Our Baptist Heritage
Many people who were raised in a Baptist Church, or came to know Christ at a Baptist Church are simply Baptist by convenience. Such a person is often not even remotely aware of true Baptist teachings, but rather just accustomed and comfortable with what they know in their particular Church. Others have become Baptist by conviction after an unbiased study of Scripture, and by digging in to Baptist history. To find our Baptist heritage a serious student must dig deep, as most of our ancient records were destroyed and/or rewritten by the conquering empire that calls itself Christianity.
Simply put, Baptist doctrine is Bible Doctrine. Careful examination of others who make that claim finds an odd mixture of Bible plus religious tradition, emotional experience, human reasoning, social acceptance, political correctness, etc. Our simple adherence to Bible teaching and practice has made us stand out all through history. Millions who have stood on Baptist doctrines have suffered unspeakable acts of torture and martyrdom at the hand of others that call themselves Christians. The foundation of America’s religious liberty is unquestionably the product of Baptist teaching. Though once common knowledge, recent historians have quite thoroughly erased that fact from our history and filled the void with rewritten stories about America being a secular (pagan) nation.
The last section of this paper is an interesting article taken from an encyclopedia written in 1840. The following words of Charles Spurgeon, remembered as the “Prince of Preachers” may be the best short summary of who Baptist are:
“We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor I believe any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with the government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men.”
- C. H. Spurgeon (From The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol.VII, Page 225).
160th Anniversary week celebration at
First Baptist Church of Amboy
April 12-14, 2015
Prepared by Pastor Rocky Fritz
First Baptist Church of Amboy Heritage
In the mid 1830’s, the first white settlers arrived in what was then called Palestine Grove. The district of Palestine Grove included what would later become Amboy, and extended to what is now Lee Center. Shelburn, Rocky Ford, and Binghampton were platted to be towns in what eventually became Amboy. Binghamton, just east of present Amboy was the preferred area of the early settlers. The low lying swampy areas, and the eventual drainage systems into the Green River had much to do with the location of earlier settlers and the usage of the land. The town of Amboy was laid out in 1854 as a result of the plans of the Illinois Central Railroad. The railroad and company shops became the hub of the area and its estimated 2,000 – 3,000 inhabitants by the summer of 1856. The town of Amboy was incorporated into a City on March 2, 1857.
Among the first settlers were preachers of which we know little of. Accurate records were not always kept as mere survival was often a full time task. The first preachers recorded as being a part of the settlement were a Methodist named Gorbus, and a German Baptist named Hetcher. A Methodist class was organized in 1840 in the area of Binghamton, where a house of worship was erected in 1850. The “Congregational Church of Palestine Grove” began in 1843, and later moved to Lee Center and the name was changed accordingly. The second pastor of the Congregational church was John Ingersoll, who lived here for a short time with his family including his young teenage son Robert. Robert Ingersoll later would become a world known orator and nicknamed “The Great Agnostic”, who Blasphemed religion in general, but especially Christianity. Through his eloquent speeches, he would make Charles Darwin a household name, and the religion of evolution appear as science.
Early churches in the Amboy area include the Mormon Church which had much to do with the original laying out of the town of Palestine including what is now the city of Amboy. A cornerstone was laid for a Mormon tabernacle which was never built upon. Various primitive religious meetings were held in homes and other places where a handful of like minded people could gather in those early days. The first Church to have its own meeting house inside the boundaries of the present city of Amboy was the Baptist Church. Soon to follow was the Methodist Church, Congregational Church, Catholic Church, Episcopalian Church, Lutheran Church, and others.
On March 24, 1855 a meeting was held at a little schoolhouse on West Main Street near the ravine (behind the current Amboy Sports Store) for the purpose of establishing a Baptist Church. At that meeting, "Elder" Whitaker was called to be the chairman, and William E Ives was chosen to be the church clerk. Eleven other persons present joined the church by letter. A resolution was unanimously adopted that the church would be named the First Baptist Church of Amboy. The church adopted the articles of faith as published in the "Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge" (a copy of this original article is included in this paper). Two deacons were elected: Warren Hill and Cyrus Bryant. Rev. P Taylor was called to be the first pastor of the church.
For the first two years, the church met in the old school house, which cost the church about $500.00. A Church is constituted of people rather than a building; however this was the first house of worship within what is now called the city of Amboy. The first public meetings held by the Church were addressed by Owen Lovejoy of Princeton, IL and J.V. Eustace of Dixon, IL. Both men were recognized leaders in the anti-slavery movement of their day. Lovejoy pastored the Congregational Church in Princeton, and served in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Think of the time frame in which this local Church began. At that time all Baptists Churches were independent and recognized as a local body of Christ, just like the Churches in the New Testament. There was no Southern Baptist or Northern (American) Baptist Conventions. The “Watchtower Society” of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not yet exist. The “Pentecostal movement” had not yet been started. Modernism, rationalism, and liberalism had not yet infiltrated American Churches. The “Fundamentalist” movement which rose up to answer these infidels was unnecessary. The King James Bible was recognized and unquestioned as the Bible, written and preserved by God Himself.
