BAPTISTS (bap' lists).
(1) Antecedents and Principles. Protests against infant baptism as without Scriptural war rant and as perversive of the nature and pur pose of an ordinance of Christ were common but by no means universal among evan gelical parties. Petrobrusians and Henricians (1104-48), Arnold of Brescia probably (1139-55), and many Waldenses and Bohemian Brethren (thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries) opposed infant baptism and insisted upon believ ers' baptism. Insistence on regenerate member ship, on the imitation of Christ in his humility and self-denial, and on the practical carrying out cf the teachings of the sermon on the mount ; the rejection of oaths, magistracy, warfare, capital punishment, as contrary to the spirit of the gos pel; and maintenance of freedom of the will and faith working by love, almost invariably accom panied rejection of infant baptism in the mediaeval time.
These principles became far more aggressive and influential in connection with the Protestant Revo lution of the sixteenth century. From 1521 on ward in Germany and from 1524 onward in Switz erland. radical reformers revolted from the par tial and compromising measures of such politico ecclesiastical reformers as Luther and Zwingli, and insisted on unconditional return to apostolic Christianity. Chief stress was laid upon believers' baptism as alone fulfilling the purposes of the ordinance and as requisite for regenerate mem bership. Ideas of social reform accompanied this radical religious propaganda. In a few years the movement had spread throughout southern, east ern, western and central Europe, and many thou sands had been won to its support. Protestants and Catholics vied with each other in remorse less efforts at extei urination. The Moravian Ana baptists adopted a communistic mode of organiza tion and their membership at one time is said to have reached seventy thousand. In the Nether lands the party reorganized by Menno Simons about 1536, was for some years the chief repre sentative of evangelical Christianity. Many Ana baptists were driven by relentless persecution to take refuge in millennarian expectations and were precipitated into the vortex of fanaticism (Mun ster Kingdom). While immersion was recognized by Protestants and Anabaptists alike as the apos tolic form of baptism, little stress was laid upon it by either party. A few cases of immersion
among Anabaptists arc recorded, but sprinkling or pouring seems to have been the prevailing practice. Liberty of conscience was earnestly ad vocated by leading Anabaptists, at a time when nearly all Protestants and Catholics regarded it as entirely inadmissible.
Anabaptists from the continent appeared in Eng land in small groups from time to time from 1534 onward. They were cruelly persecuted and had little opporunity to form permanent churches or to exert any considerable influence on the na tive population. It is possible that in some cases they came into relations with surviving Lollard communities and influenced these to reject in fant baptism. That some English accepted their views in the times of Edward VI and Elizabeth we have reason to believe. It is probable that the large Dutch population found in the west of England in Elizabeth's reign contained many Anabaptists, and, in the opinion of leading Con gregational scholars and others, exerted a de cisive influence on Robert Brown, the father of English Congregationalism.
In 16o6 a Separatist congregation that had been formed at Gainsborough, England, under the lead ership of John Smyth, a Cambridge graduate, were driven by the persecuting measures of James I to Amsterdam. where a church of English dissenters had for years sojourned. Smyth and his follow ers (among whom were Thomas Helwys and John Morton), became convinced that the Sep aratist congregations were inconsistent in with dralx ing from the fellowship of the Church of England as an apostate church, and yet accepting as valid the baptism and the ordination received in that body, and in insisting on regenerate mem bership, and yet baptizing unconscious infants. Accordingly, they repudiated their baptism, ordi nation and ordinances, introduced a new believer's baptism (or what they considered such, for it is prbbablc that immersion was not employed at this time) and reorganized on what they considered a New Testament basis (1609). From the Menno nites and Remonstrabts they imbibed Arminian forms of doctrine.