Thieleman J. Van Braght, Martyrs Mirror

51. Summary of Baptism in the Second Century

An Account Of The Baptism Of The Holy Martyrs In The Second Century

Summary Of Baptism In The Second Century

The witnesses as regards the ordinance of the baptism of Jesus Christ, who have written in this century, are few, and their accounts are brief, but mostly clear and conclusive. First appears one Dionysius, surnamed Alexandrinus, who writes to his friend Sixtus about a certain brother, who considered the baptism of the heretics no baptism at all, and, therefore requested to be rebaptized.

He is followed by Justinus, who, in his letters written in defense of the Christians, as well as in his disputation with Tryphon, the Jew, speaking of baptism, treats of it throughout as of the baptism of Christ, which was administered to adults.

Then comes one Gratianus, who declares himself against retaliation; and also another (noticed in the margin), who was censured because he held that the body of Christ was not of the substance of Mary.

Then follows Clemens Alexandrinus, who nowhere speaks of infant baptism, though he treats much of baptism, and of its conditions and circumstances.

Then follows a certain testimony, from Walafridus Strabo, proving that in those early times it was not customary to baptize otherwise than in running water, and that only such persons were baptized, who were able to know and understand the benefits to be obtained in baptism.

The conclusion is taken from the 7th chapter of De Ratione Gubernaliones Ecclesice, in which we read, that now there were baptized those who had previously been instructed in the principal articles of faith. With this we have concluded this century.

NOTE.—Since we have not come across any particular authors as regards the matter of baptism, with the first years of this century, we are compelled to begin with the year 126, and to proceed thence on; which method we shall also pursue in some of the other centuries.

About the year 126.—The first place in our account of baptism in the second century, we shall accord to Dionysius Alexandrinus,[1] of whom it is stated (from his 5th book on Baptism) that he wrote to Sixtus, the bishop at Rome, as follows: There was with us a brother who had been a believer a long time, before ever I or my predecessor Heraclas was ordained bishop. Being present among those who were baptized, and hearing the questions put to them, and their replies, he came to me weeping, fell down at my feet, and began to confess that he had received baptism from the heretics in an entirely different manner, which baptism, since he saw that we administered baptism differently, he did not consider baptism at all. He therefore entreated to be cleansed and purified with the baptism of the Christian church, that he might receive the grace of the Holy Ghost.

Finally he writes these words: He (namely, the man mentioned above, who wished to be rebaptized) ceased not to sigh and to weep, and dared not to come to the Lord’s table, and, admonished and constrained by us, would scarcely venture to be present at common prayer.

In regard to this, Eusebius Pamphilius of Caesarea, who has annotated this, writes thus: These and many other such questions concerning rebaptizing are noted by Dionysius throughout his books. Euseb., lib. 7, cap. 8, from Dionysius.

NOTE.—P. J. Twisck discriminates this Dionysius Alexandrius from another Dionysius, who, about A. D. 231, after Origen, was a teacher of the scholars of the faith, at Alexandria. See Chron. 3d Book for the year 231, page 61, col. 1. Also, for the year 253, page 71, col. 1.

Of the martyrdom of the latter we shall speak in the proper place, under the persecution of Valerianus and Gallienus. Others, however, hold that it was one and the same Dionysius, who wrote this, and suffered martyrdom. But this matters little, since the matters themselves, as stated by these writers, agree in general. We will leave this to the judgment of the intelligent reader.

From the above it is evident, first, that baptism was administered after previous examination, because it is said: “Being present among those who were baptized, and hearing the questions put to them, and their replies;” which agrees with the manner in which Philip proceeded with the Ethiopian, before he baptized him: the one asked, the other answered, and then followed baptism. Acts 8:36-38.

Moreover, since Eusebius states, that Dionysius notes many such questions of rebaptizing throughout his books, it follows incontrovertibly, that rebaptizing, or, at least, baptizing aright, those who had not been rightly baptized, must have been practiced, or at least advocated by some at that time; else it would not have been necessary to note any questions in regard to it; whereas much was written in that day, concerning it, as Eusebius has shown from Dionysius.

