1902 Encyclopedia > Baptists

Baptists




BAPTISTS, a denomination of Christians, distinguished, as their name imports, from other denominations by the views they hold respecting the ordinance of baptism.
The early history of the Baptists, both in this country and on the Continent, is very obscure. In the great awakening of religious thought; and feeling which charac-terized the beginning of the 16th century, it was inevitable that amongst those who burst the fetters which bound them to the see of Borne some should be willing to retain as much of the ancient doctrine and practice as they could with a safe conscience, whilst others, rejoicing in their new-found liberty, would desire to cast aside every remnant of what they regarded as superstition, and to advance as far as possible in the path of what they deemed Christian liberty; nor is it at all to be wondered at that strange and wild theories on matters even remotely connected with religion should spring into life. But amidst all the diver-sities of opinion that existed, it was constantly held by Protestants that "holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is neither read therein nor may be proved thereby, although it be sometime received of the faithful as godly and profitable for an order and comeliness, yet no man ought to be constrained to believe it as an article of faith or repute it requisite to the necessity of salvation" (Articles of King Edward VI.) We must not be surprised that the right of private judg-ment, which is involved in the principle thus broadly laid down, was nevertheless far from being conceded to the extent that was desired by those who departed farthest from the Church of Rome. In fact, each separate section of Protestants claimed for itself to stand on the ground of holy Scripture, and was prepared to resist alike the tyranny of Rome and what it considered the licence of other bodies of Protestants. Thus it happened that the Baptists, or as their opponents called them, the Ana-baptists (or, as Zwingli names them, Catabaptists), were strenuously opposed by all other sections of the Christian Church, and it was regarded by almost all the early refor-mers to be the duty of the civil magistrate to punish them with fine and imprisonment, and even with death. There was, no doubt, some justification for this severity in the fact that the fanaticism which burst forth in the early times of the Reformation frequently led to insurrection and revolt, and in particular that the leader of the " peasant war" in Saxony, Thomas Miinzer, and probably many of his followers, were "Anabaptists." One result of this severity is, that the records of the early history of the Anabaptists both on the Continent and in this country are very few and meagre. Almost all that is currently known of them comes to us from their opponents. There is, how-ever, much valuable information, together with detailed accounts of their sufferings, in the Dutch Martyrology of Van Braght, himself a Baptist, which bears the title Martelaers Spiegel der Doops-gesinde (2d ed. fol., 1685), an English translation of the latter half of which was published in 2 vols. 8vo, Lond. 1850-53, edited by Dr Underbill, now secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. Probably the earliest confession of faith of any Baptist community is that given by Zwingli in the second part of his Elenchus contra Catabaptistas, published in 1527. Zwingli professes to give it entire, translating it, as he says, ad verbum into Latin. He upbraids his opponents with not having pub-lished these articles, but declares that there is scarcely any one of them that has not a written (descriptum) copy of these laws which have been so well concealed. The articles are in all seven. The first, which we give in full, relates to baptism :—
" Baptism ought to be given to all who have been taught repent-ance and change of life, and who in truth believe that through Christ their sins are blotted out (abolita), and the sins of all who are willing (volvmt) to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and who are willing to be baried with him into death, that they may rise again with him. To all, therefore, who in this manner seek baptism, and of themselves ask us, we will give it. By this rule are excluded all baptisms of infants, the great abomination of the Roman pontiff. For this article we have the testimony and strength of Scripture, we have also the practice of the apostles; which things we simply and also stedfastly will observe, for we are assured of them."'
The second article relates to withdrawment (abstentio) or excommunication, and declares that all who have given themselves to the Lord and have been baptized into the one body of Christ should, if they lapse or fall into sin, be excommunicated. The third article relates to the breaking of bread; in this it is declared that they who break the one bread in commemoration of the broken body of Christ, and drink of the one cup in commemoration of His blood poured out, must first be united together into the one body of Christ, that is, into the church of God. The fourth article asserts the duty of separation from the world and its abominations, amongst which are included all papistical and semi-papistical works. The fifth relates to pastors of the church. They assert that the pastor should be some one of the flock who has a good report from those who are without. " His office is to read, admonish, teach, learn, exhort, correct, or excommunicate in the church, and to preside well over all the brethren and sisters both in prayer and in the breaking of bread; and in all things that relate to the body of Christ, to watch that it may be established and increased so that the name of God may by us be glorified and praised, and that the mouth of blasphemers may be stopped." The sixth article relates to the power of the sword. " The sword," they say, " is the ordinance of God outside the perfection of Christ, by which the bad is punished and slain and the good is defended." They further declare that a Christian ought not to decide or give sentence in secular matters, and that he ought not to exercise the office of magistrate. The seventh article relates to oaths, which they declare are forbidden by Christ.
