Thieleman J. Van Braght, Martyrs Mirror

19. Martyrs of the First Century

An Account of the Holy Baptism of the Martyrs in the First Century, that is, from the first year of the ministry of Jesus Christ to the year 100.

Summary of the Baptism in the First Century

[We have begun with the baptism of John, who in Holy Scripture is properly called the Baptist, because he was the first and chief one who truly administered baptism with all that pertains to it; concerning which we have noted the time, place, persons, etc. From there we proceeded to Christ and the command which He gave concerning baptism; thence to the apostles, and how they fulfilled Christ’s command. But, since the apostles who wrote of baptism did not live to the close of this century, we, in order to accomplish our design, resorted to the fathers who lived shortly after the apostles, and wrote on baptism; and thus the first century is concluded with their testimony.]

We shall begin to give an account, from century to century, up to the present day, or at least, to the time of our fathers, how that the true baptism upon faith, with rejection of infant baptism, has always obtained, and been practiced, according as it was possible, by the true church of God, or at least, by some of the orthodox believers, according to the freedom, or the oppression prevailing at any particular time; and that this same faith, on account of which the world calls us Anabaptists, was begun by God, through John, was confirmed by Christ and propagated and maintained by the apostles as well as by their successors, till the time of our fathers; together with an account of the persons who suffered for that faith.

Coming, then, to the article of baptism we shall thus begin and finish the subject: In the first century, embracing chiefly the time of Christ and His holy apostles, we shall place, not by inferences, but through express words, that which Holy Scripture has to say in regard to it, as being the foundation of the matter, and afterwards, that which is recorded by trustworthy authors.

Concerning the Baptism of John

The holy evangelists tell us the time, place and manner of the same. Luke writes, chap. 3:1-3: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Matt. 3:1,2: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Verse 11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” Acts 19:4, Paul said: “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

The Persons John Baptized

Matt. 3 :5-9: “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Luke 7:29,30: “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” John 3 :23: “And John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.”

How, Among Others, He Baptized also Jesus the Son of God

Matt. 3:13-17: “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” See further, concerning this: Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23.

How Christ Baptized through His Disciples

John 3:22: “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.” Chap. 4:1-3: “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples), he left Judaea and departed again into Galilee.”

How Christ Commanded Baptism to His Disciples, before His Ascension

Matt. 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach (or make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Mark 16:15,16: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

How the Apostles Executed this Command of Christ to Teach and Baptize, after the Ascension of Christ

Acts 2:37, 38: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Verses 41,42: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 8:12, 13: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip.” Verses 36-39: “And as they [namely, Philip and the Ethiopian] went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, Sec. here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.” Acts 9:17,18: “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou earnest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” Acts 10:46-48: “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts 16:13-15: “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard as : whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” Verse 40: “And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.” Acts 16:29-34: “Then he [namely the keeper of the prison] called for a light, and sprang in |the prison], and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And he led them into his house, and seated them at the table, and rejoiced with all his house, that he believed in God.” or [as the latest translators say], “he rejoiced, that he and all his house believed in God.” Acts 18:8: “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” I Cor. 1:14-16: “I thank God [says Paul] that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And 1 baptized also the Household of Stephanas; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” Compare this with I Cor. 16:15,16: “I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints), that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboreth.”

What Testimony Thy Holy Apostles have Given in Their Epistles, Concerning Baptism

1. That it signifies the burying of sins, and the resurrection into a new life. Rom. 6:3,4, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” [He that is to have his son buried through baptism, must first have died unto it through repentance: and he that is to rise into, or walk in the new life, must first have been or walked in an old life; this is incontrovertible, but whether it applies to infants, let the reader judge.]

NOTE.—To the foregoing belongs also the passage, Tit. 3 :5, where baptism is called, “the washing of regeneration,” and Eph. 5:26, “the washing of water by the word.”

2. That through faith we become children of God, and through baptism put on Christ. [It appears, therefore, that none were baptized in Galatia, but those who had put on Christ. Concerning this putting on of Christ, see Rom. 13:14.] Gal. 3:26,27: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

3. That as the ark with eight souls was preserved in the water, so also believing baptized Christians arc prcserved or saved in baptism through the answer of a good conscience. I Pet. 3:20,21: “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. [In the ark, which was preserved through, or, properly speaking, in the water, there were none but believing and obedient persons, eight in number, namely, Noah and his wife, with their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their three wives, eight persons in all: likewise, none but believing and obedient persons belong in the church of Christ, which is compared to the ark, and which must be preserved through or in baptism.] The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God).”

