Dear Ann Landers
By Dr. Larry Landis
You Got Your Information,
But You're WRONG!!
Recently well known US love-lorn columnist Ann Landers wrote to her readers an article that she titled "Origins of religions may be a surprise". Although I do not normally read Ms. Landers' column, and even when I do, I usually find myself disagreeing with her own brand of humanistic advice drawn from her liberal views and virtually agnostic opinions. However, in this particular column "Ann" really got my ire up when she stated "If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1607." This statement is so biased and false that I could not let it go unchallenged and so on Sunday evening, November 24th, I preached this message to the church I have pastored for over 22 years. The message, "Dear Ann Landers, I Don't Know Where You Got Your Information, But You're Wrong" is printed here and is also available in tract form from Wilderness Voice Publications.
To begin with Ms. Landers says, "If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth. . ." According to the New Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, the word "tenet" means "any opinion, principle, dogma or doctrine believed or maintained as true ..." According then to definition, Ann Landers has just said that the doctrines of the Baptists did not come into existence until 1607. This is entirely false. The "tenets" of our faith are laid squarely at the feet of the one who laid the foundation for Jesus Christ to build His church upon (Matthew 16: 18). The "tenets" or doctrines of our faith did not come from John Smyth in 1607, but rather came from the first Baptist preacher whose name was also John. The first Baptist, John the Baptist, had a name given to him by God Himself (Matthew 3:1). This very first of the Christian preachers taught the deity of Christ (John 1:29). He taught the pre-existence of Jesus (John 1:15). This NT. Baptist's first public words were the warning of repentance (Matthew 3:1-2). John the Baptist taught the Sovereignty of God (Matthew 3:9). He taught about the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). John stressed the confession of sin (Matthew 3:6). He refused to baptize unbelievers (Matthew 3:7-8). And this great man's baptism was by immersion, not sprinkling, and this baptism was not for salvation, but rather to "make Christ manifest" (John 1:31). John the Baptist also preached the absolute certainty of judgment (Matthew 3:12). He taught individual responsibility in the matter of salvation, rather than a salvation by proxy (Matthew 3:9). He emphasized clean living and Christian conduct (Luke 3:8). He held to the substitutionary atonement( John 1:29,36). He believed in the total depravity and helplessness of man (John 3:27). He had a close fellowship with God and walked with Him (John 1:33). And the world's first Baptist preacher believed in witnessing and winning the lost to Christ (John 5:33,35).
The basic "tenets" of our faith did not come from a man, but from God's Word, from the first Christian preacher (who was also the first Baptist) and ultimately from God Himself. The basic doctrines of Baptists have always been salvation by grace, repentance from sin, believer's baptism by immersion and personal holiness. Some modern "Baptists" may be straying from some of these basic beliefs, but nevertheless they are "tenets" that have separated us from all others. Not only do the "tenets" of our faith predate 1607 by some 1574 years, but also the history of our church stretches clear back to apostolic times. I don't know where you got your information, Ann, but you're wrong!
At one time all Baptists rejected the idea that Baptists are Protestants and at one time all Baptists believed that we sprang from the first church established by Jesus Christ while He was on this earth. The greatest theological minds among Baptists have always taught that the first church was a Baptist church; that all early apostolic churches were Baptist churches; and that originally all churches and Christians were Baptists. The greatest Baptist scholars, theologians and historians have believed and taught that the Baptist church was established by Jesus and His disciples upon the foundation laid by His cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist.
In 1894, Edward T. Hiscox wrote the New Directory for Baptist Churches. In this book, which for over 100 years has been a standard among Baptists, on pages 492-493, Mr. Hiscox wrote, "Baptists have a history of which they need not be ashamed−a history of noble names and noble deeds, extending back through many ages, in which the present generation well may glory. From the days of John the Baptist until now, a great army of these witnesses for the truth, and martyrs for its sake, has illumined and honoured the march of Christian history. The ages since Christ have known no purer, nobler lives, no braver, more faithful witnesses for the Gospel of Christ, no more glorious martyrs for its sake, than many of those who honour us by being called our "fathers in the faith".
