By Cornelius J. Dyck
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Extra info for An Introduction to Mennonite History: A Popular History of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites
The church had indeed spread incredibly, from Rome to Asia Minor and India, from Europe to North Africa. It included men and women of many different cultural backgrounds. Some of its leading teachers and writers, like Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, and others, were North Africans. Some of its major leaders, as in Montanism, which tried to restore a declining emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, were women. But the church was also adapting to its environment and being changed by it. There were still occasional persecutions in the third and early fourth centuries, but political leaders found many Christians increasingly cooperative and congenial.
The neglect of the Scriptures in Roman Catholicism was to them a certain sign that the church had fallen from the faith. The Waldensians were not Protestants before the Reformation, but Christians who took the Word of God seriously. They rejected the mass, purgatory, and participation in warfare as unbiblical, but continued to practice infant baptism. They believed that all Christians, whether men or women, were called to witness to their faith by living it and preaching it. "2 Numerous attempts to link the Anabaptists historically with the Waldensians have failed, but through them the spiritual soil was being prepared for the events of the sixteenth century.
There were skeptics who didn't care about faith, but most people relied on this sacramental system for their salvation. Plagues, wars, and fear of death made people long for a guaranteed escape from hell. Helping the sacramental routine were woodcuts on religious themes which people unable to read could hang on the wall as aids in prayer. There were also Bibles for those who could read and their number increased rapidly with Gutenberg's invention of movable type. More popular, however, were the relics of saints and pilgrimages to shrines.
An Introduction to Mennonite History: A Popular History of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites by Cornelius J. Dyck