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No. 53 CornhilL


Rhode Island District.

BE IT REMEMBERED, Tliat on the 2ist diiy of July, in the year of our Lcrd one thousand
eight hundred and seventeen, DAVID BENEDICT, of North Providence, in the County nf Prov.
idence, in s«id District of Rhode-Island, deposited in this Office, the title of a Book, the right
whereof he claims as Proprietor, in the words following, viz.

"THE HISTORY OF BAPTISM. By Robert Robinson. Edited by David Benedict, A M.''
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled "An Act for the encour-
agement of learning by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and
Proprietors of such copies during the time therein mentioned :' And also to an Act, entitled
''An Act for the encouragement of learning by securing the copies of maps, charts and books,
to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the time therein mentioned, and extending
the benefits thereof to the Arts of Designing, Engraving, and Etching Historical and other
Prints." N. R. KNIGHT, Clerk R. I. District.


THIS volume, though it may be considered as a com-
plete and distinct work, was put to the press by Mr. Rob-
inson with the view only of exonerating the History of
the Baptists, which he was writing, of the subject of Bap-
tism. Had the Author lived, he would have published
two, three, or more volumes of ecclesiastical history under
the title of the History of the Baptists. From the re-
searches which he had made into the authentic records of
Christian antiquity, he flattered himself that he should be
able to exhibit the history of a class of men, whose tide
to be denominated the disciples of Christ was infinitely
better founded, than that of those who have hitherto proud-
ly and exclusively assumed to themselves the name of the
church. In this work , Mr. Ro b i n s o n took great pleas-
ure, and prosecuted his inquiries with such intense appli-
cation, as is thought to have impaired his health, and to
have brought on the fatal disorder of which he died.


The MSS. Avhich Mr. Robinson hath left on this
subject are voluminous ; but they are neither arranged
nor finished. The following is a sketch of them :

1. A general view of the Roman Empire at Pages

the birth of Jesus Christ, 7

2. A general view of Judea at the time of Jesus, 13

3. Cautions necessary to a Reader of Ecclesi-

astical History, jg

4. The Greek Church, 80

5. The Church of Rome, - 50

6. Afirica, - -_ gQ

7- Italy, 100

8. Spain, 104

9. Navarre and Biscay, - - - - 80

10. Vallies of Piedmont, . v 50

11. Poland, - - -70

12. Transylvania, I7

13. Livonia, - - -„^-_„_ 5

14. Moldavia and Wallachia, 4

15. Hungary, - . g

16. Bohemia, - 35

17. Moravia, 50

18. Austria, - - . - -__.. 5

19. Germany, Munster, - .-_., 15

These are all closely written large quarto pages. It is
the intention of Mr. Robinson's family to submit them
to the inspection of some of his learned friends, on whose
approbation the publishing of them will depend. Mr.
Robinson had also made great collections for the Histo-
ries of the German and English Baptists, which he pro-
posed to write next winter ; and he had prepared some ma-


terials for the History of the Dutch, American and other
foreign Baptists.

Mr. Robinson wrote very Tittle during the last twelve
months. The whole of the present volume, except the
.preface and the recapitulation was finished before tliat
time. Though the reader may wish the Author had re-
touched some parts, he will still find in it an ample fund of
improvement and entertainment ; and the noble spirit of
liberty, which it breathes, cannot fail of recommending it
to the liberal men of every sect.

For the errors of the press, the Author hath made an
apology in the preface, which we trust will be accepted.

Mr. Robinson had engaged himself in the spring to
preach the annual sermons for the benefit of the Dissenters'
Charity- School at Birmingham, and he promised himself
great pleasure from an interview with Dr. Priestly,
and other gentlemen of that place. The physician did not
disapprove of the journey, though he wished it could have
been deferred a v/eek or two longer, and his family flattered
themselves that the exercise and company would have the
most beneficial effects on his health and spirits. On
Wednesday, June 2, he set off" from Chesterton with his
son, in an open carriage, and travelling by easy stages ar-
rived at Birmingham on Saturday evening, apparently not
at all the worse for his journey. On Sunday he preached
twice, in the morning at the new meeting-house, and at the
old meeting-house in the afternoon. On Monday evening
his friends were alarmed for him from an excessive difii-
eulty of respiration, under which he laboured for some
time, but on Tuesday he revived, and entertained the com-
pany the greater pait of the day and the whole of the even-
ing, with all that ease and viAacitv in conversatiori. fn*^


which he had ever been remarkable. He retired to rest
about twelve o'clock, and probably died without a strug-
gle soon after he got to bed ; for on Wednesday morning
he was found nearly cold, the bed clothes were not dis-
composed, nor the features of his countenance in the least
distorted. It was always his desire to die suddenly
and al6ne.

