1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Baptists
BAPTISTS, a body of Christians, distinguished, as their name imports, from other denominations by the view they hold respecting the ordinance of baptism (q.v.). This distinctive view, common and peculiar to all Baptists, is that baptism should be administered to believers only. The mode of administration of the ordinance has not always been the same, and some Baptists (e.g. the Mennonites) still practise baptism by pouring or sprinkling, but among those who will here be styled modern Baptists, the mode of administration is also distinctive, to wit, immersion. It should, however, be borne in mind that immersion is not peculiar to the modern Baptists. It has always been recognized by Paedobaptists as a legitimate mode, and is still practised to the exclusion of other modes by a very large proportion of paedobaptist Christendom (e.g. the Orthodox Eastern Church). We shall distinguish here between two main groups of Baptists in Europe; the Anabaptists, now practically extinct, and the modern Baptists whose churches are in nearly every European country and in all other countries where white men reside.
The great spiritual movement of the 15th and 16th centuries had for its most general characteristic, revolt against authority. This showed itself not merely in the anti-papal reformation of Luther, but also in the anti-feudal rising of the peasants and in a variety of anti-ecclesiastical movements within the reformation areas themselves. One of the most notable of these radical anti-ecclesiastical movements was that of the Zwickau prophets, (Marcus Stübner, Nikolaus Storch and Thomas Münzer): the most vigorous and notorious that of the Münster Anabaptists. Although they have been called the "harbingers" of the Anabaptists, the characteristic teaching of the Zwickau prophets was not Anabaptism. (See, however, Anabaptists.) For although Münzer repudiated infant baptism in theory, he did not relinquish its practice, nor did he insist on the re-baptism of believers. The characteristic teaching of the Zwickau movement, so closely linked with the peasant rising, was the great emphasis laid upon the "inner word." Divine revelation, said Münzer, was not received from the church, nor from preaching, least of all from the dead letter of the Bible; it was received solely and directly from the Spirit of God. It is this daring faith in divine illumination that brings the Zwickau teachers most nearly into touch with the Anabaptists. But if they are not typical of Anabaptism, still less are the later representatives of the movement in the last sad months at Münster.
The beginnings of the Anabaptist movement proper were in Zürich, where Wilheld Reubli (1480-1554), Konrad Grebel (d. 1526), Felix Manz (d. 1527) and Simon Strumpf separated from Zwingli and proposed to form a separate church. They repudiated the use of force, advocated a scriptural communism of goods, and asserted that Christians must always exercise love and patience towards each other and so be independent of worldly tribunals. But their most radical doctrine was the rejection of infant baptism as unscriptural. They rapidly gained adherents, among whom was Hans Brödli, pastor of Zollikon. Their refusal, however, to baptize infants, and the formation of a separate church as the outcome of this refusal, brought upon them the condemnation of Zwingli, and a number of them were banished. This act of banishment, however, drove Jörg Blaurock, Konrad Grebel and others to take the step which definitely instituted "Anabaptism": they baptized one another and then partook of the Lord's Supper together. This step took them much farther than the repudiation of paedobaptism. It formed a new religious community, which sought to fashion itself on the model of primitive Christianity, rejecting all tradition and accretions later than New Testament records. Its members claimed to get back to the simple church founded on brotherly love. The result was that their numbers grew with astonishing rapidity, and scholarly saints like Balthasar Hubmaier (ca. 1480-1528) and Hans Denck (ca. 1495-1527) joined them. Hubmaier brought no new adherents with him, and in 1525 himself baptized 300 converts. This baptism, however, was not immersion. Blaurock and Grebel baptized each other, and many adherents, kneeling together in an ordinary room. Hubmaier baptized his 300 from one bucket. The mode was sprinkling or pouring. In all this the Anabaptists had maintained one central article of faith that linked them to the Zwickau prophets, belief in conscience, religious feeling, or inner light, as the sole true beginning or ground of religion; and one other article, held with equal vigour and sincerity, that true Christians are like sheep among wolves, and must on no account defend themselves from their enemies or take vengeance for wrong done. Very soon this their faith was put to fiery test. Not only were Catholics and Protestants opposed to them on doctrinal grounds, but the secular powers, fearing that the new teaching was potentially as revolutionary as Münzer's radicalism had been, soon instituted a persecution of the Anabaptists. On the 7th of March 1526 the Zürich Rath issued an edict threatening all who were baptized anew with death by drowning, and in 1529 the emperor Charles V., at the diet of Spires, ordered Anabaptists to be put to death with fire and sword without even the form of ecclesiastical trial. A cruel persecution arose. Manz was drowned at Zürich and Michael Sattler (ca. 1495-1527) burned to death after torture in 1527; Hubmaier was burned in 1528 and Blaurock in 1529, and Sebastian Franck (1499-1542) asserts that the number of slain was in 1530 already about 2000.