The church soon moved to a new building erected on Mason Avenue at the cost of $4,500. Rev. T. H. Ball was the pastor of the church at the time the new church building and was formally dedicated on September 13, 1857. Rev. Silas Tucker of Galesburg, IL was the guest preacher for the dedication services. This new building was a magnificent wooden structure and was at the time the largest meeting hall in the community. The tall belfry and steeple contained a large bell, which weighed over 800 pounds. The bell rang loudly on March 2, 1857, the day when the people of Amboy voted to accept the charter to make the town a city.
The third pastor of the church was Rev. Christian Miller, was serving when the Civil war broke out. In the three years he was at the church, there were over 100 people added to the church through believer's baptism. In 1861, he resigned to become Chaplain of the 13th Illinois, Co. C. That regiment was composed of citizens of Amboy and vicinity, which were all given a copy of the New Testament at a meeting in the Baptist Church. Many war meetings were held at the Church building.
Some of the more prominent citizens of Amboy in the early days were also members of the First Baptist Church. One of the most active members of the church from its beginning until his death in 1908 was William E. Ives. Mr. Ives was the first practicing attorney in Lee County, and also a personal acquaintance with another Illinois lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln would spend the night in the home of William Ives during his famed visit to Amboy on his way to Galena. Three early merchants of Amboy who were also members of the church named Samuel Carson, John Pirie, and John Scott. They later moved to Chicago in 1865 to establish Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. John Pirie later became one of the main financial contributors for the Scofield Reference Bible. The study notes in this King James Bible have been a major influence in the defense of fundamental Bible doctrine among evangelical Christians over the last 100 years.
Rev. Jerome T. Mason began his ministry here in 1889 and stands out among many of the other previous pastors in his influence for God's service. He faithfully served for seven years. At the close of a great revival in which 44 new converts followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, he was called home to Heaven on March 15, 1896. "Elder" Mason, as he was called by many was long remembered by many in the church and community.
The First Baptist Church has been an active part of the city of Amboy holding regular Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday prayer meetings, and Sunday school from their beginning in 1855 up to the present day. On August 27, 1871, all the records of the church were lost in a fire, which took place in Amboy. The older members of the church did their best to record memories and dates for us to look back on now. Many things have changed through the years, but the message and mission of the church is the same today as it was at its beginning.
On February 9, 1923, the church was preparing for the funeral of a well-beloved deacon Thomas B. Fisher. The coal furnace was started that morning to heat the building, which sparked a fire that totally destroyed the church building. After the fire was put out, only three walls remained standing. Only the bell would be salvaged to be installed in the new church building. For the months following the fire, the church continued to hold their regular meetings in the I.O.O.F Hall and the W.R.C. Hall.
Plans for a new building were accepted for a new church building with an estimated cost of $17,000. To gain added room for a new building, the house to the south of the church was purchased by the church and sold at an auction to be moved away. The goal was set by Pastor Fred Baldus and the congregation to raise $20,000 for the building project. The insurance of the church covered $5,200 and the rest of the needed amount was raised by special contributions by members and friends of the church. In early December of 1923, the corner stone of the new building was set before a large crowd that had gathered to witness the event. Charles E. Ives (son of William Ives) was recognized as the only present living member of the church who saw the old building built. A time capsule was placed inside the cornerstone of the new building.
The new church building was first used on May 11, 1924, however all services were held in the basement until the time of the official dedication on July 6. The new brick building is on the same location, but is larger than the old wooden structure. The steeple and bell tower, which were a part of the new building, had to be taken down many years after it was constructed because of severe weather damage and deterioration. In 1978, an extensive remodeling of the bell tower took place to make the bell operable again, and to repair damage caused by water leaks. The bell was lowered and remounted at the base of the tower with a regular roof was built over the bell where the tower once stood.
When the First Baptist Church started, it was an independent church, which is one of many Biblical distinctives of Baptists. The collective efforts in missionary work and publishing eventually lead to the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Northern Baptist Convention around the time of the Civil War. The Amboy Church eventually became a part of the Northern Baptist, or American Baptist Convention and remained a part of it for years. Because of the influence of Liberalism among many of the American Baptist churches during the early and mid 1900's, there was a time that the Amboy church strayed from the teachings of those who organized it. There was a strong influence in the church to keep it a Bible believing Baptist Church. Some of the Pastors during the years of change in the American Baptist Convention were from William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri (a conservative Southern Baptist College at that time). These preachers kept the Church walking the old path of Biblical doctrine while most convention churches were turning away. Many of the pastors were students, or right out of Seminary or Bible College and stayed only for a few years in the church. In the mid 1900's the church called a number of pastors out of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago, which were gradually pulling the church away from its Baptist doctrinal roots. In 1969, under Pastor Frank Brozenec (a graduate of Moody Bible Institute of Chicago), the First Baptist church voted to leave the Northern Baptist Convention and be recognized as an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church.
During the 1980's the church took on a major building project with many volunteers pitching in to help with the construction. Morton builders were contracted to build a 132' x 54' structure behind the brick church building. The building consists of a gymnasium / fellowship hall, and nearly 5,000 square feet of class room, office, kitchen, rest rooms, and storage space. In the 1990's the two buildings were eventually joined together with a large entry room, and handicapped lift.