Mr. Robinson departed this life at the age of fifty
four years and eight months, in the house of William
Russell, Esq. at Showel-Green, near Birmingham, and
was interred by this gentleman with every possible mark
of respect in the Dissenters' burying- ground. Dr.
Priestly and several other dissentmg ministers paid the
due tribute of respect to the remains of our much esteem-
ed friend.

We intend tg publish an authentick biographical ac-
count of Mr . Ro B I N s N in a short time.

Chesterton, Cambridge,
July 14, 1790.

''tTGSTGH ^\

*^ * * 'ir » 'vi te'i.- .J k J fi'vl'«*^


BEFORE you peruse the following History, pardon me if I
detain you a moment to inform you of my real motive for com-
piling it ; for I am well aware, that Baptism, one of the chief in-
stitutes of our holy religion, hath been the innocent occasion of
so many mean motives and violent dispositions, that the subject
can hardly be mentioned without exciting suspicions of unfair
treatment. I hope you will not find any thing to otfend in the
following sheets ; at least, I can assure you that I have not allow-
ed myself to deal in censoriousness, or knowingly to use the lan-
guage of bitterness and wrath.

When the subject first darted into my mind, I own, I was not
thinking of Baptism, but of the evidences of Christianity. I was
entering on that argument, which is taken from its rapid progress,
and the multitude of its professors ; and I was the more struck
with it by observing that the first ecclesiastical historian, Luke,
in the book of Acts, makes frequent use of it ; but I could not
help at the same time observing, that the same argument is not
valid now, because a profession of Christianity doth not now im-
ply an exercise of reason and assent, but is put upon infants by
extrinsick force. The conduct of a multitude of wise, free, and
virtuous men, forms a presumption in favour of the reasonable-
ness of their actions ; but a multitude of beings of no character
cannot form even the shadow of a presumption. The first are
the thousands of whom Luke wrote ; the last are the modern pro-
fessors of the Christian religion.

Some writers have availed themselves of the modern case ; and
supposing, as they have been told, that Jesus instituted the pro-
fessinsf of his name in nonage, they have ventured to represent
Christianity and its author unworthy of such respect as Christians
pay to both. Thus the objection is transferred to the gospel, and
the wisdom and equity of the author of it are brought into ques-
tion, unwarily no doubt ; but the fact is true, and the reasoning,
though from mistaken data, hath consistency and weight.

Nor doth infant baptism appear less incongruous with the nat-
ural rights of mankind, than it is with the Avisdom and equity of
Christianity. Of personal liberty, one of the dearest branches is
liberty of conscience, the liberty of choosing a religion for one's-
self, of which none is capable during infancy. It is the parent or


the magistrate, who chooses what rehgion the infant shall profess,
and this is depriving him of a natural birth-right.

The observation, that infants are disposed of in baptism, with-
out their knowledge or consent, is a sort of finger pointing to the
age and the kind of governments where it was first practised.
It must have happened where the choice of the religion of one
man was a right of seigniory exercised by another. .

Full of these, and such like suspicions, and loth to think Chris-
tianity inimical to personal freedom, I set myself to examine the
History of Baptism, and the following sheets contain my observa-
tions. They go to prove that the Christianity, which Jesus and
his primitive disciples taught and practised, is not liable to any
objections on this head, but that it is in full agreement with the
perfections of God, the character of revelation, the principles
of good governments, and the freedom, virtue, and felicity of
all mankind.

Lest I should seem to arrogate a credit not due to my bare af-
firmations, I have taken the pains to quote my authorities, and to
mark the editions ; but I must own the authorities quoted are few
in comparison with what I had collected, and which I have since
destroyed, as what remain appear fully sufficient to authenticate
any fact affirmed.

