"We have this hope
as an anchor for the
soul, firm and secure."
Our Denomination and Its Distinguishing Traits
Our denomination, Six-Principle Baptists, sometimes referred to as the Old or General Six-Principle Baptists, traces its origin in America to the ministry of Roger Williams in the 1600's.
In his book, "The Baptist Heritage," H. Leon McBeth wrote about Roger Williams that, "Williams was one of the most important thinkers in early America, with significance in political as well as religious history. ...."
He was a ".... Missionary to the American Indians. Early pilgrims often talked about converting the Indians, but they rarely did anything about it. .... Williams mastered several Indian tongues, using these to good advantage in his trading, ventures, preaching, and political arbitration among them. ...."
Roger Williams believed in ".... Religious liberty for all." He was preaching this by the early 1630's and later built it into the law of his new colony, which eventually became the state of Rhode Island.
He believed in ".... Separation of church and state. To Roger Williams the basic principle was religious liberty, the freedom of the soul before God, but he regarded the separation of civil and spiritual spheres as essential to providing that soul freedom."
From the very first, the settlement that Roger Williams founded at Providence provided for democracy, religious liberty and separation of church and state. The charter of 1663 provided that:
This "Liberty of Conscience" is still at the heart of our denomination and the basis of our fellowship with each other. Six-Principle Baptists, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-3, do our best to "walk worthy of the vocation by which you (we) are called. With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Holding to these Scriptural ideals, we as Six-Principle Baptists can have "diversity in unity and unity in diversity."
Why are we called "General Six-Principle Baptists,"
We are called "General" because the majority of those associated with our denomination, past and present, adhere to the atonement of Christ as being "general" in nature, or for all people as opposed to being just for the elect, or a few.
We are called Baptists because we adhere to "believer's baptism" as the Biblical directive as opposed to infant baptism.
We are called "Six-Principle" from our adherence to all six principles of the doctrine of Christ as given in Hebrews 6:1-2.It is most specifically from our full adherence to the fourth principle listed in Heb. 6:1-2, which, to a degree, is neglected by other Baptist groups. While all Baptists are agreed on the laying on of hands upon candidates for ordination, Six-Principle Baptists, believe that more than this is indicated in Scripture concerning that fourth principle.
In the Bible, the ordinance of laying on of hands, had a variety of meanings. It may have symbolized a passing of a blessing as with Isaac's bestowing the blessing on Jacob; Jesus' blessing of the little children; or the transfer of healing power (Genesis 27:21ff; Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 5:23). We see in the Scriptures that Christ and the Apostles laid hands on people in blessing. The Apostles laid hands on believers after they were baptized and they received the Holy Spirit for witness and power for ministry. In the New Testament church, the laying on of hands took on special meaning in the transfer of authority and the ordination of deacons in Acts 6:1-6 and in Paul's instruction to Titus to appoint or ordain elders in every town.
Because Six-Principle Baptists hold to
the "priesthood of all believers," we view the laying on of hands at
baptism as an entrance into that universal priesthood of believers and
into the general ministry and witness that all believers are called to
perform in the world in which they live. We also believe that God calls
some into the additional leadership aspect of ministry as set-apart
(ordained) ministers and deacons for the service of equipping and
building up the general ministry of all believers.
In his book "History of the General or Six Principle Baptists in Europe and America" (1827), Richard Knight wrote:
Six-Principle Baptists continue to hold to the fullness of this distinguishing principle today.
While most of the Six-Principle Baptists have been Arminian, some Calvinistic Baptist churches were also "Six-Principle," but they did not survive as a separate body. Even the influential Philadelphia Baptist Association (org. 1707) added an article concerning laying-on-of-hands to their 1742 reprint of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.