Since the seventeenth century, Particular Baptists have been referred to often as ‘Anabaptists’. In fact, to this very day, the same charge can be found swirling around Facebook discussions from our paedobaptist brethren to fellow Reformed Baptists. Is there any truth to this identification? If not, to what extent are the early Particular Baptists and, by extension, modern ‘Reformed’ Baptists to be related to the Dutch Anabaptists?

Stating the Obvious

The stated goal of the 1644 Confession was to distance the Particular Baptist congregations from Anabaptism. Not only does the title of the 1644 refute the notion of a conflation between the Dutch Anabapists and the early Particular Baptists, but so does its preface. The title reads, in part, ‘The Confession Of Faith, Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptists.’

The preface, in part, reads as follows:

Wee question not but that it will seeme strange to many men, that such as wee are frequently termed to be, lying under that calumny and black brand of Heretikes and sowers of division as wee doo, should presume to appear publikly as now wee have done:… it is no sad thing to any observing man, what sad charges are laid, not only by the world, that know not God, but also by those that thinke themselves much wronged, if they be not looked upon as the chiefe Worthies of the Church of God, and Watchmen of the Citie: … charging us with holding Free-will, Falling away from grace, denying Originall sinne, disclaiming of Magistracy, denying to assis them either in persons or purse in any of their lawfull Commands, doing acts unseemly in the dispensing the Ordinance of Baptism, not to be named among Christians.[2]

The Particular Baptists, in their earliest years of organization, distanced themselves from Anabaptists in a most lucid manner.

The Anabaptist Connection

There is however, admittedly, at least one point of connection between the early Particular Baptists and the Anabaptists. The clearest evidence for this is found in what’s called the Kiffin Manuscript. It reads as follows:

… And after Prayer & conferance about their enjoying it; none haveing then so so [sic] practised in England to professed believers & hearing that some in ye Nether Lands had so practised they agreed & sent over Mr Rich Blunt (who understood Dutch) wth letters of Comendation, who was kindly accepted there & Returned wth Letters from them, Jo Batte a Teacher there & from that Church to such as sent him…[3]

Richard Blunt, who could speak Dutch, was sent to the Netherlands in order to observe how baptism by immersion was being administered. It should be noted however that, at this time, Blunt had not yet been baptized as a professing believer and evidence points to his abstaining from the ordinance until he returned from the Netherlands.[4] Most likely, therefore, he refused to be baptized by the Anabaptists.

As far as the evidence goes, this is the only connection the early Particular Baptists have with the Anabaptists. So, it makes little sense to opine that the doctrine of the early Particular Baptists originated in Anabaptist theology. The evidence does not support such an assertion.

At best, the earliest Particular Baptists wanted to examine the practice of believers baptism performed by those who were most familiar with the practice. This does not mean the two groups baptized for the same reasons, nor does it mean the particular Baptist’s doctrine of baptism originated with the Dutch Anabaptists. It is, in effect, no different than paedobaptists sharing a commonality with papists insofar as sprinkling infants is concerned. The administration is similar in appearance, yet supported and motivated by varying reasons.

[1] A snapshot of the title in an early edition of the 1644 Confession may be seen here:
[2] James Renihan, Edification and Beauty, 7.
[3] Ibid., 3.
[4] Ibid., 5. This is based in part on Praise God Barbone’s critique of the way the early Particular Baptists administered the ordinance for the first time. Dr. James Renihan points to two possibilities. Either “(1) Richard Blunt baptized himself, as had John Smyth years before, or (2) Blunt and Blacklock baptized each other (‘themselves’) and then proceeded to baptize the rest.”

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