A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Baptists

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BAPTISTS, or Antipaedobaptists. This denomination claim an immediate descent from the Apostles, and assert, that the constitution of their churches is from the authority of Jesus Christ himself, and his immediate successors. Many others indeed deduce their origin as a sect, from much later times, and affirm, that they first sprang up in Germany in the sixteenth century. This denomination of Christians is distinguished from others by their opinions respecting the mode and subject of baptism. Instead of administering the ordinance by sprinkling or pouring water, they maintain that it ought to be administered only by immersion; such they insist is the meaning of the Greek word , to wash or dip, so that a command to baptize is a command to immerse. They also defend their practice from the phrase, buried with him in baptism, from the first administrators repairing to rivers, and the practice of the primitive church after the Apostles.

With regard to the subjects of Baptism, this denomination allege, that it ought not to be administered to children or infants at all, nor to adults in general; but to those only, who profess repentance for sin and faith in Christ. Our Saviour's commission to his apostles, by which Christian baptism was instituted, is to go and teach all nations, baptizing them; &c. that is, not to baptize all they meet with, but first to examine and instruct them, and whoever will receive instruction to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This construction of the passage is confirmed by another passage; Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. To such persons, and to such only this denomination says, baptism was administered by the apostles and the immediate disciples of Christ; for those who were baptized in primitive times are described as repenting of their sins, and believing in Christ. See Acts ii. 38; viii. 37. and other passages of scripture.

They farther insist, that all positive institutions depend entirely upon the will and declaration of the institutor; and that therefore reasoning by analogy from previous abrogated rites, is to be rejected, and the express commands of Christ respecting the mode and subjects of baptism ought to be our only rule.

The Baptists in England form one of the three denominations of Protestant Dissenters. The constitution of their churches, and their modes of worship are Congregational or Independent. They bore a considerable share of the persecutions of the seventeenth and preceding centuries, for there were some among the Lollards and Wickliffites who disapproved of infant baptism. There were many of this persuasion among the Protestants abroad. In Holland, Germany, and the North, they went by the names of Anabaptists and Mennonites; and in Piedmont and the South, they were found among the Albigenses and Waldenses.

The Baptists subsist under two denominations; the particular or Calvinistical, and the general or Arminian. The former is by far the most numerous. Some of both denominations allow of mixed communion[1] with Paedobaptists; others disallow it, and allege, that it would be inconsistent in them to admit unbaptized persons, (as others are in their view,) to unite with them in this ordinance.

A few of this denomination observe the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, appre- hendingthe law which enjoined it not to have been repealed by Christ, or his apostles. See Sabbatarians.

A considerable number of the general Baptists have embraced Arianism, or Socinianism, on account of which several of their ministers and churches, who disapprove of these principles, have, within the last forty years, formed themselves into a distinct connexion, called The New Association. The churches in this union keep up a friendly acquaintance, in some outward things, with those from whom they are separated; but in things they deem more essential, disclaim any connexion with them; particularly as to changing ministers and the admission of members.

The Baptists in America, and in the East and West Indies, are chiefly Calvinists. But from nearly the first rise of this denomination in America, there have been some who have opposed a number of the principal articles in the Calvinistic creed. This party have increased, and are denominated Free Will Baptists. See Free Willers.

The Baptists in Scotland, having imbibed a considerable part of the principles of Glass and Sandeman, have no connexion with the others. When the English Baptists, however engaged in a mission to the East, they very liberally contributed towards the translation of the scriptures into the Eastern languages.[2] See Haldamites.

The different denominations of Baptists all unite in pleading for universal liberty of conscience. See Mennonites, Dunkers, &c.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. The Rev. Robert Hall, who holds an eminent rank among the dissenters in England, has lately published a work, "On the Terms of Communion, with a particular view to the Case of the Baptists and Paedobaptists." He asserts in his preface to this work, that "There is no position in the whole compass of theology, of the truth of which he feels a stronger persuasion, than that no man, or set of men, are entitled to prescribe as an indispensable condition of communion, what the New Testament has not enjoined as a condition of salvation." To establish this position is the principal object of his work. Those who wish to see the arguments he makes use of, are referred to his ingenious publication.
  2. Gale's Reflections on Wall's History. Stennet's Answer to Addington. Booth's Paedobaptism Examined, second edition. McLean on the Commission. Baptist Confession of Faith. Rippon's Baptist Register, vol. i. p. 172, vol. ii. p. 361.