(Continued from page 285)Witchcraft was one excuse used to persecute 'heretics' such as the Anabaptists
Oliver Cromwell: Lord Protector of England (1599-1658)
Again, the grey area between witchcraft and heresy was used by Papal Rome to bring about its means to an end and, in Spain, where many Jews and Moors had converted to escape persecution, Inquisitors sought those harbouring their old faith. At least 2,000 Spanish 'backsliders' from Rome were burned. Executions in other countries included the burning of scientists such as mathematician-philosopher Giordano Bruno, who espoused Copernicus's theory that the planets orbit the sun.
That it was not just 'witches' who were sought out for destruction by Papal Rome is proven by the historical evidence. Protestant Huguenots grew into an aggressive minority in France in the 1500s - until repeated Catholic reprisals smashed them. On Saint Bartholomew's Day in 1572, Catherine de Medicis secretly authorized Catholic dukes to send their soldiers into Huguenot neighbourhoods and slaughter families. This massacre touched off a six-week bloodbath in which Catholics murdered about 10,000 Huguenots and continued persecuting those who refused to accept Papal Rome for two centuries, until the French Revolution. One group of Huguenots, that had managed to escape to Florida and form a colony, were discovered by a Spanish brigade (in 1565) who promptly denounced their heresy and massacred them all.
The 'Anabaptists', communal 'rebaptizers,' were slaughtered by Catholic, Lutheran and other Reformed groups. Claus-Peter Clausen (Anabaptism: A Social History, 1525-1618 - Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1972) estimates that Papal Rome was responsible for 84% of the executions, whereas Protestant governments, or those with Protestant leanings, were responsible for the other 16%. These figures do not reflect kindly on anyone purporting to be Christian.
Anabaptists existed in various forms, some being more Biblical than others. Too many historians have taken an exceptional incident, which occurred in Munster, Germany (1534), as being typical of these gentle believers. At Munster, one of the bizarre sects took control of the city, drove out the Roman priests, and foolishly proclaimed a New Zion. The bishop of Munster began an armed siege which resulted in such severe hardship that the towns people starved. However, the 'Anabaptist' leader betrayed his real intent and ignorance of Scripture by proclaiming himself king and executing dissenters! As a result, when Munster finally fell, the chief 'Anabaptists' were shown reciprocal mercy, tortured to death with red-hot pincers, and their bodies hung in iron cages from a church steeple. We should not make the mistake of believing that all of the other Anabaptists, who were mainly identified by their insistence on basing every belief on the Bible - and strong pacifism - shared more than their name with this misguided group.
It is worth comparing the opinions of John Markoe, S.J., a Roman Catholic priest who wrote The Triumph of the Church. In it, he sets forth the Roman Catholic Church as the one true church and uses the faulty logic of Gamaliel (Acts 5:38-39) to prove it. He then lists eighty-eight 'False Religious Denominations', twenty-four of which still exist today under their original names (others can be traced as being part of existing religious groups). These groups are still defined as heretics by official Romanism (even though John XXIII 'generously' called Protestants 'separated brethren'). Markoe concluded:
'Christ founded only one Church. Therefore, there is only one true Church. Consequently, all other Churches must be false. Christ said, `He that is not with me is against me.' Therefore, those who do not belong to that one Church of Christ, are against Him. They are associated with the enemies of Christ. They may not mean to be against Him, yet they are against Him. Is it not deplorable to be against Christ, to be among the enemies of God! How sad to die amongst the enemies of God! How miserable the condition of those who die in that state. How can it be avoided? By immediately becoming a friend of God. By joining the one true Church of Christ. That is the only way!'
Markoe also claimed that:
'Nicholas Stork (sic), a weaver (d. 1525) and Thomas Munzer (sic), a Lutheran preacher and priest (c.1490-1525), made, at the time of the so-called reformation, the first attacks on infant baptism, and thus launched the Anabaptist movement. They denied the validity of infant baptism; practiced communism and polygamy; and condemned oaths and warfare as unlawful.'
What is the truth about the origins of Anabaptism? Nicolaus Storch and Thomas Muntzer were the Zwicklau prophets. They claimed special revelation, and had one thing in common with the Anabaptists. They shared antipathy to reformation by civil authority or by the pope. However, they did not share the Anabaptists' emphasis on restoring New Testament truth, nor did they practice believer's baptism. The Anabaptist groups of the 16th century were not, as Markoe charges, the first to attack infant baptism. Markoe himself lists several groups which denied infant baptism - the Manicheans (3rd century), the Bogomilists (11th century), the Petrobrosians (12th century), and the Albigenses (13th century). The shallowness of Markoe's attacks is thus easily demonstrated.
