Shackelford on Baptist History (Complete)

Chapter 15: Reformation of the Sixteenth Century

“And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet-color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.”—Rev. 17:1-6.

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues, for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”—Rev. 18:4,5.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:4.

The events which gave rise to the reformation of the sixteenth century, and the results of that reformation, are so intimately connected with the history of the Baptists, that it is necessary to devote one chapter, at least, to this subject before proceeding with the remaining history of the Waldenses. Notwithstanding what has already been said in regard to the persecutions and heresies, which originated in the Romish church, a brief statement of some of her corrupt doctrines, will enable the reader the better to judge whether the Catholic church is the “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE. EARTH.”

The first of the corrupt doctrines, or practices, to which I wish to call attention is their masses. Mass is denned in the church of Rome, as “the office or prayers used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; or, in other words, consecrating the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and offering them so transubstantiated, as an expiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead. The general division of the masses consists in high and low. The first is sung by the choristers, and celebrated with the assistance of a deacon and sub-deacon; low masses are those in which the prayers are barely rehearsed without singing.” There are, however, a great many masses in the Catholic church, and they are adapted to almost all occasions, to suit the convenience and occasion of its dignitaries.

The granting of indulgences is another practice of the Catholic church, as it can hardly be called a doctrine, and is nearly allied to mass. The difference primarily was that indulgences were granted, most generally, for the living, while masses were usually said for the dead.

In the year 1517, a man by the name of Tetzel obtained permission from the pope to sell indulgences in Germany. He is represented by D’Aubigne as having been a very corrupt and immoral man. He carried about with him a red cross, which he erected in the presence of his audiences. A few extracts from some of his harangues are here given.

“Indulgences,” said he, “are the most precious and the most noble of God’s gifts. This cross,” pointing to the red cross, “has as much efficacy as the very cross of Jesus Christ. Come and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which the Bins that you intend to commit may be pardoned. I would not change my privileges for those of St. Peter in heaven; for I have saved more souls by my indulgences than the apostle by his sermons. There is no sin so great that an indulgence cannot remit; even if any one (which is doubtless impossible) had offered violence to the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God, let him pay—only let him pay well, and all will be forgiven him. Reflect then, that for every mortal sin you must, after confession and contrition, do penance for seven years, either in this life or in purgatory; now how many mortal sins are there not committed in a day, how many in a week, how many in a month, how many in a year, how many in a whole life? Alas! These sins are almost infinite, and they entail an infinite penalty in the fires of purgatory. And now by means of these letters of indulgences, you can once in your life, in every case except four which are reserved for the apostolic see, and afterwards in the article of death, obtain a plenary remission of all your penalties and all your sins.” Tetzel then passed to another subject. “But more than this,” said he, “indulgences avail not only for the living, but for the dead. For that repentance is not even necessary. Priest! Noble! Merchant! Wife! Youth! Maiden! Do you not hear your parents and your other friends who are dead, and who cry from the bottom of the abyss: We are suffering horrible torments! A trifling alms would deliver us; you can give it and you will not! At the very instant,” continued Tetzel, “that the money rattles at the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory and flies liberated to heaven. The Lord, our God, no longer reigns. He has resigned all power to the pope.” The people were superstitious and had been long taught that “the church” was above the Bible, and the pope above God himself, so they hastened to respond to Tetzel’s calls. A part of the sales of the indulgences went to fill the pope’s coffers, and Tetzel had to divide with his companions. “He was about to leave with a well filled purse,” says D’Aubigne, “when the chaplains and their acolytes asked him for a farewell supper. The request was just, but how contrive it? The money was already counted and sealed up. On the morrow he caused the great bell to be tolled. The crowd rushed into the church; each one imagined something extraordinary had happened, seeing that the business was over. “I had resolved,” said he, “to depart this morning; but last night I was awakened by groans. I listened attentively. They came from the cemetery. Alas! It was some poor soul calling upon me and earnestly entreating me to deliver it from the torments by which it is consumed! I shall stay, therefore, one day longer, in order to move the compassion of all Christian hearts in favor of this unhappy soul. I myself will be the first to give, and he that does not follow my example will merit condemnation.” What heart would not have replied to this appeal? Who knows besides, what soul it is thus crying from the cemetery? The offerings were abundant and Tetzel entertained the chaplains and their acolytes with a joyous repast, the expense of which was defrayed with the offerings given in behalf of the soul of Zwickau.”

It will be seen that indulgences license crime, for if a person intends to commit any crime, “he could by this means get forgiveness before the deed was committed. Who will say that life, person or property would be safe where such a faith is promulgated!” For particular sins Tetzel had a particular tax. For polygamy, it was six ducats; for murder, eight ducats; for witchcraft, two ducats.”

