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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Did Ancient Baptists Refuse to Recognize Pedobaptist Societies as Scriptural?

J. R. Graves

From Old Landmarkism: What Is It?, 1880

It is asserted with the utmost assurance by Affiliationists that our policy of the non-recognition of human and unscriptural societies as churches of Christ, and of their teachers as ministers of the gospel, and our non-acceptance of their ordinances as valid, is not sustained by the history of our denomination, and is, therefore, not an old but a new landmark, and we, ourselves, are heretics and schismatics.

This is a serious charge, and if it can be sustained by the word of God and the facts of history, the most effectual means should be employed to bring us to the knowledge of the truth, and this failing, Old Landmarkers should be excluded as incorrigible and dangerous offenders. Let us, then, patiently inquire:


It will be admitted by the most "liberal" of our brethren that all the churches of Christ, before the "apostasy," which took place in the third and fourth centuries, and gave rise to the Greek and Latin Catholic hierarchies, were what are now called Baptist churches. It must then be granted that the falling away foretold by Paul (2 Thess. 2 3), was a falling away from the doctrine and church form established by Christ and his apostles, and which characterized all the scriptural churches in the first century, and as a general thing a part of the second—consequently, it was a falling away from Baptist doctrines, principles, form of church organization and fellowship.

All history unites in testifying that a general defection from the primitive faith and church order did take place throughout the entire Roman Empire, East and West, in the third century, and a general withdrawing, according to the directions given by Paul, of the pure and uncorrupted portions of the churches that adhered to the faith at first delivered; and these steadfastly claimed, though often in the minority, and often ruthlessly excluded by the corrupt majority, to be the scriptural church, and pronounced the corrupt majority the "apostasy" or apostates from the truth.

These uncorrupted witnesses of Jesus were called “Cathari” at first, the Pure, and afterwards by the names of their most prominent ministers and leaders, as Novatians, Donatists; and after they fled to the valleys of the mountains from the face of their implacable persecutors, where for ages they were hid as in a "wilderness," they received the general name of "Waldenses" and Vaudois, which meant the inhabitants of "valleys" or "valley-men."  Robinson says: "From the Latin 'vallis' came the English 'valley,' the French and Spanish ‘valle,’ the Italian 'valdeci,' the Low Dutch 'velleye,' the Provencal ‘vaux,’ ‘vaudois,' the Ecclesiastical 'vallences,' ‘valdenses,’ ‘Waldenses.’”

Peter of Lyons, a rich merchant, embraced the doctrinal sentiments of these valley-men, and from them he received the name "Waldus," valley-man, and not, as some have supposed, they from him. While originally it only designated the inhabitants of certain valleys, yet it ultimately was applied to all those Christians in all countries who held the faith of these original valley-men. These persecuted saints who, in the third and fourth centuries, fled into these valleys of the mountains—places " prepared by God, that they"—i. e., these rich valleys—"may nourish her," I believe are the successors of the apostolic churches, and from them received their constitution, their baptisms, and ordinances. I can only give here the testimony of a few distinguished and standard historians.

Dr. Alexis Muston, therefore, truthfully says:

"The Vaudois (Waldenses) of the Alps are, in our view, primitive Christians, or inheritors of the primitive church, who have been preserved in these valleys from the alterations successively introduced into the church of Rome into evangelical worship. It was not they who separated from Catholicism; but Catholicism which separated from them in modifying the primitive worship."(The Israel of the Alps, p. 1, quoted in Baptist Succession)

With him agrees Waddington in his History of the Church, who speaking of the Novatians, whom he calls "Sectaries," says: "And those rigid principles which had characterized and sanctified the church in the first century, WERE ABANDONED TO THE PROFESSION OF SCHISMATIC SECTARIES in the third." (p. 70)

This is precisely what is meant by the falling away—i. e., abandoning the scriptural principles of the gospel of Christ, and adopting a corrupt policy, order of government, and human traditions. Those scriptural minorities in all those countries, though overborne and excommunicated by corrupt majorities, constituted the true and primitive churches of Christ.

