Sunday, October 22, 2006

Seventh Day Baptist History I

Seventh Day Baptist Origins
England, 1590-1670

Our final authority. One of the great principals of the Protestant Reformation was sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone,” meaning that the only reliable authority for faith and human behavior is the Bible. In England, as elsewhere, the study of the Scriptures led devout believers to doctrinal conclusions which differed from previous tradition. With the Bible as their principle guide, some Christians became convinced that the Sabbath should not only be observed, but be observed on the seventh day of the week.

Gravestone of Dr. Peter Chamberlen
The Sabbath is rediscovered. Some, like John Traske and Theophilus Brabourne considered the Sabbath and tried to persuade others to adopt it, but, failing to do so, went no further. After the English Civil War and the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell there was more freedom for Protestant dissenters. From 1650 to 1660, a number of Baptists chose the Sabbath. Among those were James Ockford, William Saller, John Spittlehouse, Thomas Tillam and Dr. Peter Chamberlen, physician to three English monarchs. Several congregations of Sabbath-keeping Baptists were established, including the oldest still existing Seventh Day Baptist church, later named Mill Yard.

Samuel Stennett
Sabbathkeepers are persecuted. After the fall of the Commonwealth and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, it again became more difficult for those outside the established Church of England. John James, a leader of the Mill Yard congregation, was executed in 1661 on charges of being a Fifth Monarchist. Because of his Sabbath convictions, Edward Stennett was forced to change his profession and worship behind closed doors. Francis Bampfield came to the Sabbath while in prison for holding illegal worship. There he began the preaching which led to the founding of the Pinners' Hall Seventh Day Baptist Church. That church continued for over 175 years after Bampfield died in prison.

Sabbbath comes to the American colonies. About 1664 two Sabbathkeeping members of the Baptist congregation at Tewkesbury, Stephen and Anne Mumford, emigrated to Rhode Island where they were instrumental in helping to found the first Seventh Day Baptist church in North America.

During the 17th and 18th centuries English Seventh Day Baptists included several distinguished individuals including the hymn writers Joseph and Samuel Stennett and the lexicographer, Nathanael Bailey.

Adapted from Don Sanford, A Choosing People: The History of Seventh Day Baptists, 1992

The first picture shows part of the inscription on the tomb of Dr. Peter Chamberlen at St. Margaret's Chapel near Woodham Mortimer in Essex. The second is Samuel Stennett, Seventh Day Baptist hymn writer and pastor.

The next in the series: "Seventh Day Baptist History II - Rhode Island to Independence"

Links to all of the posts about Seventh Day Baptist History can be found here.

This series of short summaries of Seventh Day Baptist history is part of a project undertaken for the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society, which maintains its archives and a museum in Janesville, Wisconsin.

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