At the risk of creating controversy, I feel the need to make a couple of comments about the history of the Baptists. Those who are older may disagree with some of what I have stated previously or state below. Be that as it may . . .
After having studied church history in a broad context, I believe the history of the Baptist movement as a "new denomination" is clearly set forth herein. Obviously, this course is not as in-depth as a more lengthy study could be. However, I believe the information accurately portrays the history of the Baptist movement within Protestantism.
I noted above the number of denominations within the United States. The Ninth Edition of the Handbook of Denominations lists 25 Baptist denominations. The Southern Baptist Convention is one of these. However, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia are not listed nor are the independent Baptist churches listed as denominations.
Some of you may be wondering why I have added this section. During the 1800s several Baptist histories were written. In the context of these writings, the biggest threat of the time was viewed as the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, if you read the commentaries of the period, the pope is always identified as the antichrist. In this context, good Christians did not want to be identified with the enemy, so they were "creative" in their efforts to remove any links between the Baptists and the Catholics.
As we have seen, a true history of the church does not make such distinctions. In the early church, there were no denominations, just groups of churches, each with a bishop, some of whom were more powerful than others. As the church progressed through history, God preserved His remnant among a mixed multitude. The professing church has always been composed of believers and non-believers. Look at First Samuel. Hannah was saved, Eli, the High Priest, was probably saved but guilty of living a pagan worldview, while his two sons, also priests, were clearly not saved and lived in the world.
One such popular history is The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll. This history is a compilation of talks given by Carroll in the late 1800s. Carroll attempts to tie the Baptists to the martyrs and persecuted of all time. Thus, those martyred become "Baptists" while the persecutor becomes the Catholic Church. The problem with this approach is that a review of some groups Carroll considers to be Baptist are clearly cultic. An example is Carroll's inclusion of the Montantist (see chapter 2) as being Baptist. Not all who have died in religious persecutions were truly saved. The trial of "martyrs" does not make a denomination or specific group.
In any event, there are a variety of Baptist histories and I would urge you to read them in the context of world and church history.
I suggest the one from the website, The Hall of Church History, The Baptists, http://www.gty.org/~phil/baptist.htm. This site includes the attached as well as The Trail of Blood and other Baptist histories.
Baptists as a group view themselves as the keepers of the faith. This can lead to a prideful position whereby all who keep the faith become Baptist and those who don't kept the faith are a cult. This may be overly harsh, but it has led to some questionable histories. We need to learn to exercise mental or intellectual discernment as well as spiritual and emotional discernment.
Just as in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-20), God has His church. There have always been martyrs. There will always be those who give their lives for Christ. My point is that all who died are not Baptists, simple martyrs for God. Indeed, probably all who dies were not saved. And, in many of the cultish groups are saved people. We will be surprised when we see who are our brothers and sisters in heaven. The Fundamentalists were right, at least in their purest form. The true measuring stick is a belief in Christ and believing the Bible is the Word of God. There will be such people in all of the "church" of all time. Probably some of these people even belonged to the cults. God is gracious. And, we are not God!