1Jo 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
The English church of Christ (also called Anabaptists), taught that baptism was for the remission of sins by dipping (immersion in water). By 1645 there was counted by Daniel Featley fifteen different Anabaptist denominations in England. By 1640 we can be sure that the following doctrines were being taught throughout much of England. Men have free will, original sin is not based on Bible teaching and is false, baptism is by immersion for believing persons on confession of faith for the remission of sins, whereby entry is gained into Christs church, priesthood of believers, lay people may baptise, preach and take the Lords Supper: along with the rejection of the clergy class; autonomous congregations with elected elders and deacons. The head of the church is Christ. These people took the title of Christians and the church was known as The church of Christ. They were opposed to the idea of denominations.
After the mid 1640s Calvinism would start to invade the church starting from London. Also from the 1640s millennialism would enter the church especially after the great fire of London 1666. After the 1670s associations (Congregations of Baptised Believers) would start to appear and in the next century the General Baptist Denomination would come into being. During this time many churches remained independent. During the eighteenth century most Baptist churches had joined these associations and the term Baptist Church was being used, the title church of Christ slowly disappeared from use. In 1790 a break was made within the Baptist Associations in Britain, who sought to make Calvinism compulsory on their membership. The result was that the last remaining church of Christ separated with this body. During the mid 1800s they came into contact with the Restoration Movement, both recognising each other as faithful brethren.
Calvinism was also a turning to the world and reformation rather than restoration. This was argued by the opponents to the newly forming Baptist denominations. Churches of Christ denied being protestant and reformers. The Baptists opposing restoration turned to reformed theology basing their many confessions on the Church of England 1646 Calvinistic confession.
The Lord's church existed in Europe from the 1100s, 1200s, 1300, 1400s, 1500s 1600s and into the 1700s when it has almost been obliterated.
The pope with all the force of Bulls he could muster with the inquisition were employed to destroy the church and millions died. Crosby in England puts the value of property confiscated into million pounds, and that
figure was formulated in the early 1700s!
The English church and kings strove to destroy the church but like the pope, they failed.
So what did eventually destroy the church?
Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
It was the church itself, they turned to Calvinism. Calvinism overwhelmed the church and it came from inside. The result was the Baptist denomination and its many daughters.
Daughters of apostasy from the English church included:
English separatism and congregationalism (1596)
Seekers and Quakers (1640s)
United Reform Church (1900s)
We find in this survey evangelistic Christianity in England as early as 1080. It is said that believers baptism may have been taught from that time. It is also said the first Baptist church existed in 1417 which implies that it was founded prior to this date. To suggest a continuing succession of Bible Christians from 1080 to the 1600s is impossible and unnecessary to prove. What we do know from the facts both in Europe and in Britain that there has been movements in opposition to the Catholic church and then later to the Protestant church for many hundreds of years, and these movements clearly predate the sixteenth century Reformation.
From the time of the Norman Conquest to the early 1700s Church and State in Europe and Britain were closely intertwined. Until the Reformation the pope was the most powerful man on earth. Heresy was considered equal to treason as a crime, and as a result these Bible believing Christians were hunted down, tortured and if they did not recant they were most horribly executed. Any Bibles and other literature, tracts etc. were burnt with them. Catholic/Protestant historians had no interest in their theology and saw them only as the worst of criminals. As a result of this, information today is often lacking in detail.
Luther, Calvin and Zwingli were able to operate with the assistance of the authorities in their respective countries. No doubt with some compromise their religions became in effect the new state religions in those countries. In England Henry V111 replaced the pope as head of the church. Under the Reformation only the worst excesses of Catholicism were removed, and a few more ideas added (justification through faith only and predestination).
The Puritans, Cromwell and the Lords Church:
For those seeking to restore the New Testament Church, they found that the Reformation was not going to go far enough. The question of baptism, church and state and the autonomy of congregations were three issues that the leaders of the Reformation were absolutely unprepared to deal with. Because of this the necessity to break with the established church was forced upon the Restorers. The so-called great Reformers, Calvin and Zwingli were prepared to execute Anabaptists (by burning) and did so on many occasions. Henry V111 showed no mercy to any one opposed to the new church of England, and it was only Luther who had any sort of mercy towards anyone opposed to his opinions. Under Luther such people were sent outside the country where their fate can only be guessed at.