The Catholics believed at that time, as they now do, in a purgatory where the souls of the dead are kept until punished sufficiently for their sins, or until paid out by indulgences, and the rich or poor continue to pay just as long as the priests see proper to exact money from them.

The Catholics worshipped images of saints with as much devotion as they would worship the true God. Indeed the worship of God was lost in the adoration they gave to Mary, the apostles and other so-called saints, to say nothing of the pope himself.

The belief of the doctrine of transubstantiation, they regarded as essential to salvation, and it was required by the Court of Rome. The priests were the most corrupt of men, and there was no crime, however great, which they would not commit to gratify their ambition or to satisfy their lusts. The priest claims the power to forgive sins, and at his feet the confessor bows, and tells him the secrets of his heart. The confessional has been the prolific cause of crimes too great to chronicle in these pages. So powerful is the influence of the priest, that he comes between the husband and the wife, the parent and the child, and holds the happiness or misery of families in his hands.

The Catholics also teach that ”The end justifies the means.” I know of no other doctrine so well calculated to create anarchy and ruin, either to home or country. It is contrary both to the spirit of religious liberty and to good government. It is owing to this doctrine that men, who have inveighed against the teachings and practices of Rome, have been spirited away, or have suffered at the hands of the midnight assassin. Such was Rome in the beginning of the sixteenth century and such is Rome today. It is her boast that she never changes, and the public declarations of her high officials fully attest this fact. M. F. Cusack, the Nun of Kenmare, says: “One glance at her authorized catechisms will show that she is, if possible, more intolerant today than even in the darkest ages of her history.” Here are a few recent declarations of Catholic papers and priests which show the purpose of Romanism:

“We hate Protestantism, we detest it with our whole heart and soul.”—Catholic Visitor.

“We are not advocates of religious freedom, and we repeat we are not.”—Shepherd of the Valley.

“There can be no religion without an inquisition, which is wisely designed for the promotion of the true faith.”—Boston Pilot.

“Religious liberty is merely endured until the opposite can be carried into effect.”—Bishop O’Connor.

“There is, ere long, to be a State religion in this country, and that State religion is to be Roman Catholic.”—Priest Hecker.

“We will take this country and build our institutions over the grave of Protestantism.”—Priest Hecker.

The Bishop of St. Louis, in December, 1883, through his official organ, The Shepherd of the Valley, wrote as follows:

“We confess that the Roman Catholic church is intolerant, that is to say it uses all the means in its power for the extirpation of error and sin; but this intolerance is the logical and necessary consequence of its infallibility. She alone has the right to be intolerant, because she alone has the truth. The church tolerates heretics where she is obliged to do so, but she hates them mortally and employs all her force to secure their annihilation. When the Catholics shall be here in possession of considerable majority, which will certainly be the case by-and-by, although the time may be long deferred, then religious liberty will have come to an end in the Republic of the United States. Our enemies say this, and we believe them. Our enemies know that we do not pretend to be better than our church, and in what concerns this, her history is open to the eyes of all. They know, then, how the Roman church dealt with the heretics in the Middle Ages, and how she deals with them today everywhere she has the power. “We no more think of denying these historic facts than we do of blaming the saints of God and the princes of the church for what they have done or approved in these matters.”

The church of Rome would establish an inquisition in America today, with all its horrible instruments if she had the power. So her officials tell us and we should thank them for their candor. Who can doubt that this church—this false church —is the woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, which is mentioned in Revelation and called “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF EARTH.”

I can conceive of two reasons why a church may be called a harlot. Harlotry is an unlawful or an illegitimate union. 1. A union between church and State is an unlawful union and is condemned by Scripture. 2. Any church organization which incorporates unregenerate material in its membership, has formed an unlawful alliance with the world, and is guilty of harlotry.

Any of the daughters of Rome which have either of these characteristics are, therefore, harlots. If these are not characteristics of harlotry in a church, then what are? Can this mother of harlots send forth true churches? Can a stream as corrupt as this send forth pure waters? Could the bride, the Lamb’s wife, come forth from this “Mother of Harlots?”

It was the corrupt state of the Romish hierarchy which,brought Martin Luther upon the stage of action as a great reformer. He was born in Germany in 1483, and was educated at the University of Erfurth, where, at the age of twenty years he first saw a copy of the Bible, which he read with increasing interest. Soon after this he entered the convent of St. Augustine, and for a time lived the life of a monk. Here he found another Bible. He divided his time principally between reading the Bible and begging on the streets of Erfurth. He hoped by this act of humility to bring himself into the favor of God. The truths of the Bible, which he read with so much avidity, begun to dawn upon his mind, and he left his monkish abode at St. Augustine and became a priest. Luther now saw the wickedness of the Romish priesthood and commenced to inveigh with all his might against the corrupt practices of the church of Rome. Thus through him the light of the reformation begun to spread over Germany. Luther, however, never came clear out of Rome. He was inconsistent with himself. While he tried to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith, he still believed in transubstantiation, and regarded a belief of this doctrine essential to salvation.

