The Baptist witness in England not only retains a proud heritage among churches scattered throughout the British Isles, but these churches have been the starting point for extending the Baptist witness to many more parts of the world. The emergence of doctrinal ‘distinctives’ and their dividing lines between the English Baptists are matters that continue to distinguish groups of Baptists worldwide.
Baptist churches have been identified through two millennia by their exalted view of Holy Scripture, that it is supreme and sufficient for all matters of faith and practice; and by their exclusive view of the Church, that it is a local body of baptized believers following the commands of Christ. (1) However, Baptists have not always seen eye to eye on the finer points of these two principles.
It is estimated that by the turn of the 20th century, more the 2000 Baptist Churches were meeting in England. Of these churches, about a third belonged to the Strict (Restricted Communion) and Particular (Restricted Atonement) persuasion. (1) By the 1930′s, more than half of the Strict and Particular Baptist churches lacked pastoral oversight. Consequently, the congregations began to seriously decline.
The following Affirmations were unquestionably embraced by Strict and Particular Baptist churches prior to the Second World War:
1. Authority of the Scriptures.
2. Adherence to the Doctrines of Grace.
3. Autonomy of the Church.
This article has sought to provide an historical overview for the Historic Affirmations of the Baptist witness in England. An attempt has been made at identifying not only the Baptist witness in general, but also tracing the origins of the distinctive features belonging to the Strict and Particular Baptists in particular. These features are not unique to Baptists in England, for there are churches scattered worldwide which embrace the same faith and practice, although they may be identified by names other than “Strict” and “Particular”.