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The term Baptist for this overview is directed at the development at the early roots of the religious sects that grew out of the English Separatist movement of the 1580's and the merging of certain religious tenets from Holland during the period from 1600-1612. Primary to this early development was a former English clergyman John Smyth, and his own theological journey which sparked the early foundations of what would become the roots of the General or Arminian Baptists congregations in London. The early Particular Baptists tradition in England generally reject any causal interaction with the General Baptists movement.

During the Reformation there was a hotly debated theological discussion between the early Protestants and the the Roman Church regarding the sacraments of the Church. The rite of baptism was one of those hotly debated tenets. [Editor Note: A meaning discussion of the theological points involved for this topic are beyond the scope of this presentation.] The early great reformers: Luther, Calvin and Zwingli continued to administer some form of traditional infant baptism within their own traditions, as did the Church of England and the Roman Church. The form of the administration of the rite, and its theological interpretations gradually took on new meanings during the Tudor Period.

Other religious traditions such as the Anabaptist's rejected the new Lutheran Reformation theology, and that of the Roman Church. They cited the recent theological scholarship, and the lectures at Cambridge University on the New Testament congregations of the period as contrary scholarship to support their own theological views. Among these were the question of adult baptism or what became known as "believers baptism". The validity of all infant baptism were called into question based on these new scholarly interpretations of the New Testament Scriptures at Cambridge. The Cambridge cancelled these lectures, and its supporters after some pressure from the State Church. Many coming from the English Separatists community were very active in the discussion of those rites, and the theology of those sacraments within the Church of England.


The usage of the term "Baptists" within the historical context of the period 1550-1660, has been subject to various interpretation by some scholars, and historians. Some of the early English Baptists writers and historians wrote of a paleo-Baptist tradition before 1550 in England, Scotland and Wales. Later historical research has called into question the historical evidence to support these early writings, and claims. The use of the term "Anabaptist leaning" might be more appropriate rather than a more modern interpretation of the term Baptist. A definition of what may have constituted a "Baptist" before 1660 is still point of discussion by some scholars, and theologians. Many early conventicles, or non-Conforming congregations often held different position on Baptism within the same congregation, which sometimes led to members leaving.

Most contemporary scholar generally agree on two primary English Baptist traditions in England before the Restoration (1660). These are the earlier General or Arminian Baptists (ca.1612); and the later Particular Baptists (ca. 1640's), they were based on different theological tenets. There is still some difference of opinions regarding the early history of each tradition in England.

The early English Separatist tradition generally held that all sacraments were still valid even if its Church administration was deemed corrupted or tainted by Catholicism. The Church of England and the Roman Church sacraments were still considered valid. This view would gradually changed among later English Separatist congregations that would question or reject all baptisms even their own on the question of what was "a true Church"?.

For many later Separatist congregations, only a "true church" could administer a valid baptism. The only question remaining was who was a "true church" to administer a valid baptism? Infant baptism and adult baptism often became a hotly contested question in many English Independent congregations from 1600-1660.

Another theology came out of the post-Reformation, what is generally labelled as an Anabaptist tradition. Claiming New Testament authority only for a "believers baptism" where only an individual of " at the Age of Reason" can make a personal judgment for themselves to be baptized was considered to be the only valid practice. For many during this period a paleo-infant baptism in this tradition were often considered as theologically invalid, and against Scripture for some.

John Smyth (1554?-1612)

Many historians generally agree that the development of the General or Arminian Baptist polity originated with John Smyth (ca.1554-1612). Smyth was an educated man who was ordained, but later left the Church to be a Barrowist Separatist minister. He immigrated to Amsterdam, Holland with his congregation during 1608. Smyth has often been called the Father of the Baptist tradition. Not all English Baptist traditions concede a direct lineage from John Smyth, and his own Arminian leaning theology.

John Smyth (1554?-1612) was well educated. He matriculated from Christ's College (Cambridge) in 1571, and a B.A. (1575-76). He received a M.A. in 1579, a high honor for the period. Smyth was ordained into the Church of England ca. 1595. Smyth became a Fellow of Christ's Church (Cambridge) ca.1579-1598, another academic honor for his scholarship. He was known to be something of a biblical scholar. He was also a pupil of Francis Johnson while at Cambridge.

