John Smyth (Baptist minister)

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John Smyth
John-Smyth.png
Bornc. 1554
Diedc. 28 August 1612 (aged c. 57–58)
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge
Occupation Pastor

John Smyth (c. 1554 – c. 28 August 1612) was an early English Baptist minister and a defender of the principle of religious liberty.

Contents

Early life

Smyth is thought to have been the son of John Smyth, a yeoman of Sturton-le-Steeple, Nottinghamshire. [1] He was educated locally at the grammar school in Gainsborough and in Christ's College, Cambridge, where he became a Fellow in 1594. [2]

Ordination

Smyth was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594 in England. He preached in the city of Lincoln in 1600 to 1602. [3] Soon after his ordination, he broke with the Church of England and left for Holland where he and his small congregation began to study the Bible ardently. He briefly returned to England.

Believer's baptism

In 1609, Smyth, along with a group in Holland, came to believe in believer's baptism (thereby rejecting infant baptism) and they came together to form one of the earliest Baptist churches.

Views

In the beginning, Smyth was closely aligned with his Anglican heritage. As time passed, his views evolved. Smyth's education at Cambridge included the "trivium" and "quadrivium" which included a heavy emphasis upon Aristotelian logic and metaphysics. Smyth's evolving ecclesiology was due to his applying biblical truth about the truth into numerous logical syllogisms. He was utterly convinced that believer's baptism and a free church gathered by covenant were foundational to the church. [4]

First, Smyth insisted that true worship was from the heart and that any form of reading from a book in worship was an invention of sinful man. This rejection of liturgy remains strong among many Baptists still today. Prayer, singing and preaching had to be completely spontaneous. He went so far with this ideology that he would not allow the reading of the Bible during worship on the grounds that a translation was "...the worke of a mans witt...& therefore not to be brought into the worship of God to be read." This idea stemmed from the belief that worship should be ordered by the Spirit. [5]

Second, Smyth introduced a twofold church leadership, that of pastor and deacon. This was in contrast to the Anglican traditional hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon, and the Reformed Protestant trifold leadership of Pastor-Elder, Lay-Elders, and Deacons.

Third, with his newfound position on baptism, a whole new concern arose for these "Baptists". Having been baptized as infants, like the Anabaptists of the Radical Reformation they came to believe they would need to be re-baptized. Since there was no other minister to administer baptism, Smyth baptized himself (for which reason he was called "the Se-baptist," from the Latin word se '[one]self') and then proceeded to baptize his flock. We can discount as a forgery the view of Dr. John Clifford as cited in the "General Baptist Magazine", London, July, 1879, vol. 81), records that "[I]n 1606 on March 24,. . .this night at midnight elder John Morton baptized John Smyth, vicar of Gainsborough, in the River Don. It was so dark we were obliged to have torch lights. Elder Brewster prayed, Mister Smith made a good confession; walked to Epworth in his cold clothes, but received no harm. The distance was over two miles. All of our friends were present. To the triune God be praise." This account was later revealed to have been a forgery connected with the rebuilding of the Baptist Church at Crowle, where the church (now closed) still bears a plaque falsely claiming to have been founded in 1599. [6]

End of life

Before his death, Smyth regretted the fact that he baptized himself, and wrote a letter of apology. [7] Due to some shared views, including the Christology, he began a rapprochement with the Mennonite church . [8] This resulted in his excommunication from the church by Thomas Helwys. Smyth and part of the church joined a Mennonite church, while Helwys and another part of the church returned to England to form the first permanent Baptist church in 1611. [9] Coincidentally, this was also the same year that the King James Version of the Bible was first published. [10]

The churches that descended from Helwys were of the General Baptist persuasion. Baptist historian Tom J. Nettles argues that Helwys and his group "earned the name General Baptists" because they "claimed that Christ died for all men rather than for the elect only". [11] This is seen as a step away from fully Calvinist commitments. Smyth "eventually rejected the doctrine of original sin and asserted the right of every Christian to hold his own religious views. Among Smyth's works, is The Differences of the Churches of the Separation (probably 1608 or 1609)." [12]

Influence

It has been suggested by W. T. Whitley that Smyth may have coined such well-known theological terms as Pedobaptist and Presbyterian. [13]

It is also argued that Smyth had an influence in the historical development of the doctrine of inerrancy that Baptists almost unilaterally hold since the conservative resurgence.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Anabaptism Non-conformist Christian movement

Anabaptism is a Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation. The movement is seen by outsiders as another offshoot of Protestantism, although this view is not shared by Anabaptists, who view themselves as a separate branch of Christianity.

Baptists Denomination of Protestant Christianity

Baptists form a major branch of Protestant Christianity distinguished by baptizing professing Christian believers only, and doing so by complete immersion. Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the doctrines of soul competency, sola fide, sola scriptura and congregationalist church government. Baptists generally recognize two ordinances: baptism and communion.

Baptism Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water

Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be performed by sprinkling or pouring water on the head, or by immersing in water either partially or completely. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism according to the Trinitarian formula, which is done in most mainstream Christian denominations, is seen as being a basis for Christian ecumenism, the concept of unity amongst Christians. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

Seventh Day Baptists are Baptists who observe the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, as a holy day to the Lord. They adopt a covenant Baptist theology, based on the concept of regenerated society, conscious baptism of believers by immersion, congregational government and the scriptural basis of opinion and practice.

Deacon Ministry in the Christian Church

A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Scandinavian Lutheran Churches and the Anglican Church, including the Free Church of England, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state.

Laying on of hands Ritual that is a part of religious practices found in various cultures

The laying on of hands is a religious practice. In Judaism semikhah accompanies the conferring of a blessing or authority.