Dr. Allix, in his History of the Churches of Piedmont" gives this account:

"For three hundred years or more, the Bishop of Rome attempted to subjugate the church at Milan under his jurisdiction; and at last the interest of Rome grew too potent for the church of Milan, planted by one of the disciples; insomuch that the bishop [pastor] and people, rather than own their jurisdiction, retired to the valleys of Lucerne and Angrogna, and thence were called Vallenses, Waldenses, or "the people of the valleys."(Encyc. Rel. Knowl. p. 1148)

Cramp says: "We may safely infer that the Novatian churches were what are now called Baptist churches, adhering to the apostolic and primitive practice." (p. 59)

These puritan churches were known as Donatists in North Africa, and they were designated as Cathari and Paulicians by the Council of Nice, A. D. 325. These despised, oppressed, and persecuted Cathari, Novatians, and Waldenses of the third and fourth and following centuries, were our historical ancestors, and not the dominant and corrupt hierarchies at Rome and Constantinople, which called themselves “Catholics.”

Now these pure and primitive churches did not in any way recognize other denominations than their own, as scriptural churches, and, therefore, they did not acknowledge their ministers as having any authority to preach or administer the ordinances; nor did they receive their immersions as valid, but invariably baptized all who came over to them, and from this fact they became known by the general name of Anabaptists (Rebaptizers).

Cardinal Hosius, president of the Council of Trent (A. D. 1550), declared that the Anabaptists had for 1,200 years past suffered generally, and the most cruel sorts of punishments. "The Anabaptists are a pernicious sect, of which kind the Waldensian brethren seem also to have been. Nor is this heresy a modern thing; it existed in the time of Austin." (Rus. Reply to Wall, p. 20)

This concedes that as Rebaptizers we had a separate church existence in the fourth century, and were most cruelly persecuted. We claim these suffering Rebaptizers as our historical ancestors, and not those who bathed their hands in blood. Whom do you claim, dear reader?

Zwingle, the Swiss Presbyterian, said (A. D. 1534): "The institution of Anabaptism is no novelty, but for thirteen hundred years has caused great disturbance in the church," [i. e., the apostate part of it].

This concedes to us an organized existence as Rebaptizers in the days of Novatian, and even before ; and it is a fact that fifty years before Novatian's separation from the church at Rome, the withdrawal of the Old Landmarkers from the churches that had become corrupt had commenced. Says Robinson:

"They call Novatian the author of the heresy of Puritanism; and yet they know that Tertullian had quitted the church near fifty years before for the same reason; and Privatus, who was an old man in the time of Novatian had with several more, repeatedly remonstrated against the alterations taking place, and, as they could get no redress, had dissented and formed separate congregations." (Ecel. Res., p. 127)

Sir Isaac Newton, the great astronomer, but still greater student of the Scriptures and ecclesiastical history, declared to Whiston: "The modern Baptists, formerly called Anabaptists, are the only people that never symbolized with the papacy." (See Life of Whiston)

Mosheim's testimony is to the point, both as to the origin of our name and our great antiquity:

"The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion…is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is, therefore, extremely difficult to be ascertained." (Vol. 4, p. 427)

That the prime reason the Anabaptists would not recognize the ordinances of the Catholic and other sects was that they did not admit them to be churches, and consequently utterly without any authority to baptize or to preach, no intelligent man will doubt.

Dr. John Owen, who was born A. D. 1616, says:

"The Donatists rebaptized those who came to their societies, because they professed themselves to believe that all administration of ordinances, not in their assemblies, was null, and that they were to be looked on as no such thing. Our Anabaptists do the same thing."(Works, vol. XIII, p. 184)

Our "liberal" brethren are extravagant in their praises of the reformers Luther, Calvin, Zwingle, and Knox, and they speak of them as evangelical ministers; and of their societies, now called Protestants, as evangelical churches ; and it is with these "churches," and these evangelical ministers, they have so great a desire to affiliate, and in every way recognize, and seem to prefer them to their own brethren, especially if their own brethren are Landmarkers. But not so did our fathers—the hated Anabaptists of the days of the Reformation.

