7th Day Baptists?
Yes, they exist and their recorded history in America goes back to 1671, and earlier in Europe. And No, they have no significant connection with 7th Day Aventists.
Today we present a generalized romp through a detailed history (hundreds and hundreds of footnotes, by the way) called A Choosing People: The History of the Seventh Day Baptists¹ as well as skipping around on the Internet.
But to do that you’ve got to use the DOOR.
Forgive us if we’re a little loosey-goosey here after weeks of pouring through the voluminous book mentioned above. I’ll mention a dozen comments to whet your interest in this fascinating group of Baptists (I’m a former Southern Baptist) that is, in my view, a small but thoroughly evangelical group, that–oddly for Baptists–has stuck together for centuries.
(1) First, these Baptists are in no way connected with 7th Day Adventists. In fact they were in (recorded) existence more than 200 years before the 7th Day Adventists began.
(2) Second, their (recorded) history mingles with that of the (recorded) seventeenth century European history of Anabaptists, Puritans, Quakers, and such.
(3) Their distinctives (a) believer’s baptism by immersion, (b) Biblical Sabbath (“Saturday”) observance, including worship, following Jesus’ example (eliminating “human traditions” from Biblical directives) and instruction to followers, and (c) individual congregational church polity (local regulation) with collective denominational “advisement” rather directives.
(4) Surprisingly, however, when they allow themselves to write “statements of faith” they’re almost identical with typical evangelical statements of faith–with the exception, of course, of what day is the Sabbath.
(5) Who cares? Well they do. They claim to “follow the Bible (sola Scriptura), and Jesus’ teaching” instead of “human tradition.” The Sabbath, they declare, as the Bible, especially the 10 commandments presents it, is first and foremost a day of “stopping,” a day of rest, with collective worship and family sharing of course not excluded.
(6) But wasn’t the Sabbath changed, or even discarded? It depends on how you look at it. In the fourth century AD the “head” of the Church, with Roman encouragement along with strong anti-semitic sentiment, did in fact “change” the Sabbath to Sunday which was friendly to the economic situation and pagan religions. In some cases “Saturday” worship–common then among Christians, was even banned with Biblical Sabbath worshipers punished or killed. The idea of “stopping” or resting was encouraged but not required. That part slowly melted away. The first Christians in the Bible worshiped whenever possible, but regularly on the Biblical Sabbath. Sunday is never mentioned in the Bible. “Sunday” as a God-hallowed day of Christian worship is clearly a human tradition. Roman Catholic papal authority is what created Sunday as a special day for Christian Catholics–and, later, assumed legitimate by most Protestants. Roman Catholics like to remind Protestants of their hand in that.
(7) Do SDB’s require practicing the Biblical Sabbath a requirement for becoming a Christian? Absolutely not. Salvation, as in regular Baptist tradition, is the belief that salvation cannot be earned. It is a free gift from God gained by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.
(8) Do SDB’s cooperate with other evangelicals–especially Baptists? Yes, often. The main business of being a Christian is growing in love for Christ and sharing the Gospel with others.
(9) SBD’s believe strongly in education. In the early history of America they were active in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, and yes, in China, and dozens of other places in the world. They founded schools, emphasized classical education, women’s education, and multicultural education, often considerably ahead of the culture around them. They founded Alford University, for example, and established many of the first schools as America expanded west.
(10) What’s their big problem now? Well, first, we now live in a “Sabbathless” world. Saturday worship, rest, and “stopping” screws up what people really want to do. The easiest people to reach and accommodate are teachers and farmers.
(11) OK, how many 7th Day Baptists are there now, who are actively practicing? The following is an “educated guess”: There are 50,000 altogether in the world: 5,000 in the United States, 20,000 in India, “many” underground in China, as well as scattered churches in England, Holland, Brazil, Jamaica and the Caribbean, and other parts of the world.
(12) Want to visit several churches? Well, you’ve got be rich because you’ll have the fly all over the world to get to the scattered churches of dedicated believers. The U. S. National Conference now headquartered in Janesville, Wisconsin.
[You may also want to refer back to post #737.]
¹ Don A. Sanford, A CHOOSING PEOPLE: The History of the Seventh Day Baptists Second Edition, Revised and Updated (Mercer University Press, Macon, Georga, 2013). We recommend the Kindle version ($9).