Anabaptism came from the Zwinglian Reformation in Zurich. A number of Zwingli's followers were impatient at his prevarications, for he often stepped back from the Biblical positions that he had plainly stated, probably out of fear of the consequences which he would have been only too aware of! The afore-mentioned Conrad Grebel insisted that the preachers be given detailed instructions as to the abolition of the Mass. Zwingli replied that this was not his to do. The matter had to be resolved in the City Council, but this did not satisfy the more radical Reformers. The basic disagreement was whether to wait for the civil authorities to enact Reformation laws, or to go about in an independent fashion as the Lord led.
Another bone of contention was infant baptism. Zwingli held that it was scriptural, and when the City Council in January 1525, vindicated Zwingli's position, the die was cast. The baptism of all un-baptized children was commanded by a city ordinance.
All historians admit it was not safe to be an Anabaptist. Any deviation from whatever church was established in a given territory was considered treason because of the linking of church and state which Papal Rome instigated and many of the Reformers continued. Re-baptism, sedition, anarchy, blasphemy, sacrilege and hypocrisy were lumped together indiscriminately under the label of treason. On many occasions all that was necessary was to be accused of being an Anabaptist, for they fared about the same under Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed persecution.
The first Anabaptist known to have died for his faith was Eberli Bolt, a preacher who was burned at the stake at the hands of Roman Catholic authorities on May 29, 1525. This was the beginning of a persecution which would continue to varying degrees through the next three centuries. The number who died will never be known but many have been chronicled by historians who testify to the price of being an Anabaptist.
One of the earliest Anabaptist heroes was Conrad Grebel who, in early 1522, became a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). After his conversion and early tutelage by Ulrich Zwingli, Grebel soon broke away to stand by the truths of the Word of God, since he was clearly at odds with his mentor. He had only twenty months as an active Anabaptist preacher, during which time he was repeatedly imprisoned and suffered increasingly poor health which at last caused him to succumb to the plague. But his accomplishments during this time were nothing short of phenomenal. He went from house to house witnessing, baptizing and conducting the Lord's Supper according to the teachings of the group called the Swiss Brethren. Although accused of communism, they merely taught that every Christian should share his wealth with others, which is certainly a Biblical teaching (Acts 2:44-45: 'All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need') - and the antithesis of the wealth absorbing nature of Papal Rome.
A former monk, Wolfgang Ulimann, was converted and requested believer's baptism by Grebel, but 'not out of a platter.' Therefore they both went down into the Rhine River, where Grebel put Ulimann 'under the waters of the river and covered him over.' True baptism by immersion had begun only a few months after the Anabaptist movement had started.
A climax to the impasse growing between the official Reformers of Zurich under Zwingli and the Anabaptists came on April 5, 1525, when Grebel baptized hundreds of people in the Sitter River. Fearing imprisonment Conrad, still in poor health, went into hiding for several months. When he emerged, he ministered for four months in Gruningen, his boyhood home. The great success of this work was suddenly halted by his imprisonment in October 1525. False accusations abounded, but these perverted accounts were sufficient to have Grebel sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment. Others were imprisoned, and during the long winter months, the Zurich tower rang with the songs of praise and prayers of these Anabaptists.
During this time, Grebel prepared a manuscript on baptism, which, after great difficulty, was finally published. However, when he first requested its publication, this audacity provoked the authorities to try Grebel again and sentence him, and others, to life imprisonment. On the same day, a law was passed that made the act of performing baptism a crime punishable by death. Two weeks after his imprisonment Grebel escaped and had his manuscript printed. Zwingli saw the first copy of it in 1527, but by this time Conrad Grebel, never physically strong, became a victim of the plague, probably in August 1526.
Others of importance in the earliest days of Anabaptists include, from the original group, Felix Manz. It was from his house that the small group went forth to perform the first 're-baptism.' He was active in house to house witnessing and in the work of the first Anabaptist church in Zurich. He was constantly imprisoned; it is said that hardly a prison in the vicinity of his labours escaped being honoured by his presence. These included two prisons in Zurich and three others in the nearby countryside. Ferdinand, the Catholic King of Austria, had declared that the best antidote to Anabaptism was 'the third baptism' - death by drowning! Again, ignorant and inadequately reformed Reformers copied the errors of Papal Roman Catholics and Felix Manz had the distinction of being the first Anabaptist to die at the hands of Protestants and the first to die in Zurich (on Saturday, January 5, 1527). His condemnation read:
'Manz shall be delivered to the executioner, who shall tie his hands, put him into a boat, take him to the lower hut, there strip his bound hands down over his knees, place a stick between his knees and arms, and thus push him into the water and let him perish in the water; thereby he shall have atoned to the law and justice...His property shall also be confiscated by my lords'.
