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General and particular
In the early 17th century, Baptists in England developed along two different theologies. The General Baptists were so-called because they held belief in a General Atonement. The General view of the atonement is that Christ in His death undertook to make possible the salvation of all men. This position is identified with Arminianism and Amyraldianism. Early General Baptist leaders included John Smyth and Thomas Helwys.
The Particular Baptists were so-called because they held the Particular Atonement. The Limited view of the atonement is that Christ in His death undertook to save His people; those who believe in and trust Him for salvation. This position is often identified with Calvinism. Some early Particular Baptist leaders were Benjamin Keach, Hanserd Knollys, and William Kiffin.
Present day Strict Baptists of England are descendants of the Particular Baptists, but heavily influenced by men from the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist movement such as William Gadsby (1773-1844) John Warburton (1776–1857) and John Kershaw (1792–1870). Sometimes they are referred to as Strict and Particular Baptists. The terminology "strict" refers to the strict or closed position they held on membership and communion: i.e., that communion is reserved for those who are baptised members of a church which is an accordance with their Articles of faith. There are still other Baptist churches known as Grace Baptist who hold to a closed communion table restricted to baptized believers. The majority of early Particular Baptists rejected open membership and open communion. One notable exception was the author of Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan.
Strict Baptists are not Hyper-Calvinists.
In 1785, Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) published The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. This would lead to eventual division among the Particular Baptists of England. The "Fullerites" are probably best represented by Fuller and William Carey (1761–1834), Baptist missionary to India, and Charles Spurgeon.
The leading spokesman for Calvinism was John Gill (1696–1771), perhaps best known for his Exposition of the Whole Bible. Among most Particular Baptists, Fuller's modified Calvinism was generally accepted. In 1891, most of the remaining General Baptists merged with the Particular Baptists in the Baptist Union of Great Britain (formed 1813). The Old Baptist Union represents General Baptists that did not participate.
Strict Baptists in the UK
Strict Baptists represent the strain of Particular Baptists that maintain the practice of strict or closed communion. They remained separate from the Baptist Union of 1813.
Leaders among them include William Gadsby (1773–1844), whose A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship is still in use among their churches today, John Warburton (1776–1857),pastor at Zion Chapel Trowbridge from 1815 until his death 2 April, 1857. John Kershaw, Edward Mote (1797–1874), composer of 'On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, All Other Ground is Sinking Sand', and J. C. Philpot (1802–69). Having no central organization or rallying point, Strict Baptists were nicknamed based on the newspapers they supported — Christian Pathway Strict Baptists, Earthen Vessel Strict Baptists, Gospel Herald Strict Baptists, and Gospel Standard Strict Baptists.
Earthen Vessel, Gospel Herald and other Strict Baptists united in what would later become the Grace Baptist Assembly (founded 1980 as a merger of the Strict Baptist Assembly and the Assembly of Baptised Churches). The Grace Baptist Assembly churches represent a modification of Strict Baptists close to the modified Calvinism of the 18th century. These churches additionally meet together in three regional associations — Association of Grace Baptist Churches (East Anglia), Association of Grace Baptist Churches (East Midlands), Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East) — and one fellowship — the Fellowship of Northern Particular Baptist Churches.
The Gospel Standard Strict Baptists maintain the beliefs Fuller sought to remove. They remain opposed to Fuller's modified Calvinism, as well as to open membership and open communion. At times, Gospel Standard Strict Baptists have been called Gadsbyites after William Gadsby.
Order of service
Meetings in Gospel standard churches follow a non-liturgical pattern, which rarely varies. A typical service includes three or four hymns, a Bible reading, prayer and sermon. Ministers are men who feel God's call to the ministry and have been affirmed by vote by church members. Ministers are not usually formally trained and sermons are not usually written.
Women do not hold positions of leadership, such as deaconess. Singing is usually solely accompanied by an organ, and many churches sing a cappella.
Communion or "The Lord's Supper" is held once a month, usually on the first Sunday evening of the month. This meeting is reserved for baptised believers.
Church meetings & church discipline
A meeting restricted only to baptised members of individual congregations is usually conducted on a three monthly cycle. This meeting is used to discuss issues of business and changes in Church practice. All decisions are made by majority vote by the showing of a raised hand.
Church discipline is used as a last resort for church members who have transgressed a rule of the church. Such rules can vary from church to church, exept where matters of faith are concerned. If a problem occurs with a church member that is considered minor, church discipline may first occur with something as simple as a pastor or deacon having an informal talk with the church member. Only if the "problem" continues would it be brought before all church members. The first stage of church discipline would be by a vote of church members to bar the transgresser from communion for a set number of months (usually 3). This period could be lengthened or shortened on a case by case basis.
On matters of larger import, a church member may be barred from communion, congregational prayer (if male), and all church responsiblities indefinately. This is rare.
If a person leaves the G.S. denomination they can not resign their membership. After a period of non-attendance of several months, a church meeting would be held where a vote would be taken and the membership of the person would be suspended indefinitely
- Historical Sketch of the Gospel Standard Baptists, by S. F. Paul
- The Baptist, by Jack Hoad
- Strict and Particular, by Kenneth Dix
- Baptists Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
- A History of the Baptists, by John T. Christian
- The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, by H. Leon McBeth
- History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1791–1892, by Robert Oliver (2006), ISBN 0-85151-920-2
- Gospel Standard Trust Publications
- Strict and Particular Baptists (article on John Cargill's site The Faith of God's Elect)
- Strict Baptist Historical Society
- Strict and Particular Baptist, UK (thread on BaptistBoard)
- Grace Baptist Assembly 2003
- Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East)
- Particular Baptist Press – publishes reprints and original works highlighting the Doctrines of Grace in historic Baptist literature