A denomination of Christians who maintain that baptism is to be administered by immersion, and not by sprinkling.
Although there were several Baptists among the Albigenses, Waldenses, and the followers of Wickliffe, it does not appear that they were formed into any stability until the time of Menno, about the year 1536. About 1644 they began to make a considerable figure in England, and spread themselves into several separate congregations. They separated from the Independents about the year 1638, and set up for themselves under the pastoral care of Mr. Jesse; and, having renounced their former baptism, they sent over one of their number to be immersed by one of the Dutch Anabaptists of Amsterdam, that he might be qualified to baptize his friends in England after the same manner.
The Baptists subsist under two denominations, viz. the Particular or Calvinistical, and the General or Arminian. Their modes of church government and worship are the same as the Independents; in the exercise of which they are protected, in common with other dissenters, by the act of toleration. Some of both denominations allow of mixed communion; by which it is understood that those who have not been baptized by immersion, on the profession of their faith, may sit down at the Lord’s table with those who have been thus baptized. Others, however, disallow it, supposing that such have not been actually baptized at all.
Some of them observe the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, apprehending the law that enjoined it not to have been repealed by Christ.
Some of the General Baptists have, it is said, gone into Socinianism, or Arianism; on account of which, several of their ministers and churches who disapprove of these principles, have within the last forty years formed themselves into a distinct connexion, called the New Association. The churches in this union keep up a friendly acquaintance, in some outward things, with those from whom they have separated; but in things more essential disclaim any connexion with them, particularly as to changing ministers, and the admission of members. The General Baptists have, in some of their churches, three distinct orders separately ordained, viz.–messengers, elders, and deacons. Their general assembly is held annually in Worship Street, London, of the Tuesday in the Whitsun week.
The Baptists have two exhibitions for students to be educated at one of the universities of Scotland, given them by Dr. Ward, of Gresham College. There is likewise an academy at Bristol for students, generally known by the name of the Bristol Education Society. The Baptists in America and in the East and West Indies are chiefly Calvinists, and hold occasional fellowship with the Particular Baptist churches in England. Those in Scotland, having imbibed a considerable part of the principles of Messrs. Glass and Sandeman, have no communion with the other. They have liberally contributed, however, towards the translation of the Scriptures into the Bengalee language, which some of the Baptist brethren are now accomplishing in the East.
Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.