Two results followed from this persecution. First, the development of a self-contained and homogeneous community was made impossible. No opportunity for the adoption of any common confession was given. Only a few great doctrines are seen to have been generally held by Anabaptists—such as the baptism of believers only, the rejection of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith as onesided and the simple practice of the breaking of bread. This last, the Anabaptist doctrine of the Lord's Supper, was to the effect that brothers and sisters in Christ should partake in remembrance of the death of Christ, and that they should thereby renew the bond of brotherly love as the basis of neighbourly life. In the second place, the persecution deprived the Anabaptists of the noble leaders who had preached non-resistance and at the same time provoked others to an attitude of vengeance which culminated in the horrors of Münster. For Melchior Hofmann (ca. 1498-1543 or 1544) having taken the Anabaptist teaching to Holland, there arose in Haarlem a preacher of vengeance, Jan Matthisson or Matthyszoon (Matthys) (d. 1534) by name, who, prophesying a speedy end of the world and establishment of the kingdom of heaven, obtained many adherents, and despatched Boekebinder and de Kniper to Münster. Here the attempt was made to realise Matthisson's ideals. All who did not embrace Anabaptism were driven from Münster (1533), and Bernt Knipperdolling (ca. 1495-1536) became burgomaster. The town was now besieged and Matthisson was killed early in 1534. John (Johann Bockelson) of Leiden (1510-1536) took his place and the town became the scene of the grossest licence and cruelty, until in 1535 it was taken by the besieging bishop. Unhappily the Anabaptists have always been remembered by the crimes of John of Leiden and the revelry of Münster. They should really be known by the teaching and martyrdom of Blaurock, Grebel and Hubmaier, and by the gentle learning and piety of Hans Denck—of whom, with many hundred others, "the world was not worthy."
For the teaching of the Anabaptists, see Anabaptists.
Reference has already been made to the reason why a common Anabaptist confession was never made public. Probably, however, 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. Whatever opinion may be held as to the orthodoxy of the seven articles of the Anabaptists, the vehemence with which they were opposed, and the epithets of abuse which were heaped upon the unfortunate sect that maintained them, cannot fail to astonish those used to toleration. Zwingli, who details these articles, 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 abominabilium 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. It is strange that the Protestant Council of Zürich, which had scarcely won its own liberty, and was still in dread of the persecution of the Romanists, should pass the decree which instituted the cruel persecution of the Anabaptists.
After Münster had fallen the harassed remnants of the Anabaptists were gathered together under Menno Simonis, who joined them in 1537. His moderation and piety 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 designation of the Mennonites (q.v.), who eventually settled in the Netherlands under the protection of William the Silent, prince of Orange.
Of the introduction of Anabaptist 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 saved." In 1536 King Henry VIII. issued a proclamation 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." Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) 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, John Hooper (bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, d. 1555) 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 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 the sixth examination of John Philpot (1516-1555) in 1555 we are told that Lord Riche 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 Anabaptists." Philpot 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 characterized these times, and with which Romanist and Protestant alike assailed the persecuted Anabaptists, a letter of Philpot's, to a friend of his, "prisoner the same time in Newgate," who held the condemned opinions. His friend had written to ask his judgment concerning the baptism of infants. Philpot 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."
Many Anabaptist communities existed in England toward the end of the 16th century, particularly in East Anglia, Kent and London. Their most notable representative was Robert Cooke, but they were more notorious for heretical views as to the Virgin Mary (see Anabaptists) than for their anti-paedobaptist position. It was for these views that Joan Boucher of Kent was burnt in 1550. There is no doubt that these prepared the way for the coming of the modern Baptists, but "the truth is that, while the Anabaptists in England raised the question of baptism, they were almost entirely a foreign importation, an alien element; and the rise of the Baptist churches was wholly independent of them."
1. Great Britain and Ireland.—If the Anabaptists of England were not the progenitors of the modern Baptist church, we must look abroad for the beginnings of that movement. Although there were doubtless many who held Baptist views scattered among the Independent communities, it was not until the time of John Smith or Smyth (d. 1612) that the modern Baptist movement in England broke away from Brownism. Smyth was appointed preacher of the city of Lincoln in 1600 as an ordained clergyman, but became a separatist in 1605 or 1606, and, soon after, emigrated under stress of persecution with the Gainsborough Independents to Amsterdam. With Thomas Helwys (ca. 1560-ca. 1616) and Morton he joined the "Ancient" church there, but, coming under Mennonite teaching in 1609, he separated from the Independents, baptized himself (hence he is called the "Se-baptist"), Helwys and others probably according to the Anabaptist or Mennonite fashion of pouring. These then formed the first English Baptist Church which in 1611 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 constituted 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 held "that no church ought to challenge any prerogative over any other"; and that "the magistrate is not to meddle with religion, or matters of conscience nor compel men to this or that form of religion." This is the first known expression of absolute liberty of conscience in any confession of faith.
Smyth died in Holland, but in 1612 Helwys returned to England with his church and formed the first Baptist church worshipping on English soil. The church met in Newgate Street, London, and was the origin of the "General" Baptist denomination. Helwys and his followers were Arminians, repudiating with heat the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. They thus differed from other Independents. "They also differed on the power of the magistrate in matters of belief and conscience. It was, in short, from their little dingy meeting house ... that there flashed out, first in England, the absolute doctrine of Religious Liberty" (Prof. Masson). Leonard Busher, the author of "Religious Peace: or a Plea for Liberty of Conscience," was a member of this church.
