Category Archives: false teaching


By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

A harmful thing has become the guiding principle of many Bible-believing churches, and it needs to be understood and repudiated. It is pragmatism.

But, first, let me say that pragmatism is not always bad.  For example, a pragmatic person is one who figures out how to get along with others, or how to get something done, or how to reach a goal. So, a pragmatic person knows that, to get along with others, one must not unnecessarily say things in an abrasive manner. And,  a pragmatic person will use a wheelbarrow to move a pile of rocks from one place to another, instead of carrying a few at a time. Therefore,  as stated above, pragmatism is not always bad.

But it has its downside. And we see its downside at work in Bible-believing churches and Bible-believing ministries in a variety of ways. The goal of these churches and ministries is good: they want to reach as many persons as possible with the Gospel message. But often their mistake is to use pragmatism in ways that contradict Biblical teaching and Biblical principles.

A clear example of this mistake regarding pragmatism is the fact that many Christians have accepted the false and unbiblical idea that to reach the world with the Gospel, we must use music that conforms to the world’s music. Therefore,  many Christian musicians dress like non-Christian musicians. This is most notable in what are called Christian rock bands. Not only do they deliberately dress like secular rock musicians. Their appearance in other ways also conforms to the world. And although the words to their songs might be good, they use the same techniques as secular rock bands in the presentation of their music, which includes very loud music, unnecessary light shows, and excessive movement on the stage or platform. These techniques are used by Christian bands to give their audiences what they assume is a Biblical worship experience. But, intentionally or not, these bands are manipulating their audiences, just like secular bands intentionally do. This provokes some similar physical responses seen at secular rock concerts.

While these persons intentions might be good, their method is wrong because it is based on conformity to the secular world. The apostle Paul, in chapter 12, verse 2, of his letter to the Roman Christians, said Christians are not to be conformed to this world, but are to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. And in chapter 6, verses 14 – 17, of his second letter to the Corinthian Christians,  he made some powerful statements about the fact that Christians are to come out from the world and be separate from it. This applies in many ways to daily Christian living. And it certainly applies to Christian music and Christian musicians. Read, also, verses 13 – 16 of the first chapter of the first letter  by the apostle Peter, and note what he said to Christians about not being conformed to the world, and what he said about our need and duty to be holy. Christian music is supposed to draw us closer to God, which results in our holiness. And this requires it to be unlike the world, which, when given the opportunity, draw us away from him. But the principle of pragmatism, if not under control, makes us think, “If it works, don’t object to it.” But Biblical teaching and principles lead us to sometimes reject what “works.” Such is the case with the kind of music I’ve just brought to your attention.


Six Reasons To Not Follow “King James Version-onlyism”

By Pastor K. Bruce Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD


First, don’t follow KJV-onlyism because it seems to imply that the Bible was not in English prior to the KJV.
   KJV–only literature emphasizes the idea that only the KJV is God’s Word in English. If that is true, what were English Bible translations before the KJV was published? Are we to assume that they were not really Bibles? Or, are we to assume that they ceased to be Bibles when the KJV was printed in 1611?
   What are the pre-KJV English Bibles? The Wycliffe Bible (1382); Tyndale’s Bible (1525-1534); Coverdale’s Bible (1535); Thomas Matthew’s Bible (1537); the Great Bible (1539); the Geneva Bible (1557-1560); the Bishop’s Bible (1568).
   If these translations were the Word of God when they were first published, they still are the Word of God. And if that is true, we cannot say that the King James Version alone is the Word of God in English.
Second, don’t follow KJV-onlyism for the simple reason that the KJV generally used today is different in substance from the 1611 KJV.
   Followers of KJV-onlyism make much of using the “1611 KJV.” But most of them seem unaware of the fact that most of them do not use it. The commonly-used KJV is different from the 1611 edition in substance, not just in spelling, and type-style, and punctuation.
   On page 217 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED, E. F. Hills wrote: “Two editions of the King James Version were published in 1611. The first is distinguished from the second by a unique misprint, namely, Judas instead of Jesus in Matthew 26:36. The second edition corrected this mistake, and also in other respects was  more carefully done. Other editions followed in 1612, 1613, 1616, 1617 and frequently thereafter. In 1629 and 1638 the text was subjected to two minor revisions. In the 18th century the spelling and punctuation of the King James version were modernized, and many obsolete words were changed to their modern equivalents. The two scholars responsible for these alterations were Dr. Thomas Paris (1762) of Cambridge, and Dr. Benjamin Blayney (1769) of Oxford, and it is to their efforts that the generally current form of the King James Version is due.”
   Note that the text was subjected to revisions!
  Evangelist Gary Hudson wrote a valuable article called, The Myth of No Revision  in which he listed over seventy examples of how the text of the 1611 KJV differs from what is used by most KJV readers today. Four examples of textual changes are given here:
2 Kings 11:10, 1611 KJV: in the temple
2 Kings 11:10, current KJV: in the temple of the Lord
1 Chronicles 7:5, 1611 KJV: were men of might
1 Chronicles 7:5, current KJV: were valiant men of might
Matthew 12:23, 1611 KJV: Is this the son of David?
Matthew 12:23, current KJV: Is not this the son of David?
I John 5:12, 1611 KJV: he that hath not the Son, hath not life
I John 5:12, current KJV: “he that hath not the Son of God hath not life
  Have you ever seen stickers on envelopes that say, “Use the Bible God Uses: 1611 KJV”? Or, have you seen advertisements for churches which say something like “Standing for the 1611 KJV” ? Well, it is very likely that they think they are using the original KJV, but are not doing so. A simple comparison of their King James Bibles with the 1611 edition might reveal something they will be surprised by.
  While there is nothing wrong with having a preference for the King James Version, we should not make claims that probably are not accurate. Facts are stubborn things, and one can easily verify the accuracy of those who claim to be using the original King James Version.
   Since it is easily proven that the KJV usually used today is substantially different from the 1611 edition, KJV-only advocates are faced with a dilemma: they must decide which edition is God’s Word in English.
Third, don’t follow KJV-onlyism because it attributes infallibility to the KJV, something not done by its Translators.
   The original edition of the KJV has some very interesting and informative introductory material which enables us to see what the Translators thought of their own work. I am referring to The Epistle Dedicatory, and to a lengthy piece called The Translators to the Readers.
   In The Epsitle Dedicatory, the Translators dedicated their translation to King James. In their dedication we discover that they did not consider their work to be infallible, as the following quotation proves: “There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in your Majesty: but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of the accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto your Majesty. For when your Highness had once out of deep judgement apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the original sacred tongues, together with comparing of the labors, both in our own and other foreign languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue; Your Majesty did never desist, to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.”
   Since the translators who made the King James Version considered their work to be “one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue,” should we make more of it than they did?
   In The Translators To The Reader, we find that they did not look upon their translation the way many do now. For instance, page seven says: “Now to the latter (the Puritans) we answer that we do not deny, nay we affirm, and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, not withstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. For whatever was perfect under the Sun, where Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?”
   Therefore, we should not consider the King James Version to be infallible when the translators themselves denied it.
A fourth reason we should not follow KJV-onlyism is that the marginal notes in the 1611 edition reveal that the translators themselves were often uncertain of how words and verses should be translated into English.
   Most KJV Bibles have few or none of these marginal notes. One should purchase a 1611 edition from Thomas Nelson Publishers so that the notes can be read. They are very interesting, informative, and perhaps unnerving to advocates of KJV-­onlyism.
  On page 216 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED, E. F. Hills said some important things about those notes. Consider his statements carefully: “The marginal notes which the translators attached to the King James Version indicated how God guided their labors providentially. According to Scrivener (1884), there are 8,422 marginal notes in the 1611 edition of the King James Version, including the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament, Scrivener goes on to say, 4,111 of the marginal notes give the more literal meaning of the Hebrew or Aramaic, 2,156 give alternative translations, and 67 give variant readings. In the New Testament 112 of the marginal notes give literal rendering of the Greek, 582 give alternative translations, and 37 give variant readings. These marginal notes show us that the translators were guided providentially through their thought processes, through weighing every possibility and choosing that which seemed to them best.”
    Two paragraphs later, Hills wrote, “As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian reader.”
   The conclusion to be drawn from their many notes is obvious: If they were often unsure of themselves, should we attribute infallibility to their translation? No, we should make neither more nor less of their work than they did.
A fifth reason not to follow KJV-onlyism is that it condemns modern translators for doing what the KJV translators themselves did by putting marginal notes in the Bible.
   In reading KJV-only literature, one soon learns that it is unacceptable to put any notes in Bible margins that can make the reader “uncertain” of how a verse should be translated, or that can make one question whether or not a verse should be in the Bible at all. For instance, one pamphlet concerning the NIV says: “Even though NIV includes a weaker translation of this (Matt. 21:44) in the text, the footnote says, ‘Some manuscripts omit vs. 44.’ This is a rather strong suggestion that it may not belong in the Bible at all. Matt. 12:47; 16:3; and Luke 22:43, 44 are treated by the NIV in the same shoddy and shameful way. To the uninformed reader, such footnotes will tend to destroy confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.”
  While I understand this concern, the facts prove that the original KJV was “guilty” of the same thing. For example, the KJV marginal note for Luke 10:22 says, ‘Many ancient copies add these words, “and turning to his disciples he said.’” And the notation of Luke 17:36 says, “This 36 verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.” We should remember the fact that the 1611 KJV Old Testament has 2,156 alternate translations in its margins, and the New Testament has 582 in its margins. Aren’t such extensive marginal notes in the original KJV just as likely to “destroy confidence in the Bible as the Word of God” as those in other translations are said to do?
A sixth reason not to follow KJV-onlyism is because the KJV is the product of the Church of England.
   As a Baptist, I believe in the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, two of which are (1) the separation of church and state, and (2) the immersion of believers. I would not have speakers in our church if they deny these doctrines. Therefore, I could not have any of the translators of the King James Version preach in my pulpit. They believed in, and were members of the Church of England, a state church. Furthermore, they believed in baptismal regeneration, whereas Baptists believe in regeneration by the Word of God and by the work of Holy Spirit.
    In their epistle of dedication of the King James Version, its translators expressed their “great hope that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby.” The fact that the KJV was produced by the Church of England does not mean that it should not be used. But it does mean that if Baptists are going to be consistent with their theology, they must admit that the translators of the KJV would not qualify to join their churches.
   Consequently, it does not make sense that so many Baptists are crusading for the exclusive use of the King James Version. How can Baptists crusade for the exclusive use of a translation produced by a denomination that promotes beliefs that oppose Baptist beliefs?
In Conclusion:
   We would do well to adopt the view of the KJV’s translators about their work. In their epistle of dedication to King James they stated that their work was “one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue.”
   Furthermore, we would do well to remember that in The Translators To The Reader, they said: “Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that hath been our mark.
  We also should remember what E.F. Hills wrote on page 216 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED: “As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian readers…”
   It is with such an opinion of the King James Version that we, too, can commend it to readers, both Christian and non-Christian. But we have good reasons to not follow KJV-onlyism.
(This article is a re-write of my original article, called, “Why I cannot follow KJV-onlyism.”)

