A Brief History of Reformed Baptists
THE HISTORY AND PRESENT STATE OF REFORMED BAPTISTS
by Steve Martin, Pastor, Heritage Church, Evangelical-Reformed-Baptist, Fayetteville, Georgia
Genesis 26:18 – “Isaac unstopped the wells the Philistines had stopped up …”
THE HISTORY OF REFORMED BAPTISTS IN AMERICA
The 17th and 18th Century Explosion of Calvinistic Baptists
America was settled by Europeans seeking religious freedom, political freedom, economic opportunities, wealth, adventure and frequently an admixture of more than one ingredient. Apart from the Calvinist radical Roger Williams, who was briefly a Baptist, Baptists had scant representation in the 17th century colonies. But by the 18th century “Evangelical Awakening” (called the Great Awakening in the colonies), Baptists, especially Calvinistic Baptists, began to make their mark. The revival not only brought many of the unchurched into the Kingdom of God, but it also split many Congregational, Anglican and Presbyterian churches. Some of the resulting “Separatist Churches” became Baptists en masse. Baptist churches grew from 96 to 457 in forty years. Most of them were Calvinistic Baptists. Pastors and itinerant evangelists whose names are almost forgotten saw a multitude of souls come into the Kingdom through their preaching and an equal number of revived Christians becoming Baptists: Isaac Backus, Hezekiah Smith and Morgan Edwards from the northern colonies; Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, Oliver Hart and Richard Furman in the southern colonies. Like mushrooms after a summer rain, Baptist churches sprang up all over the 13 original colonies. While observing the hard-won Baptist doctrine of the independency of each local congregation, Colonial Baptists also associated with other like-minded churches in local and regional associations. The earliest and most famous associations, Rhode Island, Philadelphia and Charleston, each adopted the 2nd London Confession of 1689. [e.g. Elias Keach, son of Baptist patriarch Benjamin Keach, helped the Philadelphia Association adopt the 2nd London Confession, with an appendix on singing hymns – hence the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.] By the early 1800s, there were 128 Baptist associations. Baptists had come to outnumber Anglicans who had a century and a half start on them.
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