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    March 23, 1888

    “Historical Necessity of the Third Angel’s Message. No. 4” The Signs of the Times 14, 12, pp. 183, 184.

    BUT however bitter the opposition between Lutherans and Calvinists, and amongst the Lutherans themselves, and again, between all of these on one hand and the Catholics on the other, they could call a truce upon all their differences, and unite all, Catholics, Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Calvinists, in one common onset against Anabaptists.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.1

    The name “Anabaptist” signifies re-baptisers, and was applied indiscriminately to all who denied the validity of sprinkling for baptism, and especially of infant baptism, or sprinkling rather. Before the period of the Reformation there were scattered throughout almost all the countries of Europe, and persecuted everywhere, lineal descendants, in point of doctrine, of the Albigenses and Waldenses, who did not practice infant baptism (sprinkling) but held to the genuine doctrines of baptism, the sleep of the dead, and some to the true Sabbath. Of course these doctrines caused them to be considered then abominable heretics; but when, unfortunately, in the early days of the Reformation, some of the name ran into the most fearful fanaticism, all of the name were classed together in it, and the severest of penal laws of those severe times were enacted against all who could be classed as Anabaptists.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.2

    “In almost all the countries of Europe, an unspeakable number, ... preferred death in its worst forms to a retraction.... Neither the view of the flames that were kindled to consume them nor the ignominy of the gibbet, nor the terrors of the sword, could shake their invincible ... constancy, or make them abandon tenets that appeared dearer to them than life and all its enjoyments.... And it is much to be lamented that so little distinction was made between the members of this sect, when the sword was unsheathed against them. Why were the innocent and the guilty involved in the same fate? Why were doctrines purely theological ... punished with the same rigor that was shown to crimes inconsistent with the peace and welfare of civil society? Those who had no other marks of peculiarity than their administering baptism to adult persons only, and their excluding the unrighteous from the external communion of the church, ought undoubtedly to have met with milder treatment than that which was given to those seditious incendiaries, who were for unhinging all government and destroying all civil authority.... It is true that many Anabaptists suffered death, not on account of their being considered rebellious subjects, but merely because they were judged to be incorrigible heretics; for in this century the error of limiting the administration of baptism to adult persons only, and the practice of re-baptizing such as had received that sacrament in infancy, were looked upon as the most flagitious and intolerable of heretics.”—Mosheim, Church History, Cent. 16, sec. 3, part 2, par. 6.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.3

    As before remarked, the Anabaptists became the one object of the attack of all parties, civil and religious. Their opposition to infant baptism was what disconcerted Melancthon in the presence of the fanatics at Wittemberg. He owned that they had hit upon a “weak point;” and his doubts on this point led him to make the familiar statement, “Luther alone can decide” the question of their inspiration. It was the fear of being landed in Anabaptism that was the reason that “Luther did not face this question thoroughly.” The Protestant Council of Zurich ordered “that anyone who administered anabaptism should be drowned;” and the order was actually executed upon Felix Mantz, “who had formerly been associated with Zwingle at the commencement of the Reformation.”SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.4

    One of the very earliest of Calvin’s theological efforts was the composition of a book entitled, “Psychopannychia,” on the immortality of the soul, in opposition to the Anabaptists in France. And the claim of the true Sabbath was not the least of the causes of Luther’s bitterness against Carlstadt. (For a full and fair discussion of this point, see “Andrews’ History of the Sabbath,” chap. 23.)SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.5

    England was not entirely exempt from these scenes; yet while exempt from some she was subject to others from which the continental nations were free. To escape the persecutions of “Bloody Mary,” many of the English Protestants fled to Germany. Worship while in exile was conducted by some with the rites of the Church of England as established under Edward VI., while others preferred the Swiss or Calvinistic form of worship. This caused a division, and the former were called Conformists, the latter Non-Conformists or Puritans; and thus the Puritans appear upon the scene. After the death of Mary, at the accession of Elizabeth, these exiles returned to England, and carried their controversies with them; and England not only supplied a better field for their propagation, but there the Scotch Presbyterians, who had spread to a considerable extent in England, allied themselves with the Puritans. These controversies turned, as stated above, upon the forms of worship; whether the clergy should wear vestments; whether the church should be governed by bishops; about cathedral churches, and the archdeacons, deans, canons, and other officials of the same; about festivals and holy days; the sign of the cross; about godfathers and godmothers, etc., etc.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.6

    There were, again, branch controversies from some of these. For instance: on the office of bishops, the question at first was whether bishops are allowable as they stand in the Church of England. But Bancroft, afterward archbishop of Canterbury, asserted that bishops are superior to all other officers in the church, by divine right of the appointment of God himself. To sustain this claim, they were compelled to hold, not the Bible alone as authority, but the Bible and the church of the first five centuries, especially as illustrated in the forms of church government.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.7

    The Puritans and Presbyterians, in denying this, and asserting the sufficiency of the Bible alone, and charging all these other things to the account of Rome, as being “vain, superstitious, idolatrous, and diametrically opposite to the injunctions of the gospel,” were involved in a serious dilemma. When they inveighed so heavily against the rites, ceremonies, and festival days of the Conformists, as being of Rome, and “superstitious, idolatrous,” etc., the Episcopalians retorted upon them, that the observance of Sunday was only an ordinance of the church, and that therefore if they renounced the authority of the church, and held “the Bible and the Bible alone,” they must give up the observance of Sunday.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.8

