Introduction To Baptist History
A brief summary of Baptists
in general history may be helpful to many viewers of this
site. Baptists can only trace a direct historical line back to the early
seventeenth century. However there have been reactionary groups in early periods
of the history of the church, which have expounded several of the basic
principles historically maintained by the Baptists. Baptist history is not based
upon any historical succession but upon the Free Church principle patterned
after the simple form of the New Testament church.
The name Baptist as applied to one of the large Christian denominations of our day is of more recent date, first used as far as we know in English literature in the year 1654. Apart from the English Baptists, there was in Germany in the sixteenth century a sect known as Anabaptists (re-baptizers) because they rejected infant baptism and practiced "believer's baptism by immersion." Those who personally trusted in Christ for salvation were baptized again; hence Anabaptists.
The name Anabaptist was at that time one of shame and reproach, used in deriding the Christians who were obedient to Christ's command and were baptized in the manner exemplified by that of the New Testament. The ill will did not stop with name-calling; these Christians suffered persecution in the most extreme form for their strict adherence to this New Testament precept. The clergy of the national churches, as in the days of the Apostles, were their severest critics. Delivered to civil authorities they would be dealt with summarily. The diet of Speyer, Germany, passed a decree in 1529 to this effect: " All Anabaptists and re-baptized persons, male and female, of mature age, shall be judged and brought from natural life to death by fire, sword, or otherwise, as may befit the person, without trial by spiritual judges.
By force of this decree, Balthasar Hubmaier, an eloquent, learned and zealous man became a martyr. He had been given a chair in theology, appointed university preacher and vice rector of the University of Ingolstadt. (Ingolstadt is located in Germany, about 30 miles north of Munich.) He was the peer of Luther, Zwingly, and Calvin, but committed the unforgivable sin of becoming an Anabaptist, and was promptly burned at the stake on a square in Vienna. His wife was drowned in the Danube River. Sixteen hundred seventy- three Anabaptists suffered the death of martyrs in Germany. During that turbulent period there were a few " Anabaptists" that met violence with violence, but the great majority were God-fearing and law abiding citizens.
Persecution of these Christians spread to other countries. The last man to be burned at the stake in England during the reign of James I was Edward Wightman, an Anabaptist. In the streets of Boston, Mass., Obadiah Holmes, a Baptist was "whipped unmercifully for having held an unauthorized religious meeting in a friend's house. That was in 1661. Two hundred years later Fredrick Olaus Nilsson, a Baptist in Sweden, was jailed for teaching false and dangerous doctrine." A mob armed with guns, pistols, swords and sticks, broke into a house where Nilsson with a few Baptists were gathered to celebrate the Lord's Supper. They kicked him and beat him, then brought him to jail where they left him to spend the night in an unheated cell in severely cold weather. Subsequently Nilsson was banished from his native country by a decree of the highest court in the land. It was he who became the most notable of the pioneers in Swedish Baptist work among the Swedish immigrants a hundred years ago. Olof Bodien, prominent preacher in this country, said, "The jails of Sweden were the seminaries of the Baptists".
Today the Baptists are no longer persecuted anywhere in the world for their views of Christian doctrine. Of the 76,767,000 Protestants on the North American continent, more than 25 per cent are Baptists, according to the report in the 1964 Information Please Almanac. It is also of interest to report from that same source that Baptist General Conference is one of seventeen of the largest among Baptist bodies in the United States. A report from the Baptist General Conference Annual for 1963 says that the total membership for that year is 84,490, which shows a gain of 100 per cent since 1949. This shows that the growth in numbers the past 14 years equals that of the 97 preceding years of Conference history since itís beginning in 1852.
This introduction was copied from page 1 of the book "Seventy-Five Years" by Rev. Gordon Carlson.
While this introduction states that Baptists in general are no longer persecuted anymore, anywhere in the world for their views of Christian doctrine, which may or may not be true, I would like to add that today, Christians around the world are being persecuted daily and in some cultures, the conversion to Christianity means death to the believer and their family. I thank God for the freedom's we have in this great country and may we never take them for granted. The dear people who came before us gave up so much for us to be so blessed.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them
that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 KJV
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;
and the people who he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Psalms 33:12 KJV