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Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume I. The History of Creeds.
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§ 106. Aminian or Free-will Baptists.

IN ENGLAND.

[See Literature on p. 845.]

The General or Arminian Baptists differ from the Particular or Calvinistic Baptists in rejecting unconditional election and the perseverance of saints, and in maintaining the freedom of will and the possibility of falling from grace. So far they followed the Mennonites. They assign greater power to a general assembly of associated churches, and hold three orders—bishops or messengers, pastors or elders, and deacons; while the Particular Baptists, like the Congregationalists, recognize only two—bishops or pastors and deacons (elders being a title applicable to the first or to both).

I. The first Confession of Arminian Baptists was published by English refugees in Holland, under the title, 'A Declaration of Faith of English People remaining at Amsterdam in Holland,' Amsterdam, 1611.16431643   It is reprinted in Crosby's History, Vol. II. Appendix I. pp. 1–9, and in Underhill's Collection, pp. 1–10. A manuscript copy exists in the archives of the Mennonite church at Amsterdam, to which the original subscriptions of forty-two names are appended, preceded by the modest remark, 'We subscribe to the truth of these Articles, desiring further instruction.' It was drawn up by Smyth and Helwisse. It consists of twenty-seven (26) Articles. The first Article confesses the doctrine of the Trinity in the spurious words of 1 John v. 7. Election is conditioned by foreknown faith, reprobation by foreknown unbelief, and the perseverance of saints is denied.16441644   Art. V.: 'God before the foundation of the world hath predestinated that all that believe in him shall be saved, and all that believe not shall be damned; all which he knew before. And this is the election and reprobation spoken of in the Scriptures, . . . and not that God hath predestinated men to be wicked, and so be damned, but that men being wicked shall be damned.' Art. VII.: 'Men may fall away from the grace of God, and from the truths which they have received and acknowledged.' The Church of Christ is defined (Art. X.) to be 'a company of faithful people separated from the world by the Word and Spirit of God, being knit unto the Lord, and one unto another, by baptism, upon their own confession of the faith.' Baptism is confined to adults, but nothing is said of immersion. The duty of obedience to the magistrate is very earnestly enjoined (Art. XXIV.).

II. The 'London Confession' was approved by more than twenty thousand Baptists, and was presented to Charles II., July 26, 1660. It contains twenty-five Articles.16451645   Underhill, pp. 107–120.

III. The 'Orthodox Creed' was published in 1678, by the General Baptists of Oxfordshire and the parts adjacent. It makes a near approach to Calvinism, with a view to unite the Protestants in the fundamental articles against the errors of Rome.16461646   Ibid. pp. 121–168.

IN AMERICA.

Literature.

I. D. Stewart: The History of the Free-will Baptists for Half a Century. Dover, 1862 sqq. (Vol. I. from 1780 to 1830). Comp. also the Lives of Randall, Stinchfield, Colby, Thornton, Marks, Bowles, Phinney, and Elias Smith; the Records of Yearly Meetings and Quarterly Meetings, and sundry articles in the religious periodicals and other publications of the Free-will Baptists issued from their Printing Establishment at Dover, New Hampshire.

 

The American General Baptists are called Free-will Baptists or Free Baptists. They trace their origin to Benjamin Randall (1749–1808), who was converted by one of the last sermons of Whitefield at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Sept. 28, 1770. He was at first a Congregationalist, but in 1776 he united himself with a regular Baptist church in South Berwick, Maine, and entered the ministry. In 1780 he organized, in New Durham, New Hampshire, a Baptist church, which became the nucleus of a new denomination, holding the doctrines of conditional election, free will, and open communion. In government it is congregational.

In 1827 the Free-will Baptists organized a General Conference in New England, and opened correspondence with the Arminian Baptists in England and North Carolina.

Their Confession of Faith, together with a directory of discipline, was prepared by order of the General Conference of 1832, approved 1834, revised by a committee in 1848, 1865, and 1868. It is the clearest and ablest exposition of the principles of the Free-will Baptists.16471647   It is published at Dover. N. H., under the title, Treatise, on the Faith and Practice of the Free-will Baptists, and forms a little book of fifty pages. The doctrinal part is printed in Vol. III. pp. 749 sqq.


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