared as if by magic in the early part of the Reformation, in St. Gall, Zurich, Waldshut, Augsburg, Nurnberg, Strasburg, etc., long before Zwingle or Luther dared to lay hand on the discipline of their churches. The church in Augsburg, in 1527, numbered 800 members; that in St. Gall, over 1,200.

     We mention these facts, not as proof positive that Waldenses and Baptists were the same people, but as strong testimony in that direction, which should incite us to more diligent and thorough study of this point and connection in our hisory. If it shall appear that Baptists are the true successors of the ancient Waldenses, and that the claim of three centuries, on the part of pedobaptists, to be their lineal descendants, is a fond illusion based on the dexterous manipulation of Waldensian records by Perrin and Leger, it will not be the first time that Baptists, through their gross negligence, have permitted others to enjoy their fair inheritance.

     There is to be a resurrection of character, as well as of life, and we sometimes see this as vividly exemplified in this life as when "the bodies of the saints which slept, arose, and came out of their graves after Christ's resurrection, and went into the city and appeared unto many." Under Metternich, to be a republican in Austria, was to be a very imp of hell. Under Zwingle and Luther, to be a Baptist, was to aggregate in one's self all impish delights in sin under a profession of exalted piety. The length to which Luther and Zwingle allowed themselves to go, in practical denial of their most cherished principles (for infant baptism is an utter denial, in deed and doctrine, of justification by faith, and of God's election of his people), is so astounding that we would not believe it unless their own sign-manual testified to it. Zwingle, in his reply to Hubmeyer, 3 (whose exalted character all writers of the present century acknowledge), published just after his martyrdom at Vienna, addresses him as roasting in hell for his sin against infant baptism. In the library of Heidelberg University (Codex 435. p. 33) is preserved the "advice of the theologians at Wittenberg to slay the Baptists by the sword," signed, "Placet mihi Martino Luthero." From that day to this the name of Baptist has been an epithet of the most scornful reproach in Europe, on political as well as religious grounds, though not one instance can be produced where their presence was injurious to the state, or they ever rose in rebellion. They were dreadful heretics from established state churches, and would strive to draw men to purity of faith and discipline even with their last breath. But Oncken, and Kobner, and Lehmann, and Wiberg, and Cretin, together with many other consecrated souls, are living God's rebuke to the hoary reproach, as many have done before them, and history has begun to raise from the dust the pure and holy characters of many or the early Baptists.

     We give but one example. Ludwig Hetzer has been quoted by all writers on the history of antitrinitarian views (by Bock, Trechsel, Sandius, Fock, and others,) as one of the first to promulgate these views at the time of the Reformation. He was a man4 of gentle spirit, of fine poetical talent, of deep piety, of great learning, one of the first Hebraists of his time, long an intimate friend of Zwingle, and of all the South German and Swiss Reformers. In 1526, he became a Baptist. From that time he was hounded till the dogs lapped his blood under the scaffold in Constance, in February 1529. Kept in prison for months, without any charge against him, except that he was a Baptist, he was brought up suddenly, on the third of February, 1529, before the court, on an accusation of polygamy. He was immediately sentenced to be burned the next morning; but, at the instance of some of the chief men, the sentence was changed to beheading. He died, as he lived; committing his soul to Jesus. One hundred and thirteen years before; out of the same sate, and along the same path Hetzer trod to death, a thin weak man was hurried to the pyre in, clothing blazoned with emblems of devils, amid the jeers and scorn, the pride and pomp and circumstance of the great attendants on the Council of Constance. John Huss died in the greatest disgrace, and under the mightiest curse Rome could belch forth. But his character has had its resurrection. Hetzer passed beyond the spot forever sacred to the memory of Huss, to the gallows-tree. Condemned and hurried to death by Protestants, his name was blackened by Zwingle's assertion that he wrote against the divinity of Christ, a book no one ever read, and by the charge of polygamy, made by those who knew better, (the Blarers), and who had been his friends, bnt now sold him for a few pieces of silver. A verse of one of his hymns has been quoted as proof positive that he rejected the atoning blood of Jesus.