First Baptist Church has had 53 different pastors, some of which were interim pastors. Pastor Rocky Fritz is the current pastor who moved here with his family in November of 1990. Along with the regular Sunday, and Wednesday service, the church also offers: Sunday School and bus ministry, King's Kids youth program, nursing home ministry, jail ministry, food pantry, Reformers Unanimous substance abuse & recovery program, and various local and worldwide missions programs.
In the year of 2001, the Church purchased the house directly north of the Church building for a new Parsonage. Major renovation and remodeling was done on the building before it was ready to be moved into. From the years 2000 through 2005, the Church operated a small school with an average attendance of about 20 students.
In the spring of 2006, First Baptist Church began holding preaching services, and a door to door soul winning campaign in Princeton, Illinois. This led to the founding of Heritage Baptist Church in Princeton which was chartered as an independent Baptist church in the fall of 2007. Pastor Chad Delhotal, who had served as assistant pastor in Amboy transferred his family to Princeton to pastor the new church.
In 2014, Nathan and Christina Fritz and their family began deputation work to be the first foreign missionaries sent from the First Baptist Church. They are currently traveling to raise financial support to move their family to the country of Cape Verde, Africa. Once they get established in the country, they will seek to lead people to Jesus and establish Local Baptist Churches. Our church currently supports financially on a monthly basis more than twenty such missionaries around the world.
Picture of pulpit area of the First Baptist Church of Amboy, 1902.
Pastors who have served at First Baptist Church of Amboy
P. Taylor April 1855 ---- 1857
T.H. Ball 1857 ---- 1858
Christian Miller Sept. 1858 ---- 1861
W.B. Webb D.D. May 1861 ---- 1865
J.H. Hazer June 1865 ---- 1869
James Buchanan Interim Pastor
M.T. Lamb Aug. 1870 ---- 1872
George Wescelius Sept. 1872 ---- 1874
W.D. Clark Nov. 1874 ---- 1878
Nathan A. Reed Nov. 1878 ---- 1881
B.H. Humphrey June 1881 ---- 1882
M. Fuller June 1882 ---- 1883
W.C. Hervey June 1883 ---- 1885
W.L. Jones Feb. 1887 ---- 1889
J.T. Mason April 1889 ---- 1896
T.B. Collins April 1896 ---- 1898
Ed. W. Annable Sept. 1898 ---- 1904
W.T. Markland Nov. 1904 ---- 1906
Andrew P. Garrett June 1907 ---- 1908
George Hambleton Nov. 1908 ---- 1910
Robert Wallace Feb. 1910 ---- 1912
Earl Riney March 1913 ---- 1914
John H. Hughes Oct. 1915 ---- 1918
D.S. Mac Gregor April 1918 ---- Nov. 1918
S.G. Cole Nov. 1918 ---- April 1919
W.L. Markland Nov. 1919 ---- March 1921
Fred Baldus June 1921 ---- July 1924
Rev. Maupin Nov. 1924 ---- Feb. 1925
Fred Harris March 1925 ---- Jan. 1926
Clarence Kerr Feb. 1926 ---- Jan. 1929
Robert Hatt Mar. 1929 ---- June 1931
W.A. Karraker Aug. 1931 ---- Sept. 1933
M.E. Corbett Nov. 1933 ---- Aug. 1937
Gilbert Johnstone Nov. 1937 ---- Sept. 1939
C.W. Filey Oct. 1339 ---- Sept. 1940
Adam Baum Nov. 1940 ---- Oct. 1944
Donald Smith Nov. 1944 ---- Sept. 1949
Wilford Paul Dec. 1949 ---- Sept. 1950
Charles Rhodes Dec. 1951 ---- June 1954
Jack Brown Sept. 1954 ---- March 1958
Kenneth Starnes July 1958 ---- April 1962
Ray Fortune July 1962 ---- Nov. 1963
Louis Baptist Feb. 1964 ---- June 1966
Frank Brozenec Sept. 1966 ---- Sept. 1971
Milton T. George Dec. 1971 ---- Oct. 1973
David Milleson June 1974 ---- Aug. 1975
Earl Hammerick (Interim) 1976
Frank Brozenec Aug. 1976 ---- Spring 1979
Wm. Ultch (Interim) 1979 ---- Spring 1980
Merle Steeley (Interim) Fall 1980 ---- March 1982
David R. Shaver March 1982 ---- June 1987
Roland D. Steinhaus Sept. 1987 ---- Sept. 1990
Scott Whitehead (youth & music) June 1987 ---- April 1988
James M. Fennel (youth) June 1988 ---- Sept 1989
Rocky Fritz Nov. 1990 ---- Present
Chad Delhotal (assistant) 2003 ---- Nov. 2007
* Planted Heritage Baptist Church in Princeton, IL
The following article is copied from the “Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge”; published in 1840. When the First Baptist Church of Amboy was started in 1855, they adopted the name Baptist and, accepted the articles of faith and Church covenant as defined in this article.