The next great event in the history of the Baptists (though it should be mentioned that the last execution for heresy in England by burning was that of a Baptist, Edward Wightman, at Lichfield 1612) is the rise of the first Calvinistic or Particular Baptist Church. This was the Jacob church in Southwark, which numbered among its members John Lothropp or Lathrop (d. 1653), Praise-God Barbon (ca. 1596-1679), Henry Jessey (1601-1663), Hanserd Knollys (ca. 1599-1691) and William Kiffin (1616-1701). It was originally Independent but then became Baptist. From this six other churches sprang, five of which were Baptist. Before the Jacob church, however, had itself become Baptist, it dismissed from its membership a group of its members (the church having grown beyond what was regarded as proper limits) who, in 1633, became the first Particular Baptist Church.
Thus there were now in existence in England two sets of Baptists whose origins were quite distinct and who never had any real intercourse as churches. They differed in many respects. The General Baptists were Arminian, owing to the influence of the Mennonite Anabaptists. The Particular Baptists were Calvinist, springing as they did from the Independents. But on the question of Baptism both groups, while they utterly rejected the baptism of infants, were as yet unpledged to immersion and rarely practised it. The development of their doctrine as to baptism was marked along three lines of dispute:—(1) who is the proper administrator of baptism? (2) who are the proper subjects? and (3) what is the proper mode? Eventually agreement was reached, and in 1644 a Confession of Faith was published in the names of the Particular Baptist churches of London, now grown to seven, "commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptist."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 (particularly in order that they may avoid the charge of being Anabaptists) that "a civil magistracy is an ordinance of God," which they are bound to obey. They speak of the "breathing time" which they have had of late, and their hope that God would, as they say, "incline the magistrates' hearts so for to tender our consciences 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 furtherance 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 profession 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 abounding in the work of the Lord, as knowing our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord." The "breathing time" was not of long continuance. Soon after the Restoration (1660) the meetings of nonconformists were continually disturbed and preachers were fined or imprisoned. One instance of these persecutions will, perhaps, be more impressive than any general statements. In the records of the Broadmead Baptist Church, Bristol, 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 learning, of a sound judgment, an able preacher, having great knowledge in divinity, law, physic, &c.; a bold and patient sufferer for the Lord Jesus and the gospel he preached."
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 denominations of dissenters,"—Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists,—resident in London and the neighbourhood, had the privilege accorded to them of presenting on proper occasions an address to the sovereign in state, a privilege which they still enjoy under the name of "the General Body of Protestant Dissenting Ministers of the three Denominations." The "General Body" was not organized until 1727.
The Baptists, having had a double origin, continued for many years in two sections—those who in accordance with Arminian views held the doctrine of "General Redemption," and those who, agreeing with the Calvinistic theory, held the doctrine of "Particular Redemption"; and hence they were known respectively as General Baptists and Particular Baptists. In the 18th century many of the General Baptists gradually adopted the Arian, or, perhaps, the Socinian theory; whilst, on the other hand, the Calvinism of the Particular Baptists in many of the churches became more rigid, and approached or actually became Antinomianism. In 1770 the orthodox portion of the General Baptists, mainly under the influence of Dan Taylor (b. 1738), 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. By the beginning of the 19th century the New Connection numbered 40 churches and 3400 members. The old General Baptists "still keep up a shadowy legal existence." Towards the end of the 18th century many of the Particular Baptist churches became more moderate in their Calvinism, a result largely attributable to the writings of Andrew Fuller. Up to this time a 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 communion. At the beginning of the 19th century this question was the occasion of great and long-continued discussion, in which the celebrated Robert Hall (1764-1831) 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 grant to all their fellow-Christians the same 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 were intended to express this difference in their practice, whereas these terms related, 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 as communion (or membership) is or is not confined to persons who, according to their view, are baptized.
In 1891, largely under the influence of Dr John Clifford, a leading General Baptist, the two denominations, General and Particular, were united, there being now but one body called "The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland." This Union, however, is purely voluntary, and some Baptist churches, a few of them prosperous and powerful, hold aloof from their sister churches so far as organization is concerned.
There are other Baptist bodies outside the Baptist Union beside certain isolated churches. Throughout England there are many "Strict" Baptist churches which really form a separate denomination. For the most part they are linked together according to geographical distribution in associations, such as the "Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches," and the "Suffolk and Norfolk Association of Particular Baptist Churches." In the latter case the name "Particular" is preferred, but the association holds aloof from other Baptist churches because its principles are "strict." There is, however, no national Union. Indeed, the Strict Baptists are themselves divided into the "Standard" and "Vessel" parties—names derived from the "Gospel Standard" and "Earthen Vessel," the organs of the rival groups.
The general characteristic of the Strict Baptists is their rigorous adherence to a type of Calvinistic theology now generally obsolete, and their insistence upon baptism as the condition of Christian communion. Their loose organization makes it impossible to obtain accurate statistics, but the number of their adherents is small. There is a strict Baptist Missionary Society (founded 1860, refounded 1897) which conducts mission work in South India. The income of this society was £1146 in 1905. It comprises 730 church members and 72 pastors and workers.
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, 1746-1766. Edward Terrill, who died in 1685, left a considerable part of his estate for the instruction of young men desiring to be trained for the ministry, under the superintendence of the pastor of the Broadmead Church, 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. In 1770 the Bristol Education Society was formed to enlarge this academy; and about the year 1811 the present Bristol Baptist College was erected. 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 London another college was formed in 1810 at Stepney; it was removed to Regent's Park in 1856. The Pastors' College in connexion with the Metropolitan Tabernacle was instituted in 1856, and in 1866 the present Baptist College at Manchester was instituted at Bury in the interests of the "Strict" Baptist views. Besides these, which were voluntary colleges not under denominational control, the General Baptists maintained a college since 1797, which, since the amalgamation of the two Baptist bodies, has become also a voluntary institution, though previously supported by the General Baptist Association. It is called the "Midland Baptist College," and is situated in Nottingham. There is also a Baptist theological college in Glasgow, and there are two colleges in Wales and one in Ireland. The total number of students in these institutions is about 210.