From 1600-02, John Smyth occupied the paid position of Lecturer to the Corporation of the City of Lincoln. Smyth seems to have had some issues with this position. He was dismissed from this position for unstated reasons, possible politics, or some unstated theological views have often been suggested.

There was also a particular sermon in the local Cathedral by Smyth on the English Episcopacy that way have raised a few additional concerns in certain quarters. Smyth may not have been considered a radical per se, but questions regarding Church administration would not have been appreciated in certain quarters regarding any possible Separatist, or the Puritan leanings.

Between 1604-06, Smyth may have run a fowl of the Bishop of Lincoln for again unstated reasons. Smyth may have been over zealous in his preaching, or too willing to voice his own theological views of the Church administration. Local Bishops at this period in time might run the gamete from a moderate Calvinist to hard nosed Anglicans.

Smyth may not have passed the Canon of 1604 requirements, or may have simply left the Church. We known that he may have been deprived of his living, or had his preaching license revoked. Former clergy were required to resettle more than five miles from their former church parishes. There are some good indications that Smyth and his family may have taken up new residence in the Clifton area which was just outside of the Bishop of Lincoln See during 1604-07. Reports seems to indicate that made a good living for his family. It would not be unreasonable to suspect that Smyth favored a locality where he was known, and had friends to assist in his new occupation!

Smyth was undoubtedly familiar with the area around Gainsborough-on-Trent, and may have had friends there. He may have become, or been aware of the new independent congregation under Richard Clyfton (d. 1616) about 1605. [Editor note: See Barrowist section.]

Richard Clyfton (d. 1616)

Richard Clyfton [Clifton](d.1616) a.k.a. Clifton, was an older ordained clergyman with a parish at Babworth ca. 1585-ca.1605, near Retford and Scrooby. Clifton may also have been deprived of his parish under the Canons of 1604. During 1605-06, Clifton seems to have attempted to start a Separatist conventicle in the area, but with little success.

Clyfton would soon establish a new Independent conventicle based on Brownist or quasi-Barrowist principles. The initial congregation was established at Gainsborough-on-Trent ca. 1606 under the leadership of the former Rev. Richard Clyfton.

The new congregation grew quickly and soon became a potential security risk to itself from the local Church agents. A decision was soon make to divided the Gainsborough conventicle for greater safety considerations. A portion of the Gainsborough congregation would move to the small community of Scrooby near Clyfton's former parish by during 1607. This community was selected for its location and possible local area of support.

This left the original Gainsborough congregation without its minister with only its Elder, Thomas Helwys, a wealthy local merchant in charge. Clifton probably made regular trips back and forth between the two congregations for a certain period of time. Clifton was himself getting on in years and may have found it physically difficult to continue to actively minister to both congregations on a regular basis. This probably led to the need to find a replacement clergyman to Shepard the Gainsborough conventicle during 1607.

We have come to learn that Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?),the Elder of the current Gainsborough congregation may have personally undertaken the task of helping to finding a replacement minister for Gainsborough. We learn that the Rev. Smyth is staying as a guest on the Thomas Helwys estate. Who contacted whom is somewhat fuzzy, but Smyth may have had some old friends in the Broxtowe-Gainsborough area, or may have already been acquinted with the Rev. Clifton, or Elder Hewlys before hand?. Smyth seems to have made the best of his relations, and passed his job interview, and was soon elected as the new minister of the Gainsborough conventicle as the replacement for Clyfton who was still probably senior.

There was anew Archbishop of York invested, and the local Bishop and his agents were busy looking for dissident clergy, and any nonconforming conventicles in his See. Some members of the local Scrooby conventicle had already been fined, or jailed including Mrs. Thomas Helwys, who visited York Castle. All of this local attention from the Church authorities soon prompted a decision to seek a new home to Europe, possibly near Amsterdam, Holland. The Gainsborough congregation was scheduled to set sail for Holland in late 1607, or early 1608 not to draw too much attention to itself. The Scrooby conventicle was to then depart shortly thereafter the Gainsborough company had left safely.

