The Anabaptists and their Stepchildren

by F.N. Lee


The Early British Anabaptists from 1534 onward

The Anabaptists infected Britain at an early date, even between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. According to the Baptist Estep,312 "it seems...to be fully substantiated that continental Anabaptists were numerous and not without influence in England from about 1534.... In 1538 the English authorities learned that the Anabaptists had published and distributed a book on the incarnation [denying it]. For this effrontery, they were asked to leave the country."

Even the Unitarian Anabaptists in Poland soon spread their influence among their brethren in Holland, and thence also into England. There, as G.H. Williams has stated, they were vigorously opposed by the Polish Calvinists in London's Stranger's Church at Austin Friars, "where Laski served as the first superintendent. The king recorded in his journal that the Stranger's Church was organized 'for the avoyding of al sectes of Anabaptistes and such like.'"313

Also the Swiss Calvinist Bullinger had massive influence in England against the Anabaptists. See his Wholesome Antidote (London 1548), his Most Sure and Strong Defence of the Baptism of Children (Worcester 1551), and his Most Necessary and Fruitful Dialogue Between the Seditious Libertine or Rebel Anabaptist and the True Obedient Christian (Worcester 1551).

The followers of "Henry Hart, a leader of a congregation of dissenters in Kent..., were referred to as Anabaptists. They were also accused of Pelagian heresy and libertinism. From Hart's own tract, printed in 1548 and reprinted in 1549, it is clear that...his teachings regarding free will, the new birth and discipleship were true to Anabaptist insights." Thus the American Baptist, Professor Estep.314

"Anabaptists," Bishop John Hooper complained to Bullinger in 1549, "give me much trouble with their opinions respecting the incarnation of the Lord." For Kent and Sussex were then hotbeds of Anabaptism. Indeed, between 1549 and 1550 there were no less than three editions of Hooper's Lesson of the Incarnation of Christ, against the Anabaptist heresy of the 'celestial flesh' of Jesus even from before His earthly conception onward.315

In 1553, Thomas Cole published his Godly and Fruitful Sermon Against the Anabaptists. Soon thereafter, also Bishop John Jewel rightly called them "a large and inauspicious crop of Arians, Anabaptists and other pests."316 No wonder, then, that the most important creedal formulation of the Church of England -- the Forty-two Articles of 1553 -- included no less than seventeen articles against the Anabaptists!317

The anti-Anabaptist Edwardine Articles of 1553

Indeed, the above-mentioned (1553) 'Edwardine Articles' of the Church of England were drawn up largely against the Anabaptists. The Presbyterian Rev. Prof. Dr. W.A. Curtis of the University of Aberdeen stated in his book History of Creeds and Confessions of Faith that318 "the framers of the Forty-Two Articles had not only the earlier English attempts in mind, but also...the medley of eccentric or heretical opinions roughly classed as Anabaptist.... Artt. I-IV, VI-VIII, XIV, XV, XVIII, XIX, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXVI-XLII explicitly or implicitly condemn the varied opinions classed as Anabaptist."

Those opinions "impugned the Creeds, Catholic Christology, faith in the Trinity, rights of individual property, the need of Scriptures, infant baptism, avoidance of excommunicated persons, reverence for traditions and ceremonies, obedience to magistrates, military service, [and the] taking of oaths." Positively, those Anabaptist opinions also "affirmed Christian perfection[ism], inefficacy of services and Sacraments conducted by unworthy Ministers, [and] ultimate universal salvation."

This is quite in agreement with the well-known Anglican scholar Rev. Prof. Dr. E.J. Bicknell. He declared319 "that the Forty-two Articles...are a double-edged weapon, designed to smite two opposite enemies. On the one hand they attack mediaeval teaching and abuses.... They oppose even more keenly the teaching of the Anabaptists.... The name Anabaptists was given to them from their denial of infant baptism and their custom of re-baptizing converts. There is hardly any error of doctrine or morality that was not proclaimed by some of them. They were a very real danger to all order in Church and State alike....

"The Anabaptists are only mentioned by name twice, but...they had revived all the ancient heresies about the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ.... Many of them were Pelagians.... Others claimed that, being regenerate, they were unable to commit sin.... Some depreciated all Scripture and placed themselves above even the Moral Law.... Some denied any need of ordination for Ministers, and claimed that the efficacy of all ministrations depended on the personal holiness of the Minister.... Infant baptism was denied.... All church discipline was repudiated.... Many held strange views about the descent into hell, the nature of the resurrection -- and the future life, the ultimate salvation of all men, and millenarianism..... The authority of the State was impugned, and communism demanded."

The anti-Anabaptist Thirty-nine Articles of 1563f

The later Thirty-nine Articles of 1563 and 1571 are but the revision of the Forty-two Articles of 1553. As regards the former, Bicknell has shown320 specifically that Article I (on "Faith in the Holy Trinity") was indeed "called forth by the teaching of the Anabaptists, who were reviving all the ancient heresies." Bicknell further insisted321 that Article II (on the "Son of God which was made very man") had as its object "to oppose the revival of ancient heresies on the Person of Christ by Anabaptists."

Article IV ("Of the Resurrection of Christ") is worded, explained Bicknell,322 "so as to assert...also the reality of our Lord's risen and ascended manhood -- in opposition to a form of Docetism revived by the Anabaptists, which regarded our Lord's humanity as absorbed into His divinity after the resurrection." Article V 'Of the Holy Ghost' -- Bicknell maintained323 -- is "one of the new Articles added in 1563...due to the revival of ancient heresies by the Anabaptists."

