The 6th Century was one of change and rapid digression concerning most things spiritual. As mentioned before, the Dark Ages officially begins in the 6th century. For the next 1,000 years (some people refer to it as the Devil's Millennium) the papacy and Catholic church would use the sword against those who did not believe in their lies. All non-conformist (especially Baptists) were forced into hiding and obscurity; but it is important to note that groups of Bible believing churches did not go into extinction as is claimed by Protestants. There were always those that held the New Testament as their sole authority for faith and order.
According to Orchard in his book on Baptist History:
All Christian communities during the first three centuries were of the Baptist denomination, in constitution and practice. In the middle of the third century, the Novatian Baptists established separate and independent societies, which continued till the end of the 6th age; when these communities were succeeded by the Paterines, which continued till the Reformation.
These 'Baptist' churches under the names Novatians and Dontatists and Waldenses continued throughout northern Africa and Europe. Though forced into obscurity, they continued on as the Lord promised they would. Why the obscurity? The Rise of the Papacy!
There were 13 different popes during the 6th century, climaxed by the 'reign' of Gregory I. It was Gregory "the Great" who organized the papal government, established the pagan observance of Ash Wednesday, advocated celibacy for all priests, but was most consumed with a 'mission project.'
As written earlier, the Brits were enjoying a pure faith and doctrinal sound churches. Though forced into Wales due to Saxon invasion, the churches remained strong and sound. Patrick took the pure faith to Ireland, and the Celtic churches were mostly sound.
In 521 A.D. a man named Columba was born. Columba began a mission work of his own trying to reach Scotland for Christ. His work not only went to Scotland, but England, Normandy, Denmark and even parts of Germany. The British Isles were being reached with the Truth; but as always, the Devil fights.
Gregory had a 'great burden' to see Britain 'converted' to Catholicism. Gregory sent a man named Augustine to 'evangelize' Britain with Catholicism. Augustine 'converted' the Saxon King, Ethelbert, and Catholicism was spreading as a result through England. Eventually Augustine arranged a meeting between he and the Welsh Baptist of Columba.
Augustine offered toleration as long as the Columba churches accepted Catholic and infant baptism and he being seen as their archbishop. The Columba churches of course refused believing in a pure baptism and congregational form of church government.
Many Christians suffered and died the next 1,000 years for not bowing the knee to the papacy and its lies, and though many of the Lord's churches had to go into hiding, they stood strong against the Pope (who they referred to as anti-Christ), they regarded the church of Rome as they mystical Babylon as found in Revelation, they insisted the true churches consisted of believers properly baptized, they pleaded for the translation of the Scriptures into modern languages, the condemned the ceremonial worship of the Roman church, they read God's Holy Word continually so that many could repeat large portions from memory, they denied the ecclesiastical hierarchy, they hated image worship, they would not pray to saints, condemned purgatory, indulgences and such, and absolutely refused any law that contradicted the New Testament. To which we say AMEN!
For nearly 300 years, there was only one type of church (though it was being attacked and was corrupting), but by the 6th century there was a definite division between the Lord's churches and Satan's church (Catholic). Praise God for those that stood for Truth.
I would challenge the reader to consider our modern day Christianity and its call for unification. This ecumenical movement is of the Devil. Purity and Corruption cannot fellowship. We cannot bow the knee to heresy and corruption for the sake of unity. Even amongst the Lord's churches today, we must continually contend for Truth. This can be done in love and a Christ-like spirit.
We should, of course, not compromise and accept the damning heresies of the Catholics and work salvation teachers, cults, and the like. Nor, should we compromise and accept and not content for Truth amongst our own ranks. I believe we see differences amongst the Novatians, Dontatists, Waldenses, and Columba's churches though we consider them Truth bearers; but then again, they were Novatians, Dontatists, Waldenses, and Columbas-they didn't compromise for the sake of unity.
There was enough Truth to love and support one another, but enough differences to distance and stand as they saw the Word of God.
There still ought to be a definite division between God's people and the world, cults, false teachers, and even brethren that are in error in some doctrines.