Manz wrote to the Zurich Council (some two years before his death) in defense of the Anabaptist position (entitled Protestation and Schutzschrift), and revealing his witness for the love of Christ:
'Love to God through Christ shall alone avail and subsist; but boasting, reviling and threatening shall fail. Charity alone is pleasing to God; he that cannot show charity, has no part with God. The unadulterated love of Christ puts to flight the enemy. It is incumbent upon him that will be an heir to Christ, to be merciful ... Christ hated no man; His true disciples are likewise devoid of hatred, thus following Christ in the true way, as He went before them ... I will now conclude my memorial ... I hereby resolve that I will remain faithful to Christ, and put my trust in him who knows my every distress, and is mighty to deliver Amen.'
One man who had implored Conrad Grebel to baptize him (in January 1525) was George Blaurock who worked closely with Manz. On the day that Manz was drowned, Blaurock was stripped to the waist and severely beaten until the blood ran down his back, before being expelled from Zurich. He never returned to Zurich, but carried on a fruitful ministry which led to further severe persecution. Finally, he was taken into custody by Innsbruck authorities, and was charged with not maintaining infant baptism, rejecting Mass and confession, and disallowing the worship of the mother of Christ. On his way to his execution, he spoke to the people, exhorting them to turn to the Scriptures, being burnt to death at the stake on September 6, 1529.
Martyrdom became a way of life for the Anabaptists and they fell by the thousands for their stand for the truth of the Word of God. One Catholic leader was quoted as saying, 'What shall I do, the more I execute, the more they increase.' In some areas the Anabaptist movement was stamped out, but in others the testimony of the martyrs led to great growth. Among all the martyrs, some died at the stake, others by drowning, while others were called to endure an even more painful death, as in the case Michael Sattler, who (May, 1527) was 'committed to the executioner, (who) shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongues twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic.'
Sattler, who had given a true and skilful testimony at the trial, was thus hideously tortured but, even after the pieces were torn from his body and a part of his tongue cut out, still prayed for his persecutors and admonished the officials to repent and be converted. As he was dying, Sattler raised the two forefingers of his hands giving the signal to the brethren, as he had arranged, that a martyr's death was bearable. From his seared lips, the crowd heard him say, 'Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands' before he died and joined his Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There has always been a great deal of misunderstanding about just what Anabaptists believed. Much of this is because their enemies distorted their writings, and often classed complete heretics (from a true Biblical perspective) and bizarre mystics as Anabaptists, in order to discredit the group. Just because a person re-baptizes does not mean he is saved, as anyone in the 20th century who knows of the Campbellite heresy can understand. Many Papal Roman Catholics class Jehovah's Witnesses as 'fundamentalists' because of their resolved cleavage from Roman Catholic heresies (e.g., the Karl Keating/Bart Brewer debate). But history testifies that the Anabaptists received commendation for their lives and faith even from their enemies. In 1527, Capiuto, a leading Reformation minister in Strasburg wrote:
'I frankly confess that in most (Anabaptists) there is in evidence piety and consecration and indeed a zeal which is beyond any suspicion of insincerity.'
Franz Agricola, the Roman Catholic theologian, also wrote: 'As concerns their outward public life they are irreproachable. No lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating and drinking, no outward personal display, is found among them, but humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straightforwardness in such measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God.' (emphasis added).
Much has been written about the 'communistic' leanings of the Anabaptists. Harsh and untrue conclusions have been drawn, thus adding to some of the charges of fanaticism and heresy with which these Christians are labelled. Again, it must be understood that these people were coming out of backgrounds in which totally un-Scriptural practices were being taught and many of the early Anabaptist leaders were converted priests who had now come to a fuller appreciation of Scripture. While they may have gone too far on some issues that is to be compared with the failings of many of the Reformers who didn't go far enough, and retained two 'sacraments' as well as a concept of a hierarchal church that, for political expediency, was wedded to the State.
