Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Baptists in 1790, North America

On my shelf, relaxing from a long respite of being opened, I found The Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination in North-America to the First of November, 1790 waiting to reveal to state of Baptists in America in the end of the 18th century (John Asplund, Lafayette, TN: Church History Research and Archives, 1979, first printing 1791).
Asplund wrote that he had “traveled about 7000 miles, in about 18 months, chiefly on foot,” to try to gather information on all the Baptist churches. He visited about 215 churches and 15 associations, and said he was personally acquainted 250 ministers. This information he thought “may safely be depended upon in general,” though “a few Churches and Ministers may be omitted.” Asplund’s Register gives us a snapshot of what the Baptists looked like in the United States in 1790. The churches were by a large majority Regular or Particular Baptists. There were exceptions here and there, but the bulk adhered to an idea of Particular Redemption, as opposed to General Provision.

The breakdown in the back of the book follows thusly:
  • Seventh Day Baptists 10 churches, 887 members
  • Six principle Baptists 18 churches, 1599 members
  • Open communion Baptists 15 churches, 1714 members
  • General Provision Baptists 30 churches, 1948 members
  • Regular or particular Baptists 795 churches, 58398 members
Viewed on a percentage basis, 795 of 868 churches (91.5%) were Regular (Calvinistic) Baptists. Within this 795, there were some members and ministers that held a general provision sentiment. This is mainly in Virginia and Kentucky, and after nearly 50 years of Separate Baptist influence.

Concerning associations Asplund lists 34, plus the General Committee in Virginia and the Seventh Day Baptists, who had no association. Of these 36, seventeen held the Philadelphia Confession, and eight more held Calvinistic principles but had not adopted the confession. The 7th-Day Baptists are identified as being Regular Baptist except for the issue of the Sabbath. Six others had not adopted the confession because some of their churches held general provision. Viewed associationally, 32 of 36 associations (nearly 90%) were Calvinistic, or mostly so.

This snapshot gives indication that the majority of early American Baptists were what we consider “Calvinists.” This does not preclude variation within the Calvinistic views – from “High Calvinism” to Fullerism to holding general provision Baptists as members in Particular Baptist churches. Nevertheless, the vast majority of these churches represented themselves “Particular” Baptists.

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