With Edward Stennett, Abingdon can claim to have been at the origin of a new religious denomination. Many things are uncertain about him, and dates given for his birth and death are contradictory. He may have come from Lincolnshire, and he very probably served in the parliamentary army during the Civil War as a chaplain.
He was living in Abingdon in the 1650s as a member of the Baptist community set up by John Pendarves, and came to prominence when he began to preach that the true Sabbath should be observed on the seventh day, that is on Saturday, and not on Sunday. Some merchants began to shut up their shops on Saturday and open them on Sunday, which concerned the town authorities. There was an exchange of printed tracts between Stennett and another amateur theologian and local politician, John Hanson, debating the matter with great enthusiasm and an enormous number of biblical citations. About 1671, Stennett moved to Wallingford where his ideas found more support, and continued to preach and publish.
After him, the movement was led by his Abingdon-born son Joseph, followed by Joseph’s son, another Joseph, and grandson Samuel. They developed the Seventh Day Baptists into a major denomination which, by the nineteenth century, had a world-wide membership. Thereafter it declined, but it still has active congregations, mostly in America.
See Glossary for explanations of technical terms.
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