SIXTEEN HUNDRED TO SEVENTEEN HUNDRED A.D.
Darkness Before Dawn
The seventeenth century marks the crisis of persecution against the true people of God. In the ancient nations of Europe the saints of God were scattered, preserving the true faith, keeping the commandments of God, and living exemplary lives in the valleys and hills of the continent. The time came, however, when the land became more thickly settled, and the enemies of the truth were pressed against the settlements of the true children of God, and persecutions became more intense. The result was that these saints were driven from nation to nation, but finding no lasting asylum as the hordes of Rome followed them. The following extracts will serve to manifest the spirit of persecution and the state of despair confronting the saints in this century.
In a letter from Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, 1665, to the Lords of the United Provinces, in defense of the Waldenses then persecuted in the provinces of the duke of Savoy, we note the following: "But if, on the other hand, he shall continue firmly resolved utterly to destroy and to drive to a state of distraction those men, among whom our religion was either planted by the first preachers of the gospel, and so maintained in its purity from age to age, or else reformed and restored to its primitive purity more early than among many other nations, we hereby declare ourselves ready to advise, in common with you, and the rest of our brethren and allies of the reformed religion, by what means we may most conveniently provide for the preservation and comfort of these distressed people." -- Jones' Church History, p. 380, ed. 1837.-- Again to the Evangelical Cantons of Switzerland, Cromwell says, "Next to the help of God, it seems to devolve on you, to provide that the most ancient stock of pure religion may not be destroyed in this remnant of its ancient professors. . . ." -- Idem, p. 390.
Some refugees from Tyrol valley gave this account of themselves to citizens of Coire in Switzerland in 1685:
They were "a remnant of the old Waldenses. They worshiped neither images nor saints, and they believed the sacrament (of the Lord's Supper) was only a commemoration of the death of Christ; and in many other points they had their opinions different from those of the church of Rome. They knew nothing of either Lutherans or Calvinists; and the Grisons, though their neighbors, had never heard of this nearness of theirs to the Protestant religion." -- Idem, p. 413.-- In 1603 an explanatory declaration was made by the Waldenses in refutation of the false accusation of the Romanists against them. "It begins by stating, that, from time immemorial, and from generation to generation, the same doctrines and religious profession had been maintained by their predecessors in the Marquisate of Saluces . . . ." -- Idem, p. 364.
The Waldenses made petition to the duke of Savoy for protection from their enemies, asking permission to follow their faith learned from their ancestors. "This petition was seconded by the duchess of Savoy, who was a merciful princess, and had great power over the affections of the duke, it being ever her judgment that this people were not to be so severely used, who had not changed their religion a few days ago, but had been in possession of it from their ancestors so many ages." -- Idem, p. 356.
During all these persecutions, however, God was very near His true children, and His intervening hand was readily apparent in their distresses, as they called upon Him. The following gleaning will show examples of God's care over His own.
The Need Supplied
"How often, in times of distress, has God shown His watchful care by impressing some unknown agent to act as His messenger to a child of His in need! Andrew Duncan, of Scotland, had been regent of St. Leonard's College. He was at one time banished to France for his religious convictions, and now, in the days of 1621, as a minister at Crail, he was banished from the Scottish kingdom for nonconformity. He went, with his family, over the English border to Berwick.
"They were reduced to great hardship. One night in particular, the children asking for bread, and there being none to give them, they cried very sorely: the mother was likewise very much depressed in spirit.
"The minister himself had recourse sometimes to prayer, and in the intervals endeavored to cherish his wife's hope, and please the children, and at last got them to bed; but she continued to mourn heavily.
"He exhorted her to wait patiently upon God, who was now trying them, but would undoubtedly provide for them; and added, that if the Lord should rain down bread from heaven they should not want.
"This confidence was the more remarkable, because they had neither friend nor acquaintance in that place to whom they could make their case known.'
"And yet before morning a man brought them a sackful of provision, and went off without telling them from whence it came, though entreated to do so. When the father opened the sack, he found in it a bag (purse) with twenty pounds Scots, two loaves of bread, a bag of flour, another of barley, and such like provisions; and having brought the whole to his wife he said: See what a good Master I serve.'" -- Scots Worthies, p. 279.
"Again, when Mrs. Duncan was sick and sore in need, and they knew not where to turn, a lady came, -- a gentlewoman,' the old record says, -- evidently of means, bringing needed supplies and comforts with her, and herself rendering the help so sorely needed in the hour that brought another little one into the family. The messenger of mercy left them, leaving no hint of her identity, or of the means by which she had been led to come to their aid. Andrew Duncan could only leave on the record his testimony to God's care for His children in distress.
"The old writer Wodrow, historian of the Covenanter times, tells of James Hamilton, minister at Edinburgh, who was ousted, and reduced to `very great straits' at Mortounhall.
"One night his wife and family and he had no more meal than they got their supper of, and yet he still kept up his confidence in God. That night Sir James Stewart, of Gutters, who lived not far from him, but knew nothing particular of his present straits, told his lady, when in her bed, that he was troubled in his mind about Mr. Hamilton; and again and again it was borne upon him that he was in straits; and caused his lady to rise out of her bed and give orders to the servants early next morning to carry a load of meal to Mortounhall, which was accordingly done, and it came most seasonably." -- Analecta, Vol. 1, p. 91.
"Such were the men thy hills who trod, Strong in the love and fear of God, Defying, through a long dark hour, Alike the craft and rage of power." -- Struthers.
"Who can follow the story of these men and women who witnessed amid trial, in those sad times of mistaken and cruel zeal for state-enforced religion, and not recognize again the hand of watchful Providence, stretched forth in hours of human extremity and need? Even so in gentler times may the same dear hand lead us on.
"O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till the night is gone." -- The Intervening Hand.
The "New World" had been opened up to emigrants from Europe for colonization, and the persecuted saints known by various names in history, fled to America for a haven of safety. The Pilgrims, the Puritans, the Quakers, had scattered among them the true Church of God, and carried with them to the shores of the New World the faith once delivered unto the saints, and preserved by their foreparents by the price of blood in the wildernesses of Europe.
The churches in the nations of Europe were literally destroyed in this century, and the history of them as churches can truly be said to have ceased, with a few notable exceptions, which we shall consider under the title of the Church of God in the British Isles.
Jones says of the extermination of the churches of the Waldenses in the Piedmont valleys:
"I professed to give the history of the churches of Piedmont and other places commonly designated as Waldenses and Albigenses, not of individuals; and as I considered these churches to have been utterly dispersed and scattered by a series of persecutions which terminated in the year 1686, I consider myself to have brought the subject to its legitimate close." -- Jones' Church Hist., Preface, page IX, ed. 1837.
The reader will note with interest the closing remarks of the historian regarding these people. How, because of the bitter persecutions in Europe, the church was utterly scattered and dispersed until he considered his subject to its legitimate close. This persecution was following the year 1600, and it was during this very same period that the Pilgrims were coming to America to escape persecution, and when according to the Revelation of Jesus, chapter 12:16, that "The earth helped the woman," the church. It was to America, the land of religious freedom, that the people known to the world as Waldenses, Puritans, Anabaptists, Lollards, etc., were fleeing from persecution, and who were in general known by the scriptural name, "The Church of God."
