St. Patrick was a Baptist
John Summerfield Wimbish, D.D.
The source for this
record is a 1952 tract, published by the Calvary Radio Ministry, New York
~ August, 1997
SAINT PATRICK WAS A BAPTIST. After a cautious and critical study of reputable writings, I am thoroughly convinced that he was not affiliated in any way with the Roman hierarchy.
It is indeed magnanimous of our Catholic friends to give this humble missionary of ours such prominence on their scroll of illustrious saints. Think of it: they have even erected cathedrals in his honor. However, we feel it is time to sweep the cobwebs of superstition and the dust of legend off this dear old preacher of the Cross.
To most of us, Patrick is a mythical being, vaguely associated with a serpent exodus from the Emerald Isle. Other misconceptions are that he was Irish, that he was an emissary of the Pope and that his name was Patrick. All these are false. He was not Irish, he was in his honored grave 175 years before his name was even mentioned in Catholic writings * and his real name was Sucat, which means "warlike" in Modern Welsh.1 For the sake of simplicity, throughout this message we will refer to him as Patrick.
Let us consider first of all,
I. Patrick's History
The libraries of the world contain innumerable biographies of Patrick which we cannot accept as valid. An examination of the facts will reveal that the honored historians of the hierarchy have not always been characterized by honesty, and during the Middle Ages such a web of superstition was spun around this evangelistic zealot that his real self has been distorted in the minds of millions. Most of these traditions and myths may be found in the seven ancient lives of Patrick, assembled and published in 1647 under the title Trias Thaumaturga.
There are two documents by Patrick which are recognized by all parties as being genuine: his "Confession" or "Epistle to the Irish" and his epistle to the Christians under the cruel king, Coroticus. Then too, we should mention the Lorica or Hymn of Patrick, originally written in Latin and known as The Breastplate. These authentic writings in an irrefutable way support our convictions concerning the Apostle to the Irish.
Patrick, in his own
"Confession" tells us that he was a Briton, not an Irishman. He
first saw the light of day in the town of
At sixteen years of age,
our hero was captured by a band of Scottish slave-dealing pirates who sold
him to the Druid chieftain, Milcho, who reigned in the north of
It was during this time
of servitude in the bleak forests of
He relates how, after six
years, he managed to escape from his master and, after a tortuous journey
over sea and land, returned to his people in
Like the great apostle
Paul, he received a clear and personal "Macedonian call" from the
Lord of harvest to preach the Gospel in the land of his former captivity.
Patrick described his call in these words: "Again,
I was in
"And while I was reading the beginning of the epistle I thought in my mind that I heard the voice of those who were near the wood Focluti, which is near the western sea. And they shouted thus: 'We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and live amongst us.' And I was greatly pained in my heart, and could not read very much more; and thus I was proved. Thank God, that after many years the Lord performed to them according to their entreaty."
From these words it is
evident that his call to go as a missionary to
Dr. J. Lewis Smith, in his scholarly treatise, "Patrick of Ireland Not A Romanist," says, "We have in hand now 140 letters of Pope Leo the Great and we have not found a line written by him or any other Pope or any other man rejoicing over the wonderful additions to the Roman Church by Patrick and his disciples." 2
Patrick, like Paul, "had the mighty ordination of the nail-pierced hands." The Book of Darrow, one of the oldest of Irish manuscripts, says nothing about his being an ecclesiastic of Rome and in his letter to the Christians under Coroticus and in his "Confession" Patrick makes no mention whatsoever of his being consecrated as a diocesan bishop.
Dr. Hamilton, in his
We are certain that
Patrick was a product of the
This leads us to examine
At forty years of age, the amazing Patrick began his magnificent work on the Emerald Isle. His mission field was wild and primitive. The people who inhabited its primeval forests were animists and they worshiped such things as trees and stones and wells. They believed that spirits dwelt in these idols and they sacrificed their little children on heathen alters to appease the gods and to secure, so they thought, better harvests.
About a year after his
Ah, this should put iron
in our blood! Glorious, audacious Patrick challenged all the forces of hell.
