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Sabbatarian Churches of God in Rhode Island —Our Heritage

Interior view of Sabbatarian Church of God Meeting House in Newport .  Note two plagues of Ten Commandments behind pulpit (photo, Newport Historical Society)

 

In Revelation 1:1-3, 17-20 the seven candle sticks are separate, denoting seven distinct Church Era's (verse 20). This is a prophecy of the Seven Era's of the Church of God .  In this study we will be looking at the 5th Era or Candle Stick of the Sabbatarian Church of God.

There are two distinct signs of a Sabbatarian Church of God:

1) The name, " Church of God ." These are the passages where the Bible name for the Church appears, first as “Church of God”:  Acts 20:28, I Cor.1:2, 10:31-32, 11:22, 15:9, II Cor. 1:1, Gal. 1:13, I Tim. 3:5. "Churches of God": I Cor. 11:15-16, I Thes. 2:14, II Thes. 1:4.
2) The observance of the 7th Day Sabbath:  Mark 2:27-28, Gen. 2:1-3, :7, Ex. 16:13-27, 20:8-11, Luke 4:14-16, :31-32, :44, Acts 13:13-16, :44, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4). [This is how Sabbatarian Church of God believers look at the Sabbath Command.

Sabbatarian Churches of God in France and Holland


Leading up to the Sardis Era of the Sabbatarian Churches of God we have the Thyatira Era of these Churches of God. Revelation 2:18-24. The Thyatiran Era was an era with great works and extreme persecution. This persecution was part of an overall persecution corresponding to the "1260 days in the wilderness" of Revelation 12:6, which turned out to be 1260 years of persecution from 325 A.D., the edict of Constantine to 1585 A.D. (1585 being the year Mary, Queen of Scots was executed.) She was the final Catholic threat to the British throne, although she never got a chance to rule on it.

[click on http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/BaptistHistory.htm to read about the amazing origin of the Baptist Churches.]

In a book by Tamar Davis, written in 1851, called "A History of Sabbatarians" a people who lived in the valleys of southern France around Lyons are described. Here is some of what was said about them. "From the earliest the inhabitants in the valleys about the Pyrenees did not profess the Catholic faith, neither was it embraced by the inhabitants of the Alps . It also occurred, one Valdo, in the 9th century, a friend and advisor of Barigarius, and a man of wealth, talent and piety, who had many followers, possessed himself of a Bible by which he was led to perceive the errors and corruptions of Rome, which he severely denounced. Moreover it came to pass that about 130 years after, a rich merchant of Leone, whose name was Waldo (Peter de Waldo), openly withdrew from the communion of Rome and supported many to travel and teach the doctrines believed in the valleys." All these people, though different in their origin and different no doubt in some minor points of faith and practices of worship, are called Waldenses, as a general term. According to pope Gregory, "These people came from Rome and they were supposed to be Jews. And that they were supposed to be Jews who migrated from Rome in the days of the Apostles to the valleys of southern France ."  (These would have been Jewish believers in Jesus, being driven out of Rome shortly after the death of John, the apostle.)

A quote from a 'father' Gretchner, who was a Jesuit Priest back about 1250 A.D. states, "Moreover all these heretics despised the fasts and feasts of the Church, such as Christmas, Easter and Sunday. In short, all approved ecclesiastical customs for which they do not find a warrant in the scripture. They say also that God enjoined rest and Holy meditation upon the 7th day and that they can not feel justified in the observance of any other." So these people kept the Sabbath and they refused to keep any other 'holidays'. Also we find in the writings that they were severely persecuted. It says, "...Also driven from Dauphiny, Waldo sought refuge in Piccardy, where also his labours were abundantly blessed. Persecuted thence, he fled into Germany and carried with him the glad tidings of Salvation." It was also in Germany that Waldo died...