Holland was very tolerant religious location for English Separatists and various religious dissidents. Amsterdam was a major capital city and the home to another prominent Barrowist congregation, The English Exiled Church in Amsterdam (1597), under Francis Johnson (1562-1618), a former Cambridge don and a teacher of Smyth which had been established there.

Soon after the Scrooby group arrival in Amsterdam during 1607-08, John Smyth entered into communion with Francis Johnson and his Amsterdam Barrowist congregation. Johnson was a major divine in the development of Barrowism, and a prominent pastor in Amsterdam.

Disagreements soon materialized between the two minister, Smyth and Johnson (1562-1618). Smyth had his own ideas on the proper methods on how a congregation should be administered. Smyth became critical of the Johnson administration in running his own congregation. Disagreements soon began, Smyth was even beginning to questioning some of the basic tenets of Barrowism. [Editor Note: See Barrowism Section].

The Scrooby Congregation in the mean time was having their own problems in making their initial Channel crossing. Their first ship captain reported them to the Church authorities, and many were arrested and jailed. During their second attempt things also did not go well,only part of the congregation mostly women had bordered their ship and just escaped. Many of the men were to rendezvous with them. The remaining men were arrested and sentenced to stay in the City of Boston (England) Jail. After being released from the Boston Jail, the remainder of the congregation did finally set sail for Amsterdam.

Then the Scrooby congregation was now under its new minister John Robinson(1575?-1625), a former ordained clergyman from Norwich. Robinson had joined the Scrooby congregation as its Teacher. William Brewster, a local resident was its Elder. Richard Clyfton (d.1616) its former minister made the trip as a member of the congregation. By late 1608,the remainder of the Scrooby congregation was finally reunited with the Gainsborough congregation under John Smyth in Amsterdam.

During the later part of 1608 the Scrooby Congregation under John Robinson, the Gainsborough Congregation under John Smyth, and Francis Johnson were all communicant members of the same congregation under one roof in Amsterdam. By early 1609, John Robinson was looking to move his own congregation to another location away from Amsterdam, due to the regular disagreements between Smyth, and his old teacher Johnson.

John Smyth (1554?-1612) was soon questioning the traditional Barrowist offices of: Pastor, Teacher, Elder, and Deacon as separate and distinct functions rather than as different aspects of the single office of Elder. Smyth was criticizing Francis Johnson on how he was administering his own Amsterdam congregation.

During the end of 1609 or by early 1610 John Smyth and his Gainsborough congregation were no longer in joint communion with the Francis Johnson, and the English Exiled Church in Amsterdam. Smyth was either asked to leave, or he simple left on his own volition is uncertain. Smyth not being a man to run from any criticism, Smyth than proceeded to establish the new Second English Exiled Church in Amsterdam under his own leadership in opposition to Johnson.

Smyths' recent theological conflicts with Francis Johnson on Barrowism had only fueled his own academic desire for more religious knowledge available in Amsterdam. Smyth was a popular local preacher in his own right, and he was soon administering to other congregations in addition to his original Barrowist Gainsborough Congregation. Smyth was by now expanding beyond the traditional Barrowism tenets.

Smyth was struggling with one of the major Separatist issues of the day, the question of what constituted a valid baptism. Having rejected his own infant baptism and its original administrative body, i.e., the Church of England. Smyth began to search for another answer to his question.

Browne, and Barrow and some later English Separatists sects came to rejected the tainted sacraments of the corrupted Church of Rome, and by extension those of the the Church of England. Only a true non-tainted Church could administer a valid baptism according to Henry Barrow, the Barrowist divine.

Not knowing quite what to do, Smyth in a spiritual revelation decided to baptize himself from a basin. For this action Smyth acquired the appellation of "Self-Baptiser" or the ":Se-Baptist". This act itself provided little resolution for Smyths' question except to promote his own notoriety in religious papers for his questionable act. He would later renounced the act, but the appellation stuck.