Moreover, the Conditions Required in, at, and about Baptism, Indicate Sufficiently that it was not Administered to Children, but to Persons of Understanding

In order to receive baptism in a worthy and true manner, there are required sorrow and repentance of sins, accompanied with a confession of the same. Matt. 3 :6, we read: “And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” Besides this, it is required that we should bear good fruits. “Bring forth therefore,” says John, to those who desired to be baptized, “fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8); or, according to Biestken’s translation: “Do genuine fruits of repentance.” Mark 16:16, it is also required, that we believe, yea, that we believe with the hearts. Acts 8:37. In short, repentance or conversion, and baptism are joined together, Matt. 3:6-11; as also, teaching, believing, and baptizing, Mark 16:15, 16. Confession and baptism went hand in hand with the Ethiopian, Acts 8:37. Baptism is a burying of the old man, and a sign of resurrection into a new life, Rom. 6:3, 4; a putting on of Christ, Gal. 3:27; and the answer of a good conscience toward God. I Pet. 3:21.

These and other conditions required in baptism cannot exist in infants, who know neither good nor evil, cannot discern between the right hand and the left hand, and do as children do, Deut. 1:39; Jno. 4:11; I Cor. 13:11. Here we might adduce much more, but since it is not our purpose to dispute about this point, but simply to show from the unadorned testimonies of the holy evangelists and apostles, that baptism was administered in the first century only to adult (that is, penitent and believing) persons, we shall leave this subject, and proceed to give an account of those who, according to history, have, either by word or by deed, maintained this doctrine.

Of the Testimony of the Fathers Concerning this Article, Who Lived from the Decease of the Apostles to the End of the First Century

Although we might entirely conclude this first century as touching baptism upon faith, with the testimony of Holy Scripture, we, so as not to appear deficient, nevertheless deem it expedient, to add the testimonies of the fathers, till the end of this century.

About the year 52.—Jac. Mehrn. Bapt, hist. pag. 578. from Simon Metaphrastes, D. Vicecomes records the following incident (lib. 1. cap. 4. in the life of St. Auxibius): When St. Mark, the apostle of Christ, saw that Auxibius had a desire for Christ, and that he was believing and instructed, he descended with him into a pool and baptized him. This is the first example of which we read in history, outside of Holy Scripture, of those who were incorporated into the church of Christ, through baptism upon faith.

About the year 60.—In, or very near this time, it is recorded, even by several papistic writers, that there were such people and such a sect as were afterwards designated by the name, The Poor of Lyons, Waldenses, Albigcnses, who were also called Anabaptists, or Baptists, on account of the like faith which they had in common; as shall be shown hereafter. Therefore the papists complain of their being considered of such high antiquity; for some say that they existed in the time of Sylvester, A. D. 315, and others assert, with more justness, too, in the time of the apostles. Baptism, histor. pag. 615, from a very old book. Also, pag. 670 and pag. 682. from Flaccius. Also, D. Balthazar Lydius (though he misinterprets their doc- trine) in the tract, “Where the church was before the year 1160,” printed at Dort, A. 1624. pag. 2. col. 1. from Reyncrius Priester.

About the year 68.—It is stated that in the time of Nero, two daughters of Valentinian, a Christian at Aquileia, who had been brought up by their father in the Christian faith and the fear of God, were instructed by the priest or teacher Hermagoras, and baptized at a running water. See De gantsch klare en grondige bezvijsinge vam den Doop, printed A. D. [15] 81. letter Bv.

About the year 70.—In or about the time of the death of the apostle Peter is placed the bishop or teacher Linus, of whom it is testified that he baptized, after preceding instruction, the son of Perpetua, a Christian woman. See the above. Also, Kort verhael van den loop der werelt, by F. H. H., printed at Franeker, A. 1611. pag. 47.

From the year 71 till the year 111.—It is stated that between these years there flourished Ignatius, who was the second bishop of Antioch after Peter, and, according to the chronicles, discharged the duties of his office in the time of the apostle John. Writing of baptism, he employs no other manner of speech, than which clearly implies that baptism must be accompanied with faith, love and patience. In his letter to Polycarp, bishop at Smyrna, he writes among other things these words: Let none of you be found an apostate: “Let your baptism be your weapon, your faith your helmet, love a lance, patience a full armor.” In a letter to the Trailienses he writes likewise: “It appears to me, that you do not live after the flesh, but after Jesus Christ, who died for our sakes; so that you, believing in His death, may, through baptism, be partakers of His resurrection.” Again, in the letter to those at Philadelphia he writes thus: “Seeing, then, that there is one only ungenerated God and Father; and one only be- gotten Son, Word, and Man; one Comforter, the Spirit of Truth; and one faith, one baptism, and one church, which the apostles have founded with their sweat and labor, in the blood of Christ from one end of the earth to the other; therefore, you, as a peculiar people and holy generation, must also do all things with a unanimous heart in Christ.” Who does not see here, that Ignatius by joining together in this order or sequence, preaching, faith, baptism, and the church, intends to say, that ac- cording to the ordinance of Christ, preaching has the first place, and, therefore, must precede; that after faith comes baptism, and that after baptism the one baptized is a member of the church? and that then the members of the church, as a peculiar people and holy generation, must do all things with unanimous hearts in Christ? For this is the import of the words of Ignatius. See, concerning the aforementioned letters of Ignatius, H. Montanus in De nietigheyd van den Kinderdoop, printed the second time, pages 4 and 5. Also, Jac. du Bois (though he misinterprets these letters), Tcgen Montanus, printed Anno 1648. pages 16-22.

