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Particular Baptists in England
By David Benedict, 1848

Particular Baptists from 1689 to the present time Ministers Churches Associations Members, &c.

Ministers. By the year 1702, a number of their most efficient ministers had been removed by death, among whom were H. Knollys, W. Kiffin, W. Collins, Thomas Harrison, B. Dennis, and H. Collins.

The ministers who appear to have been the most distinguished from the beginning of the eighteenth century, and onward, were Joseph Stennett, 1 John Piggott, Benjamin Stinton,2 Benjamin Dennis, R. Allen, J. Noble, the Wallins, J. Skeep, J. Burroughs, Thomas Delaune, D. Rees, Dr. Gill, J. Brine, J. Thompson, A. Gifford, and S. Wilson.3

This brings us to the middle of the eighteenth century, when Dr. Gill was in the meridian of his fame and usefulness. He died in 1771.

It may be proper here to notice a few very eminent men among the baptists at this time, who were not of the clerical profession, as Mordiai Abbot, the Hollises, father, son and brother, Thomas Crosby, the baptist historian, who was a deacon of Dr. Gill's church, &.c.

The oldest churches. The oldest church among the particular baptists which has continued to the present time, bears date from 1633. It arose out of a division of an Independent church which was gathered in 1616, of which Henry Jacob was the first pastor. This church followed the open communion plan for a number of years; but a portion of the members becoming dissatisfied with the system, by mutual agreement, the baptists eventually went off by themselves. The account is thus given by old historians.
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"The church, considering that they were now grown very numerous, and so more than could in those times of persecution conveniently meet together, and believing also that those persons acted from a principle of conscience and not from obstinacy, agreed to allow them the liberty they desired, and that they should be constituted a distinct church; which was performed Sept. 12, 1633. And as they believed that baptism was not rightly administered to infants, so they looked upon the baptism they had received at that age as invalid, where- upon most or all of them received a new baptism. Their minister was a Mr. John Spilsbury. What number they were, is uncertain, because in the mentioning of about twenty men and women, it is added, with divers others.

"In the year 1638, Mr. William Kiffin, Mr. Thomas Wilson, and others, being of the same judgment, were upon their request, dismissed to the said Mr. Spilsbury's congregation. In the year 1639, another congregation of baptists was formed, whose place of meeting was in Crutched-friars; the chief promoters of which were Mr. Green, Mr. Paul Hobson, and Captain Spencer.

"The account of Mr. Spilsbury's church is said, in the margin, to have been written from the records of that church; but, from anything that appears, there is nothing to justify the conclusion of Mr. Crosby, that this was the first baptist church, as the account relates simply to the origin of that particular church -- to state which, it is probable, was Mr. Kiffin's design, rather than to relate the origin of the baptist churches in general, and which he must certainly have known were in existence previously to that period.

"It must be admitted that there is some obscurity respecting the manner in which the ancient immersion of adults, which appears to have been discontinued, was restored, when, after the long night of anti-christian apostacy, persons were at first baptized on a profession of faith. The very circumstance, however, of their being called anabaptists as early as the period of the reformation, proves that they did, in the opinion of the pedobaptists, re-baptize, which it is not likely they would do by pouring or sprinkling, immersion being incontrovertibly the universal practice in England at that time." 4

It must be admitted that much obscurity hangs over the history of the oldest baptist communities in this kingdom, and I shall not attempt in the text to go beyond the statements of their own historians on the ground, but in the note below, will give some of my own reflections on the subject.5 As has already been stated, the General Baptists claim to have had churches long before the time above named.

I find no documents by which I can give the increase of churches among the particular baptists, except at long intervals, for more than a century after those of a permanent character began to rise.

BAPTIST CHURCHES IN LONDON AND VICINITY.

Although much is said, mostly however by their opponents, of the anabaptists' great increase under the protectorate, yet I find nothing which enables me to exhibit any statistical account of the number of their churches or members.
In 1689, as we have already seen, their churches were upwards of a hundred.

In 1708, according to Morgan Edwards' list,6 the whole number of churches in England, Wales and Ireland, was 317. General Baptists, 71.