In 1880, the great Baptist historian, author, lecturer, theologian and preacher, J. R. Graves, wrote in the foreword and dedication to his monumental work, Old Landmarkism, "This little work is dedicated and it's dissemination throughout the denomination committed to every Baptist brother and sister and especially my brethren in the ministry and of the press in America, who love those principles for which our Baptist Fathers for 18 centuries suffered cruel mockings, bloody stripes, imprisonment, and martyrdoms. . ." Dr. Graves edited a denominational paper, The Tennessee Baptist for many years. He at one time was pastor of the First Baptist Church in New Orleans. He authored eleven books and was generally considered the most eloquent preacher in the entire South at that time.
Also note that the well-respected Baptist apologist, J. M Carroll, whose book The Trail of Blood has been printed continuously since it was copyrighted in 1931, and whose numbers now reach well into the millions, says simply that it is "The History of Baptist Churches from the Time of Christ, Their Founder, to the Present Day".
In 1912, D. B. Ray authored the coveted treasure, Baptist Succession, a Handbook of Baptist History and in the preface, Dr. Ray wrote, "Baptists have, with one voice denied any connection with the Roman apostasy, and claimed their origin, as a church, from Jesus Christ and the apostles".
David Benedict, pastor of the Baptist church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, wrote his classic "A General History of the Baptist Denomination" in 1813. All throughout the over 1200 pages of his monumental work, Mr. Benedict asserts that the Baptist denomination of his day was most assuredly the same as the church started by Jesus Christ Himself while He was on earth. He is most emphatic to state that the original church was a Baptist church.
Another venerable author, the Englishman William Jones, wrote The History of the Christian Church in 1812 and stated flatly, "the Waldenses were Baptists". These ancient people and their churches existed from the early 1300's to the beginning of the eighteenth century. This statement, at its worst, proves that Baptists have believed in their ancient existence for more than 300 years from the date of their founding given by Ann Landers.
Yet another author, Charles B. Stovall, in his book, Baptist History and Succession, says, "It will be seen that the Baptists claim the high antiquity of the commencement of the Christian church. They can trace a succession of those who have believed the same doctrine and administered the same ordinances directly, up to the Apostolic Age."
M. M. Munger, in his book, "Baptist Churches From Jerusalem to North America", wrote, "The intention of this little work is to show that from the time of Christ, beginning while He was on earth, the church of Christ has not failed to exist down to this present year of 1926. We have chosen this line of history as being the most simple and direct; Jerusalem, Rome, Britain (now Wales), to the North American colonies. Baptist church perpetuity is a proven fact."
And, of course, the testimony of the venerable G. H. Orchard, the great English Baptist wrote prior to 1855, "A Concise History of Baptists from the time of Christ their Founder to the 18th Century. "
Perhaps W. A. Jarrel said it best when he wrote in his book, Baptist Church Perpetuity or History in 1894, "the Baptist movement in history has always been back to the New Testament ... then it was about 150 A.D. that the first Baptist protest was raised by the Montanists".
While I am not sure it would be profitable to continue to quote Baptist author after Baptist author, my intention has been to show that all credible Baptist historians and theologians have both believed and taught that there is a direct link from the days of Christ and His apostles to the Baptist church of today.
Though called by other names, true Baptists subscribe to the idea that originally all churches were Baptist churches. Baptists who deny this historical position and indisputable fact are of modern origin and thought. Certainly they do not reflect the doctrine of church (Baptist) perpetuity as was so universally believed among Baptists of previous generations.
I however, to further solidify the premise that the acceptance of this doctrine was the majority opinion that prevailed in Baptist churches until recent times, we must add that other well known Baptists also adhered tenaciously to this belief. Such great men as Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London), Jesse Mercer (for whom Mercer University is named), Francis Wayland (longtime Baptist pastor in New York state), J. M. Pendleton (former Professor of Theology at Union University in Murfreesborough, Tennessee), B. H. Carroll (former Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas and associate editor of The Texas Baptist), R. E. B. Baylor (Member of Congress from Alabama, Texas Supreme Court Justice and namesake of Baylor University) and W. A. Criswell (former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas). These, along with countless scores of others, have been faithful to the end to proclaim the "tenets" of our faith and the glorious history of the Baptist church. Although basically passed from church to church, this belief was argued vehemently as early as 1640 when William Kiffin, who for sixty-one years (1640-1701) pastored the Baptist church in Devonshire Square in London and whose granddaughter married the grandson of Oliver Cromwell, wrote an essay defending the Baptist position of exclusion at the Lord's Table (Communion). Again I say, I don't know where you got your information, Ann, but you're wrong!