By the grace of God, our Church is standing on the same doctrinal foundation the good people of this Church stood on when it was started in 1855. In this day marked by doctrinal change and compromise, it is good to know that God’s eternal truth never changes. Let us keep standing in the “old paths” until Jesus returns.
To God be the glory,
Pastor Rocky Fritz
First Baptist Church of Amboy
Baptists: A well-known denomination of Christians, distinguished by their simple adherence to the Scriptures, by their views of the spiritual constitution of the Christian church, and of the holy design, subjects and mode of baptism. In regard to this ordinance of Christ, “they have ever held,” says Mr. Benedict, their historian, “that a personal profession of faith, and an immersion in water are essential to baptism.” Some of their arguments for these opinions may be found under the article BAPTISM. In regard to the constitution of the Christian church, while they believe in the existence of a universal or catholic church, composed of the whole body of believers in Christ in all nations and ages, they think that the Christian Church, properly so called, was not visibly organized in the family of Abraham, nor in the wilderness of Sinai; by the ministry of Christ himself and of his apostles; and that it was then constituted of such, and such only, as made a credible profession of repentance from sin, and faith in the Savior. All others they consider to be constitutionally excluded. That the primitive churches were uniformly organized on these principles; that they embraced only visible saints, and were essentially voluntary compacts of piety, virtue, and brotherly love, they think perfectly plain from the New Testament. This new and beautiful organization, so unlike all establishments founded on national principles, they believe to be the kingdom of God, foretold by the prophet Daniel, and announced by John the Baptist as at hand. Dan. 2:44. And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Matt.3:2, 4:17. et passim.
Hence the Baptists reject the baptism of infants, and national church establishments, as obvious innovations, incompatible with the spiritual purity of the visible church of Christ. hence they distinguish between the covenant of grace in the Messiah, and covenant of circumcision; which the Pedo-baptists consider as one, though twenty-four hundred years elapsed between them. Gen 15: Gen. 17: Gal. 3: Hence also they reject all claims of the civil magistrate to any but a civil jurisdiction; though willing and peaceable subjects to civil authority, where the rights of conscience are not involved. Hence, in every age, their strong attachment to liberty; especially to religious liberty, whose principles they were the first to proclaim, and the first also to exemplify. Their principles have subjected them to persecution from age to age, and to such principles they have counted it a glory to be martyrs. Though their own blood has flowed freely, they have never shed the blood of others. Indeed, civil persecution of any kind, on their principles, is impossible. And to them was allowed the happiness of establishing in this country, in 1636, a code of laws, “in which,” says Judge Story, “we read for the first time since Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars, the declaration that ‘conscience should be free, and men should not be punished for worshipping God in the way they were persuaded he required.’” This declaration Rhode Island has never departed from; and in it she has been since followed by all the United States. That wretched doctrine of the union of church and state, by which Christianity has been made the minister of every wrong, that boasted alliance on which so many encomiums have been lavished, they have ever regarded as a foul corruption, inconsistent with the very nature of that kingdom which is not of this world, destructive of the very purposes of the Christian church, and in effect “little more than a compact between the priest and the magistrate to betray the liberties of mankind; both civil and religious.” (Complete Works of Robert Hall, vol. ii. p. 22) Christians of these sentiments have existed in every age, and their number, as Mr. Benedict observes, has been larger than their friends generally imagine, or their opposers were ever willing to acknowledge. Among the most distinguished are Berengarius, Peter de Bruis, Henry, Arnold of Brescia, Lollard, Wickliffe, Tyndale, Menno, Dudith, Schyn, Tombes, Canne, Grantham, Milton, Bunyan, Delaune, Gale, Gill, Stennes, Booth, Butterworth, Gifford, Ryland, Carey, Marshman, Ward, Fuller, Hall, Foster, Gregory, Roger Williams, Backus, Stillman, Baldwin, Slaughton, Judson, & c.
Origin, History, &c. It has been asserted that the Baptists originated in Germany about the year 1522 at the beginning of the Reformation. It is true that no denomination of Protestants can trace the origin of its present name, farther back than about the time of the Reformation; and most of them have originated since that period. And it appears to be true that the name of Baptists, by which this people have since been known, was then first assumed, probably in opposition to that of Anabaptists, with which their enemies were continually reproaching them. (See ANABAPTISTS,) It is not, however, the history of a name, but the prevalence of principles, which is the just object of attention with the student of ecclesiastical history. The Baptists do not pretend that the primitive saints were called Baptists, but that all the primitive Christians were what would now be called by this name; and that there always has been a people on earth from the introduction of Christianity, who have held the leading sentiments by which they now are, and always have been, distinguished, is a point which they most firmly believe, and undertake to prove. In so doing, they attempt no wrong to any other denomination in Christendom. Their object, says Benedict, is not to show what is not true respecting others, but what is true concerning themselves. They do not deny that Episcopalians can find bishops, and the Presbyterians elders or presbyters, and the Methodists zeal, and the Quakers inward light, among the primitive Christians; neither do they doubt that the Congregationalists or Independents have good grounds for thinking that the apostolic churches were of their belief respecting church government. They only ask that terms should be properly explained. With most denominations they find something with which they can agree, and their hearts cleave in love to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. And though compelled in some few points to differ from them all, it is only that they may with a pure conscience contend for the faith and keep the ordinances as they were delivered to the saints. Conscientious fidelity to Christ, and an ardent desire by every lawful means to win others to the same fidelity, they think, so far from deserving the name of sectarianism is the very essence of true Catholicism.