However much we may differ from the points maintained in these articles, we cannot but be astonished at the vehemence with which they were opposed, and the epithets of abuse which were heaped upon the unfortunate sect that maintained them Zwingli, through whom they come down to us, and who gives them, as he says, that the world may see that they are "fanatical, stolid, audacious, impious," can scarcely be acquitted of unfairness in joining together two of them,—the fourth and fifth,—thus making the article treat " of the avoiding of abominable pastors in the church" (Super devitatione abominahilium pastorum in Ecclesia), though there is nothing about pastors in the fourth article, and nothing about abominations in the fifth, and though in a marginal note he himself explains that the first two copies that were sent him read as he does, but the other copies make two articles, as in fact they evidently are. To us at the present day it appears not merely strange but shocking, that the Protestant Council of Zurich, which had scarcely won its own liberty, and was still in dread of the persecution of the Romanists, should pass a decree


ordering, as Zwingli himself reports, that any person who administered anabaptism should be drowned; and still more shocking that, at the time when Zwingli wrote, this cruel decree should have been carried into effect against one of the leaders of the Anabaptists, Felix Mantz, who had himself been associated with Zwingli, not only as a student, but also at the commencement of the work of Reformation. No doubt the wild fanaticism of some of the opponents of infant baptism seemed to the Reformers to justify their severity. In 1537 Menno Simonis joined himself to the Anabaptists and became their leader. His moderation and piety, according to Mosheim, held in check the turbulence of the more fanatical amongst them. He died in 1561, after a life passed amidst continual dangers and conflicts. His name remains as the designa-tion of the Mennonites, who eventually settled in the Netherlands under the protection of William the Silent, Prince of Orange.
Of the introduction of Baptist views into England we have no certain knowledge. Fox relates that " the registers of London make mention of certain Dutchmen counted for Anabaptists, of whom ten were put to death in sundry places in the realm, anno 1535 ; other ten repented and were Bayed." In 1536 King Henry VIII., as " in earth supreme head of the Church of England," issued a pro-clamation together with articles concerning faith agreed upon by Convocation, in which the clergy are told to instruct the people that they ought to repute and take " the Anabaptists' opinions for detestable heresies and to be utterly condemned." The document is given in extenso by Fuller, who further tells us from Stow's Chronicles that, in the year 1538, "four Anabaptists, three men and one woman, all Dutch, bare faggots at Paul's Cross, and three days after a man and woman of their sect was burnt in Smithfield." In the reign of Edward VI., after the return of the exiles from Zürich, Hooper writes to his friend Bullinger in 1549, that he reads " a public lecture twice in the day to so numerous an audience that the church cannot contain them," and adds, " the Anabaptists flock (confluunt) to the place and give me much trouble." It would seem that at this time they were united together in communities separate from the Established Church. Latimer, in 1552, speaks of them as segregating themselves from the company of other men. In Philpott's sixth examination in 1555 we are told that Lord Riehe said to him, " All heretics do boast of the Spirit of God, and every one would have a church by himself, as Joan of Kent and the Ana-baptists." Philpott was imprisoned soon after Mary's accession in 1553 ; and it is very pleasing to find, amidst the records of intense bitterness and rancour which charac-terized these times, and with which Romanist and Protes-tant alike assailed the persecuted Baptists, a letter of Philpott's, to a friend of his, " prisoner the same time in Newgate," who held Baptist opinions. His friend had written to ask his judgment concerning the baptism of infants. Philpott in a long reply, whilst maintaining the obligation of infant baptism, yet addresses his correspondent as, " dear brother, saint, and fellow-prisoner for the truth of Christ's gospel;" and at the close of his argument he says, " I beseech thee, dear brother in the gospel, follow the steps of the faith of the glorious martyrs in the primitive church, and of such as at this day follow the same." During the whole of the 16th century, and through the greater part of the 17th, whatever changes took place in the state church, the Baptists in England, together with other dissenters, continued to suffer persecution. Archbishop Sandys, about the year 1576, says : " It is the property of fro ward sectaries," amongst whom he classes Anabaptists, " whose inventions cannot abide the light, to make obscure conven-ticles ;" and though he admits that " when the gospel is persecuted, secret congregations are allowed," he declares, that as the gospel, " strengthened with the civil hand," is now publicly and sincerely preached, " such stray sheep as will not of their own accord assemble themselves to serve the Lord in the midst of this holy congregation, may law-fully and in reason ought to be constrained thereunto." There is no doubt that a large number of the Baptists in England at this time came from Holland, but there is little reason to think that Fuller is correct when, after speaking of certain Dutch Anabaptists being seized in 1575, some of whom were banished and two burnt at Smithfield, he adds, " we are glad that English as yet were free from that infection."
