by Dr. L. K. Landis
For centuries Roman Catholicism has laid claim to the supposition that Patrick of Ireland was a Roman priest. However, over 100 hundred years ago W. A. Jarrel, much respected author and church historian, put into print what had been known by Baptists since the very beginning, that Patrick was not a Catholic priest, but rather a Baptist missionary. It is because of this much neglected fact that we put into print this material so that this present generation may know the truth and great heritage of this early Baptist missionary to Ireland. So zealous were these historians of the 1800’s and so spirited was their conviction to this that one wrote, “Rome’s most audacious theft was when she seized bodily the Apostle Peter and made him the putative head and founder of her system; but next to that brazen act stands her effrontery when she ‘annexed’ the great missionary preacher of Ireland and enrolled him among her saints” (A Short History of the Baptists , Henry C. Vedder, pg. 71-72).
Most church historians agree that Patrick, originally named Succat (or Succathus) Patricus, was born sometime between the years 360 AD and 387 AD, probably near what is now Dumbarton, Scotland. It is also generally accepted by those knowledgable of the subject that he lived to a well advanced age, some placing him at over 100 years old at the time of his death.
Cathcart, the dean among Baptist apologists, suggests that Patrick is not his name, but rather a title of honor meaning noble and illustrous and was bestowed upon him by his grateful admirers (The Baptist Encyclopedia , by William Cathcart, pg. 886). His writings reveal that his father, Calpurnius, was a deacon in a Baptist church (we know that there were Baptist churches on the British Isle as far back as A.D. 63, History of the Welch Baptists , by J. Davis, Page 14), having apparently been converted to Christ while on a business trip to Rome as he also served as a Roman civil officer. In spite of being reared in a godly home and taught the ways of the Scriptures, Cathcart also states that the young Patrick was “…wild and wicked until his sixteenth year…” when, while working on his father’s farm, he and several others were seized and carried away captive by a band of pirates to Ireland, where he was sold into slavery to a petty Irish clan chieftan. For over five years he suffered the atrocities of slavery. Later, however, he would recount that it was during this most dark period of his life that he, himself, was converted to Christ remembering the Christian training he had received from his godly father while but a child.
Regarding this, W. A. Jarrel wrote over one hundred years ago, “…the truth which saved him when a youthful slave in pagan Ireland was taught him in the godly home of…his father” (Baptist Church Perpetuity or History , W. A Jarrel, pg. 472).
Historians also record that “…upon his twenty-first year, he escaped the chains of servitude…” and returned to his father’s home in Scotland, only to find that he had died and his land acquired by others. It was during this time that Patrick, “being a stronger Christian, the Lord soon called him back to Ireland as the missionary for that blinded country” (Ibid.). Jarrel further suggests that the more one studies the life, ministry and writings of this Irish “apostle”, “…the more he stands out as a Baptist.” He, Jarrel, is perhaps among the greatest authorities on the subject of Saint Patrick, as one full chapter of his makes several suggestions as to why Patrick could not have been a Roman Catholic priest:
1. “At the time of Saint Patrick the Romish church was only en embryo”.
2. “In St. Patrick’s time the authority of the bishop of Rome was not generally recognized.”
3. “There is no history to sustain the Romish claim that Patrick was sent to Ireland by Pope Celistine.” Not one of the early biographers of his life mentions any ties to Rome. Even in all the writings of Saint Patrick himself there is never any mention of connection with Rome.
Neander, the church historian, wrote, “If Patrick came to Ireland as a deputy from Rome, it might naturally be expected that in the Irish church a certain sense of dependence would always have been preserved towards the mother church. But we find, on the contrary, in the Irish church a spirit of church freedom, similar to that in Britain, which struggled against the yoke of Roman ordinances. We find subsequently among the Irish a much greater agreement with the ancient British than with Roman ecclesiastical usages.
This goes to prove that the origin of the church was independent of Rome, and must be traced solely to the people of Britain… Again, no indication of his connection with the Romish church is to be found in his confesssion; rather everything seems to favor the supposition that he was ordained bishop in Britain itself” (Neander’s History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, page 123).
Another Irish scholar says, “…Leo II, was bishop of Rome from 440 to 461 A.D. and upwards of one hundred and forty of his letters to correspondents in all parts of Christendom still remain and yet he never mentions Patrick or his work, or in any way intimates that he knew of the great work being done there.”
Professor George T. Stokes, still yet another prominent scholar, declares that prior to the synod of Rathbresail in A.D. 1112, the rule of each Irish church was independent, autonomous, and “…dioceses and diocesan episcopacy had no existence at all.”
