Chapter 2

 

ANCIENT BAPTIST CHURCHES IN ENGLAND

Hill Cliffe, near Warrington.

        WE have reliable evidence that a Separatist, and, probably, a Baptist Church, has existed for several centuries in a secluded part of Cheshire, on the borders of Lancashire, about a mile and a-half from Warrington. No spot could be better chosen for concealment than the site on which this ancient chapel stood. Removed from all public roads, enclosed by a dense wood, affording ready access into two counties, Hill Cliffe was admirably suited for the erection of a conventicula illicita, an illegal conventicle. The ancient chapel built on this spot was so constructed that the surprised worshippers had half-a-dozen secret ways of escaping from it, and long proved a meeting-place suited to the varying fortunes of a hated and hunted people.         Owing to the many changes inseparable from the eventful history of the church at Hill Cliffe, the earliest records have been lost. But two or three facts point to the very early existence of the community itself. In 1841 the then old chapel was enlarged and modernised; and, in digging for the foundation, a large baptistry of stone, well-cemented, was discovered. How long this had been covered up, and at what period it was erected, it is impossible to state; but as some of the tombstones in the graveyard adjoining the chapel were erected in the enrly


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part of the Sixteenth Century, there is some probability for the tradition that the chapel itself was built by the Lollards who held Baptist opinions. One of the dates on the tombstones is 1357, the time when Wycliffe was still a Fellow at Merton College, Oxford; but the dates most numerous begin at the period when Europe had just been startled by Luther’s valiant onslaught upon the Papacy, and Henry the Eighth had recently published his book agaiust the German Reformer, which earned for him the title of “Defender of the Faith.” Many of these tombstones, and especially the oldest, as we can testify from a, personal examination, look as fresh and clear as if they were engraved. only a ceutury ago.         The names of some of the early ministers of Hill Cliffe chapel have been snatched from oblivion. One of them, Mr. Weyerburton, or Warburton, was related to the oldest family iu. the county of Chester, was a person of substance, and “a true warrior of Christ’s Church.” His connection with Hill Cliffe chapel, as its minister, was accidentally discovered some years ago in examining the title-deeds of the Warburton property. Mr. Weyerburton died six years after the destruction of the Spanish Armada. A record of this good man’s life, if one could obtain it, would throw much light upon the condition of the Separatists and Anabaptists in England. during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.         Although Mr. Weyerburton is the first ministor of Hill Cliffe of whom anything is known, he is not neccessarily to be regarded as the earliest minister of the congregation. Mr. Dainteth succeeded Mr. Weyerburton. The graveyard contains the tomb of his suceessor – Thomas Slater Leyland, “a minister of the Gospel,” as the inscription tells us. He was buried in the year preceding the cleath of Queen EIizabeth. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mr. Tillam was the minister of Hill Cliffe. Oliver Cromwell worshipped at the chapel when his army lay at Warrington, and one of his offcers occupied the pulpit. Thomas Lowe succeeded Mr. Tillam, and attended the General Assembly


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of Baptists held in London the year after the landing of William, Prince of Orange. This (1689) was also the date of the passing of the Act of Toleration, from which period, as every Dissenter knows, really begins the legal diffusion of Nonconformity throughout Great Britain. During the pastorate of the next minister, Mr. Francis Turner, a man of great ability, of restless zeal, and of extensive usefulness, the first Baptist church was formed in Liverpool, mainly through the labours of some of Mr. Turner’s converts.         Hill Cliffe is undoubtedly one of the oldest Baptist churches in England, but its claim to be the oldest is still disputed by some. The earliest deeds of the property have been irrecoverably lost, but the extant deeds, which go back considerably over two hundred years, describe the property as being “for the use of the people commonly called Anabaptists.” The modern chapel stands upon the gentle slope of a sandstone hill. The wood which embosomed the ancient sanctuary has long since been cut down, and the present modest meeting-house is conspicuous from afar,– from the streets of quaint old, Warrington, and from the wide reach of level country by which that historic town is surrounded.

Eythorne, Kent.

        The church at Eythorne, Kent, owes its origin to some Dutch Baptists, who settled in this country in the time of Henry the Eighth. They were, doubtless, tempted to make England their home by the brisk trade that sprang up between this country and Holland, soon after the marriage of Henry with Anne of Cleves (1640). According to a long prevalent tradition, (“uninterrupted and uncontradicted,” says one authority,) Joan Boucher, or Joan of Kent, was a member of the Baptist church at Eythorne. Joan was a lady of some position, and had ready access to the court. Much of her time was spent in visiting her friends in prison, and in relieving, with a bountiful hand, their necessities. For the greater secrecy, she was accus-


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tomed to tie religious books in strings under her dress, and so the more readily pass with them into Court. Strype says that she did very much to promote the circulation of Tyndale’s New Testament, then recently published. A great reader of the Scriptures herself, she sought to persuade others to follow her example. The Protestant Inquisitors, hearing that she held some unusual views on the physical body of Christ, summoned her to appear “in the chapel of the blessed Mary in St. Paul’s.” Long and tedious examinations followed. Joan was cast into prison. Cranmer, Latimer, and others, here sought to reason her out of her opinions. She remained unmoved, and was therefore “left to the secular arm to suffer her deserved punishment,” for daring, that is, to think differently from prelates so grave, and a church so recently reformed. Nearly twelve months elapsed before her sentence was executed. Modern writers have sought to throw the blame of her martyrdom on the Council, and thus shield Cranmer from its odium. Others regard as purely mythical the story of Edward’s tears when asked to sign Joan’s death warrant, and Hallam thinks that the tale ought to vanish from history. However this may be, on the 2nd of May, 1550, Joan of Kent was led out to Smithfield. Even at the stake, she was still worried by the slanders and misrepresentations of her enemies, and to Bishop Scorey, who repeated them, Joan answered, with the plain speech that distinguished the age, “You lie like a rogue. Go, read the Scriptures.” The Bishop might need the advice, for aught that appears to the contrary.         In the Calendar of State Papers (Domestic Series, 1547 – 1580), under the date of October 28th, 1552, we have this entry: “Northumberland, to Sir William Cecill. Wishes the King would. appoint Mr. Knox to the Bishopric of Rochester. He would be a whetstone to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a confounder of the Anabaptists lately sprung up in Kent.” It would be historically inaccurate to regard this as the first inti mation of the existence of Baptists, as a separate community in


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England. Apart from the probabilities about the still earlier origin of Hill Cliffe Church, it should. not be forgotten that Henry the Eighth had long before 1650 proclaimed to the nation how, “like a good Catholic priest, he abhorred and detested their (the Anabaptists) wicked and abominable errors and opinions;” that in his second proclamation, he had warned all Anabaptists and Zwinglians to depart out of the country, under pain of death; and that in a third proclamation, when Cranmer was a Protestant archbishop, Cranmer and eight others were authorized to make diligent search for Anabaptist men, Anabaptist letters, and Anabaptist books, full power being put into Cranmer’s hands to deal capitally with each offender. The Baptists, in King Edward’s days, might have lately sprung up in Kent, but these proclamations show that they were not then known for the first time in England.         One singular fact, perhaps without a parallel, in the history of this ancient General Baptist church at Eythorne, deserves to be mentioned: the names of the pastors, from the close of the Sixteenth Century to the last quarter of the Seventeenth Century, were John Knott. The first John Knott became the pastor of Eythorne somewhere between 1590 and 1600, and the last John Knott removed to Chatham in 1780. One of these Mr. Knotts, it is uncertain which, was a blacksmith, and attracted the notice of the informers by his zeal as a preacher. Whilst working in his shop, some friend brought him word that an officer and, a party of men ‘were coming over Eythorne Down to pounce upon him. Knott hurriedly escaped by a back door, and hid himself in an old saw-pit, covered by nettles and other weeds. Presently the informers came into Mr. Knott’s house, where they found his wife, with a child in her arms. On asking for Mr. Knott, the little child, suspecting no danger, cried out, “Daddy’s gone out!” and would, perhaps, have further betrayed its father’s whereabouts, but for a vigorous shaking from the mother, who at length succeeded in making it hold its tongue. While “the man-takers” searched about the


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house and neighbourhood for her husband, Mrs. Knott, with great presence of mind, bustled about the house, and put out the humble dinner for her family. The search proving fruitless, and the men finding the family dinner smoking on the table when they returned, asked Mrs. Knott to give them some refreshment. This she did instantly, and with the greatest cheerfulness. Mrs. Knott’s kindness told favourably upon the informers. They were so well satisfied with her treatment of them, that they left the house, declaring they would make no further search after her husband, nor do anything to distress so good-natured a woman. For that time, at least, Mr. Knott escaped out of their hands. It is also said, probably concerning the same man, that on another occasion his goods were confiscated and put up to auction. So much was he respected by his neighbours, that not one of them would even offer a bid for his goods at the sale; and the strangers who were present, taking their cue from his neighbours, also declined to purchase them. Mr. Knott’s goods, therefore, remained unsold.         It is worthy of record that the Church of Christ in this little village has existed for more than three hundred years without a single unfriendly division, and with a steadfast adherence to the faith and practice of the Primitive Church.

Bocking and Braintree, Essex.

        In Strype’s Ecclesiastical Memorials, we find these words, under date 1560: “Sectaries appeared now in Essex and Kent, sheltering themselves under the profession of the Gospel, of whom complaint was made to the Council. These were the first that made separation from the Church of England, having gathered congregations of their own.” They were the first, that is, of which Strype had heard. “The congregation in Essex was mentioned to be at Bocking; that at Kent was at Faversham, as I learnt from an old register. From whence I also collect that they held the opinions of the Anabaptists and. the Pelagians; that there were contributions among them for


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the better maintaining of their congregations; that the members of the congregation in Kent went over with the congregation into Essex, to instruct and join with them; and that they had their meetings in Kent, and in divers places besides Faversham.” In other words, the Kent churches at Eythorne, Faversham, Sandwich, Canterbury, perhaps, and other places, helped to build up, if they did not actually originate, the church at Bocking.         Bocking and Braintree are two parishes divided by the main road, and the whole is now known as Braintree. The “complaints,” by whomsoever made, against the Baptists at Bocking, led to their being watched, and about sixty persons were in the house when the sheriff interrupted their assembly. They confessed to the Council that they had met “to talk the Scriptures,” and that they had not communed at the parish church for two years.”* Some were fined and set at liberty. Others were imprisoned, and remained until Queen Mary came to the throne, when they were released, only again to be taken into custody, and by-and-by to the stake.         Among the most eminent of the ministers thus dragged, for conscience’ sake, before the Protestant Inquisition, with Cranmer at its head, was Mr. Humphrey Middleton. By order of Cranmer he was kept in prison until the last year of the reign of Edward the Sixth. Middleton is reported. to have said to Cranmer, after Cranmer had pronounced his condemnation: “Well, reverend sir, pass what sentence you think fit upon us. But that you may not say you were not forewarned, I testify that your turn will be next.” He was one of those who earned a martyr’s crown in the reign of Mary.         Mr. Henry Hart was another of the teachers connected with

*We are told in Strype’s Memorials of Cramner, that, on the particular Sunday when these sixty men were surprised, “There arose among them a great dispute ‘Whether it were necessary to stand or kneel, bareheadod or covered, at prayers?’ and they concluded the ceremony not to be material, but that the heart before God was required, and nothing else.”


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the churches in Kent and Essex. But little is known of Hart, of George Brobridge, and of others, beyond their names. Hart was imprisoned, this much is known of him, in the dismal days of Queen Mary, and zealously combated.in jail the predestinarian views of some other victims of Mary’s gloomy and cruel fanaticism. Bradford was one of his opponents.         The Bocking-Braintree church-book, still in existence, carries back the authentic records of the church for more than two hundred years; but there is no question that the origin of the church itself dates back to the days of Edward the Sixth.         Tiverton, Devon, Shrewsbury, Stoney Stanton, and other churches, claim to be more than two centuries old, and the first is said to have existed since the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. But the three churches we have mentioned – Hill Cliffe, Eythorne, anl Bocking deservedly rank as the most ancient Baptist churches in England.

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Chapter 3

 

ORIGIN OF THE BAPTIST DENOMINATION

Smyth and the General Baptists.

        ALTHOUGH, as we have seen, there were a few General Baptist churches in existenee as early as the days of Henry the Eighth, the modern General Baptists rightly regard John Smyth as the father and founder of their denomination. They trace their history rather to his efforts, and to the labours of those who were his immediate successors, than to the churches at Eythorne or Bocking. A brief story of his life will, therefore, not be out of place in these sketches.         Among the hundreds in England who felt the weight of the oppressive ecclesiastical laws of the Stuarts was John Smyth, the Vicar of Gainsborough. Puritan rather than Anglican, Smyth was yet ready to enter the lists against the Brownists, who were numerous in that part of the country. His defence of the use of the Lord’s Prayer earned for him the praise of Bishop Hall. By degrees, however, Smyth became dissatis6ed with the discipline and ceremonies of the Established Church, and held a dispute on the subject with Mr. Hildersham and other divines. Further enquiries followed. His former doubts were confirmed; and, like an honest man, Smyth gave up his benefice, and all the social and ecclesiastical advantages of his position. Such was the general opinion of his integrity and his gifts, that he was at once invited to become the pastor of one


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of the Brownist churches in Lincolnshire. Robinson, the father of the English Independents, and Clifton, were co-pastors of another Browniet church in the same region. Owing to repeated harass from the High Court of Commission, Smyth, Robinson, Clifton, and their respective flocks, decided to seek in Holland the liberty they could not obtain at home. Accordingly, in 1600, the voluntary exiles started for Ameterdam, Smyth acting as the leader. He was Robinson’s “guide,” “general,” and “oracle,” according to Bishop Hall; and Ephraim Pagitt, in his scurrilous book, Heresiography, describes Smyth as “one of the grandees of the separation.”         Once in Amsterdam, Smyth and his fellow exiles joined the English Church, of which Johnson was the pastor, and Ainsworth the teacher. Free to pursue his religious enquiries unmolested, Smyth now devoted himself to a diligent study of the sacred Scriptures. New light broke in upon his mind, of which he was not slow to speak. The New Testament churches, with their simple order and discipline, seemed strangely unlike the half Jewish society at Amsterdam, with which he was united. He felt, moreover, that he could no longer hold the doctrines of personal election and reprobation. His faith was also shaken in some other points “assuredly believed among” tbe Amsterdam Separatists. He had ceased to be a Calvinist, and had become an Arminian. Much talk arose about these changes in his opinions. Meanwhile, Smyth adopted new views on the subject of baptism.         The last question came up in reviewing his dissent from the Establishment. He and his Brownist friends had rejected the ordination of the State Church, but they still retained her baptism. Smyth now made the subject his special study, and was speedily led to adopt believers’ baptism as alone consistent with New Testament teaching. With his usual frankness he openly and zealously advocated his new opinions.         This was more than the charity of his associates could bear. Arminianism was bad enough; but believers’ baptism was


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worse; at least so thought Robinson, Clifton, and others. Smyth, and those who sympathised in his opinions, were cut off from the church. A bitter controversy broke out; and his former friends presently showed, that though they had themselves fled from persecution, they had not yet learnt the true nature of Christian liberty. Freedom meant, thinking as they thought; and when once Smyth boldly announced his difference of opinion, they placed him beyond the pale of charity. He was charged with “murdering the souls of babes and sucklings, by depriving them of the visible seals of salvation.” Every kind of reproach and abuse were heaped upon the man whom all had once held in loving esteem. He was declared to be “of wolfish nature,” “a brute beast,” and. one “whom God had stricken with blindness.”         Smyth was not the man to be shaken from any position he had deliberately taken by any such harsh and unchristian treatment. By lip and by pen he steadily continued to teach the opinions he had accepted, after a careful and reverent study of the Scriptures. Men flocked about him, as men always will flock about any teacher who speaks with the emphasis of personal conviction. A religious society was gathered, of which John Smyth and Thomas Helwys were the pastors. This happened about two years after the Brownist exiles reached Amsterdam. How large tbis church afterwards became is matter of doubt; but an enemy of that little band, distinguished by his rancorous spirit, declares that “Smyth and his disciples did at once, as it were, swallow up all the separation besides.”         There is some obscurity as to the kind of baptism first adopted by Smyth. He and Helwys baptized each other, and afterwards baptized the rest of their company. But until recent times it was held that this baptism was by immersion. Dr. Müller thinks, however, that facts contradict the long-prevalent tradition. He assures us that the branch of the Mennonite church with which Smyth and his friends were afterwards associated, never administered baptism in any other way than by affusion


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or by sprinkling. Moreover, a letter from Lubbert Gerritt, one of the Mennonites, who interested himself in Smyth and his party, distinctly states as a reason for their acceptance by the Dutch association of churches, that, “inquiring for the foundation and forms of their baptism, we have found that there was no difference at all, neither in the one thing nor the other, between them and us.” It is equally plain, however, from Smyth’s letter to Clifton, and from Smyth’s pamphlet occasioned by the correspondence, that he rejected the baptism of infants as unscriptural. “True baptism,” says Smyth, “is of new creatures, of new-born babes in Christ. False baptism is of infants born after the flesh.” But, whatever doubt may hang over the mode of baptism at first adopted by Smyth and his friends, there is little doubt that they afterwards adopted baptism by immersion.         Smyth has been charged with being “of an unsettled head,” because he desires in the preface to one of his books, that his last writings may always be taken for his present judgment. But the deplorable ignorance of the times, the gradual development of truth in his own mind, and the fact that he wrote against captious opponents, are a sufficient justification of this request. Nothing can be more trenchant than Smyth’s reply to the charge of fickleness made by the writers of his own day. “It may be thought most strange,” says Smyth, “that a man should ofttimes change his religion; and it cannot be  accounted a commendable quality in any man to make many alterations and changes in such weighty matters as are cases of conscience. This must needs be true, and we confess it, if one condition be admitted, that the religion which a man changeth be the truth. For, otherwise, to change a false religion is commendable, and to retain a false religion is damnable. For a man, if he be a Turk, to become a Jew; if a Jew, to become a Papist; if a Papist, to become a Protestant, are all commendable changes, though they all befall one and the same person in one year; nay, if it were possible, in


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one month. So that, to change religion is not evil simply; and, therefore, that we should fall from the profession of Puritanism to Brownism, and from Brownism to true Christian baptism, is not simply evil or reprovable in itself, except it can be proved that we have fallen from true religion. If we, therefore, being formerly deceived in the way of Pædo-baptistry, do now embrace the faith in the true Christian and Apostolic baptism, then let no man impute this as a fault in us.”         It is no part of our plan to offer any general defence of Smyth’s opinions, and the opinions themselves will be best learnt from his Confession, probably, as Dr. Evans thinks, “the first Baptist creed of modern times.” We may be pardoned, however, for calling attention here to the true apprehension by Smyth of the duties of the civil magistrate in religious matters. “The magistrate, by virtue of his office, is not to meddle with religion, or matters of conscience, nor to compel men to this or to that form of religion or doctrine; but to leave the Christian religion to the free conscience of every one, and to meddle only with political matters. Christ alone is the King and Lawgiver of the Church and the conscience.”         Smyth and his disciples were called by their former friends heretics and free-willers; but not a syllable is breathed by his bitterest opponent against his reputation. His unblemished charaeter during the time of holding the Gainsborough benefice, earned for him the general esteem of all parties. His personal excellence whilst with the Brownists in England, and afterwards with the Separatists in Holland, none were disposed to question. Nor did the keenest eyes of the men, who had every opportunity of observing his conduct after he became a Baptist, detect anything with which to upbraid him, except the fearlessness of his spirit, and the boldness with which he advocated what he deemed to be scriptural truth. Cotton Mather’s reflections on Smyth’s dying steadfastness in his opinions must therefore be taken for what they are worth. “Sad and woeful”


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might be to Mather, “the memory of Mr. Smyth’s strong consolations on his death bed,” which were “set as a seal to Smyth’s gross and damnable Arminianism and enthusiasm;” but the regret of modern readers will be, that so little is known respecting the life and death of this fearless and faithful student of the Scriptares. Smyth died in Holland in 1612.         Thomas Helwys retained the sole pastorate of the Baptist church after John Smyth’s decease. But in 1614, he and his friends began to think that they had been actuated by cowardice rather than prudence in escaping to Holland out of the reach of persecution; and believing, moreover, as they afterwards wrote, “that seeing on account of persecuiion had been the overthrow of religion in thie island,” they heroically returned to England. A church was formed in London. Smyth’s Confession, and other pamphlets advocating their opinions were published. Many converts were thus won to their faith – “a multitude of disciples,” says one of their opponents – notwithstanding the persecutions they had to endure.         The labours of Helwys, Morton, and other disciples of John Smyth, ultimately led to the formation of the denomination of General Baptists. Truth’s Champion, an able defence of their principles, by Morton, next to Smyth’s Confession, and Helwys’s pamphlet, helped most widely to diffuse their opinions. A copy of Morton’s book was found in Colchester, at the beginning of the Civil War. It dropped out when an old wall was being demolished.