Sabbatarian Churches of God in England

Some other of the beliefs of these people were: "They were against war, against capital punishment, against oaths of any kind. And they expressed their opposition to bearing arms, and to war in all its' operations..." They were called Jews and Semi-Judaizers. They were forced somewhat out of France , and they spread into Poland , into Lithuania and into Russia . They did not go directly to London . There is always one thread, of the Church of God , that God keeps active. But there are many threads, like the end of a rope that has unraveled, going in all directions. The real difficulty in tracing the history of the Sabbatarian Churches of God is that you've got to find the right thread. So the threads that went into Poland , Lithuania and Russia eventually died out spiritually, and at times physically. These Waldenses also rejected all politics, and were known to observe Passover on the 14th of Nisan, as the early Apostles did. They were virtually wiped out in France , with over 2 million Sabbath-keepers being killed by the order of the Catholic Church in France .  The Waldensians in Holland were known as the Lollards, and their preaching and numbers were spreading out to the surrounding areas.  So we find Waldensian Sabbatarian Churches of God believers were also present in the Netherlands .  Two chief Waldensian ministers in Holland were Walter and Raymond Lollard.  Whether their real last name was actually Lollard or not isn’t clear, since “lollard” is taken from the English “lollen” or “lullen” which means to mumble or speak softly [i.e., lullaby].  This practice described the Waldensian practice of memorizing Scriptures and then repeating them.  Walter and Raymond came from Holland to England in 1315.  Perhaps as a result, “Lollards” was the name given to Waldensian people in Holland .  In 1320 John Wycliffe was born.  He became an Oxford scholar and theologian who held the Bible in highest esteem.  He translated most of the Bible into English, his followers finishing his work.  What most don’t realize is that he associated with Walter and Raymond Lollard and their associates, although he himself remained a Catholic all his life.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition we get “Lollards: The organization must have been strong in numbers, but only those who were seized for heresy were known by name, and it is only from the indictments of their accusers that their opinions can be gathered.  The preachers were picturesque figures in long russet dress down to the heels, who, staff in hand, preached in the mother tongue to the people in the churches, and the graveyards, in the squares, streets, and houses, in garden and pleasure grounds, and then talked privately with those that had been impressed.” 

 

Being Waldensian, Walter and Raymond taught about full immersion into water for Baptism, and about the Biblical Sabbath and Holy Days, and they taught upwards of hundreds, maybe even thousands. In the 1400s, the Lollards became a driving force in England , making good use of Wycliffe’s translation and other translations that were coming along. These Lollards successfully planted the Sabbatarian Church of God seed in England .  Obviously, over the next several hundred years these seeds grew.  Now by this time the Thyatiran Era was just about dead in Europe . The 'Baton' was being passed to a new Era of the Sabbatarian Churches of God, called in Revelation 3:1-6 the 'Sardis Era'. This Sardis Era was to be the Church of God in England and then America during the 1st two-thirds of America 's history. Thus in 1585 England became free, once and for all, from the yoke of Catholicism, with the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Once the Sabbath-keeping Church is rooted in England , everything in Europe is destroyed and virtually wiped out. There were very few segments of Sabbath-keepers left in Europe once they were rooted in England .  By the 1300s, some had fled into Holland and were called Lollards. By the year 1600, there were 11 Sabbath-keeping Church congregations around London . Three of the main Churches of God, the 'Cripple Gate Church of God', and the 'Mill Yard Church of God', and the 'Bell Lane Church of God.'
The names of their ministers for this period of time were:

  1. Theopolis Brayborn, who wrote a book about the Sabbath in 1597. (the old Worldwide Church of God had a copy of this book)
  2. Edward Stinnet
  3. Samuel Stinnet, Edward's son.
  4. John Trask
  5. James Ockford
  6. John James

