Baptists > History > John Smyth
Credited by many Baptists as being the father of the
modern day Baptist movement - 1554 to 1612
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   The Baptists owe much to John Smyth. His life was one of objective Bible study which led him to formalize Baptist theology.  In fact, our church polity and traditions find their roots as a result of Smyth's early influence on the Anabaptists.
   Having earned his masters from Christ's College inCambridge, England, Smyth's life was one of challenging the established religion of his day.  He was very passionate about
Biblical truth.  As a result, he could not agree with the Canon of 1604 which resulted in the Bishop of Lincoln depriving him of being able to preach.  Therefore, he was not able to make a living as a pastor.  He made his way to Gainsborough-on-Trent where he met Richard Clyfton, an ordained clergyman who had also been deprived of his congregation for the same reason.  Clyfton attempted to start a separatist church in the area and was successful in doing so in 1606.
   The congregation experienced rapid growth and became a security risk due to the incursion of state church authorities.  As a result, the decision was made to segment the church.  Clyfton moved on to Scrooby with the new congregations, leaving the original group under the charge of an elder.  Consequently, Smyth was elected to be the new minister 
   In the meantime, the Archbishop of York was seeking out separatist clergy and congregations.  Those he found would be fined and jailed.  By 1607, the two congregations were forced to make a decision to relocate in Holland where they would come together again as a single organization under other leadership than Smyth's.  This country was a major refuge for English Separatists.  It's capital, Amsterdam, was the home of several dissidant congregations.
   However, by the end of 1609, Smyth than proceeded to establish the Second English Exiled Church in Amsterdam under his own leadership.   By then, he was much appreciated for his Bible-centered preaching.  The congregation experienced exceptional growth and became well established in that city.
   In the meantime, Smyth was theologically challenged by a major Separatist concern of that day.  The question of what constituted valid baptism prompted him to perform his own baptism due to his rejection of infant baptism still practiced by the Church of England.  Upon coming into contact with a local group of Anabaptists which baptized professing adults only by immersion, his search for the Scriptural form was over.  As a result, he was baptized and then led his congregation to do the same.
   The Anabaptists also influenced Smyth and his followers to shed their Calvinistic predestination views in favor of a more Armeniasitic theology that favored universal salvation to all who believe.  However, his new beliefs distanced him from some of his brethren who refused to fellowship with him any longer. 
   In a relatively short period of time (1607-1612), John Smyth was used of God to establish what would become the foundational distinctives for Baptist congregations.  His influence is still felt to this day in that all Baptists can trace themselves back to his ministry; a single man who stood in the gap of church history and formulated what would become a moving force for centuries to come.
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