How the Lord Fed and Protected His Church
We will now relate a few of the wonderful manifestations of God's intervening power in behalf of His true commandment keeping people, in times of distress and danger.
These nonconformists were spoken of as such because they would not conform to the Episcopal church, which at that time had been recognized as the state church of England. These nonconformist people stood for the Word of God in its purity, with the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus as their creed. Numerous testimonies elsewhere tell of their loyalty to the name and true faith of the Church of God.
How Matthew Warren Escaped
Matthew Warren was a scholar of Oxford, England. Being one of the non-conforming ministers, he was often sought by the authorities, and when silenced as a minister, devoted himself to educating youth for the ministry. Calamy reports:
"At one time he was very remarkably and providentially preserved. His wife had a strange impression upon her mind that if he did not remove till such a time from the house to which he had retired (he being away from home), he would certainly be taken prisoner. Accordingly she sent a messenger with a letter, earnestly begging him to be at home by such a time, or else he might never see her more.
"He, imagining it was her indisposition, and not the fear of his danger, that was the cause of her urgency, immediately took leave of his friends, and went homeward. But he was not far from the house before, looking back from an ascent, he saw it surrounded by persons that were sent to search there for him." -- Nonconformists' Memorial, Vol. II, p. 350.
John Nofworthy's Experience
John Nofworthy was also an Oxford man, who lived in Devenshire. Driven out for nonconforming, he was hunted from prison to prison by persecuting officials. Calamy says: "He was several times reduced to great straits; but he `encouraged himself in the Lord his God,' and exhorted his wife to do the same. Once when he and his family had breakfasted, and had nothing left for another meal, his wife lamented her condition, and said, `What shall I do with my poor children?'
"He persuaded her to take a walk abroad with him; and seeing a little bird, he said: `Take notice how that little bird sits and chirps, though we cannot tell whether it has been at breakfast; and if it has, it knows not whether to go for dinner. Therefore be of good cheer, and do not distrust the providence of God; for are we not "better than many sparrows"?"' -- Idem, Vol. I, p. 381. "Before the time came for dinner, true to the preacher's faith, sufficient provisions for the daily need had been sent in to them from an unknown source."
Hanserd Knollys in London
"Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. " -- Hebrews 13:5.
This promise was food and deliverance to Hanserd Knollys, one of the most eminent of the early English dissenters, at a time when he and his family were in distress. The incident here related occurred in London, after his return from America, whence he had fled for a time to escape imprisonment. He was still under the ban of the authorities, and ministry of the word was attended with peril. Of the deliverance that came in the crisis of his family's need, as he pleaded the promise of God, Knollys says:
"I was still poor and sojourned in a lodging till I had but sixpence left, and knew not how to provide for my wife and child. Having prayed to God and encouraged my wife to trust in Him, and to remember former experiences, and especially that word of promise, `I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,' I paid for my lodging and went out, not knowing whither God's good hand would lead me to receive something toward my present subsistence.
"About seven or eight doors from my lodgings a woman met me in the street, and told me she came to seek me, and her husband had sent her to tell me that there was a lodging provided and prepared at his house by some Christian friends for me and my wife. I told her of my present condition, and went along with her to the house. There she gave me twenty shillings which Dr. Bostock, a late sufferer, had given her for me, and some linen for my wife, which I received, and told her husband I would fetch my wife and child and lodge there.
"I returned with great joy. and my wife was greatly affected with this seasonable and suitable supply. After we had returned praises to God, we went to our new lodgings, where we found all things necessary provided for us, and all charges paid for fifteen weeks." -- Divine Government, by Higgens.
A Child the Agent of Deliverance
"In the times when ministers in England were being ejected from the state churches for nonconformity, in 1662, a Mr. Rogers was expelled from his church. He lived near a persecuting magistrate, Sir Richard Craddock. Being very bitter against dissenters, the magistrate set spies to watch Mr. Rogers, and was glad when he could summon him for preaching at a place near by. The preacher, and several of his friends who attended the service, were condemned to prison. The magistrate was in another room making out the papers.
"Sir Richard had a little granddaughter, who had met Mr. Rogers and had been petted by him. She was a willful child, so hysterically impatient of restraint that she had once injured herself with a knife when contradicted. On this account, through fear that she would do something desperate, Sir Richard had given orders that she should be given her own way in everything. She came in and learned that her friend was to be sent to prison." The account, as given in Calamy's Nonconformists' Memorial, continues:
"She ran immediately to the chamber where her grandfather was and knocked with her head and heels till she got in, and said, `What are you going to do with my good old gentleman here in the hall?'
"`That is nothing to you,' said her grandfather: `get you about your business.'
"`But I will not,' she said; `he tells me you are going to send him and his friends to jail; and if you send him, I will drown myself in the pond as soon as they are gone; I will indeed.'
"When he saw the child was peremptory, it overcame him. He stepped into the hall, with mittimus in his hand, and said,
"`I had here made out your mittimus to send you all to jail, but at my grandchild's request, I set you all at liberty.'
"They all bowed and thanked him. Mr. Rogers stepped up to the child and laid his hand upon her head, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, said: `God bless you, my dear child: May the blessing of that God whose cause you now plead, though as yet you know Him not, be upon you in life, at death, and throughout eternity.'
"Many years after that, when Mr. Rogers had died, his son, Timothy Rogers, known as an author of a book on religious melancholy, was visiting the home of a Mrs. Tooley, of London, a lady famous in that day for her hospitality to religious workers. Here he told the story of his father's deliverance. Mrs. Tooley listened with great interest, and said, `And are you that Mr. Rogers' son?' "`Yes, madam,' he answered.
"`Well,' she said, `as long as I have been acquainted with you, I never knew that before. And now I will tell you something you never knew before: I am the very girl your dear father blessed. It made an impression upon me I could never forget.'
"Then she told her story. She had inherited her grandfather's estate, and as a young girl had followed all the fashionable gayeties of the world. But there was no satisfaction in it. At the ancient Roman town of Bath, in the west of England, where she was visiting the springs for pleasure and health, an old doctor got her to promise to read the New Testament for her health. It made her only the more uneasy. Back to London she went.
"One night she had a dream about being in a place of worship, and she was so impressed that she told her lady companion that she was going to search for the church she saw in her dream. Sunday morning they started out and passed a number of churches. They came at last to the narrow lane called the Old Jewry, off Cheapside, and saw a throng of people going as if to church. The account continues:
"She mixed herself among them, and they carried her to the meetinghouse, in the Old Jewry. So soon as she had entered the door and looked about, she turned to her companion and said, This is the very place I saw in my dream.' She had not long stood, till Mr. Shower, minister of the place, went up into the pulpit; as soon as she looked on him, she said, `This is the very man I saw in my dream; and if every part of it hold true, he will take for his text, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul." When he arose to pray, she was all attention, and every sentence went to her heart. Then he took for his text that very passage; and there God met her in a saving manner; and she at last gained what she had long sought in vain elsewhere -- rest in Christ to her troubled soul." -- Vol. 1, pp. 381-385, Nonconformists' Memorial.