The Baptists were the first denomination of British Christians to undertake in a systematic way that work of missions to the heathen, which became so prominent a feature in the religious activity of the 19th 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. Shortly after, in 1792, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed at Kettering in Northamptonshire, after a sermon on Isaiah lii. 2, 3, preached by William Carey (1761-1834), 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, China, Africa (chiefly on the Congo river), and Europe.
In regard to church government, the Baptists agree with the Congregationalists 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 kingdom of Christ. A comparatively small section of the denomination maintain that a "plurality of elders" or pastors is required for the complete 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 of approximately 500 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 association voluntarily formed, all of them determined by geographical limits. The associations, as well as the churches not in connexion with them, are united together in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, formed in 1813 by the Particular Baptists. This union, however, exerts no authoritative 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. In 1909 there were in the United Kingdom: Baptist churches, 3046; chapels, 4124; sittings, 1,450,352; members, 424,008; Sunday school teachers, 58,687; Sunday scholars, 578,344; local preachers, 5615; and pastors in charge, 2078.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Baptist Union collected a "Twentieth Century Fund" of £250,000, which has largely assisted the formation of new churches, and gives an indication of the unity and virility of the denomination. A still stronger evidence to the same effect was given by the Religious Census taken in 1904. While this only applied to London, its results are valuable as showing the comparative strength of the Baptist Church. These results are to the effect that in all respects the Baptists come second to the Anglicans in the following three particulars:—(1) Percentage of attendances at public worship contributed by Baptists, 10.81 (London County), 10.70 (Greater London); (2) aggregate of attendances, 54,597; (3) number of places of worship, 443.
2. The Continent of Europe.—During the 19th century what we have called the modern Baptist movement made its appearance in nearly every European country. In Roman Catholic countries Baptist churches were formed by missionaries coming from either England or America: work in France began in 1832, in Italy missions were started in 1866 (Spezia Mission) and in 1884 (Baptist Missionary Society, which also has a mission in Brittany), and in Spain in 1888. In Protestant countries and in Russia the Baptist movement began without missionary intervention from England or America. J. G. Oncken (1800-1884) formed the first church in Hamburg in 1834, and thereafter Baptist churches were formed in other countries as follows:—Denmark (1839), Holland and Sweden (1848), Switzerland (1849), Norway (1860), Austria and Rumania (1869), Hungary (1871), and Bulgaria (1884). Baptist churches also began to be formed in Russia and Finland in the 'fifties and 'sixties.
3. British Colonies.—In every colony the Baptists have a considerable place. There are unions of Baptist churches in the following colonies:—New South Wales, Victoria, S. Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, New Zealand, Tasmania, Canada (four Unions) and S. Africa. The work in S. Africa is assisted by the Baptist South African Missionary and Colonial Aid Society, having its seat in London.
The Baptist World Alliance was formed in 1905, when the first Baptist World Congress was held in London. The preamble of the constitution of this Alliance sufficiently indicates its nature: "Whereas, in the providence of God, the time has come when it seems fitting more fully to manifest the essential oneness in the Lord Jesus Christ, as their God and Saviour, of the churches of the Baptist order and faith throughout the world, and to promote the spirit of fellowship, service and co-operation among them, while recognizing the independence of each particular church and not assuming the functions of any existing organization, it is agreed to form a Baptist alliance, extending over every part of the world." This alliance does in fact include Baptists in every quarter of the globe, as will be seen from the following statistics:—
|National Baptist Convention||16,996||2,110,269|
|Southern Baptist Convention||20,431||1,832,638|
|"Disciples of Christ"||11,157||1,235,798|
|Thirty-five Northern States||8,894||986,821|
|Fourteen other Bodies||7,921||414,775|
|Mexico and Central America||58||1,820|
|Rumania and Bulgaria||5||374|
| Russia and Poland||131||24,136|
In 1909 the comparative totals were roughly:—72,988 churches; 7,480,940 members. In both sets of figures the Disciples of Christ (U.S.A.) are included.
Literature.—Thomas Crosby, The History of the English Baptists (4 vols. London, 1738-1740); D. Masson, Life of John Milton in Connexion with the History of his Time (6 vols. 1859-1880, new ed. 1881, &c.); B. Evans, The Early English Baptists, i. ii. (1862-1864); H. C. Vedder, A Short History of the Baptists (London, 1897); A. H. Newman, A Manual of Church History (Philadelphia, 1900-1903); R. Heath, Anabaptism (1895); C. Williams, The Principles and Practices of the Baptists (1903); E. C. Pike, The Story of the Anabaptists (1904); J. H. Shakespeare, Baptist and Congregational Pioneers; J. G. Lehmann, Geschichte der deutschen Baptisten (1896-1900); G. Tumbült, Die Wiedertäufer (Bielefeld, 1899); The Baptist Handbook (annually); The Baptist World Congress, 1905; The Religious Census of London (1904). (N. H. M.)
