Before we get into the facts and information of our Baptist history, we must lay day a foundational principle for study. Our historical study will be different than a world's philosophy of historical study. Ours is different in that our starting point of origin is the Bible! The Bible is the foundation upon which our history is built! We dare not look to the Bible to prove historical facts (which of course could be done), but we look to history to prove the facts of God's Word. It may not sound like a big deal, but in reality it makes all the difference in the world.
We start with God's Word and interpret the facts of history in light of God's Word. God's Word is Truth! "Facts" of history and science have changed over the years due to discoveries and inventions, but God's Word will always be the same,and consequently has always been right! So we must begin our study understanding that God's Word is the foundation upon which we build.
We then quickly discover that our Lord promised Perpetuity to His churches (Matt. 16:17-18). What is perpetuity? A dictionary will tell you that perpetuity is the state of being perpetual, endless; indefinite duration.Our Lord promised this throughout Scripture.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matt. 16:18 If the 'gates of hell' ever prevailed, God's Word is in error.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matt. 18:17 If there were to be a time of no church, this command is impossible
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 1 Cor. 11:26 The observance of the Lord's Supper was to be done by the church "until He come" therefore ensuring there will be churches until that time.
So one can see through these verses and others not yet mentioned, that the Lord did promise perpetuity. So what is Biblically meant by perpetuity? In studying the Bible and interpreting the facts of history in light of God's Word, one will come to the conclusion that a Biblical perpetuity as promised to His churches is that there has never been a day since the organization of the first New Testament church by the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles in which there was not genuine New Testament church existing on earth." (A Manual of Church Historyby J. Griffith pg. 33). By perpetuity, we do not point to an 'identifiable unbroken chain of churches,' as we have already discussed the persecution, burning, and hiding of those churches which held to the doctrine of God's Word through ages. We do not mean the name "Baptist" was promised perpetuity. Throughout ages those which held to Truth were called by many names and titles. We definitely do not mean by perpetuity an 'apostolic succession.' The Lord's churches, since He began it with His disciples, have always been in existence on this earth.
I believe a study of Revelation 2 & 3 does not teach different 'dispensations,' but rather different types of the Lord's churches that have always been in existence. Pray and study accordingly. The Lord has promised to preserve Word (Ps. 12:6-7; 1 Peter 1:23-25); all His Children (Ps. 37:28; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Peter 1:5); the nation of Israel (Gen. 13:15; Rom. 11:1-26; Is. 49:5-8); this world (Gen. 9:16; 2 Pt. 3:7); and His churches (Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:17; etc). What God promises to keep, He will keep. As much as I know I cannNOT lose my salvation, I am preserved by God, I also know that there has always been true churches based upon the promise of God.
Even other historians and historical figures concede:
We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists...were the original Waldenses, and who have long in history received the honor of that origin. Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles...which has preserved pure the doctrine of the Gospel through all ages." A. Ypeij-Dutch Reformed historian
From the apostolic age to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists have had a continued chain of advocates, and public documents of their existence in every century can be produced.Alexander Campbell (Campbellite leader
...the rise of the Anabaptist took place prior to the reformation...and there are also reasons for believing that on the continent of Europe small hidden Christian societies, who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists have existed from the time of the Apostles.Robert Barclay a Quaker historian
I should not readily admit that there was a Baptist church as far back as 100AD, though without doubt there were Baptists then, as all Christians were then Baptists. John Clark Ridpath
Were it not for the fact that the Anabaptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past 1200 years, they would swarm greater than all the Reformers.Cardinal Hosius mid 1500'sWith the basis being God's Word that He promised perpetuity to His churches, and in light of history and the facts known, we shall begin a study, century by century of those who stood for the faith, passed on from generation to generation an unspotted, pure faith, and those to whom we ought give honor to.