Spilsbury and the Particular Baptists.

        In 1610 an Independent church was gathered in London. Mr. Henry Jacob was its first pastor, and Mr. John Lathrop the second. During the pastorate of Mr. Lathrop, some of the members began to think that the church was not adhering very strictly to the first principles which led to their separation from the Established Church, and had, moreover, come to regard adult baptism as the only baptism warranted by Scripture.


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They therefore asked to be allowd to withdraw, in order to form themselves into a society more in harmony with their own views. Two things weighed with their old friends in acceding to their wishes: the receders were acting according to the dictates of their consciences, and the original church had now grown too large to meet together, in those perilous days for Dissenters, without molestation. The separation took place in Sept., 1633, and the new church met at Wapping, at that time a pleasant suburb of London. The little society, which did not then consist of many more than a score members, called Mr. John Spilsbury to the pastorate.         Five yeare after the above date (1638), a further secession from the original church strengthened their hands. Among the seceders were William Kiffin and Thomas Wilson. Kiffin, to whose pen we are indebted for the account of the origin of this first Calvinistic Baptist church in England, thus speaks of the reasons which led to his joining Mr. Spilsbury: – “I used all endeavours, by converse with such as were able, and also by diligently searching the Scriptures, with earnest desires to God that I might be directed in a right way of worship; and, after some time, concluded that the safest way was to follow the footsteps of the Rock, namely, that order laid down by Christ and His apostles, and practised by the primitive Christians in their time, which I found to be, after conversion they were baptized, added to the church, and continued in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, aad breaking of bread, and prayers.”         Very little has been preserved respecting Mr. Spilsbury, except that he was a man of reputation among his brethren. His name appears in the Confession of Eaith, published by seven churches in London, in 1644. About eight years afterwards some persecuted Baptists in Massachusett’s Colony, addressed a letter “unto our well-beloved John Spilsbury, William Kiffin, and to the rest that in London stand fast in the faith, and continued to walk steadfastly in that order of the Gospel which was


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once delivered to the saints by Jesus Chriet.” The following year (1658), Mr. Secretary Thurloe received a letter from Henry Cromwell, referring to the agitation among the Anabaptists in Ireland, who had become Fifth Monarchy men, and objected to the title of Lord Protector being given to Oliver Cromwell, thinking it applicable to God alone. “All are quiet here,” says Henry Cromwell, “except a few inconsiderable persons of the Anabaptists’ judgment, who also are very well contented; but I believe they will receive much satisfaction from a letter very lately come to their hands from Mr. Kiffin and Mr. Spilsbury, in which they have dealt very homely and plainly with those of that judgment here.” These two facts reveal the estimate in which Mr. Spilsbury was held in America and in Ireland. His name appears in the Declaration against Venner’s Rebellion in 1662; but in no public document after that date. It is therefore probable that Mr. Spilsbury was removed by death soon after the restoration of Charles the Second.         A quotation from Luke Howard’s Looking-glass for Baptists, although containing the opinion of one who had renounced his Baptist sentiments, and had become a Quaker (a very common thing in the days of the Civil War and the Commonwealth), is not without interest. “In the years 1643-1644 the people called Baptists began to have an entrance into Kent; and Ann Stevens, of Canterbury, who was afterwards my wife, being the first that received them there, was dipped into the belief and church of William Kiffin, who then was of the opinion commonly called the Particular Election and reprobation of persons; and by him was also dipped Nicholas Woodman, of Canterbury, myself, and Mark Elfrith, of Dover, with many more, both men and women, who were all of the opinion on that particular point, and who reckoned themselves of the seven churches in that day, who gave forth a book, called The Faith of the Seven Churches, which was then opposite to the Baptists that held the General, as is still the same. At which time there was great contest


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between those Baptists, the General, as Lamb, Barber, and those who held the universal love of God to all, and Kiffin, Patience, Spillman (Spilsbury), and Collyer, and those that held the Particular Election; so that if any of the Particular men or women of the seven churches aforesaid did change their opinions from the Particular to the General, that then they were to be baptized again; because, they said, you were baptized into a wrong faith, and. so into another Gospel, using that saying, ‘If any man bring any other Gospel than that which we have received, let him be accursed.’ Whereupon several denied their belief and baptism, aud were baptized. again into the General opinion, or belief. But Nicholas Woodman aforesaid, with Mark Elfrith, with all of them in Kent, except Daniel Cox, of Canterbury, which never baptized any, held their baptism in the Particular, but changed their opinions to the General, and some to free-will, and the mortality of the soul, anl many other things.”

The Six-Principle Baptists.

        The churches which held to the “six principles” were never very numerous; but any review of English Baptists would be incomplete which omitted all reference to them.         The General Assembly, which met in London in 1689, adopted, as their distinguishing principles, personal election and final perseverance. But some Baptist Churches in London refused to subscribe to these opinions, and others as persistently declined to sign any terms of human composition. These churches were, however, agreed in accepting the six principles enumerated in Hebrews vi. 1, 2: repentance, faith, baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life. The churches holding these opinions decided upon having a small assembly of their own; accordingly, in March 1690, the elders, ministers, aud representatives of five churches, all situated in London, met at White Street meeting, Moorfields. They agreed that, “for the preservation of a cordial union


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among themselves, all the five parts should, once every year, meet together at one place to celebrate our Lord’s death in the Supper; only, whereas, many of our brethren which belong to Goodman’s Field’s meeting, differing from the other parts in the matter of the Lord’s Supper, they were to have liberty to absent themselves from that general meeting, if they pleased.”         The five churehes comprising this small Assembly were White Street, or White’s Alley, Moorfields; Rupert Street, Goodman’s Fields; Glasshouse Yard, Goswell Street; Fair Street, formerly Dock Head, or Shad Thames; and Duke Street, Southwark. To these five churches were afterwards joined the churches meeting in Dunning’s Alley, Bishopgate Without; St. John’s Court, Hart Street, Covent Garden; and High Hall, West Smithfield. This last church was gathered by Dr. William Russell, an equally valiant opponent of “conjoint singing” and “Sabbatarian Baptists.” Mr. John Griffith, the first pastor of the Dunning’s Alley Church, combated some of the opinions held by the Calvinistic Baptists, and in one chapter of a treatise on “Final Perseverance,” deals rather harshly with “fourteen absurdities naturally flowing from the doctrine of the impossibility for believers to fall finally from grace.”         It has been common to describe these six-principle Churches as General Baptists; but at the time of their union, they were actually composed of persons holding Arminian and Calvinistic sentiments. After some years the Calvinistic ministers and members withdrew from them, and the few churches that remained were thenceforward known only as General Baptist Churches. Some “six-principle” churches still exist in Rhode Island.

The Seventh-Day Baptists.

        This was a smaller society than the six-principle Baptists; but like them, it has preserved a few churches to represent its opinions, even in our own day. They derived their designation from the fact that they kept the Seventh day


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as the Sabbath. They objected to the reasons generally urged for keeping the first day of the week, and contended that the change from the seventh day to the first was originated by Constantine. “God,” said they, “hath required the observance of the seventh or last day of every week to be observed by mankind universally for the weekly Sabbath. This command is perpetually binding upon man till time shall be no more. This sacred reat of the Seventh-day Sabbath is not (by Divine authority) changed from the seventh and last, to the first day of the week; nor do the Scriptures anywhere require the observance of ony other day of the week for the weekly Sabbath, but the seventh day only.”         The founder of this section of the Baptist body was Rev. Francis Bampfield, M.A., an excellent and pious minister. He was a graduate of the University of Oxford, and began his public life as a minister of the Establishment in Dorset. Here his devotion to the duties of his sacred office, his zeal for the promotion of true piety, his care for the poor and the infirm, won for him golden opinions among his parishioners. At the outbreak of the civil war, Bampfield was a zealous Royalist. He hesitated about paying the taxes imposed by the Parliamentarians, and he publicly read the Book of Common Prayer longer than any other clergyman in Dorset. For his zeal in the cause of the Established Church, he had already been given a prebend’s stall in Exeter Cathedral. At length his opinions underwent an entire change, and he confessed that the Church of the State needed a second reformation. To the best of his ability he now sought to make the teaching of Christ his only rule. In 1653, he subscribed to the Commonwealth. Two years after this date he removed to Sherborne, where he remained the faithful pastor of a necessitous people, until the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662.         Now began Mr. Bampfield’s troubles. After resigning his living, he still continued to preach in his own house. He was apprehended while thus conducting a service, and. hurried


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of to Dorchester jail. Nothing daunted, he preached the following Sunday in the prison yard, numbers of the towns-people crowding in the open space outside the prison and within earshot of his voice. Released for a time, Bampfield was again lodged in Dorchester jail, and remained there eight wearisome years. But they were not years of idleness. He preached in prison nearly every day, and gathered a church within its very walls. Set at liberty in 1675, he still went on with his preaching, was again seized, and this time, as he was apprehended in Wiltshire, was lodged in Salisbury jail. On account of the heavy fine imposed upon him, this imprisonment lasted a year and a half. On his release, he came to London, and soon after avowed himself a Sabbatarian Baptist. A Church was formed in March, 1676, of persons holding similar views, and “that eminently pious minister of Christ,” as the original Church-book declares, “Mr. Francis Bampfield,” became their pastor, as he had already been their teacher. “We laid our Church state,” the record continues, “upon the only sure foundation, and agree to form and regulate it by the only certain rule and measure, expressing the nature of the constitution of their Church in the following terms: – ‘We own the Lord Jesus Christ to be the one and only Lord and Lawgiver to our souls and consciences. And we own the Holy Scriptures of truth as the one and only rule of faith. worship, and life; according to which we are to judge of all cases.'”         The original meeting-place of this Church was Pinner’s Hall, Broad Street, London; but as this place was well-known, neither Mr. Bampfield nor his friends were allowed to remain long without molestation. On 17th February, 1682, the church assembled in the forenoon at their usual hour for worship, and Mr. Bampfield had already commenced his sermon, when in rushed a constable, staff in hand, several men with halberts following at his heels. The conatable commanded Bampfleld, in the King’s name, to cease and come down. Bampfield


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replied that he was discharging his office in the name of the King of kings. “I have,” said the constable, “a warrant from the Lord Mayor to disturb your meeting.” “I have a warrant from Jesus Christ,” rejoined Mr. Bampfield, “who is Lord Maximus, to go on.” Mr. Bampfield now began to resume his discourse, when the constable ordered one of his halberdiers to pull him down. The preacher and six of his people were taken before the Lord Mayor, were fined ten pounds each, and were set at liberty. Nothing daunted, they met again in the afternoon; and would have proceeded with the service, but for the interruption of a constable and his minions. The service was resumed in Mr. Bampfield’s own house, whither a large company followed him. A third interruption occurred on the following Saturday, when the congregation had already been assembled for some tiine. Mr. Bampfield was praying when the constable entered, and did not cease until one of the officers pulled him out of the pulpit. As he was led through the crowded streets to the Lord Mayor, Bampfield carried his Bible in his hand. Some of the spectators sneered at him as “a Christian Jew,” but others exclaimed, “See how he walks with his Bible in his hand, like one of the old martyrs!”         He was remanded to the Sessions, and he and three others were committed to Newgate. On the 28th March the Recorder read out the sentence: “that they were out of the protection of the King’s Majesty, that all their goods and chattels were forfeited; and that they were to remain in gaol during their lives, or during the King’s pleasure.” Mr. Bampfield would have spoken in reply, but a great uproar arose as soon as he began to speak. “Away with them!” cried some angry voices. Others shouted, “Put them away from the bar. We will not hear them.” They were thus being rudely clamoured down, without any attempt to check it on the part of the court, when Mr. Bampfield, seizing a moment’s silence that occurred in this uproar, exclaimed, “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.


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The Lord be judge in this case!” Thus appealing from the unjust earthly judge, to the Judge of all the earth, Bampfield was hurried back to Newgate. A man naturally of delicate frame, the hardships of his various imprisonments began to tell on his health. He had lived the full period allotted by the Psalmist to man, but the enfeebled state of his body, in consequence of his long and rigorous imprisonments, and the harsh treatment which obliged him to remain, at his last trial, for ten long hours in a cold and loathsome bail dock, hastened his end. He died on 16th Feb., 1683-4, much lamented, by his fellow prisoners, as well as by his many friends and acquaintances. His body was interred, amidst a large concourse of spectators, in the burial ground behind the Glasshouse-yard chapel, Goswell-street, London.         There are two congregations of Seventh-day Baptists in England, one meeting in Mill-yard, Whitechapel, and the other somewhere in the country; but in America the Seventh-day Baptists are numerous.

The Scotch Baptists.

        The section of the Baptist denomination known as the Scotch Baptists, “took its rise in 1765,” and mainly owes its existence and increase to the zeal and ability of one devoted man – Mr. Archibald McLean. He had been an earnest and conscientious member of the Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, of which Rev. John Maclaurin was the minister; but having read Rev. John Glas’s Testimony to the King of Martyrs, his faith was shaken in the propriety of national establishments of religion. This change led to his withdrawment from the Presbyterian Church in 1762, and to his uniting with a small society of Glasites, or, as they are better known in Scotland, the Sandemanians. A difference between himself and this church in a case of discipline ended in a speedy separation from them; and in 1765 he became a Baptiat. The last change in his opinions originated in this way: – Mr. Robert Carmichael, his friend (an


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Independent minister who had just removed from Glasgow to Edinburgh), and himself had talked together on the subject of infant baptism. Both felt at a loss to find Scriptural warrant for it, but not wishing to relinquish their belief hastily, it was   agreed that each of them should carefully consult the New Testament on the subject, and communicate their thoughts upon it to each other. Mr. McLean was the first to arrive at the conclusion that the baptism of infants had no foundation in the Word of God. He hastened to state his reasons for this to Mr. Carmichael, and after some few months, Mr. Carmiehael adopted Baptist opinions. In May 1765, Mr. Carmichael and some of his friends who sympathised with his views, withdrew from the Independent Church, and in October of the same year Mr. Carmichael came to London, and was baptized in Barbican by Dr. Gill. Before the close of the year the seceders and Mr. McLean were baptized by Mr. Carmichael. In 1766 Mr. McLean published some letters in Mr. Glas’s Dissertation on Infant Baptism, which awakened great attention in Scotland. The following year he removed to Edinburgh, where he became the overseer of the extensive printing establishment of Messrs. Donaldson and Company, and in June he was unanimously elected by the small Baptist Church in that city, as Mr. Carmichael’s colleague.         The church in Edinburgh now rapidly increased. Churches were also formed in Glasgow, Montrose, Dundee, and other towns in Scotland. Mr. Carmichael removed to Dundee, and Mr. William Braidwood, a convert from the Independents, became joint elder with Mr. McLean of the Church in Edinburgh. Mr. McLean continued to superintend the extensive concern of Donaldson’s printing of6ce for eighteen years, and during the same period was a zealous and faithful elder of the original Scotch Baptist Church. The further spread of the distinctive principles of the Scotch Baptists, not only in Scotland but in England; the pressure of work which was thus thrown on Mr. McLean, not only in answering numerous letters of enquiry,


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in settling points of difference that arose in some of the new churches, but also “in setting societies in order, and in ordaining elders over them; “the difficulty of attending conscientiously to his duties as overseer of a large printing office and of meeting these various religious claims upon his leisure time; together with the fact tbat his health was beginning visibly to suffer, led the Church at Edinburgh to urge upon him the relinquishment of his secular work, and the acceptance of such a salary from them as they were able to offer. He agreed to their request in 1785, and now devoted himself with renewed energy to the duties of his sacred office. Year after year, in addition to the oversight of all the Churches of the Scotch Baptist persuasion, pamphlet after pamphlet appeared from his unwearied and prolific pen. Some of his publications were greatly admired for their simplicity, their earnestness, and their eminently Scriptural character by many devout men of other Christian denominations. Mr. McLean took a lively interest in furthering the regard of his own people to the Baptist Missionary Society, and both by lip and by pen helped greatly to extend in Scotland a desire to co-operate in this great work.         About the middle of Nov. 1812, he was seized with dimness in one of his eyes, and sought relief in the application of electricity, with but little result. He still continued his labours in the Church, and. preached as usual on Lord’s-day, Dec. 6th. On the 21st of the same month he fell asleep, in the eightieth year of his age.         The opinions of the Scotch Baptists will be best given in McLean’s own words:         “As to their principles,” says Mr. McLean, “they refer to no human system as the unexceptionable standard of their faith. They think our Lord and His Apostles used great plainness of speech in telling us what we should believe and practise; and thence they are led to understand a great many things more literally and strictly than those who seek to make the religion of Jesus correspond with the fashion of the time, or the decent


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course of the world …. Though they hold the doctrine of particular election, of God’s unchanging and everlasting love, and of the perseverance of the saints: yet they think it dangerous to comfort people by these considerations when they are in a backsliding state. In this case they think the Scripture motives  to fear are most useful, and ought to have their full force, even the fear of falling away, and coming short of heavenly rest. They think it also unsafe, in such a case, to draw comfort from the reflection of our having once believed, it being their opinion, that we must be reduced to the mere mercy of God through the atonement which gave us relief at the first.         “Their Church order is strictly congregational, and so far as they can discern, upon the Apostolic plan, which is the only rule they profess to follow. A plurality of elders or pastors in every church, is a distinguishing feature in their order; at the same time when, from a deficiency of gifts, this cannot at first be attained, they first proceed with the setting a church in order by the ordination of one, although they consider a church incomplete without a plurality. The nature of their union requires that they should be strict and impartial in discipline, both to preserve purity, and keep clear the channels of brotherly love, that it may circulate freely through the body.         “They continue steadfast every first day of the week, in the Apostle’s doctrine, that is, (1) in hearing the Scriptures read and preached; (2) in fellowship or contribution; (3) in breaking of bread or the Lord’s Supper; (4) and in prayers, and singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The prayers and exhortations of the brethren are also admitted in their public meetings. (5) They observe the love-feast, and upon certain occasions (6) the kiss of charity; and also (7) the washing of one another’s feet, when it is really serviceable as an act of hospitality. They (8) abstain from eating blood and things strangled; that is, flesh with the blood thereof, because these were not only forbidden to Noah and his posterity when


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the grant of animal food was first made unto man, but also under the Gospel they are most solemnly prohibited to the believing Gentiles, along with fornication and things offered to idols.         “They think that a gaudy external appearance in either sex, be their station what it may, is a sure indication of the pride and vanity of heart. That women professing godliness are not to adorn themselves with plaited or broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but with modest outward apparel, as well as with the inward ornaments of the mind; also, that it is a shame for a man to have long bair, however sanctioned by the fashion.         “As to marriage, though they do not think either of the parties being an unbeliever, dissolves that relation, when once entered into; yet they hold it to be the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord.         “They also consider gaming, attending plays, routs, balls, and some other fashionable diversions, as unbecoming the gravity and sobriety of the Christian profession.         “As to their political sentiments they consider themselves bound to be subjeet to the powers that be in all lawful matters, to honour them, pray for them, and pay them tribute, and rather to suffer patiently for a good conscience than in any case to resist them by force. At the same time they are friendly to the rational and just liberties of mankind, and think themselves warranted to plead, in a respectful manner, for any just and legal rights anl privileges which they are entitled to, whether of a civil or religious nature.”