The Church of England proved to be just as oppressive in persecutions of any religious dissenters. This included all the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God in England . Here is the reason why. Oliver Cromwell unseated Charles I of England . Cromwell eventually died, and 2 years later Charles II came to the throne in 1661 A.D. Charles II believed that there was a group of people out to take the throne from him. He called these people the Fifth Monarchy men. Fifth Monarchy men were a group of political agitators who believed and knew of the 4 prophesied world-ruling Empires or 'Monarchies' prophesied to occur in Daniel chapter 2 [i.e., the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great's Greek Empire and the Roman Empire], and the Fifth Monarchy, which was to be the Kingdom of God set up on earth by Christ, at His 2nd coming.  These agitators wanted to start setting up this 'Fifth Monarchy' in their own time--the 1600's. [They failed to realize, as the Jews also failed to realize in 70 A.D., that the Roman Empire was prophesied to have seven resurrections before the Kingdom of God would be set up on the earth by Jesus Christ.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_4.htm ] So, for obvious reasons, Charles II was very paranoid about Fifth Monarchists and brought about severe persecutions on anyone or group who professed a belief in a literal Kingdom of God being set up on earth. The Sabbath-keepers, members of the 'Churches of God' around London all held a firm belief in the literal 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ to set up a literal Kingdom of God on the earth. The Churches of God weren't political agitators for a Fifth Monarchy but they nonetheless fell under severe persecution from both the Church of England and Charles II. John James, the minister of the Cripple Gate Church of God was beheaded on November 26, 1661 to set an example to show what would happen to all who wanted to continue to believe in a Fifth Monarchy. John James' head was stuck on a stake just outside of the building used by his congregation, after his body had been drawn and quartered.  From Fletcher’s “The Incredible History of God’s True Church ”, chapter 10, we get: “John James was arrested and brought to trial, found guilty under the new law against non-conformity.  He was sentenced to the barbaric fate of being hung, drawn and quartered.  It was said that ‘This awful fate did not dismay him in the least.  He calmly said “Blessed be God, whom man condemneth, God justifieth!”  In his final words to the court he simply asked them to read the following scriptures: Jer. 26:14-15 and Psa. 116:15.  In keeping with the gruesome custom of the time, after his execution his heart was taken out and burned, the four quarters of his body fixed to the gates of the city and his head set up on a pole in Whitechapel opposite the alley in which his meeting house stood.”

Along with this, in the 1660's the infamous Clarindon Acts were passed. The 1st one stated that everyone in England had to take an oath of supremacy and allegiance to the Church of England. Members of the Sabbatarian Churches of God could not do this. The 2nd Act stated that no more than 6 people could assemble together for religious purposes except in the Church of England. In 1664, the 4th or last of the Clarindon Acts was passed which stated that no preacher or teacher that refused to take the oath of allegiance was to be allowed within 5 miles of any city or town. This included all the ministers of these Sabbatarian Churches of God in the area. So the Church was in trouble. Church services now had to be held in secret for awhile. This all but destroyed the Church of God in England . This is where the 'thread' is going to go to America .

The Name of the Church

 In looking up the history of the Church of God in New England it must be remembered that history books list all Sabbatarians prior to 1818 as '7th Day Baptists' even though that particular name was NOT adopted by the Sabbatarians in Rhode Island until 1818. Prior to 1818 they called themselves " Church of God , Keeping the Commandments of Christ."

God’s preparation of a new land

Long in advance, in America , a haven was being prepared for the Sabbath-keepers, through a man named Roger Williams.  Rhode Island Sabbatarian Church of God believers, take special note.

 

 “Roger was born to a Puritan family in London , England in about 1603.  His father, James Williams (1562-1620), was a merchant of Smithfield , England .  His mother was Alice Pemberton (1564-1634).  Under the patronage of Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), the famous jurist, Williams was educated at Sutton’s Hospital and at the University of Cambridge , Pembroke College (B.A., 1627).  He seems to have had a gift for languages, and early acquired familiarity with Latin, Greek, Dutch, and French.  He gave John Milton lessons in Dutch in exchange for lessons in Hebrew.  Some time before the end of 1630, Williams decided that he could not labor in England under the Archbishop William Laud’s rigorous (and High church) administration, and adopted a position of dissent.  He turned aside offers of preferment in the university and in the Established Church, and instead resolved to seek in New England the liberty of conscience denied him at home.

Removal to America

In 1630, Roger and Mary Williams set sail for Boston on the Lyon .  Arriving on February 5, 1631, he was almost immediately invited to replaced the pastor, who was returning to England .  Finding that it was “an unseparated church,” Williams declined, instead giving voice to the separationist views he had surely found in England .  Among these, Williams asserted that the magistrate may not punish any sort of “breach of the first table [of the Ten Commandments],” such as idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, false worship, and blasphemy and that every individual should be free to follow his own convictions in religious matters.  The first idea---that the magistrate should not punish religious infractions—meant that the civil authority should not be the same as the ecclesiastical authority.  The second idea---that people should have freedom of opinion on religious matters---he called “soul-liberty.”  It is one of the foundations for the United States Constitution’s guarantees of non-establishment of religion and of freedom to choose and practice one’s own religion.  William’s use of the phrase “wall of separation” in describing his preferred relationship between religion and other matters is credited as the first use of that phrase, and potentially Thomas Jefferson’s source in later speaking of the wall of separation between church and state.