Many of the early Anabaptists practiced foot-washing, as they had a fervent desire to follow the Scriptures entirely. Others, notably the Moravian Hutterites, had a strong desire to practice communal living and they battled through real problems to live in a most sincere and Biblical fashion. Peter Riedemann, a Moravian Hutterite Anabaptist, wrote a simple confession of faith in which a comparatively brief treatment of communal living was presented, and presented clear arguments to sanction the practice which was then quite common among his group. Reidemann felt that the concern for personal gain, which finds expression in the desire to possess things, was not a mirror of man's original sinless state. Such a desire is an expression of man's depraved, unregenerate nature. Man was not created to appropriate God's creation for his own personal ends, Reidemann continued, and as this is the way of the world, a true disciple of Christ cannot conform to the world. Therefore, he who will not forsake private property cannot be a disciple of Christ. Then he brought the example of the Jerusalem church to bear as the clinching argument, and hence, the community of goods is held to be a necessity for true Christian living. There are few contemporary Christians living a New Testament life, yet the abiding principle that what we have is not our own is New Testament teaching, and wealth is only excusable if it is used for others. The communal living of the Hutterites clearly had much to commend it and was obviously based on the New Testament example which contrasts massively with the obscene and blatant flaunting of wealth by Papal Rome.
When most of Europe was still illiterate, the Hutterites had an excellent school system, and education was compulsory. They believed the continuation of their movement needed educated people who could live their Christian lives according to the New Testament. The Hutterites took their name from Jacob Hutter, one of their early leaders who was captured in November, 1535, imprisoned at the episcopal fortress at Brandzell and then Innsbruck where he was whipped and tortured on the rack. His failure to recant led to his execution at the stake in February, 1536. The fierce persecution continued. In late 1539, the Roman Catholic authorities chained ninety able-bodied Hutterite men and sent them on a long journey by foot to Trieste, where they were to become galley slaves. However, God intervened, and 78 of these men escaped and eventually returned to their homeland.
Melchior Hoffman should be mentioned as an example of a man who started out aiming for the truth but then fell by the wayside, for he was the first man to introduce Anabaptist teaching into the Netherlands. In his early years, he was a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, but on April 30, 1530, aged about 35, he was baptized into the Strassburg Anabaptist brotherhood. Less than two months after his baptism he is recorded as having had phenomenal success in his preaching endeavours, publicly baptizing about 300 people. The authorities opposed him vehemently and he wrote to defend his views on Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Sadly, within a few years, his eschatology became influenced by personal experiences and supposed 'revelations' from a fellow Anabaptist who prophesied that Hoffman would perform the role of John the Baptist in the return of Christ, which was to occur in less than two years! Despite the clear warning in scripture that 'no man knows about that day or hour' (Matthew 24:36), Hoffman became convinced that this was true, and that he himself had to be imprisoned in Strassburg, which God had chosen to be the New Jerusalem. At his instigation, he was arrested, and awaited Christ's return from his cell in Strassburg. His lack of sound theology instigated others to more fanaticism and he pined away in prison while Satan inspired two unscrupulous opportunists, Jan Matthys (who called himself Enoch) and Jan of Lwyden (who called himself King David) to become leaders. Hoffman became the forgotten man and died in prison in 1543, ten long years after he had cheerfully entered prison to await God's deliverance in a matter of months. Under 'Enoch' and 'King David', visions and revelations multiplied and it was 'discovered' that the New Jerusalem was now to be Munster, not Strassburg. The supererogatory revelations continued and 'created an atmosphere quite unlike that of the general Anabaptist, which was rivetted in God's Word. The only thing Matthys and Jan of Lyden had in common with Anabaptists was their 're-baptizing.' Who should we compare Hoffman to - the 'popes' who started bad, killed thousands - and condemned even more to the Hell they have earned for themselves and the disciples (Matthew 23v15) they have made of their own, thoroughly false, doctrines?
Much of Holland's Anabaptist community was caught up in the fanaticism of Munster and it looked like the whole movement, which had started so Scripturally, was to be discredited by a group of fanatics who succeeded in swaying many in the Lowlands. Finally, however, rationality started to prevail. An Anabaptist group, motivated by Scriptural teaching, excommunicated the Munsterites. Obbe Phillips, who previously had joined in with the revelations, became more and more disillusioned with the Munsterites. He was among the first Dutch Anabaptist to champion the non-violent, anti-Munsterite Anabaptist party in the Netherlands. He also ordained Menno Simons.
Menno Simons, after whom the Mennonites were named, is erroneously labelled founder of the Mennonites by Markoe. That he was the most influential and fruitful is not questioned. He eventually renounced the Catholic Church, left the priesthood and cast aside that pampered, comfortable, life for that of a hounded, hunted heretic. This decision to stand for the Lord in the Anabaptist camp came while the remembrance of Munster was still in the minds of most people. Menno Simons' great influence was due not so much to the profundity of his theology, but more to the warmth of his personality and his administrative ability. His influence among Dutch Anabaptists was such that their history could well be recorded in three periods: before Menno, under Menno and after Menno. During his time as a Catholic priest Menno was educated in keeping with that of an ordinary parish priest of the day. The Bible was an unknown book to him and, in fact, he testifies to not having read the Bible because he feared it might mislead him. But he was finally drawn to the New Testament to resolve difficulties in his mind and soon found out about the emptiness of Papal Romanism.