I have severely felt the inconvenience of a distance of fifty
miles from the press. ***** If^ Reader, you do me justice,
you will number the errors of the press among my misfortunes,
in common Avith those of all Authors, for I assure you, though I
fried hard, yet I could not prevent them.

I feel happy on reflection that I did not set about this work
en any motives below the dignity of a Christian, nor am I aware
that I have prostituted my pen to serve a party, or once dipped
it in gall. Escapes undoubtedly there are many ; but when
did any individual of my species produce a work of absolute per-
fection ? Such as it is, I commit it to the candid perusal of my
brethren ; and I am, Courteous Reader,

Your humble Servant,


Chesterton, Cambridge.

editor's preface.

THIS work has for many years been known, and
much esteemed, by many of the Baptist denomination
on both sides of the Atlantic ; and many in this coun-
try have desired that it might have a more general cir-
culation. Some years ago, the Philadelphia Biptist
Association appointed the late Dr. Samuel Jones, of
Lower Dublin, Pennsylvania, to abridge and prepare it
for the press, on a plan similar to that M^hich is here
pursued. But it is believed, that age and infirmities
prevented the Doctor from fulfilling that appointment.

The Editor has been in the habit of perusing the
work with considerable attention, and much interest
for a number of years : but the labour which he has
now performed, was first suggested to his mind while
studying it for the purpose of m.aking out the article on
Baptism, published in his General History of the Bap-
tists. His intention was announced in that work, and
soon after, he began to be solicited to undertake the
preparation of Robinson. It abounds with notes and
authorities in many dead and foreign languages, which
the Editor designed at first to have generally omitted :
but by the advice and desire of a number of learned
friends, he resolved to retain the authorities without
much abridgment, and also to insert a larger portion of
the notes than he first designed. For the information
of those readers who are unacquainted with languages,
it may be proper to observe, that the substance of most

10 editor's preface.

of the notes, so far at least, as they relate immediately to
baptism, is incorporated with the English reading in the
text, of which circumstance, notice is generally given by
inverted commas. Mr. Robinson saw fit, in a great
many instances, to insert the Latin, Greek, &c. below,
which he had translated in his narrations. This was
probably done for the purpose of giving the learned an
opportunity to judge of the correctness of his transla-
tions. A few of the most striking notes which were
not thus disposed of, have been translated by the Edi-
tor, for the benefit of the common reader, and the trans-
lations immediately follow the notes.

Although some portions of this work have been
omitted, yet the reader may be assured, that every thing
has been retained, which has any direct or important
bearing on the history of baptism.

The generous subscription which has been received
for this justly celebrated production, is a proof of the
high expectations which are entertained of its excellence ;
and it is confidently believed, that it will be perused
with uncommon interest and satisfaction.

Pawtucket, R, /» April 4, 1817»

«.'. - .!;t''^'




LONG before the appearance of John the B iptist, the
Jews had been taught to expect that t/ie God of heaven
M'ould, at a certain time, without hands^ set up a king-
dom^ ivhich should never be destroyed. This heavenly
kingdom was the economy of assortment which John
introduced, and the baptism of John is called the begin-
ning of the gospel, the epoch from which the New Tes-
tament dispensation is to be computed. The taw and
the prophets were until John : since that time the king-
dom of God is preached (1). This came to pass in the
fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar, when Pon-
tius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of
Galilee, and Annas and Caiaphas were his^h priests.

It seems to have been an ancient idea, that the begin-
ning mentioned in the New Testament, particularly in the
1st chapter of the gospel of John, and in' the Ist chapter
of his 1st epistle, is to be understood not of the beginning
of the world, but of the beginning of tlie evangelical econ-
omy. This idea glimmers in the writings of the fathers,
though obscured by allegory. This is what Cyril
seems to intend, when he says, " water was the begin-
ning of the world, and Jordan was the beginningofthe gos-
pel"(2). This is a sort of harmony, ingenious but fan-
ciful, between the first chapter of Genesis and the first
of Mark and John. In the former it is said, in the be-

(1) Mark i. 1, 2. Luke iii. 1, 2. Acts io 21, 22.

