Readings in Baptist History. By Joseph Early Jr. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008. Pp. 281 + vi. $19.99. Paperback.


Books like Joseph Early’s Readings in Baptist History lend themselves easily to review. The task of critiquing a work of “selected documents” is much like the virtual ease of the armchair quarterback who shouts and writhes with every play-call, scramble, and pass completion – all from the comforts of his own home media enclave. The spirited bark from these barcaloungers are legion as they do not have to endure any actual physical penalties or criticisms. It is pontifical fun without the work or responsibility.


Much, therefore, is the same for one who attempts to review the work of an edited volume like Readings in Baptist History. Joseph Early has, in reality, done the hard work of selecting, transcribing, editing a very helpful book that contains some of the essential readings for anyone interested in the rich field of Baptist history. For one to differ or deliberate over his selections or his omissions is easy. For one to do so with great melodrama or astonished gasps (such as, “Because he failed to include the original transcription of Stinton Number 4, Early’s work should not be read or recommended by anyone!”) is nothing more than a lazy lob from an armchair quarterback.


In the preface, Early notes that “[w]hile many new histories have been written, no major Baptist primary sourcebook has been complied since [H. Leon] McBeth’s A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (1990)” (v).  Indeed, Early highlights a need for students and pastors alike to have access to the primary sources of their Baptist heritage, and the assembly of such in single volume works has been something regularly done throughout the years. In 1958, the new President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sydnor L. Stealey, edited A Baptist Treasury. Stealy’s work provides helpful introductions to each selection and still contains many works previously or since unpublished. Robert A. Baker’s A Baptist Source Book (1966) served many as the standard work from which to begin any inquiry into the Baptist past. Baker’s work was surpassed by McBeth’s exhaustive Sourcebook, and, while not noted by Early, Curtis W. Freeman’s Baptist Roots (1999) also serves as a work of unique contribution both through its introductory summaries and also its inclusion of Anabaptist related materials.


Readings in Baptist History contains only a short preface to provide any introduction to the selections that follow in the volume. Early states that he employed his decided brevity “to eliminate my personal bias and consider what documents give the broadest and most understandable basis for our rich heritage” (vi). While the reader can appreciate the intent, not having any sort of contextual introduction or further explanation as to why a document was chosen does leave one looking for and wanting more. The only other structural critique one could make resides in the absence of any compiled bibliography. Concluding the volume with a two page listing of all the entries would give the student a helpful checklist from which to begin the building of his own library or the searching for the complete document from other libraries.


Nevertheless, with the burgeoning existence of many Baptist history sources available electronically from many web sites (such as, spending time debating the whys or wherefores of what documents Early should have included is moot.  Readings in Baptist History could not possibly contain even all that Early desired to include. Indeed, the abundance of options speaks to the richness and worthiness of study of the field. However, this is not to say that the online presence of many sources negates the value of Early’s work. On the contrary, Readings in Baptist History functions as the physical door through which many students and pastors can enter and find the rich treasures of Baptist history collected and stored in many places. Early’s work operates, as intended, as a fine introduction.


In celebration of Early’s work, the following is a listing of additional works recommended by the Baptist Theology Editorial Board intended to complement those in Readings in Baptist History.


General Works


Ages Digital Library. The Baptist History Collection.

Bush, L. Russ, and Thomas Nettles. Baptists and the Bible. rev. ed. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999.

Cathcart, William. The Baptist Encyclopædia. 2 Vol. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts, 1881; reprint Paris, AR: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006.

Garrett, James Leo, Jr. Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2009.

George, Timothy and David Dockery, eds. Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001 (cf. 1990 ed.)


The Anabaptist Movement


Primary Works


Estep, William R., ed. Anabaptist Beginnings (1523-1533): A Source Book. Wieuwkoop, Netherlands: B. de Graaf, 1976.

Klaassen, Walter, ed. Anabaptism in Outline. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981.

Secondary Works


Estep, William R. The Anabaptist Story. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Paris, AR: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2000.