Article VI ("Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation") is directed against "certain among the Anabaptists [who] regarded all Scripture as unnecessary," explained Bicknell.324 "An Article of 1553 describes them as those 'who affirm that Holy Scripture is given only to the weak, and do boast themselves continually of the Spirit -- of Whom (they say) they have learnt such things as they teach, although the same be most evidently repugnant to the Holy Scripture.' In other words, if men claim to be under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit and to have received a personal revelation -- does not this supersede Scripture? Such a view ignored the corporate and social nature of all truth."

Article VII ("Of the Old Testament") states inter alia that "no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral." Bicknell has shown325 that the Article "is directed against...errors...maintained by sections of Anabaptists."

Of those Anabaptists, "some rejected the Old Testament entirely, and claimed -- in virtue of their illumination by the Spirit --to be superior even to the Moral Law contained in it." Similarly, also Article VIII ("Of the Three Creeds"), explained Bicknell,326 "was composed as a protest against Anabaptists who rejected all creeds" in general -- and in particular the Nicene, the Athanasian, and the Apostles' Creeds.

Article IX ("Of Original or Birth Sin") -- Bicknell maintained327 -- is "directed against the Pelagian views of Anabaptists." The 1553 Article, after the words 'as the Pelagians do vainly talk' had the further words 'which also the Anabaptists do nowadays renew.' Observed Bicknell: "This sufficiently shows the object of the Article."

Article X ("Of Free Will") -- Bicknell elucidated328 --"asserts the need of grace against Pelagian Anabaptists." Article XV ("Of Christ alone without Sin") -- Bicknell has insisted329 -- "was directed against certain Anabaptists who denied our Lord's sinlessness."

Continuation of the anti-Anabaptist Thirty-nine Articles

Article XVI ("Of Sin after Baptism") -- thus Bicknell330 --"is aimed at Anabaptist errors." The 1553 Article dealt with blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,331 and dealt with what the Anglican scholars Maclear and Williams have rightly called332 "erroneous views...reproduced in the sixteenth century by a section of the Anabaptists who appeared in great numbers in Essex and Kent." Indeed, they have drawn attention to "a letter from Bishop Hooper to Bullinger, June 25 1549, describing the appearance of the Anabaptists in England."333

Then there is Article XVIII ("Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the name of Christ"). It too, Bicknell has shown,334 "is aimed at Anabaptists" -- namely such as "rejected Christ as Saviour and treated any definite Christian belief as unimportant."

Article XIX ("Of the Church") -- thus Bicknell335 --"would...exclude various Anabaptist sects." Indeed, the 1553 Article also stated that "all men are bound to keep the Moral Commandments of the Law."

This -- Maclear and Williams have insisted336 -- "had reference to the teaching of a branch of the Anabaptists who 'by putting forth the plea of preternatural illumination made themselves superior to the Moral Law, and circulated opinions respecting it most evidently repugnant to the Holy Scripture.'"

Article XXIII ("Of Ministering in the Congregation") -- thus Bicknell337 -- shows that "the Anglicans wished to oppose Anabaptists, who held...to ecclesiastical anarchy." Article XXV ("Of the Sacraments") -- Bicknell elucidated338 -- has as "its object...to condemn as inadequate, teaching about the sacraments held by Anabaptists."

Similarly, Article XXVI ("Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers which hinder not the Effect of the Sacrament") -- thus Bicknell339 -- would "condemn the idea of Anabaptists that the personal holiness of the Minister was a necessary condition for any valid preaching of the Word or ministration of the Sacraments."

Article XXVII ("Of Baptism") insists that "the Baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ." Bicknell has stated340 that this "is aimed at (i) the inadequate view of Baptism taken by...the Anabaptists; (ii) the denial of Infant Baptism." Similarly, Article XXVIII ("Of the Lord's Supper") according to Bicknell341 "excludes...Anabaptist views which made the Lord's Supper a mere love feast."

Article XXXVII ("Of the Civil Magistrates"), Bicknell has shown,342 would "condemn Anabaptist attacks on the authority of the State." Also Article XXXIX ("Of a Christian man's oath"), explained Bicknell,343 is directed against "the objection of the Anabaptists...to the use of oaths."

Article XXXVIII -- "Of Christian men's Goods, which are Not Common" -- merits more attention. It states that "the riches and goods of Christians are not common as touching the...title and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast." According to Bicknell,344 this Article was drawn up because "certain Anabaptists advocated communism."

Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff has pointed out345 that "in the Forty-two Articles of Edward VI, there are four additional Articles -- on the Resurrection of the Dead, the State of the Souls of the Departed, Millenarians, and the Eternal Damnation of the Wicked." These Articles, Schaff added,346 are: "against the Anabaptist notion of the psychopannychia (XL)"; and "against the millenarians (XLI)," compare "the Augsburg Confession where the Anabaptists and others are condemned." All of these additional Articles, as Maclear and Williams have explained,347 refer to the heresies of "the Anabaptist sect whose theories had previously been denounced."

John Knox's writings against the Anabaptists

Already in 1557, Calvin's faithful student the great Scottish Reformer Knox had written some letters to his brethren and 'lords professing the truth' in Scotland. One such letter was recently republished under the title: A Warning Against the Anabaptists.348 There,349 Knox condemned those who "have separated themselves from the society and communion of their brethren in[to] sects damnable and most pernicious."

