The time and place of the birth of Novatian is not known with certainty. He was, in his younger days, a Stoic Philosopher, but after his arrival in Rome, he obtained a hope and embraced Christianity. He seems to have been received into the church at Rome under peculiar circumstances, and there appears to have been great objections made to the manner of his baptism at that time. Being seized with sudden illness which was supposed to be fatal, he received what was called clinical baptism, that is, baptism on the sick bed, water being poured upon him and his bed. This was not scriptural baptism, which was clearly indicated by the opposition made at that early day to its validity. Whether or not Novatian was afterwards properly baptized is not known, but the reasonable supposition is that he was. He became a presbyter or elder at Rome, and when a controversy arose in the church at that place regarding the reinstatement, upon their confession, of those who had left the church and denied the faith under persecutions, Novatian took a strong stand against the readmission of such as had thus violated their baptismal vows. He earnestly contended for church purity, maintaining that one of the essential marks of a true church is holiness of character on the part of its membership, which gained for his followers the name of Cathari (Puritans). He argued that any church which neglected the right exercise of church discipline, and tolerated in its bosom those guilty of gross sins, ceased, by that very act, to be a true church of Christ.

In the year 251, a division occurred in the church at Rome, on the occasion of the election of Cornelius as bishop or pastor of that church. Cornelius was in full sympathy with the growing tendency toward a lax discipline and corruptions in the church, and was, consequently, opposed by Novatian; and those in favor of his ideas regarding the practices of the church, withdrew and formed themselves into a church, maintaining no fellowship with [what later became known as] the Catholic party, as they were beginning to style themselves. All over the empire the example of this devoted man of God was followed, and puritan churches, called Novatianists, existed in Constantinople, Carthage, Alexandria, Nicomedia, Phrygia, Gaul, Spain, and elsewhere. Novatus, a Bishop at Carthage, joined in the move. These Puritan churches were called by their enemies Novatianists, under which name they may be traced to the end of the sixth century. They were found in direct line with the Tertullianists and Montanists, who were their successors.

As these churches opposed the departures of their more numerous enemies, and as they contended for the simplicity of the gospel and purity of membership, and as they baptized those who were admitted to their fellowship from the Catholic party, we can but conclude they were Baptist churches. Thus the two parties, already spoken of as existing in the second century, became more definitely separated in the third, under the influence of Novatian and Novatus, one merging rapidly into formalism, and the other contending for spiritual church membership. In Revelations, these two parties are represented as two women: one, "arrayed in purple and scarlet color, seated upon a scarlet colored beast, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abomination and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH;" Rev. 17. The other, "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars;" Rev. 12. Thus far in the march of time, we find that the gates of hell had not prevailed against the church of Christ.

- Elder John R. Daily, Primitive Monitor, 1897, pp. 229-231.

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