4. United States of America.—The first Baptist Church in America was that founded in the Providence settlement on Narragansett Bay under the leadership of Roger Williams (q.v.). Having been sentenced to banishment (October 1635) by the Massachusetts Court because of his persistence in advocating separatistic views deemed unsettling and dangerous, to escape deportation to England he betook himself (January 1636) to the wilderness, where he was hospitably entertained by the natives who gave him a tract of land for a settlement. Having been joined by a few friends from Massachusetts, Williams founded a commonwealth in which absolute religious liberty was combined with civil democracy. In the firm conviction that churches of Christ should be made up exclusively of regenerate members, the baptism of infants appeared to him not only valueless but a perversion of a Christian ordinance. About March 1639, with eleven others, he decided to restore believers' baptism and to form a church of baptized believers. Ezekiel Holliman, who had been with him at Plymouth and shared his separatist views, first baptized Williams and Williams baptized the rest of the company. Williams did not long continue to find satisfaction in the step he had taken. Believing that the ordinances and apostolic church organization had been lost in the general apostasy, he became convinced that it was presumptuous for any man or company of men to undertake their restoration without a special divine commission. He felt compelled to withdraw from the church and to assume the position of a seeker. He continued on friendly terms with the Baptists of Providence, and in his writings he expressed the conviction that their practice came nearer than that of other communities to the first practice of Christ.
In November 1637 John Clarke (1609-1676), a physician, of religious zeal and theological acumen, arrived at Boston, where, instead of the religious freedom he was seeking, he found the dominant party in the Antinomian controversy on the point of banishing the Antinomian minority, including Mrs Anne Hutchinson (q.v.) and her family, John Wheelwright (c. 1592-1679), and William Coddington (1601-1678). Whether from sympathy with the persecuted or aversion to the persecutors, he cast in his lot with the former and after two unsuccessful attempts at settlement assisted the fugitives in forming a colony on the island of Aquidnek (Rhode Island), procured from the Indians through the good offices of Williams. By 1641 there were, according to John Winthrop, "professed Anabaptists" on the island, and Clarke was probably their leader. Robert Lenthall, who joined the Newport company in 1640 when driven from Massachusetts, probably brought with him antipaedobaptist convictions. Mrs Scott, sister of Mrs Hutchinson, is thought to have been an aggressive antipaedobaptist when the colony was founded. Mark Lucar, who was baptized by immersion in London in January 1642 (N.S.) and was a member of a Baptist church there, reached Newport about 1644. A few years later we find him associated with Clarke as one of the most active members of the Newport church, and as the date of the organization is uncertain, there is some reason to suspect that he was a constituent member, and that as a baptized man he took the initiative in baptizing and organizing. At any rate we have in Lucar an interesting connecting link between early English and American Baptists.
The Providence church maintained a rather feeble existence after Williams's withdrawal, with Thomas Olney (d. 1682), William Wickenden, Chad Brown (d. 1665) and Gregory Dexter as leading members. A schism occurred in 1652, the last three with a majority of the members contending for general redemption and for the laying on of hands as indispensable to fellowship, Olney, with the minority, maintaining particular redemption and rejecting the laying on of hands as an ordinance. Olney's party became extinct soon after his death in 1682. The surviving church became involved in Socinianism and Universalism, but maintained a somewhat vigorous life and, through Wickenden and others, exerted considerable influence at Newport, in Connecticut, New York and elsewhere. Dexter became, with Williams and Clarke, a leading statesman in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
The Newport church extended its influence into Massachusetts, and in 1649 we find a group of Baptists at Rehoboth, with Obadiah Holmes as leader. The intolerance of the authorities rendered the prosecution of the work impracticable and these Massachusetts Baptists became members of the Newport church. In 1651 Clarke, Holmes and Joseph Crandall of the Newport church made a religious visit to Lynn, Mass. While holding a meeting in a private house they were arrested and were compelled to attend the church services of the standing order. For holding an unlawful meeting and refusing to participate quietly in the public service they were fined, imprisoned and otherwise maltreated. While in England on public business in 1652, Clarke published Ill News from New England, which contained an impressive account of the proceedings against himself and his brethren at Lynn, and an earnest and well-reasoned plea for liberty of conscience.
Henry Dunster (1612-1659), the first president of the college at Cambridge (Harvard), had by 1653 become convinced that "visible believers only should be baptized." Being unwilling to hold his views in abeyance, he relinquished in 1654, under circumstances of considerable hardship, the work that he greatly loved.
In 1663 John Myles (1621-1683), a Welsh Baptist who had been one of Cromwell's Tryers, with his congregation, took refuge in Massachusetts from the intolerance of the government of Charles II. They were allowed to settle in Rehoboth, Mass., and even after they were discovered to be Baptists they were allowed to remain on condition of establishing their meeting-place at a considerable distance from that of the standing order. Myles did much to promote the growth of the Baptist Church in Massachusetts, and was of service to the denomination in Boston and elsewhere. Thomas Gould of Charlestown seems to have been in close touch with President Dunster and to have shared his antipaedobaptist views as early as 1654. Some time before 1665 several English Baptists had settled in the neighbourhood of Boston and several others had adopted Baptist views. These, with Gould, were baptized (May 1665) and joined with those who had been baptized in England in a church covenant. The church was severely persecuted, the members being frequently imprisoned and fined and denied the use of a building they had erected as a meeting-house. Long after the Act of Toleration (1689) was in full force in England, the Boston Baptists pleaded in vain for the privileges to which they were thereby entitled, and it required the most earnest efforts of English Baptists and other dissenters to gain for them a recognition of the right to exist. A mandate from Charles II. (July 1679), in which the Massachusetts authorities were sharply rebuked for denying to others the liberty to secure which they themselves had gone into exile, had produced little effect.