Not a little flame did he kindle, but a bonfire! All the people were
transfixed and King Loigaire was amazed at his daring and said: "If we
do not extinguish this flame it will sweep over all
When the flames of the
great conflagration on
But in the dim light of
that Easter morn, in the year
We are told that Patrick and his company advanced toward the Irish sovereign arrayed in white and carrying crosses and singing the evangelist's hymn in all its majestic cadence:
After the king believed,
Patrick won and baptized multiplied thousands of converts and ere his
thirty-three years of ministry were finished, all
In his second lecture on Ireland, John L. Stoddard states: "During the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries, especially, this farthest boundary of the Continent held aloft and kept aflame the torch of Christian faith, and glittered like a star upon the dark horizon of the western world." 6
Even so cautious and reliable a historian as Green, in his "Short History of the English Bible," says: "For a time it seemed as if the course of the world's history was to be changed; as if that older Celtic race which the Roman and German had swept before them had turned to the moral conquest of their conquerors; as if Celtic and not Latin Christianity was to mould the destinies of the Church of the West." 7
This was the beginning of
the golden age of
The real Patrick was a Bible-reading, Bible-believing, Bible-preaching missionary and it was the unadulterated Gospel of the Son of God that lifted the Irish out of the darkness of paganism into the glorious light of the Truth.
Hands that once grasped
the sword were now folded reverently in prayer. The heathen stone idols,
known as Cromlechs, that once
marked their graves gave way to the cross of Jesus. Druid paganism was
crushed and the "buffer state of
incidentally, was an Irish Catholic, in his work entitled, "Views of
It was not until the year
Study the pathetic
history and you will be as firmly convinced as I that Catholicism has been
more guilty of blighting the Irish than the invasion of the Danes from the
North or the failure of the potato crop in which one-fourth of its entire
population was destroyed. It takes no student of world economy to discover
that wherever the
Then I would refer you to
III. Patrick's Theology.
You will notice that throughout the sermon I have not labelled him "Saint" Patrick. We Baptists do not refer to our preachers as "saints."
None of the many volumes in my library and others at my disposal sheds any light on the beatification and canonization of the "Patron Saint of Ireland." So, as a final resort to secure this information, one of our staff members called the research librarian of one of the leading Catholic universities in our city. He was very gracious but after searching through The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Dictionary of Saints, and several other volumes, he reported that Patrick was neither beatified nor canonized for it was not until about the 1200's that the Papal Bull was issued which set forth the requirements for Sainthood. Consequently, Patrick, along with Augustine and others, was engulfed by the Romish system without the formalities usually attendant such procedures.
Realizing that at least four miracles must be accredited to a candidate for this exalted position, our worker probed further to discover what miracles Patrick had performed, whereupon the librarian said: "Well, the only miracle I could find was that on one Easter day shamrocks sprang from a wound in his body. If that actually happened, it was a miracle!" And our staff member replied, tongue in cheek: "Yes, if that actually happened, it certainly was a miracle!"
The Roman Catholic Church down through the years has been very adept at "saint-making," but this old preacher was certainly not one of them. "I, Patrick, a sinner" -- that is the way the "Patron Saint of Ireland" begins his own "Confession." He starts his letter to Coroticus in the same striking manner.
The late Dr. Ironside reminds us, "Whatever others may have thought of him or may think of him today, Patrick knew himself as a sinner and found salvation where only sinners find it, in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ." 9
Rome's most notorious theft was when she seized bodily the apostle Peter and made him to be the infallible head and founder of her system of error. Imagine Peter, who in humility said to Cornelius: "Stand up, I myself also am a man," placed on a pedestal as "Vicar of God on Earth." It would have been exceedingly difficult to convince Peter of his infallibility shortly after he heard the cock crow.
But surely alongside the
theft of Peter stands this brazen act of Catholicism -- that of enrolling the
great missionary preacher of
How humble, how deeply spiritual was Patrick. And though we as Baptists may not agree with every method he used, we do know he cherished all the leading principles that we accept.
Whereas the Roman Church dates its beginnings from the day when Jesus Christ said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," we know that the hierarchy was not set up until many years later when the Emperor Constantine looked with favor upon Christianity.
For four centuries after
the resurrection of Jesus the fire of God had spread. It was a period of
glory and conquest. The preaching of the Cross was overcoming the world.
There was bitter persecution but the blood of the martyrs was the the seed of
the Church. But then Constantine and Theodosius wedded the
Now, when did Baptists begin? No exact date can be set and we are proud of that. Some say we came into being with John Smyth in the year 1611. It is true that the title "Baptist" was not affixed to our churches until about that time; however, all of us know that there were many Democrats before Thomas Jefferson was ever born, but the Democratic Party began with that great exponent of democracy.