Let the reader mark well the testimony of a Presbyterian, who lived cotemporary with Calvin, and succeeded him, and wrote a history of the Reformation, and knew whereof he testified, and then decide who are the "Old Landmarkers" of this age—Affiliationists, or those strict Baptists they denounce as schismatics.

Henry Bullinger, the successor of Calvin, who wrote in the sixteenth century, says:

"The Anabaptists think themselves to be the only true church of Christ, and acceptable to God; and teach that they who by baptism are received into their churches ought not to have any communion [fellowship] with [those called] evangelical, or any other whatsoever: for that our [i. e., evangelical Protestant, or reformed] churches are not true churches, any more than the churches of the Papists."

And he bears this testimony to the purity of these Anabaptists:

"Let others say what they will of the DIPPERS: we see in them nothing but what is excellent; and hear from them nothing else but that we should not swear or do wrong to any one; that everyone ought to live godly and holy lives; we see no wickedness in them."

Professor J. S. Reynolds, D.D., of the University of South Carolina, prepared, in 1843, an elaborate paper upon the practice of Baptists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the conclusion I copy.

"The conclusion is irresistible, that they did not consider even immersion valid, when it was the act of an unimmersed administrator. The principle of action, doubtless, was, that there could be no valid baptism unless the administrator was authorized to baptize by a properly constituted church. Hence, in a vindication of the Baptists of London, published in 1615, the ground is taken, that ‘all baptism, received either in the church of Rome or England, is invalid because received in a false church and from ANTICHRISTIAN MINISTERS.’(Crosby, vol. 1, p. 273) They refused to sanction the acts of any administrator who derived his authority from churches which perverted the ordinance of baptism. This is firm Baptist ground, and the position is impregnable."

Wall testifies that there was a body of Baptists in England as early as A. D. 1587, who would have no religious intercourse with those teachers who perverted the faith of the gospel. He says:

"Many of them hold it necessary, as I said, to renounce communion with all Christians that are not of their way. Many of them are so peremptory in this, that if they be in the chamber of a sick man, and any Pedobaptist minister or other, come in to pray with him, they will go out of the room. And if they be invited to the funeral of any Pedobaptist, they will go to the house and accompany the corpse with the rest of the people to the door, but there they retreat—they call it the Steeple House.

“They seem to judge thus: Those that are not baptized are no Christians [this is Wall's misrepresentation, for always, and ever, we have held that a man must be a Christian before he is baptized], and none are baptized but themselves [this is so]. So that they make not only baptism itself, but also the time, or age, or way of receiving it a fundamental [to a church or church membership, we do]." (Wall's History, chapter VIII, section 7, part II)

Wall, like multitudes of Pedobaptists, we fear, was but too willing to attribute wrong motives to these English Baptists for not witnessing the religious ceremonies of these church and state ministers. Those ministers did not pray with the sick, but read prayers to them, and for this mummery they had no fellowship. They did not visit their Steeple Houses, because they did not believe God was worshiped in them, but his holy name and service profaned by the priests, by their senseless and popish forms and ceremonies; for Christ had said, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7) Baptists of that day thought they would be regarded as countenancing, in some sense, the priests of the church of England should they attend upon their administrations. And if we will only consider the influence of acts closely, we shall be forced to conclude that they acted consistently.

That our historical ancestors did not affiliate with Catholics, who, for twelve hundred years, endeavored to exterminate them with fire and sword, no one will claim. That they could not, if they had desired, affiliate with the early Protestants, Dr. Winkler has shown in a ringing article in the Alabama Baptist:

"They came into contact with the Reformers everywhere. And they were reviled and persecuted by them all—by Lutherans, and Episcopalians, and Puritans, and Presbyterians. Even the Romanists did not denounce them so bitterly as did Melancthon and Luther, Calvin and Zwingle, and Knox, Cranmer, and Ridley and Latimer.

