Old Baptist Chapel

History of the Old Baptist Chapel

Changes

After the retirement of Joseph Rodway the church recalled Joseph Seymour who had come back to Wiltshire, first to serve the church at Grittleton and then for two years the Old Baptist Church at Chippenham.

He remained pastor at Bradford until his death in April 1841. When he died at the age of seventy the Baptist Magazine commented that 'he had laboured in his Master's vineyard, with acceptance and considerable success, for more than forty-five years; and may be said with great propriety to have been a holy man of God. The high respect in which he was held in the town and neighbourhood, was rendered evident by the very large assemblage of ministers and friends, who attended his funeral.' He was buried in the chapel graveyard.

Barnett, Seymour and Rodway seem to have been typical Particular Baptist ministers of the early nineteenth century. They were Calvinists and seem to have been sympathetic to the practice of strict communion although Seymour felt free to move to an open communion church in 1824.

Big changes were taking place among the Particular Baptists. Andrew Fuller had made a powerful attack on the Hyper-Calvinism which had paralysed so many of the eighteenth century churches. His own position was close to that of the Puritans and of Jonathan Edwards the American theologian whom he so greatly admired.

After his death in 1815 a growing number of the younger ministers seem to have been ready to play down their Calvinism. In addition a powerful movement towards open communion grew under the inspiration of the greatest Baptist preacher of the day, Robert Hall of Leicester and after 1826 of Bristol. A reaction against these new developments owed much to the leadership of John Stevens of London and William Gadsby of Manchester. There were differences between these two men but both espoused an aggressive and evangelistic Hyper-Calvinism and both were powerful champions of strict communion.

From 1815 one of Gadsby's closest friends, John Warburton was pastor of Zion Chapel Trowbridge and he quickly made his influence felt in the neighbourhood. As a result of Warburton's teaching the old church at Melksham split in 1821. The church at Bradford cannot have been unaware of these moves.

In 1823 the old Western Association of Baptist churches which had covered the whole of south west England was divided into four smaller associations. At this time Bradford seems to have dropped out of association life, possibly because of new theological emphases in the Association and perhaps because the sympathies of the Bradford church were changing. Certainly the call of William Hawkins in 1841 was to indicate a change.


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