SIX PRINCIPLE BAPTIST HISTORY
INDIANA ASSOCIATION OF SIX PRINCIPLE BAPTISTS
Our denomination, Six-Principle Baptists, sometimes referred to as the Old or General Six-Principle Baptists, traces its origin in America to the ministry of Roger Williams in the 1600's.
Roger Williams (1603-1683)
In his book, "The Baptist Heritage," H. Leon McBeth wrote of Roger Williams, "Williams was one of the most important thinkers in early America, with significance in political as well as religious history. ...."
He was a ".... Missionary to the American Indians. Early pilgrims often talked about converting the Indians, but they rarely did anything about it. .... Williams mastered several Indian tongues, using these to good advantage in his trading, ventures, preaching, and political arbitration among them. ...."
Roger Williams believed in ".... Religious liberty for all." He was preaching this by the early 1630's and later built it into the law of his new colony, which eventually became the state of Rhode Island.
He believed in ".... Separation of church and state. To Roger Williams the basic principle was religious liberty, the freedom of the soul before God, but he regarded the separation of civil and spiritual spheres as essential to providing that soul freedom."
From the very first, the settlement that Roger Williams founded at Providence provided for democracy, religious liberty and separation of church and state. The charter of 1663 provided that:
"No person within said colony, at any time hereafter shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquited, or called into question for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of said colony; but that all and any persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernment."
This "Liberty of Conscience" is still at the heart of our denomination and the basis of our fellowship with each other. Six-Principle Baptists, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-3, do our best to "walk worthy of the vocation by which you (we) are called. With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Holding to these Scriptural ideals, we as Six-Principle Baptists can have "diversity in unity and unity in diversity."
During the 17th and 18th centuries there were a number of issues and controversies that developed among the Baptists that brought about much disagreement and division. The Six Principle Baptists, who originated in the mid 1600s, insisted that the "laying on of hands" (Heb.6:1-2) be practiced as a mandatory ordinance of the church. Others disagreed, saying that was a good practice, but not necessary. The Six Principle Baptists became so influencial, that the word "Hope" and the emblem of the anchor (both taken from Hebrews 6) were placed on the flag of Rhode Island.
Why are we called "General Six-Principle Baptists?"
We are called "General" because the majority of those associated with our denomination, past and present, adhere to the atonement of Christ as being "general" in nature, or for all people as opposed to being just for the elect, or a few.
We are called "Baptists" because we adhere to "believer's baptism" as the Biblical directive as opposed to infant baptism. Baptists practice baptism by totally immersing persons in water, rather than by sprinkling, pouring, or anointing persons with water. Baptism by immersion preserves the dramatic imagery of the meaning of baptism as a symbolic death, burial and resurrection.
We are called "Six-Principle" from our adherence to all six principles of the doctrine of Christ as given in Hebrews 6:1-2.
It is most specifically from our full adherence to the fourth principle listed in Heb. 6:1-2, which, to a degree, is neglected by other baptist groups. While all Baptists are agreed on the laying on of hands upon candidates for ordination, Six-Principle Baptists, believe that more than this is indicated in Scripture concerning that fourth principle. Therefore, not only do Six-Principle Baptists lay hands on candidates for ordination, but we lay hands on the newly baptized as a prerequisite to church membership. Those coming into our fellowships from other fellowships who have been ordained to the ministry by the laying on of hands, we accept as fulfilling this prerequisite.
In his book "History of the General or Six Principle Baptists in Europe and America" (1827), Richard Knight wrote:
"Laying on of Hands. -- This principle of Christ's doctrine, though anciently practised by all baptist churches, is now so much neglected and laid aside, that it distinguishes the churches under review in this work, from all others, by the appellation of the Six Principle Baptists, they holding this rite in connection with, and of equal authority with baptism and all the other principles of Christ's doctrine, and feel warranted therein, both in the divine precepts and practice of the apostles and primitive churches, which, it evidently appears, were in the general practice of this sacred rite for six hundred years after the ascension of our Lord ...."
We see in the Scriptures that Christ and the Apostles laid hands on people in blessing. The Apostles laid hands on believers after they were baptized and they received the Holy Spirit for witness and power for ministry. Six-Principle Baptists continue to hold to the fullness of this distinguishing principle today.
Basis for Christian Unity
Recognizing the unity of the Church of Christ in all the world, and knowing that we are but one branch of Christ's people, while adhering to our particular faith and order, we extend to all believers the hand of Christian fellowship, upon the basis of those great fundamental truths in which all should agree. With them we confess our belief in one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace. We believe that Jesus came in the flesh, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Affirming now our belief that those who thus hold to these fundamental truths together constitute the one universal Church, the several households of which, though called by different names, are the one body of Christ, and that these members of his body are sacredly bound to keep "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," we declare that we will cooperate with all who hold these truths.
We believe that, beyond these fundamental truths, there can be unity in diversity and diversity in unity in other particulars of faith within the body of Christ.
- Although we individually, or as a group, may believe and cherish certain doctrines, the basis of our fellowship is life in the Christ of the Scriptures rather than light on the teaching of the Scriptures. Those who have part with Christ have part with us. Because our communion is one of life and love more than one of doctrine and opinion, we seek to show that the oneness in the life of God through Jesus Christ is a stronger bond than that of being one of us - whether organizationally or denominationally.
- Because our fellowship is based on our common life in Christ, we do not reject anyone because of the organization or denomination with which he may be affiliated; nor would we hold him responsible for the conduct within that system, any more than we would a child for the conduct in the home of which he is merely a part.
- We do not feel it desirable to withdraw from fellowship with any Christians except at the point where they may require us to do what our consciences will not permit, or restrain us from doing what our consciences require. Even then, we maintain our fellowship with them in any matter where we are not called upon to so compromise. This ensures that (inasfar as we understand the Scripture) we do not separate ourselves from them any further than they separate themselves from Christ.
- We do not consider an act of fellowship to be indicative of total agreement; indeed, we sometimes find it a needed expression of love to submit to others in matters where we do not fully agree, rather than to prevent some greater good from being brought about. Our choice would be to bear with their wrong rather than separate ourselves from their good.
- We believe it more scriptural to reflect a heart of love ready to find a covering for faults, than to constantly look for that with which we may disagree. We will then be known more by what we witness for than by what we witness against.
- We feel it biblical never to pressure people to act in uniformity further than they feel in uniformity; we use our fellowship in the Spirit as an opportunity to discuss our differences and find this to be the most effective way of leading others - or being led by them - into the light of the Word.
- While enjoying such a wide range of Christian fellowship, we would not force this liberty upon those who would feel otherwise minded. In such circumstances, we enjoy fellowship as far as they will permit, then pray that the Lord would lead them further into this true liberty of the common life in Christ.