The Salem church, which through interaction with the Plymouth colonists had also adopted Separationist sentiments, invited Williams to become its teacher.  His settlement was prevented by a remonstrance addressed to Governor Endicott by six of the Boston leaders.  The Plymouth colony then received him gladly, where he remained for about two years.  According to Governor Bradford, “his teachings were well approved.” 

Relations with the American Indians

Williams’ respect for the Indians and his willingness to deal with them on a basis of equality won their lasting friendship.  He insisted always that any land settled by Europeans should be purchased fairly from the local tribe.  Williams was also a vocal opponent of the forced conversion of the Natives to Christianity calling it one of the most “monstrous and most inhumane” acts forced upon the Native peoples and a “violation of Christian principles”.

While in Plymouth , Williams spent much time among the Indians, his “soul’s desire” being “to do the natives good.”  He wrote: “God was pleased to give me a painful, patient spirit, to lodge with them in their filthy, smoky holes….to gain their tongue.”  During his early years in New England , he mastered the language of the natives to a remarkable degree.

Life at Salem , Exile

Toward the close of his ministry at Plymouth , Williams’ views began to place him in conflict with other members of the colony.  The people of Plymouth quickly realized that they found his ways of thinking, particularly concerning the Indians, too advanced and he left to go back to Salem .

In the summer of 1633 Williams arrived in Salem and became unofficial assistant to Pastor Skelton.  In August, 1634, (Skelton having died), he became acting pastor and entered almost immediately into controversies with the Massachusetts authorities that in a few months resulted in his exile by law from Salem after being brought before  the Salem Court for spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions” that questioned the Church.

He was formally set apart as pastor of the church in May, 1635, against the earnest protests of the Massachusetts authorities.  An outline of the issues raised by Williams and uncompromisingly pressed [by him] includes the following:

  1. He regarded the Church of England as apostate, and any kind of fellowship with it as grievous sin.  He accordingly renounced communion not only with this church but with all who would not join with him in repudiating it.
  2. He denounced the charter of the Massachusetts Company because it falsely represented the king of England as a Christian [man did this guy have courage], and assumed that he had the right to give to his own subjects the land of the native Indians.  He disapproved of “the unchristian oaths swallowed down” by colonists “at their coming forth from Old England, especially in the superstitious Laud’s time and domineering.”  He drew up a letter addressed to the King expressing his dissatisfaction with the charter and sought to secure for it the endorsement of prominent colonists. In this letter he is said to have charged King James I with blasphemy for calling Europe “Christendom” and to have applied to the reigning king some of the most opprobrious epithets in the Apocalypse.
  3. Equally disquieting was Williams’ opposition to the “citizens’ oath” which magistrates sought to force upon the colonists in order to be assured of their loyalty.  Williams maintained that it was Christ’s sole prerogative to have his office established by oath, and that unregenerate men ought not in any case to be invited to perform any religious act.  In opposing the oath Williams gained so much popular support that the measure had to be abandoned.
  4. In a dispute between the Massachusetts Bay court and the Salem colony regarding possession of a piece of land (Marblehead) claimed by the latter, the court offered to accede to the claims of Salem on condition that the Salem church make amends for its insolent conduct in installing Williams as pastor in defiance of the court of ministers.  This demand involved the removal of the pastor.  Williams regarded this proposal an outrageous attempt at bribery and had the Salem church send to other Massachusetts churches a denunciation of the proceeding and demand that the churches exclude the magistrates from membership.  This act was sharply resented by magistrates and churches, and such pressures was brought to bear upon the Salem church as led a majority to consent to removal of their pastor.  He never entered the chapel again, but held religious services in his own house with his faithful adherents.  [This guy had guts of a special variety.]