Those sectarian Anabaptists, conceded Knox, really do "have a zeal.... But alas, it is not according to knowledge.... This sort of men fall from the society of Christ's little flock, with contempt of His sacraments and holy ordinances by us truly maintained." Indeed, "they require a greater purity than ever was found in any congregation since the beginning."

Knox then immediately went on to insist that the Anabaptists "shall not escape judgment and condemnation." This is so, declared Knox, "because they do despise Christ Jesus and His[!] holy ordinances."

Indeed, the Anabaptists were not at all like the apostolic-age Christians who had been ejected from Judaism's "synagogue of Satan." Mark 13:9-13 and Revelation 2:9 & 3:9. Nor were the Anabaptists like the Protestants who had just been removed from the Romish Neo-Babylon. Revelation 17:5 and 18:4; compare Second Thessalonians 2:3-17f. Rather were the Anabaptists exactly analogous to the post-ascensional Gnostics, who opposed Christianity and who castigated its infant baptism. Colossians 2:9-23 (q.v.).

Just a few paragraphs after penning his above-cited words, Knox wrote that even though "the Papists are busy to espy our offences, faults and infirmities..., they are not the enemies most to be feared. For...of the other [Anabaptist] sort of whom before we have somewhat spoken, the craft and malice of the devil fighting against Christ is more covert and therefore more to be feared."

Think of it -- the Anabaptists more to be feared than the Romanists! For the Anabaptists, insisted Knox, were "privy blasphemers of Christ Jesus; supplanters of His dignity; and manifest enemies to the free justification which comes by faith in His blood."

In 1560, Knox himself wrote a considerable treatise with the title: An Answer to a Great Number of Blasphemous Cavillations Written by an Anabaptist and Adversary. There, he told the Anabaptists that "with the Pelagians and Papists, you have become teachers of free will and defenders of your own justice.... Your poison is more pestilent than that of the Papistry was in the beginning."350

To Knox, the "poison" of the Anabaptists was "more pestilent" --yes more pestilent! -- than that of "the Papistry." Again, just think of it -- Anabaptism more poisonous and more 'pestilent' than the Papacy!

Indeed, Knox added elsewhere: "We damn the error of the Anabaptists who deny baptism to appertain to children."351 He damns the Anabaptists' error!

In his 1560 Scots Confession, Knox and his associates added: "We hold that baptism applies as much to the [infant] children of the faithful as to those who are of age and discretion. And so we condemn the error of the Anabaptists, who deny that [infant] children should be baptized."352 Again in their First Book of Discipline, the Knoxians insisted: "Anabaptists, Arians, or other such -- [are] enemies of the Christian religion."353

The English Anabaptists called the 'Family of Love'

So the heresies of the neo-Marcionitic and neo-Manichaean Paulicians and even of the antitrinitarian Servetus himself were already afoot even in Knox's Britain. Indeed, prominent among the British Anabaptists was the so-called 'Family of Love' in England.

As Williams has explained:354 "The English 'Familists' were communitarian pacifistic Anabaptists who, like the Paulicians and the Servetians, received believers' baptism at the age of thirty."

They were very well-described by John Rogers, in his 1579 Horrible Sect of Gross and Wicked Heretics naming themselves the 'Family of Love.' There, explained Rogers, "marriage is made by the brethren.... These had never met before.... All men not of their congregation, or revolted from them, are as dead.... If they have anything to do touching their temporal things, they must do it...through one of their bishops."355

Rome rides again -- toward the sunset of the modern Moonies! Tallyho! Yahoo! Weirdo's of the world -- unite!

The Forty-two Articles and the writings of John Knox effectively checked the further spread of British Anabaptism. Nevertheless, by 1587 the majority of the population of Norwich alone consisted of refugee Dutch Anabaptists.356

They were, however, stoutly opposed by Anglicans and Puritans alike. Compare the English Presbyterian Thomas Cartwright's 1589 book The Anabaptists' Error Confuted. Consequently, in 1593 some English 'Barrowists' fled to Holland -- where they soon became Anabaptists.357

The Belgica condemns the various views of the Anabaptists

To the north of the Province of Holland, especially Friesland had been heavily infected with Anabaptism. Indeed, the whole of the United Netherlands -- almost from Denmark in the north right down to the Belgian border with France in the south -- was then being pestered by that plague.

The Belgian Calvinist Guido de Bres had been a refugee from 1548 till 1554 in England. There, he had greatly been strengthened by the Calvinism of those supporting King Edward VI. He then returned to the Netherlands, where he continued his struggle especially against the Anabaptists.

This can be seen in his famous 1562 Belgic Confession. For it attacks358 not so much the Romanist but indeed the Anabaptist doctrine of baptism -- and indeed many of the other Anabaptist doctrines too.359

Thus, in Article 7, the Belgic Confession asserts: "We believe that these Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.... It is unlawful for any one, though an Apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures. 'Nay, though it were an angel from heaven' -- as the Apostle Paul saith. Galatians 1:8f....

"We reject with all our hearts whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible rule which the Apostles have taught us, saying: 'Test the spirits, whether they are of God!' First John 4:1. Likewise: 'If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine -- receive him not into your house!' Second John 10." This refers to deniers of the incarnation [like the Anabaptists].

