Early History of Seventh-Day Baptists
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In the 1600s, an awakening to the True Sabbath Day occurred in England. Among the early pioneers of this awakening was a man named John Trask (also called John Trask or Thrask). In 1618, he was arrested for teaching the seventh-day Sabbath. Some of the accusations against Trask were as follows:
“The Controversies handled in this short Treatise are two: The first is of the Jewish Sabbath… the second, whether all sorts of meats may be lawfully now eaten by Christians: disputed against John Trakse, of a Puritan minister lately grown half a Jew in his singular opinions concerning the old Sabbath…” (Deuine, Catholike BD. A Brief Refutation of John Traskes Judaical and Novel Fancyes. 1618. Page 18).
John Trask was beaten, whipped, and had a “J” stamped on his forehead. He recanted his beliefs in prison and was released. His wife did not recant and died in prison. The Traskites were forerunners for the Sabbatarian Anabaptist/Puritan movement in England.
It is important to keep in mind that there were two kinds of Puritans in 17th century England: 1) Those that viewed the Sabbath as being from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset and 2) Those who viewed Sunday as the Sabbath. When one reads the literature of this time period, he or she must be careful because not all references to the Sabbath involve the True Sabbath day. Up until the 1600s, very few (if anyone) called Sunday the Sabbath.
Others in the 1600s would promote the True Sabbath in England. Around 1650, John Ockford wrote The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment. Other defenders of the Sabbath at this time include, but are not limited to, William Saller, Thomas Tillam, and Peter Chamberlen. These believers would form the origins of a group we presently call the Seventh Day Baptist Conference (henceforth SDBC).
Steven Mumford, who belonged to the Tewkesbury Baptist Church in England, came to America around 1664. In 1671, he founded the first SDBC church in America. It should be noted that though the SDBC churches were separate institutions, they still promoted fellowship with other Baptist churches in the colonies. More SDBC churches started as time went on.
By the end of the 1700s, there were SDBC churches in areas such as Western Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The General Conference of the SDBC church was formed in 1802. Their present publication, the Sabbath Recorder, was first printed in June 1844. They continued to spread the gospel message across the United States and even evangelize in other parts of the world.
In this year, Elhanan Winchester reported about the Seventh Day Baptists in Pennsylvania: “Such Christians I have never seen as they are, who take the Scriptures as their own guide in matters both of faith and practice…they are constant attendants upon the worship of God; their dwellings are all houses of prayer. They walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, both in public and in private… whatsoever they believe their Savior commands, they practice without inquiring regarding what others do.”
In the 1840s, one of their members made the contact that would beget the Seventh Day Adventist group and Church of God Seventh Day. They were the pioneers for many other Sabbath-keeping groups. I call them the “Mother Church” for all Sabbath keeping churches in the United States. Their headquarters is presently in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Kelly McDonald, Jr. BSA President
You can follow Kelly on his website: www.kellymcdonaldjr.com