Klaassen, Walter and William Klassen. Marpeck: A Life of Dissent and Conformity. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2008.


17th Century English Baptists


Primary Works


Burrage, Champlin, ed. The Early English Dissenters. 2 Vols. Paris, AR: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006.

Helwys, Thomas. A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity. Edited by Richard Groves. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998.

Kiffin, William. A Sober Discourse of Right to Church Communion. Paris, AR: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006.

Smyth, John. “The Character of the Beast.” In The Works of John Smyth. Edited by W.T. Whitley. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915.


Secondary Works


Haykin, Michael A.G. Kiffin, Knollys and Keach: Rediscovering Our English Baptist Heritage. Leeds: Reformation Today Trust, 1996.

Lee, Jason K. The Theology of John Smyth. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2003.

White, B.R. The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century. 2nd ed. A History of the English Baptists, Vol. 1. Didcot: Baptist Historical Society, 1996.

Wright, Stephen. The Early English Baptists 1603–1649. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2006.




Haykin, Michael A. G., ed. The British Particular Baptists. Vols. 1–3. Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 1998.


Early American Baptists


Primary Works


Dever, Mark E. Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life. Washington, D.C.: Center for Church Reform, 2001.


Secondary Sources


Lumpkin, William. Baptist Foundations in the South: Tracing through the Separates the Influence of the Great Awakening, 1754–1787. Ashville, NC: Revival Literature, 2007.

McLoughlin, William G. New England Dissent, 1630–1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State. 2 Vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1971.




Anderson, Courtney. To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1987.

18th-19th Century English Baptists

Primary Works


Carey, William. An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. 1792. In Daniel Webber. William Carey and the Missionary Vision. Edinburgh, UK: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005.

Fuller, Andrew. A Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. 1785.

Secondary Works


Briggs, John H.Y. The English Baptists of the Nineteenth Century. A History of the English Baptists, Vol. 3. Oxford: Baptist Historical Society, 1994.

Brown, Raymond. The English Baptists of the Eighteenth Century, A History of the English Baptists, Vol. 2. Oxford: Baptist Historical Society, 1986.




Drummond, Lewis A. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1992.

George, Timothy. Faithful Witness: The Life of William Carey. Worcester, PA: Vision Video, 1998. Reprint, New Hope, 1991.

Southern Baptists


Primary Works


Akin, Daniel L., ed. A Theology for the Church. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007.

Brand, Chad and David Hankins. One Sacred Effort. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2005.

Carroll, B.H. Baptists and Their Doctrines. Library of Baptist Classics. Edited by Timothy and Denise George. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1995.

Henry, Carl F.H. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

Manly, Basil, Jr. The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration. Edited by Timothy George. Nashville: Broadman, 1995.

Nettles, Thomas, and Russell Moore, eds. Why I am a Baptist. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001.

Pendleton, James Madison. Baptist Church Manual. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1966.

Landmark Controversy (Primary and Secondary Works)


Graves, J.R. Old Landmarkism, What is It? 2nd Ed. Reprint. Texarkana, TX: Bogard Press, 1998.

White, Thomas, ed. Selected Writings of James Madison Pendleton. 3 vols. Paris, AR: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006.

Conservative Resurgence (Primary and Secondary Works)


Ammerman, Nancy Tatom. Baptist Battles. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Blount, Douglas and Joseph Wooddell, eds. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

Hankins, Barry. Uneasy in Babylon. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002.

Patterson, Paige. Anatomy of a Reformation: The Southern Baptist Convention 1978–2004. Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004.

Pressler, Paul. A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999.

Sutton, Jerry. The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000.




Akin, Daniel L. Five Who Changed the World. Wake Forest, NC: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008.

Caner, Emir and Ergun. The Sacred Trust: Sketches of Southern Baptist Convention Presidents. Nashville: B&H, 2003.

Fletcher, Jesse C. Bill Wallace of China. Nashville: Holman Bible Outreach International, 2008.

 Jason G. Duesing

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary