The first Baptist congregation was founded in 1609. Whereas other Christian churches allowed the baptism of infants, Baptists believed that Baptism should be confined to adults after a personal confession of faith.
During the Civil War Baptists in England were often referred to as Anabaptists. This group believed that all institutions were by their nature corrupt. This they argued, gave them the moral right to disobey laws imposed by governments. Anabaptist congregations separated themselves from all forms of state control and avoided contact with society outside their own communities.
The growth of Methodism in the second-half of the 18th century inspired Baptists such as Samuel Deacon and Dan Taylor to become involved in the evangelical revival. In June 1770 Dan Taylor formed a separate New Connection of General Baptists which centred its work in emerging industrial communities.
In 1785 the Baptist minister, Andrew Fuller, published his book The Gospel Worthy of All Acception, which emphasized the need for missionary work. Seven years later, the Baptist Missionary Society became the first of the foreign mission societies to be established in Britain.
Between 1806 and 1810 Baptists Colleges were built in Horton, Abergavenny and Stepney. To help communicate their ideas, in 1810 publication began of the Baptist Magazine. Three years later Baptists established a General Union of Baptist Ministers and Churches. As a result of these initiatives, the number of Baptists in Britain grew from 37,000 in 1800 to 125,000 in 1837.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Clifford were the two most prominent Baptist preachers in the 19th century. In 1859 Spurgeon built the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London which seated over 6,000 people. Clifford, the pastor of the Baptist Church in Paddington, was an early supporter of the Fabian Society and at the beginning of the 20th century led the campaign against the 1902 Education Act.
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Last updated: 7th May, 2002