The New Connexion of General Baptists.

        Towards the middle of the Eighteenth century the General Baptists of England had become largely tainted with anti-Trinitarian opinions. The natural result was, the decay and extinction of many churches. Thomas Grantham announced, in the Declaration presented to Charles the Second, that there


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were over twenty thousand persons in England who then held General Baptist opinions. In the days of George the Second that number had greatly diminished; and since that period there has been a gradual decrease of churches who claim any historic connection with churchea founded in the time of the Tadors and the Stuarts.         The New Connexion of General Baptists sprang into existence in 1770, and as a protest against the anti-Trinitarian opinions of the older body. Its origin is partly due to the labours of certain earnest and godly men in Leicestershire, and partly to the herculean labours of a convert from Wesleyanism in Yorkshire, Dan Taylor, of Wadsworth, near Hebden-bridge. The centre of the Leicestershire Society was Barton-in-the-Beans, a small hamlet two miles from Market Bosworth, the scene of the defeat and death of Richard the Third, the last of the Plantagenets. The Barton Society had been in existence some years before Dan Taylor made its acquaintance, and had churches affiliated with it at Melbourne, in Derbyshire, at Keyworth and Loughborough, Leicestershire, and at Kirkby-Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire. Abraham Booth was at this time pastor of the latter church.         In the year 1764, a young man, about five-and-twenty, rather under the average size of men, strongly built, and with a frame that exhausting labour in a coal mine had rather more firmly knit than wasted, took an active part in digging out from a quarry blocks of stone which were intended to be used in the creation of a new place of worship. He had already drawn out the plan itself of the building. He now vigorously helped to reproduce the plan on the steep side of a romantic valley. All worked with a will, inspired by the example of the man who was at once preacher, architect of his own chapel, and mason. The edifice was at length complete; when to crown his other labours and hasten on the work, he carried, on his own stalwart shoulders, from the old meeting place to the new one, the pulpit in which he was henceforth to labour. This was Dan Taylor,


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justly regarded as the father and founder of the New Connexion of General Baptists.         The place of worship which Taylor had thus energetically assisted to build, was incumbered with a debt, which pressed heavily on the handful of people at Birchcliffe, as his new chapel was called. He therefore set off in quest of funds. The man who the year before had walked a hundred and twenty miles in the depth of winter in search of Baptists, and had contentedly slept one night under a hay-rick, was just the man to carry his point, whatever it might be. He travelled into the Midland Counties as far as Loughborough, and here first made the personal acquaintance of the people with whom for many years afterwards his own life and labours were closely entwined.         The following year Dan Taylor attended the General Assembly of the old General Baptist churches in London, as the representative of the Lincolnshire branch of their churches. During the next four years the divergence in doctrine between himself and this older body became more and more distasteful, and he and the Lincolnshire churches withdrew from them, and made overtures to the five Midland churches to join together in forming a new religious organization. The overtures were cordially received, and a preliminary meeting was held at Lincoln in 1769. Early in the following year, the first annual meeting met in London, under the titled of “The Assembly of Free Grace General Baptists.” Of the nineteen ministers who were present at that meeting, eight belonged to the churches which Dan Taylor had found in the Midland Counties six years before, and ten were ministers of churches connected with the older denomination. Dan Taylor, though reckoned as one of this older religious body, had only before associated with them through his acquaintance and official relation with the Lincolnshire branch of their churches.         Henceforth the two currents of religous activity intermingled; but while that current was broader which flowed out from the Leicestershire spring, the current was more rapid and ener-


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getic – a kind of moral and religious eagre – which arose in the northern county. In other words, Dan Taylor now became the ruling spirit of the whole community. He was their great organiser, their controversialist, their oracle. Taylor made the first attempts to give the General Baptists of the New Connexion a literature of their own, an attempt which was very little appreciated, partly owing to the foolish prejudice against all literature among the members, who comprised the early churches of the denomination. He presided for fifteen years over their Institution for the Education of Ministers. Several of his sons-in-law took prominent places in the New Connexion, and one of them afterwards followed his steps as editor of the magazine of the denomination, and tutor of the college. He assisted at no less than thirty-eight ordinations, was chairman of their annual meetings for nearly half a century, and was one of their most frequent and popular preachers, and the writer of many of its Circular Letters. No man did more to extend the denomination he so dearly loved; and the work which he did at Birchliffe in 1764, was the work which, in a different fashion, and on a larger scale, he did afterwards for the whole Connexion. The life of Dan Taylor is the history of the New Connexion of General Baptists for more than half a century. He died in London, December 1816, aged 78, and was buried in Bunhill Fields.         Nothing is more surprising than the amount of work Dan Taylor was able to accomplish, and unless he had been a rigid economist of time, notwithstanding his natural robustness, he could not have got through half his work. Moreover, there was never any period of his life, when his time was fairly his own; now it was largely engrossed by a school, now by a farm, now by a ahop, and now by the training of young ministers. Three or four times a year he made special preaching journeys, and before his removal from Halifax to London he had travelled twenty-five thousand miles in preaching the Gospel. He rarely preached, on these special journeys, less than nine times in


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the week. His love for the Scriptures was a distinguishing trait in his character. Fearing that his sight was altogether failing, he determined to commit the whole of the Bible to memory; and had actually accomplished part of his design, when his recovery dissipated his apprehensions.         There are six articles of faith which were propounded by Dan Taylor, as the basis of union in 1770, and which will be found in a later part of this volume. We prefer to insert here the exposition of their opinions by the Rev. Dr. Underwood, of Chilwell College, Nottinghamshire. It is given in a paper read before the first autumnal session of the Baptist Union at Birmingham, Oct. 1864. Dr. Underwood eays: –         “Although I have no commission from any of my associated brethren to confess what they believe, I do not hesitate to present a summary of the sentiments which I think to be those of the denomination generally. ‘To us there is one God, of whom are all things, and we for Him.’ But we hold that in this one God there are three subsistents, ‘called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ who have proper Deity in themselves, and full communion with one another. Whether each of these subsistents should be called a person, and the whole three a Trinity, has been questioned by some; but as the Father is said to be ‘a person,’ and as the Son is said to be ‘the express image of His person,’ and as the Spirit is neither Father nor Son, many of us feel no scruple in speaking of the Trinity, and in saying that there are three persons in one God.          “We maintain the proper Divinity and perfect humanity of Christ, teaching that Christ is God, that Christ was man, and that He was God and man in one person, ‘plain to be distinguished, impossible to be divided.’ We maintain the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, and that it is His office to enlighten, convict, and renew the sinner, and to sanctify, confirm, and comfort the saint.         “Concerning man, we believe that he was formed in the


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moral image of his Maker, but that he lost his original by one act of disobedience; that from that act, whieh constituted the ‘fall’ of man, the whole race inherit an evil nature – are prone to sinful deeds – and do, on attaining the age of accountability, wilfully rebel against God. But while we believe that the moral stain contracted by the first transgression has been transmitted to all their posterity, we do not believe that the guilt of their offence is imputed to any of their descendants….         “We believe that the death of Christ was voluntary and vicarious, and that in connection therewith His obedience and sufferings constitute the real atonement, satisfying the Divine law, reconciling the offended God to man, and the offended man to God; that the whole world, being guilty before God, is under condemnation to eternal death, yet that all penitents who trust in Christ have redemption through His blood, the forgriveness of sins.         “But the distinguishing tenet from which we take our name, General, which was prefixed to our ancient deeds, covenants, which we have inserted in many of our title-deeds, and which we would gladly proclaim on the housetops, is – the love of God in Christ to all mankind.         “On the liberty of man to choose the life or the death, the blessing or the curse, set before him, we have so strongly spoken as to provoke opponents to call us ‘Free-willers. But… the first meeting which was held by the founders of the denomination called itself an Assembly of Free Grace General Baptists; ‘ and that this was a proper appellation may be seen from what all our predecessors have said in their Confessions….         “Our ecclesiastical polity is in close agreement with other Congregationalists…. In former days pastors anrl deacons were set apart to their duties by counsel and prayer with the imposition of hands; but now the choice of deacons is sometimes not a very spirited proceeding, and the ordination


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solemnity, in the case of pastors, is supplanted too often by a semi-social hybrid called ‘the recognition tea-meeting.’         “In the matter of communion, our practice is far from being uniform. Until within a very few years nearly all our churches were close and strict; but now some are so open as to allow any person professing godliness to sit with them at the Lord’s table. Several other churches invite those to participate who are known to be in actual membership with Pædobaptist communities; while the rest, and probably the majority, hold to the early custom of confining the privilege to those who had ‘been buried with Christ in baptism.’         “Since the founding of the Connexion each church now belonging to it has been admitted on its own application; but before the vote for admission is taken in the Annual Association, such application is accompanied by the recommendation of the district conference. The Association is an assembly of ministers who are members ex officio, and of representatives who are sent by the churehes in a certain ratio. This assembly rotates, and is never held in one place oftener than once in seven years. The affiliated churches are expected to contribute to the support of the institutions of the Body, such as the Home and the Orissa Missions, and the College. If any church declines to render this support to any one of these institutions, the power of speaking or voting on questions relating thereto is forfeited. The Association acknowledges the perfect independence of the churches, and scrupulously avoids all synodic action which could infringe their freedom. But if any church should deny the right of the ministers and representatives to interfere with it in the event of its departure from the Christian faith and morality, such a church would be marked and admonished; and if it continued contumacious, it would be cut off. In like manner, any minister convicted of flagrant heresy, or gross moral pravity, even if his people should adhere to him, would be openly disowned, and his name would be removed from the yearly ministerial list.”

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Chapter 10

 

CHURCH DISCIPLINE

        THE Baptists have been very careful, in all their Confessions, to define the character of those who constitute a Christian church. Smyth says, “The outward and visible church consists of regenerated and believing men, as much as men can judge thereof, who bring forth fruits worthy of amendment of life, although hypocrites and feigners are often hidden among the repenting” (Article lxvii). The Confession of the Seven Churches says: “Jesus Christ hath here on earth a spiritual kingdom, which is His church, whom He hath purchased and redeemed unto Himself as a peculiar inheritance; which church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the Word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the Gospel, being baptized unto that faith, and joined to the Lord and to each other by mutual agreement in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances commanded by Christ their head and King.” Other and later Confessions agree in the main with both. But as “a holy and sanctified people,” acknowledging Jesus Christ as their sole governor and king, they also regarded themselves as entrusted with the power of admonishing the disorderly, or cutting off those who should “offend.” The Confessions of both sections of the Baptists are equally explicit on this point. The Confession of the Seven Churches declares: “Christ hath given power to His church to receive in and cast out any member that deserves it; and this power is given to every congregation, and not to one particular person, either member or officer, but in relation to the whole body, in reference to their faith and fellowship; that every particular member of each church, how excellent, great, or learned soever, is subject to this censure and judgment: and that the church ought not, without great care and tenderness, and due advice, but by the rule of faith, to proceed against her members ” (Articles xlii. and xliii). More briefly the Confession presented by the General Baptists to Charles the Second, states: ” that the true church of Christ ought, after the first and second admonition, to reject heretics; and, in the name of the Lord, to withdraw from all such as profess the way of the Lord, but walk disorderly in their conversations, or in any wise cause divisions or offences, contrary to the doctrine of Christ which they had learned.”         This indicates the general basis on which the discipline was founded. But the discipline itself dealt with many other things besides the exclusion of unworthy members. There was a degree of oversight of the whole members, which appears little less than inquisitorial. The muster-roll of the members was called over on certain days, with almost military strictness, as if they were an army campaigning. And so, in a spiritual sense, they deemed themselves. In the Maze Pond church, and doubtless many others in the Seventeenth Century, it was customary, before the administration of the Lord’s Supper, to read over the church register, each communicant answering to his name. Absentees were visited, and, if no satisfactory account were given, they were reproved. One day, fourteen were absent, and the messengers who visited them reported that certain of them were absent ” under some inward discomposures,” that one had to go into the country, and that others had ” differences with a member of the church,” which were now in the course of being removed. The Fenstanton church also adopted this rule: “If any members of the congregation shall absent themselves from the assembly of the same congregation upon the first day of the week, without manifesting a sufficient cause, they shall be looked upon as offenders, and be proceeded against accordingly.” The Broad-mead church “had all the members names engrossed in parchment, that they might be called over always at breaking bread, to see who did omit their duty.” “For the prevention of jealousy,” another church decrees that absent members were to “certify beforehand when any occasion hindered them from coming to the assembly.” Even wives who might be “kept back by the threatenings of their husbands,” were not excused, “unless they were restrained by force.”         But while the men who were of “the Particular way” showed a commendable desire to preserve the purity of their several churches, the men of “the General way” carried their discipline to a degree of strictness which will now be hardly credited. The power to exercise this discipline was claimed by the whole church as such. “Mind well,” says William Jeffery, “the power to judge of differences, and to deal with members, lies in the body, the church; not in the officers distinct, or apart from, the, church.” “It is of necessity,” says Grantham, “that the church of God hath power, and a holy way allowed of God, to purge herself from evil workers.” They were, therefore, anxious that as many of the members of the church as possible should be present at their “meetings for discipline;” and a neglect of them, except for very urgent reasons, was deemed worthy of censure. The church at Canterbury, for example, agreed in 1668, “that in case any member neglect such meetings as are appointed for discipline, they shall send the cause by some member that day, or otherwise declare it themselves the next first day, and upon the failure of this, the person shall be reprovable.”

Strictness of Discipline.

The oversight of the several members was minute and persistent. Their general conduct, their domestic life, their business, their connections in civil society, their recreations, and even their dress, were all deemed legitimate subjects for the strictest supervision. As it was impossible for one minister to undertake any effectual superintendence of large societies, “the General men” discouraged, in the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, the formation of large churches. “A church ought not to consist of such a multitude,” says one of their earliest teachers, ” as cannot have particular knowledge of one another.” The difficulty of supervision was met, partly by the plurality of elders or ministers, and partly, when the societies were large, by subdividing the church-members into districts, and appointing to each a separate overseer. Sometimes the deacons undertook the work of superintendence, assisted by some experienced member of the church. At others, a number of district officers were chosen, under the general title of “helps in government.” Their duties were denned as “taking particular care of each member in their respective divisions, of their conversation and carriage; taking also a strict note of what disorders may arise, and bringing them regularly before the monthly church-meetings.” The “meetings for discipline” were held monthly, quarterly, or yearly, as the churches might severally determine. The Broadmead church appointed a monthly meeting of the brethren only, to consider of persons or things amiss in the congregation, and so appointed the first sixth day of the week, or Friday, that should happen in any month; and afterwards it was altered to the first second day of the month.         Besides this formal oversight, by officers appointed for the purpose, each particular member was expected to report, at the earliest opportunity, any breach of good conduct on the part of another member, and any omission of this duty, or even delay in its execution, was declared to be “suffering sin in his brother, as obstructing his recovery, and bringing the church into communion with the sinner.” To prevent, however, a frivolous or malicious use of this individual duty, the accuser was expected to state the case in writing, to sign his name to the accusation, and to hand a copy of the charge itself to the person accused. Some of these accusations are laconic enough. We give a single illustration, a literal copy of what was presented to the Baptist church, Dockhead, shortly after the Rev. Richard Adams removed from that church to become minister of Devonshire-square:—

“Sir,—I accuse Mrs. S of swearing and lying, and backbiting and in gratitude. “Dec. 11,1704.”-ELIZA D—.”

In this case, however, the accuser, according to the law of every Baptist church, must already have twice admonished Mrs. S—; and on her refusal to hear the second admonition, “Eliza W—”was expected to bring the matter before the church. There are but very few cases on record of personal offences being brought thus prominently forward; but in this instance Mrs. S—had been guilty, not only of “sinning against” her sister, but “against the Lord.” “Sins which are committed directly against the Lord,” says Grantham, “as idolatry, murder, whoredom, theft, drunkenness, covetousness, swearing, &c., …. are to be punished with great severity, and the church ought speedily to censure such evil-doers, as unfit for Christian society, until reformed of such impieties.”         Special meetings were held immediately for dealing with any notorious and scandalous cases. If the charges were proved, the offender was excluded from the society. The “ordinance of excommunication” was always regarded as one of solemn and impressive character. The elder, “by the authority of the church, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, delivered the offender to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord.” When the offender was present, this sentence was pronounced in the face of the whole assembly, was accompanied with fervent prayer to God for the offender’s recovery, and with earnest and affectionate expostulations to the person excommunicated. If he refused to attend at the summons of the church, he was visited by the elders, or messengers specially appointed, and the sentence was then pronounced over him privately, with suitable counsels and admonitions. The records of some churches show that the offender, well knowing what was in store, often kept out of the way for months together, in the vain hope that he should be forgotten.

