Baptist Secessionism and
'The Trail of Blood'...

Baptist Secessionism:
It is the claim of some Baptist groups that their church is the 'true' church founded by Jesus Christ. They attempt to trace their heritage all the way back to John the Baptist. Their primary 'proof' is a 56 page booklet titled, "The Trail of Blood," written by J.M. Carroll in 1931. In the book, the author attempts to show that historical heretical groups, Montanists, Novatianists, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigensians, Catharists, Waldenses, and Anabaptists were really early Baptists, and they were pursued by Catholics and wiped out. Since there is no evidence of this to show, they claim the 'evidence' was destroyed by the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Baptist theologians reject this story as unfounded and not credible. Nevertheless, some Baptist splinters called "Landmark Baptists", continue to teach it, to the embarrassment of the great majority of Baptists.

Let us examine each of these groups...

1. Montanists, denied all second marriages, even after the death of the spouse. They required all virgins wear veils in Church. They denied the forgiveness of sins, thus making a movement without hope.

2. Novatianists, taught that no sin was to be forgiven after Baptism. They too denied second marriages under any circumstances. Novatian covertly had himself declared a Bishop and was subsequently ex-communicated.

3. Donatists, taught that the true Church consisted only of the elect and that Baptisms were only valid when performed by a Donatist.

4. Paulicians, believed in the plurality of gods, held that all matter was bad, rejected the Old Testament, denied the incarnation, said Christ was an angel. They refused to honor the cross, by saying Christ had not been crucified.

5. Albigensians, believed in two gods, one good and the other evil. They rejected all sacraments, declared it was sinful to marry. This promoted sexual permissiveness. Pregnancy was to be avoided and abortion was promoted.

6. Catharists, followers of all the heresies of the Albigensians.

7. Waldenses, taught that the Church should have no property and condemned tithing. Interestingly, they accepted the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ.

8. Anabaptists, practiced polygamy and communism. They condemned oaths as unlawful. Anabaptists were founded by Thomas Munser in 1521. This fact alone refutes the Baptist claim to antiquity.

In recounting the 'deeds' of these heretical groups, why would anyone want to claim any of them as ancestral 'proof' of their origin?

Now since Jesus Christ promised His Church would last forever, "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it," Matt 16:18, what do you suppose He was doing with His Church during all of these centuries? Was He switching His Church to these heretical groups as they came along, 'zigging' to Montanists, and 'zagging' to Novatianists and so on? That notion is ridiculous. No, He did exactly what He said He would do. He was preserving and protecting His One Holy Catholic Church.

Now in dealing with Sola Scriptura believers as Baptists are, I will insist on playing the Sola Scriptura game also in situations such as this one. The very meaning of the words Sola Scriptura is that everything believable must be found in the Bible, and if something is not in the Bible, then it simply does not exist or it never happened. At least that is what they tell Catholics. However, that same concept can be used by Catholics also for their beliefs of Baptist secessionism. I simply cannot find any verse which even hints that John the Baptist founded a church. Why can't I find it in the Bible? Is there a double standard here for SS believers, one for themselves and another one for Catholics?
Where is the evidence? If Evangelical Baptists existed since the time of John the Baptist, then the history books should have many references to them. The writings of the Early Church Fathers, the historians of their day, do not mention Evangelicals or Baptists at all. But what is very interesting is that the writings of scores of them mention the Catholic Church by name, hundreds of times. In the writings of Saint Augustine (354-430) alone, he mentions the Catholic Church, by name, over 300 times.

One example I will include here is Saint Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrneans, about 107 A.D..
It is to be noted that Saint Ignatius was an Apostolic Father, meaning that he knew at least some of the Apostles.

8. "You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed that of the Father; follow the presbytery as you would the Apostles; reverence the deacons as you would God's commandment. Let no one do anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not permitted without authorization from the bishop either to baptize or to hold an agape; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God. Thus everything you do will be proof against danger and valid."

St Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop, Letter to the Smyrneans, paragraph 8, 106 A.D..

These writings can be freely downloaded from the net Here.

A sampling of early Church writings, where in every case, the Catholic Church is Mentioned by Name. Note that the dates span from 106-512 AD

*Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrneans 8:1-2. J65 106AD
Martyrdom of St. Polycarp 16:2. J77,79,80a,81a, 155AD
*Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7:17:107:3. J435 202AD
Cyprian, Unity of the Catholic Church 4-6. J555-557 251AD
Cyprian, Letter to Florentius 66:69:8. J587 254AD
*Lactantius, Divine Institutions 4:30:1. *J637 304AD
Alexander of Alexandria, Letters 12. J680 324AD
Athanasius, Letter on Council of Nicea 27. J757 350AD
*Athanasius, Letter to Serapion 1:28. J782 359AD
Athanasius, Letter to Council of Rimini 5. J785 361AD
*Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 18:1. J836-*839
Damasus, Decree of Damasus 3. J910u 382AD
Serapion, The Sacramentary 13:1. J1239a 350AD
*Pacian of Barcelona, Letter to Sympronian 1:4 J1243 375AD
*Augustine, Letter to Vincent the Rogatist 93:7:23. J1422
Augustine, Letter to Vitalis 217:5:16. J1456 427AD
*Augustine, Psalms 88:2:14, 90:2:1. J1478-1479 418AD
*Augustine, Sermons 2, 267:4. *J1492, *J1523 430AD
*Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 6:14. J1535
*Augustine, The True Religion 7:12+. *J1548, *J1562, J1564
**Augustine, Against the Letter of Mani 4:5. *J1580-1581
*Augustine, Christian Instruction 2:8:12+. *J1584, J1617
Augustine, Baptism 4:21:28+. J1629, J1714, J1860a, J1882
*Augustine, Against the Pelagians 2:3:5+. *J1892, *J1898
Innocent I, Letter to Probus 36. J2017
*Fulgence of Ruspe, Forgiveness of Sins 1:19:2, J2251-2252 512 AD

"Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it".
Pope St. Felix III (483-492)
"To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant..."
A quote from a Catholic convert from the Anglican Church...
Cardinal John Newman

For those who wish to know the true story of the historical formation of the Baptist Church,
please go to this Baptist source

Written by Bob Stanley, July 5, 1999
Updated May 22, 2004
Updated November 12, 2011

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