About the beginning of the 17th century the severe laws against the Puritans led many dissenters to emigrate to Holland. Some of these were Baptists, and an English Baptist Church was formed in Amsterdam about the year 1609. In 1611 this church published "a declaration of faith of English people remaining at Amsterdam in Holland." The article relating to baptism is as follows :— " That every church is to receive in all their members by baptism upon the confession of their faith and sins, wrought by the preaching of the gospel according to the primitive institution and practice. And therefore churches consti-tuted after any other manner, or of any other persons, are not according to Christ's testament. That baptism or washing with water is the outward manifestation of dying unto sin and walking in newness of life; and therefore in no wise appertaineth to infants." They hold " that no church ought to challenge any prerogative over any other ;" " that magistracy is a holy ordinance of God;" "that it is lawful in a just cause for the deciding of strife to take an oath by the name of the Lord."
The last execution for heresy in England by burning alive took place at Lichfield, April 11, 1612. The con-demned person, Edward Wightman, was a Baptist. Much uncertainty rests on the history of the Baptists during the next twenty years. It would seem that many member* of the Brownist or Independent denomination held Baptist views. An independent congregation in London, gathered in the year 1616, included several such persons, and as the church was larger than could conveniently meet together in times of persecution, they agreed to allow these persons to constitute a distinct church, which was formed on the 12th September 1633 ; and upon this most, if not all, the members of the new church were baptized. Another Baptist church was formed in London in 1639. These churches were " Particular " or Calvinistic Baptists. The church formed in 1609 at Amsterdam held Arminian views. In 1644 a Confession of Faith was published in the names of seven churches in London " commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptist," in which were included the two churches just mentioned. The article on baptism is as follows :—" That baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament given by Christ to be dispensed only upon persons professing faith, or that are disciples, or taught, who, upon a profession of faith, ought to be baptized." " The way and manner of dispensing this ordinance the Scripture holds out to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water." They further declare that " a civil magis-tracy is an ordinance of God," which they are bound to obey. How well they understood the distinction between the rights of conscience and the rights of the civil magis-trate is shown with remarkable clearness .—
" We believe," they say, " that in all those civil laws which have been acted by them [the supreme magistracy], or for the present are or shall be ordained, we are bound to yield subjection and obedience unto in the Lord, as conceiving ourselves bound to defend both the persons of those thus chosen, and all civil laws made by them, with our persons, liberties, and estates, with all that is called ours, although we should suffer never so much from them in not actively

submitting to some ecclesiastical laws, which might be conceived by them to be their duties to establish, which we for the present could not see, nor our consciences could submit unto ; yet are we bound to yield our persons to their pleasures."