In Article 18, the Belgica adds: "We confess (in opposition to the heresy of the Anabaptists who deny that Christ assumed human flesh of His mother), that Christ is become 'a partaker of the flesh and blood of the children.' Hebrews 2:14....

"He is: a 'fruit of the loins of David after the flesh' (Acts 2:30); a 'fruit of the womb' of the virgin Mary (Galatians 4:4); a 'branch' of David (Jeremiah 33:15); a shoot of 'the root of Jesse' (Isaiah 11:1); 'sprung from the tribe of Judah' (Hebrews 7:14); 'descended from the Jews according to the flesh' (Romans 9:5); 'of the seed of Abraham, since He took upon Him the seed of Abraham and became like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted' -- so that in truth He is our Immanuel, that is to say, 'God with us!' Genesis 22:8; Second Samuel 7:12; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16; Hebrews 2:15f; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23."

In Article 34, the Belgica further declares: "We believe and confess that Jesus Christ..., having abolished circumcision which was done with blood -- hath instituted the sacrament of baptism instead thereof. Colossians 2:11; First Peter 3:21; First Corinthians 10:2.... Therefore He has commanded all those who are His, to be baptized with pure water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:19.

"This signifies to us that as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost internally sprinkle the soul...by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son. First Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:14; First John 1:7; Revelation 1:6; John 19:34."

Against submersionism, the Belgica here hammers home the Biblical mode of baptism. Thus it insists that the baptismal water is "poured upon" [namely "poured upon"] and "sprinkled upon" [namely "sprinkled upon"] the believer -- to show how the Holy Spirit does "internally sprinkle" and save the soul "by the sprinkling" of the blood of Jesus etc.

Further, continues the Belgica: "We believe that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal, ought to be but once baptized with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same. Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:5; Hebrews 6:2f. Since we cannot be born twice! Neither does this baptism only avail us at the time when the water is poured upon us and received by us -- otherwise we would always have our head in the water -- but also throughout the whole course of our life. Acts 2:38; 8:16.

"Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received.... The infants of believers..., we believe, ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant (Matthew 19:14 & First Corinthians 7:14) -- as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. Genesis 17:11f.... Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of the faithful than for adult persons. Colossians 2:11f.... What circumcision was to the Jews -- that, baptism is to our children."

Finally, in Article 36, the Belgica adds: "We detest the error of the Anabaptists and other seditious people and in general all those who reject the higher powers and magistrates, and would subvert justice. Second Peter 2:10." Indeed, such Anabaptists would also "introduce a community of goods, and confound that decency and good order which God hath established among men. Jude 8 & 10."

Guido De Bres's 1570 book against the Anabaptists

The author of the Belgica, Guido de Bres, defended the baptism of covenant children elsewhere too. He did so, and also attacked rebaptism, in his other (1570) work The Radical Origin and Foundation of the Anabaptists.

There he stated:360 "These two things we must observe in baptism. Namely: (1) the sign of water used as a seal, and (2) the body of those who have the truth of baptism [viz. the Church].... The truth of baptism is also to be recognized in baptism.... That is the internal washing of souls in the blood of Christ...through the fellowship which we have with Him....

"One should note...to whom the sign of baptism applies. Holy Scripture clearly teaches us that it applies to the entire household of God; to the whole body of His congregation; that is, to all of those who are His people, both small and large.... Little children...[of the covenant] have the sproutings of faith.... One cannot include them among the unbelievers until they come to their years or understanding....

"Between these two [believers and unbelievers], there is no intermediate position before God.... God regards them [the little believers] as and reckons them to be -- of the number of those who believe in the Son.... By grace and through Christ, the little children are regarded and reckoned by God as possessing all the virtues which [believing] adults possess -- by understanding, and through faith in the same Christ."361

Covenant babies, said De Bres,362 "are without contradiction the people of God.... The little children are also regenerated, by the power of God which is incomprehensible to us." From Luke 1:15 & 1:36 and Jeremiah 1:15 and First Corinthians 7:14 and Matthew 19:14 and Deuteronomy 30:6 and Acts 10:47 and Romans 8:7 -- it can be seen that the Holy Spirit is well able to work in children. "Although the work of God is hidden to our understanding, yet it is still true. Now it is certain and definite that God regenerates even children and makes them new creatures -- namely those whom He justifies."363

The Anabaptists essentially said364 that 'the small members of the body [alias the Church] are not enlivened by the Spirit of the body -- because they are small.' Yet De Bres countered that the Apostle says "that those who do not have Christ's Spirit, do not belong to Him [Romans 8:9]. But these little children do belong to Christ. Therefore, they have Christ's Spirit."

All children are indeed under the curse, admitted De Bres --"except the children of believers who have been redeemed from such perdition by God's gracious acceptance, and through the power of the promise and of the covenant.... Now, it is certain and sure that God regenerates even the little children. I say He makes those whom He saves, into new creatures.... They possess both rebirth and renewal...through Christ the Second Adam in His Spirit.... Regeneration is nothing other than an internal washing and purification."365

Continued De Bres: "According to the testimonies of God's Word, they [covenant babies] are incorporated and ingrafted into the death of Christ.... Similarly, a cutting is ingrafted into a tree -- and then draws the power and substance of that tree toward itself, and partakes thereof."366 Romans 11:16.