“When Bishop Hall sneered at them as ‘sectaries, instructed by guides fit for them, cobblers, tailors, felt-makers, and such like trash,’ he gave expression to the Protestant feeling of his own and of previous ages toward the Baptists. There was no sect among which these outraged and longsuffering believers could find refuge. They had to meet apart, baptize apart, commune apart. Their independent church organization was necessitated by the spirit of the age. In all the world ‘none were so poor as to do them reverence.' "

J. Newton Brown, of Philadelphia, for many years editorial secretary of the American Baptist Publishing Society, in an historical essay, says of the policy of the Baptists, with respect to the Catholics and all corrupt churches:

"They held that the Catholics had so departed from the original constitution of the church, in this respect, as to have forfeited their claim to that honor; and hence invariably baptized all who joined them from the Catholic churches. Hence, they are the first in history who are called Anabaptists, that is, rebaptizers, although, of course, they denied the propriety of the appellation, as they believed the baptism administered by a corrupt church to be null and void."

So we say today, and, therefore, should no more invite the ministers of corrupt "churches" —human societies—into our pulpits to preach for us than we would papistical ministers.

The Donatists baptized all persons coming from other professing [Christian] communities. This conduct Augustine [Catholic] disapproved, and observed: "You [Donatists] say they are baptized in an impure church, heretics." (Orchard's History, p. 95)

These authorities indicate the faith and practice of the Baptists for the first ten centuries. In the year 1120, we find a Treatise Concerning Antichrist, etc., among the writings of the Waldenses. In defining Antichrist, they say:

"It is not any particular person ordained to any degree, or office, or ministry, ‘but a system of falsehood,’ [as a false ‘church,’ or ecclesiastical system, etc.,] opposing itself to the truth, coveting itself with a show of beauty and piety, yet very unsuitable to the church of Christ as by names and offices, the Scriptures and the sacrament, and various other things may appear. The system of iniquity thus completed with its ministers, GREAT and small, [as we now find in the Romish, Episcopal, and Methodist societies], supported by those who are induced to follow it with an evil heart and blindfold—this is the congregation, which, taken together, composes what is called 'Antichrist or Babylon,' etc.

"Christ never had an enemy like this; so able to pervert the way of truth into falsehood, insomuch that the true church, with her children, is trodden under foot."

One of the marks of an Antichristian system, or Antichrist, these Waldensian Baptists declare to be: "He teaches to baptize children into the faith, and attributes to this [baptism] the work of regeneration, thus confounding the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, with the external rite of baptism."

Do not all Pedobaptist sects do this, as well as the mother church, of which they are branches, or the daughters?

The Romish church says that "baptism is necessary to salvation."

The Greek, or Eastern church, which finally separated from the Roman, or Western church, about 1054, maintained that whoever is baptized by "immersion, is regenerated, cleansed, and justified."

The Swiss church says that, by baptism, we are "received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance of the sons of God."

The Bohemian church says that in baptism the Lord "washeth away sin, begetteth a man again, and bestoweth salvation."

The Confession of Augsburg says, "Baptism is necessary for salvation."

The Confession of Saxony says, by this dipping the sins be washed away.

The Episcopal Church of England says, by baptism we are "made members of Christ and children of God."

The Westminster Assembly say, in their confession, baptism "is a seal of grace, of our engrafting into Christ—of regeneration, adoption, and life eternal."

The Confession of Helvetia says that, by baptism, the Lord "doth regenerate us and cleanse us from our sins.

The Confession of France says that by baptism "we are engrafted into Christ's body."

The Methodist church, through Mr. Wesley, says, "By baptism, we who are by nature the children of wrath, are made the children of God."