They go on to Bpeak of the breathing time which they have bad of late, and their hope that Gou would, as they say, " incline the magistrates' hearts so for to tender our con-sciences as that we might be protected by them from wrong, injury, oppression, and molestation;" and then they proceed: "But if God withhold the magistrates'allowance and further-ance herein, yet we must, notwithstanding, proceed together in Christian communion, not daring to give place to suspend our practice, but to walk in obedience to Christ in the pro-fession and holding forth this faith before mentioned, even in the midst of all trials and afflictions, not accounting our goods, lands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brethren, sisters, yea, and our own lives, dear unto us, so that we may finish our course with joy ; remembering always that we ought to obey God rather than men." They end their confession thus: " If any take this that we have said to be heresy, then do we with the apostle freely confess, that after the way which they call heresy worship we the God of our fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets and Apostles, desiring from our souls to disclaim all heresies and opinions which are not after Christ, and to be stedfast, unmovable, always abound-ing in the work of the Lord, as knowing our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord." The breathing time of which they speak was not of long continuance. Soon after the Restoration (1660) the meetings of Nonconformists were continually disturbed by the constables, and their preachers were carried before the magistrates and fined or imprisoned. One instance of these persecutions will, perhaps, be more impressive than any general statements. In the records, pf one of the churches at Bristol still existing, and having, now and for perhaps nearly two centuries, their place of meeting in Broadmead, but at this time meeting in divers places, we find this remark : " On the 29th of November 1685 our pastor, Brother Fownes, died in Gloucester jail, having been kept there for two years and about nine months a prisoner, unjustly and maliciously, for the testimony of Jesus and preaching the gospel. He was a man of great olearning, of a sound judgment, an able preacher, having great knowledge in divinity, law, physic, ifec. ; a bold and patient sufferer for the Lord Jesus and the gospel he preached." From the same records we learn that on the 25th March 1683, whilst Mr Fownes was preaching in the wood where they were accustomed secretly to meet, they were surrounded by horse and foot. Mr Fownes was taken and committed " to Gloucester jail for six months on the Oxford Act." The record adds, "the text Brother Fownes had been preaching from was 2 Tim. iL 9." There could scarcely have been found a more appropriate text for his last sermon to the congregation,—" Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil doer even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound."
With the Revolution of 1688, and the passing of the Act of Toleration in 1689, the history of the persecution of Baptists, as well as of other Protestant dissenters, ends. The removal of the remaining disabilities, such as those imposed by the Test and Corporation Acts repealed in 1828, has no special bearing on Baptists more than on other Nonconformists The ministers of the " three de-nominations of dissenters,"—Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists,—resident in London and the neighbour-hood, had the privilege accorded to them of presenting on proper occasions an address to the sovereign in state, a privilege which they still enjoy
The Baptists were early divided into two sections,—those -who in accordance with Arminian views held the doctrine
I S T S 355
of " General Redemption," and those who, agreeing with the Calvinistic theory, held the doctrine of " Particular Redemption;" and hence they assumed respectively the names of General Baptists and Particular Baptists. In the last century many of the General Baptists had gradually adopted the Arian, or, perhaps the Socinian theory; whilst, on the other hand, the Calvinism of the Particular Baptists had in many of the churches become more rigid, and approached or actually became Antinomianism. In 1770 the orthodox portion of the General Baptists formed themselves into a separate association, under the name of the General Baptist New Connection, since which time the " Old Connection" has gradually merged into the Unitarian denomination. Somewhat later many of the Particulai Baptist churches became more moderate in their Calvinism, a result largely attributable to the writings of Andrew Fuller. Up to this time the great majority of the Baptists admitted none either to membership or communion who were not baptized, the principal exception being the churches in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, founded or influenced by Bunyan, who maintained that difference of opinion in respect to water baptism was no bar to com-munion At the beginning of the present century this question was the occasion of great and long-continued discussion, in which the celebrated Robert Hall took a principal part The practice of mixed communion gradually spread in the denomination. Still more recently many Baptist churches have considered it right to admit to full membership persons professing faith in Christ, who do not agree with them respecting the ordinance of baptism. Such churches justify their practice on the ground that they ought to grantto all their fellow Christians thesame right of private judgment as they claim for themselves. It may not be out of place here to correct the mistake, which is by no means uncommon, that the terms Particular and General as applied to Baptist congregations are intended to express this differ-ence in their practice, whereas these terms relate, as has been already said, to the difference in their doctrinal views. The difference now under consideration is expressed by the terms " strict " and " open," according __ communion (or membership) is or is not confined to persons who, accord-ing to their view, are baptized.