De Bres concluded:367 "The tiny little children receive the sign of regeneration and of renewal (viz. baptism). They are separated from the world before they come to years.... They are blessed and elect before the Lord, Who regenerates them and renews them through His Spirit. But when they come to a suitable age..., we teach and instruct them in the doctrine of baptism and get them to know that they should think of this Spirit-ual regeneration all the days of their lives -- of which they receive the sign in their young days....

"The little children are renewed by God's Spirit according to the measure and comprehension of their age. And this divine power, which is hidden within them, grows and gradually increases [cf. Luke 1:15f,41f,80].... They are redeemed, sanctified and regenerated from perdition -- even though natural corruption still remains in them. For they possess such regeneration not through their own goodness, but through the sole goodness and mercy of God in Jesus Christ."

Bullinger's anti-Anabaptist Second Swiss Confession

It will be remembered that Calvin's associate Henry Bullinger himself authored a work on The Origin, Progress, and Sects of the Anabaptists. There, he wrote368 that "they wished to abandon the Papists and the Evangelicals...and live in a new Baptist order."

Indeed, Switzerland's 1536 First Helvetic Confession of that very same Bullinger and others -- was expanded considerably in Bullinger's 1566 Second Swiss Confession. This too constantly castigates the many heresies of the Anabaptists.

Thus it declares:369 "We believe and teach that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was from all eternity.... He took flesh of the virgin Mary.... We therefore do abhor the blasphemous doctrine of Arius and all the Arians, uttered against the Son of God; and especially the blasphemies of [the Anabaptist] Michael Servetus."

It continues:370 "Baptism, once received, continues for all of life and is a perpetual sealing of our adoption.... We are baptized, that is, washed or sprinkled....

"We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that new-born infants of the faithful are to be baptized. For, according to evangelical teaching, of such [infants of the faithful] is the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:16), and they are in the covenant (Acts 3:25).... Why, then, should the sign of God's covenant not be given to them? Why should those who belong to God...and are in God's Church, not be initiated by holy baptism?

"We condemn the Anabaptists also in the rest of those peculiar opinions which they hold against the Word of God. We therefore are not Anabaptists, neither do we agree with them in any point that is theirs.... For wedlock (which is the medicine of incontinency, and continency itself) -- was ordained by the Lord God Himself.... We therefore condemn polygamy.... We do detest unclean single life, licentious lusts and fornications.... We do not disallow riches, nor contemn rich men -- if they be godly and use their riches well. But we reprove the sect of the Apostolicals, etc."371

Finally: "We condemn the Anabaptists who -- as they deny that a Christian man should bear the office of a magistrate -- deny also that any man can justly be put to death by the magistrate; or that the magistrate may make war; or that oaths should be administered by the magistrate; and such like things.... For he that opposes himself against the magistrate, does provoke the wrath of God. We condemn therefore all contemners of magistrates, rebels, enemies of the commonwealth, seditious villains -- and, in a word, all such as do either openly or closely refuse to perform those duties which they owe."372

We should perhaps also mention the Rhaetian Confession. According to Rev. Prof. Dr. Curtis,373 "at a Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Rhaetian Alps, approval was given in 1552 to a Confession -- the Confessio Rhaetica -- drawn up by Saluz Gallicus, and intended to establish a uniform system of doctrine in place of the existing theological chaos in which Anabaptist...and pantheistic teachings mingled. In 1553 it was submitted to Bullinger, who cordially approved of it.... Thereafter for centuries, in spite of the subsequent local recognition of the Second Helvetic Confession, it remained the authoritative Rhaetian formula."

Monolithic opposition of all the Reformers to Anabaptism

Quite the entirety of the first generation, and perhaps also the majority of the second generation of Protestant Reformers -- were all infantly-baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. Apparently not one of them was ever subsequently (re)baptized in any Protestant Church. Still less was any ever 'rebaptized' by the Anabaptists.

Yet many of them accurately and aggressively assailed both the Anabaptist and the Romish doctrines. As we have already seen, this was the case with: Martin Luther;374 Ulrich Zwingli;375 John Oecolampadius;376 John Calvin;377 Henry Bullinger;378 John Knox;379 and Guido de Bres.380

Indeed, it was also the case with 'second generation' Calvinist Reformers. Those would include: Peter Datheen;381 Menzo Alting;382 Jean Taffin;383 Francis Junius;384 Lucas Trelcatius Sr.;385 Lucas Trelcatius Jr.;386 Gellius Snecanus;387 James Kimedoncius;388 Peter Bontemps;389 and many others.390 All of them were baptized but once -- some in the Romish Church prior to their conversion, but the others in the Protestant Church into which they had been born. Some, like Calvin himself, converted and married an Anabaptist.

These anti-Anabaptist Calvinists strongly opposed also Romanism's false doctrine of baptismal regenerationism -- and Gnesio-Lutheranism's teaching as to the almost absolute necessity for baptism. Thus Calvin, Beza and Alsted -- as well as the Brandenburg Confessions from 1614 onward.391

Mutual influence of Continental and British anti-Anabaptists

The above sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century Calvinists in Europe strongly affected not only the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, but also the Anglican Church in England. Both sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century British Puritans were massively influenced by, and in turn themselves massively influenced, the Paidobaptist and anti- anabaptistic Reformed theology of the Continent.

