Strict and Particular Sabbatarian Baptist


Since 1676, repentant believers in Christ, baptized by immersion, who gather for worship on the Sabbath day, saved by sovereign grace and not by man’s works, strictly avoiding communion with idolatry

Sabbatarianism, Semi-Sabbatarianism

An Old Sabbatarian Church

The view which insists that one day of each week be reserved for religious observance as prescribed by the OT sabbath law.It is most important that we note a distinction between strict or literal sabbatarianism and semisabbatarianism.

Strict or literal sabbatarianism contends that God’s directive concerning the OT sabbath law is natural, universal, and moral; consequently the sabbath requires mankind to abstain from all labor except those tasks necessary for the welfare of society. In this view the seventh day, the literal sabbath, is the only day on which the requirements of this law can be met. Historically, we see a trend toward sabbatarianism in the Eastern church during the fourth century and the Irish church of the sixth century when, interestingly, a dual recognition of both sabbath and Sunday was stressed. It was not until the Reformation, however, that we meet the quintessence of sabbatarianism.

uther opposed the doctrine, pointing out (in his “Letter against the Sabbatarians”) the legalistic pitfalls inherent in the view. Calvin agreed in principle with Luther’s stance. The Transylvania unitarians adopted strict sabbath observance during the seventeenth century, later moving to a total acceptance of Judaism. The Seventh day Baptists originated in 1631, bringing sabbatarianism to England and later to Rhode Island and New York. The most notable proponent of strict sabbatarianism at the present time is the Seventh day Adventist Church; several smaller adventist groups hold the same or similar views. Adventists believe they have been raised for the express purpose of proclaiming that God requires all men to observe the sabbath.

Their arguments for the universally binding character of the sabbath law are these: it (1) is part of the moral law, (2) was given at the creation, and (3) was not abrogated in the NT. Some adventists see in Sunday observance a fulfillment of the prophecy (Rev. 14:9ff.) which states that deluded mankind will be forced to accept the mark of the beast (Sunday observance) in order to survive during the days prior to Christ’s second advent.

 Semisabbatarianism holds a view essentially the same as strict sabbatarianism but transfers its demands from Saturday, the seventh day, to Sunday, the first day of the week. As early as the fourth and fifth centuries theologians in the Eastern church were teaching the practical identity of the Jewish sabbath and the Christian Sunday. Eusebius’s interpretation of Ps. 91 (c. 320) greatly influenced the ultimate transfer of sabbath assertions and prohibitions to the first day of the week. An ancient legend related in the so called Apocalypse of Peter, and known to Augustine and Prudentius, significantly transfers to Sunday what the original legend said concerning the sabbath: those who suffer the pains of the lost in hell are, for the sake of Christ, permitted to rest from torment on Sunday, the first day of the week!

It was Albertus Magnus who first suggested a structured semisabbatarianism by dividing the sabbath command into (1) the moral command to observe a day of rest after six days of labor and (2) the ceremonial symbol that applied only to the Jews in a literal sense. Thomas Aquinas lifted this formulation to the status of official doctrine, a view later held by a large number of Reformed theologians as well. Semisabbatarianism reached its zenith in English Puritanism, later finding its way to the New World through the early colonists. Sunday restrictions and so-called blue laws in various states are a constant reminder of the influence of this view on the laws of our land. Organizations such as the Lord’s Day Observance Society (est. 1831), and the Imperial Alliance for the Defense of Sunday (England) have sought to preserve the principles of semisabbatarianism, but with decreasing success since World War II.

F R Harm
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

R D Brackenridge, “The Sabbath War of 1865 – 6,” in R S C H S 16:1; R Cox, Literature of the Sabbath Question; P Collinson, “The Origins of English Sabbatarianism,” in Studies in Church History; C H Little, Disputed Doctrines; M Luther, Letter to a Good Friend Against the Sabbatarians; E Morgan, The Puritan Family; E Plass, What Luther Says, III; J M Reu, Christian Ethics; W Rordorf, Sunday; P Schaff, The Anglo American Sabbath; A H Strong, Systematic Theology; W Whitaker, Sunday in Tudor and Stuart Times and The Eighteenth Century Sunday.

Sabbatarians, Sabbatarianism

Catholic Information

(Hebrew Shabot rest).

