Posted by: Grover Gunn | November 10, 2007

William Heth Whitsitt on the History of Baptism

William Heth Whitsitt was the third president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, from 1895 to 1899. As an historican, he wrote a study arguing that English Baptists did not baptize by immersion until 1641. The book was published in 1896 while he was still president of the seminary. I found his book on the Internet at,M1

The book gives evidence that almost all early Anabaptists baptized by pouring or sprinkling and that immersion as a mode of baptism was not introduced to English Baptists until the year 1641.

 For a short biography of Dr. Whitsitt, go to,,PTID325566%7CCHID717900%7CCIID1978900,00.html



  1. I like what you have to say here, you may have an ally in my blog. Please come and check out my mission, I think you will be in agreement.

  2. Hi Grover,
    That is really interesting. Are you saying the Baptist are not really Baptist? Hhm?


    I know, you not saying that at all. Just pointing out what Whitsett wrote.
    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and better new year.

  3. BTW, you need to check out your relatives site.

  4. Hi, Timothy! It is always good to hear from you.

    Dr. Roy Taylor told me about Dr. Whitsitt’s research a few years ago. I did a search on Google books, and there was Dr. Whitsitt’s book all scanned and digitalized. The results of Dr. Whitsitt’s research contradicted the successionalist argument used by the landmark Baptists.

    Thanks for the introduction to my long lost relatives. ;>)


  5. Yes, you need to do a post on the LAW, like we spoke about this week. Your treatment of Galatians 3 is very good.

  6. Interesting post. Have you had a chance to read it yet? If so, I’d like to hear any commentary you could provide on the book and how effective you think Whitsitt’s treatment is.


  7. I didn’t read the entire book, but I read enough to see that he had credible arguments that immersion was not the practice of the early Anabaptists nor the practice of the earliest English Baptists. I think that the main significance of Dr. Whitsitt’s research is that it contradicts the Landmark Baptist argument that an immersing church with Baptist convictions can be traced all the way back to John the Baptist.

    Dr. Whitsitt’s conclusion about the mode used by the Anabaptists is consistent with what I have seen elsewhere. Look at volume VIII, pages 76-79 of Schaff’s History of the Christian Church. Also, in The Radical Reformation by George Huntston Williams, see pages 122-123, 136, 301 on the Anabaptists’ use of pouring, page 646 on the Polish Anabaptists and immersion, and pages 763 and 788 on the transmission of immersionism from Polish Anabaptists to Netherlands Anabaptists to English Baptists.

    I once saw a modern Mennonite pamphlet defending baptism by pouring.

    Grover Gunn


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