by Matthew Pinson
Sometime ago in my research, I came across an interesting quotation regarding feet washing from a seventeenth-century English General Baptist book that has been out of print for almost 350 years. George Hammon, the author, was a pastor of a General Baptist church he described as “the Church of Christ, meeting in Biddenden, in Kent.” He was a signatory of the 1660 Standard Confession of the English General Baptists.
This is significant for Free Will Baptists, who believe that the washing of the saints’ feet is a rite that should be practiced by Christian churches. The earliest Free Will Baptists in America were simply English General Baptists who had moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies. These early General Baptists were the sort who believed, like Hammon, William Jeffrey, and other General Baptists, that the washing of the saints’ feet was a Christian ordinance that should be perpetuated in the churches.
The context of the following excerpt is Hammon’s interaction with advocates infant baptism and their arguments.
And again, whereas you say, “Peter was for a kind of plunging (John 13) till better catechized by our Saviour.” To which I answer and say, from thence it is evident, that it was the only practice in baptism to wash or plunge the whole man in water, because Peter was ignorant of washing in part,* and crieth out, “Not only my feet but my hands and my head”; but however that was not an ordinance of baptism (as aforesaid) that Christ taught his disciples, but it was an ordinance which Christ instituted to wash the feet of those that were baptized (as aforesaid). Therefore, this maketh much against you, and will plainly teach you that it was a total washing or plunging that was Christ’s and his disciples’ practice in baptism. But Peter wanted instruction about the ordinance of washing the disciples’ feet. . . . And that the washing of disciples’ feet is an ordinance of Christ, read John 13. 14. in the room of much more that might be said. The Text readeth thus: “If I then your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet, for I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you.” From whence we may see, this is an ordinance of Christ, and therefore I shall not deny it before men, for I am not ashamed of the meanest of the ways and ordinances of the gospel, because I know it is the power and wisdom of God, and that “God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the despised things to bring to naught that which seemeth to be mighty, (in wisdom) that no flesh should glory in his presence.”
From George Hammon, Syons Redemption, and Original Sin Vindicated (London: G. Dawson, 1658), 9-10.
*Marginal note in original: “Peter’s words spoken in John 13 maketh much for total washing in baptism, and no wise against it.”