But do not think for one moment that Baptists have arrogantly propagated this opinion of themselves alone. Many of our adversaries and detractors have also testified as to the antiquity of the Baptist faith. Some, who out of the hatred in their hearts for these people called Baptists, have unwittingly given credibility to our illustrious history.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, President of the Council of Trent in 1524, said, "Were it not that the Baptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years, they would swarm in greater number than all the Reformers." Did you get that Ann? A Roman Catholic Cardinal, the personal representative of the Pope, in the year 1524 acknowledged that the Baptists had existed for 1200 previous years. That, by Catholic admission, puts the Baptists back within three hundred years of Christ's ministry on earth. Ann, that is almost 1,300 years before you say the Baptist church was started. I don't know where you got your information, Ann, but you're wrong! !
Even the principal Lutheran historian, Johann Laurenz von Mosheim, wrote, "Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all of the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists."
And the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, a Presbyterian publication, states, "It must have already occurred to our readers that the Baptists are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described as Ana-Baptists. Indeed this seems to have been their leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present time." Tertullian was born just fifty years after the death of the Apostle John. I don't know where you got your information, Ann, but you're wrong! !
Other renowned scholars and writers, some knowingly, some cluelessly, have lent their support to the notion that the original church of Christendom was a Baptist church. Such men as Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), the aide and successor to the reformer Zwingli admitted that as contrary as the doctrine was, this doctrine of the Baptists persisted from the days of the Apostles. Even Peter Allix, the learned scholar and historian of the Church of England, "furnishes us a list of thirty-three errors charged against this people by the Jacobite priest Raynerius" from his work first published in 1690. Raynerius Saccho was a thirteenth century monk and sworn enemy of the Waldensian Baptists.
Even famed English scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, wrote, "The modern Baptists formerly called Anabaptists are the only people that never symbolized with the Papacy." He thus admits that the beginning of this illustrious group of Christians began sometime before the Roman Catholic system itself. Testimonies to this fact can also be extracted from the writings of such great minds as those of Professor David Masson of Edinburgh University (1822-1907); William C. King, editor of Crossing the Centuries; Robert Barclay the Quaker theologian (1648-1690); Alexander Campbell, founder of the Churches of Christ; and respected American educator and historian, John Clarke Ridpath, a Methodist. Mr. Ridpath, professor for sixteen years of what is now known as De Pauw University said, "I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist Church as far back as A.D. 100, although without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists." Once more, Ann, I don't know where you got your information, but you are wrong! !
Perhaps the most excellent testimony to the antiquity of the people called "Baptists" comes from the very unlikely source of Doctors A. Ypeij and J. J. Dermout, Chaplain to the King of Holland. In 1819 these men received a royal commission to prepare a history of the Dutch Reformed Church. This history, prepared under royal sanction, and officially published, contains the following testimony to the origin of the Baptists, "We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists ... were the original Waldenses ... On this account, the Baptists may be considered as the only religious community which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the gospel through all ages. The perfectly correct external and internal economy of the Baptist denomination tends to confirm the truth, disputed by the Roman Church, that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary, and at the same time goes to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics, that their denomination is the most ancient."
Well, Ann, there you have it in a nutshell. From the pages of the Bible, the New Testament in particular, we are able to prove that the "tenets" of our faith did not come from John Smyth in 1607, but rather from John the Baptist and Jesus Christ Himself. We are able to establish that Baptists for centuries have laid claim to be the original church, the one started by Jesus on the foundation set by John the Baptist. And, even though many of these men hated the Baptists, non-Baptist sacred and secular historians alike have attributed the beginning of the church to the Baptists. Be that as it may, however, I am not angry with you, Ann. As a member of the Jewish religion, I could not expect you to know much about Christian church history. However, I conclude this little rebuttal by saying, "I don't know where you got your information, Ann, but you're wrong! ! "
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