John Smyth was still being troubled over the question of what constituted a valid baptism, or a "True Church": He sought out the assistance of various local sects. He became acquainted with the Dutch Waterlanders (Doopsgezinder), who claimed descent from the Mennonites, a branch of the Anabaptist Movement. They practiced "adult or believers' baptism" by immersion in water.

Baptism by immersion in water became a symbol and metaphor for being raised again as a new person in Christ, which harkened back to the New Testament, and John the Baptist. This was at some variance with basic earlier Separatist-Calvinistic practices regarding infant baptism. Once having accepted the basic theological tenets of the Dutch Waterlanders sect, Smyth was duly baptized in the new theology of adult or believers baptism.

Having been baptized by the Waterlanders, Smyth baptized both Helwys' and his Gainesborough congregation members in this new form of adult baptism. Smyth would eventually re-baptise all of his other congregations in the same fashion They were sometimes referred to as "Dippers" for the use of adult immersion. Smyth was gradually becoming increasingly more influenced by the Dutch Waterlanders sect, and to the concerns of both Robinson and Helwys.

During 1610 Smyth had attempted to negotiate a permanent union his personal congregations including Robinson and Helwys with the local Dutch Waterlanders. Both Helwys and Robinson issued a joint letter to the Dutch Waterlanders not to offer the any joint proposal with Smyth, which they did not do. This act resulted in a major impact within Smyth's own congregations.

After Smyth's failed attempt to merge with the Waterlander. Robinson and Helwys issued a formal letter which basically excommunicated John Smyth from the Gainsborough-Scrooby congregations, and dissolved all ties with the membership. There were some that moved back with Smyth.

Smyth was somewhat inquisitive of the broader religious community near Amsterdam. Two individuals would also influence Smyth theological tenents. One was Hans de Reis a radical theologian, and the Dutch Reformed Church theologian Jacobus Aminius (1560-1609), a.k.a. Jakob Hermans or Harmens. Both theologians would have an impact on Smyth, and his own theological teachings

During 1610 Smyth had attempted to form a permanent union with the local Dutch Waterlanders congregation. Both Helwys and Robinson issued a joint letter to the Dutch Waterlanders requesting not to accept the any union proposal, which they did not do. This act resulted in a major division within Smyth's own congregations.

Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) as Elder of the Gainsborough Congregation, and John Robinson as minister of the Scrooby Congregation at Leyden jointly excommunicated John Smyth from their communion based on Smyths' new heretical theology and his attempts to join with the Dutch Waterlanders sect.

John Robinson (1575?-1625) and his Scrooby congregation near the University of Leyden would remain in place. Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) and his remaining Gainsborough Congregation had decided to move back to England in 1611. Helwys had decided that remaining safe in Holland did not serve the needs of promoting his religious message in England even if it might mean potential prison time, or possible death.

In a relatively short period of time from 1607-1612, John Smyth was able to influence the development of a new English congregational system where none had previously existed. The fruits of his efforts were passed on to his principal disciples: Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) and John Murton (1585-1626?). John Smyth left his legacy with his remaining congregations and with the respect of the Dutch Reformed Church.

After 1611, John Smyth would continue ministering to his own local congregations. At the time of Smyth's' death in 1612, most of his remaining congregation had not yet merged with the local Anabaptist congregations. Symth was a well known as respected member of Amsterdam society, and was well respected by the community. His funeral service were a major city event. Smyth was given the honour of being interned in the De Oude Kerk [Olde Kirk], the major city church as a sign of respect which was a major event in 1612.

Helwys-Murton Congregation

After the funeral of John Smyth, Thomas Helwys with members of his remaining Gainsborough-on-Trent congregation decided to return to London. There was a general desire on his part to return to England and to proclaim their new religious theology to the English nation. The financial considerations for this move, or the property in London is somewhat unclear. Helwys had been a wealthy merchant while in England, he still may had some financial resources available. A large property was acquired at Spitalfield, an old market section of London. An old former convent hospital property just outside the eastern walls of the City of London ca. 1611-12 became their new home. The approximate modern area is just east of modern Liverpool Street Station, the Spitalfield Market area, London E1.