Particular do., 246.7

In 1798, Rippon's Register makes the number of churches of the Particular Baptist 361.

Associations. I am not able to give the early history of these bodies among the Particular Baptists, but presume they were begun soon after the first churches arose.

About the time of the meeting of the General Assembly, in 1689, according to Ivimey, twelve associations sent delegates to that body. A number of them, however, were quite small, and probably afterwards fell into the larger communities; as their number was about the same a century after, when the churches had become about four times as numerous.
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Baptist churches in London.

The confession of faith published in 1643, was signed in behalf of eight congregations or churches in this city. The names of the signers may be seen in the note below. 8
In 1689, the number which sent delegates to the General Assembly was thirteen.
In 1768, the whole number, according to Mr. Edward's list, was twenty; five of them were general baptists.
In 1790, in Rippon's Register I find the number of particular baptist churches was twenty-two.
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The number of baptist churches of all descriptions in London, Southwark, and Middlesex, in 1845, according to the Baptist Manual.9

The whole number is eighty-seven; some of them we see have no pastors.

It was my intention to give some account of the rise of the churches and associations of the British Baptists, and especially of the oldest and most important bodies in London, and some other cities and distinguished locations, for which there are ample materials in Ivimey's 3d and 4th Volumes of the History of the English Baptists, but for the reasons assigned in my preface, I must defer all matters of this kind to my next volume.
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Notes

1. Mr. Stennett was the man who answered Russen's work, entitled Fundamentals without a foundation; or, a true picture of the Anabaptists, which has already been noticed. This was in 1706. So well did he execute that work, that his brethren requested him to undertake a complete history of baptism. This work, although begun, was not completed.
2. Mr. Stinton made considerable progress in compiling a history of the English Baptists. His materials were afterwards used by Crosby.
3. Author of the Scripture Manual.
4. Ivimey's History of English Baptists, Vol. I., pp. 138-140.
5. From all the fragments of history, I am inclined to the belief that baptist churches, under various circumstances, have existed in England from the time of William the Conqueror, four or five centuries prior to those of which any definite accounts have come down to us; and that the more the history of the dark ages is explored, the more this opinion will be confirmed. Baptist churches, in persecuting times, are merely household affairs, which must, of necessity, be hid from public view. More than three centuries had elapsed before any of the baptists in England had any knowledge that a church of their order once existed in Chesterton, in 1457. Mr. R. Robinson brought the facts to light by examining the MS. records of the old bishop of Ely; and no doubt many other such discoveries might be made, if similar records were consulted.

One thing is certain, that whenever there came times of easement for dissenters, so that they dared to show themselves, we soon see baptists among them; and that they took hold of matters more like old soldiers than new recruits.
Again, when Lollard, Wickliffe, and other Reformers, began to propagate sentiments congenial with the baptists, they were readily and rapidly embraced, and carried forward to their legitimate results, however far short the leaders might have stopped.
Once more the Waldenses from France and Italy, and the Anabaptists from Germany and the Netherlands, made early and frequent visits to England, some as missionaries, others as emigrants in quest of more free, and favorable locations. These people would naturally seek out their sentimental friends, and in this way was the leaven of the gospel continued till the dawn of the Reformation.
The baptists are naturally gregarious, and always flock together; and it is, I think safe to infer, that whenever any small companies were within reach of each other, if the truth could be known, there we should find them united in church relations.
6. This I have in MSS.
7. Wales, 23; Ireland 8. The number of members is nowhere given but in Wales, where it was 2250. The heaviest counties for the baptists of both lands were, at that time, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Gloucestershire, Somersetshire, Wiltshire, London, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Kent. In the last three the General Baptists were the most numerous.
8.
Thomas Gunne, 	        John Spilsbury,         Paul Hobson, 		Hansard Knollys, 
John Mabbitt, 		Samuel Richardson, 	Thomas Goare, 		Thomas Holmes, 
Benjamin Cockes, 	Thomas Munden, 	        William Kiffin,         Christopher Duret, 
Thomas Kilicop,         George Tipping,         Thomas Patient, 	Denis Le Barbier.

9. Baptist Manual for 1845.

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[From David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination, 1848; rpt. 1977, pp. 336-338.]



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