With Berengarius in the eleventh century, believers baptism and a return the Lords Supper was made, Wycliffe in the fourteenth century added to this teaching that Elders and Bishops are the same. With Helwis (the spelling of this name alters considerably with different authors) the idea of keeping the first day of the week holy, and for all Christians to observe the Lords Supper on this day was taught. The idea of the church being in the kingdom and therefore the rejection of the Lords Prayer in worship came about. During the 1600s the church of Christ in England was known for its rejection of the instrument and for singing from the heart.
The movement known today as the Puritan movement started during the 1550s, possibly at Cambridge, which was always a centre for Puritanism. The term Puritan was a name given by their opponents and refers to their return to the Purity of the Gospel and Christian living. In the strict sense the Puritans were a party opposed to the Anglican party in the Church of England. The Anglicans who were high church ultimately won with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and from then on the CoE returned to many Catholic beliefs and ceremonies. In a broad sense the Puritans also included the independents such as the church of Christ although no organisation was ever established to share views. The CoE Puritans were Calvinistic and were Presbyterian, much of their beliefs coming from the reformed churches of the continent. Their Bible was the Genevan version and they had a major influence on the 1611 King James bible. They were opposed to the use of the Altar for Communion and often used kitchen tables to serve the Lords Supper. They attacked the use of costumes for the priests, the use of the sign of the cross, organs, ecclesiastical courts, the episcopacy and religious days and holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Under the Puritans much frivolity was banned such as the pagan practise of dancing round the May Pole. The Puritans advocated preaching and the Bible as being the sole authority as opposed to tradition. Under the previous Anglican system of preaching a preacher needed to preach only four sermons each year to remain in office.
From the 1550s onwards the church of Christ sought to propagate the gospel and were well known for their evangelism. Looking towards the reformers to sought to separate Church from State. They were known as Anabaptists and must not be confused with the continental Anabaptists. The Baptist church which came about during the 1600s were also known as Anabaptists. Therefore there were three major groups in the 1600s who were labelled together with others as Anabaptists. This can be confusing when reading various histories because historians still make the same mistake. During the 1600s these three groups met together although this resulted in division as there was no common ground in some areas such as Calvinism and Baptism (in regards to salvation). The Lords Church at this time identified themselves as being the church of Christ. All Anabaptists in England were preaching and meeting against the law. Under the Puritans from 1646 they were tolerated.
In the 1700s there were three distinct groups; the Anabaptists who were just a small remnant, the church of Christ, who was established in Europe, England and the Americas, but was severely weakened after many divisions, largest was the huge Baptist denomination, most of whom were Calvinistic, particularly in America.
During the 1500s and 1600s the Lords church in England was far larger than most will realise. Conservative estimates suggested around fifty plus congregations at the turn of the century. The church was largely made up of people from a working background and was not represented in parliament. As the Puritans increased in power during the 1640s the country was torn apart by civil wars from 1642 to 1648. Arguments existed between King and Parliament and in the church against the Anglicans and Puritans. As the Church of England is a state church these arguments were political as well as religious. The Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, high church Anglican, William Laud, was executed on Tower Hill, London on 10 January 1645. In January 1649 King Charles 1 was tried for his life and executed. Never before had an English king been executed by law. Certainly kings had been brutally murdered but never killed legally. Now the Puritans under Cromwell had power in the country, both in the church, parliament and the army. Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of England and the Commonwealth on 16 Dec 1653. Cromwell died on 3 Sept. 1658 and was replaced by his son Richard but this lasted only a short time. The monarchy was reinstated and during 1662 the act of Uniformity was re-established. Under this act those who preached against the now successful Anglican party in the church were removed from office. Many were imprisoned where many died. This act with small alterations is still in force. A preacher in the Church of England may be able to preach legally for Homosexuals in the Church, but the same preacher cannot preach against infant baptism!
The true church suffered greatly at this time. John Milton (Poet and writer of Paradise Lost) , previously a Presbyterian became a member of the Lords church and suffered greatly for his belief. The church in Bedford had an able preacher named John Bunyan (writer of Pilgrims progress). He suffered twelve years in prison (1660-72) before becoming the first licensed preacher outside the Anglican church in England. He died in 1688. He unfortunately adopted the doctrine of Grace only and was well known for his liberal theology, which done much damage to the church.
Cromwell was well acquainted with the Lords church. For a while whilst in London he had met with the Bell Alley church of Christ (Coleman Street), the same one that some of the pilgrim Fathers also worshipped with. Many in the army were members of the Lords church and the head of the army was Cromwell. For the first time in English history the Lords church could worship without fear, as well as being able in influence the politicians of the time. Cromwells son-in-law, The Lord Deputy Fleetwood was married to Bridgett, being her second husband, the first having died. They were both members of the church of Christ and well known for it. Major-General Harrison, Major-General Ludlow and Colonel Hutchinson were other well known members of the church. As such they were able to influence parliament against imposing a compulsory religion. Cromwell was a member of an independent church. Whether that was a church of Christ or part of the greater congregational movement is difficult to establish. The congregational churches at this time were known as independent, separatist or even dissenting churches. The churches of Christ were labelled as being part of this movement. These churches became later known as the United Reformed Church and as such are clearly today separate from the Lords Church.
Error enters the church of Christ:
Error at first came in slowly. In the 1630/40s the use of the words "original sin" and "freewill" was dropped from leaflets. Both terms were considered highly inflammatory and simply disappeared in tracts, except when accusing someone of holding such views (The Calvinists used this accusation). The churches of Christ were accused for centuries of holding to Pelagianism, which denies original sin and holds to freewill. Pelagianism, freewill and rejection of original sin had for centuries and still remains an issue to this day. This led in time for some churches to take on Arminianism, which maintains original sin, total depravity, and salvation through faith alone, all of which Pelagianism (and the scriptures) deny. Those who advocated Arminianism became in time the General Baptist denomination because of their 'general' atonement, that Christ died for all.
The predominant doctrine in the 1600s was Calvinism in the protestant churches, and for brethren who held to this view, they were at first disfellowshipped. By the mid 1640s Calvinism was creeping in fast and many churches converted. The last generation of preachers who taught prior to the Calvinistic churches of Christ were getting old. The Calvinistic churches were better organised and financed. Their evangelists needed to convert and converted many non-Calvinistic churches to the newly forming Baptist denomination. Because of their idea of particular election they in time were known as the Particular Baptists. Some still hold to this identity, but most Baptists have simply dropped the "Particular" from their name whilst holding to the Calvinism. The Particular Baptists were the original Baptist churches that hold to Calvinism.
The churches of Christ in the early 1600s taught that elder, pastor, bishop and overseer were all the same office and a plurality was required. Later (1660s), the 'pastor' became a separate office for the preacher, then even later he was allowed to call himself 'reverend' (late 1600s, early 1700s). It was also taught that only pastors or elders could baptise, a clear distinction between ordinary members and a clergy class developed, but never to the degree of the denominations from where these ideas were borrowed.
The issue of when to hold the Lord's Supper was a major point of debate. The problem arose from the authorities knowing Christians met on the first day of the week. On Sunday the police would seek out illegal gatherings, those caught would face torture, imprisonment and until 1611 (in England), being burnt alive. Hanging, drawing and quartering remained into the mid 1600s. Hundreds died in prison and under torture. Property was confiscated and peoples lives destroyed. One solution, though in error, was to hold the Lord's Supper on various days other than the first day.
Tyndale, the great Bible translator was known to have encouraged the taking of the Lord's Supper on days other than the first day, which is reflected in his first Bible translation of 1525/6. He translates Acts 20:7 as "On a Saboth daye the disciples cam togedger for to breake breed, and Paul preached vuto them..." His 1536 rendering is "And on the morrowe after the Saboth daye the disciples cam togeder for to breake breed". His second rendering puts the Lord's Supper firmly on Sunday (the first day) and is a significant change.
Interestingly John Purvey (1380) in what is known as the Wycliffe Bible translated Acts 20:7 "On the first daye of the woke..." So the original rendering was known to Tyndale, who, consulted Purvey's translation. It was also known to the Lord's people who until Tyndale used the Wycliffe translation, of which hundreds were in circulation. Two hundred thirty still exist of this once illegal Bible, of which hundreds were burnt. Another Wycliffe Bible reads "And in the first dai of the woke..." Two versions were produced to allow for vernacular changes, English still being a new language, all were written by hand as this version pre-exists printing.