Here is an entry from a church book:—

“On the eight-and-twentieth day of the first month (1653), Edmond Maile and John Denne met with John Martin, formerly of Hemmgford, but now of Ely, who had been formerly admonished and reproved according to the rules of Scripture, but yet remaining perverse and obstinate, and we desired that we might speak with him, which he refused, and offered to go away, whereupon we desired him to stay; and he staying, we spake unto him, saying: ‘You have a long time absented yourself from the congregation, denying the ordinances of God, for which you have been formerly admonished, but have not given us any satisfactory answer, but tell us that we have not God.’ Here he interrupted us, saying, ‘I say yet that ye have not God,’ and then he went away. Whereupon we follow him, desiring to speak with him; but he said he had nothing to say to us; and offered to go away. Then we said, ‘What! are you afraid to encounter with the truth? ‘he truth,’ said he, ‘I know none ye have;’ and so he went away, whereupon we concluded, considering his former answers to our admonitions, to go after him again, and to excommunicate him; and, accordingly we went after him, and speaking with him, did excommunicate him, for these ensuing reasons, namely: first, for forsaking the assembly of the saints; secondly, for slighting and despising the ordinances of God; thirdly, for despising and contemning the reproof and admonition of the church.”         The church did not consider that its duty was ended, when this formal excommunication had taken place. Certain brethren, mostly the “messengers ” who delivered the sentence of excommunication, were appointed from time to time to search him out, and exhort him to repent and do his first works. “It is a great question,” says Grantham, ” how long a person under excommunication may be admonished as a brother. It may be answered: So long as he is not debauched in life, and there is any hope of his recovery; for sith this ordinance is for the saving of the soul, we are not to be impatient, but still as we may, call upon the sinner to remember from whence he has fallen, and to repent, and to pray for his return.” These visits were often repeated, until hardened or undisguised profligacy rendered the case hopeless, or death removed the unhappy offender out of the reach of the good offices of the messengers.         Some sections of the Baptists thought the church had a power of inflicting a higher kind of excommunication, which entirely cut off the offender from all possibility of reconciliation, expressed by the misread words of the Apostle, Anathama Maranatha. But though they claimed this power, yet they esteemed it dangerous for any society to attempt to exercise it. The Orthodox Creed, in its thirty-fourth article declares, after referring to “the personal and private trespasses between party and party,” “but, in case there be any wicked, public, and scandalous sinners, or obstinate heretics, then the church ought speedily to convene her members, and labour to convict them of their sin and heresy, and schism, and profaneness, whatsoever it be; and after such regular suspension and due admonition, if such sinners repent not, that then, for the honour of God, and preserving the credit of religion, and in order to save the sinner’s soul, and good of the church, in obedience to God’s law to proceed and excommunicate the sinner, by a judicial sentence, in the name of Christ and His Church, tendering an admonition of repentance to him, with gravity, love, and authority; and all this without hypocrisy, and partiality, praying for the sinner, that his soul may be saved in the day of the Lord; and under this second degree of withdrawing, or excommunication, to account him as a heathen or publican, that he may be ashamed. But upon the third, and highest act of excommunication, it being a most dreadful thunderclap of God’s judgment, it is most difficult for any church now to proceed in, it being difficult to know when any man hath sinned the unpardonable sin, and so to incur total cutting off from the Church.”         In addition to the excommunication of the offender before the assembled church, or privately by messengers, it was deemed necessary, to vindicate the honour of religion, that the separation of the offender from the congregation should be openly announced to the world. This was done sometimes during the next ensuing public services of the church; but in offences of a private nature, the excommunication was stated to the church members alone, and generally at the time of holding the Lord’s Supper.

The Treatment of Heretics

Heretics were treated in the same manner. They were first privately admonished; and on refusing to take note of the first admonition, were summoned to answer the charges made against them before the assembled church. Here they were allowed to defend themselves. In 1678, for example, a minister of the church at Shad Thames was accused of preaching heresy. He was “desired to come before the congregation, and vindicate his doctrine, and to be reclaimed from so great an error.” The minister obeyed, and after a full investigation, was acquitted. The person who brought the charge was treated as “a false accuser,” and “ordered to make satisfaction.” In the year 1696, one of the nine persons appointed as the treasurers of the fund by the first Particular Baptist General Assembly, was expelled from the church at Petty France, London, for heresy. The record of this expulsion was as follows: “Mr. Robert Bristow was rejected and cast out of the communion, after much patience exercised towards him, and strenuous endeavours used to recover him out of dangerous errors he was fallen into; namely, the renunciation of the doctrine of the Trinity, and particularly the deity of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, and so rooting up the very foundation of the Christian religion.”         The General Assembly of the General Baptists had, again and again, to admonish men who, during the close of the Seventeenth Century, were beginning to preach Socinianism. In 1692, they say, “Upon the complaint made from the brethren meeting in and about Shrewsbury of persons teaching and maintaining doctrines contrary to the Articles of Faith, the Assembly have agreed that a letter should be sent to our brother Brown, and the rest of our brethren here, and also our brother, touching the same.” This letter declares their advice to be ” that they call in the assistance of the sister churches of their parts, and take such method to reclaim ” these persons ” as shall be judged most necessary.” (MS. Proceedings of the Assembly.)         The common “heresies” for which many were cut off from the General Baptist churches in the Seventeenth Century, were Quakerism, Calvinism, and Rantism.         In Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire especially, the Quakers gave the Baptist churches perpetual trouble. In the records of one church, the ever-recurring reason for excommunication is this:—”For slighting and despising all the ordinances of the Lord; saying, that they would not be in such bondage as to observe such low and carnal things.” “For utterly denying preaching, baptisms, meetings, breaking of bread, &c.” “For denying the Scriptures and the ordinances of God, and for affirming that the doctrine preached and received was not the doctrine of Christ, but the doctrine of the devil.” Mr. John Denne and his companion were thus greeted by Thomas Ross, at Chatteris, when they went “to admonish him a second time:”—”Baptism we disown; preaching we disown; we disown you all, with the ordinances which you practice!” In some cases, the larger part of the village churches went bodily over from the General Baptists to the Quakers.         Occasionally, when admonishing or excommunicating the members of the church who had embraced the Quaker views, the Baptist messengers came into collision with the Quaker preachers. John Ray, for instance, tells us that in 1655, he went to Littleport “to degrade and excommunicate those two apostates, Samuel and Ezekiel Cater,” who were “persons of eminence in the church”—elders, in fact; and after he had done this, he “went to the common meeting place of the town,”* “declared publicly for what purpose he had come,” “preached Jesus, both in His person and ordinances,” vindicating them “from those wicked whimsies and nonsensical interpretations which the Quakers put upon them,” and that “when he had done, one of the Quakers did rail on him in such a foolish, rude, and frothy manner, that he turned away without answering thereto, lest he should be like him. At which, all the Quakers boasted and derided; yet all sober and good people approved it.” [* That is, the parish church; sometimes called ” The Stone House;” and by others, after George Fox, ” The Steeple House.”]         The Hexham church, in a letter sent on “1st day, 1st month, 1653,” to the church in Coleman Street, London, “with our reverend brethren, Mr. Hanserd Knollys and Mr. John Perry,” thus writes: “We are a people brought forth in these parts of the land where iniquity doth most abound, and many deceivers are risen up; yea, even swarms in these northern parts, especially of those called Quakers, whose pernicious ways many do follow; a generation whose main design is to shatter the churches of the saints, by stealing away the tender lambs out of the fold of the Lord Jesus; crying down the Scriptures, those sacred oracles of truth, as a dead letter, and crying up the lights within, as they call it; making great shows of self-denial in a voluntary humility, and of neglecting the body, which are very taking with the weak ones; all for a Christ within, nothing for a Christ without.” In the following year Thomas Tillam tells the church at Leominster, in another letter, that while they at Hexham are ” not any of them tainted with that Arminian poison that hath so sadly infected other baptized churches, those deceived souls, called Quakers, have been very active in these parts, and have seduced two of our society, and six of the Newcastle church.” It is evident from this statement that the Calvinistic Baptist churches were as much afraid of Arminianism as the General Baptist churches were of Calvinism, and that they both suffered from the teachings of the disciples of George Fox.         The Broadmead Records give this quaint account of the spread of Quakerism in the time of the Civil War, and the defection of one of their number:—”Sathan deceived many profane people to embrace their upstart notions of Quakerisme, under a pretence of a great degree of holinesse, by hearkening to ye light within, which they called Christ (laying aside ye manhood of our blessed Redeemer); whereas that light is but ye light of nature, which in common is planted in all mankinde—ye same with that ye Indians and ye Blackamores have, and ye remotest Indians, which know not Christ, nor ever heard of him; and they omit ye light of ye Word of ye Lord, and ye light of God’s Spirit, proceeding from ye Father, by ye Word, or Holy Scriptures. Thus smoake out of ye bottomless pit arose, and ye locust doctrine came forth, as it is written (Rev. chap. 9:2, 3, 4). At this time Dennis Hollister, a grocer in High Street, being a member of this church, the meeting for Conference on ye fifth day of ye week was usually at his house. And he was naturally a man of an high spirit, Dyotrephes-like loved to have ye pre-eminence in ye church; and at that time had great influence upon ye magistrates of ye citty, and by them was chosen to be a Paslia-ment man for ye City of Bristol; that is, one of them called by ye Little Parliament, in ye days of Oliver Cromwell, called Lord Protector, where as God alone was the Protector of His people (but we sinned). On this occasion Hollister, staying in London, had sucked in some principles of this upstart locust doctrine, from a sorte of people afterwards called Quakers; that when that Parliament was dissolved by Oliver, Dennis came home from London with his heart full of discontent, and his head full of poisonous new notions (as was discerned by some of ye members of ye church). And he began to vent himseife; and at one meeting of the church, after he came down, he did blasphemously say, ‘Ye Bible was ye plague of England.’ From that time ye church would meet noe more at his house.” [Broadmead Records (Rev. N. Haycroft), pp. 36, 37.]         In the year 1657 the same church tells us that it was still “conflicting with this new, upstart error of Quakerisme, began (no doubt) by Sathan, and carried on by his instruments, Popish seminaries, Jesuits, and some apostate professors, that had not received the truth in the love of it, and by some ignorant, bewitched, and deluded people, that knew not whereof they affirmed. And such Quakers many times would come into our meetings on ye Lord’s-day, in ye open publique places, called churches, which we had then the liberty to be in, during all ye time of Oliver’s reign, and in ye midst of ye minister’s sermon, they would, with a loud voice, cry out against them, calling them hirelings and deceivers, and they would say to ye people, that they must turn to ye light within, their teacher, and that was Christ within. Thus, with many other railing and judging and condemning words they would frequently trouble us, (shaking, trembling, and quaking, like persons in a fit of ague), while they spake with a screaming voice, and would not cease until they were carried forth of ye place, pretending they were moved by ye Spirit to come and warn us. Thus Sathan transformed himself like an angel of light, and strove against ye true followers of Christ.” [Broadmead Records (Rev. N. Haycroft), pp. 47, 48.]         That any of their church members should hesitate or refuse to confess that Christ died for all men, was regarded by the General Baptist churches as “denying the faith,” and was deemed a sufficient ground for exclusion. Their baptism also was pronounced invalid, if they held Calvinistic views, as Luke Howard points out in the passage quoted from him in an earlier part of this book. “Widow Wiggs, of Dunton, in the county of Bedford,” was, according to the Records of the Fenstanton Church, first reproved for this, among other things, by John Denne; she was next desired “to come over to the following General Meeting at Caxton Pastures, on the third day of the fifth month (1653), to speak before the congregation. After the pros and cons were heard, “Widow Wiggs” was informed “that, seeing she would not be otherwise minded, the Church could not have any fellowship or communion with her.” The same Records also tell us of one John Matthews, “a person of some eminency,” who had been to Ireland since he had left Huntingdonshire, and had preached there, “having altered his judgment,” was “reproved for his sin,” and “exhorted to consider from whence he had fallen, and repent and turn to the Lord.” “The things affirmed by” Matthews were: “that Christ died only for the elect, even such as either do, or shall believe on Him; that God hath, from the beginning chosen a certain number of persons to Himself, to which persons He cometh with such a compulsive power, that they cannot resist; and that God hath, from the begin.

 

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Chapter 12

 

ABOUT SINGING

        THE Baptists of the Seventeenth Century were not entirely a songless people. Some few congregations were accustomed to sing the Psalms in the Authorized Version; but others, while not objecting altogether to singing as a part of Divine worship, manifested a strong dislike to metrical versions, and promiscuous, or congregational singing. The ground of their dislike was not the “barbarity and botching that everywhere occurs in the translation of Sternhold and Hopkins”*—the only English metrical version then in existence. They would have had an equal objection to the most accurate and finished translation, if it had been in metre. All such versions were quaintly styled by them “human composures,” and as such were therefore deemed unsuitable for use in public worship. The strictness of their opinions on the subject of church-membership, and their disrelish for anything that seemed to ignore the difference between “the church” and “the world,” occasioned their reluctance to adopt congregational singing.

[* “In the reign of Edward. VI. the effects of the Reformation became visible in our poetry, by blending religious with poetical enthusiasm, or rather by substituting the one for the other. Then flourished Sternhold and Hopkins, who, with the best intentions and the worst taste, degraded the spirit of Hebrew psalmody by flat and homely phraseology; and mistaking vulgarity for simplicity, turned into bathos what they found sublime. Such was the love of versifying Holy Writ at that period, that the Acts of the Apostles were rhymed and set to music by Christopher’Tye.”—Campbell’s Essay on English Poetry. The title of Tye’s book is as quaint as his rhymes are grotesque:—”The Actes of the Apostles: translated into Englyshe metre, and dedicated to the Kynge’s moste excellent majesty. By Christopher Tye, doctor in music; with notes to each chapter, to syng and play upon the lute; very necessary for students after they studye to fijle. they witts, and also for all Christians that cannot synge, to read the goodlie storeys of the lives of Christ Hys Apostles. London, 1553.”]

A curious illustration of this occurs in one of the earliest references to Baptist opinion on the subject, found in the Broadmead Records. The circumstances were these: the two Baptists, the Independent, and the Presbyterian churches in Bristol were “under persecution” in the year 1675, and an attempt was made, apparently with a view of strengthening each other’s hands, to secure a united service. A preliminary meeting was held, attended by eighteen representatives from the four congregations. The Presbyterians—”Mr. Week’s people”—conscious of certain differences between their own customs and the customs of the three congregational churches, were afraid that this “joyning together soe near might widen and hurt” the sort of fellowship they had hitherto enjoyed, and damage their good opinion of one another. According to their view “the stick and obstruction” consisted in these four matters: (1) their habit of praying for magistrates, whether good or bad; (2) their custom of “singing Psalms with others besides the church;” (3) their opinion that none ought to preach but those who had been ordained by the Presbytery; and (4) their fear, lest the Baptists “should persuade some whom they deemed the best among them to be baptized.” The first and two last points were met in a frank and brotherly fashion. As to praying for magistrates, “they were all for it as a duty;” and although some of the expressions and titles used by the Presbyterians when praying for magistrates, they could scarcely adopt; yet, “they would bear with one another, if they could not say Amen in all things.” As to the question about preaching “they were all for an orderly ministry,” and would hear each other’s pastors when they came out of prison; but would be contented, meanwhile, to listen to such “gifted brethren, not ministerially called,” as were still left among them. It was, moreover, agreed “that in this meeting of union none should preach up baptism of believers, nor any other should preach against it.” So far all were agreed. But when they came to the question of singing, certain differences were discovered, which afford a singular revelation of the customs of the times. The representatives of Broadmead, of the Independents, and also part of those belonging to the second Baptist community, “Mr. Gifford’s people,” were willing “to sing Psalms with others besides the Church;” but some few of this second Baptist society “scrupled to sing in metre as they were translated, although all of them did hold that singing of Psalms.” The dissentients pleaded for permission to show their dislike of metrical versions and promiscuous singing “by keeping on their hats” during this part of the service, “or going forth;” but the rest were naturally unwilling that this public and disorderly method of showing displeasure should be adopted. It was, therefore, agreed, that if the united services should be held, those who sympathised with the dissentients, “if they would not keep off their hatts and sitt still, should be desired to stay away.”         That the Broadmead church were accustomed to sing Psalms at most of their services is evident from the numerous references to this part of worship in their remarkable and invaluable Records. In fact, one of the earliest complaints made against them in 1671 by “old Mr. Wright, that had been sheriff,” was this—”that he could hear them sing Psalms from their meeting-place at his house in Hauler’s Lane.” But the circumstance of the Presbyterians raising this question about congregational singing four years later, indicates that there was at that time a divided opinion among the Baptists on the subject; a supposition which was at once confirmed by the conduct of some of “Mr. Gifford’a people.” We have, however, no means of ascertaining how far these two Bristol churches represented the then prevalent opinion on singing in their section of the Baptist denomination.