Old German Baptist Brethren

The Old German Baptist Brethren (OGBB) is a conservative Plain church which emerged from a division among the German Baptist Brethren in 1881 being part of the Old Order Movement. Like the church it emerged from, it has roots both in Anabaptism and in Radical Pietism. It practices adult believers baptism as the biblically valid form of baptism. It is also characterized by strict religious adherence with rejection of modern culture and modern assimilation. It is one of several Schwarzenau Brethren groups that trace their roots to 1708, when eight believers founded a new church in Schwarzenau, Germany. The Old German Baptist Brethren church has about 4,000 baptized members.

Schwarzenau Brethren German Anabaptist group founded 1708

The Schwarzenau Brethren, the German Baptist Brethren, Dunkers, Dunkards, Tunkers, or sometimes simply called the German Baptists, are an Anabaptist group that dissented from Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed European state churches during the 17th and 18th century. German Baptist Brethren emerged in some German-speaking states in western and southwestern parts of the Holy Roman Empire as a result of the Radical Pietist revival movement of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The Apostolic Christian Church (ACC) is a worldwide Christian denomination from the anabaptist tradition that practices credobaptism, closed communion, greeting other believers with a holy kiss, a capella worship in some branches, and the headcovering of women during services. The Apostolic Christian Church only ordains men, who are authorized to administer baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the laying on of hands. Not every Apostolic Christian Church practices the women's headcovering; however, it is seen in most.

The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, also called Holdeman Mennonite, is a Christian Church of Anabaptist heritage. Its formation started in 1859 under its first leader John Holdeman (1832-1900), who was a baptized Mennonite. It is very similar to Conservative Mennonites but has stayed away from other Conservative Mennonites because of its "true church" doctrine and its practice of excommunication. In 2013 the church had 24,400 baptized members.

Johann Gerhard Oncken German Baptist preacher

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Thomas Helwys, an Englishman, was one of the joint founders, with John Smyth, of the General Baptist denomination.

Mainstream Baptists

Mainstream Baptists is a network of Baptists in fourteen U.S. states that have organized to uphold historic Baptist principles, particularly separation of church and state, and to oppose Fundamentalism and Theocratic Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention. As such, it is not a denomination, but rather an organization that provides resources, support, and interagency communication. Organizations/agencies considered to share Mainstream Baptists and cooperate with and support the network are listed below under External links.

Baptist beliefs Beliefs of Baptist Christians.

Baptists do not have a central governing authority, and Baptist beliefs are not completely consistent from one Baptist church to another. However, Baptists do hold some common beliefs among almost all Baptist churches.

An ordinance is a religious ritual whose intent is to demonstrate an adherent's faith. Examples include baptism and the Lord's Supper, as practiced in Evangelical churches adhering to the doctrine of the believers' Church, such as Anabaptists, all Baptist churches, Churches of Christ groups, and Pentecostal churches.

The Apostolic Christian Church of America is a Christian denomination, based in the United States, and a branch of the Apostolic Christian Church. The denomination consists of approximately 90 congregations in the United States, Japan, Mexico and Canada.

A church covenant is a declaration, which some churches draw up and call their members to sign, in which their duties as church members towards God and their fellow believers are outlined. It is a fraternal agreement, freely endorsed, that establishes what are, according to the Holy Scriptures, the duties of a Christian and the responsibilities which each church member pledges himself or herself to honour.

Believers baptism Person is baptized on the basis of his or her profession of faith in Jesus Christ

Believer's baptism is the Christian practise of baptism as is understood by many evangelical denominations, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist and English Baptist tradition. According to their understanding, a person is baptized on the basis of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as admission into a local community of faith.

Protestantism A form of Christianity against the Catholic Church since 1517

Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Catholic Church. Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy, but disagree among themselves regarding the number of sacraments, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and matters of ecclesiastical polity and apostolic succession. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers; justification by faith rather than by good works; the teaching that salvation comes by divine grace or "unmerited favor" only, not as something merited ; and either affirm the Bible as being the sole highest authority or primary authority for Christian doctrine, rather than being on parity with sacred tradition. The five solae of Lutheran and Reformed Christianity summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Catholic Church.

Christian laying on of hands Symbolic and formal method of invoking the Holy Spirit

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References

  1. Lee, Jason (2003). The Theology of John Smyth: Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, Mennonite. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. p. 41. ISBN   0-86554-760-2.
  2. Cross, F.L., editor. (1997). Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. (3rd ed./ edited by E.A. Livingstone.) Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press. p. 1511. ISBN   9780192116550.
  3. "John Smyth". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. Sébastien Fath, "Une autre manière d'être chrétien en France: socio-histoire de l'implantation baptiste, 1810-1950", Éditions Labor et Fides, France, 2001, p. 81
  5. Lee, Jason (2003). The Theology of John Smyth: Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, Mennonite. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. p. 54. ISBN   0-86554-760-2.
  6. R R Kershaw, Baptised Believers, Nottingham University, 1995
  7. James Robinson Graves, Jacob Ditzler, The Lord's Supper, Southern Baptist Publication Society, USA, 1876, page 894
  8. Bernard Roussel, Encyclopædia Universalis, John Smyth, Official Website, France (consulted 01/04/2016)
  9. Christianity Today, John Smyth, christianitytoday.com, USA, August 8, 2008
  10. https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1601-1700/story-behind-king-james-bible-11630052.html
  11. Russ Bush, L.; Nettles, Tom J. (1999). Baptists and the Bible. ISBN   0805418326.
  12. Doniger, Wendy, ed. (1999). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. p.  1019. ISBN   0-87779-044-2.
  13. Whitley, W. T. (1915). The Works of John Smyth fellow of Christ's college, 1594-8. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. vi. Retrieved 26 May 2017.W. T. Whitley, ed. (1915). The Works of John Smyth. 2. Cambridge University Press.

Further reading