In the 15th and 16th century thousands of people were persecuted and killed in our regions because they only wanted to worship the Singular God Jehovah and not wanted to take Jesus as their god. The majority of those non-trinitarian believers were Baptists, requiring a baptism in the faith of Abraham and Jesus. They were serious bible students who did a lot of pioneer work in Europe.
Matthew 28:19-20 (RNKJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.
For those believers in Jehovah living in the Renaissance period and later, it was an important matter to bring people to God, by showing that Jesus is the Way to God. They offered their services to them and invited them in their private houses to talk and discuss about what was written in the Scriptures.
In the 17th century there was a group of Jansenists who identified themselves only as rigorous followers of Augustine of Hippo‘s teachings. Jansen’s opponents condemned his teachings for their alleged similarities to Calvinism (though, unlike Calvinism, Jansen rejected the doctrine of assurance and taught that even the justified could lose their salvation). The Jesuits coined the term Jansenism to identify them as having Calvinist affinities.
Blaise Pascal‘s Écrits sur la grâce (French), attempted to conciliate the contradictory positions of Molinists and Calvinists by stating that both were partially right: Molinists, who claimed God’s choice concerning a person’s sin and salvation was a posteriori and contingent, while Calvinists claimed that it was a priori and necessary. Pascal himself claimed that Molinists were correct concerning the state of humanity before the Fall, while Calvinists were correct regarding the state of humanity after the Fall.
In the second half of the 17th century some serious French speaking Bible Students (at that time still part of France and belonging to the Spanish Habsburgs) were happy to use the French translation of the Catholic Bible, which was first published in Mons (Flemish Bergen) in instalments between 1667 and 1696. In 1657 Antoine Le Maistre had started with the translation work. After the death of his brother in 1658, Louis-Isaac Lemaistre de Sacy, continued the work. The Nouveau Testament de Mons (or Version de Mons), their translation of the New Testament, was published in 1667 by Daniel Elzevier. The Old Testament appeared in several parts between 1672 and 1696.
Considered by many as “masterpiece of French literary classicism” this was not enough to have it freely distributed. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet censured it for its “politeness”. But in secret the 17th and 18th century Bible Students continued to use it for their study of the Bible.
From then onwards they were looked at as the integrated community of other French Bible Students. The Bible Students from Maisières, Mons, Havré, St.Symphorien, Frameries, Quaregnon and St. Ghislain (now all Walloon municipalities located in the Belgian province of Hainaut in Belgium) were connected with the French Bible Students of Taisnieres, Maubeuge, Sivry, Hirson (in the region Hauts de France), Charleville Mézieres (capital of the southern or North French Ardennes department in the Grand Est region) and Chalons and had their general meetings mostly in the North of France.
When the the northernmost part of Gaul after 1713, had their Bible Students of that region becoming part of the Austrian Netherlands, where the Habsburg Emperors ruled it until 1794, following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, became the Low Countries by the annex to the French First Republic, they once again incorporated with the French Bible Students. The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon. But after the conflict which led to the secession of the southern provinces (mainly the former Southern Netherlands) from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Belgium, the French Bible Students from the North of France and the French Bible Students from the South of the Low Countries found it better to split into two different groups and as such in 1830 the Belgian Bible Students where established. They continued to choose to study that Mons Bible, (from the region where most of their members lived) and other available Bible translations and required for those who wanted to join them also to use time for researching those Scriptures.
Those who, after enough study, wanted to become a member had to express their willingness to put their old sinful life aside and to start all over “anew”, being whitewashed through immersion in water. A paedobaptism (or infant-baptism) was considered invaluable. The Bible Students required full presence of clear thinking and awareness, so that a person out of free will wanted to make the community known to imitate Christ Jesus of his own free will and to regard him as his master. For the Bible Students it was a sign to give to the community that one wanted to be humble and to be under Christ as a member of the body of Christ.
At that time, the region mostly being under Catholic rule, lots of people were baptized as an infant, not in response of their profession of their own faith, but because of the faith of their parents. The Baptists and Bible Students did consider such an infant baptism of no value for Christ nor for God. The credobaptists (or believer-baptists), like Ana-Baptists, Baptists and Bible Students, from what they could find in the Bible, wanted to use the same way as in the early period of Christianity. The first followers of John the Baptist and Jesus were baptized, typically by immersion. To enter the community of The Way, only those who gave a credible profession of faith could become a full member after they regretted their sins and let themselves immerse in water to “cleanse them from their sins”.
The Bible Students in the 19th century wanted to see and hear that the one promising to follow Jesus was really prepared to put away the false thought of the Trinity and to believe in Only One True God. They also wanted to hear the person was willing to repent of sin with such restitution as he was able, trusting in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins and the basis of their justification. At that time the Bible Students did not as such require to be affiliated with one or another church. The belief in One True God and the belief in Jesus Christ, the son of God and God His sent one was the priority, and the willingness to become a member or partaker of the Body of Christ, which was constructed out of many different communities.
Also the Bible Students who crossed the ocean to preach in the New World got groups created over there who required the same agreement.