Outwitting Persecutors by Singing Psalms

There is a smack of dry humour in the use to which the Broadmead church put their fondness for psalmody. They often sung Psalms in order to outwit their persecutors. Before their meetings began some particular Psalm was selected, in the event of what they called “trouble”—that is, the sudden appearance of informers, or of the mayor and his officers, for the purpose of dispersing their assemblies or apprehending their preachers. In “Brother Gifford’s meeting” there was a trapdoor in the floor, on which the preacher stood, and “a company of tall brethren” surrounded the speaker, so that he could be instantly let down into the room below on the signal being given that an informer was at the door. But the Broadmead brethren, in similar emergencies, immediately struck up the Psalm they had previously agreed upon, and sung it in a slow and deliberate manner. They had also hit upon an ingenious contrivance for shielding the speaker from the eyes of any informers who might creep unawares into their assembly. The speaker stood behind a curtain, with a few well-known friends, and this enclosure was guarded from intrusion by a line of brethren “without the curtain,” who hindered any from going behind but persons of well-established repute among them. If the informers’ party in the street made a rush upstairs, they found their steps impeded by “the women and maides” purposely sitting on the stairs to hinder their too rapid progress. And when they entered the room the curtain was lifted up, and “all ye people began to sing a Psalme.”         In this way the mayor and his officers were many times prevented from pouncing upon any one of the company as the ringleader: “when all were singing, he knew not who to take away more than another.” Of course the mayor was not pleased thus to be baffled in seizing his prey; but “brother Terrill tould him Singing of Psalms was not contrary to ye Liturgies of ye Church of England”— for which ready speech brother Terrill was declared a ringleader, and threatened with imprisonment. On other occasions, when the mayor, or the bishop’s men came to disperse them, and commanded them, in the King’s name, to depart, “ye people singing, none heeded what they said, but sate still.” They thus tried to drown, to the ears of the rest of the congregation, the course and brutal language which some of the officers did not scruple to use to “grave gentlewomen,” and even “to sister Ellis, an elder.” When they called the first “confident jades,” and the second “old carrion,” “ye people kept singing all ye while.” On another occasion they thus defeated the whole posse of their persecutors—”the mayor and his officers, and the bishop, with divers of his crew and men.” Mr. Hardcastle, their minister, had just been released from his second imprisonment. It was the first Lord’s-day after, “being ye 22nd of ye 6th month, August, 1765.” A larger company than usual had met together for religious worship. The mayor, hearing of the meeting, arranged his plans accordingly. On reaching the door, two sergeants were sent up to command them to disperse, one of them making the proclamation, “O, yes!” three times in a loud voice. The whole assembly struck up the Psalm selected, on receiving this signal that their persecutors were below, so that the sergeant’s voice was unheard save by the few that stood near him. The mayor now goes up himself, followed by his attendants, and repeats the command, in the King’s name, to depart. Still the singing went on,—”every one looked into his owne book, and soe sung, and kept stopps one with another, and lifted up their voice together.” The mayor was puzzled, and “knew not what to do.” He did, in fact, the best thing he could do, under such circumstances: “he went downe again.” All this while the bishop himself was skulking “below att the door.” He also “was coming up,” but his courage failed him when he found that “the first paire of staires was somewhat dark.” Braggart as he was, he did not know but the second pair might be darker, and he therefore very prudently “drew back.” The whole company of persecutors being thus foiled at Broadmead, next tried “brother Gifford’s meeting,” where, “finding him in exercise [that is, preaching,] he was marched off to prison.”

Grantham on “the Duty of Thanksgiving”

Three years after the dissension at Bristol on the subject of singing, Grantham published his elaborate treatise on Primitive Christianity. It is extremely improbable that he knew, even by. rumour, what had taken place at this private meeting of the representatives of the four congregations. It is, however, a fact worth repeating, that Grantham was regarded as the eloquent mouthpiece of the General Baptists of his own day. On both accounts, therefore, the independence of his testimony on the Baptist opinion about singing, and the position he held among his own people,—his remarks in the chapter in Primitive Christianity on “the duty of thanksgiving,” possess a value all their own.         Grantham begins by complaining that all parts of the Christian religion “have suffered great violence by the encroachment of human innovations,” and “this solemn part of God’s holy service hath suffered with the rest. So perverted are men’s views of the subject of thanksgiving, that it has become hard to bring them off from the mistakes into which they have fallen.” However, he will “do somewhat, as God shall assist him,” to shew these four things:—”(1) That Psalms and Hymns, as recommended to us, or required to be performed as a part of public worship of God in the Christian Church, are to be sung there, by such as God hath fitted thereto by the help of His Spirit, for the edification of the Church; (2) That the matter of these Psalms is to accord with the Psalms and Hymns in the Scripture; and that the Primitive Church used no other manner of singing than such as that the Church may be edified by understanding the voyce of him that sung; (3) That the formalities now used generally in singing Psalms, &c., differ greatly from that which God hath ordained for this worship and service in that case; (4) Make manifest the sincerity of this service in praising God in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs in the Christian Church.”         In touching upon the first point, Grantham contends that there are two ways of performing the service. The first is, “by meer art, as those doe who only speak what another puts into their mouths,” which, at its best is “no Christian ordinance,” but “counterfeit Psalmody,” and “an empty form of words.” The second is, “by the gift of God’s grace and Spirit.” He then proceeds to show that this was what the Apostle meant when he said, “How is it, brethren, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine,” &c. [1 Cor. 14:26] Each one had not a Psalm for edification, and therefore each one could not actually sing Psalms. Those who were thus gifted spoke for the profit and comfort of others, although even they might be refused, “if not according to the Word of God.” The Psalms of David could not be meant, since all had them, and even a child seven years old, could read or sing these Psalms; therefore, “having a Psalm,” indicated “something more than the ability to read or sing them out of a book.” Still further, “he who had the Psalm is required to sing the Psalm in the church, and none else; just as he that hath a doctrine was required to produce it, and not he that had it not.” And, lastly, the singing was to be “performed to edifying; consequently the church is to attend him, or to what he holds forth in the way of psalmody, that they may be taught and admonished by him, or have their hearts exhilarated or drawn up to praise the Lord in conjunction of their spirits with his.” This last point is also taught in the words, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart unto the Lord.” [Eph. 5:19] Not that there was any great difference “as to the matter and manner” between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; they were various expressions for the same thing substantially, like prophesying, preaching, and teaching; nor yet that these words imply “that every man and woman must needs speak together, that the psalms, &c., were sung promiscuously of the whole congregation, any more that the Apostle Jude’s words, ‘Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,’ &c., imply ‘that every man and woman is to preach and pray actually at the same moment in the church.” Moreover, the words, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” [Colossians 3:16] &c., indicate that this service is, after all, “a more difficult way of teaching than that of the common gift of exhortation;” and it has only to be mentioned to show “the unmeetness of the weakest youth or virgin in the church admonishing and teaching the pastor, as much as the pastor teacheth and admonisheth them” in the due performance of this duty. “This is to make all the body a mouth, and wholly to take away the use of the ear, whilst Psalms are thus being sung.” Much more could be urged “for all praying at once than for all singing at once. Prayer is the pouring out of our hearts to God, and not to one another; but in Psalms we speak to one another, and therefore, of necessity, some must hear.”         Grantham next touches on the practice of “the Primitive Church in singing of Psalms;” and contends that “no other way” was in use except that already explained. The “singing at the Last Supper” is no proof to the contrary. To say nothing about the doubt as to the meaning of the word; whether, that is, the hymn was said or sung, there is no statement as to who said this hymn, or sung it, and there is no evidence what the hymn was. “In fact,” says Grantham, “there is nothing to justify such a confused singing as many use in these days, either in the account of the Last Supper in the Gospel, or in the description of this sacred ordinance given by Paul. The Apostle does speak (1 Cor. 10) of ‘the cup of blessing which we bless;’ but he gives us no account of the hymn or psalm used by our Saviour at that holy Manducation. Moreover, in the prison at Philippi, Paul and Silas did not pray together, neither did they sing together, but they both prayed and sang “by course.” So, in writing about “saying, Amen, at the giving of thanks,” the Apostle does not favour “promiscuous singing by many voices together, as in parochial assemblies, or other congregations of Christians;” but “quite overthrows it, since he makes it necessary that the voice that giveth thanks, or singeth, be intelligible to him that stands by, as much as it ought to be in prayer, that so the rest may be edified, and give their Amen to what is expressed in prayer or praises.” In the “noise” of promiscuous singing, “musick may please the ear,” but none can be edified. “Indeed,” says Grantham, “this new device of singing what is put in men’s mouths by a reader;” this singing, either “David’s Psalms, or their own composures, in a mixed multitude of voices;” this singing, not merely “in parochial assemblies, but by those that think themselves more happy, in that they have found out a way to compose hymns themselves, and set them out, that others may sing the same things with them,” is not only “wholly without any example from any of the Primitive Churches of Christ,” but is “foreign to the sincerity and simplicity of this holy service.” Once introduce the habit of “tying all to one man’s words, measures, and tones, in so great an ordinance” as this, and you will “make a fair way for forms of prayer” to follow.         Grantham finds no little satisfaction in the fact, “that many good men of antient and latter times have greatly disliked the musical way of singing Psalms;” and in the third section he quotes a few instances in point. There is Augustine, for example. “Very fierce am I sometimes,” says Augustine, “in the desire of having the melody of all pleasant music, (to which David’s Psalter is often sang), banished from mine own ears, and out of the whole church too; yea, the safer way, as it seemed to me, which I remember to have often told me, of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who caused the reader of the Psalm to sound it forth with little warbling of the voice, as that it was near to pronouncing than to singing.” Rabanus Maurice also declares that in the Primitive Church “singing was more like loud reading than a song.” Athanasus, moreover, so disliked “a confused way of psalmody that he utterly forbad it, since it raised both lightness and vanity in singers and hearers.” Erasmus, in his comment on 1 Cor. 10 points out how “in monasteries, cathedrals, and temples, almost generally” men dissent from Paul, for in “Paul’s time there was no singing, but saying only.” Theodosius Basil, also, in his Book of Relics, tells us of some strange innovations made by Pope Vatalian:—”Being a lusty singer, and a fresh courageous musician himself, brought into the Church prick-song, descant, and all kinds of sweet and pleasant melody. And because nothing should want to delight the vain, foolish, and idle ears of fond and phantastical men, he joyned the organs to the curious musical. Thus was Paul’s preaching, and Peter’s praying, turned into vain singing and childish playing, unto the great loss of time, and to the utter undoing of Christian men’s souls, which live not by singing and piping, but by every word that cometh out of the mouth of God.” Church music was indeed introduced two centuries before, “though not with these curiosities.” And the “vanity thereof hath ever been censured by wise men, and particularly by Dr. Cornelius Agrippa. ‘Music,’ saith he, ‘is grown to such and so great licentiousness, that even in the ministration of the Holy Sacrament, all kinds of light, wanton, and trifling songs, with piping of organs, hath place. As for Common Prayer, it is so chanted and minced, and mangled by our costly hired musicians, that it may justly seem not to be a noise made by men, but rather a bleating of brute beasts; whiles the children neigh out a descant, as it were a sort of colts, others bark a counter tenor like a number of dogs. Some bellow out a tenor, like a company of oxen; and. others grunt out a bass, like a company of hogs, so that a very ill-favoured sound is made: but as for the words and sentences, nothing is understood but the authority and power of judgment from the ears and heart.'”         This quotation seems to Grantham “to give fit occasion to show something of the vanities formerly in use in cathedral devotions, and now in common use in several places in this nation.” He, therefore, quotes one of the collects as generally sung, “and the manner thus”:—”Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, of all wisdom; which knoweth our necessities before we ask, which knoweth our necessities before we ask, before, before we ask, before we ask; and our ignorance in asking, in asking, in asking. We beseech Thee, we beseech Thee, we beseech Thee, to have compassion, to have compassion, to have compassion, on our infirmities, on our infirmities, infirmities, our infirmities. And those things, those things, those things, which for our unworthiness, which for our unworthiness, unworthiness, our unworthiness, which for unworthiness, we dare not, we dare not, we dare not; and for our blindness, our blindness, for our blindness, we cannot ask, we cannot ask, we cannot ask: Vouchsafe to give us, vouchsafe to give us, for the worthiness, for the worthiness; of Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, of Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Jesus Christ our Lord, of Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.”         However much Grantham may have disliked these “vain repetitions,” or however greatly he may have admired the sharp things said about Church music by “some ancient and latter writers,” it is somewhat strange that one so well-informed did not notice the fact that congregational singing was destroyed by these innovations, not created; that the clerical Cantores took the singing entirely out of the mouth of the people generally; that later on, one of the signs of men being disciples of Huss and Luther was, that they sung Psalms together; and that many suppose this practice earned for the Lollards their distinctive name.         In the fourth section Grantham discourses on what he deems “the sure way of praising God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, according to the Scripture.” He dismisses the example of singing, accompanied by musical instruments, set forth in the Old Testament, as a concession to the “gross hearts of the Jews,” as belonging to what Calvin calls “the law of schooling, and now no more meet for setting forth God’s glory, than if a man should call again censing, lamps, and other shadows of the law. Foolishly, therefore, have the Papists borrowed these things from the Jews.” Since, then, “singing in tunes and measures by a company of singing men, or a confused multitude, will be found to be as much borrowed from the Jews, as the musical instruments themselves, . . . and the law of these ceremonies being peculiar to the Jewish Church, and in no ways transmitted to the Church of Christ by any part of Christ’s doctrine in the New Testament, … it remains that we stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”         As to the matter of singing, in New Testament Churches, “it must be the Word of God, or that which is according to it, seated in the soul of the Christian, and not as it may be read to them out of a book only, and then repeated.” “David’s Psalms and other Divine hymns, contained in the Scriptures, are good presidents and guides to us in the performance of this duty; but to take these Psalms barely as they lie, and to sing them; or to translate them into metre, and then to sing them; or to take them as others have translated them into metre, and so to sing them, is that which we find not so much as one of the Primitive Christians to have done before us; and how we should suppose such things to be acceptable to God in His worship, I know not.” It is not “a bare recital of Sacred Scripture” that is implied; but “some part of the heavenly mystery, or mind of God contained therein, with a present capacity of fitness and spirit to sound forth His praise that giveth the Word, and to the profit of the Church.” But this is a gift not bestowed upon every one, any more than the ability to edify; yet “he that hath a Psalm, or gift to praise God in His Church, ought to sing there to edify others.”         The same things are virtually repeated when speaking “of the manner how Christians are to sing praises to God in church assemblies,” only with greater detail. “The only certain and undoubted manner is this:—That such persons as God hath gifted to tell forth His mighty acts, and to recount His special Providences, and upon whose hearts God hath put a lively sense of present mercies, should have the liberty and convenient opportunity to celebrate the high praises of God, one by one;” that all this is “to be done with a pleasant and cheerful voice, that may serve to express the joys conceived in the heart of him that singeth, the better to affect the hearts of all the congregation with the wondrous works of God, and the continual goodness which He sheweth toward the children of men, and especially towards His people.” This method “of one only singing the praises of God is perhaps but rarely done in these days, at least not as it should be; yet I know not of any that deny the thing to be lawful.” It certainly requires “as great an ability, and as spiritual a mind, as any other service performed in the churches, and therefore calls for as great study, and holy waiting upon God for His help in the performance or ministerial part thereof.”         But as for “plain song, prick-song, descant, or other poetical strains,” they are “men’s devices,” and “very much unlike the gravity of Christian worship.” “The very Papists deride the singing of David’s Psalms in a rhythmical way,” especially those translated by Beza, calling them “Geneva jiggs;” and the use of such Psalms, “though better translated than they are, as a part of our rational worship is thought by one writer to be as ridiculous as making our addresses to persons in authority by epistles and orations out of Tully.” To which Grantham rejoins: “But if David’s Psalms, though better translated than they are, will not pass in the judgment of this learned Protestant for a part of rational worship, I marvel how such as pretend to a higher pitch of reformation should think that their private poetisms should find acceptance in the churches of God. How much better is it to content ourselves where we are than to take up such fancies? “Musical singing with a multitude of voices together in rhime and metre is liable,” says Grantham, “to so many just exceptions, as may caution any good Christian to beware of it.”         (1) The very founders and uses soon became disgusted with it. (2) The very novelty of it makes against it. (3) Instruction is prevented, “for when all speak, none can hear;” and “spiritual gifts are drowned by the voice of men and women who have no gifts at all.” (4) None so singing “can be confident they have done the will of God.” (5) Singing other men’s words “opens a gap for forms of prayer.” (6) It makes void the way of singing which is undoubtedly warranted. (7) Once permit the singing by art pleasant tunes, and you will bring music, and even instruments back again into public worship, and then, farewell all solemnity. (8) You even make this proposition true—that no Christian Church is complete in the order of God’s worship, without some skill in poetry and music.         Grantham closes by saying, “I would not be understood to censure those that differ from me in understanding or practice in this particular, who have a pious mind in setting forth God’s praises in some of the modes opposed”—a charity which was unfortunately not largely imitated, as we shall presently see. He however wishes that ” the baptized churches especially would more seriously consider this matter than hitherto, that this service might be better known to the glory of God and the good of the churches.”

Mr. Keach introduces Singing at Horselydown

The words of Grantham point to a change which was already beginning to creep slowly over some of the songless sanctuaries of the Baptists, at least of the other section, if not of his own. Among the persons ”who had found out a way to compose hymns, and set them out that others might sing the same things with them,” was Benjamin Keach, who had already been, at the time Grantham published his book, for ten years the devoted and exemplary pastor of Goat-street, Horselydown. Indeed, according to one complainant, Mr. Keach was the first minister who introduced singing in that church; but the only concession originally permitted was, that they should sing after the Lord’s Supper. To the great trouble of the unmusical brethren in the church, “many of the honest hearers, who stayed to see that holy administration, sung with them.” The next innovation was, singing on public thanksgiving days; but this was continued for a brief period, and is spoken of in 1691 as ceasing twelve or fourteen years previously. An attempt was made to revive it when a stranger occupied the pulpit, and apparently with some little success. The minister “had ended his exercise, when a hymn was given up to him, we know not,” say the songless few, “by whom, (except it were by Mr. Keach’s means,) which he read and sung, and the people with him; but this was not in the least by the appointment of the church, but was an imposition on them, and a surprise to the minister himself, and his great trouble, when he had considered of it, as he himself told many of us afterwards.”

Keach’s Defence of Singing

The dissentients at Horselydown found a valorous champion in Isaac Marlow, who had, in 1690, published a Discourse Concerning—or rather against—Singing. Mr. Keach followed with his Breach Repaired in God’s Worship; or, Singing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, proved to be a holy ordinance of Jesus Christ. Very gravely and very soberly does the good pastor set to work, in this book, to show “that there are various kinds of voices; namely, (1) a shouting noise of the tongue; (2) a crying noise; (3) a preaching voice, or noise made that way; (4) a praying, or praising voice; and, lastly, (5) a singing voice. All these,” says Mr. Reach, without a smile (in fact his face, judged from the portrait prefixed to one edition of his book, looks as if it could rarely smile), “are distinct from each other. Singing,” he declares, “is not a simple heart singing, or mental singing; but a musical melodious modulation, or tuning of the voice.” “Singing is a duty performed always with the voice, and cannot be done without the tongue.” The duty of singing is then enforced on various grounds. It is an ancient practice: “angels sang at the first creation.” “The devil hates it, is a great enemy of singing, and doth not love the Hosannas to Christ.” It is a moral duty. It is right to use the faculty we have for singing, since God creates nothing in vain. It is a part of natural religion. It has been practised by God’s people in all ages: before the giving of the Law, under the Law, under the Gospel, and after Apostolic times.         Keach, according to Marlow, had twelve months before the publication of this book, “vehemently pressed forward” the duty of singing, at “the first and greatest Assembly” of Particular Baptists, challenged to dispute the matter, and had been accepted; but the Assembly “thought it not convenient to spend much time that way.” He also points out that Hercules Collins was the first to broach the assertion among the Particular Baptists that singing was “a public duty,” in his appendix to his Orthodox Catechism, published in 1680; and that Keach followed in the same strain both in his Tropes and Figures (1682), and his Treatise on Baptism, or Gold Refined (1689).