The King James Bible of 1611 gave us the rendering we are familiar with (Acts 20:7) "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight".
From the 1660s some decided to meet monthly to avoid regular 'first day of week' meetings, and this lives on in several Baptist denominations who take the Supper monthly. Others chose to meet on Saturday and this led to the Seventh Day Baptists and others that hold to Saturday being the Sabbath.
The name 'Anabaptist' was derogatory, especially as the anabaptists in the 1500s and before were associated correctly with Pelagianism and freewill. At first the reply was that they were Christians and members of the church of Christ, refuting that they were anabaptists. They claimed that there are two churches, the 'church of Christ' and the 'church of the anti-Christ', this argument was made over many centuries. Such arguments are entirely correct, being based on scripture. In time some sought to denominate the church from the 1650s onwards, and started to call themselves 'baptised believers' and members of 'baptised churches'. This was later shortened to Baptists and Baptist Church. In excuse they turned to John the 'Baptist' by way of explanation. Again, the change was slow, and the idea of calling themselves 'baptised believers' has a truth, but over time one thing led to another.
Congregational autonomy was lost with the Baptist associations, and even the associations within the churches of Christ which led to various splits and arguments in the later 1800s and 1900s.
Changes were slow, even when Calvinism entered the church the plan of salvation (hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptised) was retained. In a Calvinistic church of Christ the truth at first was taught, mixed with a little poison, until the poison took over!
Some churches of Christ became members of the The Religious Society of Friends, whose members are commonly known as Quakers, entire congregations converted. Others became Ranters. The Ranters central idea was pantheistic, that God is essentially in every creature; this led them to deny the authority of the scriptures and assembling. Instead they called on men to hearken to Jesus within them. Many Ranters seem to have rejected a belief in immortality and in a personal God, whilst being hyper-Calvinistic and very immoral (drinking and free love)! Other churches such as the one at Bedford turned liberal and become 'Free Churches', even accepting infant baptism which in time became the only baptism they practised.
It must be emphasised that all these errors came in not through biblical exegesis, but to make life more acceptable, turning towards the world rather than being separate from the world.
We can see how over a period of sixty years, in stages, the Baptist denomination was born. Denominational ideas were in time incorporated into the existing churches of Christ, who in time lost that identity being part of the Baptist denomination with Baptist doctrine.
Baptists and others who read may well be horrified (Gal 4:16), my advice is to research your own histories and return to the truth, this is a matter of eternal salvation. Dismiss Calvin, he is fifteen hundred years too late and study the scriptures on these matters.
Congregations were started at:
The church first met in Kirkcaldy in the late 18th century as a missionary outreach from the original 'Scotch Baptist' Church in Edinburgh and the first member of the church in Kirkcaldy came from Edinburgh sometime between 1784 and 1786. By the time the first elders were appointed in 1798, they had rented a meeting place in Kirk Wynd but, by 1819, this building had become too small and so they built the Rose Street Chapel which could seat at least 200. In 1847 Alexander Campbell came to the Rose Street Chapel to meet with all three Kirkcaldy congregations (Rose Street, Links Hall, and Assembly Rooms).
The Church of Christ meeting in Morrisons Court, Glasgow, was established somewhere between 1772 and 1782. They had 180 members in 1818.
The Church of Christ assembling in Leith Walk, Edinburgh, was planted around 1798. In 1818 they numbered 250, including three elders and four deacons.
The Church of Christ at Tuber-more, Scotland first met in May, 1807.
The Church of Christ, Manchester, England was established in 1810 with only three members. Elders and deacons were appointed in 1817.
The Stephen Street congregation in Dublin was established in 1810 and consisted of 100 members in 1818.
Through the influence of Campbell's written word in the pages of Jones' Millennial Harbinger many of the Scotch Baptists began to break away to form "Church of Christ" congregations. Perhaps among the first of these was the church in Nottingham under the leadership of James Wallis. Archibald Watters in his 1948 History of the British Churches of Christ states that the first of these to know anything about the "Campbellite Movement" was the church in Dungannon, Ireland which in 1825 entered into correspondence with Alexander Campbell. The church in Auchtermuchty, Scotland, formed in about 1807, is said to have come to Campbell's attention in 1830 and one of its members paid a visit to America in 1834 to make the acquaintance of the Movement's leaders.
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