Dad’s Big Red Flashlight

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Lighting graphics
I was born in Appleton, Minnesota in 1953. When I was in early grade school, we moved to a farm maybe 20 miles north of Appleton. Our house was about 300 feet from Drywood Lake. In the winter months we trapped muskrats. When Dad got home from work in the winter, it was dark. So, when he and I were going to check the traps for muskrats, he would first get his big, red flashlight. It had a white threaded ring that held the large lens in place. Then, he would lead the way in the dark with the flashlight turned on. We would go out onto the frozen lake to the muskrat mounds to see if anything had been caught. Then, we would turn around and he would lead the way back to the house. That flashlight was very helpful in the dark.
When I think back to those walks in the dark, that flashlight reminds me of the Bible, which is the Word of God. The Psalm writer said this to God about the Bible in the 105th verse of Psalm 119: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Just as Dad’s big red flashlight lighted the way before us, so God’s Word lights the way as we Christians walk through this sin-darkened world. As we follow its teachings, it will keep us from stumbling in the dark. And it will keep us from stepping into the traps of temptation and false teachings that have been set by Satan.

Does The Bible Contain Mistakes And Contradictions?

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

DOES THE BIBLE CONTAIN MISTAKES AND CONTRADICTIONS? A common answer to this question is, “Yes, of course it does!” But many times this opinion about the Bible is not based on firsthand knowledge of the Bible, but on secondhand knowledge of it.

As an example, many years ago an acquaintance told me the Bible contains mistakes and contradictions. But I learned FROM HIM that his opinion of the Bible was based secondhand knowledge of it. How did I learn this? We worked together, and it became obvious that he could barely read and write. Now, when someone can barley read simple things they certainly would have great difficulty reading the Bible which, in some ways, is a complex book.

Many well-educated persons have this opinion about the Bible for the same reason. Not having read it themselves, their objection to it is based on what others have said about it. This certainly is not a worthy reason to object to something as significant and influential as the Bible.

Therefore, the next time you hear someone say the Bible contains mistakes and contradictions, ask them if they have read it carefully and completely. And ask them to give specific examples of the Bible’s so-called mistakes and objections. Most persons will have to admit they know very little about the Bible. And what at first seem like mistakes and contradictions often have solutions that come from more study.

One more point about my acquaintance referred to above: I think the real reason he objected to the Bible was the fact he knew enough about it to know it condemned his sexual immorality, drunkenness, and foul language, things he did not want to give up.

And that could well be the reason many persons find fault with the Bible. Although they might not be sexually immoral, drunks, or use foul language, they don’t want anyone (including the Lord Jesus Christ), or anything (including God’s Word, the Bible) interfering with their lifestyle. They have chosen the path on which they want to walk, and have no interest in making a change.

And that is exactly what the Bible itself teaches. In the 53rd chapter of his book, the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, said “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.” For another example of this fact about the human race, one should read the first chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. Many other examples from the Bible could be given, but these two are good introductions to the subject.

Baptist Beliefs Compared To The Theology Behind The Authorized (King James) Version

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

In this post I will present some beliefs common to Bible-believing Baptists and compare them with the theology behind the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible. To do so, the word “Baptists” will used, with each letter referring to beliefs common to Bible-believing Baptists. But it must be understood that these beliefs are not the private property of those who call themselves Baptists. Many others in the past have held these beliefs, but have not been known as Baptists. Many hold these beliefs now, but do not call themselves Baptists. They often are referred to as baptistic. The Bible does not say we must call ourselves Baptists, and it wrong to insist that the name be used.

“B” stands for the Baptist belief in the authority of the Bible. This means that, because Baptists believe the Bible alone is the infallible Word of God, it, therefore, is the authority upon which our beliefs are based. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this belief? Yes. But some of their beliefs are not truly derived from the Bible. These will be pointed out as this post progresses.