Everything Menno read in the Scriptures became a part of his preaching ministry while he was still a priest. However, it wasn't until he heard of the martyrdom of an otherwise unknown Anabaptist (Sicke Snider, who was beheaded at Leeuwarden for being re-baptized), that he seriously studied the Scriptures, and came away with theological discoveries that were to shape his life, and the life of the movement which afterward took his name. At first, his efforts resulted in a defense of the faith against the Munsterites who, he said, possessed zeal without knowledge. However, he saw in them a devotion which he did not possess, and the agony of his soul in a fresh Anabaptist persecution was one of the goads which God used to draw him man into the truth. Three hundred Anabaptists, including Menno's brother, sought refuge at the Old Cloister, but rather than receive protection, they were put to death. He wrote, 'The blood of these people, although misled, fell hot on my heart.' In April 1535, Menno was truly converted, but all of the events of the past years were to be used of God to transform him into a servant that could and would be mightily used of God. Following the lead of so many other Reformers, who hoped that the Papal Roman Catholic Church could be Reformed from within, he attempted to preach the Gospel from his Roman Catholic pulpit. But finally, after nine months struggle, his timidity was overcome by the sheer impossibility of what he was doing. His testimony was: 'Then I, without constraint, of a sudden, announced all my worldly reputation, name and fame, my unchristian abominations, my masses, infant baptism, and poverty under the heavy cross of Christ.'
Immediately, God used him among local Anabaptists. Some who were still deceived by the false prophecies which had plagued the Munsterites, were brought back to the faith of Christ by Menno. It is unknown just when he was baptized, but on October 24, 1536, Herman and Gerritt Jans were arrested and charged with having given lodging to the former priest, Menno Simons. Menno was probably ordained in 1537, and immediately he began an active ministry among the Anabaptists. His testimony of life as an Anabaptist preacher was not exaggerated. He wrote:
'I with my poor, weak wife and children have for eighteen years endured anxiety, oppression affliction, misery and persecution. Yes, when the preachers repose on easy beds and soft pillows, we generally have to hide ourselves in out-of-the-way corners. We have to be on guard when a dog barks for fear the arresting officer has arrived. In short, while they are gloriously rewarded for their services with large incomes and good times, our recompense and portion be with fire, sword and death' (Writings, Menno Simons, p. 674).
An edict had been published in 1539 commanding all Anabaptists to leave the province. Menno fled to Friesland, and resumed his ministry. There, he was given hospitality by Tjard Reynerds, who was repaid by the authorities by being arrested, broken on the wheel, and executed. Menno became so notorious an Anabaptist leader that pardon was offered to any Anabaptist then in confinement who would deliver Menno into their hands, but no traitors were forthcoming. Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, then published an edict against Menno and placed a price of a hundred gold guilders on his head. People were warned against giving him shelter, and any known followers were to be arrested immediately. Complete pardon for any crime was promised to anyone delivering Menno into the hands of the authorities. Hunted from pillar to post, Menno laboured near Amsterdam for the next two years, and even found time to write. During this period, he wrote Christian Baptism, Foundation Of Christian Doctrine and True Christian Faith. In 1543, he left Holland and finished his life's work in comparative peace in Northern Germany, dying in 1561.
As early as 1544, the term 'Mennonite' was used in a letter from John a Lasco, a Reformed minister, to Countess Anna. He asked for a more lenient policy toward the Mennonite party, which he distinguished from other more fanatical Anabaptist groups, although these are generally included indiscriminately with the more Biblical Anabaptism of Menno and other Biblical leaders. Menno combatted these fanatical groups and was successful in leading the Anabaptists away from these false doctrines, some of which were merely a remnant of the Munsterite heresy. Menno held to the Scriptural truths of historical, orthodox Christianity and, as such, had to exercise Biblical discipline against others who, although they also escaped from the Roman priesthood, fell into false doctrine along the way. It is these false doctrines that are often mistakenly thought to have been the general faith of the Anabaptists, when in actual fact they were aberrations that were severely, and correctly, dealt with by Menno and the other Anabaptist leaders. He died in early 1561, at the age of 65, having spent 40 years in Roman Catholic darkness and 25 years as a Christian. His ministry was comparatively long for Anabaptists, and it seems the Lord kept him on the scene for this period of time to cement together much of what could have crumbled due to the Munsterite fiasco, but which God wanted to use as a foundation upon which to build a Biblical Baptistic witness in the world.
