The Montanists (About A.D. 156-180)
Perhaps no other group has been more maligned and falsely accused of heterodox views than the Montanists. The Montanists get their name from one Montanus who was accused of believing he was the Holy Spirit by the Lutheran historian, John Lawrence Mosheim. This slander was corrected by Mosheim’s translator in a footnote (Ecclesiastical History, John Lawrence Mosheim, Vol. 1, p. 65). Schaff wrote of Montanus, “His adversaries wrongly inferred from the use of the first person for the Holy Spirit in his oracles, that he made himself directly the Paraclete, or, according to Epiphanius, even God the Father.” (History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff, Vol. 2, p. 418). The Montanists have been vindicated of many false accusations against them by other historians such as Augustus Neander as well as Philip Schaff. Schaff cites a work by Wernsdorf Theoph entitled Commentatio de Montanistis Saeculi II, golgo creditis hoereticis which is “A vindication of Montanism as being essentially agreed with the doctrines of the primitive church and unjustly condemned.” Montanus’ aim was to maintain or to restore the scriptural simplicity, nature and character of the religion of the New Testament with a constant reliance on the promise of the Holy Spirit (Jarrel, W. A. Baptist Church Perpetuity. Dallas: Published by
the Author, 1894., p. 70).
Thomas Armitage wrote of the Montanists, “Both the opposition of Tertullian, and the open denial of the Montanists that baptism is the channel of grace, renders it unlikely that they adopted this practice [infant baptism]. They insisted so radically on the efficacy of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, that to have immersed unconscious babes would have nullified their basic doctrine of the direct agency of the Spirit, and have thwarted their attempts at reform, in the most practical manner.” (A History of the Baptists, Thomas Armitage, Vol.1, p. 177). Armitage also said of the Montanists, “The one prime idea held by the Montanists in common with Baptists, and in distinction to the Churches of the third century was, that membership in the Churches should be confined to purely regenerate persons; and that a spiritual life and discipline should be maintained without any affiliation with the authority of the State” (Armitage, p. 175). Jarrel concludes that “when Montanism arose, no essential departure from the faith in the action, the subjects of baptism, church government or doctrine. The Montanists, on these points, were Baptists.” (Jarrel, p. 69)