How Dr. Stennett Escaped Conviction
"Dr. Edward Stennett was a nonconformist minister, in those times of nonconformist repression; a physician he was also. by which profession he supported his family. His son, Joseph Stennett, became a well-known London preacher. To the published Work of Joseph Stennett (London, 1732), some writer prefaces an account of Dr. Edward Stennett, who spent a considerable time in prison for the cause of conscience and religion.' `While I speak of his sufferings,' says this writer, `it may not be amiss to preserve an account of one very extraordinary deliverance he met with, which I have heard his son relate.'" The account follows:
"He dwelt in the castle of Wallingford, a place where no warrant could make forcible entrance, but that of a chief justice; and the house was so situated that assemblies could meet, and every part of religious worship be exercised in it without any danger of a legal conviction, unless informers were admitted, which care was taken to prevent; so that for a long time he kept a constant and undisturbed meeting in his hall.
"`A gentleman who was in the commission of the peace, and his very near neighbor, being highly incensed at the continuance of an assembly of this kind so near him, after having made several fruitless attempts to get his emissaries admitted into the house of order to a conviction, in the rage of disappointment, resolved, together with a neighboring clergyman, upon doing it by subordination of witnesses.-- "`They accordingly hired some persons fit for their purpose, to swear they had been at those assemblies, and heard prayer and preaching there, though they had never been in the house on those occasions. The clergyman's conduct in this affair was the more censured because he had professed a great friendship for Mr. Stennett, and was under considerable obligations to him, having often had his assistance in the way of his profession, as a physician for his family, without any reward.
"`Mr. Stennett, finding an indictment was laid against him on the Conventicile Act, founded upon the oaths of several witnesses, and being well assured that nothing but perjury could support it, was resolved to traverse it, and accordingly did so.
"`The assizes were held at Newbury; and when the time drew near, there was great triumph in the success the gentlemen proposed to themselves, when of a sudden the scene was changed.
"`News came to the justice that his son, whom he had lately placed at Oxford, was gone off with a player; the concern whereof, and the riding in search of him, prevented his attendance in the court.
"`The clergyman, a few days before the assizes, boasted much of the service which would be done to the church and the neighborhood by his prosecution, and of his own determination to be at Newbury to help carry it on; but to the surprise of many his design was frustrated by sudden death.
"`One of the witnesses, who lived at Cromish, was also prevented, by being seized with a violent and sad disease, of which he died. Another of them fell down and broke his leg, and so was hindered.
"In short, of seven or eight persons engaged in this wicked design, there was but one left who was capable of appearing. He was a gardener, who had been frequently employed by Mr. Stennett at day labor, but never lodged in his house, nor was admitted to the religious assemblies held there. They thought to make him, as he was a servant to the family, a very natural evidence, and kept him in liquor for several days for that purpose.
"`But coming to his reason just as the assizes drew on, he went about the town exclaiming against himself for his ingratitude and perjury, as well as against those who had employed him; and absolutely refused to go. So that when Mr. Stennett came to Newbury, neither prosecutor nor witness appearing against him, he was discharged.'"
Dr. Stennett, his son Joseph, and the grandson Samuel were all nonconformist ministers, and all Sabbatarians -- observers of the seventh-day Sabbath. Joseph Stennett was the author of the much-used hymn,
"Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon the Savior's brow."
The Stennetts were members of the Sabbatarian Millyard Church, London. He also wrote the hymn found in many collections,
"Another six days' work is done,
Another Sabbath is begun;
Return, my soul, enjoy thy rest,
Improve the day that God has blessed."
Evil Intent Turned to Good
Nicolas Thoroughgood, a scholar of Cambridge, had been a merchant and a traveler. Becoming a minister, he went out of the state church with the two thousand other nonconforming ministers, and endured privation with them. "In his diary," says Calamy, "he recorded a variety of remarkable providences in the course of his life, of which he takes notice with great thankfulness." Here is an account of one of these deliverances from an enemy:
"When Mr. Thoroughgood came to the place, he offered (endeavored) to shoot him, but his piece failed, and only flashed in the pan. The next week he lay in the same place and with the intent. When Mr. Thoroughgood was come up, the wretch offered to fire again, but the piece would not go off. Upon this, his conscience accusing him for such a wickedness, he went after him, and falling down on his knees, with tears in his eyes, related the whole to him, and begged his pardon. Thus providence was the means of his conversion; and he became from that time a serious, good man." -- Nonconformists' Memorial, by Calamy, Vol. II, p. 76.
Relief in Time of Extremity
Another deliverance of these times is thus narrated in an old volume, Life of Oliver Heywood, by J. Fawcett. We read:
"The minister Oliver Heywood, B.D., in a time of great persecution, was ejected from Coley Chapel, near Halifax, in Yorkshire. In 1664 a writ came out for apprehending him as an excommunicated person; but he was not taken. He acted with prudence and caution, in order to avoid a long imprisonment, keeping himself private; and it pleased God to protect him from the search of his pursuers. In one of those seasons, being deprived of his income, his family were in great straits. Their little stock of money was quite exhausted, and family provisions were entirely consumed.
"Martha, their faithful servant, who would not desert her master and mistress in their distress, still abode with them but could lend no more assistance from her little savings. Mr. Heywood still trusted that God would provide; and when he had nothing but the divine promise to live upon, he said,
"`When cruse and barrel both are dry,
We still will trust in God most high.'
"When the children began to be impatient, Mr. Heywood called his servant, and said to her: `Martha, take a basket and go to Halifax. Call upon Mr. N--, the shopkeeper in Northgate, and tell him I desire him to lend me five shillings. If he will be kind enough to do it, buy us some cheese, some bread, and such other little things as you know we want. Be as expeditious as you can in returning, for the poor children begin to be fretful for want of something to eat. The Lord give you good speed. In the meantime, we will offer up our requests to Him who feeds the ravens when they cry, and who knows what we have need of before we ask Him.'
"Martha went; but when she came to the house, her heart failed her, and she passed by the door again and again without going in to tell her errand. Mr. N--, standing at the shop door called her to him, and asked, `Are you not Mr. Heywood's servant?' When she told him who she was, he said to her, `I am glad to see you, as some friends have given me five guineas (about 25 dollars) for your master, and I was just thinking now how I could send it.' Martha burst into tears, and told him her errand. Mr. N-- was much affected with the story, and bade her come to him if the like necessity should return. She made haste to procure the necessary provisions, and with a heart lightened of its burden ran home to tell of the success of her journey. When she knocked at her master's door which now must be kept locked for fear of constable and bailiffs, it was presently opened. Upon her entering the house the children eagerly examined the basket, the patient mother wiped her eyes, and the father, hearing the servant's narrative smiled and said, The Lord hath not forgotten to be gracious. His word is true from the beginning, "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good."'" -- Psalm 34:10.
Another wonderful experience is told of this true servant of God, and faithful minister of the church of God, of his traveling for hours in the winter cold without food or money, and not knowing friend or foe. As he asked the divine hand for direction in this time of perplexity, and turned the reins loose for his horse to go whither he would, the animal struck off away from the main road, and went for hours until it came to a farmhouse where it went directly and unhesitatingly into the barnyard. He told the people of the needs for himself and his horse. They treated him kindly, and after finding that he was from Halifax they cautiously asked if he knew a man there by the name of Heywood. Imagine his joy upon finding that they were of the same religious faith, and were happy to arrange meetings of friends who later helped him on his way. The unseen divine hand brought this minister to the home of brethren. Many more as miraculous circumstances could be narrated of experiences of this man of God.