The Baptists early felt the necessity of providing an educated ministry for their congregations. Some of their leading pastors had been educated in one or other of the English universities. Others had by their own efforts obtained a large amount of learning, amongst whom Dr John Gill was eminent for his knowledge of Hebrew, as shown in his Exposition of the Holy Scriptures, a work in 9 vols, folio, 1746-66. Mr. Edward Terrill, from whose Records we have already quoted, and who died in 1685, left a considerable part of his estate for the instruction of young men for the ministry, under the superintendence of the pastor of the church now meeting in Broadmead, Bristol, of which he was a member. Other bequests for the same purpose were made, and from the year 1720 the Baptist Academy, as it was then called, received young men as students for the ministry among the Baptists. Fifty years later, in 1770, a society, called the Bristol Education Society, was formed to enlarge this academy; and it was still further enlarged by the erection of the present Bristol Baptist College about the year 1811. In the North of England a similar Education Society was formed in 1804 at Bradford, Yorkshire, which has since been removed to Rawdon near Leeds. In the metropolis a college was formed in 1810 at Stepney, and was removed to Regent'o Park in 1856. The Pastors' College in connection with the Metropolitan Tabernacle was instituted in 1856. Besides these, the General Baptists have maintained a college since 1797 which at present is carried on at Chi)-

well, near Nottingham. A theological institution, intended to promote the views of the " Strict" Baptists, has lately (1866) been established at Manchester. There is also a Baptist theological institution in Scotland, and there are three colleges in Wales. The total number of students in these institutions may be reckoned to be about 200.
The Baptists were the first denomination of British Christians that undertook the work of missions to the heathen, which has become so prominent a feature in the religious activity of the present century. As early as the year 1784, the Northamptonshire Association of Baptist churches resolved to recommend that the first Monday of every month should be set apart for prayer for the spread of the gospel, a practice which has since, as a German writer remarks, extended over all Protestant Christendom, and we may add over all Protestant Missions. Six years later, in 1792, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed at Kettering in Northamptonshire, after a sermon on Isaiah lii. 2, 3, preached by the afterwards celebrated William Carey, the prime mover in the work, in which he urged two points: " Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." In the course of the following year Carey sailed for India, where he was joined a few years later by Marshman and Ward, and the mission was established at Serampore. The great work of Dr Carey's life was the translation of the Bible into the various languages and dialects of India. The society's operations are now carried on, not only in the East, but in the West Indies, Africa, *nd Europe. In 1873 there were employed 87 European missionaries and 229 native pastors and evangelists, at 423 stations,—the total number of members of churches being 32,444. The funds of the society amounted to up-wards of £40,000, exclusive of the amount raised at mission stations. In 1816 the General Baptists established a missionary society, the operations of which are confined to India. It employs 16 missionaries, male and female, and 16 native preachers, and has an annual income of £14,000.
In regard to church government, the Baptists agree with the Independents that each separate church is complete in itself, and has, therefore, power to choose its own ministers, and to make such regulations as it deems to be most in accordance with the purpose of its existence, that is, the advancement of the religion of Christ. A comparatively small section of the denomination maintain that a "plurality of elders" or pastors is required for the com-plete organization of every separate church. This is the distinctive peculiarity of those churches in Scotland and the north of England which are known as Scotch Baptists. The largest church of this section, consisting at present of 484 members, originated in Edinburgh in 1765, before which date only one Baptist church—that of Keiss in Caithness, formed about 1750—appears to have existed in Scotland. The greater number of the churches are united in associations voluntarily formed, all of them determined by geographical limits except the General Baptist Association, which includes all the churches connected with that body. The associations, as well as the churches not in connection with them, are united together in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, formed in 1813. This union, however, exerts no authori-tative action over the separate churches. One important part of the work of the union is the collection of information in which all the churches are interested. According to the Baptist Handbook for the present year (1875), there are in the United Kingdom—Baptist churches, 2612; places of worship, 3321 ; pastors, 1916; members, 254,998.
Some of the English settlers in all parts of the world have carried with them the principles and practice of the Baptists. The introduction of Baptist views in America was due to
Eoger Williams, who emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts,
in 1630. Driven from Massachusetts on account of his
denying the power of the civil magistrate in matters of
religion, he formed a settlement and founded a state in
Rhode Island, and having become a Baptist he formed, in
1639, the first Baptist church in America, of which he was
also for a short time the pastor. It is impossible here to
trace the history of the Baptists in the United States. In
1873 there are reported—churches, 20,520 ; ministers,
12,589; members, 1,633,939. The great majority of the
churches practise " strict " communion. Their missionary
society is large and successful, and perhaps is beat known
in this country through the life of devoted labour of Dr
Judson in Burmah. There are many Baptist churches also
throughout British America. In the more recent colonie»
of Australia and New Zealand a large number of Baptist
churches have been formed during the last twenty-five
years, and have been principally supplied with ministers
from England. (F. W, G.)








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