                       Ja, spricht die welt, es ist nit not, 
                       Das ich mit Christo leyden: 
                       Er leid doch sebst vor mich den tod, 
                       Nu zech ich auff sein kreiden;  
                       Er zalt vor mich, 
                       Das selb glaub ich,  
                       Darmit ists ausgerichtet: 
                       O bruder mein, 
                       Es ist dein schein 
                       Der Teufel hats ertichtet. 

     But this hymn, containing this verse, was chosen by Freylinghausen, and Francke of Halle, for their book of spiritual hymns, which they sent forth to aid in leading souls to a closer acquaintance with the Saviour! Only by the most compulsory contortion of the words can any other than a meaning of deepest devotion be wrung from them. Hetzer's translation of the Prophets, made the year before his death, published just before his imprisonment, gives no sign of deistical views, but the reverse. This translation, which passed through thirteen editions in four years, from 1528-31, has become so scarce, that only four copics are known to exist; two are in Basel, and two are in the Bucknell Library of Crozer Theological Seminary. His other works are also at Upland, and they deny utterly the charge of rejecting the Saviour as God over all blessed forever. All the works of Hubmeyer, and the letters of Grebel, rest quietly at Upland, to rise up in God's good time and put to shame the calumny against the work of the Holy Spirit.

     The learned Prof. De Hoop Scheffer, of the Mennonite Seminary, at Amsterdam, in connection with Frederik Muller, Esq., of Amsterdam, antiquarian. facile in every language of Europe, and deeply interested in whatever concerns Baptist History, is now searching the archives of the courts of the Netherlands, from 1525 to 1560, for records concernmg Baptists. Already he has found much that throws light on our history, and he expects soon to give the result of his studies to the public. We await them, with great interest. Within a few months, on one of the dusty shelves of a great European library, has been discovered a pamphlet, written by a nobleman of Augsburg, in 1526, entitled "A True History of the Baptists." Of course the authorities removed his head from his body, for daring to think and write on such a subject.

     There is a future for Baptists. Their history shall have its resurrection. God grant that every Baptist may heed Dr. Cramp's last words (pp. 584-589).

     If it is true that the Apostolic churches were Baptist churches, they were the purest Baptist churches the world has ever seen; yet out of them, by a gradual fall, by fellowship with the world, by love of display and worldly ways and practices, has come the awful apostasy that has clouded and cursed the world for centuries. Are we better than those early churches? Only by the Holy Spirit and by a close walk with Jesus, by the profession and preaching of the true faith, by the unmutilated administration of the ordinances, by the faithful exercise of discipline in our churches, shall we hand down, bright and clear, the unspeakably precious truths we have inherited. In simple intelligent reliance on God's word of grace let us strive to set that forth by word and work. As we look back through the centuries, we see the Saviour's words written in a noon of living rays, "not one jot or tittle shall pass away till all be fulfilled," we catch the spirit of Hubmeyer's strong assurance, "Truth is immortal," (Die Wahrheit ist untodlich,) we must pray, while souls remain in darkness, the prayer of Hetzer, "O God, set free the captives!" ("O Gott, erlos die Gfangnen!")




1 See J. H. Halberisma, Der Doopsgezinden Herkomt. Deventer. 1843.

2 Max Goebel, Gesh. D. Chrisl. Lebens in der rheinisch-westphalischen evengelischen Kirche. 3 vols. Coblentz, 1862. Vol. 1, 41.

3 H. Schreiber. Taschenbuch fur Geschichte in Suddentschland, 1839-40. Hagen. Deutschland's literar. u. religios Verhaltnisse in Ref. zeitalter. 3 vols.

4 "Hetzerum commodissimi ingenii hominem meministi, quo cum et ipse tot modis claro viro, linguis etiam et admirabili ingenii dexteritate praedito, non semel egi, ne supra quam deceret, sapere pergeret." Vadiani Epist, ad J. Zuiccium, Cal, Augusti, 1510.

[From The Baptist Quarterly, Vol. III, 1869, pp. 329-335. Footnotes changed to endnotes; symbols changed to numbers. jrd]

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