The Separate Baptists formed during the Great Awakening in New England that began in 1734 and was led by Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent and George Whitefield. They split off from the existing Christian churches because they believed them to be spiritually corrupt. According to the Founders Ministries website, the Separate Baptists demanded special attention from the Baptist community due to their “remarkable personalities, novel practices, and fiery style of worship and preaching.”

Historical Background

The Great Awakening split the Christian community between “old lights” and “new lights.” The old lights found revivalism distasteful and unproductive, and the new lights thought it was very important. Certain new light Baptists felt that their churches were corrupted and filled with unconverted pseudo-Christians. They withdrew from the church, believing it was beyond repair, and formed their own separate church, which led to their label as “Separates.”

Infallibility of Scripture

Separate Baptists believe in the infallibility of all the scriptures in the Old and New Testaments. According to their Articles of Doctrine, they believe in using the King James Version of the Bible for English speakers. For speakers of other languages, they say to use a version that is “comparable” to the King James Version. The Separate Baptists view the Bible as the “only safe rule of faith and practice.”

Religious Conversion

From their inception, the Separate Baptists believed in a definitive and memorable occurrence of religious conversion. The 18th century Separate Baptist Elder Robert Semple spoke against the doctrine of certain preachers named Stearns and Marshall: “Having always supposed that religion consisted in nothing more than the practice of its outward duties, they could not comprehend how it should be necessary to feel conviction and conversion.” He noted that a Christian should be able to “ascertain the time and place of one's conviction and conversion.”

Return of Christ

Separate Baptists believe in the physical return of Jesus Christ. Article 12 in their Articles of Doctrine says that “all Christians will be gathered with Him in the clouds and that time shall be no more.” They do not believe in a preliminary thousand-year reign, which is a common belief in Christianity.

Day of Rest

Separates refer to their day of rest as “the Lord's Day.” Occurring on the first day of each week, it is a day to be spent in public or private worship. The only cases where they allow for worldly activities are special and necessary cases of showing mercy.