Exposing Dr. J. M. Carroll’s


    In 1931 J. M. Carroll published a booklet entitled “Trail of Blood”. Although that booklet claims to present a history of Baptists, it contains so much misinformation, distortion, and outright falsehood that I  feel a responsibility to expose the false history that it presents.

    Concerning the origin of Baptist churches, the Encyclopedia Britannica says this:
“BAPTISTS, members of locally autonomous Christian churches, whose historians have proposed various hypotheses to explain their origin. The only tenable theory of Baptist origin, however, is that they derive from English Congregationalism in early 17th century… Not until the time of John Smyth (d. 1612) did the Baptist movement in England break away from Brownism (see Congregationalism). Smyth had been appointed an Anglican clergyman and lecturer in Lincoln (1600). As a Separatist he led the Gainsbrough church whose members, with those of Scrooby Manor, migrated to Holland (1606). The latter group settled at Leyden and were represented among the Pilgrims aboard the “Mayflower”; the former went to Amsterdam. The Arminianism of the Mennonites and their rejection of infant baptism appealed to Smyth… When Smyth later proposed closer association with the Mennonites, a schism occurred and the dissenters supporting Thomas Helwys (1560-1616) returned to London, forming the first Baptist church worshipping English soil. The church met in Newgate street, London, and so the origin of the “General Baptists,” so-called because they repudiated the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination and affirmed Arminian view of individual responsibility. They also held that no church ought to challenge any prerogative over any other”; and that “the magistrate is not to meddle with religion, or matters of conscience nor compel men to this or that form of religion.” By 1644 they had 47 churches and up to 1653 affusion [pouring] persisted as the mode of baptism.” (1956 edition, volume 3, page 87)

    While J. M. Carroll makes no mention of John Smyth, or any of the history recounted in the preceding paragraph, he cannot deny the fact that there were not any Baptist churches before that time. To get around that fact, he makes two totally false claims. He claims that Anabaptists were actually Baptists, and that they existed from the time of the Apostles. And, he claims that many of the other sects that have appeared over the centuries were actually Baptists by a different name.

    Although I intend to show why those claims are false, I don’t want you to take my word for it. In the back of the booklet “Trail of Blood,” you will find a fold out chart that claims to illustrate the origin of denominations. That chart lists the sects that J. M. Carroll claims were Baptist by another name. A number of those sects still exist, and you can find out what they really believe simply by going to their web-site.

    For example: The Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites are Anabaptists, However, it should be obvious that they are not Baptists as J. M. Carroll claimed. While they reject infant baptism, they baptize by pouring (not immersion), and they did not exist before 1525. The following statement is from “anabaptistchurch.org”

“The first Anabaptist congregation was organized by Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock & Felix Manz in Zollikon, Switzerland in 1525. This congregation began calling themselves “Brothers in Christ”. They were truly brothers in Christ according to their first "Church Order", written in 1527, and called the Swiss Order or The Congregational Order:  ‘Of all the brothers and sisters in this congregation none shall have anything of his own, but rather, as the Christians in the time of the apostles held all in common, and especially stored up in a common fund, from which aid can be given to the poor, according as each will have need, and as in apostles' time permit no brother to be in need.’”  (translated by John H. Yoder)

    Likewise, the Waldensians have not existed from ancient times as J. M. Carroll claimed, and since they baptize infants they are clearly not Baptists. The following statement is from “waldensian.org”
“The Waldensian Church originated with the preaching of the merchant Valdo (Waldo of Lyons, from whom the church’s name originates), 1140 - 1217. He lived during the same period as Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 or 1182 – 1226). Like Francis, Waldo also believed in the value of the evangelical poverty of the early church and, after a profound spiritual crisis, gave all his assets to the poor in order to freely preach.”
    Far from being a separate church as J. M. Carroll would have us believe, the Donitists were Catholics who disagreed with the Pope over certain issues. A Catholic article that I found on the internet has this to say about them: “the Donatists were not heretics.  They upheld Catholic doctrine and always considered themselves part of the Catholic Church, though separated from Rome.”

    Far from being Baptists, the second century sect known as the Montanists were started by a priest named Montanus. While he claimed to have some of the gifts of the Spirit, he also claimed that Christ’s sacrifice was not successful in saving the whole world, and that he (rather than the Holy Spirit) was the comforter that Christ promised to send.

     The Paulicians were started by Constantine of Mananalis in the seventh century. While they rejected the Catholic hierarchy and sacraments, most of them had their children baptized by Catholic clergy. Far from being Baptists, they rejected the Old Testament, and much of the New Testament. At the same time, they believed that there were two God’s (one who made the evil material world, and one that made the good spiritual world) but denied that Christ was God, claiming that He was an angel.

    Mr. Carroll also quotes Mosheim as saying, “Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists.” What he does not tell his readers is that the “Dutch Baptists” Mosheim spoke of were Mennonites. In addition, his reference to people who “lay secreted,” may have included Waldensians, Lollards, Hussites, and others who had separated themselves from Rome, but could not have included Baptists or Anabaptists since they did not exist at that time. Furthermore, “the principles” that Mosheim referred to included a dependence on works, for contrary to what Mr. Carroll claims, no one prior to Luther (other than the Apostles, and possibly some of their immediate disciples) taught justification by faith alone without the works of the law (Romans 3:28).

[Note: John Bunyan, the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress” and a man who has been called the Baptist Apostle of England, came to faith in Christ through reading Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians.]


    Those who falsify Baptist history undermine the credibility of what we say about salvation, and that can only hinder the work of leading people to Christ. If it is wrong for the papacy to falsify its own history, it wrong for Baptists to do the same thing.

    Furthermore, it was less than honest for J. M. Carroll to portray Ulrich Zwingli as the nemesis of Baptists, when most Baptists are theologically Zwinglian. It is true that Zwingli tortured some Anabaptists. However, since Calvin was Zwingli’s successor, and both Arminianism and Dispensationalism branched off of Calvinism, the only non-Zwinglian influence in Baptist theology, is that of Martin Luther. And, Luther regarded Zwingli as a false teacher.

    The key factor that set Luther’s theology apart from Zwingli’s had to do with the definition of doctrine. Zwingli taught his own opinions as doctrine while explaining away passages that did not agree with what he thought. In contrast, Luther believed that Scripture is so clear that we can teach what it actually says, and should regard those truths explicitly stated in the text as the divine doctrine while rejecting any doctrine that contradicts the words of Scripture (1Corinthians 1:13, Isaiah 8:20). “Neither ought any doctrine be taught or heard in the church but the pure Word of God, that is to say, the Holy Scriptures; otherwise accursed be both the teachers and hearers together with their doctrine.” (Martin Luther, quoted by Dr. Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, pg 52)


    I do not need a false history to validate what I believe. Not only has every Christian congregation (including the one I belong to) been started by Christians that came from another congregation, which in turn was started by Christians who came from another congregation all the way back to the Apostles, but true Apostolic succession is determined by the Word of God, not men. The only men who can honestly claim to be successors of the Apostles, are those who are carrying on the work of the Apostles by teaching and preaching the doctrines they gave us in Scripture (2Corinthians 1:13).

Gary Ray Branscome