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Religion Library: Baptist

Beginnings

Written by: David Buschart

The origins of a third sub-tradition, the Seventh Day Baptists, are less clear than those of the General and Particular Baptists.As their name suggests, these were (and are) Baptists who were sabbatarians, that is, they believed that it was mandatory for Christians to observe the Sabbath.This included abstaining from all work and devoting the day to worship and fellowship.The earliest documented Seventh Day congregations appear to have been formed in the 1640s and early 1650s.Congregations may have been formed earlier in the century, but this cannot be confirmed from existing documentation.

The non-conformist views and practices of the Baptists, in all three sub-traditions, were viewed as a challenge to both social and ecclesiastical order, and, consequently, resulted in persecution by the state-church alliance, whether Anglican or Presbyterian.Thus, it is not surprising that some Baptists sought greater religious freedom by leaving England and heading for colonial America.However, the situation they found there was not entirely different.The Congregational churches were the established church in New England, and the Church of England held sway in most of the rest of the colonies. In these regions Baptists generally faced religious persecution.For example, in 1644 the Massachusetts Bay Colony banished Baptists by law.

They found, however, considerable religious freedom in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.Baptists thrived in Rhode Island, and in 1638 or 1639, the first Baptist church in America was founded in Providence under the leadership of Roger Williams and Ezekiel Holliman.This was a Particular Baptist church, holding to Calvinistic beliefs regarding the work of Christ and salvation.Furthermore, under the political leadership of Williams and layman John Clarke, the principle of freedom of conscience, including freedom of religious conscience, was written into law in the Charter of Rhode Island (1663).


Study Questions:
     1.    When was the first Baptist Church formed? By whom?
     2.    What is meant by the term, “General Baptists”? What theology comes with this view?
     3.    Who are the Particular Baptists? When did they originate?
     4.    What do Seventh Day Baptists believe?
     5.    Where were Baptists persecuted? Where did they thrive?

 

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