The name, as appears from its origin, denotes those individuals or parties who are distinguished by some peculiar opinion or practice in regard to the observance of the Sabbath or day of rest. In the first place it is applied to those rigorists who apparently confound the Christian Sunday with the Jewish Sabbath and, not content with the prohibition of servile work, will not allow many ordinary and innocent occupations on the Sunday. This form of Sabbatariansm has chiefly prevailed among Scottish and English Protestants and was at one time very common. Of late years it has sensibly declined; and there is now a tendency towards the opposite extreme of laxity in observing the law of Sunday rest. These Sabbatarians never formed a distinct sect; but were merely a party of rigorists scattered among many and various Protestant denominations. At the same time it is not only in their name that they have something in common with the distinctive sects of Sabbatarians properly so-called, for their initial error in neglecting the distinction between the Christian weekly festival and the Jewish Sabbath is likewise the starting-point of the Sabbatarian sects; and these carry their mistaken principle to its logical conclusion.

This logical development of judaizing Sabbatarianism is curiously illustrated in the history of a sect of Sabbatarian Socinians founded in Transylvania in Hungary towards the end of the sixteenth century. Their first principle, which led them to separate from the rest of the Unitarian body, was their belief that the day of rest must be observed with the Jews on the seventh day of the week and not on the Christian Sunday. And as we learn from Schrodl the greater part of this particular Sabbatarian sect joined the orthodox Jews in 1874, thus carrying out in practice the judaizing principle of their founders. Although there does not seem to be any immediate or obvious connection between the observance of the seventh day and the rejection of infant baptism, these two errors in doctrine and discipline are often found together. Thus Sabbatarianism made many recruits among the Mennonite Anabaptists in Holland and among the English Baptists who, much as they differ on other points of doctrine, agree in the rejection of paedo-baptism. And it is presumably a result of this contact with Anabaptism that Sabbatarianism is also found in association with fanatical views on political or social questions. The most conspicuous of English Sabbatarian Baptists was Francis Bampfield (d. 1683), brother of a Devonshire baronet and originally a clergyman of the English Church. He was the author of several works and ministered to a congregation of Sabbatarian Baptists in London. He suffered imprisonment for his heterodoxy and eventually died in Newgate. In America the Baptists who profess Sabbatarianism are known as Seventh-Day Baptists.

But if the greater number of Sabbatarians have come from the Baptists, the most amazing of them was at one time associated with the Wesleyan Methodists. This was the prophetess Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), like Bampfield, a native of Devonshire, who composed many spiritual poems and prophetical writings, and became the mother of a sect of Sabbatarians, also known as Southcottians or Joannas. Modern Englishmen who are apt to smile at medieval credulity can scarcely find in Catholic countries in the “darkest” days of ignorance any instance of a more amazing credulity than that of Joanna Southcott’s disciples, who confidently awaited the birth of the promised Messiah whom the prophetess of sixty-four was to bring into the world. They gave practical proof of their faith by preparing a costly cradle. Nor did they abandon all hope when the poor deluded woman died of the disease which had given a false appearance of pregnancy. The sect survived for many years; and when in 1874 her tombstone was shattered by an accidental explosion, the supposed portent re-enkindled the faith of her followers.

The American sect of Seventh-Day Adventists may be added to the list of Sabbatarian communities, among which their large numbers should give them a conspicuous place. To these may be added the Jewish sect of Sabbatarians, though these derive their name not from the Sabbath, but from their founder, Sabbatian Zebi or Zevi (1626-76). His teaching was not concerned with any special observance of the Sabbath, but as a form of false Messianism it may be compared with the mission of Joanna Southcott. The two stories show some strange points of resemblance especially in the invincible credulity of the disciples of the pretended Jewish Messiah and of the deluded Devonshire prophetess. (See bibliography of ADVENTISTS)

Publication information Written by W.H. Kent. Transcribed by John Looby. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


The reason for writing this item is twofold. First, there are many believers who know little, if anything, about those brethren, known as Strict and Particular Baptists. This is not surprising, there are many groups of Christians of which I know very little, or nothing at all. Secondly, there are misconceptions abroad concerning these brethren. This is something that we have all learned to live with, but I would, nevertheless, like to take an opportunity to explain the position of S&PBs.

The Strict & Particular Baptists are, first and foremost, Christians who have a long and orthodox history. They are Believers on, and in, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are His Followers, or Disciples. In saying this these Believers do not imply that others, not so designated, are not Christians; in fact they recognise all true believers in the Lord Jesus as brethren, beloved in Christ.

