English General Baptists
The earliest Baptists -- John Smyth, Thomas Helwys and the members of their congregations -- believed that Christ died for all persons. Theologians call this belief the "general atonement" understanding of Christ's work. The Baptists who held this view came to be known as "General Baptists." They understood God's grace in terms of love. God loves all persons. Christ died for all persons. Those persons who receive God's grace and respond to his love enter into an eternal relationship of love and fellowship with God. Those persons who reject God's grace and refuse his love condemn themselves to perpetually exist apart from the loving relation for which they were created.
Thomas Helwys planted the first Baptist church in England in 1612. By 1650 there were forty-seven Baptist churches England. In 1654 they formed a national assembly of General Baptists.
Baptists who understood God's grace more in terms of power than in terms of love were called "Particular Baptists." They followed John Calvin's doctrine of "limited atonement" and believed that Christ died only for the particular persons who were predestined by God to be redeemed.
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