About the time the reformation commenced in Germany, under Luther, a like reformation begun in Switzerland under Ulric Zwingle. He was a brilliant and pious man, and under his influence the Reformed church had its beginning, which afterwards, under the influence of John Calvin, assumed the character of Presbyterianism.

Zwingle, unlike Luther, attached no saving efficacy to the Lord’s Supper. The two met in a heated debate in a discussion of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Zwingle contending that the Lord’s Supper was only symbolical, while Luther contended for the real presence of Christ in the emblems.

Not long after the reformation dawned upon Germany and Switzerland under these two reformers, John Calvin begun a similar work in France. He was born in 1509, and at the age of twelve years received the tonsure from the bishop, which entitled him to a stipend, and prepared him for holy orders. When Calvin came to manhood he, like Luther, turned away from Rome, but bore with him many of its characteristics. He held almost identically the same views of the Lord’s Supper that Luther held. He believed in consubstantiation, or the real presence of Christ in the emblems.

Both of these men brought with them, from Rome, the spirit of persecution. Mr. Jones says: “And with respect to Calvin, it is manifest that the leading, and to me at least, the most hateful feature in all the multiform character of popery adhered to him through life—I mean the spirit of persecution. Holding, as I do, many doctrinal sentiments in common with Calvin, I am prompted to speak my opinion of him with less reserve.”

Mr. Ray says: “It is a well known historic fact, that John Calvin the founder of Presbyterianism, procured the death of Servetus on account of his Baptist principles.”

Baptists have always protested against the corrupt doctrines of Rome, but they are not Protestants. This term properly applies to those who came out of Rome. It was April 19th, 1529, that the celebrated Diet of Spires was convened. This diet was composed of Roman Catholics who were trying to reform the Romish church. Those who were engaged in that council were called Protestants, and hence the term is never properly applied to Baptists.

The protests which were submitted in this council may be summed up in the two following propositions:

1. Conscience above the magistrates or laws.

2. The word of God above the visible church.

This council, or Diet of Spires, was the direct result of the reformation, produced by the two great reformers, Luther and Zwingle. Calvin and Farel, the two French reformers, had not yet come prominently upon the stage of action, but the blaze of the reformation was lighting the whole of Europe, and men everywhere were trying to break the chain which bound their consciences to an oppressive clergy.

Baptists sympathized with the Protestants in this movement, but they had always plead for religious liberty and freedom of conscience, and it was not for them to unite with the Protestants, until the Protestants came clear out of Rome, which they did not do. The opportunity was theirs, but they did not and would not improve it.

Some Baptists, however, were drawn into the current of the reformation. We are told that some Waldenses in Calabria, in 1560, formed a junction with the church at Geneva, of which John Calvin was pastor. These Waldenses then left off rebaptizing, and it is more than probable that they subsequently practiced infant baptism, which the ancient Waldenses never did. From this time on a distinction must be made between the ancient and modern Waldenses.

During this same year, 1560, the Lutherans suffered severe persecutions at the hands of the Catholics. The inquisition had been introduced into Spain about a century before this time.

In 1560, Philip II., king of Spain, took an oath in the city of Volladolid, to support the inquisition, and its ministers against all heretics and apostates. A great number of Protestants were committed to the flames on Philip’s arrival in the city, some of which the king witnessed himself, and he declared that he would burn his own son were he such a heretic.

This king was the peer of any man in wickedness. He afterwards caused poison to be administered to his own son.

A.D. 1524. The Munster riots occurred in 1524. Baptists have sometimes, but very unjustly, been charged with having been responsible for these riots, and some persons have, either ignorantly, or with intention to misrepresent, charged them with having originated at this time. The truth is that there were no Baptists connected with these riots in any way of which history gives any account. As citizens, that some might have been mixed up with them would not have been strange.

Thomas Munzer was their leader, and he was not a Baptist. He wrote Luther that he was not only pastor, but king and emperor of Mulhausen. No one could be a Baptist in truth, and favor the principles of those engaged in the Munster riots. Baptists have always contended for religious liberty and freedom of conscience, but have sought to accomplish these, not by the sword, but by divine truth.

The principles which culminated in the Munster riots, had been slumbering in Europe for years, and occasionally had been breaking out. When the reformation dawned and the people begun to throw off the oppressive yoke of Romanism, they were ready to strike, not only for religious liberty but for civil liberty as well, and this spirit culminated in the riots of the “Mad Men of Munster.” The reformation was the occasion of the riots.

Author of the “Compendium Of Baptist History”. Please inform the Editor of the AHB (via the Contact page) if you have biographical information on this author. Thank you.

Shackelford on Baptist History (Complete)