The name Strict & Particular Baptists is one that was given, by others, in three distinct parts. Although this is a title given, by others, it has been accepted as being correctly descriptive. We should note, the followers of Christ did not choose a name they were called Christians by others.

They are known as Baptists because they believe that the New Testament teaches that believers, after conversion, are immersed in water as part of their profession of faith. This is in identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour, in His burial and in His resurrection.

They are known as Particular Baptists because they believe, and preach, that teaching which is within the principles known as the Doctrines of Grace, set out in five points. The name, Particular, coming from the heading of the central, third, paragraph, which is about Redemption.

They are known as Strict & Particular Baptists because they believe that the Lord’s Supper is a Divine Ordinance which is celebrated within a Congregation comprised of saved, immersed, believers seeking to live, and serve God, in a manner that is set out in the New Testament. The term ‘Strict’ may not always be applied but is normally implied. That is, these brethren are often known as Particular Baptists. See Articles of Faith, Para. 15,

Strict & Particular Baptists make a point of avoiding sacral and ritualistic excess, on one hand, and they have managed to stand apart from sentimental and emotional immoderation, on the other hand, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. However, they, like many other nonconformists, may tend to loose sight of the real meaning and value of the Lord’s Supper, to both The Lord Jesus Christ and to His Redeemed People.

Strict & Particular Baptists believe and practice the principle that each gathering is directly responsible to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Head of the Assembly, which is His Body. Consequently there is no centralised denominational Strict & Particular Baptist Headquarters, nor is there any governing committee, nor president, nor moderator, nor any other human head or leader.

Strict & Particular Baptists do have fellowship with other congregations of believers on the basis of the truth, which they hold dear. The epicentre of this fellowship is the Person and the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only head of His Gathering, which is His Body and Bride.

They meet in buildings which are normally known as a Chapel or a Meeting House. (The latter term, which was in common use from the 17th. to the19th. centuries, has sadly gone out of favour. It would be interesting to know how, when and why this change took place.) This is because the term ‘church’ is strictly a gathering, congregation or assembly, of baptised believers and is neither applied to a religious denomination nor to a building. Some brethren prefer to use the term congregation rather than the ambiguous term ‘church’. A number of congregations also maintain a library, at the Chapel, containing volumes by conservative evangelical writers.

Strict & Particular Baptists are conservative evangelical Christians who have a lot in common with many other believers. However, there are differences. For example, they do believe that “the Believer’s Rule of conduct is the Gospel, and not the Law.” (See Articles of Faith Para.16) 
This is exemplified in the following extract from a hymn, from the book used by S & P Baptists.

The Law of Liberty. Jas 1:25; Jn 13:17.

The gospel’s the law of the Lamb;
My soul of its glories shall sing;
With pleasure my tongue shall proclaim
The law of my Saviour and King;
A sweet law liberty this;
A yoke that is easy and mild;
Of love it the precious law is,
Unknown unto all but a child.

Its beauties all centre in Christ,
For Christ is the substance of it;
It makes broken hearts to rejoice,
And insolvent debtors will fit.
‘Tis wisdom, ’tis strength, and ’tis love,
‘Tis all that a sinner can need;
And all that are born from above,
By Jesus from Moses are freed.

William Gadsby

Another hymn, from Redemption Songs and used by other believers, gets the same message over.

Justified by His Grace. Rom 3:24.

Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled and there is re-mission,
Cursed by the Law, and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us, once for all.

Philip Bliss

One aspect of this truth is particularised in the lines;- “The Sabbath was — A lively type of Christ, — The labouring poor may venture here, — And lean on Jesus breast.” William Gadsby

What is being claimed is that Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are freed from “The law of ten commands, on holy Sinai given.” (Isaac Watts) Believers are brought into Gospel Liberty, which is a New Rule that is based on the New Covenant and set in New Creation.

This teaching goes back to early Christianity. 
“For if we are living until now according to Judaism we confess that we have not received grace. — (we are) no longer living for the Sabbath, but for the Lord’s day. — — It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism.” Ignatius to the Magnesians, para. 8-10 
“If anyone interpret Judaism to you do not listen to him.” Ignatius to the Philadelphians, para.6,v1

This teaching was held by Christians, called Baptists or Brethren and various other names, through the centuries of oppression known as the Dark Ages. It is also the teaching of Scripture.
“By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Rom 3:20. Also see v28 
“Knowing that a person is not justified by the works of the Law, but only by faith in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of the Law; for by works of the Law no flesh shill be justified.” Gal 2:16, also 4:10-11. 
“Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twin one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. He came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” Eph 2:15-17 & Col 2:16-17.