Considering these indisputable and undeniable facts, it is impossible for Patrick to have been the patron Roman Catholic saint of Ireland. The material is just not there to substantiate any such claim. Baptist pastor, author and historian Gillham says that in the middle of the nineteenth century, Baptists universally accepted the fact that Patrick of Ireland was of apostolic tradition and therefore a Baptist. It was also commonly accepted that the baptism of the heirs to his ministry were also investigated and found to be New Testament in origin. It was only during these last 150 years that Baptists have been willing to relinquish Patrick to the hands of the papacy.
However, the insurmountable evidence of his position among the Baptists of antiquity comes from the writings of this great man himself. While several letters written by Patrick and sent to Christians converted to Christ under his ministry still exist, most of what we know of his beliefs are taken from two documents that he wrote: St. Patrick’s Confession, or Epistle to the Irish; and an “Epistle to Coroticus.” In these two writings that still survive, it becomes very apparent that this great preacher was not of Roman Catholic persuasion. He was a Baptist through and through, holding recognized Baptist positions on all the cardinal doctrines. Consider these eight (8) conclusive reasons why Saint Patrick was a Baptist!
Number One: St. Patrick Baptized Only Professed Believers
Contrary to Catholic dogma, which teaches that infants are to be “baptized”, in all of Patrick’s writings he does not mention one single incident when he baptized an infant, much less someone who had not professed Christ as their Saviour. Patrick records the baptism of one convert named Enda the night after his infant son, Cormac, was born. What an ideal opportunity to record the baptism of an infant, and yet Patrick makes no mention of it at all.
Only Enda, a professed believer; not his infant son who could make no claim of Christ. In all of his writings, the great Irish preacher never mentions or even alludes to pedobaptism (the baptism of infants). In fact, each time he refers to baptism at all he calls those ready for the ordinance of baptism “baptized captives”, “baptized handmaidens of Christ”, “baptized women distributed as rewards”, “baptized believers”, “men” and “women.” In one place, Patrick wrote, “Perhaps, since I have baptized so many thousand men, I might have expected half a screpall [a coin worth six cents] from some of them…” Notice that he refers to having baptized “…so many thousand men..”, no infants, but men; adult, professing, believing, responsible men. Another place he writes, “So that even after my death I may leave as legacies to my brethren…whom I have baptized in the Lord, so many thousand men.” Again he acknowledges the fact that he has baptized thousands of men, but not one infant.
Number Two: St. Patrick Baptized By Immersion Only
This has been a leading principle among the Baptists since the days of the Apostles and still is today. Again, in all of his writings there is not one shred of evidence that the Irish preacher knew anything of sprinkling. All of the records of his baptisms tell of immersion. Cathcart (along with Nennius, Todd, O’Farrell and other church historians) records one such instance, “When the saint entered Tirawly, the seven sons of Amalgaidh assembled with their followers. Profiting by the presence of so vast a multitude, the apostle entered into the midst of them, his soul inflamed with the love of God, and with a celestial courage preached the truths of Christianity; and so powerful was the effect of his burning words that the seven princes and over twelve thousand more were converted on that day, and were soon baptized in a spring called Tobar Enadhaire” (The Baptist Encyclopedia , by William Cathcart, page 887). Dr. Cathcart further states, “There is absolutely no evidence that any baptism but that of immersion of adult believers existed among the ancient Britons, in the first half of the fifth century, nor for a long time afterwards.”
In 1631 the English Baptists discovered, and subsequently corresponded with, small communities of Baptists in Ireland and found them to be sound. These churches, located in Dublin, Waterford, Clonmel, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Galloway, Wexford, Carrick Fergus and Kerry are listed in Joseph Ivimey’s comprehensive History of the English Baptists , Volume 1, Pages 240-241. It is believed that some of these churches had histories dating to the time of Patrick. Many of them can substantiate and confirm their claims of such for nearly 1100 years, which places them within two hundred years of Patrick.
Number Three: In Church Government,
St. Patrick Was A Baptist During his ministry, Patrick is recorded to have “founded 365 churches and consecrated the same number of bishops, and ordained 3,000 presbyters (Ancient British and Irish Churches, William Cathcart, page 282). Anglican Bishop Stillingfleet refers to an account of a great council of Brevy, Wales at which there were 118 Irish bishops. Noting that if these were Catholic bishops this little island was in danger of “…going to seed — in bishops.” Other historians concede that “…Saint Patrick placed a bishop in every church which he founded; and several presbyters after the example of the New Testament churches.” One such scholar, a Dr. Carew of Maynooth, admits that a bishop “…was simply the pastor of one congregation.” The Catholic and protestant idea of a bishop being the head over several churches in different cities was totally unknown among those early churches on the British Isles. This can be confirmed from writings of Irish clergymen dated from A.D. 1112 and reconfirmed from the same in A.D. 1057.
Number Four: Patrick Was A Baptist In Independence From Creeds, Councils, Popes, etc.