“The Leader of the Opposition”—Isaac Marlow

The controversy once opened, was carried on with great eagerness on both sides for the next eight or ten years. Marlow followed Keach’s Breach Repaired, by a treatise entitled The Truth Soberly Defended (1692). Singing is therein designated “false worship,” “error,” “dangerous and destructive to the peace and well-being of our churches, and to the pure worship of God therein,” a practice from which he hopes all “sober, impartial, and inquiring Christians, may keep themselves undented.” Hanserd Knollys had printed a sheet for singing, often quoted against Marlow; but Marlow thinks, that the strictures in that on himself are to be charitably judged as arising ”through the failure of Knollys’ intellects, he being then between ninety-two and ninety-three years of age.” As for Joseph Wright’s book, Folly Detected, animadverting on Marlow’s first publication, “it showeth folly in the face of it, wherein there is neither spiritual savour, nor common civility; but in divers parts of it a breathing forth of passion, anger, and great contempt.” Hard words, with a vengeance: but in this singing controversy a good many hard words were uttered, and men’s passions ran high. Even Mr. Keach has dealt out to him a fair share of rebuke. Marlow complains of being styled by both Wright and Keach, “a person not fit to meddle with divine things,” a man “that plays the part of a sophister,” “justifying Quaker’s silent meetings,” “little better than an enthusiast,” “a mischievous person who fires his neighbour’s house, and burns down his own,” “a ridiculous scribbler,” “a brazen forehead,” “a non-churcher,” “a ranter,” “a novice,” “an ignoramus,” and other equally contemptuous terms. “By this way,” says Marlow, “they have laboured to aliene the minds of Christians from me.”         There is a good deal of querulous complaint in Marlow’s book; but these expressions show how much occasion had been given for his reference to Mr. Keach’s “hot spirit.” The singing every Lord’s-day at Horselydown, which was the third innovation, had, in Marlow’s judgment, been smuggled in by unfair means. “A church-meeting was called on Sunday evening after the public worship was over.” Mr. Keach obtained a majority of votes; but, adds Marlow, “a major vote is no proof of truth.” Unquestionably: but the point to be decided then was, not “the truth,” but the adoption of singing after every service on the Sunday. The majority carried the day; but the dissentients soon after seceded from Horselydown, formed themselves into a fresh community, and established the church-meeting at Maze Pond. [They continued to adhere steadfastly to the principle of the original constitution till after the death of their second minister, Rev. Edward “Wallen; but Abraham West, in 1739, made it a condition of his accepting the pastoral office, that singing should be introduced into public worship.”—Wilson’s Dissenting Churches.]         The hearty personalities of several pamphlets published at this time on the singing controversy, led the Particular Baptist General Assembly, for the credit of the denomination, to take up the matter. Seven brethren were appointed to examine certain pamphlets, and report thereon, the offenders agreeing to abide by their decision. Marlow was not among them. The committee sharply reproved the pamphleteers for “their uncharitable, unsavoury censures, reflections, and reproaches.” The books were desired to be brought in, and left at the disposal of the Assembly. The writers were warned, that if they repeated their offences, “they will be remarked;” but they are entreated by the committee, “on their knees, to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” The members of the churches were besought neither “to buy, sell, give, or disperse,” certain pamphlets named, among which was Marlow’s Truth Soberly Defended.         Crosby is evidently in error when he says that “a stop was thus put to the troubles that threatened the baptized churches upon this controversy;” although it may be quite true that “many of them from that time sung the praises of God in their public assemblies who had not used that practice before.” [Crosby, vol. iii. 271.] Marlow’s Controversy of Singing brought to an end was issued a few years subsequently; and instead of ending the debate, gave it a fresh impetus. In this book Marlow thus states the difference between himself and his opponents:—”The question between us and our brethren is not, whether any such thing as vocal melodious singing is exhorted unto in the New Testament, for this we freely own; but the controversie lyes herein, viz.:         (1) Whether the saints were moved to the exercise of it in the Apostle’s time, only as an extraordinary spiritual gift, depending on divine inspiration as some other gifts did; or, that it was appointed as a constant gospel ordinance in the church in an ordinary administration also. (2) In what external manner it was thus exercised; whether, in a prestinted form of words, made in artificial rhimes; or, as the Spirit, by His more immediate dictates, gave them utterance. And (3) Who was it that sang? Whether the minister sang alone; or with him a promiscuous assembly of professors, and profane men and women, with united voices together.”

Marlow’s Strictures on Alien’s Essay

Another singing brother had entered the lists in place of Mr. Keach—Mr. Richard Alien. This worthy minister had shown his willingness to suffer for the truth during the times of persecution. He had been pastor of the church at Turners’ Hall for many years, and was now minister at Barbican. During his previous pastorate he had been fined, and had lain for some weeks in Newgate. On one occasion, whilst preaching at the early hour of five o’clock in the morning, some troopers surprised the congregation, abused the people, and from being incensed against the preacher, threw one of the forms at him as he stood in the pulpit. Although regarded as a General Baptist in sentiment, his chief friends were among the Particular Baptist ministers. Sympathising with Mr. Keach’s opinions on singing, he had published An Essay to Prove Singing of Psalms with Conjoint Voices, a Christian Duty. Marlow now turns his facile sword to meet the new comer. Mr. Alien had urged, in his Essay, that as men had the faculty not only for praising God in their hearts, but also in their mouths, it was therefore their moral duty to use both faculties. “Is it?” says Marlow. “Then why not all other faculties too—dancing, laughing, shouting, whistling, since these are as much faculties as singing?” Mr. Alien thinks men may use a Scriptural form of sound words in prayer. But it follows not, therefore, that there is any ground for men of a failable [fallible] spirit to compose a form of prayer in their own words, and impose it upon others. “Exactly so,” adds Marlow, “and we have the same dislike to stinted forms of hymns made by Mr. Alien and his fellow-singers, unless he would have us believe him and them to be infailable penmen of hymns for Gospel worship.” Nay, even “the utterance of David’s words, ‘As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks,’ is to teach people hypocrisy.” Mr. Alien does not think, on the other hand, “that there is anything in the Psalms but what every Christian, by the gracious illumination and influence of the Holy Spirit, may sing with a truly Christian spirit, and with much comfort and edification to themselves;” in which opinion he will now be supported by thousands of godly men. But Marlow makes merry over this statement, and asks, “Whether they can so sing for their comfort and edification, ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, I understand more than the ancients;’ but if every one, or any, of Mr. Alien’s church should tell him so, in the common way of speaking, I query if he would not think them wise in their own conceits.” As to Mr. Alien’s assertion, that some of the Psalms were written in rhyme, “it shows that he is no Hebrew scholar;” “the rhyming at the end” of the Psalms he quotes “only happen so;” and “several Jews,” to whom Marlow had appealed, declared “that there were no rhymes in the Hebrew.”         The taste for congregational singing had evidently spread in London since the controversy began, from the fact that Marlow now “grieves that so many of our London elders and ministers are blemished with such rotten notions,” and that “our holy profession and reformation is stained with so great a faction as they have raised.” The practice of congregational singing will, in his opinion, lead to “baptism, and all upholders of it, being contemned and frowned at,” whatever expenditure there may be of labour and men “to stop the gap that is opening.” At the thought of his own efforts, Marlow grows prophetic:—”Whether our singing elders and fellow Christians will hear, or whether they will forbear; I believe that my testimony to the truth will outlive them, and their folly, committed in God’s Israel, whatever may become of me.” But “where, with your innovations,” says Marlow, “do you design to stop?” “You have introduced this ‘piece of false worship:’ what will be the next?”         As to the men whose names were put to A Sober Reply to Mr. R. Steed’s Epistles, they have thereby proclaimed themselves the ringleaders in this innovation; forgetting that “since the yoak of persecution has been taken from off our necks there has been woful demonstrations of decay, of true godliness, and such troubles and disorders as I have never heard of among us before, the occasion whereof in part has arisen from this piece of false worship which they have appeared for, and so have endeavoured to introduce into our churches.”         “Even Mr. Keach’s failure to get the sanction of the General Assembly to his love of singing, did not deter one of your number, Mr. Thomas Whinnel, from attempting, at the last meeting, craftily and surreptitiously, in combination with others, on the last day of the Assembly, when most of the country messengers were gone home, and many of the messengers of the churches in the city were absent, a time intended only for them that remained to put in order what had been agreed on in the former days of their Assembly that it might be presented to the churches—did then present something to be debated concerning persons retaining their communion with a church whereof they were members, though the practice of common singing were contrary to their common judgment and consciences set up in it; but being then so unseasonably presented in the absence of the greater part of the Assembly, it was witnessed against by many then present, as that which was not fit to be debated at that time; it savouring more of a political contrivance, than of honesty and candour.”         These queries of Marlow, addressed to the same persons, read strangely enough in our day: “(1) Whether you believe it lawful, by the command of God, for you that are members of a separate baptized church, to have full communion at the Lord’s table, with a church of the Independent profession, who are not baptized on a profession of faith, but only sprinkled in their infancy? (2) Whether you count it lawful for you to have such full communion with those Independent brethren, and can sing with them, as they do in public worship, that then you have any ground to make it a case of conscience to maintain a separate church state from them?”         Marlow singles out, among the special advocates for congregational singing who deserve his censure, William Kiffin, Robert Steed, George Barrat, and E. Man. They are all charged, like Keach, with “vehemently and frequently pressing the question” on the attention of various Assemblies, with preaching this “common set-form of singing,” and “with inserting in print in the view of all men “their opinions thereon. For his own part, he is full of fear about this “piece of human art, introduced for a piece of gospel worship.” “Trouble and distraction” have already come as the consequence; and “unless the churches themselves use great care and faithfulness in preserving the purity of those congregations that are better principled than their elders, or some of their ministers, a few years will produce a great alteration in divers of our churches about London.” To such an extent had “the infection” of “set-form singing” spread, that, in Marlowe’s opinion, there were in 1696 but few churches in the metropolis, “but what have either their elders or their ministers” under its poison. “When the better principled are removed by death, these men will step into their places; and then, with their removal, and the wearing away of the ancient members,—what may we expect? It will be, as Dr. Owen says, ‘Like priest, like people.'”

E. H.’s “Scripture Proof”

The same year that Marlow published his last book (1696), a certain “E. H.” issued a book, entitled, Scripture Proof for Singing of Scripture Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Or, an Answer to several Queries and Objections frequently made use of to stumble and turn aside young Christians from their duty to God in singing Psalms gathered out of Scripture Truth. To which is added, the Testimony of some Learned Men to Prove that Scripture Psalms are intended by all those three words, Psalms, Hymns, and Songs, used by the Apostles—Eph. 5:19;         Col. 3:16.” The book was prefaced by “an Epistle,” signed by Nathaniel Mather and Edward Chauncy, which runs as follows: “The author is by face wholly unknown to us; but we have, with much satisfaction and delight, perused his ensuing treatise, finding it to be solid and judicious, and full of Scripture light and strength, and singularly adapted and suited to enlighten and establish plain Christians, whose consciences are determined by, and faith bottomed in, the Scriptures. As to his opinion, that nothing should be sung in public worship but Scripture Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, thereby excluding the hymns of human composure, by a private gift, which some sing in their solemn assemblies, we do freely concur with him; and heartily wish that those who practice otherwise would a little better consider what they do. We know not anything that such can allege for their way, seeing God hath furnished us with such full supply of spiritual songs of His own inditing, and seeing there is not any intimation in the Scriptures that it was ever practised among the people of God of old.”

Dr. Russell on Alien’s Essay

Yet another pamphlet appeared in this somewhat prolific year of the singing controversy, 1696. This time our valiant old friend. Dr. Russell, breaks a lance with Mr. Richard Alien. He styles his book, Some Brief Animadversions on Mr. Alien’s Essay. Mr. Alien had argued that “the common practice of singing with rhime, and conjoint voices was a Christian duty,” and Dr. Russell, being one of the old fashioned General Baptists, who disbelieved in such singing altogether, undertakes to “examine” Mr. Alien’s arguments and “refute” them. The book is valuable, if only for the side-lights thrown on Baptists of that time, apart from the special subject on which it treats. Like Marlow, Russell grieves over “the late troublers of the denomination, who have introduced this new human invention of singing David’s Psalms in rhime and metre, with conjoint voices;” and also, like Marlow, he hopes the words he addresses “to the messengers, elders, and brethren of the baptized” churches, may be the means of restoring union and peace. He points out the fact, that some of the ministers who endorsed Mr. Alien’s Essay, “and fixed their names to it by way of approbation, omit to practice singing in their own congregations;” and declares that “Mr. Keach’s, and some other congregations are the sole representatives of the modern innovation.” It is also a source of grief that these innovators “have corrupted some of our young men with this notion of theirs about singing,” especially singling out one of them by name—”that hopeful young branch, Mr. Thomas Harrison.” The defection is the more painful to Dr. Russell, since “his (Mr. Harrison’s) father was once a parish minister, had his eyes opened about singing in the art of singing, and regarded the common way of singing as will-worship, as much as Common Prayer or infant’s sprinkling;” and this “indiscreet action” does not “bespeak that respect for his father’s memory which he ought to show.” Before this “hopeful young branch had endorsed Mr. Alien’s Essay,” he ought to have been able to answer the grounds of his father’s opinion to the contrary. Yet, he “does not blame him so much as others; and, notwithstanding this slip, he has more honourable thoughts of him than it is proper here to express.”         We shall see presently how “young Mr. T. H.” answers Dr. Russell’s public appeal to him. There is also another challenge to his opponents of harsh treatment, or at any rate, “of unkindness to their old servant who wrote the Queries, since they have turned him out of his house, and taken all his salary from him, notwithstanding he was one of their own members, and had served them faithfully, even to old age, and is yet in communion with them.” This is also answered by-and-bye.         Russell waxes very indignant as he thinks of the singing of “rhimes by a set-form,” in baptized congregations, and “that by all the people together, whether saints or sinners, members or no members, whether they are young or old, understand or not understand, what is sung.” It is a “mere human invention of ballad singing!” cries out the irate doctor. “Why, it first began with Clement Marot, the groom of the bedchamber of the French King, Francis 1st. He used to make songs for the king; and was at last prevailed upon by Fr. Vetablus, to relinquish his trifling doggrel, and to turn David’s Psalms into French metre; that he did thus translate the first thirty; and the king sang them, as he had done the former ballads. After this, Beza and Calvin encouraged Marot, when at Geneva, to turn more of them into rhime; and they were then brought into use in their Assemblies.” If Mr. Alien cannot bring another instance of David’s Psalms being translated into metre in any language before this attempt of Marot’s, “let him forbear thus fooling with his new method of ballad-singing; for it is no better.” Even self-interest might have some weight. “Your ballad-singing hath a tendency to your ruin, having begun already to diminish your numbers, and two congregations are obliged to unite into one to keep up their reputation, and supply that deficiency singing in rhime hath made in the loss of their members. A greater part of your members that remain are so dissatisfied, that so soon as you begin to tune your pipes, they immediately depart, like men affrighted.”         After declaring, like Marlow, that there was no rhime in Hebrew; and if the Jews sang, their customs are not binding upon us, Dr. Russell bursts out into the following rhetorical passage:—”The king’s daughter now is all glorious within, endowed with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, and is to act all her duties from a principle of grace and holiness. She needs no instruments of music to stir her affections, nor any flesh-pleasing tunes, or musical rhimes, to make her merry; for the Spirit fills her with joy and peace through believing; and when He hath a mind to glorify Himself by any outward melody, He will not want the assistance of our singers to dictate tunes to express it by. And, indeed, it is strange they should think that no praise offered up to God, in and through His Son, should please Him so well as the rhimes of Hopkins, Sternhold, and others.”

Alien’s “Vindication”

Of course, Mr. Alien very soon followed Dr. Russell’s Animadversions, with A Brief Vindication of an Essay to prove Singing of Psalms, &c., from Dr. Russell’s Animadversions, and Mr. Marloic’s Remarks, &c. In fact, the three pamphlets all appeared in the same year. Mr. Alien hopes, in his “Address to the Christian reader,” “if he is a little sharp, it will be admitted with a candid interpretation, considering the temper of the man with whom he has to deal;” and “the five champions,” as Russell called the men who endorsed Mr. Alien’s previous book (Joseph Maisters, William Collins, Joseph Stennett, John Pigott, and Thomas Harrison) have also their “address to the reader.” They “see no reason to retract their words of praise.” They are “not convinced by the animadverter, whatever swelling words he may use against Mr. Alien.” They would seriously ask him, “Whether he has used his pen as became a Christian, nay, as became a man of good sense and temper; whether a charitable disposition of mind would not set him off to better advantage than all these big pretences to a great stock of reason and learning, the vain and empty conceit of which, while it prompts him to look down upon others with a supercilious scorn, renders him, in reality, an object of pity than the envy of those that are truly learned and ingenious.” Again, we say, these are hard words; but harder follow. The “five champions” wish Dr. Russell “ballast with sail, and that his heart may be as well furnished as his head.” They are “troubled that he could not satisfy his resentment, and blunt the edge of his passion in striking at their little names, without profanely ridiculing an ordinance of God; and hope he will beware of unsavoury jests in the future.”         That there was really some ground for these strictures, Mr. Alien proceeds to show. Dr. Russell had declared that Mr. Alien and his friends were “guilty of adding to the Word of God,” of “detracting from it,” of “dealing deceitfully with it,” of “using strategems to beguile the ignorant and the unstable souls,” of “cheating English readers,” of “wilfully or ignorantly opposing against the truth,” of “belieing the Son of God,” and ” f bringing a dreadful curse upon themselves.” As for Beza, “he was an old friend and merry companion,” “a buffoon, and common ballad maker;” and as for Mr. Alien, and his friends, “they were ballad-singers, and made a noise like madmen.”         Mr. Alien then proceeds to note some of the misconceptions of Dr. Russell as to his own view of the question in dispute. He certainly thinks that “it is lawful for one voice alone to sing the praises of God; but, in a public assembly, it is much more warrantable for the whole congregation to sing together with conjoint voices, than for one person to sing there alone;” that he and his friends “sing psalms in rhime, not as the only way, but as the most facile way to sing them harmoniously;” that even “rhime and metre” are not absolutely necessary to singing praises to God in a proper sense, “but the use of the voice” is necessary. As for the doctor’s remarks about Hebrew, he has a good deal to say, and quotes various passages to show his assertions were not without warrant, among others the song of Miriam. He could also justify the same inequality of lines from Cowley’s Ode on the Passion of Christ,” and then breaks out into a little ode of his own:—

“Alas! great Cowley! famous in thy time!
It now appears thou’st neither verge nor rhime,
In these unequal lines, which lamely go—
Silence!—the Cambridge doctor says ’tis so.”