In 1682 William Screven (1629-1713) and Humphrey Churchwood, members of the Boston church, gathered and organized, With the co-operation of the mother church, a small congregation at Kittery, Me. Persecution led to migration, Screven and some of the members making their way to South Carolina, where, with a number of English Baptists of wealth and position, what became the First Baptist church in Charleston, was organized (about 1684). This became one of the most important of early Baptist centres, and through Screven's efforts Baptist principles became widely disseminated throughout that region. The withdrawal of members to form other churches in the neighbourhood and the intrusion of Socinianism almost extinguished the Charleston church about 1746.
A few Baptists of the general (Arminian) type appeared in Virginia from 1714 onward, and were organized and fostered by missionaries from the English General Baptists. By 1727 they had invaded North Carolina and a church was constituted there.
From 1643 onward antipaedobaptists from New England and elsewhere had settled in the New Netherlands (New York). Lady Deborah Moody left Massachusetts for the New Netherlands in 1643 because of her antipaedobaptist views and on her way stopped at New Haven, where she won to her principles Mrs Eaton, the wife of the governor, Theophilus Eaton. She settled at Gravesend (now part of Brooklyn) having received from the Dutch authorities a guarantee of religious liberty. Francis Doughty, an English Baptist, who had spent some time in Rhode Island, laboured in this region in 1656 and baptized a number of converts. This latter proceeding led to his banishment. Later in the same year William Wickenden of Providence evangelized and administered the ordinances at Flushing, but was heavily fined and banished. From 1711 onward Valentine Wightman (1681-1747) of Connecticut (General Baptist) made occasional missionary visits to New York at the invitation of Nicolas Eyres, a business man who had adopted Baptist views, and in 1714 baptized Eyres and several others, and assisted them in organizing a church. The church was well-nigh wrecked (1730) by debt incurred in the erection of a meeting-house. A number of Baptists settled on Block Island about 1663. Some time before 1724 a Baptist church (probably Arminian) was formed at Oyster Bay.
The Quaker colonies, with their large measure of religious liberty, early attracted a considerable number of Baptists from New England, England and Wales. About 1684 a Baptist church was founded at Cold Spring, Bucks county, Pa., through the efforts of Thomas Dungan, an Irish Baptist minister who had spent some time in Rhode Island. The Pennepek church was formed in 1688 through the labours of Elias Keach, son of Benjamin Keach (1640-1704), the famous English evangelist. Services were held in Philadelphia under the auspices of the Pennepek church from 1687 onward, but independent organization did not occur till 1698. Several Keithian Quakers united with the church, which ultimately became possessed of the Keithian meeting-house. Almost from the beginning general meetings had been held by the churches of these colonies. In 1707 the Philadelphia Association was formed as a delegated body "to consult about such things as were wanting in the churches and to set them in order." From its inception this body proved highly influential in promoting Baptist co-operation in missionary and educational work, in efforts to supply the churches with suitable ministers and to silence unworthy ones, and in maintaining sound doctrine. Sabbatarianism appeared within the bounds of the association at an early date and Seventh-day Baptist churches were formed (1705 onward).
The decades preceding the "Great Awakening" of 1740-1743 were a time of religious declension. A Socinianized Arminianism had paralysed evangelistic effort. The First Church, Providence, had long since become Arminian and held aloof from the evangelism of Edwards, Whitefield and their coadjutors. The First Church, Boston, had become Socinianized and discountenanced the revival. The First Church, Newport, had been rent asunder by Arminianism, and the nominally Calvinistic remnant had itself become divided on the question of the laying on of hands and showed no sympathy with the Great Awakening. The First Church, Charleston, had been wrecked by Socinianism. The General (Six Principles) Baptists of Rhode Island and Connecticut had increased their congregations and membership, and before the beginning of the 18th century had inaugurated annual associational meetings. But the fact that the Great Awakening in America was conducted on Calvinistic principles was sufficient to prevent their hearty co-operation. The churches of the Philadelphia Association were organized and engaged to some extent in missionary endeavour, but they showed little interest in the Edwards-Whitefield movement. And yet the Baptists ultimately profited by the Great Awakening beyond almost any of the denominations. In many New England communities a majority in the churches of the standing order bitterly opposed the new evangelism, and those who came under its influence felt constrained to organize "Separate" or "New Light" churches. These were severely persecuted by the dominant party and were denied even the scanty privileges that Baptists had succeeded in gaining. As the chief objection of the "Separates" to the churches of the standing order was their refusal to insist on personal regeneration as a term of membership, many of them were led to feel that they were inconsistent in requiring regenerate membership and yet administering baptism to unconscious infants. In several cases entire "Separate" churches reached the conviction that the baptism of infants was not only without Scriptural warrant but was a chief corner-stone of state-churchism, and transformed themselves into Baptist churches. In many cases a division of sentiment came to prevail on the matter of infant-baptism, and for a while mutual toleration prevailed; but mixed churches had their manifest disadvantages and separation ultimately ensued.