There was a tradition than shortly after Hewlys established himself in London one of John Smyth other former congregation from Amsterdam under it leader Leonard Busher [ca.1573-?1651] may have planted his own small congregation in, or near London. Some recent research would seem to now support the contention Busher may well have returned to England for a period of time. The question of the congregation still seems to be questionable for now.

Leonard Busher

Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) and his congregation had by now incorporated certain aspects of John Smyth's' Anabaptist-Arminian tenets into their own new theology. Among these tenets were: adult baptism by immersion; universal salvation or "free will"; separation of Church and State; and Smyth's church administrative structure of only Elders and Deacons. Those who carried the sword were not barred from Church membership, and Christ had a earthly body, i.e. a form of anti-Trinitarianism.

Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) continued as the Elder, and the spiritual leader of his new English congregation. Helwys published a work: A Short Declaration of the mistery of iniquity (1612). Helwys presented a copy of this work to King James I, who took little pleasure in the questionable theological opinions expresses. The work was promptly ordered to be seized and burned. The new congregation may have gone underground for safety.

Helwys was arrested and questioned concerning his writings and theological views. Unwilling to recant, Helwys was thrown into prison in 1613, and may have died there while in prison. The exact date of his death is uncertain but 1616? is often given. The time period between 1613-1616 is still rather vague.

John Murton (1585-1626?) had been a furrier by trade in Gainsborough-on-Trent. Murton was a member of the original Gainsborough Congregation of 1607 that had travelled to Amsterdam. Murton had been a close personal disciple of John Smyth while in Holland. Murton had returned to London with Helwys and his early congregation.

Murton may have spent some time in prison with Thomas Helwys during the period between 1613?-1616? It may be assumed that Helwys and his congregation kept a low profile after Helwys was sent to prison.

Murton became the Elder of the congregation on Helwys death ca.1616?. He continued the basic theological guidelines as laid down by Helwys himself. In 1624 there seems to have been a falling out within in the Murton congregation.

One Elias Tookey and a few members began to question the tenet on Magistracy in the congregation. Magistracy was an old question whether those individuals who acted in the Name of the State or carried arms for the State were considered corrupted in the sight of God. Helwys had held that they were not corrupted, Tookey and a few others objects to this point of view and left.

Elias Tookey and the sixteen other members were excommunication for their views. Unable to merge with the local Dutch Waterlanders, Tookey would start his own congregation in London. There were some local charges at the time that Tookey's congregation was harboring Socinians, i.e. a form of anti-Trinitarians. Information of the Tookey congregation is somewhat limited, but they may have had some influence on the later development of the early English Baptists in London.

By 1625, some five Helwys-Murton affiliated congregations were active in London, and in a few others in some of the large cities. Former members of the Smyth's Second English Exiled Church in Amsterdam (1608-1612?) may well have begun to migrated back to England from Holland as seniorsduring the 1630's, and may have provided some stability for growing the early Helwys-Murton congregations. Information on the original Murton congregation in London after 1626 is somewhat incomplete.

Whether or not the early Helwys-Murton congregation should be considered the well spring of the first General Baptist congregations, or possibly the mother congregation from which the roots of the General Baptists sprang still needs more research.

General or Arminian Baptists

The early roots of the English General Baptists congregations are still unclear, and need more research. They may have developed from returning exiled separatist congregations from Holland after 1612. The Helwys-Murton congregation during 1612-1626 had some spin-off congregations which may have contributed to other groups. Helwys-Murton would seem to share a parallel development with the early General Baptist Churches.

The term General or Arminian Baptist seems to have come into common usage about 1625. Documented history of this group before 1625 demands more research. The early General Baptists congregations were not a large community of believers by the standards of the day.

General Baptists were known for their strong anti-Calvinist message. They preached a strong Arminian or "free will" message of universal salvation. Also called "general redemption" this is sometimes cited as the origin of the name. Sometimes referred to as Arminian Baptists, or "rustic Pelagianism" they found much of their support among the poorer classes of London and in the rural areas of England.