“A” stands for the Baptist belief in the autonomy of the local church. This means Baptists believe the local church is a congregation of Christians that govern their own affairs without having to answer to some person or organization outside of itself for its decisions. It also means that no one and no organization makes decisions for a  local church. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view. Perhaps in theory, but not in practice, for they were a part of a government-approved church, the Church Of England, which had/has bishops who oversaw/oversee local congregations. Not only did/do their bishops have authority over the local congregations. So also did James I, after whom the King James Version got its name. His role in the Church Of England is clearly stated in “The Epistle Dedicatorie,” found in the front of the 1611 edition of the Authorized (King James) Version.” Another proof that those who produced the King James Version did not truly believe in the autonomy of the local congregation is the fact that the 1611 edition of their translation says in the front that it is “appointed to be read in churches.” This in contrast to the historic Baptist belief that each congregation decides which translation/translations it will use.

“P” stands for the Baptist belief in the priesthood of all believers in Jesus Christ. This means that we believe each Christian has direct access to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ’s name, they can pray directly to God the Father. In his name, they can ask him for, and receive forgiveness of sins. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? Yes. But they also had clergy called “priests,” something foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, and, therefore, not accepted by Bible-believing Baptists.

“T” stands for the Baptist belief in two officers/offices in the local church. These are pastors and deacons. The New Testament also calls the pastors of local churches by two other terms: bishops (meaning overseers) and elders (meaning those who lead by virtue of their age, maturity, and experience). Deacons are the officially elected servants of the local church. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No. They believed in a hierarchical form of church government, with bishops having authority outside of their own congregations.

“I” stands for the Baptist belief in what is called “individual soul liberty.” This means that each person  is directly accountable to God for his or her own beliefs and behavior, and no government, whether political or ecclesiastical, can dictate his or her beliefs. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? Only in theory. Historians have proven that King James and his government persecuted those who did not conform to the Church of England.

“S” stands for the Baptist belief that there should be an obvious separation between church and state. It means that there should be no religion or Christian denomination that is the official religion or Christian denomination of a government. Although President Thomas Jefferson rejected Christianity, the Bible, and its doctrines, he understood the importance of the separation of church and state, and advocated it. But did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No. That is why they were members of the Church Of England, a state church.

The second “t” in the word “Baptists” stands for the Baptist belief in two ordinances of the local church, which are baptism and the Lord’s upper. We believe these are ordinances, not sacraments. This means we believe they symbolically represent important truths about the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel. We do not believe baptism is required of one who wants to be saved. Instead, it is required of one who professes to have been saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe the saved should get baptized as a public profession of their faith. It is symbolic of their identification with the crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected Lord. It is symbolic of their commitment to live new lives as followers of Jesus. The Lord’s supper is symbolic of equally important Gospel truths. The bread is symbolic of the Lord’s body which was broken for us sinners. The cup is symbolic of the Lord’s blood, which was shed in payment for the sins of all humanity. Did those who produced the King James Version hold these views? Perhaps a safe answer, based on the thirtynine articles of the Church Of England, is yes and no. Their view of baptism was not Biblical because they believed in the baptism of infants. Infant baptism, even if it is done by the Biblical method, which is immersion, is not taught in the Bible. Infants cannot do what the Bible requires of those who want be baptized. That is, infants cannot believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and make profession of their faith in him. Therefore, they are disqualified from baptism. It is an interesting fact that, though the King James Version, in Acts 8:37 and elsewhere, clearly teaches a profession of faith is required of anyone who wants to be baptized, King James and the translators of the King James Version believed in infant baptism.

The second “s” in the word “Baptists” stands for the Baptist belief in a saved church membership. We require anyone who wants to join our churches to profess to have been saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we require that their profession of faith is credible. That is, they must give evidence of being true believers in the Lord. Their lives must show that they have believed in Jesus Christ and have become his followers. We do not assume that everyone who claims to be a Christian, and who has been baptized upon their profession of faith, is a true Christian. Sometimes thy prove to be otherwise. But we do require a credible profession of faith prior to admittance into church membership. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No, for the simple reason that they believed baptism grafts one into the church, and they believed in infant baptism. Therefore, I am compelled to believe they believed in infant church membership. But we must remember that infants cannot believe in Christ, and belief in him is a Scriptural requirement for both baptism and church membership.

I encourage all readers of this post to read the thitynine article of The Church Of England. By doing so, you will learn firsthand the theology behind the Authorized(King James) Version. Here is a link to those articles: If you are a King James Bible-only Baptist, you will find it very interesting to read the quote from Lancelot Andrews, who was one of the key persons in the production of the Authorized (King James) Version. Read the following from the same source given above:

Anglican Basics


Anglicans trace their history and doctrine back to the earliest church and through the first English speaking Christians. The English Reformation (when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church) was a pivotal event that resulted in the Anglican Formularies, our statements of belief. See below.

Beliefs and Doctrine

“One Canon (one Bible), two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith.”   

~ Bishop Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626)

If you want to learn firsthand what we call the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, they are derived from the pages of the New Testament. I suggest you start with reading the Book of Acts, and proceed from there. You are sure to find these distinctives as you read. It is a fact that many non-Baptists have become Baptists or baptistic simply by open-mindedly reading the New Testament. You can also read my two posts just prior to this one, and articles and books on this subject by other authors .

What follows is the testimony of one man who became a Baptist by reading the New Testament. It is taken with permission from this website:

Reading The Bible Will Make You A Baptist


Taken from the Baptist Reporter, October, 1858

To the Editor of the Baptist Reporter.

Dear Sir, — I am a young baptist, and have only seen your Reporter for Jan., 1858. Having recently joined the body, I inquired for one of the publications published by the baptists, and a minister directed me to the Reporter, with which I am quite delighted. It occurred to me that I would mention a few of the objections to believers’ baptism which I met with whilst I was among the Independents. I am a young man, and am occasionally engaged in giving a word of exhortation to my neighbours; but I am what is called a “self-educated man,” for I have had to pick up what little knowledge I have obtained; and therefore I trust you will excuse the imperfections which you may discover in this communication.

When among the Independents, in conversations with my fellow-members, the subject of baptism was at times introduced, when one or another would say, “Well; I do think that the baptists are right, and that their mode of administering the ordinance is scriptural.” “Well,” was my reply, “if you consider that the baptists are right, and that their mode is scriptural, why not join them, and be right too, and observe that which you say is scriptural?” The reply they generally gave was, “Oh, it is so inconvenient; and if we are baptized, we shall be expected to join the baptist body, and then what will our minister and the people say? I do not think it matters much.”

It appeared to me an odd thing for them so to acknowledge their duty, and then give such feeble reasons for declining. I could not but wonder what there could be in believers’ baptism that made the ordinance so objectionable.

I talked with other friends on the matter, but was annoyed by their ignorance. They knew not so much as he who was enquiring. Some said, “Oh, these baptists think all wrong but themselves. Have nothing to do with them.” Others said, “Such a mode would suit a warm climate very well, where the people are in the habit of constantly bathing, but not a cold country like ours.” Others “thought that there was something very indecent about it.” I then spake to a more intelligent class, and they informed me “that Christ only intended the ordinance to be observed by his servants in heathen lands, where Christianity was unknown, so that the converts to the gospel, by that ordinance, might publicly disown and cast off all their old heathenish practices.” Others reminded me, “that if I was going to enquire into such a subject, perhaps I would inform them why Christians do not recline at the table and take the bread and break it into pieces, instead of having it partly cut.”

Such were some of the helps I met with in the path of enquiry, from persons who professed to make the New Testament their rule of practice.