Thus, the Scots Wishart and Knox both studied in Switzerland. Wishart was deeply impressed by the anti-anabaptistic First Helvetic Confession of 1536. Knox not only frequently consulted with John Calvin, but himself wrote at least two works against the Anabaptists. According to Rev. Dr. William McMillan in his book The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church 1550 - 1638, the conviction of the writers of the Book of Common Order is the Biblical view that the babies of believers are themselves Christians and federally holy before baptism392 (just as later reflected in the 1645 Westminster Assembly's Directory for the Publick Worship of God).393

Not just Peter Martyr Vermigli and Jan Laski but also Micron and Gomarus all studied and worked in England. Indeed, there was a constant stream of heavy correspondence between the Reformed Churches in Switzerland and both the Anglicans and the Presbyterians in Britain.

This was especially the case in respect of Butzer and Calvin and Bullinger and Peter Martyr on the one hand. It was also the case as regards Knox and Hooper and Jewel and Cranmer and Somerset (etc.) on the other.

Also of significance is what certain Superintendents and Ministers in the Church of Scotland wrote to Calvin's successor Beza. They wrote that the doctrine of the anti-Anabaptist Second Helvetic Confession of 1566 is precisely "what we have been teaching constantly these eight years [1558-66], and still by the grace of God continue to teach in our churches."394

The General Assembly gave official approval to the Helvetica on 25th December 1566, when it "ordained the same to be printed, together with an epistle sent by the Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland approving the same." Too, Calvin's Catechism was approved by the Church of Scotland and was usually adjoined to its Book of Common Order.395

The anti-Anabaptist and anti-Romish 1615 Irish Articles

Very important too are the 1615 Irish Articles. For, as Rev. Prof. Dr. Philip Schaff396 and Rev. Prof. Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield397 both rightly claimed, the Westminster Confession of Faith itself was influenced chiefly by these Articles.

Already in 1566, the Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland had drawn up twelve short articles. After the founding of Dublin University by pious bishops in 1591, the Protestant Irish Church convoked in 1613. It then drew up one hundred and four new articles -- largely under the leadership of the godly Puritan Archbishop Rev. Dr. James Ussher.

The Irish Articles are strongly anti-anabaptistic. They provide398 that "the laws of the realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.... It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the magistrate, to bear arms and to serve in just wars....

"For the preservation of the chastity of men's persons, wedlock is commanded unto all men that stand in need thereof.... The riches and goods of Christians are not common -- as touching the right, title and possession of the same -- as certain Anabaptists falsely affirm....

"Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the Word and Sacraments: yet, forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the Word and in receiving the Sacraments.

"Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness.... It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching or ministering the Sacraments in the Church, unless he be first lawfully called and sent to execute the same."

These Irish Articles are also very strongly Calvinistic, and reflect the Puritanism then prevalent in Trinity College Dublin. They are rather 'Presbyterian' in character, and are very strong on predestination and reprobation. Indeed, they apparently presuppose regeneration even before infant baptism.

They insist399 that "baptism is not only an outward sign of our profession and a note of difference whereby Christians are discerned from such as are not Christians -- but much more a Sacrament of our admission into the Church, sealing unto us our new birth by the communion which we have in Jesus Christ. The baptism of infants is to be retained in the Church, as agreeable to the Word of God."

The anti-Anabaptist 'T-U-L-I-P' Decrees of the Synod of Dordt

Hot on the heels of the 1615 Irish Articles, followed the 1618f 'Five Point of Calvinism' alias the Decrees of Dordt. Also acronymed as 'T-U-L-I-P' (see the next paragraph), the 'Five Points' were formulated at an international Synod -- attended by delegates from England, Friesland, Germany, Holland, Scotland, Switzerland, and Wales.

Dordt's famous "T-U-L-I-P" itself, is implicitly paidobaptistic and anti-anabaptistic. For that 'T-U-L-I-P' -- viz. 'Total Depravity' and 'Unconditional Election' and 'Limited Atonement' and 'Irresistible Grace' and the 'Perseverance of the Saints' -- also in Holy Scripture itself applies not just to believing adults but also to their covenant babies.

Thus, God's elect also include many babies. For Dordt insists that "the children of believers are holy not by nature but by virtue of the covenant of grace in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended. Godly parents have no reason to doubt the election and salvation of those their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life, in their infancy."400

Again, Dordt reminds us of Christ's own words in Holy Scripture about God's revelations to 'tiny tots' within the covenant of grace. For it cites the Saviour's statement: "I praise You, Father..., that You have revealed these things...to the little children."401 Cf. Matthew 11:25f.

Lastly, one of Dordt's articles402 against the Remonstrants (or Arminians) ascribes both the commencement and the preservation of grace in the elect to the Word alone. It ascribes to the Sacraments not the beginning or the inauguration but only the conservation, continuation and perfection of previously-begun saving grace.403

The influence of the 1618f Synod of Dordt upon Britain

The Stated Clerk of the Synod of Dordt later had a considerable influence upon the leading Westminster Assembly Theologian, Rev. Dr. George Gillespie. Indeed, King James the First of Great Britain -- who authorized the translation of the King James Bible in 1611 -- himself sent British Delegates to the Synod of Dordt in 1618.

At least five Britons are known to have attended the Synod of Dordt -- and to have circulated its doctrine in Britain thereafter. They are: Bishop George Landaff of Wales; Rev. Prof. Dr. John Davenant and Rev. Prof. Dr. Samuel Ward, both of Cambridge; Rev. Dr. Thomas Goad of London; and Rev. Dr. Walter Balcanqual of Scotland.404 Indeed, there is some evidence that the Synod was attended even by the great British Puritan Rev. Dr. William Ames (who soon thereafter became Professor of Theology at Franeker in Friesland).