During the time of John Thomas and Charles Taze Russell, the Bible Students dedicated themselves to Bible study in the first place and were concerned about a proper worship of the Only One God. They too did not require the people to from a sort of new church, but spoke about a “Household of Faith” or “The Family in Christ”, to become “Brothers and sisters in Christ“. For them it was important to be a true follower of Christ. That is what they at that time, and we still today request people, to be a truthful real follower of Christ Jesus, living according his teachings and commandments. From the writings by Russell concerning baptism we can see it was specifically noted that baptism was not to any particular sect.
“What are the questions usually put by Brother Russell when receiving candidates for water immersion?
ANSWER.–You will notice that they are on broad lines–questions which any Christian, whatever his confession, should be able to answer in the affirmative without hesitation if he is suitable to be acknowledged as a member of the Church of Christ:
(1) Have you repented of sin with such restitution as you are able, and are you trusting in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins and the basis of your justification?
(2) Have you made a full consecration of yourself with all the powers that you possess–talent, money, time, influence–all to the Lord, to be used faithfully in His service, even unto death?
(3) On the basis of these confessions, we acknowledge you as a member of the Household of Faith, and give to you as such the right hand of fellowship, not in the name of any sect or party or creed, but in the name of the Redeemer, our glorified Lord, and His faithful followers.” (What Pastor Russell Said pgs.35-36)
The aim of the Bible Students was to be part of Christ and not belonging to the world or being part of some Church or Religious Group excluding others. They preached brotherly love and saw how such churches or denominations where in a way a “anti-Christ” or cults, binding people instead of liberating them in Christ.
From the 15th to 19th century the Bible Students never considered them to be a sect. They opposed formations of sects or denominations. Real Christians had not to bring separation but had to live in harmony with each other, sharing brotherly or agapè love.
During the 1830’s the Baptist preacher William Miller, who had served as a captain of the 30th Infantry in the War of 1812, became one of the lightning rods for much intense prophetic interest in America and had some of them to believe that the present world would end “about the year 1843.” Principal organs of the Millerite movement or Millerism, were the Signs of the Times (Boston) and the Midnight Cry (New York). Miller estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 believed in his views. Later several groups continued in that tradition of predicting the end of times. Also some bible students fell in that trap (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Several times many would regard themselves as true heirs to the dates: 1844 (Seventh Day Adventists and the “cleansed sanctuary”), 1873-1874 (Nelson Barbour and Pastor Russell, with the view of Christ’s invisible presence), and 1914 (some -mostly American- Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses differ as to what really happened in that year). After each date, prophecy had to be reconciled with reality. Each time they made a call for people to repent and to be baptised because of such end-times. A baptism not as such to belong to a church but for making sure that one could receive salvation.
Too many people forget that Russell also had the view that Christians were not to form a sect, separating themselves from other Christians:
“Ques. Please let me know by what name you people call yourselves? What denomination?
Ans. We are strictly unsectarian, and consequently recognize no sectarian name, believing with Paul, (read 1 Cor 3:1-4) that where one saith I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, or I am a Baptist, or I a Methodist, etc., it is an evidence of carnality, and consequently in opposition to the Spirit of Christ.
Did Paul or Apollos die for us? If so, let us call ourselves theirs.
Were we baptized into the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, or other denominational churches? If so, we are members of it, and should be properly recognized by those names.
But if we were baptized into the one body or church of which Jesus is the one and only Head, then we are members in particular of his body, and the only name appropriate would be his; Scripturally called the “Church of Christ,” “Christians,” “Church of the first born,” and such like general names. Again we would remark that ours is the only Scriptural basis of Christian union, viz:
We have no creed (fence) to bind us together or to keep others out of our company. The Bible is our only standard, and its teachings our only creed, and recognizing the progressive character of the unfolding of Scriptural truths, we are ready and prepared to add to or modify our creed (faith-belief) as we get increase of light from our standard.
Still today each person wanting to follow Christ Jesus should have the Bible as their basic book. In that Word of God all answers can be found and all regulations are given. Those books tell us everything how to form community or how “to make church”.
It was the hope of the 19th century Bible Students that people would find freedom by coming to know the Bible better. They expressed hope that people would free themselves of prescribed creeds, and study the Word of God without denominational bias, so that truth and knowledge and real Christian fellowship and unity, would result.
Russell further wrote
The Spirit of the Head would pervade the unfettered members of the body, and sectarian price would vanish. Thus we believe, thus we practice, and thus we teach.
It becomes our duty to denounce sectarianism and the God-dishonoring creeds of men which while contradicting each other, unite in misrepresenting God’s Word and character. Because these are bonds which hinder God’s children from rendering him the homage due unto his name, hinder their knowing him, hinder their worshipping in spirit and truth, and also hinder them from enjoying that joy and peace which their Father designed they should have. We “cry aloud and spare not.”
Today we find several people who believe Russell founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He did not so and would have been against such sort of organisation, in the same way his teacher John Thomas would also have been against such controlling organisation.