There are many in the Independent and other bodies who can say no more than the above. Why? Because, like those I have already mentioned, they have never thoroughly and impartially examined the subject. Ask them whether they have looked through the New Testament for instances of Infant Baptism; they reply, “No”. Ask them whether they have for evidence of believers’ baptism; they give the same reply.

Dissatisfied with such evasions, I resolved to search the New Testament for myself, with prayer for Divine guidance, and the result was that I became a Baptist.


Baptist Beliefs Versus Those Who Produced The King James Version

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

In this post, I will present the views of Bible-believing Baptists versus those who produced the King James Version, also known as The Authorized Version and the King James Bible. The beliefs of Bible-believing Baptists are presented below from volume 1 of John T. Christian’s 2-volume work that is a history of the Baptists. I have this 2-volume set in hardback, and have read it carefully. The important and interesting chapter given below is taken, with permission, from this website: This is a valuable resource for those interested in the history and beliefs of Baptists.

Before you read the chapter from John T. Christian’s book, consider a few Bible-based Baptist beliefs that differ considerably from the beliefs of those who produced the King James Version. Baptists believe in autonomous local churches, in contrast to state-controlled churches, believed in by those who produced the King James Version. Baptists believe that one must profess faith in Jesus Christ before being baptized, in contrast to the baptism of infants, practiced by those who produced the King James Version. Baptists believe in religious liberty for all, in contrast to those who produced the King James Version, who believed in and practiced the persecution of those whose beliefs differed from theirs. (My post right before this one documents the persecution experienced by many at the hands of the State-controlled church of which those produced the King James Version were a part.) As you read the following chapter from Christian’s book, you will learn more Bible-based Baptist beliefs that differ from the beliefs of those who produced the King James Version. This information should help Baptists who are King James Version-only re-evaluate their excessive exaltation of the King James Version. It is a good and honorable translation, but that should not make us overlook the false teachings and shameful persecution of others by those who produced it. Such men would not now be allowed in the pulpits of Bible-believing Baptist churches. Why then, are they so highly esteemed?

A History of the Baptists

Chapter I – The New Testament Churches

The Great Commission—A Definition of a Church—A Voluntary Association—A Church Not National or General—The Officers of a Church—The Ordinances—The Proper Subjects of Baptism—The Form of Baptism—The Lord’s Supper—The Ordinances as Symbols—The Churches Missionary Bodies—The Continued Existence of the Churches.

After our Lord had finished his work on earth, and before he had ascended into glory, he gave to his disciples the following commission: “All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20). Under the terms of this commission Jesus gave to his churches the authority to evangelize the world.

A New Testament Church is a company of baptized believers voluntarily associated together for the maintenance of the ordinances and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The distinctive characteristics of this church are clearly marked in the New Testament.

Such a church was a voluntary association and was independent of all other churches. It might be, and probably was, affiliated with other churches in brotherly relations; but it remained independent of all outward control, and was responsible to Christ alone, who was the supreme lawgiver and the source of all authority. Originally the teachers and the people conjointly administered the affairs of the church.

In the New Testament sense of the church there can be no such an organization as a National or General Church, covering a large district of country, composed of a number of local organizations. The church, in the Scriptural sense, is always an independent, local organization. Sister churches were “united only by the ties of faith and charity. Independence and equality formed the basis of their internal constitution” (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I. p. 554. Boston, 1854). Gibbon, always artistic in the use of material, continues: “Such was the mild and equal constitution by which the Christians were governed for more than a hundred years after the death of the apostles. Every society formed within itself a separate and independent republic; and although the most distant of these little states maintained a mutual, as well as friendly, intercourse of letters and deputations, the Christian world was not yet connected by any supreme or legislative assembly” (Ibid, p. 558).

The officers of the church were first, pastors, indifferently called elders or bishops, and, secondly, deacons. These were the honorable servants of a free people. The pastors possessed no authority above their brethren, save that by service they purchased to themselves a good degree of glory.

The more recent Episcopal writers, such as Jacob and Hatch, do not derive their system from the ancient Scriptural form of government, but always acknowledge the primitive congregational form of government, and declare that episcopacy is a later development In the New Testament, elder and bishop are different names to describe the same office. Dr. Lightfoot, the Bishop of Durham, in a very exhaustive discussion of the subject, says:

It is clear, that, at the close of the Apostolic Age, the two lower orders of the three fold ministry were firmly and widely established; but traces of the episcopate, properly so-called, are few and Indistinct. The episcopate was formed out of the presbyterial order by elevation; and the title, which originally was common to all, came at length to be appropriated to the chief of them (Lightfoot, Commentary on Philippians, pp. 180-276).

Dean Stanley represents the same view. He says:

According to the strict rules of the church derived from those early times, there are but two orders, presbyters and deacons (Stanley, Christian Institutions, p. 210).

Richard B. Rackham (The Acts of the Apostles cii), A. D. 1912, says of the word bishop (episcopos):

We may say at once that it had not yet acquired the definite sense which it holds in the letters of Ignatius (A. D. 115), and which it still holds today, viz., of a single ruler of a diocese. From Acts xx..28, Titus i. 6,7, and comparison with I Timothy iii. 2f., we should conclude that episcopus was simply a synonym for presbyter, and that the two offices were identical.

Knowling (The Expositors Greek Testament, II. pp. 435-437) reviews all of the authorities, Hatch (Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, II. p. 1700), Harnack (Gebhardt and Harnack, Clement of Rome, ed. altera, p. 5), Steinmetz, etc., and reaches the following conclusion:

This one passage (Acts 20:28) is also sufficient to show that the “presbyter” and the “bishop” were at first practically identical.

Jerome, at the end of the fourth century, reminds the bishops that they owe their elevation above the presbyters, not so much to divine institution as to ecclesiastical usage; for before the outbreak of controversies in the church there was no distinction between the two, except that presbyter was a term of age, and bishop a term of official dignity; but when men, at the instigation of Satan, erected parties and sects, and, instead of simply following Christ, named themselves of Paul, of Apollos, or Cephas, all agreed to put one of the presbyters at the head of the rest, that by his universal supervision of the churches, he might kill the seeds of division (Hieron. Comm. ad Tit. 1:7). The great commentators of the Greek Church agree with Jerome in maintaining the original identity of bishops and presbyters in the New Testament. Thus did Chrysostom (Hom. i. in Ep. ad Phil. 1:11); Theodoret (ad Phil. 1:1); Ambrosiaster (ad Eph. 4:11); and the pseudo-Augustinian (Questions V. et N. T. qu. p. 101).

There were two ordinances m the primitive church, baptism and the Supper of the Lord. Baptism was an outward confession of faith in Christ. It thus expressed a belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a subsequent resurrection of all believers through the eternal Spirit.

Only believers were baptized and that upon a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The church was composed of believers or holy persons. The members were called in the New Testament “beloved of God, called to be saints”; “sanctified in Christ Jesus”; “faithful in Christ”; “God’s elect, holy, and beloved.” The conditions of membership were repentance, faith, righteousness, and the initiatory rite of baptism, which was symbolical of the changed life.

In this connection it is interesting to note that all the Pedobaptist Confessions of Faith include only believers in the definition of the proper members of a church, The following definition of a church is taken from the Augsburg Confession of Faith of the Lutheran Church. It fairly represents all the rest. It says:

To speak properly, the church of Christ is a congregation of the members of Christ; that is, of the saints, which do truly believe and rightly obey Christ.

So universal is this definition of a church in all of the Confessions of Faith that Köstlin, Professor of Theology in Halle, says: “The Reformed Confessions describe the Church as the communion of believers or saints, and condition its existence on the pure preaching of the Word” (Köstlin, Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopaedia, I. p. 474).