As to the slander about “the Querist” being turned out of his house, Alien remarks, “whereas his place is conferred upon a person as much different from us in the point of singing as himself; and the author of the Queries well knows that it was not me, but one nearer to himself, that was the cause of his being desired to quit his lodgings, of which I suppose the doctor could not be ignorant.”         Thomas Harrison adds a postscript to Alien’s pamphlet; in which he declares, that “it cannot but touch me to my quick to be charged with disrespect to my father’s memory. I never knew that a son’s being of a judgment different from his father, and publishing it to the world, was inconsistent to his father’s memory. I was but just entered upon the sixth year of my age when my honoured father exchanged this life for a better; so that it is not very probable that I should remember his instructions about singing, if he gave any; and seeing that he never wrote upon the subject, I must needs be unacquainted with them.” As to his name appearing with the other four to Mr. Alien’s pamphlet, “no man asked me but Mr. Alien. I did not speak with the others about it. I needed no persuasion; but subscribed freely, and see now no cause to repent.”         Alien adds a second postscript, in which, after showing that he also went to the same Jews as Marlow, and got a somewhat different answer, they contending for equal feet as rhyme, and he that it meant like sounds at the end of the lines; and firing a farewell shot at Dr. Russell, as agreeing with “Julian, the apostate, who was the only opposer among the ancients of the statement about the Psalms rhyming,” he concludes, with words of charity and hope: “As we believe our brethren that neglect singing the praise of God live (through mistake), in the omission of that which is to us an undoubted duty, yet we are willing to bear lovingly with them till they are further enlightened; so we hope, notwithstanding Mr. Marlow’s suggestion about the ejection of all such ministers, that they will also walk lovingly and peaceably with us as brethren.”         There is a third postscript from W. Collins, “to the Christian reader.” This explains how a passage which had been falsely translated, came to appear. Collins lays the blame on the printer’s overseer, who altered the translation himself, on his own responsibility; and Collins demanding that the leaf on which the misrendering occurs should be reprinted and inserted in the end. Marlow still repeated his charge, and Collins brought the matter before an Assembly of elders and messengers of the Devonshire-square meeting, when, Marlow having nothing to say in defence, was condemned. Dr. Russell is also charged with repeating the slander, since Marlow’s discomfiture; “but,” says Collins, with some heat, “a man that favours his (Russell’s) notions, although a vile blasphemer, as Servetus, or a popishly-affected doctor (Wilson), shall have his high enconiums; but he that opposeth him, in the least degree, must expect a dose of his most churlish physick. The Lord forgive him, and such as walk in his steps.”

Claridge’s Reply to Alien

The following year, Richard Claridge, a new combatant enters the arena. Claridge was once rector of Poppleton, Warwickshire; and, adopting Baptist sentiments, was baptized in 1691, at Bromsgrove. He settled in London as the pastor of Bagnio-court church, afterwards removed to Currier’s Hall, better known as the Cripplegate meeting. He was a man of considerable learning, as his pamphlet shows. After a short time Claridge became a Quaker. His Answer to Richard Alien’s Essay, Vindication, and Appendix was at first approved by Steed and Marlow; but greatly altering “the copy” before it appeared, these unmusical brethren withdrew their endorsement, and as a consequence only eight sheets out of the twenty were printed. A single citation, his objection to angels singing, is all we can find space to give:—”This is a dark region our souls are now in; and we know but very little of the state and employment of the heavenly angels. That they are glorious spirits, and do continually adore and magnify God, the Holy Scriptures inform us; but that they praise Him with vocal singing, the Sacred Records are not only silent, but it is also work incompetent to spirits, as such, who are incorporeal beings, and so incapable, through the defects of proper external organs, of a vocal celebration of His adorable perfections.”         How many other pamphlets on the subject of singing were issued after this period, it is not easy to discover. But the practice of congregational singing was still advocated by many ministers long before the churches were willing to adopt it. William Collins tried hard to introduce it into the church at Petty France, in 1698, but without effect; yet after Mr. Collins’ death, in 1702, the attempt was renewed by his successor with better success; although a division was occasioned by it, and the secedera went off to Turner’s Hall, and invited Ebenezer Wilson, from Bristol, to be their minister. This is the history of other churches in London, and elsewhere, at least among the Particular Baptists; but the records of many of these struggles have not been preserved.

[A pious and aged woman once visited Dr. Gill, to relieve her mind of her great trouble. It came out that her grief arose from a new tune which the clerk of Carterlane had just introduced. “Sister,” asked Dr. Gill, “do you understand singing?” “No, sir.” “What? can’t you sing?” “No, sir.” The doctor, dealing gently with her on account of her age, rejoined, “Sister, what tunes should you like to sing?” “Why, sir, I should very much like to sing David’s tunes.” “Well,” said Dr. Gill, “if you can get David’s tunes, we will try to sing them!”]

General Baptists and Singing

The General Baptists continued to oppose congregational singing for a still longer period than their Calvinistic brethren, Grantham’s opinions and influence were still predominant until so late as 1733. Before the controversy fairly began among the Particular Baptists, it was thought needful by the General Baptist Assembly in 1689 “to consider the question of promiscuous singing Psalms, either the whole together, or they in conjunction with those who were not of their communion.” The record of the case is very curious, and throws some little further light on the matter. “The persons holding the affirmative in this question were desired to show the Assembly what Psalms they made use of for the matter, and what rules they did settle upon, for the manner.” There was thereupon produced, “not the metres composed by Messrs. Sternhold and Hopkins, but a book of metres composed by one Mr. Barton, and the rules produced to sing these Psalms as set down secundem artem; viz., as the musicians do sing according to their gamut,—Sol, fa, la, my, ray, &c., &c.; which appeared so strangely foreign to the evangelical worship that it was not conceived anywise safe for the churches to admit such carnal formalities; but to rest satisfied in this, till we can see something more perfect in this case, that as prayer of one in the church is the prayer of the whole, as a church, so the singing of one in the church is the singing of the whole church; and as he that prayeth in the church is to perform the service as of the ability which God giveth, even so, he that singing praises in the church ought to perform that service as of the ability received of God; that as a mournful voice becomes the duty of prayer, so a joyful voice, “with gravity, becomes the duty of praising God with a song in the Church of God.” This opinion was endorsed “with the general approbation of the Assembly.”         Nearly fifty years after this, that is, in 1733, a case was presented to the General Assembly of the General Baptists from Northamptonshire, complaining “that some churches in their district among the General Baptists had fallen into the way of singing the Psalms of David, or other men’s composures, with tunable notes, and a mixed multitude; which way of singing,” say the complainants, “appears to us wholly unwarrantable from the Word of God.” The Northamptonshire Association want to know whether the General Assembly look upon this as “a thing indifferent,” or whether they “disapprove of it, and use any means to bring men off from it.” To them it appears “an innovation.” The Assembly confessed, “that though some very few practise singing in a manner different from us in the general,” yet that that was not a sufficient reason for their exclusion. There did not appear, in the Assembly’s judgment, any clear statement in Scripture about the manner of singing, although singing itself is frequently mentioned. They would that all were of one mind; “but as the weakness of human understanding is such that things appear in different lights to different persons, such a concord is rather to be desired than expected in this world.” They were, therefore, unwilling, either to dispute the question, or to impose their opinion and practise upon others.         On the commencement of the Eighteenth Century congregational singing was at a low ebb in this country, even in the Establishment. One writer declares that many church choirs had only half a dozen tunes, or fewer, from which to select; and as for “our quality and gentry,” says Nathaniel Tate, “you may hear them in the responses, and reading-psalms; but the giving out of a singing-psalm seems to strick them dumb.” A better version of the Psalms,* and a larger and more varied stock of tunes, soon led to a change in this matter. Nor were the Dissenters unaffected by these improvements. Men were everywhere asking “whether harmony in their voices would fright grace from their hearts? or whether singing out of tune was making melody unto the Lord?” The answer was found in the increasing attention which was everywhere paid to psalmody, and in the ready acceptance, by Baptists among the rest, of the excellent hymns written by men of different churches, which very soon became the common property of Christians of every name.

[* The following story illustrates the prejudice of the illiterate against any New Versions. The Bishop of Ely told Mr. Tate that on first using Dr. Patrick’s New Version [of tunes for the Psalms] at family worship, he observed that a servant maid, who possessed a musical voice, was silent for several days together. He asked her the reason; whether she were not well, or had a cold? adding, that he was much delighted to hear her, because she sung so sweetly, and kept the rest in tune. “I am well enough in health,” she answered, “and have no cold. But if you must needs know the plain truth of the matter, as long as you sing Jesus Christ’s Psalms I sung along with ye; but now you sing Psalms of your own invention, you may sing by yourselves!”]

