ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Early Baptists

Updated on January 24, 2019
extraordinaryman profile image

Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII

The Anglican Church

The origins of the Baptist can be traced to the Nonconformists in England. The Anglican Church was established by King Henry VIII in 1534. He requested a divorce from the Pope and was denied. Henry saw an opportunity in the Reformation that was taking place. He passed a law granting that the king was the only head of the Church and established the Anglican Church. The Church of England (Anglican) adopted the “39 Articles,” which rejected Roman Catholic theology in favor of the views of the Reformation.

There were those in the Anglican Church who were pleased by the separation from Roman Catholicism but also felt that there was still room for more reforms. They did not believe that the Anglican Church went far enough to move away from Rome and toward the Scripture. This group was broadly called the Nonconformists, although the term did not come into wide use until the 1660s. The name was given to them because they refused to follow or conform to the State Church. The majority of the Nonconformists were composed of the group that we today call the Puritans. They were given this name because of their desire for a Church that was purely Biblical.

It is important to note that the word Puritan was used in a very broad sense. Those in this group were Protestant. But they were not Anglican and they were not Anabaptist. They also saw the dangers of a state sponsored church. They had witnessed the persecutions under a Roman Catholic magistrate and saw the potential for similar abuses of power by a Protestant king. But most of all, they were concerned over doctrine and practice. They embraced “Scripture alone” as the sole rule and authority in the church and in the Christian life. Neither Pope nor King could rule in the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Early General Baptists

In this section, we will look at the General Baptists. These are Baptists who believed in a “general” or universal atonement. Their views were in contrast to those Baptist who held to a particular and individual atonement. We will look at the Particular (Reformed) Baptists in a separate article in this series.

John Smyth (1554-1612)
John Smyth (1554-1612)

John Smyth (1570-1612)

Smyth was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594. He refused to conform to the teachings of the Church of England and was imprisoned. In 1606, he renounced the Anglican Church and became a “separatist.” Like many others, he fled to Holland to escape persecution. While in Holland, he became convinced that Baptism should only be administered to believing adults. As an Anglican he was baptized as an infant but he did not view that as a valid baptism. He baptized himself and others by the method of pouring water.

He initially joined the Mennonite church but was excommunicated for disagreeing on certain issues like ministerial succession. He is credited with founding the first Baptist church. Like many of his time, he struggled to develop church doctrines. He does seem to confuse justification and sanctification and he departs form the other Reformers to establish church governance as between elder and deacons. He rejects the reading of Scripture, patterned prayers and prepared sermons as being inventions of man and not true worship from the heart. He eventually rejected the English Bible because he did not believe that the translation was directly from God.

Thomas Helwys (1550-1616)
Thomas Helwys (1550-1616)

Thomas Helwys

In the early 1600s, Helwys broke away from the State Church and gathered people to meet in his home. In 1607, the court of England began to prosecute the separatists. Helwys went to Holland in 1608 to avoid imprisonment. He joined with the English congregation there and was Baptized by Smyth. Unlike Smyth, he completely breaks with the Mennonites to establish a Baptist Church in London in 1611 or 1612. Doctrinally, he agrees with Smyth that Arminianism is correct, and thus he is labeled a “General Baptist.” General Baptists believed in a general or universal atonement in opposition to the Particular Baptists who advocated a particular or individual atonement.

Helwys appeals to the king to grant religious liberty to the Nonconformists. He says that the king is a mortal man whose reign is limited to the governance of the physical bodies of men but the king has no authority over a man’s soul. Helwys is thrown in jail where he died at the age of 40 in 1616

The First Baptist in the New World

Rodger Williams (1603-1683)
Rodger Williams (1603-1683)

In 1627, Rodger Williams was serving as a Chaplin to a wealthy family in London. He sympathized with the Nonconformists. Fearing persecution, in 1931 he left for the “new world.” He settled in Boston, Mass. He found himself in conflict with the Puritans for their refusal to completely withdraw from the Anglican Church. The Puritans counseled patience but Rodgers saw them as compromisers. He also disagreed with the Puritans over theonomy (that the church should rule the state). He pressed for separation of church and state.

He bought land form the native people and established the colony of Providence (the location of the city of Providence, RI today). He served as a governor of the colony from 1654-58.

He is also known for his book “Key into the Languages in America,” which was a dictionary of native dialects in North America.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)