In the year 95.—It is here recorded that Clemens, the fourth bishop of the church at Rome, ordained: that the heretics’ baptism is neither to be supported nor accepted; therefore, he that has received baptism in conformity with the truth of the church, shall not be rebaptized; but he who does not rebaptize the unclean, that is, baptized by the ungodly or heretics, shall be deposed, as one who mocks the cross and death of Christ, and does not distinguish the false priests, or teachers, from the true ones (distinct. 30. cap.). Again, in his second epistle he speaks of baptizing on the feast, and that the candidate for baptism is to be examined three months previously. P. /. Twisck, Chron. 1st Book, in the year 95. page. 32.

It certainly appears clearly from these words of Clemens that at that time no other baptism obtained in the church, than that which was administered after preceding instruction: for when he speaks of baptizing on the feast, and that the candidate for baptism is to be examined three months previously, it is certainly expressed, that then no new-born children were baptized; for who does not know that children are born throughout the whole year, and not only on feast days (namely, on Easter or Pentecost)? Besides, infants cannot be examined in the faith three months previous to their baptism, as is required here of the candidates for baptism.

Moreover, in the third letter of Clemens, the following words, which still more clearly express the preceding meaning, are found: If any one desires to become a believer, and to be baptized, he must prepare himself to lay aside the former wickedness; so that he henceforth may obtain, by a good conversation, an inheritance of the heavenly riches, according to his own deeds. Let him that desires this, go to his priest, or teacher, and hear from him the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; let him exercise himself diligently with fasting, and examine himself well in everything, so that after three months he may be baptized.

Everyone shall be baptized in running water, and the name of the blessed Trinity be invoked over him. Jac. Mehm. Bapt. Histor. 2nd part, on the second century, page 209. from Clem. Epist. 3. From the Constitutionibus Apostolicis, lib. 7. cap. 23. by the same Clemens, these words are taken: Concerning baptism we command you before, O bishop, and say this also: that you shall baptize as the Lord has commanded us, when He said: “Go, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, 20). Bapt. Histor. page 200. ex. Constit. Apostol.

The above words of Clemens speak so plainly of the true order of the baptism of Christ, that they need no explanation whatever. We shall therefore pass on to the martyrs who suffered in or about this time. An Account of the Pious Martyrs and Witnesses of Jesus Christ Who Suffered During the First Century: that is, from the death of Christ to the year A. D. 100.

Summary of the Martyrs of the First Century

This first century did not pass without the shedding of much blood of the saints; for, since Jesus Christ Himself, the leader of all true believers, was subject to it, it was just, that His members should follow in the same path; yet John died before Christ. But after the death of Christ, the fire of persecution raged exceedingly, consuming nearly all of the beloved apostles and friends of Christ, according to the flesh. We have described those who followed Christ, their Captain, into suffering and death, according to the order of time; they are the following persons: Stephen, the deacon; the apostles, James, Philip, Barnabas, Mark the evangelist, Peter, Paul; some companions and friends of Paul, as Aristarchus, Epaphras, Silas, Onesiphorus, Prochorus, Nicanor, Parmenas, Olympas, Carpus, Trophimus, Materus, Egyetus, Hermagoras, Onesimus, Dionysius of Athens, and Timothy; but the latter was slain a few years after the others. In the meantime the preceding ones are followed by the apostles, Andrew, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Simon Zelotes, Matthias, Luke the evangelist, Antipas, the faithful martyr of Jesus, John, whom Jesus loved, Urticinus, Vitalus, etc., all of whom obtained the martyr’s crown, as may be seen from the following account. To Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we have accorded the first place among the martyrs of the new covenant; not in the order of time, for herein John was before, and preceded with his death; but on account of the worthiness of the person, because He is the head of all the holy martyrs, through whom they all must be saved.

Thieleman J. Van Braght (1625-1664) was an Anabaptist who is best known for writing a history of the Christian witness throughout the centuries entitled “The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660” (1660).

Thieleman J. Van Braght, Martyrs Mirror