In order to consummate
the adulterous union between the
We as Baptists claim that
the principles of our church date back to that day when the "heavens were opened" and a "voice from heaven" said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased." As someone has well said: "Baptists have no
founder but Jesus and were born the day He stood with John the Baptist in the
Permit me to parallel the
beliefs of Patrick and those of the
1. BAPTISTS RECOGNIZE CHRIST JESUS AS THEIR HEAD AND FOUNDER. "He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have preeminence." (Col. 1:18) As far as I know, we are the only group of Christians who holds that Jesus, during His personal ministry, constituted His Church.
Patrick was a Baptist. No one can read his writings, especially the "Breastplate," without knowing that he exalted Christ and secured his authority from Him. Christ was all in all to him. Have no fear, this old warrior of the Faith never bowed the knee to mortal man.
ACCEPT THE BIBLE AS THE ONLY RULE OF FAITH AND PRACTICE. They believe that "All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (II Tim.
3:16) To them, the Bible is the final authority. Baptists know that the real
sword of the true Church is not the keen
Patrick was a Baptist. It was the sword of the Spirit he wielded against the pagan Druids. His writings overflow with Scripture. One hundred thirteen references or quotations from Holy Writ may be found in his two epistles and his alphabetical poem and, incidentally, there is never a mention of the merits of saints, salvation by sacraments, the Eucharist, relics or holy places, and you will search in vain for any superstitious teaching about the Virgin Mary and the heathenish doctrine of purgatory.
3. THE POLITY OF
Patrick was a Baptist. Any scholar worthy of the name, making an impartial study, will tell you that his form of church government was not diocesan and emphatically not papal. Our hero preached the Gospel from the Word of God, established an indigenous church, baptized believers and ordained clergymen.
Patrick was also "Baptistic" when it came to the matter of
4. REPENTANCE, FAITH AND CONVERSION BEFORE BAPTISM. In the "Tripartite Life of Patrick," the author marks this quotation concerning Patrick's views of the great commission of our Lord. He says: "Go, ye, teach. Meet is the order of teaching, before baptism. For it cannot be that the body, receive the sacrament of baptism, before the soul receives the verity of faith." 10
Patrick was a Baptist. Like them he believed
5. ONLY IMMERSION IS BAPTISM.
There is no intimation anywhere in Patrick's writings that he baptized infants, but there is mention of the fact that he immersed adults. Patrick, like the Baptists of this modern day, followed the New Testament mode of baptism by immersion. A great scholar, Dr. William Cathcart, in his Baptist Encyclopedia, says: "There are strong reasons for believing Patrick was a Baptist missionary and it is certain that his Baptism was immersion." 11
Now, if we could journey
to the Emerald Isle today, we could show you the Wells of Talmah in which he baptized many converts,
sometimes thousands in a day. Thomas Moore, in his history of
No less an authority than
Archbishop Usher says: "Patrick baptized his converts in
Patrick, himself, was immersed in one of these fountains. The "Tripartite Life of Patrick" says: "A Church moreover was founded over that well in which Patrick was baptized, and there stands the well (fountain) by the altar." 13
Patrick was a Baptist. Yes, our Catholic friends have given this early missionary-evangelist of ours a rather exalted place in their galaxy of ecclesiastics but in doing so they have denied him his rightful place in history as a valiant apostle of the true Christian faith.
If there is any Irishman
whose memory is more revered than that of Patrick it is Daniel O'Connell, the
great "Liberator." The impressive monument erected in his honor
1. Campbell, Thomas, History of
2. Carroll, J. M., The Trail of Blood, Byron-Page Printing
3. Cathcart, William, The Baptist Encyclopedia, Louis H. Everts, 1881.
4. Christian, John T., A History of the Baptists, Vol 2.,
Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention,
6. Dickens-Lewis, W. F., "Was St. Patrick a Presbyterian?", The Converted Catholic Magazine, May 1946.
7. Edman, V. Raymond, "St. Patrick goes to Confession," Moody Monthly, March 1948.
8. Ironside, H. A., The Real St. Patrick, Loizeaux
9. Mead, Frank S., See These Banners Go, Grosset &
Smith, J. Lewis, Patrick of
12. Stoddard, John L., Stoddard's Lectures -- Ireland, Geo. L. Schuman & Co., Chicago, Copyright 1901.
Vedder, Henry C., A Short History
of the Baptists, The American Baptist Publication Society,