Can anyone claim that Rome is even slightly Biblical?
Many see a clear association between John Knox and Oliver Cromwell and try to link the latter with all that was extreme in Scotland. Knox, in his book 'The Reformation of Scotland', outlined the whole process without which, some claim, the British model of government under Oliver Cromwell would never have been possible. Knox was more consistently covenantal in his thinking and recognized that civil government is based on a covenant between the magistrate (or the representative or king) and the populace. His view was that when the magistrate defects from the covenant, it is the duty of the people to overthrow him.
Cromwell was not a learned scholar, as was Knox, nevertheless God elevated him to a greater leadership role. Oliver Cromwell was born into a common family of English country Puritans having none of the advantages of upbringing that would prepare him to be leader of a nation. Yet he had a God-given ability to earn the loyalty and respect of men of genius who served him throughout his lifetime. John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress served under his command in the English Civil War, and John Milton, who penned Paradise Lost, served as his personal secretary. His exploits as a man who held to the basics of the Puritan faith and defended them with zeal earned him the respect of the Puritan locals and they sent him to Parliament as their representative. There he attracted attention with his blunt, forceful speech as a member of the Independent Party which was made up of Puritans.
The English people were bent upon the establishment of a democratic parliamentary system of civil government and the elimination of the 'Divine Right of Kings'. King Charles I, the tyrant who had long persecuted the English Puritans by having their ears cut off and their noses slit for defying his attempts to force episcopacy on their churches, finally clashed with Parliament as the people opposed him. The Puritans, or 'Roundheads' as they were called, finally led a civil war against the King and his Cavaliers. When he discerned the weaknesses of the Roundhead army, Cromwell made himself captain of the cavalry. Cromwell had never been trained in war, but from the very beginning he showed consummate genius as a general. Cromwell understood that successful revolutions were always fought by men who knew the land - farmers and related occupations - so he gathered a thousand such men, hand-picked Puritans who were used to the open fields. His regiment was nicknamed 'Ironsides' and was never defeated once, although when they fought they were usually greatly outnumbered - at times three to one. It was an army the likes of which hadn't been seen since ancient Israel. They would recite the Westminster Confession and march into battle singing the Psalms of David, striking terror into the heart of the enemy. Cromwell amassed a body of troops and soon became commander-in-chief. His discipline created the only body of regular troops on either side who preached, prayed, paid fines for profanity and drunkenness, and charged the enemy singing hymns - a strange anomaly in an age when every vice imaginable characterized soldiers and mercenaries. Sadly, another good start quickly degenerated into errors comparable, in some ways, to Papal Rome.
Charles I invited an Irish Catholic army to his aid, an action for which he was tried for high treason and beheaded shortly after the war. After executing the national sovereign, Parliament assumed power. But the success of the new democracy in England was short-lived, for Cromwell found that a democratic parliamentary system run by squires and lords oppressed the common people, and was almost as corrupt, as the deposed king had been. As Commander-in-Chief of the army, Cromwell was able to seize rulership and served a term as 'Lord Protector.' During the fifteen years in which Cromwell ruled, he drove pirates from the shores of England, set English captives free, and subdued any threat from France, Spain and Italy. Cromwell made Great Britain a respected and feared power the world over. He maintained a large degree of tolerance for rival denominations and stood for a national church without bishops. The ministers might be Presbyterian, Independent or Baptist. Dissenters were allowed to meet in gathered churches and even Roman Catholics and Quakers were tolerated. He worked for reform of morals and the improvement of education. He strove constantly to make England a genuinely Christian nation and she enjoyed a brief 'Golden Age' in her history.
When Charles I was beheaded the view of Cromwell, and the Puritans, was that the king had broken covenant and could then be legitimately deposed. The Puritan understanding of the covenantal nature of government was also the foundation for American colonial government. This was true of Massachusetts and Connecticut and, to a lesser extent, in the Southern colonies. When the Mayflower Compact (an agreement, signed in 1620 by passengers on the Mayflower before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, which provided for a civil government based on the Bible; q.v. http://members.aol.com/caleb/compact.html ) was written, the Pilgrims had a covenantal idea of the nature of civil government which was a foundation for later colonies established throughout the 1600s.
