The theology of John Smyth
John Smyth's radical thought and actions brought him many supporters, but even more opponents. During his writing career of only ten years, Smyth successively produced works of Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, and Mennonite thought. After accepting Mennonite beliefs, Smyth and a majority of his congregation petitioned to join the Waterlander Mennonites in Amsterdam. However, before the union could be achieved, Smyth died of tuberculosis. Under Thomas Helwys' leadership, the portion of Smyth's congregation that did not join the Waterlanders went back to England and established the first General Baptist church on English soil. Most studies of Smyth and his successors have approached the material with predominantly historical concerns. While the historical facts about Smyth are important, they should be coupled with his theology which motivated his actions. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate Smyth's theology within its context. The procedure for the investigation involves two informal parts. Chapters one and two comprise the first part which identifies the historical and theological environment that shaped Smyth's thought. The Puritan, Separatist, and Mennonite backgrounds which influenced his theology are described. Also, attention is given to Smyth's life and to the details surrounding his writings. The second part is where the analysis of Smyth's theology becomes the focus. Therefore, in chapters three through seven, major elements of Smyth's thought are discussed in detail. In these areas of thought, the progression of Smyth's beliefs and the related changes in practice are demonstrated. The results of this study include an extended portrayal of Smyth's doctrine throughout the different stages of his career. Moreover, some new arguments for Mennonite influence on Smyth's later thought and the nature of Smyth's impact on successive General Baptists are presented.