The above definition, consistently applied, excludes infant baptism, since infants are incapable of faith, which always, in the New Testament, is a prerequisite to baptism. The New Testament teaching is quite clear on this point. John the Baptist required that those who were applicants for baptism should experience repentance, exercise faith, make a confession of sin and live a righteous life (Math. 3:2; Acts 19:4). Jesus first made disciples and then baptized them (John 4:1), and gave distinct commandment that teaching should precede baptism (Math. 28:19). In the preaching of the apostles repentance antedates baptism (Acts 2:38): the converts were filled with joy, and only men and women were baptized (Acts 8:5, 8, 12). There is no account or inference implying the baptism of an infant by Jesus or his apostles.

This is generally conceded by scholars.

Döllinger, a Catholic scholar, Professor of Church History in the University of Munich, says: “There is no proof or hint in the New Testament that the apostles baptized infants or ordered them to be baptized” (John Joseph Ignatius Döllinger, The First Age of the Church, II. p. 184).

Dr. Edmund de Pressensé, a French Senator and Protestant, says: “No positive fact sanctioning the practice (of infant baptism) can be adduced from the New Testament; the historical proofs alleged are in no way conclusive” (Pressensé, Early Years of Christianity, p. 376. London, 1870).

Many authors of books treating directly on infant baptism affirm that it is not mentioned in the Scriptures. One writer only is here quoted. Joh. W. F. Höfling, Lutheran Professor of Theology at Erlangen, says: “The sacred Scriptures furnish no historical proof that children were baptized by the apostles” (Höfling, Das Sakrament der Taufe, p. 99. Erlangen, 1846. 2 vols.).

A few of the more recent authorities will not be amiss on this subject. The “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,” edited by Professor James Hastings and Professor Kirsopp Lake, of the University of Leyden, says: “There is no indication of the baptism of children” in the New Testament.

The “Real Encyklopädie fur Protestantiche Theologie und Kirche” (XIX. p. 403. 3rd edition), the great German encyclopaedia, says:

The practice of infant-baptism in the apostolic and post-apostolic age cannot be proved. We hear indeed frequently of the baptism of entire households, as in Acts 15:32f; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16. But the last passage taken, 1 Cor. 7:14, is not favorable to the supposition that infant baptism was customary at that time. For then Paul would not have written “else were your children unclean.”

Principal Robert Rainy, New College, Edinburgh, Presbyterian, says:

Baptism presupposed some Christian instruction, and was preceded by fasting. It signified the forgiveness of past sins, and was the visible point of departure of the new life under Christian Influence and with the Inspiration of Christian purposes and aims. Here it was the “seal” which concerned a man to keep inviolate (Rainy, Ancient Catholic Church, p. 75)

The form of baptism was dipping, or an immersion in water. John baptized in the river Jordan (Mark 1:5); and he baptized in Aenon near to Salim “because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Jesus was baptized in the Jordan (Mark 1:9), and he “went into the water” and he “came up out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). The symbolical passages (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12), which describe baptism as burial and resurrection make it certain that immersion was the New Testament act of baptism.

This, indeed, is the meaning of the Greek word baptizein. The word is defined by Liddell and Scott, the secular Greek lexicon used in all colleges and universities, “to dip in or under the water.” In the lexicon of J. H. Thayer, the standard New Testament lexicon, the word is defined as an “immersion in water.” All scholarship confirms this view. Prof. R. C. Jebb, Litt. D., University of Cambridge, says: “I do not know whether there is any authoritative Greek-English lexicon which makes the word to mean ‘sprinkle’ or to ‘pour.’ I can only say that such a meaning never belongs to the word in Classical Greek” (Letter to the author. September 23, 1898). Dr. Adolf Harnack, University of Berlin, says: “Baptism undoubtedly signifies immersion. No proof can be found that it signifies anything else in the New Testament, and in the most ancient Christian literature” (Schaff, The Teaching of the Twelve, p. 50).

Dr. Dosker, Professor of Church History, Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, says:

Every candid historian will admit that the Baptist. have, both philologically and historically, the better of the argument, as to the prevailing mode of baptism. The word baptizo means immersion, both in classical and Biblical Greek, except where it is manifestly used in a tropical sense (Dosker, The Dutch Anabaptists, p. 176 Philadelphia, 1921).

Nothing is more certain than that the New Testament churches uniformly practiced immersion,

The Lord’s Supper shows forth the death of the Saviour till he shall come again. It is a perpetual memorial of the broken body and the shed blood of the risen Lord. In the Scriptures the Lord’s Supper is always preceded by the act of baptism, and there is no account of any person participating in the Supper who had not previously been baptized. That baptism should precede the Lord’s Supper is avowed by scholars of all communions.

Dr. William Wall sums up the entire historical field when he says: “For no church ever gave the communion to any persons before they were baptized. . . Since among all of the absurdities that ever were held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized” (Wall, The History of Infant Baptism, I. pp. 632, 638. Oxford, 1862).

The Baptists have always insisted that the ordinances were symbols and not sacraments. Indeed this is the heart of their contention.

President E. Y. Mullins has concisely stated the historical contention of Baptists in the following words:

They have seen with great vividness and clearness of outline the central spiritual elements of Christianity. With a like vividness and clearness they have perceived the significance of the outward form. For them it has seemed as if the very life of Christianity depended upon keeping the spiritual and ceremonial elements in their respective places. Christian history certainly justifies them in their view. Forms and ceremonies are like ladders. On them we may climb up or down. If we keep them in their places as symbols, the soul feeds on the truth symbolized. If we convert them into sacraments, the soul misses the central vitality itself, spiritual communion with God. An outward religious ceremony derives its chief significance from the context in which it is placed, from the general system of which it forms a part. If a ceremony is set in the context of a spiritual system of truths, it may become an indispensable element for the furtherance of those truths. If it is set in the context of a sacramental system, it may and does become a means for obscuring the truth and enslaving the soul. It is this perception of the value of ceremonies as symbols and of their perils as sacraments which animates Baptists in their strenuous advocacy of a spiritual interpretation of the ordinances of Christianity (McGlothlin, Infant Baptism Historically Considered, p. 7).

The early churches were missionary bodies. They were required to carry out the great commission given by our Lord. The obedience to the missionary program laid out by the divine Lord, the disciples in a few generations preached the gospel to the known world. The first church was organized by Jesus and his apostles; and after the form of this one all other churches should be modeled. The churches so organized are to continue in the world until the kingdoms of this earth shall become the kingdom of our Lord, even Christ. Prophecy was full of the enduring character of the kingdom of Christ (Dan. 2:44, 45). Jesus maintained a like view of his church and extended the promise to all the ages. He said: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The word church here is doubtless used in its ordinary, literal sense as a local institution; and in the only other passage where it is found in Matthew (18:17) it must be taken with the same signification. The great mass of scholarship supports the contention that this passage refers to the local, visible church of Christ (Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew).

The critical meaning of the word does not differ from this (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 197). The word “church” was used by our Lord and the apostles not so much in contra-distinction to the Jewish Theocracy, as to the Jewish synagogue, and the synagogue was always local (Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of the New Testament Greek, pp. 330, 331). The Roman Catholics have always denied the existence of a universal spiritual church (Alzog, Universal Church History, Vol. I. pp. 108, 109). Until the German Reformation there was practically no other conception of a church. When Luther and others split off from the Roman Catholic Church, a new interpretation of this passage was adopted to suit the new views; so they held that Matthew 16:18 merely pointed to the ultimate triumph of Christianity. But manifestly this interpretation was remote from the meaning of the Lord.