'Mr. T-U-L-I-P' himself, the great Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Gomarus, had attended the 1618f Synod of Dordt. So too had his even more famous student, Gisbert Voetius. Gomarus had taught in Britain toward the end of the previous century. He clearly asserted an infant faith within covenant babies.405

Voetius would soon become the greatest Theologian in seventeenth-century Holland. Rev. Dr. Kaajan rightly represented Voetius as being "kindred in spirit to the Scottish and English Puritans."406 Voetius's own doctrine of the prebaptismal (rebuttably) presumed regeneration of covenant infants was itself strongly influenced by that of the very famous Englishman Rev. Dr. C. Burgess.

Perhaps most significantly of all, Voetius later publically expressed his own agreement with the 'infant faith' views of that Rev. Dr. Cornelius Burgess (the Assessor and Acting Moderator of the Westminster Assembly itself). Burgess had published his own views in his 1629 Treatise on the...Regeneration of Elect Infants. Compare the Westminster Confession 10:4.

Thereafter, Voetius commented on that writing of Burgess:407 "The opinion of the author pleases me.... He insists that in the elect and covenanted infants, there is room for the initial regeneration of the Holy Spirit -- by which is impressed the beginning and seed of actual conversion or renovation, which is to follow in its own time."

Also Voetius's friend, Rev. Dr. Jan Cloppenburgh of Amsterdam, rightly refuted both Arminians and Anabaptists. Cloppenburgh later became Professor of Theology in Hardewyk, and later in Franeker.

In his work The Gangrene of Anabaptist Theology, Cloppenburgh insisted408 that covenant children "possess the seed of faith within them.... It [faith] not merely follows but also precedes [baptism] -- and is accompanied by the fulfilments of the promises." Compare too the earlier British Puritan William Perkins' Golden Chain.409

Anti-Anabaptist background of Britain's Westminster Assembly

Rev. Prof. Dr. Mitchell of St. Andrews University, the great authority on the theology and literature of the Westminster period, has demonstrated quite conclusively410 that the order followed by the Westminster divines in their Westminster Confession of Faith is that of the Irish Articles.

By 1643, the influence of Calvin was dominant throughout the British Isles (England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands). Britain was already exporting Calvinism -- to Holland, Germany, North America, and elsewhere. Indeed, also from Continental Europe -- the ongoing influence of Post-Calvinian Calvinism further strengthened the already strong native Calvinism of Great Britain herself.

Yet not just the 1615 Irish Articles but also the 1618f Synod of Dordt and its 'T-U-L-I-P' Decrees of Dordt (alias the 'Five Points of Calvinism') had a massive influence on the 1643f Westminster Assembly. Indeed, as the American Presbyterian Rev. Prof. Dr. L.B. Schenck has rightly remarked,411 the whole gamut of Calvinist Confessions, as well as the best Reformed Theologians, were drawn upon by the Westminster Assembly. Such was the interaction between Northern Europe and the whole of the British Isles in the maturing of Calvinism, that there was little room for independent development.

Mercifully, Britain in general and the 1643f Westminster Assembly in particular was steered away from heterodox Continental Anabaptism. It is true that even the belated 'English Baptists' (from 1611 onward) did derive largely from the Anabaptists. Mercifully, however, they remained only on the fringes of British Puritanism.

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Footnotes


312 Op. cit. pp. 209.

313 Ib. p. 778.

314 Op. cit. p. 210.

315 Williams: Red. Ref. pp. 780f.

316 J. Jewel's Works (1560), ed. Ayre, Cambridge, 1850 ed., IV:1240f.

317 Op. cit. p. 209.

318 W.A. Curtis: History of Creeds and Confessions of Faith, Clarke, Edinburgh, 1911, pp. 172f.

319 E.J. Bicknell: A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, Longman Green & Co., London, ed. 1939, pp. 14f.

320 Ib. p. 28.

321 Ib. p. 70.

322 Ib. pp. 121f.

323 Ib. p. 154.

324 Ib. pp. 161-63.

325 Ib. p. 165.

326 Ib. p. 188.

327 Ib. pp. 218f..... 328) Ib. p. 219.

329 Ib. p. 220.

330 Ib. p. 221.

331 G.F. Maclear & W.W. Williams: An Introduction to the Articles of the Church of England, Macmillan & Co., London, 1896, pp. 16 and 200f.

332 Ib. p. 201.

333 Ib. p. 201 n. 3.

334 Ib. pp. 279 & 289f.

335 Ib. p. 291.

336 Op. cit., pp. 16 and 236f & n. 1.

337 Ib. p. 404.

338 Ib. pp. 442f.

339 Ib. pp. 443f.

340 Ib. pp. 463f.

341 Ib. pp. 479f.

342 Ib. pp. 527f.

343 Ib. p. 528.

344 Ib. p. 556.

345 Creeds III p. 514.

346 Ib. I p. 615 & n. 2.

347 Op. cit. p. 20 n. 2.

348 K. Reed: A Warning Against the Anabaptists by John Knox, Presbyterian Heritage, Dallas, 1984, pp. 1-3.....

349 Knox's Works IV:261-74 (cf. IV:257-60), as cited in Reed's op. cit. pp. 21f.

350 Works V:121f & 189 (cited in Reed's op. cit. pp. 4 & 13).

351 Works II:117 (cited in Schenck's op. cit. p. 38 at n. 121).

352 Art. 23.

353 First Book of Discipline ch. II 2nd Hd. 1-3; cf. IV 4th Hd. (1) 1-3; cf. XI 9th Hd. (1) 4. In F.M. Bradshaw: Basic Documents on Presbyterian Polity, Christian Education Committee, Presbyterian Church of Australia, 1984, pp. 11, 14, 36.