General Baptists embraced salvation by good works, and the separation of Church and State. They incorporated the church administrative structure of Elders and Deacons as expounded earlier by John Smyth and the Helwys-Murton congregations. They practiced adult baptism by immersion with its quasi-Anabaptist overtones. There was a strong anti-clerical bent that authority proceeded from the Bible rather than the congregation. There was also a strong emphasis on individual personal salvation.

From the mid-1620's to the 1640's, General Baptist congregations had spread throughout England. In 1641, a General Meeting was held in Whitechapel (London). This meeting attracted large crowds resulting in many arrests and imprisonment for those attending the meeting. There are estimates of some fifty congregations in place by 1650.

General Baptists were more open and less structured congregations than other Independent congregationss. The doctrinal beliefs within the General Baptists congregations could be rather broad from semi-Anabaptist to more traditional separatist views. This was a dual edged sword for them in attracting new members, and than keeping hold of them afterwards.

General Baptist's suffered from its own radical fringe elements. Their traveling itinerant preachers were considered trouble makers by most local civil and church authorities throughout England, but they were very popular among the common folk.

A certain Mrs. Attaway (Attoway) [fl. 1643-46], a member of Thomas Lamb's (d. 1686) General Baptist congregation in London. She was a female tub preacher (i.e. the tub was used as a movable pulpit), and was notorious in London during the mid-1640's. In 1646, he believed that she had been called to be a prophet to the Jews. She with a Mr. William Jenner, as a companion and fellow saint, travelled to Jerusalem to meet Christ, other Old Testament saints, to usher in a new Golden Age for the Jews.

General Baptists were challenged from the mid-1640's by others sects including the Particular Baptists, a pro-Calvinist sect. There was little theological agreement between these two divergent points of view: Predestination and Free Will. There were other issues of disagreements between the two.

Both groups became increasing involved with the political movement of the Levellers, and the New Model Army. Baptist membership among the rank and file of the New Model Army was high. Many regiments had their ministers in the ranks, sometimes either General or Particular. With the downfall of the Levellers movement and its New Model Army support in 1650, the General Baptists' center of influence shifted to the more rural areas from London with less visibility.

The General Baptist have been credited with developing the doctrine of the "inner light" which was later embraced by Fox and the early Quakers. The General Baptist survived the Restoration (1660), but were kept under careful watch by the Crown due to a few radicals and potential trouble makers.

Particular or Calvinistic Baptists

The origins of the Particular Baptists are still unclear. Some have contended that they developed from Continental Calvinistic congregations who migrated to England in the 1630's. Some have argued for pro-Calvinists English Separatist congregations who migrated back to England. Members of John Robinson's congregation at Leyden are often mentioned as possible sources.

Another theory has its supporters that the Particular Baptist's developed directly from dissident radical congregations in London during the 1630's. The Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey congregation in London is often cited as the mother congregation of the early Particular Baptists. Some of its splinter congregations may have formed the basis of the original Particular Baptist movement. [Ed. Note: See English Dissenters Index: Jacobites.]

Being stern Calvinists, the Particular Baptists reject any relationship with John Smyth, or the early General Baptists who advocated Arminian or "free will" theology with its popish overtones. Some early Baptist authors even postulated an early historical tradition in Britain dating as far back as the New Testament.

This is part of historical problem with pre-1660 English protestant sects. Good historical information on religious groups especially outside of the Greater London Area is still sketchy. Small groups of individuals might establish a new congregations that might merger with some other group or just dissolve, or disappear. We might be talking of congregations of under twenty individuals, or just a few families. People were known to move about looking for a good preacher, or the "right" theology.

There were early Independent congregation with baptist leanings. Among these were: Mr. Hubbard ca. 1621 at Deadman's Place (London), they left for Ireland and returned about 1630. John Canne was their pastor on their return to London ca. 1630-33. Canne left the congregation under unspecified conditions for Amsterdam, Holland about 1633. Samuel Howe (d. 1640) became their new pastor until his death.

