The Evangelical Magazine & Southern Baptist Roots

The Evangelical Magazine was established in 1793 by a group of leading English Evangelical ministers, including Congregationalists such as George Burder (1752-1832) and Samuel Greatheed (d.1823) and such Calvinistic Baptists as Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) and John Ryland, Jr. (1753-1825). From its inception till 1809, it served as the denominational journal for both the Congregationalists and Calvinistic Baptists. In fact, for a number of years it was the most widely circulated religious periodical in England. In 1809, the year that the Baptists withdrew from their involvement in the magazine and started their own periodical, The Baptist Magazine, the circulation of The Evangelical Magazine exceeded 20,000 [Southey’s Common-place Book. Fourth Series, ed. John Wood Warter (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1850), 410-411]. Working through the first and fourteenth volumes today at McMaster University—the latter volume in relation to Abraham Booth—I came across this extract of a letter from the United States, dated May 10, 1793, and mailed from Philadelphia. The writer of the letter has been talking about the theological perspectives of the various denominational bodies of the country. He then says this about the Baptists:

“The Baptists are very numerous in the southern States. Some of them are Arminians, too many Antinomians, but the majority are real Calvinists, a good deal acquainted with experimental religion.” [“Extract of a Letter from a Minister in the United States of America”, The Evangelical Magazine, 1 (1793), 119-120].

I found the quote interesting because it is often argued today that Southern Baptist origins were not primarily Calvinistic. But this quote—albeit a generalized observation and needful of further historical evidence—speaks quite differently from this popular perspective. Like other Anglophone Baptists, Southern Baptist roots are overwhelmingly Calvinistic.