The Church of God in Italy
Before tracing the true church in its migration from the old world to the shores of America, we shall first give an account of these saints of God in different countries where they were driven into the mountains and wildernesses to escape the persecuting power of Rome.
The following quotations from reliable historians will furnish the reader with ample evidence of the existence of the true church with the true faith in Italy, the home of the harlot.
Benedict in his history of the Baptists says of the Waldenses: "We have already observed from Claudius Seyssel, the popish archbishop, that one Leo was charged with originating the Waldensian heresy in the valleys, in the days of Constantine the Great. When those severe measures emanated from the Emperor Honorius against rebaptizers, they left the seat of opulence and power, and sought retreats in the country, and in the valleys of Piedmont (Italy) which last place, in particular, became their retreat from imperial oppression."
Rainer Sacho, a Roman Catholic author, says of the Waldenses: "There is no sect so dangerous as Leonists, for three reasons: first, it is the most ancient; some say it is as old as Sylvester, others, as the apostles themselves. Secondly, it is very generally disseminated; there is no country where it has not gained some footing. Third, while other sects are profane and blasphemous, this retains the utmost show of piety; they live justly before men, and believe nothing concerning God which is not good."
Sacho admits that they flourished at least five hundred years before the time of Peter Waldo. Their great antiquity is also allowed by Gretzer, a Jesuit, who wrote against them. Crantz, in his History of the United Brethren, speaks of this class of Christians in the following words:
"These ancient Christians date their origin from the beginning of the fourth century, when one Leo, at the great revolution in religion under Constantine the Great, opposed the innovations of Sylvester, Bishop of Rome. Nay, Rieger goes further still, taking them for the remains of the people of the valleys, who when the Apostle Paul, as is said, made a journey over the Alps into Spain, were converted to Christ." -- page 16.
Irenaeus, A.D. 178, says "There is no difference of faith of tradition in any of these countries."
"The Reformers held that the Waldensian Church was formed about 120 A.D., from which date on they passed down from father to son the teachings they received from the apostles. The Latin Bible, the Italic, was translated from the Greek not later than 157 A.D. We are indebted to Beza, the renowned associate of Calvin, for the statement that the Italic Church dates from 120 A.D." -- Allix, Churches of Piedmont, Edition 1690, p. 177, and Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, p. 35, and Scrivener's Introduction, Vol. II, p, 43.
"Thus when Christianity, emerging from the long persecutions of Pagan Rome, was raised to imperial favor by the Emperor Constantine (321 A.D.), the Italic Church in northern Italy -- later the Waldenses -- is seen standing in opposition to papal Rome." -- Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, p. 35.
From E. Comb's work, found in "Guild Hall Library--London," we quote the following: "The Waldenses object to being called Waldenses." They say, "We are a little flock, falsely called Waldenses."
Peter Allix in his history of the Churches of Piedmont (Italy), chapter 28, page 323, mentions the "Church of God." On page 288, he also mentions the name "Church of God." It has already been abundantly proven that the people called Waldenses were driven by Rome into the valleys of Piedmont, Italy. Other references will be shown also in this work that the name Waldenses was not endorsed by them as a church; but they held to the true Bible name.
"Atto, bishop of Virceulli, had complained of such people eighty years before [before the year 1026 A.D.] and so had others before him, and there is the highest reason to believe that they had always existed in Italy." -- Jones' Church History, p. 218.-- "Here then," said Dr. Allix, very truly, referring to the Paterins, and fellow Protestants, "we have found a body of men in Italy, before the year one thousand and twenty-six, five hundred years before the Reformation, who believed contrary to the opinions of the church of Rome, and who highly condemned their errors." -- Ibidem.
Mosheim says: "In Lombardy, which was the principal residence of the Italian heretics, there sprung up a singular sect, known, for what reason I cannot tell, by the denomination Passaginians . . . . Like the other sects already mentioned, they had the utmost aversion to the dominion and discipline of the church of Rome; but they were at the same time distinguished by two religious tenets which were peculiar to themselves. The first was a notion that the observance of the law of Moses, in everything except the offering of sacrifices, was obligatory upon Christians; in consequence of which they . . . abstained from those meats, the use of which was prohibited under the Mosaic economy, and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath. The second tenet that distinguished this sect was advanced in opposition to the doctrine of three persons in the divine nature." -- Eccl. Hist., cent, 12, part 2, chap. 5, sec. 14, p. 127.-- That the Cathari did retain and observe the ancient Sabbath, is certified by Romish adversaries. Dr. Allix quotes a Roman Catholic author of the twelfth century, concerning three sorts of heretics -- the Cathari, the Passaginians, and the Arnoldistae. Allix says of this Romish writer that --
"He lays it down also as one of their opinions, `that the law of Moses is to be kept according to the letter, and that the keeping of the Sabbath . . . and other legal observances, ought to take place. They hold also that Christ, the Son of God, is not equal with the Father, and that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost these three . . . are not one God and one substance; and as a surplus, to these errors, they judge and condemn all the doctors of the church and universally the whole Roman church. Now since they endeavor to defend this their error, by testimonies drawn from the New Testament and prophets, I shall, as David did Goliath's, with their own sword.'" -- Eccl. Hist. Of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont, pp. 168,169, Boston.
"The Paterines were decent in their deportment, modest in their dress and discourse, and their morals irreproachable. In their conversation there was no levity, no scurrility, no detraction, no falsehood, no swearing. Their dress was neither fine nor mean. They were chaste and temperate, never frequenting taverns, or places of public amusement. They were not given to anger and other violent passions. They were not eager to accumulate wealth, but content with the necessities of life. They avoided commerce, because they thought it would expose them to the temptation of collusion, falsehood, and oaths, choosing rather to live by labor or useful trades. They were always employed in spare hours either in giving or receiving instruction. Their bishops and officers were mechanics, weavers, shoemakers, and others who maintained themselves by their industry." -- Jones' Church History, p. 218.
"Much has been written on the etymology of the word PATERINE; but as the Italians themselves are not agreed on the derivation, it is not likely that foreigners should be able to determine it. In Liman, where it was first used, it answered to the English words, vulgar, illiterate, low-bred; and these people were so called because they were chiefly of the lower order of men, mechanics, artificers, manufacturers, and others, who lived by their honest labor. GAZARI is a corruption of Cathari, Puritans; and it is remarkable that, in the examination of these people, they are not taxed with any immoralities, but were condemned for speculations or rather for virtuous rules of action, which all in power accounted heresies. They said a Christian church ought to consist of only good people . . . it was not right to take oaths; it was not lawful to kill mankind; a man ought not to be delivered up to officers of justice to be converted; the benefits of society belonged to all members of it; faith without works could not save a man; the church ought not to persecute any, even the wicked; the law of Moses was no rule to Christians; there was no need of priests, especially of the wicked ones; the sacraments, and orders, and ceremonies of the church of Rome were futile, expensive, oppressive, and wicked; with many more such positions, all inimical to the hierarchy." -- Idem, p. 217.
"A powerful chain of churches, few in number, compared with the manifold congregations of an apostate Christianity. but enriched with the eternal conviction of truth and with able scholars, stretched from Palestine to Scotland . . . . And when the Greek East for one thousand years was completely shut off from the Latin West, the Noble Waldenses in northern Italy still possessed in Latin the Received Text." -- Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 41, 42.
