The line of English churches that can
be traced, who called themselves Baptists, began in 1610 in Holland.
This is not to say there were no Baptists in Britain earlier, but that
this began a line of churches whose history can be traced. It began with
a man named John Smyth who was a bishop in the Church of
England. In 1606, after nine months of soul searching and
study of the New Testament he was convinced that the doctrines and
practices of the Church of England were not Biblical, and thus he
resigned his position as priest and left the church.
Because of persecution by the Anglican
church of all who disagreed with it and who refused to submit to its
authority, John Smyth had to flee England. In Amsterdam, he along
with Thomas Helwys and thirty six others formed the first Baptist
church of Englishmen known to have stood for baptism of believers only.
Smyth, believed that the only real
apostolic succession is a succession of Biblical New Testament truth,
and not of outward ordinances and visible organization such as the Church
of England or the Roman Church. He believed the only way to
recover was to form a new church based on the Bible. He then baptized
himself (which is not biblical) and then the others of his congregation.
In only a few years however, the church had lost all but ten members to
the Mennonites and other groups in Holland. Smyth died in 1612,
and the church ended in Holland shortly thereafter with Helwy, Thomas
and John Murton returning to England as persecution there had
lessened. History records that the members of this Baptist church went
back to England or remained in Holland and joined Mennonites. It did not
produce a succession of other churches, but those who founded it went on
to establish other Baptist churches in England.
Back in England these men formed the
first recorded Baptist church on English soil. By 1626, the
churches had grown from one, to five churches and by 1644 there
were forty congregations. Through the preaching of the New Testament,
the Gospel went forth in power and the Baptist movement grew rapidly.
These first Baptist churches formed in
England were Armenian in theology, which taught that all men
could be saved. The Calvinistic or Particular Baptists
were a different group and believed in limited atonement in which only
the elect could be saved. Particular Baptist had their beginnings
around 1616, when some "dissenters" left the Church of
England and were lead by the Rev. Henry Jacob. By 1644,
these congregations grew to seven churches." SOURCE