    But the Non-Conformists, instead of facing this question boldly, and instituting an honest inquiry at the oracles of God, “What day is the Sabbath?” determined that they would keep Sunday anyhow, and if anything must yield, it should be the Scripture. And so Mr. Nicholas Bound, D.D., invented the, to them, very pleasing doctrine, which is yet perpetuated by many who will not obey the commandment of God, that the fourth commandment requires only one day in seven. And such is the origin of the seventh-part-of-time, one-day-in-seven fraud. This was adopted by all the Puritans and Presbyterians with wonderful celerity. And so a second time the Sabbath of the Lord pleaded for release from condemnation at the hands of men, and was denied, as was its Lord, “Not this man, but Barabbas.”SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.9

    Another subject that grew out of the differences between the Conformists and Non-Conformists was sprung by Thomas Cartwright, in an attempt to establish Calvin’s system of church government in England, and which also effectually frustrated all hopes of any compromise. We shall give this in the words of Mr. Green:—SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.10

    “So difficult, however, was her [Elizabeth’s] position that a change might have been forced upon her had she not been aided at this moment by a group of clerical bigots, who gathered under the banner of Presbyterianism. Of these, Thomas Cartwright was the chief. He had studied at Geneva; he returned with a fanatical faith in Calvinism, and in the system of church government which Calvin had devised; and as Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge, he used to the full the opportunities which his chair gave him of propagating his opinions. No leader of a religious party ever deserved less of after sympathy. Cartwright was unquestionably learned and devout, but his bigotry was that of a medieval inquisition. The relics of the old ritual, the cross in baptism, the surplice, the giving of a ring in marriage, were to him not merely distasteful, as they were to the Puritans at large, they were idolatrous, and the mark of the beast. His declamation against ceremonies and superstition, however, had little weight with Elizabeth or her primates; what scared them was his reckless advocacy of a scheme of ecclesiastical government which placed the State beneath the feet of the church. The absolute rule of bishops, indeed, Cartwright denounced as begotten of the devil; but the absolute rule of presbyters he held to be established by the word of God. For the church modeled after the fashion of Geneva he claimed an authority which surpassed the wildest dreams of the masters of the Vatican. All spiritual authority and jurisdiction, the decreeing of doctrine, the ordering of ceremonies, lay wholly in the hands of the ministers of the church. To them belonged the supervision of public morals. In an ordered arrangement of classes and synods, these presbyters were to govern their flocks to regulate their own order, to decide in matters of faith, to administer ‘discipline.’ Their weapon was excommunication, and they were responsible for its use to none but Christ.SITI March 23, 1888, page 183.11

    “The province of the civil ruler in such a system of religion as this, was simply to carry out the decisions of the presbyters, ‘to see their decrees executed, and to punish the contemners of them.’ Nor was this work of the civil power likely to be a light work. The spirit of Calvinistic Presbyterianism excluded all toleration of practice or belief. Not only was the rule of ministers to be established as the one legal form of church government, but all other forms, Episcopalian and separatist, were to be ruthlessly put down. Never had the doctrine of persecution been urged with such a blind and reckless ferocity. ‘I deny,’ wrote Cartwright, ‘that upon repentance there ought to follow any pardon of death.... Heretics ought to be put to death now. If this be bloody and extreme, I am content to be so counted with the Holy Ghost.’SITI March 23, 1888, page 184.1

    “The violence of language such as this was a unlikely as the dogmatism of his theological teaching to commend Cartwright’s opinions to the mass of Englishmen. Popular as the Presbyterian system became in Scotland, it never took any popular hold on England. It remained to the last a clerical rather than a national creed, and even in the moment of its seeming triumph under the commonwealth it was rejected by every part of England save London and Lancashire. But the bold challenge which Cartwright’s party delivered to the Government in 1572, in an ‘admonition to the parliament,’ which denounced the government of bishops as contrary to the word of God, and demanded the establishment in its place of government by presbyters, raised a panic among English statesmen and prelated, which cut off all hopes of a quiet treatment of the merely ceremonial questions which really troubled the consciences of the more advanced Protestants. The natural progress of opinion abruptly ceased, and the moderate thinkers who had pressed for a change in ritual which would have satisfied the zeal of the reformers, withdrew from union with a party which revived the worst pretentions of the Papacy.”—Larger History of English People, book 6, chap. 5, paragraph 31.SITI March 23, 1888, page 184.2

    Shortly after this, in 1581, there occurred a division among the Puritans, which was followed by very notable results. Robert Brown drew off in a revolt from the government of synods and presbyteries, as well as from the government of bishops; and held that each church or assembly of worshipers was entirely independent of all others, and self-governing, and all points of doctrine or discipline were to be submitted to the congregation for discussion and final decision; that each congregation should elect its own pastor, etc. The sect that thus arose were called Independents, or Congregationalists. To escape the persecution that arose against them as a matter of course, they fled to Holland, and founded churches in Middleburg, Amsterdam, and Leyden. Shortly after going to Holland, Brown deserted his followers, returned to England, and took a benefice in the English church. This left John Robinson in charge, who remodeled the whole society, and in 1620 sent a company to America, who were the Pilgrims that landed at Plymouth Rock, and the first settlers of New England.SITI March 23, 1888, page 184.3

    J.

    (To be continued.)

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