(2) CyrilU Kierosolymitad Catecketo


ginning the spirit of God moved upon the face of the
'ujaters : and in the latter, in the beginning, the beginning
of the gospel, John did baptize.

From the beginning of the world to this period good
men had been in a condition of comparative imperfec-
tion. They were individuals mixed and confounded
with numerous persons of opposite characters, in fam-
ily, tribal and national divisions. They had never been
A PEOPLE, but John was sent to associate individuals,
to form a people, or, as an evangelist expresses it, to
make ready a people prepared for the Lord^ and the rev-
olution effected at this time was so substantial, that it is
called a creation, a new age, a new world, of which
Jesus, whom John proclaimed and introduced as chief,
was declared the creator and lord, for John professed
himself only a messenger of Jesus, employed indeed in
his service, but not worthy to unloose the latchet of his

John, it is supposed, was born at Hebron, and, if a
judgment of his education may be formed by the char-
acter of his parents, he was trained up in habits of piety
and virtue, for they were both righteous before God,
walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the
Lord blameless. How he was employed in his youth ;
whether his parents had given him any human literature ;
whether he were single or married ; a man of property,
or poor ; with many other such questions, must ever
remain unanswered, for his historians did not think it
necessary to mention them.

They thought it, however, of consequence to affirm,
that his conduct originated in a divine call. Neither did
he come of himself, nor was he employed by any governing
power of his country, civil or ecclesiastical, nor did the
populace sec him up, but the word of God came to him
in the wilderness, as to the ancient prophets. Three of
the evangelists observe, that the coming of this extraor-
dinary man had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, and
the fourth describes him as a man sent from God, which
is further confirmed by Jesus, who declared, that the
baptism of John was from heaven, and not of men. So
exactly was the prophecy of Daniel fulfilled, and so tru-
ly did the God of heaven without hands set up a king-
dom to stand forever I


When John was about thirty years of age, in obedi-
ence to the heavenly call, he entered on his ministry, by
quitting the hill-country, and going down by the wilder-
ness to' the plains of Jordan, by proclaiming the king-
dom of God, the near advent of the Messiah, and the
necessity of preparing to receive him by laying aside sin
and superstition, and by an exercise of universal justice,
and lastly, by identifying the person of Jesus as the
Messiah. He distributed various rules of righteousness
among the different classes that attended his ministry.
He said to soldiers. Do 'oiolence to no man ; he exhorted
publicans to avoid exaction, and he taught the people
benevolence, Let him that hath two coats impart to him
that hath none ; and he directed all to Jesus as master
and Lord, in manifesting whom his ministry was to
cease. His dress was plain, his diet abstemious,
and his whole deportment grave, serious, and severe.
Muhitudes, both of provincials and citizens, flocked to
hear him, and all held him as a prophet, and such as
renounced their former sinful practices, and believed his
predictions concerning the Christ, were baptized by
him in the river Jordan, but the pharisees and laivyers
are to be excepted, for they rejected the counsel of God
against themselves, and ivere not baptized of him.

While John was employed in preaching and baptiz-
ing at Bethabara beyond Jordan, various reports were
spread abroad of him, and as the people were in expecta-
tion of the Christ, all men mused in their hearts whether
he were the person or not, and the Jews of Jerusalem
sent a deputation of priests and Levites to him to inquire
what account he gave of himself. He fully answered
all their questions, and informed them that he was not
the Christ, but the person, spoken of by Isaiah, sent
before to prepare the way of the Lord, who stood then a-
mong them, but who was not then known. This was the
day of the manifestation of Jesus.