A number of small quasi-Baptist or primitive Baptist congregations developed in London between 1630-1645. Among these early congregations were: Samuel Eaton (d.1639) from 1633-36; John Spilsbury(1593-ca.1668) by 1638; Praise-God Barebon(e) (1596-1679) all have been cited as possible sources for the original union of London Particular Baptist congregations.

John Spilsbury has been cited as the first of the Particular Baptist congregations. The usage of the designation "Particular Baptist" before 1643 is subject to interpretation. The history of early Baptist congregations outside of London is unclear.

Kiffin Manuscript

Early Calvinist Baptists felt a special need to establish a valid independent succession of baptism from the Smyth-Helwys and the General Baptist tradition with all of its implications and overtones. Some of these early historical writings have been called more faith than history. The Kiffin Manuscript was often cited as an historical document to support that particular argument.

These primitive baptist congregations seems to have practiced varied forms of baptism. According to the Kiffin Manuscript, attributed to William Kiffin (1616-1701), during the early 1640's a certain Robert Blount, a Dutch speaking member of a local London congregations, was sent to Holland to consult with a prominent radical sect regarding the proper form of baptism. Blount came into contact with the Dutch Collegiants (ca. 1620-1780), a Remonstranten sect, quasi-Calvinistic with Arminian tendencies, based around Rinjsberg (Holland). They practiced "believer's or adult baptism" by immersion.

According to the Kiffin Manuscript document Blount was duly baptized, he returned to England and baptized another. These two individuals than began to baptized other members of their congregation, and so on according to the Kiffin Manuscript.

The historical authenticity of the Kiffin Manuscript has been called into question by some historians. There is even disagreement among some Baptists scholars regarding the document. Except for the manuscript narrative itself, there would appear to be little factual historical verification of the text, the specific incidents or the individuals cited, i.e. Mr. Blount appear questionable.

There is another related document of the same period, called the Gould Kiffin Manuscript which relates some of the same information of this period. The Gould Kiffin Manuscript is at variance with the original Kiffin Manuscript. The information presented there would appear to be more historically factual than the original Kiffin Manuscript.

The question of baptism by immersion before 1641 was a major topic of concern among the early Calvinistic Baptists. By 1641, adult baptism by immersion was becoming the prevailing practice for many Baptists congregations. Labeled as "Dippers", they too often suffered from allegations of Anabaptist roots.

William Kiffin (1616-1701) was a prominent London merchant in London. He left the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Independent congregation ca. 1638 with five other members including Thomas Wilson and joined a splinter congregation headed by John Spilsbury. Kiffin disagreed with Spilsbury over pulpit rights and then returned back to Lathrop's Independent congregation. About 1639, a disagreement developed in Lathrop's congregation over "paedobaptism" or infant baptism. Kiffin espoused a belief in "believers baptism" but still remained in the congregation.

About 1639/40, the issue of "believers baptism" was again raised in the Lathrop Independent congregation. The new issue was the baptism of the infant child of Hanserd Knollys (Knollis)(ca.1599-1691), a former clergyman. Knollys had recently returned to England from his New England congregation, ca. 1641. Hanserd Knollys would later establish his own Baptist congregation in 1645 in London. Knollys would permit a policy of mixed communion with Independents and Presbyterians.

As a member of the Lathrop congregation, Hanserd Knollys refused to allow his infant child to be baptized even at the assistance of the congregation. Infant baptism was considered a requirement tenet under Calvinism. William Kiffin, a prominent merchant, and a member of the same congregation supported Knollys right not to submit his infant child to baptism even if it was against the local congregational policy.

In May 1640, a Council of Independent congregations in London was called to adjudicate the question of child baptism. The result of the Council vote was the establishment a new Baptist congregation in London. In May 1640, a new London Baptist congregation was created under the leadership of William Kiffin.

William Kiffin has often been credited in large measure with helping to organize the original seven London congregations which issued the First London Confession of Faith (1644). These initial seven congregations formed the basis of the new Particular Baptist assembly in London.

