The Seventh Day Baptists are evangelical Protestants similar in nature and doctrine to other Calvinistic Baptists, but who observe the Sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday, rather than on Sunday. The denomination, which is organized as a conference of individual churches with no hierarchy, believes that the Saturday Sabbath was established by God’s will and confirmed in the practices of Jesus.
The origins of the faith can be traced to the English separatist movements of the mid-1600s, when many reformers called for renewed emphasis on Scripture rather than on established church traditions. Arguing that preserving the seventh-day Sabbath was an indisputable requirement of Christianity as specified in the Bible, the first church was organized in 1650 in London. The first Seventh Day Baptist church in America was founded in Newport, Rhode Island, 21 years later. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the movement spread across America, reaching the Pacific coast by 1900. Seventh Day Baptists have historically been characterized by their missionary work, civic involvement, and educational endeavors.
Of the many schools established by the denomination’s Educational Society, three became colleges, including Salem College (now Salem International University) in West Virginia. The Salem Seventh Day Baptist Church was founded in 1792, and together with other churches in the local region, Salem has been an important stronghold for the denomination within the state. Once established in West Virginia, Seventh Day Baptists through their missionary efforts or permanent relocation helped spread the faith in other states, including Georgia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.
The denomination has about 5,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, with about 50,000 members worldwide. There were three Seventh Day Baptists churches in West Virginia with a total of 411 adherents according to a 1990 church survey, with the churches all located in Doddridge and Harrison counties. Perhaps the most notable practitioner from the state was U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph.
This Article was written by Barry Mowell
Randolph, Corliss Fitz. A History of Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia. Plainfield, NJ: American Sabbath Tract Society, 1905, Reprint, Heritage Books, 1997.
Wardin, Albert. Baptists Around the World: A Comprehensive Handbook. Nashville: Broadman & Holmes Pub., 1995.