354 Rad. Ref. p. 789f.

355 Testimony Before a Judge in Surrey 29 May 1561 (cited in Williams's Rad. Ref. p. 789f).

356 Williams's Rad. Ref. p. 784.

357 Ib. p. 216.

358 Against the Romanists, Belg. Conf. art. 15; against the Anabaptists, art. 34 & cf. n. 144..... 359) Arts. 7, 18, & 36.

360 G. de Bres: The Radical Origin and Foundation of the Anabaptists, ed. 1608, Bk. III.

361 Ib. f. 200b,271b,215b,216a.

362 Ib. f. 252b,253a,255a.

363 Ib. f. 257a, cf. Kramer's op. cit. p. 207, and Kuyper's Sacraments (in his Dogmatic Dictations, Kok, Kampen, 1909, VI p. 140).

364 Ib. f. 268a.

365 Ib. f. 256a-b,257b,258a.

366 Ib. 260a,245ab.

367 Ib. f. 290a.

368 Cited by C.F. Herschberger in his book The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision, Herald, Scottsdale Pa., 1957, p. 204.

369 Ch. 11.

370 Ch. 20.

371 Chs. 20 & 29.

372 Ch. 30.

373 Op. cit. p. 206.

374 See above at nn. 69f.

375 See above at nn. 65f.

376 See above at nn. 86f.

377 See above at nn. 99f..... 378) See above at nn. 89f & 153f.

379 See above at nn. 137f..... 380) See above at nn. 144f.

381 P. Datheen: Protocol of the Dialogue with the Anabaptists, 1571.

382 M. Alting: Prot. of the Dialog. with the Anab., 1580.

383 J. Taffin: Instruction Against Errors of Anabaptists, 1580f.

384 F. Junius: Theological Theses on Paidobaptism, ed. 1735.

385 L. Trelcatius Sr.: Common Places, 1587.

386 L. Trelcatius Jr.: Scol. et Meth. Loc. Comm. S. Theol. Inst.

387 G. Snecanus: The Basis of...the Sacrament...of Baptism, 1588.

388 J. Kimedoncius: Answer to the Anabaptist Dirk Philip's 'On the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ', 1590.

389 P. Bontemps: Manifold Errors of the Anabaptists or Mennonites, 1602.

390 Thus: Bastingius; Gomarus; Acronius; Grevinchoven; Seu; Du Bois; Donselaer; Venhuizen; Moded; Buschius; Tayus; Costerus; Nicolai; Langspergius; Amspringius; Vossenholius; and especially Faukelius (the writer of the Short Compendium to the Heidelberg Catechism). See in Kramer's op. cit. pp. 238- 41.

391 See above at nn. 99f. Compare too Calvin's successor Beza's Abstersion of the Calumnies of Tilemann Hesshus the Gnesio-Lutheran. Brandenburg is the central province of Prussia, with Berlin as its capital. From the beginning of the seventeenth century onward, its Lutheran Hohenzollern princes embraced Calvinism. They sponsored the three Brandenburg Confessions: the 1614 Confession of Sigismund (or Siegmund); the 1631 Leipzig Colloquy; and the 1645 Declaration of Thorn.

392 Univ. of Glasgow Press, London, 1931, pp. 243-47.

393 Of the Administration of the Sacraments: and First, of Baptism, in The Subordinate Standards and Other Authoritative Documents of the Free Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1933, pp. 293f.

394 L.B. Schenck's op. cit. p. 39.

395 C.G. M'Crie: The Confessions of the Church of Scotland, MacNiven and Wallace, 1907, pp. 51-52 (cited in Schenck's op. cit., p. 57; and in A.F. Mitchell's The Scottish Reformation, Baird Lectures for 1899, Edinburgh, pp. 103 & 112f).

396 Creeds III p. 526.

397 The Westminster Assembly, 1972 ed., pp. 176f.

398 Irish Articles Arts. 61f & 64f.

399 Irish Articles, arts. 89-91.

400 Decrees of Dordt I:17, in The Doctrinal Standards of the Dutch Reformed Church p. 92. Comp. too Gravemeijer: op. cit. III:20:22 p. 139.

401 Decrees of Dordt, Rejection of Error 8.

402 Art. 5, sect. 14.

403 Comp. too G. Gillespie's Aaron's Rod Blossoming, London ed., III ch. 12.

404 Schaff: Creeds III p. 558.

405 See our main text at its nn. 153-56 above.

406 H. Kaajan: Voetius (Gisbertus), in Christian Encyclopedia, Kok, Kampen, 1929, V p. 616.

407 G. Voetius: Selected Theological Disputes, Utrecht, 1648f, II p. 142

408 J. Cloppenburgh: The Gangrene of Anabaptist Theology, II ch. 20 p. 245, cf. III ch. 28 p. 584f.

409 W. Perkins: Golden Chain, chs. XIX-XXXI.

410 C.G. M'Crie: op. cit., pp. 51-52. Cited in Schenck's op. cit. p. 50 n. 166.

411 Op. cit. pp. 50-51.

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