Paul gives a large promise: “Unto him be glory in the church of Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21). Ellicott translates the passage: “To all the generations of the ages of ages.” The glory of Christ was to exist in all of the ages in the church. The church was, therefore, bound to exist in all of the ages. Even the redeemed in heaven are described in the Scriptures as a church.

The author believes that in every age since Jesus and the apostles, there have been companies of believers, churches, who have substantially held to the principles of the New Testament as now proclaimed by the Baptists. No attempt is made in these pages to trace a succession of bishops, as the Roman Catholics attempt to do, back to the apostles. Such an attempt is “laboring in the fire for mere vanity,” and proceeds upon a mistaken view of the nature of the kingdom of Christ, and of the sovereignty of God, in his operations on the earth. Jesus himself, in a reply to an inquiry put to him by the Pharisees (Luke 17:20-24), compares his kingdom to the lightning, darting its rays in the most sovereign and uncontrollable manner from one extremity of the heavens to the other. And this view corresponds to God’s dealings in the spiritual realm. Wherever God has his elect, there in his own proper time, he sends the gospel to save them, and churches after his model are organized (William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, xvii. Philadelphia. 1832).

The New Testament recognizes a democratic simplicity, and not a hierarchical monarchy. There is no irregularity, but a perpetual proclamation of principles. There is no intimation that there was not a continuity of churches, for doubtless there was, but our insistence is that this was not the dominant note in apostolic life. No emphasis is put on a succession of baptisms, or the historical order of churches. Some of the apostles were disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35), but there is no record of the baptism of others, though they were baptized. Paul, the great missionary, was baptized by Ananias (Acts 9:17, 18), but it is not known who baptized Ananias. Nothing definite is known of the origin of the church at Damascus. The church at Antioch became the great foreign missionary center, but the history of its origin is not distinctly given. The church at Rome was already in existence when Paul wrote to them his letter. These silences occur all through the New Testament, but there is a constant recurrence of type, a persistence of fundamental doctrines, and a proclamation of principles. This marked the whole apostolic period, and for that matter, every period since that time.

This recurrence of type is recognized even where error was detected. The disciples desired Jesus to rebuke a man who walked not with them (Mark 9:40), but this Jesus refused to do. The church at Corinth was imperfect in practice and life. The Judaizing teachers constantly perverted the gospel, and John the Evangelist, in his last days, combated insidious error, but the great doctrines of the atoning work of Christ, conversion and repentance, the baptism of believers, the purity of the church, the freedom of the soul, and the collateral truths, were everywhere avowed. At times these principles have been combated and those who held them persecuted, often they have been obscured; sometimes they have been advocated by ignorant men, and at other times by brilliant graduates Of the universities, who frequently mixed the truth with philosophical speculations; yet; always, often under the most varied conditions, these principles have come to the surface.

Baptist churches have the most slender ties of organization, and a strong government is not according to their polity. They are like the river Rhone, which sometimes flows as a river broad and deep, but at other times is hidden in the sands. It, however, never loses its continuity or existence. It is simply hidden for a period. Baptist churches may disappear and reappear in the most unaccountable manner.. Persecuted everywhere by sword and by fire, their principles would appear to be almost extinct, when in a most wondrous way God would raise up some man, or some company of martyrs, to proclaim the truth.

The footsteps of the Baptists of the ages can more easily be traced by blood than by baptism. It is a 1ineage of suffering rather than a succession of bishops; a martyrdom of principle, rather than a dogmatic decree of councils; a golden chord of love, rather than an iron chain of succession, which, while attempting to rattle its links back to the apostles, has been of more service in chaining some protesting Baptist to the stake than in proclaiming the truth of the New Testament. It is, nevertheless, a right royal succession, that in every age the Baptists have been advocates of liberty for all, and have held that the gospel of the Son of God makes every man a free man in Christ Jesus.

Books for further reading and reference:

George P. Fisher (Congregationalist), A History of the Christian Church, pp. 1-44.

Philip Schaff (Presbyterian), History of the Christian Churches, Vol. I.

John Alzog (Roman Catholic), Manual of Universal Church History, 4 volumes.

Thomas J. Conant (Baptist), The Meaning and Uses of Baptizein.

John T. Christian, Immersion, the Act of Christian Baptism.

Edwin Hatch, The Organization of the Early Christian Churches.

King James Of The King James Version Versus Baptists And Others

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

The King James Version is a good Bible translation. I have read it at least 40 times, and continue to read it once a year. Unfortunately, many sincere Christians in our day, including many fellow Baptists, have gone to extremes about the King James Version, and make many false claims about it. One false claim is that it alone is the Word of God in English. Some of these persons seem to think that the Word of God was not in English until the publication of the King James Version. But if they admit the Bible was in English  prior to the King James Version, they must admit that those translations still are the Word of God. We know for a fact that those earlier translations are still in print. Some of them, and maybe all of them, can be found online. So, since we still have access to those English Bible translations that preceded the KJV, they must still be the Word of God. And here is something else to consider: since the Word of God was in English prior to the KJV, and in English through the publication of the KJV, by whose authority is the claim made that no English Bible translation since the KJV can be considered the Word of God? By whose authority is the claim made that the KJV alone is God’s preserved Word for the English speaking world? Baptists, of all persons, should not make such a claim, for they do not believe there is any ecclesiastical authority that legitimately can make such a claim. Baptists do not believe in State churches, popes, magisterium, or that any denominations can legislate such matters for the rest of the world.  Another false claim made by such persons is that the current KJV has the same words as the original KJV. This is provably false. I have documented such word changes on this blog. The number of word changes might be relatively few, but they are nonetheless real.   Other false claims about the KJV can be considered, but these are the only ones I wish present at this time.

What all King James-only Christians, especially Baptists, need to consider is the fact that the King James Version was produced by a denomination that was/is  a State church, something contrary to and abhorrent to Baptist beliefs. Moreover, that  State church, the Church Of England, was at the time a persecutor of Baptists and others that did not bow to its ecclesiastical authority. The men who did the translating work to produce the King James Version were a part of that persecuting denomination, and in the introduction to the King James Version, they lavished great praise upon King James as a defender of the Christian faith, in spite of the fact that he, with their full knowledge, led the opposition to Baptists and others. Proof of these facts about King James and his denomination is abundant. Besides others providing such proof, so do Baptists who document Baptist history. One such Baptist historian is J. M. Cramp. What follows is from his old book on Baptist history. It gives ample proof of the persecutions suffered by Baptists in England at the hands of King James and his State church, which, remember, included the translators of the KJV. Knowledge of these facts will help us moderate our views of the King James Version, and especially of the men who produced it. The quote is given with permission of its source, The Reformed Reader, a great resource on Baptist history, beliefs, and etc. Here is a link to its website:


Severity of Elizabeth’s Government—Bigotry of James I.—The Hampton Court Conference—Emigration—John Smyth’s Church—Their Confessions—Bartholomew Legate—Extracts from Baptist Publications on Liberty of Conscience—The King’s Distress at their Increase

So great was the severity of Elizabeth’s Government, that the Separatists of all classes were scattered about, and forced to hold their meetings in the utmost privacy. The Baptists, having been especially marked out for expulsion, could scarcely meet at all. Consequently, but little is known of them during the remainder of this reign. There is no doubt, however, of their continued existence. One writer refers to “Anabaptist Conventicles” in London and other places. Another intimates his suspicion that there were some, even in the Church of England, who held their sentiments. A congregation was discovered in London in 1588, whose views and practices point them out as “Anabaptistical.” Strype says, that they were accustomed to meet together on Lord’s Days, and listen to exhortations from the Word of God; that they dined together, collected money to pay for the food, and sent the surplus to such of their brethren as were in prison; that they used no form of prayer; that they refused to regard the Church of England as a true Church: that they denied the authority of the Queen, and of all magistrates, in religious affairs; and that they held it unlawful to baptize children. At a still later period a Baptist is mentioned as being in prison at Norwich, and in peril of death, solely on account of his religious opinions.1