"The despotism of Antichrist was then (about 787 A.D.), so far from being universal, that it was not owned throughout Italy itself. In some parts of that country, as well as in England and France, the purity of Christian worship was still maintained." -- Townsend's Abridgment, p. 361.
The charge of circumcision of Gentile adherents was made by the enemies of the true church, by the Romanists, and is not well sustained; but if it were true, they were not Jews, but, even as their enemies admit, were most blameless and worthy Christians. Concerning this charge, Benedict says:
"The account of their practicing circumcision is undoubtedly a slanderous story, forged by their enemies, and probably arose in this way: Because they observed the seventh day, they were called, by the way of derision, Jews, as the Sabbatarians are frequently at this day; and if they were Jews, they either did or ought to circumcise their followers. This was probably the reasoning of their enemies. But that they actually practiced the bloody rite is altogether improbable." -- Hist. Baptists, Vol. 2, pp. 412-418. Ed. 1813.
The Church of God in Armenia
Many of the persecuted brethren of the early Churches of God in Palestine and Syria fled to the north, entering the valleys of Armenia, and have ever since been the objects of cruel persecution, by the Roman Catholic church, and later by the Mohammedan Turks.
The following history will suffice to show their existence, and how they held to the true faith, observing the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus:
Since the time of Xavier, the East Indies have fallen under British rule. A distinguished clergyman of the church of England, some years since visited the British empire in India, for the purpose of acquainting himself with these churches. He gave the following deeply interesting sketch of these ancient Christians, and in it particularly marks their Sabbatarian character:-- "The history of the Armenian church is very interesting. Of all the Christians in Central Asia, they have preserved themselves most free from Mahometan and papal corruptions. The pope assailed them for a time with great violence, but with little effect. The churches in lesser Armenia, indeed, consented to a union, which did not long continue; but those in Persian Armenia maintained their independence; and they retain their ancient Scriptures, doctrines, and worship, to this day. `It is marvelous,' says an intelligent traveler who was much among them, `how the Armenian Christians have preserved their faith, equally against the vexatious oppression of the Mahometans, their sovereigns, and against the persuasions of the Romish church, which for more than two centuries has endeavored, by missionaries, priests, and monks, to attach them to their communion. It is impossible to describe the artifices and expenses of the court of Rome to effect this object, but all in vain.'-- "The Bible was translated into the Armenian language in the fifth century, under very auspicious circumstances, the history of which has come down to us. It has been allowed by competent judges of the language, to be a most faithful translation. La Cruze calls it the `Queen of Versions.' This Bible has ever remained in the possession of the Armenian people; and many illustrious instances of genuine and enlightened piety occur in their history . . . . The Armenians in Hindoostan are our own subjects. They acknowledge our government in India, as they do that of the Sophi in Persia; and they are entitled to our regard. They have preserved the Bible in its purity; and their doctrines are, as far as the author knows, the doctrines of the Bible. Besides, they maintain the solemn observance of Christian worship throughout our empire, on the seventh day, and they have as many spires pointing to heaven among the Hindoos as we ourselves. Are such a people, then, entitled to no acknowledgment on our part, as fellow Christians? Are they forever to be ranked by us with Jews, Mahometans, and Hindoos?" -- Buchanan's Christian Researches in Asia, pp. 159, 160, and History of Sabbath & Sunday, Lewis.
Of the Syrians, or Surians, as the author variously spells the name, who from their relation appear identical with the Armenians, the historian says, "They keep Saturday holy and do not esteem the Saturday fast lawful, but on Easter even they have solemn services, while on Saturday eat flesh and feast it bravely like the Jews." (Purchas, His Pilgrimmes, part 3, chap. 16, sec. 15, p. 1269, London, 1625.) The Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 8, p. 595, eighth edition, speaks of Purchas as "an Englishman admirably skilled in language and human and divine arts, a very great philosopher, historian, and theologian."
"It was at Antioch, capital of Syria, that the believers were first called Christians. And as time rolled on, the Syrian-speaking Christians could be numbered by the thousands. It is generally admitted, that the Bible was translated from the original languages into Syrian about 150 A. D. This version is known as the Peshitto (the correct or simple). This Bible even today generally follows the Received Text." -- Wilkinson's O. A. B. V., p. 25.
The Church in the British Isles
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, A.D. 325-340, says, "Some passed over the ocean to those which are called the British Isles."
Chrysostom, A. D. 398, mentions "The Britannic Isles" as having felt the power of the Word, and says, "To whatever quarter you turn -- to the Indians or Moors or Britons, even to the remotest bounds of the West, you will find this doctrine."
Clement of Rome, A. D. 96, says, "St. Paul preached in the East and West, leaving behind him an illustrious record of his faith, having taught the world righteousness, and having traveled even to the utmost bounds of the West."
Jerome, A. D. 392, says, "St. Paul, having been in Spain, went from one ocean to another." "His diligence in preaching extended as far as the earth itself." "After his imprisonment he preached in the western parts."
Venantius Fortunatus, A. D. 560, says, "St. Paul passed over the ocean to the Island of Britain, and to Thule, the extremity of the earth." -- See page 23, History of Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, Vol. I.
"Benedict (History, p. 308), further says, `They now abounded; more than half of the nation became Lollards; yea, they covered all England. In 1389 they formed separate and distinct societies agreeable with Scripture. In these churches all the brethren were equal, each could preach, baptize and break bread. They were united in opinion as one, and were called "Bible men," since they allowed no office not enjoined in the Word of God. Their hostility to the hierarchy, and their numbers, aroused their enemies to adopt severe measures. In the year 1400, a law was passed sentencing Lollards to be burned to death. In Norfolk they abounded, and there they suffered severely. Still the "Bible men" increased, and became dangerous to the Church. They are said to have numbered 100,000.' Henry VIII, while in conflict with the Pope, relieved and encouraged the Lollards in his kingdom: and this led their persecuted brethren from all parts of Europe to flock to England in great numbers, to enjoy religious liberty, and to strengthen the cause of true religion.
"Benedict (p. 308), says of Walter Lollard: `He was in sentiment the same as Peter de Bruys, who was the founder of the Petrobrussians of France.' The Lollards were like the Petrobrussians, and these were Sabbath keepers. -- Idem, p. 34.
"Bishop White, in speaking of Sabbath-keeping as opposed to the practices of the church, says, `It was thus condemned in the Nazarenes and in the Cerinthians, in the Ebionites and in the Hypsistarii. The ancient Synod of Laodicea made a decree against it; also Gregory the Great affirmed it was Judaical. In St. Bernard's time it was condemned in the Petrobrussians. The same hath then and ever since been condemned as Judaish and heretical.' -- Idem, p. 35.
"1. Usshar says that the church in Ireland was established statim post passionem Christi -- soon after the passion of Christ; and therefore before Sunday was thought of.
"2. The constant enmity between Ireland and ancient Rome prevented any kind of friendly intercourse. The doctrine of Christ came not from thence here, but from the churches in Asia.
"3. O'Halleron further says in this connection, `In the present reign (Dermond, A.D. 528), and for nearly a century preceding it, Christianity was in the most flourishing condition in Ireland. Thy received it from Asiatics. These last, in many instances, adhered more closely to the Jewish customs than did the Roman Christians.'