Innumerable volumes have been written under the title of Church History; but, after all, we know very little of the real church of Christ for many hundred years. We have very ample accounts of the Antichristian church, that false pretender, in unhallowed alliance with the kings of the earth, and drunken with the blood of the saints; but the history of the uncorrupted church, which maintained the word, worship, and ordinances of Christ, while all the world was wondering after the beast, is enveloped in the obscurity of that retreat which God prepared for her in the wilderness. It is astonishing to perceive how far even most Protestants are from acknowledging the whole truth on this subject. So deeply has the corrupt union of church and state, under which they still live, blinded their eyes, that Protestant writers still persist in styling the history of the papal power, for example, the history of the Christian church. Against this the Baptists protest. They believe, with the ancient Waldenses, the “the church of Rome is the whore of Babylon;” and “that only is the church of Christ, which hears the pure doctrine of Christ, and observes the ordinances instituted by him, in whatsoever place it exists.” (Waldensian Confession of the twelfth century.) Mosheim, with all his violent prejudices against the Baptists, in relating the history of the primitive church, has given a description which will not apply to his own church, the Lutheran, nor to any sect in Christendom except the Baptists. “The churches in those early times,” he observes, “were entirely independent, none of them subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each one governed by its own rulers and laws. For though the churches founded by the apostles, had this particular deference shown them, that they were consulted in difficult and doubtful cases, yet they had no juridical authority, no sort of supremacy over the others, nor the least right to enact laws for them. A bishop during the first and second century was a person who had the care of one Christian assembly. In this assembly he acted not so much with the authority of a master, as with the zeal and diligence of a faithful servant. Baptism was administered in the first century without the public assemblies, in places appointed for that purpose, and was performed by the immersion of the whole body in water.” Mr. Robinson, after the most diligent research, not only confirms these statements of Mosheim, but says expressly, “All this time they were Baptist churches; and though all the fathers of the four first ages, down to Jerome were of Greece, Syria and Africa, and though they gave great numbers of histories of the baptism of adults, yet there is not one record of the baptism of a child till the year 370, when Galates, the dying son of the Arian emperor Valens, was baptized by the order of the monarch, who swore he would not be contradicted. The age of the prince is uncertain, and the assigning of his illness as the cause of his baptism, indicates clearly enough that infant baptism was not in practice.”
But the primitive churches in process of time became corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. This corruption, and the great apostasy to which it led, had been foretold in the Scriptures; (see article ANTICHRIST,) and even in the days of the apostles, the mystery of iniquity did already work. When in the third century, the discipline and morals of the principal churches became altogether relaxed, such as had the purity of the Redeemer’s kingdom at heart, after struggling in vain to resist the torrent of corruption, gradually separated themselves from a community which had become unworthy of the Christian name. Though these early Protestant dissenters were confounded with heretics by the prevailing party, which assumed the name of the Catholic church; yet it is certain, that their faith was scriptural and orthodox, and that among them we must look for the humble, pure, and persecuted church of Christ. Such, for example, were the Novatians at Rome; the Donatists in Africa; the AErians and Paulicians in Greece; the Carthari, or Puritans, of Germany; the Paterines of Italy; and the Waldenses of France, and other countries, a succession of whom continued up to the time of the Reformation. (see WALDENSES,)
For the history of the Baptists in Germany and Holland, see the article MENNONITES.
GREAT BRITAIN. The Baptists in England form one of three denominations of Protestant Dissenters. They separate from the Episcopal Establishment for the same reasons as their brethren of other denominations, with whom they are united, and from additional motives resulting from their particular tenets respecting baptism. The constitution of their churches and their mode of worship are congregational or independent; in the exercise of which they are protected, in common with other dissenters, by the act of toleration. Previous to this, they were liable to pains and penalties as Non-conformists, and often suffered for their peculiar sentiments as Baptists.
In the reign of Henry VIII, some of them were burnt, and others banished. In the reign of Elizabeth, they were subject to imprisonment; and in that of James, they fled into Holland. William Sawtre was the first who in this country suffered at the stake for his religious opinions, in 1401, and who was supposed to deny infant baptism; and Edward Wightman, a Baptist, of Burton-upon-Trent, was the last person that suffered this cruel kind of death in England: so that this denomination had the honor of both leading the way and bringing up the rear of all the martyrs who were burnt alive in England; besides which a great number of those who suffered death for religion in the two hundred intervening years were of the Baptist denomination.
The Baptists are distinguished into two denominations, which have but little communication with one another; namely, the Particular and the General Baptists.
