Of Baptists, General and Particular

A question occurred to me this week; Baptist historians are very accustomed to speaking of the ‘General Baptists’ and the ‘Particular Baptists’ to denote the Calvinistic and Arminian streams of the movement in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; but when did those terms become current? Thanks to the wonders of EEBO (Early English Books Online; an utterly magnificent research tool), I can say with confidence that the answer is ‘surprisingly early’. Thomas Crosby’s 1738 History of the English Baptists was my first try: vol. I, p. 173, says this: It may be proper to observe here, that there have been two parties of the English Baptists in England ever since the beginning of the reformation; those that have followed the Calvinistical scheme of doctrinesand from the principal point therein, personal election, have been termed Particular Baptists: And those that have professed the Arminian or remonstrant tenets; and have also from the chief of those doctrines, universal redemption, been called General Baptists. (Crosby goes on to suggest that these differences should not, in his view, be a bar to Christian fellowship.) From this it seems obvious that the terms were already common in Crosby’s day. I took to Twitter; Emma Walsh, of the Angus Library in Oxford, suggested the OED, which lists the founding of the Particular Baptist Fund in 1717 as its first exemplar (it has no entry for ‘General Baptist’); again, this seemed to me to imply that the term was already common; it would seem strange to name a fund using a new coinage. I found a list of dissenting sects from 1706 (in a book intriguingly called The Post-Boy Robbed of his Mail… by Charles Gildon) which included both terms: ‘Tis now time to adjourn to a new Cause. The Anabaptists allow no Ordination; reject School-Learning; are chosen Ministers by the People. They hold, That Lay-men are qualify’d to Preach. That there are to be no Tithes but Benevolence. That Children are not capable of Baptism, since they can’t Believe, nor Confess and Repent; and therefore, that they nuft be left to God’s secret Will. That no Man ought to be Baptiz’d till he Believes, or be convinc’d that he stands in need of Christ for Salvation. They deny, That Magistrates have any Power to make Laws to Oblige Conscience; deny Episcopacy; and that the Psalms ought not to be sung unless Men had David‘s Spirit since, how can Drunkards, &c. sing, Lord, I am clean of heart? &c. So that by Singing of Psalms, most of the Congregation must sing Lies, their Vices contradifing the Psalm they sing. There are a sort of General Baptists, that hold, That Christ died for All in General, or, for an Universal Salvation; and Particular Baptists that are for the Salvation of the Elect alone, and, That Christ died effectually for none but those who embrace his Offer in the Gospel. They give the Sacrament at Night, as a Supper ; and use Two Cups, one to represent the Old, the other the New Testament. They altow no Liturgy, Churches, nor Bells. They Baptize in Rivers at all Seasons, Winter and Summer, Men and Women. Again, this strongly suggests the terms were in common use at the time. There are a fair number of uses of ‘Particular Baptists’ in controversial works in the 1690s, but the earliest unquestioned use I can find of that term is in a Quaker controversialist, George Whitehead. In his delightfully-titled pamphlet ‘ The Babylonish Baptist, or H.G. Contradicting H.G….’ dated 1672, he comments: I have writ a Full Answer unto their said Book, which as yet I forbear to divulge, being informed that some of the particular Baptists are about to bring forth more against us… (p. 7) The following year, in ‘An Appendix…’ which is bound with William Penn’s Reason against Railing and Truth against Fiction, both being answers to pamphlets by the Baptist Thomas Hicks, Whitehead wrote: …Christs Coming, Suffering, Death, and becoming a Ranson for ALL, for a Testimony in due time of God’s free Love and Grace. And with this the General Baptists agree, against the Contrary, Partial, and Pinching Opinion of the Particular Electioners. (p. 48) We can push the use of ‘General Baptist’ back even further, however; Henry Adis describes himself as ‘a Baptized Believer, undergoing the Name of a Free-Willer’ on the title page of his A Fannaticks Addresse Humbly Presented… (1661; it is a plea for toleration presented to King and parliament), but in the body of the text he says: …if they have at any time undergone Persecution for Conscience sake, and have not cryed out against it as abominable, as the Roman Catholicks and Episcopals have done, in that Grand Usurper Oliver Cromwells dayes, and the General Baptists, confident...

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Job opportunities in Durham, UK

I’ve been asked to advertise the following posts, and am very happy to do so. CODEC is made up of great people doing great work. CODEC are pleased to invite applications for three new posts within this exciting and pioneering Research Project based at St John’s College in the University of Durham. CODEC are looking for: Curator for the Digital Discipleship Project (full-time, Grade 6) Research Fellow in Digital Resources (full-time, Grade 6) Research Fellow in Biblical Literacy (full-time, Grade 6) Curator:  http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/codec/JDPSCurator.pdf CODEC is looking for a key creative person with a background in theology to develop and curate a major digital platform exploring discipleship in the 21st century, as well as to engage in research about the practice and pedagogy of discipleship in the 21st century. Working with the CODEC team and an external designer, our new Curator will need to be able to bring together different teams and different resources to create a positive experience for users of the platform and to promote the new platform at conference across the UK. Digital Resources: http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/codec/JDPSResearchFellow-DIgitalResources.pdf CODEC is looking for a theologian to explore the use of Digital Resources within the study of religion and theology – especially within the new Common Awards process based at the University of Durham which will validate much of the training for Church leaders across several major denominations. The post also involves interaction with major research projects about online pedagogy and teaching theology in a digital age. The successful candidate will also be encouraged to assist in the development of their own research projects in the area. Biblical Literacy: http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/codec/JDPSResearchFellow-BiblicalLiteracy.pdf CODEC is looking or a research fellow in biblical literacy to work with the CODEC Director in further developing the work of our major web resource: http://bigbible.org.uk. Our research will involve writing for faith communities both in the UK and abroad as well as assisting in developing major research projects in the areas of Biblical Literacy and Digital Theology and act as a full member of the wider CODEC team. Deadline for applications to be returned : 14th July Shortlisting: 15th July Interviews: 23-25th July. — Revd Dr Peter Phillips Director of Research CODEC University of...

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