Soon after the Restoration (1660) the meetings of nonconformists were continually disturbed and preachers were fined or imprisoned. One instance of these persecutions will, perhaps, be more impressive than any general statements. In the records of the Broadmead Baptist Church, Bristol, we find this remark: "On the 29th of November 1685 our pastor, Brother Fownes, died in Gloucester jail, having been kept there for two years and about nine months a prisoner, unjustly and maliciously, for the testimony of Jesus and preaching the gospel. He was a man of great learning, of a sound judgment, an able preacher, having great knowledge in divinity, law, physic, etc.; a bold and patient sufferer for the Lord Jesus and the gospel he preached."
With the Revolution of 1688, and the passing of the Act of Toleration in 1689, the history of the persecution of Baptists, as well as of other Protestant dissenters, ends. The removal of the remaining disabilities such as those imposed by the Test and Corporation Acts repealed in 1828, has no special bearing on Baptists more than on other nonconformists. The ministers of the "three denominations of dissenters," - Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists, - resident in London and the neighbourhood, had the privilege accorded to them of presenting on proper occasions an address to the sovereign in state, a privilege which they still enjoy under the name of "the General Body of Protestant Dissenting Ministers of the three Denominations." The "General Body" was not organized until 1727.
The Baptists, having had a double origin, continued for many years in two sections - those who in accordance with Arminian views held the doctrine of "General Redemption," and those who, agreeing with the Calvinistic theory, held the doctrine of "Particular Redemption"; and hence they were known respectively as General Baptists and Particular Baptists. In the 18th century many of the General Baptists gradually adopted the Arian, or, perhaps, the Socinian theory; whilst, on the other hand, the Calvinism of the Particular Baptists in many of the churches became more rigid, and approached or actually became Antinomianism. In 1770 the orthodox portion of the General Baptists, mainly under the influence of Dan Taylor (b. 1738), formed themselves into a separate association, under the name of the General Baptist New Connection, since which time the "Old Connection" has gradually merged into the Unitarian denomination. By the beginning of the 19th century the New Connection numbered 40 churches and 3400 members.
The old General Baptists "still keep up a shadowy legal existence." Towards the end of the 18th century many of the Particular Baptist churches became more moderate in their Calvinism, a result largely attributable to the writings of Andrew Fuller. Up to this time a great majority of the Baptists admitted none either to membership or communion who were not baptized, the principal exception being the churches in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, founded or influenced by Bunyan, who maintained that difference of opinion in respect to water baptism was no bar to communion. At the beginning of the 19th century this question was the occasion of great and long-continued discussion, in which the celebrated Robert Hall (1764-1831) took a principal part. The practice of mixed communion gradually spread in the denomination. Still more recently many Baptist churches have considered it right to admit to full membership persons professing faith in Christ, who do not agree with them respecting the ordinance of baptism. Such churches justify their practice on the ground that they ought to grant to all their fellow-Christians the same right of private judgment as they claim for themselves.
It may not be out of place here to correct the mistake, which is by no means uncommon, that the terms Particular and General as applied to Baptist congregations were intended to express this difference in their practice, whereas these terms related, as has been already said, to the difference in their doctrinal views. The difference now under consideration is expressed by the terms "strict" and "open," according as communion (or membership) is or is not confined to persons who, according to their view, are baptized.
In 1891, largely under the influence of Dr John Clifford, a leading General Baptist, the two denominations, General and Particular, were united, there being now but one body called "The Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland." This Union, however, is purely voluntary, and some Baptist churches, a few of them prosperous and powerful, hold aloof from their sister churches so far as organization is concerned.
There are other Baptist bodies outside the Baptist Union beside certain isolated churches. Throughout England there are many "Strict" Baptist churches which really form a separate denomination. For the most part they are linked together according to geographical distribution in associations, such as the "Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches," and the "Suffolk and Norfolk Association of Particular Baptist Churches." In the latter case the name "Particular" is preferred, but the association holds aloof from other Baptist churches because its principles are "strict." There is, however, no national Union. Indeed, the Strict Baptists are themselves divided into the "Standard" and "Vessel" parties - names derived from the "Gospel Standard" and "Earthen Vessel," the organs of the rival groups.
The general characteristic of the Strict Baptists is their rigorous adherence to a type of Calvinistic theology now generally obsolete, and their insistence upon baptism as the condition of Christian communion. Their loose organization makes it impossible to obtain accurate statistics, but the number of their adherents is small. There is a strict Baptist Missionary Society (founded 1860, refounded 1897) which conducts mission work in South India. The income of this society was £1146 in 1905. It comprises 730 church members and 72 pastors and workers.