Monday, August 22, 2011

Who are Seventh Day Baptists?

Dr. Ron Davis asks and answers the question "Who are Seventh Day Baptists?"
Seventh Day Baptists are a little known, historic, evangelical, Christian group, who have the distinctive of worshiping on the Seventh Day Sabbath. Like other Baptists, they baptize believers in Christ by immersion and hold to local church autonomy. Like other Evangelicals they are Trinitarian, evangelistic, and world-mission minded. They emerged in the mid seventeenth century from British Separatists, and organized their first church in America in 1671 in Newport, Rhode Island. They had theological and genealogical ties to other Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists, holding to God's sovereign grace in originating and completing man's salvation. Several colonial Rhode Island governors were SDB's. The Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church in Rhode Island became one of the largest churches in colonial America. Today, Seventh Day Baptists are a small, growing, mission-minded, Christian body in over forty countries worldwide.
I'm curious about whether other Seventh Day Baptists agree with his summary of our history and theological posture. One quibble I have is that it ignores the existence of the Arminians among us but I find myself feeling that if it isn't entirely accurate, it probably ought to be.

"Who are Seventh Day Baptists?"


  1. Anonymous7:48 AM

    "They had theological and genealogical ties to other Particular (Calvinistic) Baptis"

    For my own enlightenment, how is this Historically demonstrated?

    Thank You!

  2. Dr. Ron Davis responded [at my invitation] to your query:

    "I did write "had" theological and genealogical "roots". By "had" I meant in the 17th century (which was, evidently, strong enough to carry well into the first half of the 19th century when our SDB hymnals were published). The "roots" were the prevalent 17th century Calvinism, which was especially strong in both England and America. This was primarily the Particular Baptist strand of Calvinism, and in particular the influence of the Pinner's Hall (Cripplegate) SDB Church in London, and John Clarke's Baptist Church in Newport from which the Newport SDB Church branched off (over the Sabbath issue, not over Calvinistic doctrine). I also didn't write in the closing sentence, "SDB's are a small, growing, Calvinistic..."

    "Perhaps I could have softened the earlier statement by saying, "They primarily had theological and genealogical roots to other Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists that held to God's sovereign grace...." Or I could have simply left out the comma after Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists. I never suggested that SDB's are today primarily Calvinistic, though I wish to soon see the day when I can honestly say it."

  3. And Ron also wrote:

    "The cumulative evidence really is quite strong, however. The root was almost entirely a Particular Baptist root in Rhode Island. The geneological roots were with both John Clarke and Roger Williams (see Don Sanford, Dr John Ward), the two "founding fathers" of Rhode Island, and of Baptists in America. The theological roots were from John Clarke's Baptist church in Newport primarily, the church from which the Newport SDB Church branched off.

    Our ancestry (my dad's, and probably my mom's and my wife's Davis line as well) goes back to Clarkes (and Crandalls, Maxsons, Babcocks & others). Many other SDB's have Clarke ancestry, and some have Roger Williams blood ties. Both Clarke and Williams were strong Calvinists. I talked to Thomas J. Nettles, So Baptist historian after he spoke in Anderson a few years ago. He stressed, without any reservation at all, that both were unequivocally strong Calvinists. I had erroneously thought, at that time, maybe Roger Williams wasn't so strong a Calvinist, because of some of his idiosyncrasies. Nettles book By His Grace and For His Glory makes a case for the bias against Calvinism and the revisionism of history that has developed among (mainly Southern) Baptists, his church, as years went by. I think I detect a similar revisionist bias among SDB's, due to the strong swing of America Christians toward Arminianism (at least until recently) although a lot of this may just be due an honest lack of solid and balanced information.

    Years ago (about 1990) I did a paper for my second year at the SDB Summer Institute on the Calvinism of the Pinners Hall
    (Cripplegate) SDB Church, which was the largest, most prominent, and most enduring SDB Church in early England. The cumulative evidence here is very strong as well. Admittedly, the Millyard Church and others were more Arminian oriented than was Cripplegate. The case for early English SDB's being mainly Particular Baptists is definitely more debatable, because of the General and Particular Baptist strands, although the Particular strand was the stronger of the two because of the more enduring influece of the Pinners Hall into the 19th century. The 1640's to 1670's, when the first SDB churches began, were the era of the Puritan and thus Calvinistic strength in England - General Baptists were the earlier stand to be sure, but became relatively weaker. The Puritans (Calvinists) controlled Parliament and won the debate in Parliament over the Sabbath and other issues in about 1645, Oliver Cromwell rise to power (mid 1650's), Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress in 1678. Edward and Joseph Stennett of Pinner's Hall, pastors of the SDB Church lived during this time, and were the most inflluential SDB's theologically (John James and Chamberlain didn't write theological books prominently like the Stennett's did). Edward Stennett and Bunyan were fairly close theologically, and in friendship, though they debated each other about the Sabbath in their books. The Pinners Hall SDB pastors were exchanging pulpits with and doing funeral services for prominent Particular Baptists, like John Gill and John Rippon. John Rippon's Hymnal became the most common hymnal in early America among Baptists and seems to have been the main basis for our early SDB hymnals. Albert Rogers makes it clear, in his quote that I use, that our early 19th century SDB hymnals were full of Calvinist hymn writers and theology. I have an 1800 edition with many Stennett hymns. Samuel Stennett was a close friend of John Rippon."

  4. Anonymous8:17 AM

    This is really exciting data. I had never seen this case laid out before. Thank You for taking the time to respond.

    Is it possible rather then seeing ourselves as a third kind of Baptist as Brackney presents that in reality in our roots we are simply a branch or kind of particular Baptits who have carried the Calvinistic Conscience on law and decree to conclusions which included the Sabbath.

  5. The possibility you suggest seems likely to me.


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