S&PBs firmly believe that the Gospel, and not the Law, is the believers rule and this differentiates S&P Baptists from those Brethren who seek to re-deploy the Laws of Moses as a rule of conduct for Christians. “Those are mistaken brethren who, if they only realised it, send sinners to Sinai and believers to Moses instead of sending sinners to Calvary and believers to Christ.”

Strict & Particular Baptists, to the best of my knowledge, who are called to the Ministry of the Word do not use non-Scriptural titles, such as ‘Reverend’, nor wear any items of religious clothing, such as a ‘clerical collar’. Such ministers are not ordained by any denominational organisation, for there is none, and have no authority other than their calling by God and that of their own gathering.

Strict & Particular Baptists are particularly concerned to ensure that the Lord Jesus Christ is alone exalted in all ministry and worship. These brethren are aware that no man can project himself as a great preacher and, at the same time, present Christ as a Mighty Saviour, they are acutely aware that no worship can be man-pleasing and, at the same time, be a sweet smelling savour to God.

Strict & Particular Baptists believe in the resurrection of the dead and in the imminent, glorious and eternal, return of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, they do not, generally, get involved in the various disputes between the advocates of the several, competing, millennial theories.

Strict & Particular Baptists do not consider themselves superior to other Christians. They simply believe that they are unworthy sinners who have been shown unmerited, divine, grace and mercy.

Strict & Particular Baptists do have a social conscience. They, collectively, support trust funds for the help of those who are in need, particularly the elderly and poor of the household of faith. Also there are funds to help with property, publishing, and a library. This is done without any official denominational oversight, thus preserving the autonomy of the local gatherings.

Strict & Particular Baptists are, sometimes, thought to be part of the ‘Reformed Movement.’ There is a measure of truth in this assumption because there are very strong links in doctrine, worship and practice. (For instance, the European Baptists welcomed both Luther and Calvin when these two reformers first appeared on the scene. That is until they were given good cause to think otherwise.) However, S&PBs could, if they wished, trace their lineage, historically, doctrinally and spiritually, beyond the Reformation through the persecuted brethren of the Middle and Dark Ages and hence to New Testament Christianity. If the truth were to be told, this history has continued from the first century through to the second millennium. This is because of the promise by the Lord Jesus Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, that is His Gathering, Assembly, Congregation, of blood bought, ransomed, redeemed Saints. It is quite wrong to equate S&PBs with Post Reformation Denominations. Those brethren who are known as Strict and Particular Baptists are not a ‘new movement’, nor are they some passing ‘religious phenomenon’. Also, and this needs to be stated, S&PBs are not Protestants, nor are they a ‘Re-formed Church’, and they have never been part of the State-Church system. See G.H.Orchard’s History of Baptists.

Statements, or Articles, of Faith. It is essential that we state what we mean. For instance, I have before me a statement of an ‘Evangelical Church’, actually it is an Open Brethren Assembly in disguise, and it is claimed; “The Faith taught is founded entirely upon the Bible, which we believe is completely inspired of God.” Now I do not doubt these brethren are totally sincere but, and this is a fact of history, all make this claim. We must state what we believe, or make no claim at all and allow our testimony, our lives and witness, to tell out what our beliefs are.

To help you examine these issues in greater detail a set of ARTICLES OF FAITH (Gospel Standard) are appended. These are from the old Baptist Confession of Faith, which was revised over a period of several years by a number of able and acceptable brethren, including John Gill, William Gadsby and Joseph C. Philpot. Subsequently a committee of several ministers and messengers approved and adopted these articles, which are also held by present day Strict & Particular Baptist Congregations.

These Articles of Faith, drawn up about four centuries ago to enable the Gospel Trumpet to give out a clear sound at a time of Doctrinal Confusion, have been unchanged for about a century. This is because there has been no recent Doctrinal Issues, among S&PBs, requiring a declaration of truth. These Articles of Faith are not so much setting up the teaching that they believe, but, as believing the whole of the Word of God, these brethren were reacting to those distortions of truth that surrounded them. That is, there would be no need for us to have a Statement of Doctrine if there weren’t heresies around us, with which we could be associated

© John Cargill
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