Early in his career, as 'Lord Protector', Cromwell was moderate in most of his actions although his enemies claim, sarcastically, that 'he massacred only Catholics and Anglicans, not other Protestants'. After decimating an 'Anglican army' at Marston Moor, Cromwell wrote to his sister's husband:
Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory given to us, such as the like never was since this war began. We never charged but we routed the enemy. The left wing, which I commanded, being our own horse beat all the Prince's horse, God made them as stubble to our swords. Sir, God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannonshot. It broke his leg. We were forced to have it cut off, whereof he died. There is your precious child full of glory, to know sin nor sorrow any more. He was a gallant young man, exceeding gracious. God give you his comfort. (Wilbur Cortez Abbott ed., Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell; 1937)
When his army crushed the Irish Catholic army called by Charles I, he ordered the execution of the surrendered defenders of Drogheda and their priests, calling it 'a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches.' This mass slaughter by his Puritan troops (in 1649) of 3,552 Irish inhabitants of the seaport town of Drogheda, just north of Dublin, was matched by the sacking of Wexford and the killing of 2,000 of its citizens. Error was now heaped on error (presumably in a false mimicking of the Biblical conquest of Canaan) when the infamous 'Cromwellian Settlements' followed his conquest of Ireland. Millions of acres of land (41 percent of Antrim, 26 percent of Down, 34 percent of Armagh and 38 percent of Monaghan) were allocated to English Protestant settlers. The landowners of Irish birth were either killed, banished, or forced out to Connaught in the west of Ireland. From 1649 to 1652, one-third of the population of Ireland was destroyed and Sir William Petty, admittedly an unreliable English 'historian' with vested interests, detailed much of what occurred. Apparently, by 1658, when Cromwell died, Petty essentially owned county Kerry and was Earl of Landsdowne (as the British renamed Kerry) and wrote that '660,000 Irish people were killed.' Between ten and twenty thousand Irish boys and girls were claimed to have been sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other historians have challenged these figures, but it is clear that Ireland was devastated by Cromwell and those who were allowed to make use of the power vacuum. Irish peasant farmers who survived were forced to pay rent to their usurpers and once prosperous home grown industries were also destroyed because they competed with British factories.
Who originated much of the error that has led to so much bloodshed? Ambrose (340 - 397 A.D.), Bishop of Milan, was a pivotal influence on Augustine and his belief that the church should be used to control the state was practiced by Papal Rome for centuries and then copied to a degree by John Calvin's followers in Geneva and later, to a degree, by the Puritans. All of these atrocities and other errors came out of forming a 'new covenant' based on errors of interpretation, for it was never intended that there should be a church state or a state church. The New Covenant that God made through the blood of Jesus was not to be 'like the covenant I made with their fathers' and Christians were never meant to strive for 'a state church'. But the politically motivated, Satanically inspired, founder of Rome, the Emperor Constantine, made a state church once again so that persecution stopped and also stopped being the purifying element it had been. The very thing that Jesus died to get rid of, Constantine put back. But Ambrose brought in the idea that the church could actually force the emperors to submit to the authority of the church and even force people to go to war under threat of excommunication. This eventually affected England when the Norman Conquest (1066 A.D.) from France spread the power of Rome which eventually carried over to Ireland and has been the cause of the murderous mayhem ever since! The Norman king of England, Henry II (1154 - 1189 A.D.) was threatened with excommunication by Pope Adrian IV if he would not invade Ireland and put an end to the Celtic church and force the Irish to accept the Papal Roman Catholic Church. The Celtic church was far more Biblical than Papal Rome had ever been and 'The Confessions of Patrick' make it clear that he knew nothing of Mariology, Papal superstitions, Confessions, or Purgatory - so, obviously, Rome had to put an end to these 'heretics.' The popes have always used their power politically and only a foolish person would try and argue that they would not do so today if they had the capacity. In fact, through the Jesuits and Opus Dei, a Roman Catholic cult founded by a political fascist in Spain called Jose Marie Escrive (who was canonized 'a saint' by Pope John Paul II in 2002!) they are continually trying to extend their influence just as they did in one of their recent worst eras during World War II, controlling international fascism of every sort: Franco in Spain, Peron in Argentina, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany (who can deny Adolf's known concordat with Roman Catholic Bishops?). Rome has always done this and the 'Reformers' and their offspring should have known better than to mimic the popes in any way.
Some Puritans who emigrated to America, and settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s, made the same mistakes as Cromwell, the popes, and Calvin, when they created a religious police state where doctrinal deviation could lead to flogging, pillorying, hanging, cutting off ears, or boring through the tongue with a hot iron. Preaching Quaker beliefs was made a capital offense and four stubborn Quakers who defied this law were hanged. In the 1690s the same old fear of witches seized the colony and twenty alleged witches were killed and 150 others imprisoned. At least Cromwell was involved in a just civil war before his atrocities began - but there is no excuse for the subsequent actions which were under the jurisdiction of a supposedly New Testament Christian leader.
