Ainsworth, Henry (1571-1622)

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Henry Ainsworth, born 1571 at Swanton Morley, Norfolk, England, and died 1622 at Amsterdam, was the leader of the Brownists or Free Churchmen. In 1593 he joined this church of Independents at Amsterdam and became their preacher. He cooperated on a friendly basis for many years with Francis Johnson, who was the pastor of the church in Amsterdam from 1597 on. In 1610, however, Ainsworth and a large part of the membership withdrew, evidently on the issue of the maintenance of discipline in the church, a point on which Ainsworth did not agree with Johnson. Ainsworth became the leader of the new group and remained so until his death. The church building was assigned to the Ainsworthians. The Johnsonians removed to Emden, East Frisia. Ainsworth was a very scholarly man, versed in Hebrew and other languages, and wrote many books, especially Bible commentaries and polemic pamphlets. He composed a confession of faith, consisting of forty-five articles (English, 1596; Dutch, same year; English reprint, 1598; Dutch reprint, 1680). His complete works were published in 1623, reprinted 1639, and 1870-1884.

Ainsworth declined to join the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. In fact he had more sympathy with the Mennonites than with the Reformed, although he rejected Mennonitism, and made the following remark concerning John Smyth: "God's hand is heavy upon him, in giving him over from error to error and now at last to the abomination of Anabaptism" (de Hoop-Scheffer and Griffis, History of the Free Churchmen, 119). Between Ainsworth and the Mennonites there were many common points of agreement: they held the same views on the origin and organization of the church, its absolute autonomy, its order and government ("avoyding the Popishe disorders and ongodly communion of all false Christians, and especiallie  of the wicked Preachers and hirelings," Browne had stated). Both the Brownists and Mennonites had unpaid preachers and pastors; in both groups there was a tendency to distinguish themselves from the children of the world by simplicity of dress and purity of morals (op. cit., 31). Ainsworth's grievances regarding the Reformed Church were many, but he could not resolve to join the Mennonites as John Smyth had done.


Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de and W. E. Griffis. History of the Free Churchmen, called the Brownists, Pilgrim Fathers and Baptists in the Dutch Republic, 1581-1701. Ithaca: Andrus & Church, 1922.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1955

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Ainsworth, Henry (1571-1622)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 2 Oct 2023.,_Henry_(1571-1622)&oldid=132239.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1955). Ainsworth, Henry (1571-1622). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 October 2023, from,_Henry_(1571-1622)&oldid=132239.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 28. All rights reserved.

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