 

Settlement at Providence

In June, Williams arrived at the present site of Providence , Rhode Island .  Having secured land from the natives, he established a settlement with twelve “loving friends and neighbors” (several settlers had joined him from Massachusetts since the beginning of spring).  Williams’ settlement was based on a principle of equality.  In 1640, another agreement was signed by thirty-nine freemen, expressing their determination “still to hold forth liberty of conscience.”  Thus a government unique in its day was created---a government expressly providing for religious liberty and a separation between civil and ecclesiastical authority (church and state).  The colony was name Providence , due to Williams’ belief that God had sustained him and his followers and brought them to this place….In 1643, Williams was sent to England by his fellow citizens to secure a charter for the colony.  The Puritans were then in power in England , and through the offices of Sir Henry Vane a democratic charter was obtained.  In 1647, the colony of Rhode Island was united with Providence under a single government, and liberty of conscience was again proclaimed.  The area became a safe haven for people who were persecuted for their beliefs---Baptists, Quakers, Jews, and others went there to follow their consciences in peace and safety.  On May 18, 1652, Rhode Island passed the first law in North America making slavery illegal.

“2nd Baptist Church in America, at Newport, Rhode Island (congregation of John Clarke and Obediah Holmes)”

 

About 1639, Williams was baptized by Ezekiel Holliman and immediately proceeded to baptize Holliman and eleven others.  Thus was constituted a Baptist church which still survives as the First Baptist Church in America , in the city of Providence , Colony of Rhode Island.  At about the same time, John Clarke, Williams’ compatriot in the cause of religious freedom in the New World, established a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island….Williams remained with the little church in Providence only a few months.  He became convinced that the ordinances having been lost in the apostasy could not be validly restored without a special divine commission, making the following statement upon his departure from the sect:

There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.

He assumed the attitude of a “Seeker” or “Come-outer,” always deeply religious and active in propagation of Christian truth, yet not feeling satisfied that any body of Christians had all of the marks of the true Church.  He continued on friendly terms with the Baptists, being in agreement with them in their rejection of infant baptism as in most other matters.”  [excerpted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Williams_%28theologian%29 ]  So for you Sabbatarian Church of God believers in Rhode Island, Roger Willaims is not only the founder of your State, the State of Rhode Island, but the original author of religious freedoms in the United States, later showing up in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.  He also legislated the laws in the Charter of Rhode Island that guaranteed protection and freedom to believe and worship as led by one’s conscience, so long as it did not go against the public good.  As we now read, this guaranteed a safe haven for the establishment of the Sabbatarian Churches of God in America . 
The following statement in the Charter of Rhode Island is as follows: "Now know you, that we being willing to encourage the hopeful undertakings, and to secure them in free exercise and enjoyment of all the civil and religious rights, appertaining to them. NO PERSON SHALL HEREAFTER BE MOLESTED, PUNISHED, DISQUIETED, OR CALLED INTO QUESTION FOR ANY DIFFERENCE IN OPINION IN MATTERS OF RELIGION WHO DO NOT DISTURB THE CIVIL PEACE." Rhode Island was the only colony where freedom of religion was truly practiced. Roger Williams left this church he helped found either 4 months or 4 years later, depending on which source you want to believe. He was no longer associated with the Baptists. He was by his own admission a religious seeker.  ( Rhode Island was called Rogues Island by Puritans: http://www.snarkout.org/archives/2001/11/25/ .)

Sabbatarian Churches of God in Rhode Island

( Newport Historical Society)


In 1664 Steven Mumford, a successful businessman, and his wife Ann, both members of the 'Bell Lane Church of God' and both in their early 20's came to Newport, Rhode Island. The Wanton Lyman-Hazard House probably was his house.  According to the Newport Historical Society: “The oldest surviving house in Newport , the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House was built for Stephen Mumford in ca. 1697.  Mumford was a merchant and founding member of Newport ’s Seventh Day Baptist congregation.  The House passed to Mumford’s son, Stephen Mumford Jr. and then was sold to Richard Ward, a lawyer who became the governor of the colony of Rhode Island in 1741.  During the Revolution, Ward’s son Samuel also was elected to that office.” The location of this house was mentioned in a will left by his son, also named Steven Mumford. Steven Mumford is buried at the Old Colonial Cemetery , down Farewell Street . He died in 1707. His wife Ann died in 1697/8. He was 68 years old when he died. One year later, or in 1708, the Churches of God in Rhode Island gave up the yearly observance of Passover on the 14th of Nisan and switched to monthly and/or bimonthly 'breaking of bread'.