THE PARTICULAR BAPTISTS are so denominated, from their embracing the Calvinistic system, which includes in it, as a leading article, the doctrine of particular redemption, though there are many among them who admit the universality of the atonement. The Calvinistic or Particular Baptists are by far the most numerous; their congregations in England and Wales, in 1832, amounting to above twelve hundred. They have four public academies for the education of young men for the ministry, at Bristol, Stepney, Bradford, and Abergavenny; and they have long enjoyed two exhibitions for students to be educated for four years at one of the universities in Scotland, given them by Dr. Ward, of Gresham college. In 1792, they established the important Mission to India, which promises so much good to all the nations of the East, and which has liberally assisted by the contributions of other denominations. Other missions, at home, in Africa, the West Indies, Ireland, and France, are also supported by this body, at an expense of eighty thousand dollars annually.
THE GENERAL BAPTISTS maintain the doctrine of general redemption, and the other points of the Arminian system; and are agreed with the Particular Baptists only on the subject of baptism, worship, and church discipline. The founder of this denomination is said to have been a Mr. Smith, an Episcopalian clergyman; but resigning his living in the church, he went over to Holland, where his principles were warmly opposed by Messrs. Ainsworth and Robinson; the former then pastor of the Brownists or Independents at Amsterdam, and the latter of those at Leyden. About the year 1611, this subdivision of Baptists published a confession of faith, which is said to have diverged much farther from Calvinism than those now called Arminians would approve.
The General Baptists have of late been distinguished into the Old and New Connexion. The old General Baptists have continued progressively to decline. Four of their congregations in London were some years ago united in one. Socinianism has so far reduced their numbers that, under its influence, they are likely to become extinct. For the present, however, they hold a general assembly in London, on the Tuesday in Whitsun-week, when a sermon is preached, and the affairs of their churches are taken into consideration.
Towards the year 1770, a body of General Baptists arose chiefly in the midland counties, which reverted to the doctrinal principles originally espoused by that denomination. These, as they are more orthodox, than the others, are also much more zealous, more numerous than the others, and more flourishing. They are quite distinct from the old General Baptists, and are known by the name of “the New Connexion.” Their congregations amount to one hundred and fourteen, and their annual association is held at different places by rotation. In the year 1798, an evangelical academy was opened, and placed under the care of the Rev. Dan Taylor; but its patronage has been very small. Lately, it has been removed from London to Wisbeach in Lincolnshire, where its prospects are encouraging, though the connexion yet experiences the want of able ministers. This society also has established a mission in India.
THE SCOTTISH BAPTISTS are of a more recent date, and differ in various respects from the English Baptists. No trace can be found of a Baptist church in Scotland, excepting one which appears to have been formed out of the soldiers of Cromwell’s army, previous to 1765; when a church was settled at Edinburgh, under the pastoral care of Mr. Carmichael and Mr. Archibald M’Lean. Others have since been formed at Dundee, Glasgow, Paisley, Perth, Largo, Dumfernline, and in most of the principal towns of Scotland. There are also churches in several towns in England, holding the principles of the Scottish Baptists and connected with them, particularly in London, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle, Beverly, &c.
They think that the order of public worship which uniformly obtained in the apostolic churches, is clearly set forth in Acts 2: 42-47, and therefore they endeavor to follow it out to the utmost of their power. They require a plurality of elders in every church, administer the Lord’s supper, and make contributions for the poor, every first day of the week. The prayers and exhortations of the brethren form a part of their church order, under the direction and control of the elders, to whom it exclusively belongs to preside in conducting the worship, to rule in cases of discipline, and to labor in the word and doctrine, in distinction from the brethren exhorting one another. The elders are all laymen, generally chosen from among the brethren; but when circumstances require are supported by their contributions. They approve also of persons who are properly qualified for it, being appointed by the church to preach the Gospel and baptize, though not vested with any pastoral charge.
For several years after their first setting out, the Baptist churches in Scotland were all of one faith and order; owned each other as sister churches, and had fellowship one with another in the institutions of the Gospel, as did also the different societies in England that stood connected with them. But of late years, numerous Baptist societies have started up in different parts of Scotland, which, though they retain much of the doctrinal sentiments, and of the social practices of the original churches, yet are unhappily divided on some points of minor importance, chiefly respecting the administration of the Lord’s supper. These latter have sprung up chiefly out of what, in Scotland, is termed the Tabernacle Connexion; that is, from the societies gathered by the ministry and means of Messrs. James and Robert Haldane. Setting out upon the principle of Paedo-baptism (infant baptism), numbers of them in process of time changed their views on the article of Baptism, and formed themselves into churches of that denomination, independent of the parent stock. Hence much confusion has arisen among the Scottish Baptist churches, which has much defaced the beauty of the profession in that quarter. This evil has also been greatly heightened in consequence of divisions which have taken place among the original Scotch Baptist churches themselves, occasioned by a sentiment getting in among them, that the Lord’s supper is not peculiarly a church ordinance, nor the administration of it a matter which belongs exclusively to the pastoral office; but that, on the contrary, it is the duty of any two or three persons, who may come together to worship God on the first day of the week, to take the Lord’s supper, though none of them be a pastor. The adoption of this principle has occasioned considerable separations from the parent societies, and introduced many divisions and subdivisions among them; an evil which time and further experience, it is hoped, will rectify. For a more detailed account of the General Baptists, the reader may consult Mr. Adam Taylor’s History of the General Baptists, and his Life of Mr. Dan Taylor. And for a fuller view of the doctrinal sentiments and social religious practices of the Scottish Baptists, he is referred to The Works of Mr. Arch. M’Lean particularly his Illustrations of Christ’s Commission to his Apostles; Mr. J.A. Haldane’s View of Social Worship, &c,; and Mr. W. Braidwood’s Letters on Various Subjects, relating chiefly to Christian Fellowship and Church Order. For a complete account of the whole Baptist denomination in England, see Crosby and Iviney’s History of the English Baptists.
