Strict and Particular are specific references to Calvinistic Baptists with roots in 17th century England.
Early English Baptists
In the early 17th century, Baptists in England developed along two different theological lines. The General Baptists were so-called because they held to a General Atonement -- the view that Christ in His death made a general provision for all men, making salvation possible for all who would believe. This is essentially identical to the Universal atonement of Arminianism. Early General Baptist leaders included John Smyth and Thomas Helwys. The Particular Baptists, on the other hand, were so-called because they held to a Particular atonement which is limited in its design to God's elect. The Particular view of the atonement is that Christ in His death accomplished redemption for particular individuals, usually referred to as the elect. This position is identified with five-point Calvinism. Some early Particular Baptist leaders included Benjamin Keach, Hanserd Knollys, and William Kiffin.
During the 18th century, General Baptists lapsed into theological liberalism and practically disappeared from the scene in England. In this same period, the Particular Baptists moved toward more extreme doctrinal conservatism, which some have described as Hyper-Calvinism and Antinomianism. In 1785, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) published The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, which helped turn many Particular Baptists toward a new evangelicalism that was dubbed "Fullerism," and eventually led to division among the Particular Baptists of England. The "Fullerites" are probably best represented by Fuller and William Carey (1761-1834), Baptist missionary to India. The leading spokesman for strict Calvinism among the Particular Baptists was John Gill (1696-1771), perhaps best known for his Exposition of the Whole Bible. Among the "Fuller strain" of Particular Baptists, Calvinism declined and the practice of open communion grew.
When the Baptist Union was founded in 1813, it was a Particular Baptist organization. In 1833, it was restructured to allow for membership of General Baptists. General and Particular Baptist work was eventually united in the Baptist Union in 1891.
Present day Strict Baptists of England are descendants of the Particular Baptists. Sometimes they are referred to as Strict and Particular Baptists. The term "strict" here refers to the strict or closed position held with regard to membership and communion. The majority of early Particular Baptists rejected open membership and open communion -- one notable exception being John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress.
Strict Baptists represent the strain of Particular Baptists that tended toward hyper-Calvinism, maintained the practice of strict or closed communion, and remained aloof from the Baptist Union of 1813. They are roughly equivalent to the Primitive Baptists in the U. S. Leaders among them include William Gadsby (1773-1844), whose A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship is still in use among their churches today, John Warburton (1776-1857), John Kershaw (1792-1870), and J. C. Philpot (1802-1869). Having no central organization or rallying point, Strict Baptists were nicknamed based on the newspapers they supported - Christian Pathway Strict Baptists, Earthen Vessel Strict Baptists, Gospel Herald Strict Baptists, and Gospel Standard Strict Baptists.
Earthen Vessel, Gospel Herald and other Strict Baptists united in what would later become the Grace Baptist Assembly (founded 1980 as a merger of the Strict Baptist Assembly and the Assembly of baptised churches). The Grace Baptist Assembly churches represent a modification of Strict Baptists close to the "Fullerism" of the 18th century. These English churches additionally meet together in three regional associations - Association of Grace Baptist Churches (East Anglia), Association of Grace Baptist Churches (East Midlands), Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East) - and one fellowship - the Fellowship of Northern Particular Baptist Churches. The Gospel Standard Strict Baptists, remains the closest to the roots of the movement, both theologically and practically. Most Strict Baptists do not own a TV, go to the movies, or listen to modern music. They stand faithful in their opposition to Fuller's modified Calvinism, open membership and open communion. At times, Gospel Standard Strict Baptists have been called Gadsbyites after William Gadsby. In recent times, B. A. Ramsbottom has been an outstanding leader among the Strict Baptists, serving as editor of the Gospel Standard magazine since 1971.
In 1995, the Grace Baptist Assembly had over 10,000 members in about 260 churches. The Gospel Standard Strict Baptists had 6400 members in 156 churches in the British Isles, plus 3 churches in the United States.
Order of service
Meetings in Gospel standard churches follow a non-litergical litergical pattern. A typical service is as follows: Opening Hymn (from the Gadsby's selection, Scripture reading (King James version only), Long prayer, Hymn, Sermon, Hymn, Closing prayer. Ministers are usually older men chosen by vote by church members. Ministers are almost always untrained. Sermons are not written, and preachers rely on God to give them "a word". Sermons are strictly bible based, often repetative and void of humour. Many ministers will not mention any non-biblical person by name, as they do not want to detract from the word of God. If a church member has problems or is ill, the minister will simply pray for "the one amongst us who is in sickness". Many chapels are pastorless and rely on visiting preachers. If a preacher is unavailable then a "reading service" will be held. The consists of a male church member reading a sermon from a book. Women are unable to hold positions of leadership. Women are not allowed to pray in prayer meetings (this is reserved only for baptised male members). Many churches even forbid women from speaking at church business meetings. Women must also cover their heads in public worship, and are discouraged from wearing trousers, wearing make-up or having pierced ears. Musical instraments are usually restricted to an organ, and many churches accapella. Communion is held once a month, usually on the first sunday evening of the month and is refered to as "Ordnance". This meeting is reserved strictly for persons baptised in Gospel standard churches. No other christian many partake. This is due to an over literal interpretation of the G.S. rules of faith and practice. Which states the only a person "of the same faith and practice" may partake of bread and wine. This meeting is also used to welcome into membership a newly baptised person, or someone who has transfered membership from another G.S. church. Baptised members are few compared to service attendance. Many people who have spent the whole of their lives in the denomination many never get baptised. This often leads to a two tier attitude in the denomination.
- Historical Sketch of the Gospel Standard Baptists, by S. F. Paul
- The Baptist, by Jack Hoad
- Strict and Particular, by Kenneth Dix
- Baptists Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
- A History of the Baptists, by John T. Christian
- The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, by H. Leon McBeth