About the year 140.—Justinus, who was surnamed Philosophus, because, before his conversion, he was instructed in philosophy, comes next in order after Dionysius Alexandrinus. In his second defence of the Christians, to the Emperors Titus, Aelius, Adrianus, Antonius, Pius, etc. (according to the annotation of H. Montanus Nietighc, p. 5), he. writes thus: “We shall also relate to you, how we being renewed through Christ, have offered ourselves up to God, lest, this being omitted, it might seem, that in some parts of this statement we have not been faithful. As many, then, as are convinced, and believe that what we teach and say is true, and promise to live accordingly, to the best of their ability, are admonished to pray, and to ask God, with fasting, for the forgiveness of past sins, we ourselves praying and fasting with them. After that, we lead them to the water, and they are then born again in the same manner of regeneration in which we ourselves were born again, for then they are washed with water, in the name of God, who is the Father and Lord of us all, and of Jesus Christ, who is the Saviour of us all, and of the Holy Ghost; for Christ says: ‘Except ye be born again, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.'”

These are certainly clear arguments, which confirm the institution of Christ as regards baptism upon faith; for, when Justinus writes: “As many then, as are convinced, and believe,” and adds: “are admonished to pray,” and finally says: “After that, we lead them to the water, and they are then born again in the same manner of regeneration,” that is to say (speaking by way of metonymy), Baptised; he certainly gives to understand with this, that the candidates for baptism, in his day, had to be convinced; namely through the preached word, and had to believe, and, also, that they had to be admonished to pray, before they were led to the water, to be baptized, or, as he calls it, regenerated.

A little further on in the same apology or defense, he writes thus: “This, concerning this matter, we have learned from the apostles; for, since we are ignorant by our first birth, and have been brought up in evil practices and wicked habits; therefore, in order that we may not remain children of ignorance, but become children of free volition and of knowledge, and may obtain the remission of sins committed, there is invoked over those who voluntarily desire to be born again, and who repent of their past sins, the name of God, the Father and Lord of all men; and, invoking Him alone, we lead the one to be baptized to the washing of water; and this washing of water is called an enlightenment, because the understanding of those who learn these things, becomes enlightened. But those who become enlightened, are also washed, that is, baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who, through the prophets, has foretold all concerning Christ.” H. Mont. Nietighz., page 6, ex Ju-stino.

From this it is again quite evident, that Justinus has in view, nothing else than to give an account of the true baptism, which Christ and His apostles taught that it should only be administered upon faith and repentance for sins; for, when he says: “Those who voluntarily desire to be baptized again, and who repent of their past sins,” and adds: “Invoking the name of God, we lead the one to be baptized to the washing of water,” he certainly says nothing else than what was said to those baptized by John. Matt. 3:6: “And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins,” and what Peter said to the contrite penitents, who inquired what they must do to be saved. Acts 2:38: “Re- pent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.” The very same idea is expressed here by Justinus, as is shown.

Further on in the same apology or defense, Justinus writes these words: “But we, after he who, being convinced, has become of one mind with us, is thus washed, we lead him to those who are called brethren, where they are assembled, ardently offering up the common prayers, for ourselves, for him who is enlightened, and for all other men, wherever they may be; that we may be worthy to be disciples of the truth leading indeed a good conversation, and be found observers of that which is commanded us; in order that we may obtain eternal salvation.” H. Mont. Nietighz., page 7, ex Justino.

This is the third citation from Justinus, from which it appears certainly no more, than from the first two, that he mentions any other baptism, than that upon faith and repentance. For, when he says: “After he who, being convinced, has become of one mind with us, is thus washed, we lead him to those who are called brethren,” he gives to understand with this, that those who were washed, that is baptized, must first be convinced, and consent to the doctrine, which agrees with Christ’s command, Matt. 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach (or, make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them,” and mark: “Preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”[2]

Jacob Mehrning, in his account of baptism in the second century, cites from the Centurien van Magdenborg the following words: “The teachers of the church of that time held, that regeneration was effected through baptism and the Word, to both of which together they ascribed a power, namely, the forgiveness of sins, which required repentance from adults.” Many clear testimonies concerning this are found in Justinus.

