elders, in opposition to the ‘Holy Discipline’ theory of the three separate offices of pastor, teacher, and elder. Smyth was known to William Brewster [q. v.], and the ‘gathered church’ meeting at Brewster's residence, Scrooby Manor, Nottinghamshire, was formed on lines suggested by Smyth.
In or about 1608 Smyth, with his wife and children and his congregation, left Gainsborough and went to Amsterdam, where they joined Francis Johnson [q. v.] and Henry Ainsworth [q. v.], who had been his tutor. His arrival produced further dissension in the already agitated English congregation at that place. Smyth imbibed with avidity the doctrines held by the Dutch remonstrants, and, throwing off the Calvinistic doctrines, embraced Arminianism. At the same time his peculiar sentiments on baptism, with his practice, procured for him the appellation of the Se-baptist, because at a solemn religious service, held probably in October 1608, he performed the rite of baptism upon himself and afterwards baptised others, to the number of about forty. His opinions, which frequently and rapidly changed, involved him in controversy with Joseph Hall (afterwards bishop), Henry Ainsworth, Richard Bernard, John Robinson, Richard Clifton, John Paget, and Francis Jessop. He was a fearless and an able, though by no means a courteous, disputant. He styled the ‘ancient exiled church’ at Amsterdam the ‘ancient brethren of the separation,’ and his own community he called ‘the brethren of the separation of the second English church at Amsterdam.’
A few months after he had baptised himself, Smyth moved on to another plane of thought and action, first suspecting, and then affirming, that they had all been in error in holding the right to baptise and—in his own phrase—to church themselves. Further modification of his theological views accompanied and exaggerated this difficulty, which soon constrained the majority of the new church to excommunicate Smyth and twenty or thirty who thought with him. Smyth and his excluded friends sought admission into a church of the Mennonites, who, however, refused to receive them. Thereupon he and his little congregation took refuge in a room at the back of the ‘great cake-house’ or bakery belonging to Jan Munter. Meanwhile, some time after his arrival at Amsterdam he began to practise physic. He died there of consumption in August 1612, and on 1 Sept. was buried in the Nieuwekerke. On 20 Jan. 1615 what remained of his company was admitted into one of the Mennonite churches. For a short time a separate English service was held by them in the cake-house, but they soon became absorbed among the Dutch, leaving no trace in history of separate existence.
The somewhat shadowy claim popularly advanced in Smith's behalf to be the father of the English general baptists appears to rest on his authorship of some of the earliest expositions of general baptist principles that were printed in England. The titles of his published works are: 1. ‘A True Description out of the Word of God of the Visible Church,’ 1589; reprinted in Allison's ‘Confutation,’ in Lawne's ‘Brownism turned the inside outward’ (1603), in Wall's ‘More Work for the Dean’ (1681), and separately 1641, 4to. 2. ‘The Bright Morning Star, or the Resolution and Exposition of the Twenty-second Psalm; preached publicly in four sermons at Lincoln,’ Cambridge (John Legat), 1603, 8vo. 3. ‘A Patterne of True Prayer. A learned and comfortable Exposition or Commentarie upon the Lords Prayer,’ London, 1605 and 1624, 8vo, 452 pages. Dedicated to Edmund Sheffield, lord Sheffield (afterwards Earl of Mulgrave). Apparently every copy of the first edition has disappeared. 4. ‘The Differences of the Churches of the Separation: containing a Description of the Leitourgie & Ministerie of the Visible Church,’ 1608, 4to. 5. ‘Parallels, Censures, Observations, appertaining to Three several Writings: (1) “A Letter to Mr. Richard Bernard, by John Smyth;” (2) “A Book entituled The Separatists Schism, published by Mr. Bernard;” (3) “An Answer to the Separatists Schism,” by Mr. H. Ainsworth,’ London, 1609, 4to. 6. ‘The Character of the Beast, or the False Constitution of the Church discovered in certain passages betwixt Mr. R. Clifton and John Smyth concerning true Christian Baptism of New Creatures or New-born Babes in Christ: and False Baptism of Infants born after the Flesh. Referred to two propositions: (1) That Infants are not to be baptised; (2) That Antichristians converted are to be admitted into the True Church by Baptism,’ 1609, 4to. 7. ‘A Reply to Mr. R. Clyfton's “Christian Plea,”’ 1610.
In the library of York Minster there is a tract without title or date, and believed to be unique, containing ‘The last book of John Smith, called the Retractation of his Errors and the Confirmation of the Truth;’ and ‘The Life and Death of John Smith,’ by Thomas Pigott; as well as John Smyth's ‘Confession of Faith,’ in one hundred propositions. The last was replied to by John Robinson of Leyden, in his ‘Survey of the “Confessions of Faith.”’ The whole tract