Patrick never attended one council and recognized no authority over him, save that of the Lord Jesus Himself. There is not any evidence whatsoever that even remotely suggests that the famed Irish preacher acknowledged any man to be of superior authority, power or position than he. He recognized no Pope. He recognized no Cardinal. In all of his writings it cannot be found where one time he subscribes to even the most insignificant and remote catechism, creed, or dogma of the Roman Catholic system. Of all the great Christians that Patrick refers to in his letters, he never pays homage to any Pope, nor mentions any man as being superior in church clergy. Instead, the great Irish missionary speaks of his love, regards, and terms of affection for those men whom had been ordained as pastors of the churches he founded. Upon the authority of the little Baptist church in Scotland where he was saved and from which he received his commission much as did Paul and Barnabus (Acts 15:22).
Number Five: In Doctrine
Patrick Was A Baptist In all of his writings, all of the doctrine that Patrick espouses adherence to is consistent with historic Baptist doctrine. The venerable preacher wrote, “It is Christ who gave His life for thee (and) is He who speaks to thee. He has poured out upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and assurance of immortality, who causes men to believe and become obedient that they might be the sons of God and joint heirs with Christ.” In this one statement, Patrick alludes to six (6) major Baptist doctrines:
a. Patrick believed in the substitutionary atonement of Christ. He did not believe that salvation comes through catechism, communion, confession or christening. He believes what Baptists have always believed, that all are saved by the Grace of God, through faith in His Son, coming in repentance, and by His blood. William Cathcart wrote, “There is no ground for doubting but that he preached the gospel of repentance and faith in Ireland, and that his ministrations were attended by overwhelming success” (The Baptist Encyclopedia, page 887).
b. He believes in the free gift of the Holy Spirit which comes to the believer at the moment of salvation. He does not believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a separate work of grace, nor is He manifested by speaking in tongues (John 14:16).
c. He also firmly conveys the message of the eternal security of the believer in that those who are genuinely saved have put on immortality (II Timothy 1:10).
d. He confirms his belief that men must be drawn by God in order to be saved (John 6:44).
e. Patrick affirms his conviction in the sonship of the believer (John 1:12). He believes that while Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, every true believer in Christ is also a son.
f. And the great Irish theologian attests to the fact that all believers are joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). Patrick’s doctrine is also recorded by his disciples. Comgall writes, “religion does not exist in bodily efforts…” Muirchu states that the ancient poet Dubthac was redeemed under the ministry of Patrick and that he “…first on that day believed in God and it was imputed to him for righteousness” No mention of baptism for salvation. No mention of a confessional. No mention of communion. Patrick taught his disciples well that salvation comes only by and through the grace of Almighty God.
Number Six: In Terms Of The Lord’s Supper, Patrick Was A Baptist.
From his writings we know that he rejected the Roman Catholic view of salvation in the ordinance. Also from his writings, we know that Patrick believed that the believer himself should partake of both elements of communion, the bread and the cup, and not just the administrator exclusively. In writing of the conversion of the two daughters of Irish King Loeghaire under his ministry, Patrick tells them to put away their idols and trust Christ alone. His instructions to them regarding the Lord’s Supper is that they receive both elements representative of His body and blood.
Number Seven: Patrick Rejects The Roman Catholic Dogma Of Transubstantiation
Patrick believed that the elements were only pictures of Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Dr. Jarrell wrote, “In all the descriptions of the Eucharist quoted there is no evidence that it is…”, or literally becomes the flesh of Christ and His blood. The elements are merely symbols of such.
Number Eight: Patrick Never Affirmed His Belief In, Or Adherence To, Many Crucial Catholic Pecularities
St. Patrick was a Baptist and the first Irish churches were Baptist churches. He knew nothing of priestly confession and priestly forgiveness. He was not acquainted with extreme unction. He strictly forbade the worship of images. Never once did he instruct his converts that they were to pay homage to Mary or worship her. He never mentions the intercession of Mary or of any departed saint. In all of his writings there is no mention at all of purgatory, of indulgences, of keeping holy days, of praying to anyone but God Himself, of the persecution of opposers of the church, of distinguishing clerical garments, of the rosary, of last rites, of mass, of allegiance to the Pope. None of these crucial Catholic doctrines and dogmas were practiced by or even mentioned by the great missionary to Ireland.
It is my firm conviction that it has sufficiently been shown that Saint Patrick was not a Roman Catholic in doctrine or practice, but rather an early Baptist preacher following in the footsteps of the Apostles themselves, believing what they believed, practicing what they practiced. In conclusion, it seems that the words of W.A. Jarrell on this subject are most fitting, “Were Patrick not turned to dust, and were the body able to hear and turn, he would turn over in his coffin at the disgrace on his memory from the Romish church claiming him as a Roman Catholic” (Baptist Church Perpetuity or History, page 479).