In the disputation with Tryphon, the Jew, he writes: “Through the washing of water of repentance (Wasserbad der Busse), and the knowledge of God, which has been instituted for the forgiveness of the sins of the people, as Isaiah says, we believe and feel assured, that this is the blessed baptism, which was proclaimed in former times, and that this alone can cleanse the penitent, yea, that this is a water of life.”

A little further on he calls baptism a spiritual circumcision acceptable to the merciful God. And in conclusion he says: “Through water and faith, the regeneration of the whole human race is effected.” lac. Mehrn., Baptism. Histor., 2d part, on the second century, page 202.
Justinus writes further, in the disputation with Tryphon, the Jew, on the truth of the Christian religion: “Since we, through Christ, are converted to the true God, we are sanctified in baptism, and call upon Him as our helper, and call Him our Redeemer. Before the power of this name, Satan himself must fear and tremble.” Jac. Mehrn., page 203. Baptism. Hist., 2d Prt.

Who does not see clearly from these words of Justinus, in the disputation with Tryphon, in the first as well as in the second citation, that he employs such words and phrases as can by no means be applied otherwise than to the true order of the baptism of Christ and His apostles, namely, baptism which is accompanied with faith and repentance? For in the first citation he certainly says expressly, that baptism is a washing of water of repentance, and the knowledge of God; also, that it alone can cleanse the penitent; and also, that through water and faith the regeneration of the whole human race is effected. In the second citation he also plainly says: “Since we, through Christ, are converted to the true God, we are sanctified in baptism.” How could any one more clearly indicate the true practice of baptism, which must take place with conversion to God? And such baptism, Justinus states here, was practiced in the church of God in his time. O glorious, holy, and most Christian transaction!

Notice Concerning the Book “Quaestionum Et Responsionum,” that is, “Questions and Answers,” Which is Wrongfully Attributed to Justinus

In the fifty-sixth question and answer of this book some words are employed from which pedobaptists sometimes are wont to conclude, that infant baptism was practiced in the days of Justinus. But to this, various excellent and learned men have replied long since, namely, that this book was never written by Justinus; to prove which, different reasons are adduced, as, for instance: That in the answer to the 115th question mention is made of Irenius, who lived twenty-five years after Justinus, but is nevertheless cited by the latter in his writings as his predecessor. Moreover, that in the answer to the twelfth, and also in that to the eighty-sixth question, Origen is mentioned, who lived a whole century after Justinus. To this must be added, that neither Eusebius nor Jerome, both of whom have each compiled a complete catalogue of all the authentic writings of Justinus, enumerate this book Qucestlonns; whereas they mention the Second Defence of the Christians, and the Disputation with Tryphon, from which we have adduced in full several citations concerning baptism. Hence the aforementioned book is justly rejected, as not being the work of Justinus. See concerning this, De Centuriator. Magdeub., Cent. 2, cap. 10, in the account of the life of Justinus. Also, Bellarm. in Tract van de Scribenten der Kerke. Also, Jacob Mehrn., Baptism. Hist or., 2nd Part, page 170, 171. Also, A. Montan. Nietighs. van den Kinder-doop, second edition, A. 1648, page 8, 9.

NOTE.—In 152, Valentinus Romanus was censured as a heretic, because he believed that the Son of God, Christus Jesus, assumed neither a human nature, nor flesh and blood from the substance of the virgin Mary. P. /. Twisck, Chron. for the year 152, 2d Book, page 42, col. 1, from Herm. Med., fol. 330, Chron. Seb. Fr., 106., Jan. Cresp., fol. 34. About the year 160.—Gratianus quotes the words of the Lord: “When they persecute you in this city flee ye into another;” and say then: “Here Jesus Christ teaches that Christians shall not repel weapon with weapon, but must flee before weapons.” P. J. Twisck, Chron., 2d Book, for the year 160, p. 43, col. 1, 2, from Seb. Fra. in den Krieg des Fredes, fol. 63.