Among the Baptist leaders gained from Congregationalism as a result of the awakening was Isaac Backus (1724-1806), who became the New England champion in the cause of religious liberty and equality, and the historian of his denomination. To Daniel Marshall (d. 1784) and Shubael Stearns, "New Light" evangelists who became Baptists, the spread of Baptist principles and the multiplication of Baptist churches throughout the southern colonies were in great measure due. The feeble Baptist cause in Virginia and North Carolina had been considerably strengthened by missionaries from the churches of the Philadelphia Association, including Benjamin Griffith, John Gano (1727-1804), John Thomas, Benjamin Miller, Samuel Eaton, John Garrard and David Thomas, and several churches, formed or reformed under their influence, united with the association. In 1776 the Ketockton Association was formed by this group of churches. The Virginia colonial government, in earlier days cruelly intolerant, gave a limited toleration to Baptists of this type; but the "Separate" Baptists were too enthusiastic and too much alive to the evils of state control in religious matters to be willing to take out licences for their meetings, and soon came into sharp conflict with the authorities. Stearns was an evangelist of great power. With Marshall, his brother-in-law, and about a dozen fellow-believers he settled at Sandy Creek, North Carolina, and in a few years had built up a church with a membership of more than six hundred. Marshall afterward organized and ministered to a church at Abbott's Creek about 30 m. distant. From these centres "Separate" Baptist influence spread throughout North and South Carolina and across the Georgia border, Marshall himself finally settling and forming a church at Kiokee, Georgia. From North Carolina as a centre "Separate" Baptist influence permeated Virginia and extended into Kentucky and Tennessee. The Sandy Creek Association came to embrace churches in several colonies, and Stearns, desirous of preserving the harmonious working of the churches that recognized his leadership, resisted with vehemence all proposals for the formation of other associations.
From 1760 to 1770 the growth of the "Separate" Baptist body in Virginia and the Carolinas was phenomenal. Evangelists like Samuel Harris (1724-c.1794) and John Waller (1741-1802) stirred whole communities and established Baptist churches where the Baptist name had hitherto been unknown. The Sandy Creek Association, with Stearns as leader, undertook to "unfellowship ordinations, ministers and churches that acted independently," and provoked such opposition that a division of the association became necessary. The General Association of Virginia and the Congaree Association of South Carolina now took their places side by side with the Sandy Creek. The Virginia "Separate" Baptists had more than doubled their numbers in the two years from May 1771 to May 1773. In 1774 some of the Virginia brethren became convinced that the apostolic office was meant to be perpetuated and induced the association to appoint an apostle. Samuel Harris was the unanimous choice and was solemnly ordained. Waller and Elijah Craig (1743-1800) were made apostles soon afterward for the northern district. This arrangement, soon abandoned, was no doubt suggested by Methodist superintendency. In 1775 Methodist influence appeared in the contention of two of the apostles and Jeremiah Walker for universal redemption. Schism was narrowly averted by conciliatory statements on both sides. As a means of preserving harmony the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, a Calvinistic document, with provision against too rigid a construction, was adopted and a step was thus taken toward harmonizing with the "Regular" Baptists of the Philadelphia type. When the General Association was sub-divided (1783), a General Committee, made up of delegates from each district association, was constituted to consider matters that might be for the good of the whole society. Its chief work was to continue the agitation in which for some years the body had been successfully engaged in favour of religious equality and the entire separation of church and state. Since 1780 the "Separate" Baptists had had the hearty co-operation of the "Regular" Baptists in their struggle for religious liberty and equality. In 1787 the two bodies united and agreed to drop the names "Separate" and "Regular." The success of the Baptists of Virginia in securing step by step the abolition of everything that savoured of religious oppression, involving at last the disestablishment and the disendowment of the Episcopal Church, was due in part to the fact that Virginia Baptists were among the foremost advocates of American independence, while the Episcopal clergy were loyalists and had made themselves obnoxious to the people by using the authority of Great Britain in extorting their tithes from unwilling parishioners, and that they secured the co-operation of free-thinking statesmen like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and, in most measures, that of the Presbyterians.
The Baptist cause in New England that had profited so largely from the Great Awakening failed to reap a like harvest from the War of Independence. The standing order in New England represented the patriotic and popular party. Baptists lost favour by threatening to appeal to England for a redress of their grievances at the very time when resistance to English oppression was being determined upon. The result was slowness of growth and failure to secure religious liberty. Though a large proportion of the New England Baptists co-operated heartily in the cause of independence, the denomination failed to win the popularity that comes from successful leadership.
About 1762 the Philadelphia Association began to plan for the establishment of a Baptist institution of learning that should serve the entire denomination. Rhode Island was finally fixed upon, partly as the abode of religious liberty and because of its intelligent, influential and relatively wealthy Baptist constituency, the consequent likelihood of procuring a charter from its legislature, and the probability that the co-operation of other denominations in an institution under Baptist control would be available. James Manning (1738-1791), who had just been graduated from Princeton with high honours, was thought of as a suitable leader in the enterprise, and was sent to Rhode Island (1763) to confer with leading men, Baptist and other. As a result a charter was granted by the legislature in 1764, and after a few years of preliminary work at Warren (where the first degrees ever bestowed by a Baptist institution were conferred in 1769), Providence was chosen as the home of the college (1770). Here, with Manning as president and Hezekiah Smith (1737-1805), his class-mate at Princeton, as financial agent and influential supporter, the institution (since 1804 known as Brown University) was for many years the only degree-conferring institution controlled by Baptists. The Warren Association (1767) was organized under the influence of Manning and Smith on the model of the Philadelphia, and became a chief agency for the consolidation of denominational life, the promotion of denominational education and the securing of religious liberty. Hezekiah Smith was a highly successful evangelist, and through his labours scores of churches were constituted in New England. As chaplain in the American Revolutionary Army he also exerted a widespread influence.