Because we believe sectarianism to be a snare of the devil. And in opposition both to God and his saints. Therefore we labor to set them free, and bring them into the liberty of Christ. That this has been so accounted before the present day by holy men of God, we quote you from the words of John Bunyan, whose name is a household word, and one of whose books has been more read than any other ever written except the Bible-“Pilgrim’s Progress.” He wrote:-
“Since you would know by what name I would be distinguished from others, I tell you I would be, and hope I am, a Christian; and choose, if God should count me worthy, to be called a Christian, a believer, or other such name which is approved by the Holy Ghost. And as for those factious (or sect” titles of Anabaptist, Presbyterian, Independent, or the like. I conclude that they came neither from Antioch nor from Jerusalem, but from Hell and Babylon, for they tend to divisions: you many know them by their fruits.” – John Bunyan.
John Bunyan was a Christian whose creed was the Bible. “He was commonly called a “Baptist,” though, then, and in a few Baptist churches now, the Bible is the only written confession of faith.) He was imprisoned in Bedford jail by the English Church in 1660, because he thus believed. It was while there imprisoned that he wrote of “Pilgrim.” (Questions and Answers Zion’s Watchtower April 1882)
Those writing should give you a picture how the Bible Students did not want to bring people together under a so called only one true organisation were all people had to listen to those in charge.
It was when Pastor Russell died that followers of Joseph Rutherford, whom Pastor Russell had recently dismissed from his staff, seized legal control of the Watch Tower, dismissed the majority of the Board of Directors, and established dictatorial authority. Against the idea of the ancient European Bible Students and of the American Bible Students and followers of C.T. Russell the Watch Tower became the central head and authority over all congregations willing to yield their sovereignty. Basic doctrines of the “new society” seriously digressed from the teachings of Pastor Russell as the writings of Pastor Russell were discarded. Also the methods of conducting the evangelistic work were altered.
By 1918 one-fourth of the Bible Students left Judge Rutherford and remained true to the teachings of the late Pastor Russell. They continued to teach about the liberation by Christ and the need of Baptism in Christ and not in a church.
- Belief of the things that God has promised
- Christ begotten through the power of the Holy Spirit
- Nazarene Commentary Matthew 3:1-6 – A Wilderness Baptist Prepares the Way
- Nazarene Commentary Mark 1:1-8 – The Beginning of the Good News
- Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:15-17 – The Baptisms of the One Coming
- Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:21-23 – The Baptism of Christ
- Nazarene Commentary Matthew 4:1-4 A Wilderness Temptation
- Hebraic Roots Bible Book of The Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1
- Atonement And Fellowship 3/8
- God’s forgotten Word 5 Lost Lawbook 4 The ‘Catholic’ church
- Bible Teaching and Vital Doctrines to Discover
- Get Your Wonderful Disease-proof Human Body
- To be prepared for the Day of Judgment
- Salvation, Baptism and Re-baptism
- Living as a believer in Christ
- Today’s thought “Clothing yourselves with the right attitude” (May 16)
- January 27, 417, Pope Innocent I condemning Pelagius about Faith and Works
- Luther’s misunderstanding
- Kel Hammond on Faith, grace and works
- Justification – salvation is by grace through faith – JI Packer
- Meaning of Sacrifice
- Being of good courage running the race
- Rebirth and belonging to a church
- God showing how far He is willing to go to save His children
- June’s Survey – Baptism by immersion: Necessary for salvation?
- United people under Christ
- Baptised sister not of higher status before God then an unbaptised young male?
- Communion and day of worship
- Uprooted Baptists their new idea of baptism
- Beautiful feet of those who announce the good news
Extra reading material
- Why baptism really matters – e-book
- A Title You Can’t Wash Off
- A Christian Defined
- Baptism of Christ – unworthy sinners made worthy by Jesus
- Fr Paddy Byrne finds First communions and confirmations should be delayed
- 1819 Baptism- Peter Stahl
- Crossing Over
- The new creation 7
- Liturgical Spitting
- What is baptism?
- What Does the Bible Say About Baptism?
- David Mathis on “What Does the Bible Say About Baptism? Six Texts We Cannot Ignore”
- The Conversion Of The Ethiopian — Cougan Collins
- Thirst Quenching Waters
- Book Review: Baptism (Answers to Common Questions)
- I became a Christian but sinned before I was baptized
- “What prevents me from being baptized?”
- Baptize Me
- Baptism: God’s Inner Work in Ensenada
- July: Gather at the River
- Born of water, born of the Spirit
- #83 Dr. Guy Richard: Baptism, Common Questions
- Baptism (poem by me)
- The Catholics Are Doing Peters Baptism Wrong?
- Why the holy water doesn’t land on me.
- Westminster Shorter Catechism on Infant Baptism
- A different kind of vow renewal…
- 1. Learning about the anti-Cchrist – Why is current prophecy teaching unbiblical?
- Keys To Eschatology
- Christ vs. Anti-Christ
- Identifying the Anti-Christ
- Resurrection of Our Lord
- The Anti Christ Is Here
- Fall of Christianity part 6