Monday, August 29, 2011
Baptist had been active before, during, and after the Reformation throughout all of Europe and England. Time does not allow to exhaustively study great Baptist such as Franciscus Van Der Back in Italy (drowned for the faith in 1564 by Catholics), Peter Weidman in Hungary, Peter Gonesius in Poland, French Flanders in France, and Jonann Oncken in Germany. We will instead focus on the British Isles.
As previously noted, New Testament doctrine came to England during the time of the apostles. It continued on through the preaching of Baptist men such as St. Patrick in the 5th century. Around the year 1000 A.D., the Paulicians entered England, followed by a Waldensian named Walter Lollard which brought great revival in the 12th century. It was this revival and people that had a tremendous influence on Wycliffe who adopted many of their views. William Tyndale's parents were members of the Baptist church in Abergaverney, Wales.
Around the time of the Reformation, the Baptist in England were forced into hiding due to the persecution of Catholics. Kings such as Henry VIII persecuted, arrested, and martyred many Baptists for their faith. In 1533, Henry VIII ordered Baptist to leave the country within 12 days or face the stake. There were 3 different occasions that monarchs issued Acts of Pardon (1538, 1540, 1550) forgiving prisoners and convicts. Each time, Baptist were excluded from the pardon while thieves, robbers, and vagabonds went free. The death penalty was enacted for reading Baptist books. (see Hammet, "History of Baptist").
England would see the rise of men such as John Smyth. John Smyth was not the founder of English Baptist as we have so clearly seen, but he was a man who stood for religious liberty. Smyth would question what is Scriptural baptism and eventually baptized himself in hopes of obtaining it. Thomas Helwys broke away from Smyth over succession, Jesus not being God, and civil concerns. Helwys would in England in 1612 found a church in Spitalfields which he called Baptist (though he was not holding to what Baptist teach). He did teach against Calvinism and predestination, but believed men could lose their salvation. His church became known as the General Baptist Church. He would die in prison calling for religious freedom.
There was another group of Baptist that arose in that time known as the Particular Baptist. They Particular Baptist held to Calvinism that Christ had died for only particular people. The first Particular church was founded around 1635. They did see the necessity of Scriptural baptism and sent a man, Richard Blunt, all the way to Holland to get Scripturally baptized and sent back to baptize their church Scripturally. Some prominent Particular Baptist are as follows: John Milton, John Bunyan, John Gill, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, and Charles Spurgeon.
There was another group that arose called Regular Baptist who opposed both General and Particular Baptist.
Under the Weslyan revivals, the Baptist saw a great increase in England. Many of the converts from these revivals studied Scripture and were baptized as baptist. In 1800, it is estimated that there were no more than 150,000 Baptists and 708 churches in England. By 1901, there were 2,771 churches and a Baptist membership of 435,000.
In 1891, the Baptist Union began as the General and Particular Baptist joined together. This is due to the fact that the Unitarians were withdrawing from the General Baptists, and Calvinism was refuted by the Weslyan revivals and missionary work. This union brought with it a rise in the false teaching of Open Communion.
A study of Baptist history will soon change focus to a new land, America; but the contributions of the English Baptist were indeed great as they brought to the world: a call for religious liberty, a movement towards missions, Sunday Schools (not Robert Raikes, but William Fox at Prescott Street Baptist Church), Bible Society, and great hymn writers.
Our next study will focus on America's Baptist heritage, but we would be amiss to ignore the Baptist influence at this time in Australia and New Zealand. It is true that Baptist were the last of the 'denominations' to begin work in Australia, but this is primarily due to the fact that there were no Baptist convicts. The first recorded Baptist service was held in Sydney on April 24, 1831.