The First Church, Charleston, which had become almost extinct through Arminianism in 1746, entered upon a career of remarkable prosperity in 1749 under the leadership of Oliver Hart (1723-1795), formerly of the Philadelphia Association. In 1751 the Charleston Association was formed, also on the model of the Philadelphia, and proved an element of denominational strength. The association raised funds for domestic missionary work (1755 onward) and for the education of ministers (1756 onward). Brown University shared largely in the liberality of members of this highly-cultivated and progressive body. Among the beneficiaries of the education fund was Samuel Stillman (1737-1807), afterward the honoured pastor of the Boston church. The most noted leader of the Baptists of South Carolina during the four decades following the War of Independence was Richard Furman (1755-1825), pastor of the First Church, Charleston. The remarkable numerical progress of Baptists in South Carolina from 1787 to 1812 (from 1620 members to 11,325) was due to the "Separate" Baptist movement under Stearns and Marshall far more than to the activity of the churches of the Charleston Association. Both these types of Baptist life permeated Georgia, the latter making its influence felt in Savannah, Augusta and the more cultivated communities, the former evangelizing the masses. Many negro slaves became Baptists in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. In most cases they became members of the churches of the white Baptists; but in Richmond, Savannah and some other towns they were encouraged to have churches of their own.
By 1812 there were in the United States 173,972 Baptist church members, the denominational numerical strength having considerably more than doubled since the beginning of the 19th century.
Foreign Missions.—Baptists in Boston and vicinity, Philadelphia and Charleston, and a few other communities had from the beginning of the 19th century taken a deep interest in the missionary work of William Carey, the English missionary, and his coadjutors in India, and had contributed liberally to its support. The conversion to Baptist views of Adoniram Judson (q.v.) and Luther Rice (1812), who had just been sent, with others, by the newly-formed American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to open up missionary work in India, marks an epoch in American Baptist history. Judson appealed to his American brethren to support him in missionary work among the heathen, and Rice returned to America to organize missionary societies to awaken interest in Judson's mission. In January 1813 there was formed in Boston "The Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in India and other Foreign Parts." Other societies in the Eastern, Middle and Southern states speedily followed. The desirability of a national organization soon became manifest, and in May 1814 thirty-three delegates, representing eleven states, met in Philadelphia and organized the "General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions." As its meetings were to be held every three years it came to be known as the "Triennial Convention." A Board of Commissioners was appointed with headquarters in Philadelphia (transferred in 1826 to Boston). The need of a larger supply of educated ministers for home and for mission work alike soon came to be profoundly felt, and resulted in the establishment of Columbian College, Washington (now George Washington University), with its theological department (1821), intended to be a national Baptist institution. Destitution on the frontiers led the Triennial Convention to engage extensively in home mission work (1817 onward), and in 1832 the American Baptist Home Mission Society was constituted for the promotion of this work. The need of an organ for the dissemination of information, and the quickening of interest in the missionary and educational enterprises of the Triennial Convention, led Rice to establish the Latter Day Luminary (1816) and the Columbian Star, a weekly journal (1822). From the first the attempt to rouse the denomination to organized effort for the propagation of the gospel met with much opposition, agents of the Convention being looked upon by the less intelligent pastors and churches as highly-paid and irresponsible collectors of money to be used they knew not how, or for purposes of which they disapproved. The fact that Rice was unduly optimistic and allowed the enterprises of the Convention to become almost hopelessly involved in debt, and was constrained to use some of the fund collected for missions to meet the exigencies of his educational and journalistic work, intensified the hostility of those who had suspected from the beginning the good faith of the agents and denied the scriptural authority of boards, paid agents, paid missionaries, &c. So virulent became the opposition that in several states, as Tennessee and Kentucky, the work of the Convention was for years excluded, and a large majority in each association refused to receive into their fellowship those who advocated or contributed to its objects. Hyper-Calvinism, ignorance and avarice cooperated in making the very name "missions" odious, ministerial education an impertinent human effort to supplant a spirit-called and spirit-endowed ministry, Sunday-schools and prayer-meetings as human institutions, the aim of which was to interfere with the divine order, and the receiving of salaries for ministerial work as serving God for hire or rather as serving self. To counteract this influence, Baptist State Conventions were formed by the friends of missions and education, only contributing churches, associations, missionary societies and individuals being invited to membership (1821 onward—Massachusetts had effected state organization in 1802). These became highly efficient in promoting foreign and domestic missions, Sunday-school organization, denominational literature and education. Nearly every state soon had its institutions of learning, which aspired to become universities.
(A. H. N.)
- The figures for Russia include only the German-speaking Baptists. It is impossible to ascertain the numbers of properly Russian Baptists. Estimates have been made which vary from 60,000 to 100,000.