"4. There is ample evidence that St. Patrick, `The Apostle of Ireland,' never had any connection whatever with Rome, and that he was a Sabbath-keeper. The establishment of the Sabbath-keeping community on the island of Iona, under the leadership of St. Columba, was manifestly the result of Patrick's preaching. Like begets like.
"5. Celtic Ireland was neither papal nor inclined to submit to the papacy, until Henry I riveted the Roman Yoke upon them. (Froude's England in Ireland, p. 17; O'Halleron's Hist. of Ireland, p. 19). In A.D. 1155 Pope Adrian gave Ireland to King Henry to bring into the Romish fold.
"A small remnant of Sabbath-keepers has persisted in Ireland unto this time; a church or society being found there as late as 1840." -- Idem, p. 27.
"The faith and discipline of the Scottish churches in Ireland, were the same with the British churches, and their friendship and communion reciprocal. The ordinances of the gospel in both islands, at this time, were administered in their primitive mode. The venerable Bede says, that the supremacy of Rome was unknown to the ancient Irish. The worship of saints and images was held in abhorrence, and no ceremonies used which were not strictly warranted by Scripture. All descriptions of people were not only allowed but desired to consult the sacred writings as their only rule of conduct.
"In short, from what we have stated, and the evidence produced by the learned archbishop Usher, quoted by William Hamilton, `we have the strongest reasons to conclude that these islands enjoyed the blessings of a pure enlightened piety, such as our Savior himself taught, unembarrassed by any of the idle tenets of the Romish Church.'" -- History of the Baptists, p. 24.
"In the thirteenth century the Waldenses had spread abroad through twenty-two countries of Europe, Britain being one." -- Benedict, p. 311.
"Mr. George Molyneaux, a resident of Milford Haven, Wales, says, `All the Christian Church were seventh-day observers during the early centuries. Sunday is from Rome and was but slowly pushed into the British Church.' " -- Hist. of Sev. Day Bap. in Europe and Amer. p. 32.
Dr. Samuel Kohn, chief Rabbi of Budapest, Hungary, in a recent work (Sabbatarians in Transylvania, 1894, pp. 8, 9), says, "In Bohemia Sabbatarians sprung up as early as 1520. Such Sabbatarians, or similar sects, we meet about 1545 among the Quakers in England. Several leaders and preachers of the Puritans have re-transferred the rest day from Sunday to Saturday; and the Christian Jews who arose in England and partly emigrated to Germany, and settled near Heidelberg, believed, indeed, in Jesus, but they also celebrated the Sabbath and regarded the Jewish laws in reference to meats and drinks." -- Idem, p. 38.
Chambers' Cyclopedia states that in England "many conscientious and independent thinkers in the reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603) advocated the seventh-day."
In the book entitled History and Antiquity of Dissenting Churches, page 37, Queen Elizabeth mentions the "Church of God." Author W. Wilson, volume 4, catalogue, D. 9, 8, Library, London.
Mill Yard Church of London
"1. Origin. Some have supposed that this church owes its origin to the labors of John James who was martyred October 19, 1661. President Daland goes back as far as about 1580. In 1617 (or 1616) John Trask came to London from Salisbury and held revival meetings. One of his disciples, named Hamlet Jackson, was the means of bringing Trask and many, if not all, of his congregation to the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath in about 1617, and Elder William M. Jones says that this Traskite congregation was the origin of the Mill Yard Church. All the records of this church, prior to 1673, were destroyed in the fire of 1790; the `Old Church Book,' dating from 1673 to 1840, refers to an older record. The `New Church Book' dates from 1840 to the present time.-- "2. Place of worship. From the beginning until 1654 they worshiped `near Whitechapel'; in 1661 their meeting place was in `Bull Stake Alley, ' and in 1680 they were at East Smithfield -- for from here they addressed a letter to the New Port (R.I.) Church, dated East Smithfield, London, Dec. 21, 1680. From 1691 to 1785 they worshipped in Mill Yard Goodman's Fields, County of Middlesex, a part of London, now in the heart of Metropolis. Their chapel there was burned in 1790, and in September of the same year the first stone of a new edifice was laid by John, Joseph and William Slater, the only trustees for some years.
"After being dispossessed of their Mill Yard property in 1885, they met for worship in the Commercial Street Baptist Church until 1892, and then in the Welsh Baptist Church in Eldon Street, where once worshiped a Calvinistic Seventh Day Baptist Church, which became extinct about 1840. For some time since 1900, the congregation assembled in private houses and, to accommodate the widely scattered flock, two separate meetings were held -- one at the residence of Lt. Col. Thomas W. Richardson, and the other either at the home of the church secretary, or at the home of the deacon. On the 4th of April 1903, this church began to hold services in St. Thomas' Hall, Gillespie Road, Highbury Vale." -- Hist. of Seventh Day Baptists, p. 39.
We are indebted for the following to the labor and courtesy of Secretary George Vane of the Mill Yard church of London, who did considerable research work for us the year 1926 in the libraries of London in the matter of church history. He wrote us under date of May 21, 1926, as follows, "I find that the Pinners Hall Sabbatarian church was established at Devonshire Square E. C., on March 1, 1574, and 1830 came to Mill Yard church to hold their services."
The Pinners Hall Sabbatarian church mentioned above was organized by Frances Banefield, who was a noted author and a gifted Hebrew scholar. He is the author of a book entitled Shem Acher, and on page 28 he mentions "The Church of God," referring to his congregation. He adds further that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church.
On page 27 of this valuable work, the author mentions the fact of there being two other Sabbatarian churches in London at that time. The Mill Yard church, which was then meeting in Bell Alley, is spoken of as carrying on a public discussion on the Sabbath question between W. Jeremiah, Brother Lillam, Dr. P. Chamberlain, and W. Coppinger. He does not mention the location of other congregations, but it is thought likely he refers to one in Swan Alley.
There is but one copy of this book on record, and it is found in the British Museum Library, London.
In this same work on page 28, and the eighth line from the top, the "Church of God" is mentioned. On page 29 he says, "The final cause, or the great end, or ends, for which Jehovah has formed his church."
Again, on pages 58 to 60, he speaks of the relationship of the "Church of God" to the Sabbath. He uses the term of Jehovah and Elohim interchangeably, when speaking of the Old Testament church, and he brings forth evidence to show that the Church of God of that day (1677), like the Sabbath, is a continuation of the Church of Jehovah in the Old Testament.
He says on page 59, "The Churches of Elohim, had in all ages such as were gifted, and called to office to preach the word." He furthermore says that "Melchisedec was a priest in the church of Elohim," or the Church of God. -- British Museum Library, London, England.
Space forbids inserting evidence by this able and talented author that the "Church of God" functioning in the year 1677 was the same church organized by Moses, and spoken of in Acts, seventh chapter, as "The church in the wilderness." It was his sincere belief, that there had never been a time when the "Church of God" was not in existence, and that the Sabbath with other kindred truths, cherished by the church then, were also believed and defended as truth in every period.
It was the pleasure of one of the authors of this book to spend some months during 1931 and 1932 with the Mill Yard church in London, and we were caused to rejoice, upon finding them advocating the same doctrine on the great essentials, in perfect harmony with the Church of God in America, and throughout the world. Although having corresponded with several of the members for a number of years, we were not sure just how these brethren believed on many points of faith until our visit there. How wonderful that the dear Lord had kept the light of his glorious gospel shining brightly from this ancient lighthouse, and that amidst the darkness and sin of this present time, she is still radiating the same gracious truth, showing sinners the way of eternal life, though now connected with the Seventh Day Baptists in America.