From this explanation of Gratianus appears, how salutarily and rightly he believed and taught with regards to the words of Jesus Christ relative to the forsaking of revenge; from which we may infer his correct views concerning other matters of Holy Scripture and the Christian faith; but since, either through default of the ancient writers, or for some other reason, nothing else has come down to us from him, we shall be content with what we have mentioned, and take our leave of him.[3]

About the year 200.—About this time flourished Clemens Alexandrinus, who, though writing largely on baptism, nowhere mentions infant baptism, but employs throughout such language as sufficiently implies, that he knew nothing of infant baptism, but confined himself solely to the ordinance of Christ and the practice of His apostles, which is baptism that is accompanied with faith and repentance.
In Paedagog., lib. 1, chap. 6, he writes thus: “This is also done with us, whose example the Lord Christ has become. Being baptized, we become enlightened; being enlightened, we are made children; having been made children, we are brought to perfection; having been brought to perfection, we are made immortal.” A little after that he says: “Thus also, when we are baptized, we obtain a free, unobstructed, and clear eye of the Holy Ghost, as an avengement of blindness; having trodden underfoot the sins which hitherto obscured the divine Spirit.” Also: “That which was grievously bound by ignorance, is unbound by knowledge, and these bands are loosed through the faith of man and the grace of God, the manifold sins being forgiven through reasonable[4] baptism as a perfect remedy; thus we are washed from all sins, and are henceforth evil no more; this is the grace of enlightenment, that the manner of life is no longer the same that it was before we were baptized.” Further: “Teaching or instruction precedes faith, but faith conjointly with baptism is led and directed through the Holy Ghost.” And: “Even so we who repent of our former sins separate ourselves from them and are being cleansed through baptism, let us run to the eternal light, as children to their father,” See further, concerning these citations, Joe. Mehrn., Bapt. Hist., 2d Part, pages 213, 214. Also, H. Mont an, Nietighs van den Kindcr-doop, pages 26, 27.

What is there in this testimony of Clemens Aiexandrinus, that can apply to infant baptism? yea, on the contrary, what is there that does not militate against it? He certainly says expressly: “These bands (namely, of sin) are loosed through the faith of man, and the grace of God, the mani- fold sins being forgiven through reasonable baptism.” This certainly is a clear and obvious joining together of faith and baptism, as things which, through the providence of God, belong together, for the remission of sins. When he further says: “Teaching, or instruction, precedes faith, but faith conjointly with baptism is led and directed through the Holy Ghost,” there is expressed, without controversy, the same thing that we have said just now; since here not only faith is joined together with baptism, but also instruction, which precedes faith, and the Holy Ghost, who follows and confirms faith.

It is true, he says soon after this, that those who are baptized are children, or, at least, ought to be. But what kind of children? Not children in understanding, not infants in the cradle, but, as he further says, children in wickedness, but perfect in the understanding. Children, who, as children of God, have put off the old man, and the garment of wickedness, and have put on the incorruptibility of Christ, in order that, being regenerated, they may become a new and holy people, and keep unspotted the new man. See the treatise cited above.

If at that time it was at all customary in Alexandria to baptize infants, would it not have been appropriate here for him, to speak of irrational infants, or at least to mention with a word or two, that they, too, were entitled to baptism, although, on account of their youth they could hot under- stand the object of it? Truly, according to our opinion he could not well have omitted mentioning it; but, inasmuch as he does not refer to it with a single word, it is good proof, that at that time this abuse was not known there, or, at least, not regarded.

Jacob Mehrning says {Baptism. Hist, concerning the second century, page 213) : “Of Clemens Alexandrinus we read that at Alexandria he presided over the school in which the catechumens, that is those who received instruction preparatory to baptism, were taught the principles of the Christian faith.” Vicecomes, lib. 2, cap. 7.

From this Paedag., dementis Alexandrini, lib. 1, cap. 6, Vicecomes would prove that there was given to those who were baptized, milk and honey to eat, and milk mixed with wine, to drink; likewise, that after baptism, preaching took place and peace was imparted to those baptized.

As regards the statement, that there was given to the baptized, as a sign of God’s blessing, milk and honey to eat, and milk mixed with wine, to drink, we leave it to its own merits, it being a matter of small importance, which, if clone without superstition, could either be observed or omitted. But the preceding statement, that Clemens Alexandrinus presided over the school in which the catechumens were taught the principles of the Christian faith, certainly implies that the candidates for baptism were first instructed in the school, in the principles of the Christian faith, before they were baptized; and also, the final re- mark, that after baptism preaching took place, and peace was imparted to the baptized, certainly also indicates that those who were baptized were not infants, for then they could not have understood the preaching, much less would they have been qualified to receive with attention and ac- cording to the requirements of Holy Scripture the peace which was imparted to them.