The Campbellites teach that regeneration and immersion are synonymous terms, and that actual remission of sins, conferred in the act, is but too notorious.

Now, how do these Baptists think it became them to treat every such Antichristian sect? Hear them: "And since it hath pleased God to make known these things to us by his servants, believing it to be his revealed will, according to the Holy Scriptures, and admonished thereto by the command of the Lord, we do, both inwardly and OUTWARDLY, depart from Antichrist."

Had these Baptists affiliated with Papists, by calling them “brethren”, and recognizing their priests as Christian ministers, by inviting them into their pulpits, or "stands," to preach for them, would they have appeared to the world to have "outwardly" departed from them as the ministers of an Antichristian society?

What the descendants of these Waldenses considered as "outwardly" departing from Antichrist, we learn even after Luther, and Calvin, and Henry VIII had set up their divisions or kingdoms, by referring back to the testimony of Ballinger, (p.173).

The descendants of those very Protestants who joined with the Catholics, in the attempt to exterminate our churches from the earth, as too vile and pernicious to exist, today authoritatively demand that we shall recognize their societies as scriptural churches; their doctrine and ministers as evangelical; and their ordinances as valid and scriptural as our own. I say they do not reason to convince us; they do not courteously request it; but they imperiously, arrogantly, and dictatorially demand it of us.

We quote but a paragraph from a work on Exclusivism, written by Albert Barnes, the “great” Presbyterian, and author of Barnes' Notes, which so many Baptists delight in:

"We claim and demand of the Baptists that they shall not merely recognize the ministry of other denominations, but their membership also [i. e., infants, seekers, sinners and all]; that while, if they prefer it, they may continue the practice of immersion in baptism, as a part of their Christian liberty, they shall concede the same liberty to others (i. e., to practice adult and infant sprinkling and pouring for baptism)

“And while they expect that their acts of baptism shall be recognized by others as valid, they shall not offer an affront to the Christian world by rebaptizing all who, enter their communion, or by excluding from their communion all who have not been subjected to the rite of immersion. And we claim and DEMAND of the Baptist churches that they shall recognize the members of other churches [every sect in Christendom that claims to be a church] as members of the church of Christ. We do not ask this as a boon, we claim it as a right."—pp. 66, 67.

Can any Baptist read this, and doubt for one moment that Dr. Barnes, and all Presbyterians who endorse him, would, by imprisonments, fines, and flames, attempt to compel us to recognize their societies and human traditions, as Calvin and Luther, Zwingle and Knox, did in the sixteenth centuries, and their ancestors—the Catholics—did for twelve hundred years before?

In order to propitiate the opposition of the Protestants of today, and to become popular with them and the world they influence, our affiliating brethren are endeavoring, "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple," (Rom. 16: 18), and to influence them to grant this claim, and yield to this arrogant and intolerant "demand" of Dr. Barnes, who speaks for all the sects of the age, and for the Evangelical Alliance. Brethren, will you—can you yield to it?

Liberal Anti-Landmark Baptists say you ought, and must, or they will make friends with your foes to persecute you. "Old Landmark Baptists" say the claim is preposterous, and the demand opposed, both to the teachings of the Scriptures and spirit of Christianity—is the very spirit of Antichrist, and we will resist it unto blood if it is necessary.

Reader, with whom do you stand? And which of these two classes of Baptists-do you think occupies the ground held by our fathers from the third to the sixteenth century?

I think that even Dr. Jeter and his "Pike" man will admit that there was very little affiliation or open communion of any sort practiced in those ages. Those saintly Reformers, the ancestors of modern Protestants, who burnt, and drowned, and imprisoned without mercy our fathers, were not quite so anxious to exchange pulpits, and hold union meetings with Baptists as their children now are. And why? They are the same, and Baptists hold the same principles today as then. What can the reader think of the historical information or candor of the man, who will assert that Baptists recognized those Protestant societies as churches, and their preachers as ministers of the gospel of Christ, any more than they did those of the Catholic Church and her priests?