When Mumford landed with his wife in Newport there was no Sabbatarian Church of God in America to attend so he and his wife observed the Sabbath alone in their home and fellowshipped on Sundays with the members of the local Baptist Church . This Baptist Church was the second Baptist Church founded in America . Soon, 9 other Baptists started to observe the Sabbath with Steven Mumford and his wife Ann, in their home. 

Their names were:
William Hiscox
Roger Baster
Samuel Hubbard and his wife Tasey
Rachel Langeworthy (their daughter)
Nicolas Wild and his wife and
John Solmon and his wife.



Around 1669 Nicolas Wild and his wife and John Solmon and his wife rejected the Sabbath and went back to Sunday observance solely. (It is one of the Bible doctrines that if someone leaves or renounces the Church and its beliefs, once having become a baptized member, he or she is not to be fellowshipped with.  Most Sabbatarian Churches of God view themselves as “the True Church ”.) Mumford and the others fellowshipped with the Baptists on Sunday, now these four were among the Baptists they were fellowshipping with. And now, according to the ' Bell Lane ' Church of God , they had a serious problem. it was one thing to meet and fellowship with people who never knew the Truth, but to meet with someone who knew the Truth and then rejected it was forbidden by the Church's teachings. So they wrote to the Bell Lane Church and Edward Stinnet. (The old Worldwide Church of God had a copy of this letter.) Edward Stinnet wrote back and said, "You are not to meet with these people, they have rejected God's Holy Sabbath Day." So now they were only attending with the Baptists sporadically. They never made an uproar in the Baptist Church , and never created confusion in the Baptist Church . But none-the-less, this avoiding of the other 4 must have created some friction with the Baptist Church they fellowshipped with, for on December 11, 1671 Obediah Holmes, assistant pastor of the Baptist Church in Newport , gave a sermon attacking the Sabbath. Ruth Burdick was the only Church member attending. [Ruth Burdick is the ancestor of a friend of mine, a former member in one of the congregations of the Worldwide Church of God.  He is now the elder of the small independent Sabbath-keeping house-church I currently attend in North-Central Massachusetts.  Burdick’s, many of them pastors, virtually fill their main graveyard in Westerly Rhode Island, as you’ll see in the next section.] She went directly to Steven Mumford's house and told the others.
          So they met on December 16, 1671 to talk with John Clarke the Baptist minister, and Obediah Holmes, and asked, "What should be done to rectify this problem?" They were told, "Reject the Sabbath or you can no longer commune with us." Finally Tasey Hubbard spoke up and said, "This is what I say, we must keep God's 7th Day Sabbath no matter what the consequences." Their fate was sealed. On December 23, 1671 these seven remaining members founded the 1st Church of Sabbath-keepers in America . They did not call themselves 7th Day Baptists. They adopted NO official name or doctrines, but simply agreed to follow everything in the Bible.

What have we witnessed here?

