In1608, a small group of English “non-conformists” went to the Netherlands to spend time discerning God’s will for their lives. After searching the scriptures, debating key issues, and discussing with other believers, this group, now led by Thomas Helwys, determined a list of basic beliefs. These were compiled into the Helwys Confession of 1611. One point addressed Baptism.
That baptism or washing with water is the outward manifestation of dying unto sin, and walking in newness of life. And therefore in to wise appertains to infants.
To state that Baptism was only to be performed on believers was a BIG break from tradition. And then, as a further affront to the establishment, the mode soon changed from sprinkling to immersion. Baptism, being the most outwardly visible manifestation of their new beliefs, became the focal point for persecution. Roger Richards in his book The History of Southern Baptists, mentions that “Baptists felt the heavy hand of persecution, not only from Anglicans but from other groups as well…” [p 20, ebook] In England, in the 1640’s, Colonel John Hutchinson and his wife Lucy, after reading Baptist literature, began to question infant baptism. The fact that she was with pregnant at the time raised the importance of that issue in her mind. Ultimately, they turned from tradition, choosing to follow Baptist teachings. They were rejected by friends; he lost his position and died in prison.