IRELAND. In Dublin, &c., Baptist churches have existed for one hundred and eighty years. Of late, they increase more rapidly than in times past, though the exact number is not known.
UNITED STATES. About ten years after the settlement of New England, Roger Williams, the celebrated divine of Salem, embraced the sentiments of the Baptists, for which he was banished to Rhode Island. The first Baptist church in the United States was founded by him at Providence, Rhode Island, in 1639. The first minister ever settled in New Hampshire was a Baptist, Hanserd Knollys. he took charge of the first church in Dover, in 1635, but returned to England in 1639. His character has been injured by most New England historians, but is vindicated by Cotton Mather and Neale. Some of the first settlers in Massachusetts, Mather says were Baptists; “and as holy, watchful, fruitful, and heavenly people, as perhaps any in the world;” but the first church they attempted to form was forcibly broken up by the magistrates, and the members fined by the General Court, in 1639. Five years afterwards, a legislative act was passed for the suppression of the obnoxious sect, “ but with what success,” says Mr. Hubbard, “it is hard to say; all men being naturally inclined to pity them that suffer.” Letters of remonstrance from Sir Henry Vane and Sir Richard Saltonstall, then in England, had no effect in arresting the hand of persecution; “the bloody tenet” was carried into operation upon the Baptists and Quakers; and such was the dreadful blindness it produced in some of the best men, that Christians – Protestants – Puritans - in the light of the seventeenth century - were beheld resorting to fines, and prisons, and whipping posts, and gibbets, to break down the consciences of their brethren, for whom Christ died ! But God, who is rich in mercy, caused good to arise out of evil. The persecutions inflicted on Messrs. Holmes, Clark, and Crandall drew the attention of President Dunster of Cambridge to the question in dispute; and he became a convert to Baptist principles, though at the loss of his high office. His preaching against infant baptism led Mr. Thomas Gould to examine the subject; whose inquiries issued in founding the first Baptist church in Boston, in 1665. But the legal opposition, in this state, and the “ glorious liberties” of Rhode Island which invited removal, so retarded their progress, that only eighteen Baptist churches were found in this state a century afterwards, at the commencement of the revolutionary war. Under the new government, though for some time not favored with equal rights, their circumstances were greatly improved and their numbers rapidly increased. This was the case also in other States of the Union; until they have become it is supposed, the most numerous denomination of Christians in the United States.
Besides the Regular or Associated Baptists, who are in sentiment moderate Calvinists, there are several smaller bodies who adopt the same views of baptism, but have no direct connection with them. The Seventh-day Baptists are mostly Calvinistic; but the Free-Will Baptists are supposed to be inclined to Arminianism; and the Christians, a sect which arose among them about thirty years since, with few exceptions, deny the Trinity. Formerly, the Free-Will and the Christian Baptists were connected together on the principles of Free or Mixed Communion; but latterly, a separation has taken place, similar to that of the New Connexion in England. These denominations will be found under their proper names.
The Baptists of all denominations being independent or congregational in their form of church government, their ecclesiastical assemblies disclaim all right to interfere with the concerns of individual churches. Their public meetings by delegation from different churches, are held for the purpose of mutual advice and improvement, but not for the general government of the whole body.
The Associated Baptists in this country meet annually in associations, and state conventions, to promote missions, education, and other benevolent objects. Every three years there is a meeting of the Baptist General Convention of the United States, which was formed at Philadelphia in 1814, and is restricted by its constitution to the promotion of foreign missions. The American Baptist Home Mission Society formed in 1832, is chiefly designed to supply the wants of the great valley of the Mississippi. They have also a General Tract Society at Philadelphia. All these organizations, of course, are voluntary and free; the suggestion of brotherly love and philanthropic wisdom, not the enactments of ecclesiastical power. So long as they continue on this footing, and are watched over by a vigilant prudence, they do not seem liable to the abuses of clerical power, which in former ages corrupted the churches from the simplicity which is in Christ; while by combining their counsels, affections and prayers, it enables the whole body to act with tenfold advantage, energy and success, in advancing the Redeemer’s kingdom on earth. They sustain missions in Burma, Siam, France, Western Africa, and among the American Indians.
They have already established five or six colleges, numerous academies and manual labor schools, and six theological institutions, in different parts of the United States, which are in a flourishing condition. In New England alone, they have three hundred students preparing for the Christian ministry, and in the rest of the States perhaps more than double that number.
