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The Early English Baptists, 1603-49

The Early English Baptists, 1603-49

Stephen Wright
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Early English Baptists, 1603-49
    Book Description:

    This book challenges the orthodoxy that seventeenth-century Baptists were divided from the first into two separate denominations, 'Particular' and 'General', defined by their differing attitudes to predestination and the atonement, showing how the position was in fact much more complicated. It describes how from the foundation of the 'Generals' in 1609 there were always two tendencies, one clericalist and pacifist, influenced by the Dutch Mennonites, and one reflecting the English traditions of erastianism and local lay predominance in religion. It re-analyses the confessional struggle during and after the civil war, showing how Independent and erastian sentiment in Parliament increasingly combined to baulk Presbyterian ambition; during and partly because of this process (which they also influenced), the Baptists evolved into three recognisable tendencies. Amongst General Baptists there was a politically radical current, but also a more passive tendency which was starting to gain ground. In 1647-9 most but by no means all Particular Baptist leaders were hostile to the Levellers. The book looks at the nature of religious conviction in the New Model Army, reassessing the role and influence of Baptists in it. In the late 40s, many Baptists, soldiers and civilians, rejected formal ordinances altogether. STEPHEN WRIGHT received his Ph.D. from the University of London. He has been visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire and the University of North London.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-463-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The period treated here runs from the accession of James I to the execution of his son, Charles I, the beginning and (temporary) end of the Stuart dynasty in England and Wales. In 1604, Richard Bancroft was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. It was during his drive against puritan non-conformity that there developed the separatist current from which a Baptist group led by John Smyth and Thomas Helwys emerged in early 1609. Some review of this context is essential.

    For many years, the leaders and institutions of the early Stuart Church of England found little favour amongst historians. The bishops were...

  5. 1 Puritans, separatists and Baptists, 1603–10
    (pp. 13-44)

    The person responsible for setting the English Baptists of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire along the path to founding their congregation in early 1609 was John Smyth, probably the fourth son of John Smyth of Sturton le Steeple, Nottinghamshire. In March 1586, he was admitted to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he studied under the future separatist pastor Francis Johnson, and took his MA in Midsummer 1593. Admitted to a fellowship in 1594, Smyth was well regarded by Samuel Ward, later Master of Sidney Sussex College; he was ordained by William Wickham, Bishop of Lincoln. In 1597, however, Smyth came into trouble for...

  6. 2 The Baptists in England, 1611–38
    (pp. 45-74)

    During the eight years following Helwys’s Mistery of Iniquity, five works were issued by the Baptists in England. The first was an MS petition, ‘A most Humble supplication of divers poor prisoners’, calendared under 1613, but probably sent some months later, for consideration of the Parliament which met 6 April 1614. In 1615 appeared Obiections: Answered by way of dialogue, and in 1618 A very plain and well grounded treatise concerning baptisme. In 1620 were issued A most humble supplication . . . and Murton’s A Description of What God hath Predestinated

    The authorship of Obiections (1615) is uncertain. It...

  7. 3 The restoration of immersion and Baptist alignments, 1638–44
    (pp. 75-110)

    During the 1630s, the London church founded by Henry Jacob, and led by his successors John Lathrop and Henry Jessey, was home to several who later became believers’ Baptists. These included Jessey himself, perhaps the most influential of all Baptists during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, which he served as a ‘Trier’ from 1654.¹ The Lathrop/Jessey church grew rapidly, profiting from the disillusionment of many parish puritans with the changes initiated by Archbishop Laud. However, several groups of this semi-separatist church left because of its refusal to repudiate the Church of England as a false church, and to sever its...

  8. 4 Internal discussions and external alignments, 1642–5
    (pp. 111-142)

    In 1642, Baptists surveyed a political and religious landscape transformed by the sudden collapse of the personal rule, and shaken again by the onset of civil war.¹ On the Parliamentarian side, it was vital from the first to ensure that religious divisions did not undermine political and military unity; those who hoped for a reformed episcopacy, and those who fought for its abolition ‘Root and Branch’, had to live together. The most important emotional bond between them was their deep antipathy to the high church reforms of Laud, and aggressive subordinates such as Wren at Norwich, fuelled in part by...

  9. 5 The Baptists and politics, 1645–7
    (pp. 143-185)

    Independent obstruction and the Scottish victory at Newcastle handed the initiative amongst Presbyterians to less moderate forces; opinion in Parliament gave ground to their demands. The Assembly was to press on with framing the Directory of Worship, a template for Presbyterianism in England. The accommodation committee was dissolved on 1 November 1644. On the 15th the Commons resolved that only lay preachers intending to become properly ordained should be allowed to preach; legal means to define and enforce this, however, was lacking. Lay preaching continued, sometimes with the permission of churchwardens, in parishes where ministers had left or been sequestered....

  10. 6 The army, the Levellers and the Revolution
    (pp. 186-227)

    Baptists played an important role in the army, as chaplains, soldiers and officers. It has been suggested that after mid-1647, twenty-one Particular and seven General Baptists were in the service. The Particular Baptists given are William Allen, Daniel Axtell, Robert Barrow, Richard Beaumont, Alexander Brayfield, Richard Creed, Richard Deane, John Gardiner, William Gough, Benjamin Groome, Edward Harrison, Paul Hobson, Abraham Holmes, William Knowles, Richard Lawrence, Robert Mason, William Packer, Robert Reade, Thomas Shephard, John Spencer, Nathaniel Strange and John Webb. Others ‘who were Baptists or were soon to be so’ included John Turner, John Gladman, Peter Wallis, Willam Disher, William...

  11. Appendices
    (pp. 228-254)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-271)
  13. Index
    (pp. 272-278)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)