The signatories to the Confession of Faith of 1643 were: William Kiffin(1616-1701), Thomas Patience, John Spilsbury or Spilsbery [1593-ca.1668] , George Tipping, Samuel Richardson [fl. 1637-1658], Thomas Skippard, Thomas Munday,Thomas Gunn,John Mabhatt,John Webb, Thomas Kilcop [fl.1642-1648], Paul Hobson[d.1666], Thomas Goare, Joseph Phelpes and Edward Heath. These were demonstrably some of the major Particular Baptist leaders of the period.

The designation of "Particular Baptist" as an organized body before 1643 is subject to additional research. Before 1643 there were only individual congregations, after 1643 there was a common Confession of Faith with seven member congregations.

The First London Confession of Faith (1644) became the religious statement for the newly organized London Particular Baptists. A pro-Calvinist statement of doctrine, it is a clear refutation of any possible Anabaptist influences. It is one of the first published documents of its type in England. This document predates the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). A second edition was issued as the London Confession of Faith (1649).

The Particular Baptist embraced a Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, a "particular" atonement, or salvation for a particular few. This is one theory for the possible derivation of its name. Particular Baptists congregations could be Independent or Congregational in polity. Particular Baptists congregations were noted for their very strict administration of their congregations.

During the Interregnum (1649-1660), the Particular Baptists with their strong Calvinist message attained large memberships throughout Great Britain, and Ireland. By 1644 there were some forty-seven congregations outside of London. They vied for power within the New Model Army and became associated with the Levellers political movement.

Particular Baptists competed with other radical sects of the period including the early Quakers and the Presbyterians. They influence declined with the New Model Army in 1649, and with it the Levellers political power base. They survived the Restoration (1660), and were carefully watched by the Crown.

Particular Baptists also sought the freedom of the New World. There they were able to multiply and grow in the new English Colonies.

Seventh Day Baptists

Seventh Day Baptists may have existed as early as 1640 and were common by 1650. They espoused an old belief known as Sabbatarianism. The seventh Day of the week was Saturday, and the Sabbath for the early Christians, and the Jews.

Sabbatarianism was the belief that the Sabbath was to be worshiped on the last day of the week, namely Saturday or the Jewish Sabbath, in accordance with the Old Testament tradition rather than on Sunday the first day of the week. Some groups even advocated following those Jewish customs associated with the Mosaic dietary laws. Sabbatarianism was practiced within different sects, and other congregations including puritans, Presbyterians, Calvinists, and the Church of England.

The Seventh Day Baptists were considered more radical congregations comprised of former General and Particular Baptists including other non-Baptists. Some of these radical Baptists congregations were closely linked with the Fifth Monarchy Men, [Ed. Note: See English Dissenters Index: Fifth Monarchy Men.] a radical Millennium group popular from 1650-1660.

John James [d.1661] was a Seventh Day Baptist preacher and an Elder of his London congregation. James and his congregation were arrested on 19 Oct. 1661 for their dissident views. Following Venner's Uprising , he was tried for treason and preaching sedition against the Government. He was accused of being a militant Fifth Monarchy Men. Not being a militant Fifth Monarchy Man, James indicated he would now join Venner and his cause if he could. He was hanged, disemboweled and quartered at Tyburn on 29 Nov. 1661. His head was placed on a pole/pike in Whitechapel (London) near his congregation in Bulstake Alley. James was martyred as an example to others.

There are indications that individual Seventh Day General Baptists, and Seventh Day Particular Baptists congregations also existing during this period. Seventh Day Baptist congregations survived the Restoration(1660), and many of these prospered in the New World.

All Baptist groups faced some form of persecution after the Restoration (1660) and were watched. Lingering Anabaptist connections persisted, and their earlier associations with former radical sects such as the Fifth Monarchy Men, and a few fire brands among the faithful added to their radical reputation to the Crown.

The English Baptists made a major contribution to toleration, free will, and the "inner spirit" that found expression in the Quakers during the 17th century. Baptists would make their way to the British colonies. They would grow and prosper in the New World, and worldwide into the 21st century.


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