The number of Regular Baptists in America, as reported in Allen’s Register for 1833, was as follows: 309 associations; 5,458 churches; 3,204 ordained ministers; 402,863 communicants. About 50,000 communicants were added to the churches by baptism in 1832. Connected with this denomination is a population of not far from three millions of souls; embracing a respectable share of the wealth, talent, learning, and influence of the country, as well as one fifth of its population.
The following brief Declaration of Faith, with the Church Covenant was recently published by the Baptist Convention of New Hampshire, and is believed to express, with little variation, the general sentiments of the body in the United States.
I. OF THE SCRIPTURES. - We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried.
II. OF THE TRUE GOD. - That there is one, and only one, true and living God, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth; inexpressibly glorious in holiness; worthy of all possible honor, confidence and love; revealed under the personal and relative distinctions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.
III. OF THE FALL OF MAN. - That man was created in a state of holiness, under the law of his Maker, but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, wholly given to the gratification of the world, of Satan, and of their own sinful passions, and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
IV. OF THE WAY OF SALVATION. - That the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace, through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God, who took upon him our nature, yet without sin; honored the law by his personal obedience, and made atonement for our sins by his death; being risen from the dead, he is now enthroned in heaven; and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, is every way qualified to be a suitable, a compassionate, and an all- sufficient Savior.
V. OF JUSTIFICATION. - That the great Gospel blessing, which Christ of his fullness bestows on such as believe in Him, is justification; that justification consists in the pardon of sin and the promise of eternal life, on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through his own redemption and righteousness; that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.
VI. OF THE FREENESS OF SALVATION. - That the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the Gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, except his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ; which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation.
VII. OF GRACE IN REGENERATION. - That in order to be saved, we must be regenerated or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind, and is effected in a manner above our comprehension or calculation, by the power of the Holy Spirit; so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the Gospel; and that its proper evidence is found in the holy fruit which we bring forth to the glory of God.
VIII. OF GOD’S PURPOSE OF GRACE. - That election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man; it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely wise, holy and unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it is ascertained by its effects in all who believe the Gospel; is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves, demands and deserves our utmost diligence.
IX. OF THE PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS. - That such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
X. HARMONY OF THE LAW AND GOSPEL. - That the law of God is eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government; that it is holy, just, and good; and that the inability which the Scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin; to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the Gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.
XI. OF A GOSPEL CHURCH. - That a visible church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by his laws; and exercising the gifts, rights and privileges invested in them by his word; that its only proper officers are bishops or pastors and deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.
XII. OF BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER. - That Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its purifying power; that it is pre-requisite to the privileges of a church relation; and to the Lord’s supper, in which the members of the church, by the use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self examination.
XIII. OF THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH. -That the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath, and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes, by abstaining from all secular labor and recreations; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private and public; and by preparation for that rest which remaineth for the people of God.
XIV. OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT. - That civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; and that magistrates are to be prayed for conscientiously honored, and obeyed, except in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.
XV. OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED. - That there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked; that such only as through faith are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the Spirit of our God, are truly righteous in his esteem; while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in his sight wicked, and under the curse; and this distinction holds among men both in and after death.
XVI. OF THE WORLD TO COME. - That the end of this world is approaching; that at the last day, Christ will descend from heaven, and raise the dead from the grave to final retribution; that a solemn separation will then take place; that the wicked will be adjudged to endless punishment, and the righteous to endless joy; and that this judgment will fix forever the final state of men in heaven or hell, on principles of righteousness.
CHURCH COVENANT. - Having been, as we trust, brought by divine grace to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and to give up ourselves wholly to him; we do now solemnly and joyfully covenant with each other, TO WALK TOGETHER IN HIM WITH BROTHERLY LOVE, to his glory as our common Lord. We do, therefore, in his strength engage,
That we will exercise a mutual care, as members one of another, to promote the growth of the whole body in Christian knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to the end that we may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
That to promote and secure this object, we will uphold the public worship of God and the ordinances of his house; and hold constant communion with each other therein; that we will cheerfully contribute of our property for the support of the poor, and the maintenance of a faithful ministry of the Gospel among us.
That we will not omit closet and family religion at home, nor allow ourselves in the too common neglect of the great duty of religiously training up our children, and those under our care, with a view to the service of Christ, and the enjoyment of heaven.
That we will walk circumspectly in the world, that we may win their souls; remembering that God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind; that we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and that a city set on a hill cannot be hid.
That we will frequently exhort, and if occasion shall require, admonish one another, according to Matthew 18th, in the spirit of meekness; considering ourselves lest we also be tempted, and that as in baptism we have been buried with Christ, and raised again; so there is on us a special obligation henceforth to walk in newness of life.
And may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do his will; working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In church order, discipline, &c. the Baptists agree with the CONGREGATIONALISTS; which see Backus; Benedict’s History of the Baptists; Allen’s Baptist Register; DuPin; Basnage; Mosheim; Milner; Waddington; Robinson’s Ecclesiastical Researches; Jones’s History of the Christian Church; Jones’s Dictionary of Religious Opinions