Bennett, M - The English Civil War, (Longman Group Ltd, London, 1995)
Briggs, R - Witches and Neighbours, (Fontana Press, London, 1997)
Friedman, J - Miracles and the Pulp Press During the English Revolution, (University of London Press, London, 1993)
Hart, R - Witchcraft - The Documentary History Series (Wayland Ltd, Hove, 1971)
Heard, N - Tudor Economy and Society, (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1995)
Hopkins, M - The Discovery of Witches, (Partizan Press, Leigh-on Sea, Essex, reprint 1992)
Laurance, A - Women in England 1500-1760 - A Social History, (Weldenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1995)
Sharpe, J - Instruments of Darkness - Witchcraft in England 1550-1750, (Penguin Books, London, 1996)
Swain, J - Witchcraft in the Seventeenth Century England, (Stuart Press, Bath, 1994)
How did we actually get the Bible?
What do we learn from these persecutions and massacres brought about by men who selectively chose which passages of the Bible to follow and reject the whole counsel of God? There is a massive difference in following the Scriptural example of Judges 19-20 - when the side which held the moral high-ground (they eventually consulted God and He delivered the offenders into their hand - Judges 20:28) proved this fact by massacring the tribe of Benjamin for their moral decadence in allowing the rape, abuse, and murder of one woman! The book of Judges concludes (Judges 21:25):
'In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.'
Israel was equally devastated when they realised what they had done to one of their own tribes. But, such was their decadence, that their remedy was equally extreme (Judges 21).
While we do not condone the actions of men such as Cromwell for an instant, we recognise that he also lived in days when Papal Rome had brought a darkness to the land akin to the dark days of the Judges and, once again, history repeated itself and 'everyone did what was right in his own eyes.' Few 'Christian' groups have come close to bringing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in its' full glory to his fellow man, but we can easily prove that Papal Rome has never, ever, come close to being Biblical.
At we clearly identified the Popes and their Church as being as vile as Islam in their theology and actions in our letter to Professor John Casey in which we concluded that: 'The only thing Casey has proven in his article is that Rome and Islam have the same agenda as the Nazis, and are anti-Christ!'
You write: 'Another way Fundamentalists try to revise History is in trying to get around how we actually got the Bible. To deny that the Bible comes from the Catholic Church is to run away from reality. You seem to believe that God just floated the Bible down from Heaven, all leather-bound, and told some 'Christians' to spread it around. It didn't happen that way. While it is true that early Christians considered some writings to be inspired before they were officially declared so by the Catholic Church, there was no agreement on which ones were inspired. Several lists have been found pre-dating the 4th century of books considered to be inspired, but they were all different. Some books that are in the Bible now were omitted, while others were included that are not in our present Bible. That is why it took the convening of Catholic Church councils in the late 4th and early 5th centuries to decide just which books belonged in the Bible. We would not have the Bible as we know it today if it were not for the Catholic Church, and to deny that is to deny cold hard fact.'
TCE: Trying to put words into our mouths when you are bereft of factual support (and any 'cold, hard facts'!) simply shows the weakness of the Papal Roman Catholic position. For you to write, farcically: 'You seem to believe that God just floated the Bible down from Heaven, all leather-bound, and told some 'Christians' to spread it around. It didn't happen that way' shows that you have paid zero attention to our exposition of the facts. When you write: 'Several lists have been found ...' and then carry on writing as if that should be accepted as fact, we can only point out how correct you were in your initial, supposedly honest and modest appraisal: 'I do not have the physical or mental capacity ... to fully reply to what you wrote.'
We have shown clearly that the Papal Roman Catholic Church decided these books belonged in the Bible shortly after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Council of Trent (A.D. 1545 - 1563) only canonized these books some 1500 years after they were written, as a reaction against the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not having Scriptural support for such doctrines as praying for the dead and, by canonizing the Apocrypha - which offers support for praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:45-46 - the Catholics then had 'Scriptural' support for this and other distinctively Catholic doctrines. We have also already stated the facts concerning the preservation and canonisation of the Bible and the orthodox position can be summarised:
Many church fathers denied the Apocrypha.
Early Christian evidence argues against the Apocrypha.
The Palestinian Jews of the early Christian era rejected the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha contains historical errors.
The Apocrypha contains un-Biblical doctrines.
The Apocrypha was probably not in the earliest versions of the Septuagint.
Scenes from the Apocrypha on Roman catacomb walls do not prove the Apocrypha's canonicity.
Church councils are human institutions whose opinions sometimes reflect human fallibility.
The presence of apocryphal books at Qumran (among the 'Dead Sea Scrolls') does not prove their canonicity.
(Continued on page 287)