It is uncertain by what means John obtained an in-
terview with Herod ; but, certain it is, he reproved him
for living in adultery with Herodias his brother Philip's
wife, and his language was that of a man who well un-
derstood civil government, for he considered law as
supreme ii> a state, and told the king, It is not lawful


for thee to ha've thy brother^s wife. Hcrodias was ex-
tremely displeased with John for his honest freedom,
and deterniined to destroy him ; but though she prevail-
ed on the king to imprison him, yet she could not per-
suade him to put him to death. Two great obstacles
opposed her design. Herod himself was shcx^ked at
the thought, for he had observed J jhn, was convinced of
his piety and love of justice, he had received pleasure
in hearing him, and had done many things which John
had advised him to do , and, as there is a dignity in in-
nocence, the qualiiies of the man had struck him with
an awe so deep and solemn, that, tyrant as he was, he
could not think of taking away the life of John. Herod
also dreaded the resentment of the publick, for he knew
the multitude held John as a prophet. Herodias there-
fore waited for a favourable opportunity to surprise the
king into the perpetration of a crime, which neither jus-
tice nor policy could approve, and such an one she
found on the king's birth- day. The story is at large in
the gospel. Dreadful is the condition of a country
where any one man is above control, and can do what
this absolute king did ! Whether he felt, or only pre-
tended to feel great sorrow, the fact was the same, he
sent an executioner^ and commanded the head of the
prophet to be brought^ and John was assassinated in the

The murder did not sit easy on the recollection of
Herod, for, soon after, when he heard of the fame of
Jesus, his conscience exclaimed, It is John, whom I be-
headed, he is risen from the dead ! certainly, John the
Baptist will rise from the dead, and Herod the tetrarch
must meet him before an impartial Judge, who will re-
ward or punish each according to the deeds done in the
body. In the present case the Judge hath declared the
character of John. John was a burning and a shining
light. Among them that are born of women there hath
not risen a greater than John the Baptist.

Jesus, speaking of the ill treatment of John, implies
that posterity would do his character justice, and, true
it is, the children of wisdom have justified John ; but
mankind have entertained, according to their various
prejudices, very different opinions of that m which his


worth consisted (3). The Jews praise his rectitude,
and pity his fate, for John was their countryman, and
they hated Herod (4). The Arabians celebrate his ab-
stemiousness, and say providence avenged his death (5).
The Cathohcks have invented a thousand fables, and
placed to his account the origin of monachism, and the
working ot miracles. They have put him among their
gods, consecrated waters, built baptisteries and temples
to his honour, assigned him a day in the calendar, called
themselves by his name, collected his pretended relicks,
adorned them with silver and gold and jewellery, and
wholly overlooked that which made John the great-
est that had been born of women (6). How deplorable
is it, that in the seventeenth century, in the enlightened
kingdom of France, such a man as Du Fresne, of ex-
tensive literature, of amiable manners, an instructor of
ail Europe in matters of antiquity, should disgrace his
pen by publishing a treatise, to prove that his native city
of Amiens was hi possession of that precious relick
the head of St. John the Baptist : found at Jerusalem,
carried to Constantinople, discovered again in the city
of Emesa, then transported to Comana, carried again to
Constantinople, where the French found it when they
took the city, and whence they conveyed it to Amiens,
where it is now enshrined in all the odour of Saintship.
(7). This example, to which a great number more
might be added, may serve to shew Protestants, that
whatever honour may be due to such learned Catho-
licks, and much unquestionably is their due, yet very
little dependence ought to be placed upon their critical
discernment. They are voluminous collectors of all
manner of materials, genuine and forged, and so they
serve society : but it is the province of Protestants in
free countries, where there are no licensers of the press,
to sit in judgment on their works, and by selecting the

(3) Matt, xi 19.

(4) Joseph Gorion. Lib. v. cap. 45. Ganz Tzemach David, i. xxv. 2,

(5) Sale's Kormi, chap. iii. The family of Imr am [the father of the
Virgin Mary.] Chap. xvii. the Night Journey. Note b.

(6) Baron. Annal Acta Sanct Paciaudi Antiq. Christ.

(7) Traite H'storique du chef de S. Jean Baptists, avec des preuves et
du remarques par Charles du Fresne, Sr. du Cange. Pam, Cram^isy. 1665.


true from the false, wherever they are blended together,
to give mankind just ideas of ecclesiastical history.

It was for just and noble reasons, worthy of a wise
and benevolent mind, that Jesus estimated John so high-
ly as to pronounce him as great a man as had been born
of women : to which he added, the least in the king-

Online LibraryRobert RobinsonThe History of baptism → online text (page 1 of 55)