NOTE.—Baudartius writes of Clemens Aiexandrinus, that he proclaimed the true religion with his mouth as well as with his pen, saying among other things: “A pious and honorable man is well content with little.” Apophth., edit. 1640, lib. 2, page 49.

Further Remarks Concerning Baptism in this Century

From the writings of Walafridus Strabonus we may clearly infer what manner of baptism was practiced at this time, in the first as well as in the second century, and also along afterwards, namely, that no infants, but adults, reasonable, and believing persons were baptized, and this according to the example of Christ and His holy apostles. Jac. 1, cap. 4. Walafridus Strabo (in lib. de Rebus, Mehrn., Bapt. Hist., p. 524, D. I. Vicecomes, lib. Eccles., cap. 26,) writes: “We must know that originally believers were very simply baptized in streams and springs; for our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in order to sanctify such washing for us, was baptized of John in Jordan; even we read elsewhere: ‘John was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there.'”

Page 525, from D. Vicecomes, lib. 1, cap. 30; also, cap. 26, Strabo speaks thus concerning baptism: We must know that in those first times baptism was administered only to those who, in body as well as in soul, were washed clean and white, so that they could both know and understand, what benefit there was to be obtained in baptism, what was to be confessed and believed, and, finally, what was necessary to be observed by the regenerated in Christ.”

He then relates of Augustine, that he was instructed in the faith before he was baptized (of which we shall speak in the proper place); but that subsequently, for the sake of improvement, as it is called, the church, that is, the Roman church, practiced infant baptism, with a view of freeing infants by this means from the punishment of God for original sin. Then the followers of the true faith (thus he wrongly calls the Romanists), in order that the children might not be lost, if they should die without means of regeneration, that is, baptism, resolved that they should be baptized for the remission of sins. Hence originated, he writes, the custom of having godfathers and godmothers, who stand for the child at (literally, lift the child from) baptism, and answer for them all that they themselves, on account of the weakness of their infancy, are not able to confess. Thus for Strabo. N. B.—Concerning these words, D, Vicecomes writes thus: “Since Walafridus Strabo removes the custom of infant baptism from the primitive church, he also recognizes no older origin of the godfather’s than which date from a period subsequent to the time of Augustine.” Bapt. Hist., pp. 525, 526.

Thus, in the first two centuries, and long afterwards, infant baptism was not known by the Romanists even, according to the above mentioned testimony of W. Strabo. Shortening this, we shall conclude with a statement contained in the H. Doophistorie, at the end of the second century, Page 211, cap. 7, de Ratione Gubernationis Ecclesice: “Since also the administration of the Sacrament belongs to the government of the church, we see from the history of the time, that the bishops and teachers did not deem it burdensome to baptize, not bells and altars, but men whom they had instructed in the principal articles of the Christian religion; and to them they also administered the holy Supper.” We shall now proceed to the martyrs, who, during this time suffered for this same faith.

[1] As regards the time of this Dionysius, we follow the date given by P. J. Twisk, A.D. 12fi; to distinguish between him and the martyr Dionysius Alexandrinus, who suffered under Valeriamis and Gallienus, about A . D. 260.
[2] In the year 141, Justinus taught that in matters of controversy we must judge from the apostolic writings. “In the 119th question.” Also, that the true church of Christ must not be known (is not distinguished) by the great number of members, but by the doctrine. “In the answer to the first question.” Also in the “Geslachtregister der Roomscher Successie,” second edition, 1649, page 114.
[3] A.D. 175, Ireneus taught that the bread of the Supper was of the fruit of the earth, and he also calls the Supper not an offering but a thanksgiving. “Lib 4, contra Valent.” See in the “Geslacht register der Roomscher Successic,” second edition, 1649, page 114.
[4] The words, “reasonable baptism,” indicate that he speaks of such a baptism as belongs to reasonable or intelligent persons.

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