We will now offer some more historical extracts to further confirm the truth of the existence of the Church of God, by both name and doctrine, through the period we are now considering.
In Confession of Faith, and Other Public Documents, edited by E. B. Underbill, he says, "The humble petition, etc., of several Churches of God in London, commonly though falsely called `Anabaptists.' "This word was written the year 1649. -- Public Library, London.
The word "Anti-baptist" was a term used in derision by the enemies of the truth, as the previous historical notation proves, as well as much other proof that could be produced. The Church of God during the wilderness experience, and after the days of the Reformation, was teaching against the common substitute forms of baptism. Consequently, all converts to the truth from the Catholic church were re-baptized; that is, they were in reality baptized or immersed. The church was therefore known to be opposed to the Roman mode of baptism universally practiced in that day, hence called "Anti-baptists." The word "anti" means against; thus they were called by their enemies "Anti-baptists," and later "Anabaptists."
The Anabaptists in London were called "The Churches of God," according to E. B. Underbill, writing in 1649, and the following extracts from reliable sources proved further that these churches of God, observed the Sabbath, as well as held to the universal reign of Christ on the earth during the millennium.
Many, if not all, of the Anabaptists observed the seventh-day Sabbath. Dr. Francis White (Treatise of the Sabbath Day, p. 132) says: "They who maintain the Saturday Sabbath to be in force, comply with the Anabaptists."
Russen (On Anabaptists, London, 1703, p. 79), speaking of heresies, says: "Under this head I could conclude some of them under those of Anabaptists, who have been inclined to this personal reign of Christ, and have embraced the seventh day Sabbath."
James Ockford, whose book on the Sabbath was "sharply confuted with fire," in 1642, was called an Anabaptist.
The Work of a Martyr
In Confession of Faith, by Vavasor Powell, 1662, London, England, he writes, "Much less then should any other person usurp this authority over the church and people of God." -- Page 40.
On page 87, he says, "I have considerations of the great sufferings of the Church of God of old, and the ground of their comfort which is Christ. From Revelation 12, I was much refreshed to consider that the church when she went into the wilderness was by the wings that God gave her."-- This faithful brother and writer died in prison for the true faith, and while in this confinement wrote a book called, The Chirpings of a Bird in a Cage, evidently referring to himself. He addressed this book to "The Churches of God, and Scattered Saints Throughout All Wales."
This faithful martyr was esteemed so highly among many faithful followers of the Lord, that some one graciously wrote a book of his life published 1672. No author's name is found in the book, but the following extracts, relating some of his experiences in the gospel, will be interesting:
"About the year 1647, the island of Anglesey in north Wales being then unreduced, the Parliament forces went to reduce it, and their chief officers sent for me to preach unto that brigade of soldiers, and as I marched with them into the place, either the night immediately before or the night before that, it was revealed into me in my sleep that I should be wounded, and two of my fingers cut (and the very fingers were pointed out), which accordingly came to pass; yet when I was in extreme danger between several enemies who fell upon me, receiving that and some other wounds, there being no likelihood to escape, I heard a voice, as I apprehended, speaking audibly to me, `I have chosen thee to preach the gospel,' to which I answered, `O Lord, then bring me off'; and immediately God guided my horse (though he was very wild and not well commanded) to go backward out of the barricade that I had entered at, and so I was indeed miraculously preserved."
Thousands of miles Mr. Powell journeyed over mountains and through valleys, preaching by day and night. He says:
"One time, coming from preaching, I lost my way, and being out till it was far in the night in a wood or forest, among lakes, briers and thorns, I went up and down until I was quite weary. But by looking up to the Lord, I was presently directed into my way.
"The like experience I had another time, when another preacher and myself had lost our way in a very dark night, and had tired ourselves in searching to and fro to no purpose. At last calling to mind how God had formerly heard in that case where I sought unto Him, we called upon the Lord, who immediately pointed out our way, and it seemed as clear to us as if it had been daylight."
The name "Church of God," as applied to the true followers of Christ, is found in the Dorchester Antiquarian London Library.
In John Tombers' Dispute on Baptism, London, pages 12, 13, a complaint is entered on certain people for celebrating the Lord's Supper in the morning, when it is said it should be celebrated in the evening. The name "Church of God" is mentioned twice on these pages referring to people holding the Passover in the evening. -- Public Library, London.
In The Confession of Faith of seven churches in London, first published in 1646 A.D., in the 13th article, page 31, concerning the mediatorship of Christ, it states, "This office to be mediator, that is to be prophet, priest and king of the `Church of God' is so proper to Christ that neither in whole, or in any part thereof, can it be transferred to any other." -- I Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:14; Acts 4:12.
On page 15, in the preface to the first edition, they term themselves, "The poor despised churches of God in London." Page 293 also mentions "The Churches of God sanctified in Christ Jesus."
From the foregoing historical facts from these ancient works we have discovered:
1st. That John Trask and John James were the founders of the Mill Yard Church, London, 1616 to 1661.
2nd. That in 1546 there were seven congregations in London which called themselves collectively "The poor despised `Churches of God.' "
3rd. That sixteen years later (1661), John James the founder of one of the Sabbath-keeping churches in London died a martyr's death for the precious truth, showing the severity of the persecution against these despised people of God.-- 4th. That Frances Banefield, writing sixteen years later (1677), in the book of which he is author, Shem Acher, speaks of the church of which he is pastor, calling it the Church of God, and says there were then two other Sabbath-keeping churches in London.
5th. That Frances Banefield included the Mill Yard church with two other churches, by mentioning a public debate it was then carrying on in defense of the Sabbath, against opposers to this truth.
6th. That at least three of the seven "poor despised Churches of God" in London in 1646 had survived the persecutions which cost the death of John James, and others, and were functioning in the year 1677. Also that Frances Banefield's church moved to the Mill Yard church to hold their services the year 1830.
7th. That Frances Banefield is author of a book (1677), in which he brings out evidence to show "The Church of God" of that day, like the Sabbath, is a continuation of the "Church of God" of the Old Testament, which is exactly what this work had done except that it brings the church down to 1935.
It will not be thought strange that the churches of God in London were reduced from seven congregations down to three from 1646 to 1677, when severe persecutions were being carried on against the Sabbath-keepers of England during this period, and in America there was an open door offered the Church of God. "The earth helped the woman," as John the Revelator expressed it in Revelation 12:16. It was to this country the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and the Quakers came, the first ones landing at Plymouth the year 1620, and many others followed. It was quite natural that churches in England at this time would come to America, the only place in the world where freedom of religion was offered the persecuted ones.-- In the next chapter we shall trace the Church of God from England and Europe to America, and it will be shown that among the Pilgrim fathers, who risked their lives on the Mayflower, and landed at Plymouth 1620, were Sabbath-keepers, observing the seventh day of the week, who baptized by immersion, and called themselves the "Church of God."
The Earth Helped the Woman
It has already been mentioned that the beloved Apostle John beheld the true church as a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. -- Revelation 12:1, 2.