James I. was as bigoted and despotic as Elizabeth. While in Scotland he had affected great zeal for Presbyterianism. When he subscribed the Solemn League and Covenant, in 1590, “he praised God that he was born in the time of the light of the Gospel, and in such a place, as to be king of such a Church, the sincerest [purest] kirk in the world. ‘The Church of Geneva,’ said he, ‘keep Pasch and Yule [Easter and Christmas; what have they for them? They have no institution. As for our neighbour Kirk of England, their service is an evil-said mass in English; they want nothing of the mass but the liftings. I charge you, my good ministers, doctors, elders, nobles, gentlemen, and barons, to stand to your purity, and to exhort the people to do the same; and I, forsooth, as long as I brook my life, shall maintain the same.’”2 But on his rising to the higher dignity of King of Great Britain he suddenly became enamored of Episcopacy. Kingcraft, in which he thought himself an adept, harmonized better with bishops than with presbyters. Bishops seemed to be the natural allies of sovereigns. “No bishop, no king,” was James’s motto. Like all new converts, he evinced remarkable fervor of attachment, and was ready to do anything on behalf of the cause. The Puritan clergy, that is those who wished for more liberty, and desired to assimilate the government of the Church to the Genevan model, asked for a hearing. The result was, the event known in history as the Hampton Court Conference. It was no conference, however, for the King had made up his mind beforehand. His behavior was rude and overbearing. Nine bishops, with other dignitaries, appeared in support of the Church of England and of things as they were; Dr. Raynolds, with three other ministers, represented the Puritans. Their demands were comprised in four particulars : “1. That the doctrines of the Church might be preserved pure, according to God’s Word. 2. That good pastors might be planted in all churches, to preach in the same. 3. That the Book of Common Prayer might be fitted to more increase of piety. 4. That Church government might be sincerely ministered, according to God’s Word.” In support of these requests, Dr. Raynolds adduced many weighty considerations, and argued with great modesty and forbearance, though often interrupted and insulted by the King. “Well, Doctor,” said James, “have you anything else to offer?” “No more,” Dr. Raynolds replied. “If this,” rejoined the King, “be all your party have to say, I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of the land, or else worse.”3

The Puritans saw that there was nothing to hope for from the Government, and took measures accordingly. Many crossed over to Holland. Among them were some of the Brownist persuasion, afterwards called Independents, and now Congregationalists. Churches of that order were established at Leyden, Amsterdam, and other places. Such as could not leave their own country worshipped God in private, and kept themselves quiet, hoping, though as it were against hope, for better times. Of that class were many Baptists. Enoch Clapham, a writer of that age, speaks of them as “leaving the public assemblies, and running into woods and meadows, and meeting in bye stables, barns, and haylofts for service.”


John Smyth had been a clergyman of the Church of England, and held the living of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. On leaving that Church he became a minister among the Brownists, who esteemed him so highly that Bishop Hall calls him their “oracle in general.” After a toilsome and perilous service of about fifteen years, during which he and his friends had suffered much from Elizabethan tyranny, it was deemed necessary to abandon the field, in order to preserve life and liberty. In the year 1606 he joined a party of emigrants who settled in Amsterdam. There they united with an English Church which had been formed some time before. But Mr. Smyth’s connection with that Church was not of long duration. He had left “the Church of England for the Brownists, and now more mature reflection led him to take another step. The Brownists denied that the Church of England was a true Church, and therefore they re-ordained all ministers who went over to them from that Church, accounting its ordinances null and void. But they did not re-baptize. This appeared to Mr. Smyth an inconsistency. He thought that if the ordination was invalid, the baptism was no less so. Investigation followed, which was extended to the whole question of baptism, and issued in the conviction that believers are the only subjects of the ordinance, and that immersion is essential to it. Some of Mr. Smyth’s friends shared in the conviction. There has been much dispute respecting the manner in which they proceeded, some maintaining that Smyth baptized himself and then baptized the others. It is a thing of small consequence. Baptists do not believe in Apostolic succession, as it is commonly held. But the probability is, that one of the brethren baptized Mr. Smyth, and that he then baptized the others. The number of these brethren soon increased greatly. A Church was formed, of which Mr. Smyth was chosen pastor. At his death, which took place in 1611, Mr. Thomas Helwys was appointed in his place. In the above-mentioned year, before Mr. Smyth’s death, the Church published a Confession of Faith, in twenty-six articles. We will transcribe those which relate to the constitution of a Church, and to the ordinances.

“10. That the Church of Christ is a company of faithful people, separated from the world by the Word and Spirit of God, being knit unto the Lord, and one unto another, by baptism, upon their own confession of the faith and sins” (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; 2 Cor. 6:17; 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 8:37; Matthew 3:6).

“11. That though in respect of Christ the Church be one, yet it consisteth of divers particular congregations, even so many as there shall be in the world; every of which congregation, though they be but two or three, have Christ given them, with all the means of their salvation, are the body of Christ, and a whole Church, and therefore may, and ought, when they are come together, to pray, prophesy, break bread, and administer in all the holy ordinances, although as yet they have no officers, or that their officers should be in prison, or sick, or by any other means hindered from the Church” (Eph. 4:4; Matthew 18:20; Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 3:22, 12:27, 14:23; 1 Peter 4:10, 2:5).

“12. That as one congregation hath Christ, so have all. And that the Word of God cometh not out from any one, neither to any one congregation in particular, but unto every particular Church, as it doth unto all the world. And therefore no Church ought to challenge any prerogative over any other” (2 Cor. 10:7; 1 Cor. 14:36; Col. 1:5, 6).

“13. That every Church is to receive in all their members by baptism, upon the confession of their faith and sins wrought by the preaching of the Gospel, according to the primitive institution and practice. And, therefore, Churches constituted after any other manner, or of any persons, are not according to Christ’s testament” (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:41).

“14. That baptism, or washing with water, is the outward manifestation of dying unto sin, and walking in newness of life; and therefore in nowise appertaineth to infants” (Rom. 6:2, 3, 4).

“15. That the Lord’s Supper is the outward manifestation of the spiritual communion between Christ and the faithful, mutually to declare His death until He come” (1 Cor. 10:16, 17, 11:26).

“19. That every Church ought, according to the example of Christ’s disciples and primitive Churches, upon every first day of the week, being Lord’s Day, to assemble together, to pray, prophesy, praise God, and break bread, and perform all other parts of spiritual communion, for the worship of God, their own mutual edification, and the preservation of true religion and piety in the Church (John 20:19; Acts 2:42, 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). And they ought not to labor in their callings, according to the equity of the moral law, which Christ came not to abolish, but to fulfill” (Ex. 20:8, &c.).

“20. That the officers of every Church or congregation are either elders, who by their office do especially feed the flock concerning their souls; or deacons, men and women, who by their office relieve the necessities of the poor and impotent brethren, concerning their bodies” (Acts 20:28; 2 Peter 5:2, 3; Acts 6:1, 4).

“21. That these officers are to be chosen when there are persons qualified according to the rules in Christ’s Testament, by election and approbation of that Church or congregation whereof they are members, with fasting, prayer, and laying on of hands; and there being but one rule for elders, therefore but one sort of elders” (2 Tim. 3:2, 7; Titus 1:6, 9; Acts 6:3, 4, 13:3, 14:23).