 Now something needs to be said here about what many believe about the these early Sabbatarian believers who called themselves “the Church of God , Keeping the Commandments of Christ”, ‘”the Church,” or simply “Sabbatarians”.  Going back to the Inquisitions instituted in France during the 1100s, Waldensian Sabbatarians and Sunday observing Ana-Baptists alike were being slaughtered at the behest of the pope.  Remnants of these two groups did end up in England , not just the Sabbatarian Lollards.  These Lollards and those who followed preached up a storm, preaching both the gospel and the need for Sabbath observance, and their preaching was effective.  Even though these two groups were separate and never a part of each other doctrinally, but because the Sabbatarians often fellowshipped in Baptist congregations, it was thought they were another extraction of the Baptists.  Some church historians, viewing recent historical evidence of this Baptist/Sabbatarian Church of God mixing have interpreted the facts this way, labeling the Sabbatarians as just another form or persuasion of Baptist.  But I beg to differ.  I offer that Baptist churches apparently proved to be very fertile grounds for Sabbatarian evangelism, drawing out converts while fellowshipping in their midst.  Also, some wish to lump Baptists in with all the other British Protestants, which came from the Separatists and Puritans.  Baptists themselves in England were never Separatists.  Separatists, by definition were those who had been in the Church of England but felt compelled to separate out of the Church of England.  Baptists had never, ever, been a part of the Church of England.  Baptists had come from France along with Sabbatarian believers, and again, had never been a part of the Church of England.  So Baptists could never be Separatists, even though they were often lumped in together with them.  What we see in the actions of Stephen Mumford was that he was merely following an evangelistic practice that was already extant in England , that of fellowshipping with Sunday observing Baptists and then winning some of them over as converts to Sabbath worship.  In fellowshipping with Baptists, there was one less major doctrinal error to wean their new converts of, and that is infant baptism.  The Baptists and Sabbatarians both believed in adult immersion for baptism.  All the other Christian persuasions, Separatist, Puritans and Church of England believed in infant baptism, usually by sprinkling water on the infant being baptized.  To convert Sunday observing Christians, whether real or the nominal ones from the Church of England, involved a major doctrinal makeover and re-education of this new convert.  But to convert a Baptist into becoming a Sabbatarian Church of God believer involved merely the change of one’s day of worship from Sunday to Saturday, and sometimes including the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 in place of Christmas and Easter.  So Sabbatarians fellowshipping with Baptists didn’t make them a part of the Baptists.  It made the Baptists a target of Sabbatarian evangelism, and this is what we observe first hand taking place in Newport , Rhode Island .  Although Sabbatarian pastors were adept at evangelizing the unsaved masses, as the Lollards proved, they also used this method, both in England and in the Colony of Rhode Island.  In a way, this form of evangelism was similar to the way the apostle Paul would go into Jewish synagogues and preach Christ to the Jews, and with much success.  As the synagogues in Asia Minor proved to be fertile ground for the Apostle Paul, likewise the Baptist churches proved fertile ground for Sabbatarian evangelism, as Sabbatarians fellowshipped within their midst.  Also in one historical account, it says that Stephen Mumford was a member of a Baptist congregation in Tewksbury , England , based on an early letter discovered from Mumford to someone in this congregation.  But in the history article written about Mumford by the Seventh Day Baptists themselves, an Edward Townsend of the old Natton church, near Tewksbury, became the pastor of the Cripple Gate Church of God congregation in 1727, so this congregation in Tewksbury was probably Sabbatarian, because these Churches of God would never appoint a Baptist pastor over one of their Sabbath observing congregations.  Some church historians have tried to call Mumford a Baptist citing this letter he wrote to a congregation in Tewksbury , England .  But all subsequent evidence points elsewhere.  Quoted from “THE TIMES OF STEPHEN MUMFORD”, an article written by the Seventh Day Baptists and available online, “Stephen Mumford was a member of the Bell Lane Seventh Day Baptist Church [Bell Lane Church of God, as it would have been called in 1664], and so he could not but witness to his faith among the Baptists of the New World.  He persuaded a number that the Fourth Commandment should still be kept, and they had to separate when they found it impossible to continue in fellowshipping with the other Baptists who opposed the truth for which they stood.  Thus he was the human instrument used by God to establish our denomination in America where it succeeded in taking root and in expanding, while unfortunately the cause declined in the country from which he came.”  As a matter of fact, Mumford had strong ties to the Bell Lane Church of God.  Around 1674 “Stephen Mumford returned to England to report the actual conditions in Rhode Island and invite others to this haven of rest.  He succeeded in persuading William Gibson to return with him….Gibson became assistant to the first pastor of the Newport church, William Hiscox, one of the first converts made by Mumford.  When Hiscox died in 1704, having been pastor for 33 years, Gibson succeeded him.  It was under Gibson that the First Seventh Day Baptist Church [ Church of God , Keeping the Commandments of Christ, Meeting in Hopkinton] was organized in 1708 as the denomination began to move westward.”  This William Gibson had been an active member in the “Bell Land Church of God.” [ibid, see http://www.seventh-day-baptist.org.au/library/books/mumford.htm .]

Map of Historic Sites and Ancient Cemetery on Farewell Street , Newport , Rhode Island

The Church records are to be found in 3 old books in the Newport Historical Society vaults:

  1. The Church in Newport , 1692 (a copy of the oldest)
  2. The Church, 1708 (original from 1708)
  3. The Church in Westerly , 1708 (a copy).

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