In Revelation 19:7, it says, "Let us be glad and rejoice . . . for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. " The lamb spoken of here is Jesus (John 1:29), and his wife is the church. In II Corinthians 11:1, 2, we read, "For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Here we have the church again compared to a woman, and it will be remembered that in Matthew, twenty-fifth chapter, Jesus gives a parable in which he is spoken of as the bridegroom coming to meet the bride when the marriage takes place. Also, in Revelation, seventeenth chapter, the apostate church is represented by a fallen woman, said to be the "Mother of harlots."
There is also introduced in Revelation, twelfth chapter, a beast called the dragon, which stands before the woman endeavoring to destroy the child as soon as it is born, which represents pagan Rome, and children in Bethlehem under two years of age, in Herod's effort to kill Christ. -- Matthew 2:16.
A beast in Bible prophecy always symbolizes an earthly kingdom so when this beast made war with the woman, driving her into the wilderness, it was most remarkably fulfilled during the fifth century, as this work has clearly shown, when the church was driven to the mountainous districts of Europe by the Roman beast government, and compelled to remain in this state of exile until the prophetic period was fulfilled. She was to remain in the wilderness for 1260 years -- Revelation 12:6, 14.
As the children of Israel in Egyptian servitude were sorely treated under the bondage of Pharaoh, so was the church in the wilderness oppressed and persecuted. Driven from one country to another, under the heavy yoke of Antichrist she found no permanent abiding place. But, following this period of persecution, under the cruel despotism of Roman kings, and ecclesiastical tyrants, the seer of Patmos declared in vision a time when, the earth would help the woman (Revelation 12:16). The "New World," as America was called, had been discovered by Christopher Columbus, at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and, slowly but surely, there was being prepared a haven of refuge here for the persecuted churches of Europe. It was many years after the beginning of the Reformation when the most violent persecutions against the church were raging in Europe. It was a final and most desperate effort by the beast in its bleeding and wounded state to crush its assailant, and conquer its foe, but all in vain. The soil of Europe being drenched in the blood of the martyrs, the true servants of God finding new enemies among those supposed to be their friends, and amidst the darkest period, the church found refuge across the waters toward the setting of the sun. To America the Pilgrims came, trusting only in the God whom they served for protection and care. They brought with them that true faith and pure doctrine, cherished in the hearts of their forefathers, and carried by them amid blood and tears and patient suffering, from the land Palestine through Asia and Europe wherever the divine hand of destiny would point them to a land of safety, until at last that prophetic time period was about to be reached when "the earth helped the woman." Other persecuted ones came, establishing the truth, and churches of God consequently sprung up in this land of liberty wherever the Lord chose to place His name.
The Seven Church Periods
The church had at this time passed through five periods, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, and but two remained ahead. In Revelation, chapter one, we find these seven brought to view, the name as well as the message to each one, corresponding to the seven periods of the Gospel Dispensation, and a timely message of admonition given each church or epoch. The word "Ephesus" means desirable, or the first period; then "Smyrna," signifying death; "Pergamos," meaning high and exalted; "Thyatira," sacrifice of that which is nearest and dearest; "Sardis," that which is left; "Philadelphia," brotherly love; and "Laodicea," the judgment of the people.
The history of the early days of the church in America, from about 1620 to 1789 is covered by the latter part of the Sardis period. The word "Sardis" means that which is left, and the message as given, "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy," Revelation 3:4. This verse shows how the true church would be reduced by persecution into a small remnant. The Church of God wandered from country to country, seeking that freedom of worship which the human heart craves, and had come at last to America, a scattered remnant. These humble servants established themselves in small congregations throughout the eastern states. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in the fall of 1620, who are mentioned on other pages of this work, and in the fall of 1638 the English became acquainted with the coast along Connecticut to the west, and on page 123 of Ridpath's History of the United States we read as follows of their settlement here:
"Here some men of Boston tarried over winter, built cabins, and founded New Haven, Connecticut. Thither in April came a Puritan colony from England lead by Theophelos Eaton and John Davenport. On the first Sabbath after their arrival they met for worship under an oak; and Davenport preached a touching sermon on the `Temptations in the Wilderness."' How remarkable it is that these people understanding the prophecies of the church being in the wilderness until the year 1798, and on the Sabbath day having a discourse on the subject.
The historian goes on to relate, "In June 1639, the men of New Haven held a convention in a barn and adopted the Bible for their constitution. The government was called the House of Wisdom, of which Mr. Eaton, Mr. Davenport, and five others were the seven pillars."
The church in Rhode Island was founded the year 1671, and Ephreta, Pennsylvania, May, 1725, with numerous other congregations throughout the eastern states as previously mentioned in this work. During these early colonial days congregations were at first isolated because of distance and a lack of means of travel with no roads between them. Thus being isolated from fellowship with one another, we find companies in one place called the Church of Christ, and the Church of God, while in other communities they were simply called "Sabbatarian Congregations," but the belief was practically the same. They stood for the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, observing the true Sabbath, keeping the Lord's Supper yearly on the 14th of the first month, with other tenets of faith in harmony with the true faith today. Owing to the isolation of these scattered companies they were known by different names which evidently gives rise to the Scriptural statement relative to the Sardis period, "I know thy works, that thou hast a NAME," Revelation 3:1. As the church entered the Pergamos period, or the wilderness experience, the Lord commends it for holding fast to "My Name," Revelation 2:13, and as they emerge from the wilderness, and the open door is placed before them in the Philadelphia period, the Lord says, "For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept MY WORD, and hast NOT denied MY NAME," Revelation 3:7, 8. Thus we have found, as the evidence is disclosed elsewhere, that during the sojourn of the church in the wilderness she was known by the Father's name, "The Church of God."-- Now we enter the Philadelphia period, or the sixth. The word "Philadelphia," meaning brotherly love, we have come down to the time when religious liberty was granted to all people, regardless of faith, when they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. When the church in America had taken root, and was growing and flourishing, when the constitution of the United States had been drafted, granting freedom of religion, freedom of speech and of the press.
The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had been founded where true commandment-keeping people had come and settled: where that most distinguished character, and staunch supporter of religious freedom, Benjamin Franklin, lived, and from where his influence as a true Sabbath-keeper emanated.
The Lord spoke of the Philadelphia period thus: "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name," Revelation 3:7, 8.
This open door of religious liberty soon spread to others, and the Lord had said of this period, He would set before the church an open door which no man could shut. How true this has been, and every effort to hide the truth and restrain God's people from giving it has failed.
The Philadelphia period evidently had for its beginning about the year 1789, for it was then that the constitution was drafted and ratified by eleven states, which placed that open door before the church that no man, or set of men, have since been able to shut. It was the only official document in the world ratified by a national government, granting freedom of worship, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The name of Benjamin Franklin, a staunch Sabbath-keeper, who history says shone with a "peculiar luster," was one of the brightest in this period of reconstruction. Many Sabbath-keeping churches dotted the east. They were of a sturdy type of individuals, whose recent ancestors had suffered death as martyrs. These faithful people were standing for faith and truth which were to them more precious than life itself, and for which many of their fathers and mothers had with joy given their lives.
The Lord says of this time, "Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied MY NAME." That true name for God's church, "The Church of God," was loved and cherished in many hearts together with the same kindred truths that the same church loves and teaches today.
Continue with Chapter 21.
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