Shortly after the publication of the Confession, Mr. Helwys, accompanied by most of the members of the Church, returned to England. They feared that if they remained longer abroad in a foreign country their conduct would be regarded as cowardice. They considered, too, the circumstances of the brethren who had continued in their own land, and who were “as sheep without a shepherd.” So they went back to their native shores, and established themselves in London, meeting for worship in strict privacy. They had encountered a great risk in returning at such a time. The fires of persecution had been lighted again, and men burnt to ashes for heresy. On the 18th of March, 1612, Bartholomew Legate, an Arian, suffered at the stake in Smithfield; on the 11th of April, in the same year, Edward Wightman was put to death at Lichfield, in the same manner. This man, if the warrant for his execution may be believed, was a wholesale heretic, for he was charged with “the wicked heresies of Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Arius, Macedonius, Simon Magus, of Manes, Photinus, and of the Anabaptists, and other arch-heretics; and, moreover, of other cursed opinions, by the instinct of Satan excogitated, and heretofore unheard of.” He maintained “that the baptism of infants is an abominable custom,” and “that Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England, but in part.” There was his real delinquency. But the public, even in those days, would have protested against burning a man merely for his Baptist and anti-Church of England principles. It was found necessary, therefore, to blacken the victim to such an extent that he might appear perfectly hideous and fit only for the fire. But Bishop Neile, of Lichfield, and his coadjutors, who acted as Royal Commissioners on the occasion, were manifestly “forgers of lies.” No sane man could possibly hold the multifarious opinions imputed to Wightman. Crosby appropriately remarks that “many of the heresies they charge upon him are so foolish and inconsistent, that it very much discredits what they say;” and that “if he really held such opinions he must either be an idiot or a madman, and ought rather to have had their prayers and assistance than be put to such a cruel death.”


Another person, said to be a “Spanish Arian,” was also condemned to die; but so much sympathy had been expressed by the people at the other executions, that “he was suffered to linger out his life in Newgate, where he ended the same;” for “King James politically preferred,” says Thomas Fuller, “that heretics hereafter, though condemned, should silently and privately waste themselves away in the prison, rather than to grace them, and amuse others, with the solemnity of a public execution, which in popular judgment usurped the honor of a persecution.” Fuller had before observed that “such burning of heretics much startled common people,” and that “the purblind eyes of common judgments looked only on what was next to them (the suffering itself), which they beheld with compassion, not minding the demerits of the guilt, which deserved the same.”7 Thus wrote a Protestant clergyman of the seventeenth century; but murder is murder, however perpetrated, whether by the sword, the fire, or the slower process of the dungeon.

Though the Baptists were debarred the use of the pulpit, the press did them good service. Two tracts, published by them soon after the events just recorded, were honorable alike to their good sense and pious feeling. The first appeared in 1614. It was entitled, “Religion’s Peace; or, a Plea for Liberty of Conscience,” and is the earliest published work on the subject in the English language. Of the author, Leonard Busher, no account has been preserved. It may be gathered from the tract itself, that he had formerly belonged to the Brownists. He was acquainted with the Greek original of the New Testament, and was a diligent student of the sacred volume. Two other tracts were written by him, which poverty prevented him from printing. One of these was entitled, “A Scourge of Small Cords, wherewith Antichrist and his Ministers might be driven out of the Temple of God!” the other, “A Declaration of certain False Translations in the New Testament.” Our Authorized Version had been published but three years, and here was revision already threatened! Many of these works were very ably written, and if we had room for extracts from them, they would serve to show that our Baptist forefathers were distinguished for mental vigor and independence. They had shot ahead of their religious contemporaries, too many of whom, instead of sympathizing with them, caricatured their principles and excited popular fury against their persons.

How severely the Baptists suffered in the reign of James I., may be gathered from a statement made by one of them in 1620. “Our miseries are long and lingering imprisonments for many years in divers counties of England, in which many have died and left behind them widows, and many small children; taking away our goods, and others the like, of which we can make good probation; not for any disloyalty to your Majesty, nor hurt to any mortal man, our adversaries themselves being judges; but only because we dare not assent unto, and practice in the worship of God, such things as we have not faith in, because it is sin against the Most High.” This passage is taken from a tract entitled, “A most Humble Supplication of many of the King’s Majesty’s loyal subjects, ready to testify all civil obedience, by the oath of allegiance, or otherwise, and that of conscience; who are persecuted (only for differing in religion), contrary to Divine and human testimonies.”

8 After an interval of several years, a parliament was about to assemble. The “Humble Supplication” was written on that occasion, and it was hoped that the patriotic men, who had signified their intention to seek redress of all grievances and the restoration of freedom, would hear the complaints of persecuted Christians. The treatise was probably written by the author of “Persecution Judged and Condemned;” but the arguments are more systematically arranged than in that work.

“The author of these arguments against persecutions,” says Roger Williams, “as I have been informed, being committed by some then in power close prisoner to Newgate, for the witness of some truths of Jesus, and having not the use of pen and ink, wrote these arguments in milk, on sheets of paper brought him by the woman, his keeper, from a friend in London, as the stopples of his milk bottle.”

“In such paper, written with milk, nothing will appear; but the way of reading it by fire being known to this friend who received the papers, he transcribed and kept together the papers, although the author himself could not correct nor view what himself had written.”


This appeal was presented in vain. The persecution continued. Messrs. Dodd and Cleaver, two authors of the time, who published in partnership a pamphlet, in 1621, entitled, “The Patrimony of Christian Children,” assign as reasons for engaging in this controversy, “that those of the contrary opinion were very industrious, and took great pains to propagate their doctrine; that divers persons of good note for piety had been prevailed upon by them; that several had entreated their help and assistance; and that they had been engaged already in private debates about this matter.”10 Another person, writing in 1662, states, “that they [the Baptists] separated from the Church, and writ many books in defense of their principles, and had multitudes of disciples; that it was their custom to produce a great number of Scriptures to prove their doctrines; that they were in appearance more holy than those of the Established Church.”11

It would appear, therefore, that the Baptists were an active and growing body. This is further evident from a letter addressed to the clergy by Archbishop Abbot in 1622, in which he tells them that his Majesty was “much troubled and grieved at the heart, to hear every day of so much defection from our religion, both to Popery and Anabaptism, or other points of separation, in some parts of this kingdom;” and that he attributed these defections, in great measure, to the lightness, affectedness, and unprofitableness of that kind of preaching which bath been of late years too much taken up in court, university, city, and country. “The usual scope of very many preachers,” it is added, “is noted to be a soaring up in points of divinity, too deep for the capacity of the people, or a mustering up of much reading, or the displaying of their own wit, or an ignorant meddling with civil matters, as well in the private of several parishes and corporations, as in the public of the kingdom, or a venting of their own distastes, or a smoothing up of those idle fancies, which in this blessed time of a long peace do boil in the brains of unadvised people; or lastly, a rude or indecent railing, not against the doctrines (which when the text shall occasion the same is not only approved, but much commended by his royal Majesty), but against the persons of Papists and Puritans. Now the people bred up with this kind of teaching, and never instructed in the catechism, and fundamental grounds of religion, are for all this airy nourishment no better than ‘abras?tabul?’ new table books, ready to be filled up with the manuals and catechisms of the Popish priests, or the papers and pamphlets of Anabaptists, Brownists, and Puritans.”


We think the King was right. The preachers of the day had not been educated, for the most part, in the best school, and knew not how to engage the sympathies of the people. Puritans and Baptists were much more likely to gain the popular ear. It was said of our Lord, that “the common people heard Him gladly.”