 

~~~~~

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Chapter 4

 

THE BAPTISTS AND LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE

        THE Baptists occupy an honourable position in the history of religious freedom. They were the first to assert, in this country, the right of every man to worship God as his conscience dictated, and the first to show that that right was based both on reason and Scripture. When England was still suffering from the vexations and miseries of persecution for religious opinions, Baptists lifted up their earnest, but at that time unheeded, protests against its injustice and tyranny. Some of these protests were issued at great peril to the writers, and others were the plaints of men who, for their Baptist opinions, were condemned to fester in loathsome prisons. All bear witness to an unconquerable love of freedom, which at length bore its priceless fruits. It would, therefore, be ungrateful in their descendants, who are now sitting under the shadow of the tree which these courageous pioneers watered with their blood, not to hold their names in everlasting remembrance.         Leonard Busher, the writer of the earliest extant treatise in favour of the broadest religious liberty, was a Baptist. There can be no question as to the truth of this statement, since it rests on his own emphatic words. “Christ,” says Busher, in the treatise to which we refer, “will have His ministers to preach and to teach the people of all nations . . . and to


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baptize in His name all who believe.” Still more explicitly he says in another place: “Such as willingly receive the truth, Christ hath commanded to be baptized in water; that is, dipped for the dead in water.”

Of Busher’s personal history very little is known. He was a citizen of London in the later days of Queen Elizabeth, and fled to the Continent on account of his religious opinions. In the time of her successor, James the First, he returned to London; but “found it hard to get his daily bread, with his weak body and feeble hands.” Probably, as his name suggests, of Walloon extraction; a man of some learning; a controversialist, entering the lists with Robinson of Amsterdam, and the Brownists; too poor to print the books he had written, and yet somehow getting printed the one which places his name in the foremost ranks of advocates for religious liberty—such is absolutely all the record we have of the brave and gentle Leonard Busher.

His treatise was presented to the King and Parliament in 1614; but so far as both were concerned, very little came of its presentation.         A valiant Independent, in the days of the Civil War, Henry Burton by name, a man who had suffered under the tyranny of Laud, and was among the earliest of his own religious party to claim and allow full liberty of conscience, reprinted the treatise in 1646, with an address prefixed to it for the special benefit of the Presbyterians. At that time the Presbyterians were in the ascendant, and were eagerly using their power to repress all who differed from them. The title of Busher’s treatise is,

“Religious Peace; or, A Plea for Liberty of Conscience.”

        After a short preface ” to the King, and to the princely and right honourable Parliament,” for whom he wishes “the wisdom of Solomon, the zeal of Josias, and the mercy of Christ, with the salvation of their spirits in the day of the Lord Jesus,” Busher assigns seventeen reasons against persecution, and


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concludes with “a design for a peaceable reconciliation of those that differ in opinion.”         Busher’s main object by this petition was to secure a repeal of the odious and oppressive, or as he calls them, “the anti-Christian, Romish, and cruel laws,” then in force against all Nonconformists. Every kind of argument is used to influence the minds of the King and his Parliament. We shall, perhaps, best illustrate the contents of this remarkable plea for liberty of conscience by grouping together some of its main features, rather than by pretending to give any complete analysis of the whole book.         to the Bishop of Rome, that he would not force and constrain any man to the faith, but only admonish, and commit judgment to God.” There is that of a Turkish emperor. A Bishop of Rome would have constrained him to the Christian faith, but the Emperor answered, “I believe that Christ was an excellent prophet; but He did never, as far as I understand, command that men should, with the power of weapons, be constrained to believe His law; and verily I also do force no man to believe Mahomet’s law.” Busher adds to this the statement: “Also I read the Jews, Christians, and Turks are tolerated in Constantinople, and yet are peaceable, yet so contrary the one to the other. If this be so, how much more ought Christians not to force one another to religion? And how much more ought Christians to tolerate Christians, whereas the Turks do tolerate them? Shall we be less merciful than the Turks? Or shall we learn (teach) the Turks to persecute Christians? It is not only unmerciful, but unnatural and abominable, yea, monstrous, for one Christian to vex and destroy another for difference and question of religion.” Even “Pagans,” Busher also says, “will not persecute one another for religion; though, as I read, there be above three thousand sorts of them.” He follows up the allusion to pagan toleration with a home-


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thrust at the King about the mistakes made in England, “both by King Henry and Queen Mary, who thought themselves defenders of the faith, and thought they burned heretics and heresy, when they burned men and their books. But now you see, and must acknowledge, that they were persecutors of the faith, instead of defenders thereof.”         The uselessness of persecution is pointed out in various ways. “Neither the King nor the bishops can command faith, any more than they can command the winds.” If you “force men to go to church against their consciences, they will believe as they did before when they come. … It is not the gallows, nor the prisons, nor burning, nor banishing, that can defend the Apostolic faith …. The Dutch princes and peers say: ‘that force, sword, and gallows, in matter of religion, is a good means to spill blood, and to make an uproar in the land; but not to bring any man from one faith to another.'” Even kings enjoy no exemption from other people: “They are men as well as kings, and Christ hath ordained the same means of faith for kings as for subjects.”        Persecution is fraught with mischief to the State. “If persecution continues, then the King and the State shall have against their will, many dissemblers in authority and office, both in court, city, and country. Most men will conform themselves for fear of persecution, although in their hearts they hate and detest the religion whereto they are forced by law; the which is very dangerous and hurtful, both to the King and to the State, in time of temptation from beyond the seas, and in rebellion at home. For they that are not faithful to God in their religion, will never be faithful to the King and the State in their allegiance: especially being tried by a great reward, or by a mighty rebel.”         Persecution is “a notable mark of the false Church, and her bishops and ministers.” “All bishops that force princes and people to receive their faith and discipline, do, with Judas, go against Christ and His members, with swords, staves, and


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halberds.” “Christ saith, ‘He that will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen man, and a publican.’ He saith not, ‘Burn, banish, or imprison him:’ that is Antichrist’s ordinance.” “With Scripture, and not with fire and sword, your Majesty’s bishops and ministers ought to be armed and weaponed.” “Those bishops which persuade the King and Parliament to burn, banish, and imprison for difference of religion, are bloodsuckers and manslayers.” “The ministers and bishops of Antichrist cannot abide nor endure the faith and discipline of the Apostolic Church, because it will be the overthrow of their blasphemous and spiritual lordships, and of their anti-Christian and bloody kingdom; and therefore are they so fiery hot and zealous for the Catholic or anti-Christian faith and practice.”         Busher is very careful to show, by innumerable passages, that all Christ’s teaching and example are directly against persecution. “Christ came into the world to save sinners, and not to destroy them, though they be blasphemers; seeing the Lord may convert them, as He did Saul.” “Christ saith, ‘Teach all nations;’ not, ‘Force all nations.’ “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and not by the King’s sword.” “Christ overcame the devil and his ministers by the Word of God, and by a good, meek, and gentle life.” “And it is to be well observed, that when Christ would have preached the word of salvation to the Gadarenes, He did not compel them when they refused; but finding them unwilling to receive Him and His Word, he turned from them without hurting them. Also when James and John saw that some of the Samaritans refused Christ, they wanted to have commanded fire from heaven to consume them, as Elias did; but Christ rebuked them and said, ‘Ye know not of what spirit ye are; for the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.'” “Christ sent His ministers as lambs among wolves, and not as wolves among lambs.” These are a few only of the many passages that might be quoted.


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By giving up persecution, Busher assures the King that he will “prevent his land from a great impoverishing and weakening by the loss of the faithfullest subjects and friends, who, not having here freedom of conscience to follow the Apostolic faith, must depart the land for some free country.” Still further, “the Jews, to the great profit of his realm, shall then inhabit and dwell under his Majesty’s dominions.” The king may even go further yet, and grant, without damage to the State, “liberty for every person, yea, Jews and Papists, to write, dispute, confer, and reason, print and publish any matter touching religion, either for or against whomsoever; always provided”—and the proviso reads strangely in our days—”they allege no Fathers for proof of any point of religion, but only the Holy Scriptures.”         Many good things are suggested as likely to follow this repeal of Popish laws and canons. One of these is stated in a manner which reveals the quiet humour of this grave and valiant man. It is this—the possible action of such repeal on the bishops. Busher could see little difference between the manners of bishops, whether Popish or Protestant. “Pope, in Latin (Italian) is papa, and papa signifies father in English. All the bishops in our land are called ‘Reverend Fathers;’ therefore all the bishops in our land are called ‘ Reverend Popes.’ So many ‘Lord Bishops,’ so many ‘Reverend Fathers,’ so many ‘Reverend Popes.'” But such would be the influence upon the bishops’ minds of this toleration, that after a time, suggests Busher, “All those bishops who unfeignedly fear God, and truly love the King, will haste and make speed to come to his Majesty for pardon; acknowledging the truth of this book; confessing their ignorance and arrogance in God’s Word; and in compelling the people to hear the Word preached, and for imprisoning, burning, banishing, and hanging for religion, contrary to the mind of Christ; and also for stopping the mouths of men, and burning their books, that preach and write contrary to their minds and wills.” Busher further adds, anticipating the very words of their penitence: “Yea, it may be, they will


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also confess and say, ‘Oh, most gracious King! we beseech your Majesty to show us mercy, and to forgive us our spiritual pride and ambition, in that we have thus long usurped the blasphemous titles of’ Spiritual Lords,’ and ‘Lord Graces;’ the which titles we now, to the glory of God and honour of the King, do, with unfeigned hearts, confess to be due and belong only to Christ Himself. And that the name and title of ‘Spiritual Lord’ cannot belong to any earthly creature; no, not to the King or Emperor, because it is an heavenly name and title. How much less can it belong, or be due to us, your Majesty’s unworthy subjects and scholars? . . . Also we do confess that our pomp and state wherein we now live, is more like the bishops of the Catholic Church of Antichrist than any way like the bishops of the Apostolic Church of Christ, unto whom we acknowledge we ought to be made like, and also to be qualified with the like gifts and graces of the Spirit; or else in no case can we be meet bishops for the Church of Christ, as the Apostle plainly teacheth both to Timothy and Titus, &c. And we must further acknowledge and confess that our houses, households, and revenues are more fit and meet for princes, dukes, and earls, than for disciples of Christ. Wherefore, being moved and stirred up hereto by the fear of God, we earnestly beseech your Majesty and Parliament also to disburden us of this great pomp and state, and of our great and prince-like houses, households, and revenues, that so we may be made equal and conformable to the ministers of Christ; and then we shall have both hope and comfort of the world to come, although but little in this, except your Majesty and Parliament do grant free liberty of conscience.'”         Five reasons are then supposed to be assigned by the penitent bishops for conceding this freedom, the last being ”the great gain to the King and the country from the relinquishment of their own (the bishops’) revenues, ‘more profit and commodity than we or any man is able to express.’” The sarcasm reaches its drollest point when the bishops are said “to desire all his

 


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Majesty’s subjects, both great and small, in all love and fear of God, not to be offended, or in any way moved or grieved, when they shall see such a reformation in us as that famous king, Henry the Eighth, did make of our lordly brethren, the abbots and their clergy. For indeed such a reformation ought to come among us clergy.” Busher expresses a hope that all this surrender of their wealth may come about “without compulsion and constraint.” But if this should not be, “that God would open the King’s heart” to compel the bishops to disgorge their enormous wealth. A third course, however, suggests itself to Busher’s mind: “If free liberty of conscience be granted, the spiritual kingdom of these idol-bishops will, in time, fall to the ground of itself, as the idol Dagon fell before the ark.” Events have abundantly justified Busher’s prediction. The spiritual power of the English bishops in our day is absolutely nil. Even their own party sneeringly describe them as “mitred old gentlemen.”        We cannot close our sketch of this treatise without pointing out the incidental confirmation which one passage in it supplies to a hundred other testimonies of the profligacy and debauchery of the times, the poison of the Court of James the First descending into and defiling every grade of society. “If,” says Busher, when thinking of the dark condition of England at that time, “If the holy laws of God’s Word be practised and executed after Christ’s will, then shall, neither king, prince, nor people be destroyed for difference of religion. Then treason and rebellion, as well as burning, banishing, hanging, or imprisonment for difference of religion, will cease, and be laid down. Then shall not men, women, and youth be hanged for theft. Then shall not the poor, lame, sick, and weak ones be stocked (put in the stocks) and whipped; neither shall the poor, stranger, fatherless, and widows be driven to beg from place to place; neither shall the lame, sick, and weak persons suffer such misery, and be forsaken of their kindred, as now they be. Then shall not murder, whoredom, and adultery be bought out for money. Then shall not the great defraud and wrong the


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small; neither the rich oppress the poor by usury and little wages. . . . Then shall not servants be forced from marriage bonds, nor yet be bound to servitude longer than six years; neither shall they be brought up contrary to covenant, nor posted from one quarter or one year to another, for their freedom, and in the end be forced to buy it of their masters, or else to go without it too.”        It has been conjectured that Leonard Busher was a member of Mr. Helwys’s church; but on what grounds does not appear. It is, however, worthy of notice, that the year after Busher issued his Plea for Liberty of Conscience, some members of this church published another pamphlet, “proving,” as the title-page declares, “by the law of God and of the land, and by King James’s own testimonies, that no man ought to be persecuted for his religion, so he testify his allegiance by the oath appointed by law.” The title of the pamphlet is, “Persecution for Religion, judged and condemned.” The resemblance between the style of this book, and one written by John Morton, a member of Mr. Helwys’s church, has led to the conclusion that Morton himself was the author, although, at the end of the “Epistle,” or preface, the subscription runs as follows: “By Christ’s unworthy witnesses, His majesty’s faithful subjects, commonly (but most falsely) called, Anabaptists.” The book is written in the form of a dialogue between Anti-Christian and Christian. “Why come you not to church?” is the question started by Anti-        Christian; and this leads to a discussion on the nature of worship, and so to the question of persecution. Anti-Christian thinks he has his opponent on the hip, when he says, “It is manifest in the Scriptures, by the example of the Apostle Peter smiting Ananias and Sapphira to death, and of the Apostle Paul striking Elymas, the sorcerer, blind, and also by delivering Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that punishment upon the


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body may be used, and the flesh destroyed. For if it were lawful for them to smite to death, and the like, though by extraordinary means, then it must be lawful for us by ordinary means, since extraordinary means now fail. If you say it be not lawful for us, then you must say it was not lawful for them; and that were to accuse them of laying a false foundation, which none fearing God will affirm.”        Christian’s reply to this specious statement is very adroit and unanswerable: “I dare not once admit of such a thought, as to disallow the truth of that foundation which the Apostles, as skilful master-builders, have laid; but for your argument of Peter’s extraordinary smiting of Ananias and Sapphira, he neither laid hand upon them, nor threatened them by word, only declared what should befall them from God; and, therefore, serveth nothing to your purpose. Also that of Paul to Elymas, he laid no hands upon him, but only declared the Lord’s hand upon him, and the judgment that should follow. If you can so pronounce, and it so come to pass upon any, do it; and then it may be you may be accounted master-builders, and layers of a new foundation, or another Gospel.”        In the course of the dialogue the writer denounces the pride, luxury, and oppression of the bishops, protests strongly against the political errors of the Papists, and condemns those who, through fear of persecution, comply with any external worship contrary to their conscience. The speeches of the King are quoted to illustrate his professions of religious toleration, a thing easy enough to do; but it would be extremely difficult to point out instances wherein his actions agreed with his professions. A part of the dialogue is taken up with the “illustration of the writer’s opinion that the spiritual power of. England is the image of the spiritual cruel power of Home, or that beast mentioned in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelations;” and the concluding portion is especially intended to meet and answer the objections made by the Brownists and Robinson against the creed and practice of the General Baptists.


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A very noteworthy declaration on the subject of liberty of conscience occurs in “the Epistle” which is prefixed to the dialogue, and is addressed “to all that truly wish Jerusalem’s prosperity, and Babylon’s destruction.” The words are these: “We do unfeignedly acknowledge the authority of earthly magistrates, God’s blessed ordinance, and that all earthly authority and command appertains to them. Let them command what they will, we must obey, either to do or to suffer, upon pain of God’s displeasure, besides their punishment. But all men must let God alone with His right, which is to be Lord and Lawgiver to the soul, and not command obedience to God where He commandeth none. And this is only that which we dare not but maintain upon the peril of our souls, which is greater than bodily affliction.” In the dialogue itself Christian afterward affirms, “If I take any authority from the King’s majesty, let me be judged worthy of my desert; but if I defend the authority of Christ Jesus over men’s souls, which appertaineth to no mortal man whatsoever, then you know, that whosoever would rob Him of that honour which is not of this world, He will tread them under foot. Earthly authority belongs to earthly kings; but spiritual authority belongeth to that spiritual King, who is King of kings.”        There had been no Session of Parliament between 1614 and 1620; but driven by his urgent necessities, the King summoned both Houses in the year last named. In this year a third appeal was made by the Baptists for religious liberty, in

“A most Humble Supplication;”

or, as the title amply declares—”A most Humble Supplication of many of the King’s Royal Subjects, ready to testify all Civil Obedience, by the Oath of Allegiance or otherwise, and that of Conscience, who are Persecuted (only for differing in Religion) contrary to Divine and Human Testimonies.” The Baptists had good reason to plead earnestly for liberty of conscience at this period. They were not only themselves everywhere suffering


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from persecutions, but even the author of these arguments against persecutions was, at the time of writing his book, “a close prisoner in Newgate.” “Having not the use of pen and ink,” says Roger Williams, “he wrote these arguments in milk, in sheets of paper brought to him by the woman, his keeper, from a friend in London as the stopples of his milk bottle. In such paper, written with milk, nothing appeared; but the way of reading it by fire being known to his friend who received the papers, he transcribed and kept together the papers, although the author himself could not correct nor view what himself had written.”        The “Most Humble Supplication,” is divided into ten chapters, wherein the Baptists again set forth their opinions of the rule of faith, the method of ascertaining its teaching, and the folly, unlawfulness, and unscripturalness of persecution: “(I) The rule of faith is contained in the Holy Scriptures, not in any church, council, prince, or potentate, nor in any mortal man whatsoever; (2) the interpreter of this rule is the Scriptures, and the Spirit of God in whomsoever; (3) the Spirit of God, to understand and interpret the Scriptures, is given to all and every person that fear and obey God, of what degree soever they be, and not to the wicked; (4) these men are commonly, and the most part the simple, poor, and despised, &c.; (5) the learned in human learning do commonly and for the most part err, and know not the truth, but persecute it and the professors of it, and therefore are no further to be followed than we see them agree with the truth; (6) persecution for cause of conscience is against the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the King of kings; (7) against the profession and practice of famous princes; (8) condemned by ancient State writers, yea, by Puritans and Papists; (9) it is no prejudice to the Commonwealth if freedom of religion were suffered, but would make it flourish; (10) lastly, kings are not deprived of any power given them of God, when they maintain freedom for cause of conscience.”        In the seventh chapter, the Baptists quote the testimony of


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Stephen, the liberal and tolerant King of Poland, who declared, “I am king of men, not of consciences; a commander of bodies, not of souls.” It was this same distinguished sovereign who, though a convert to Catholicism, strenuously rejected the counsels of the Jesuits to persecute, and whose favourite saying was this, “There are three things which God has reserved to Himself—creative power, the knowledge of future events, and dominion over conscience.” But the foremost place is given in this chapter to the sayings of King James himself. The Baptists write, “We beseech your Majesty, we may relate your own worthy sayings, in your Majesty’s speech at Parliament, 1609. Your Highness saith, ‘It is a rule in divinity, that God never loves to plant His Church by violence and bloodshed,’ &c. And in your Highness’s apology for the Oath of Allegiance, speaking of such Papists as take the oath, thus, ‘I gave a good proof that I intended no persecution against them for conscience’ cause, but only desired to be secured (of them) for civil obedience, which, for conscience’ cause, they were bound to perform.’ And speaking of Blackwell, the archpriest, your Majesty saith, ‘It was never my intention to say anything to the said archpriest’s charge, as I have never done to any, for cause or conscience.’ And in your Highness’s Exposition of Rev. xx., printed in 1588, and after in 1603, your Majesty truly saith, ‘Sixthly, the compassing of the saints, and besieging of the beloved city, declareth unto us a certain note of a false Church to be persecution; for they came to seek the faithful, the faithful are those that are sought; the wicked are the besiegers, the faithful are the besieged.'”        But King James could talk liberally enough when it suited his purpose. There is no evidence that he was equally liberal in his actions. It shows, therefore, great courage in these despised and persecuted Baptists daring to close their Humble Supplication “with these words to the King:” You may make and mend your own laws, and be judge and punisher of the transgressors thereof; but you cannot make and mend God’s laws,


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which are perfect already; you may not add nor diminish, nor he judge nor monarch of His Church; that is Christ’s right. He left neither you, nor any mortal man His deputy, hut only the Holy Ghost, as your Highness acknowledgeth. And whosoever erreth from the truth, his judgment is set down, and the time thereof. This, then, is the sum of our humble petition, that your Majesty would be pleased not to persecute your faithful subjects, who are obedient unto you in all civil worship and service, for walking in the practice of what God’s Word requireth of us for His spiritual worship, as we have faith: knowing as your Majesty truly writeth in your Meditation on Matt. 27, in these words: ‘We can use no spiritual worship nor prayer, than can be available to us without faith.'” It was no unskilful hand that thus feathered the last arrow with the King’s own words; but, so far as liberty of conscience was concerned, all arrows proved in vain, the King in no case relaxing the iron hand of persecution which held the Baptists, and others, in its relentless grip.        Two or three other Baptist testimonies in favour of religious freedom were published during the time of the Civil War and the Restoration. A passing glance at one of these will show that there is an unbroken chain of witnesses to be found among the Baptists from the days of James the First, until the eve of the famous Act of Toleration. Not that Baptists, during all this period, were alone in their testimony; but they were its earliest and its most faithful and persistent advocates. Jeremy Taylor’s Liberty of Prophesying appeared in 1646, and in the same year Mr. Dell expressed, in his sermon before the House of Commons, a clear and decided appeal for religious freedom. Meanwhile, the Independents were growing in their attachment to the same noble cause; and more than one public advocate of it arose in their midst.        In 1647, Mr. Samuel Richardson, who was co-pastor of the first Calvinistic Baptist Church in England, published a book under the title Fifty Questions propounded to the


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Assembly of Divines. This was afterwards issued under the title of

“The Necessity of Toleration in Matters of Religion.”

Like many of the books published in those days, a whole table of its contents appears in the title-page of this very rare tract. As a curiosity of its kind, we transcribe the whole: “The Necessity of Toleration in all Matters of Religion; or, certain questions propounded to the Synod, tending to prove that Corporeal Punishment ought not to be inflicted upon such as hold Errors in Religion, and that in matters of Religion, men ought not to be compelled, but have liberty and freedom. Here is also a copy of the Edict of the Emperors Constantinus and Licinius, and containing the Reasons that enforced them to grant unto all men liberty to choose and follow what Religion they thought best. Also, here is the faith of the Assembly of Divines, as it was taken out of the exactest copy of their practice, with the Nonconformists’ Answer why they cannot receive and submit to the said faith.”        After offering five reasons in favour of the proposition,— “that religion ought to be free,”—Mr. Richardson submits no less than seventy questions to the Synod. The nature of all these questions, as the title-page indicates, tends to prove “that corporeal punishments ought not to be inflicted upon such as hold Errors in Religion.” We give a few, as a fair example of the rest:—

“5. Whether it be wisdom and safe to make such sole judges in matters of religion who are not infallible, but as liable to err as others?

“8. If the magistrates may determine what is truth; whether we must not believe and live by the magistrate’s faith, and change our religion at their pleasures? And if nothing must be preached, nor printed, nor allowed to pass, unless certain Men please and approve, and give their allowance thereto,


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under their hands,—whether such do not, by this practice, tell God that unless He will reveal His truth first to them, they will not suffer it to be published, and so not to be known?

“21. Whether it be not better for us that a patent were granted to monopolise all the corn and cloth, and to have it measured out to us at their price and pleasure—which yet were intolerable—as for men to appoint and measure out unto us, what and how much we shall believe and practise in matters of religion ?

“22. Whether there be not the same reason that they should be appointed by us, what they shall believe and practise in religion, as for them to do so for us; seeing that we can give as good grounds for what we believe and practise, as they can do for what they would have, if not better?

“29. Whether it be not vain for us to have Bibles in English, if, contrary to our understanding of them, we must believe as the Church believes, whether it be right or wrong?

“36. Whether the Scriptures appoint any other punishment to be inflicted upon heretics, than rejection and excommunication?

“56. Whether it be not a horrible thing that a free division of England may not have so much liberty as is permitted to a Turk in this kingdom; who although he denies Christ, yet he can live quietly amongst us here? And is it not a great ingratitude of this kingdom to deny this liberty to such as are friends, and have been means in their persons and estates, to save this England from destruction and desolation? Oh, England, England! Oh that thou wert wise to know the things that belong to thy prosperity and peace, before it be too late! The hand of God is against thee. How have we slain one another; and who knows but this is come upon us for troubling, undoing, despising, and banishing the people of God into so many wildernesses?

“61. Whether the priest’s practice be not contrary to the


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Apostle’s practice? Take one instance: the Apostles dipped, that is, baptized, persons after they believed and confessed their faith; whereas these sprinkle persons before they believe, yea, before they can speak. They (the Apostles) baptized persons in the river; these (the priests) sprinkle water upon their faces. Yet, if you will believe them, they are the successors of Apostles, and follow their steps.”        Mr. Richardson, in the next part of his book, contends for the supremacy of Christ in His own Church, and for the excommunication of magistrates themselves, though members of churches, if they deserve it. “Sins of magistrates,” says Richardson, “are hateful and condemned. It is a paradox, that a magistrate may be punished by the Church, and yet that they are judges of the Church.” True religion demands from the magistrate a three-fold duty: “Approbation, with a tender respect to the truth and the professors of it; personal submission of his soul to the power of Jesus and His government; and protection of them and their estates from violence and injury.” Even to a false religion he owes “permission and protection of person and goods.” Richardson afterwards answers the objection that “the kings of Judah compelled men to serve the Lord, and kings may now compel, &c., showing that only Jews were compelled, and not strangers; that the Jews even were not to do anything but what they knew and confessed to be their duty; that if Jewish kings did compel, their actions were not moral, and so to be imitated; that they did not imprison schismatics, Pharisees, Herodians, and others; that they were directed by infallible prophets; and that Christ has nowhere set down that magistrates should compel all to His religion. In the latter part of his reply, Richardson asks, With shrewd humour, “Is there no better cure of pain in the head than beating out one’s brains?”        Milton declared that “new presbyter was old priest writ large;” and many good men found this out to their cost. “Your argument is authority,” says Richardson to Mr. Presbyter;


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“what you say must be an oracle of all men to be deferred to without opposition. What is contrary to you is heresy, ipso facto, to be punished with faggot and naming fire;” “such as cannot dance after your pipe, and rule in your way, you judge heretics, and they must appear before your dreadful tribunal, to receive your reproof, which is sharp and terrible, and strikes at our liberties, estates, and lives.” “You want still to use the sword.” “We had as good be under the Pope as under your Presbyterian check, . . . since you will suffer none to live quietly and comfortably but those of your way.” [1]

[1] Richardson, in his Plain Dealing, &c., speaks a strong word in praise of Cromwell’s services to his country and his personal qualities as a man and a governor, calling special attention to his tolerant spirit. The words are the more valuable because they are the testimony of one personally acquainted with Cromwell, and an eye-witness of the facts he relates. “His Highness,” says Richardson, speaking of the Lord Protector, “aimeth at the general good of the nation, and the just liberty of every man. He is also a godly man, and one that feareth God and escheweth evil; though he is not, nor no man else without human frailty. He is faithful to the saints, and to these nations, in whatsoever he hath undertaken from the beginning of the wars. He hath owned the poor despised people of God, and advanced many of them to a better way and means of living. He hath been an advocate for the Christians, and hath done them much good in writing, speaking, pleading for their liberty in the Long Parliament, and fighting for their liberty. He, with others, hath hazarded his life, estate, family; and since he hath refused great offers of wealth and worldly glory for the sake and welfare of the people of God. God hath given him more than ordinary wisdom, strength, courage, and valour. God hath been always with him, and gives him great successes. He is fitted to bear burden, and to endure all opposition and contradictions that may stand with public safety. He is a terror to his enemies; he hath a large heart, spirit and principle, that will hold all that/ear the Lord, though of different opinions and practices in religion, and seek their welfare. It is the honour of princes to pity the miserable, to relieve the oppressed, and the wrongs of the poor; he is humble, and despiseth not any because poor; and is ready to hear and help them. He is a merciful man, full of pity and bounty to the poor. A liberal heart is more precious than heaven or earth. He gives in money to maimed


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It would be easy to show that Baptists have persistently advocated the fullest liberty of conscience from the days of James the First to the days of William the Third; but enough has been given to justify the Baptist claim to an early, a clear, and an emphatic advocacy by their forefathers of religious freedom.

soldiers, widows, and orphans, and poor families, a thousand pounds a week to supply their wants: he is not a lover of money, which is a singular and extraordinary thing. He will give, and not hoard up money, as some do. I am persuaded there is not a better friend to these nations and people of God among men, and that there is not any man so unjustly abused and censured as he is. And some that now find fault with him, may live to see and confess that what I have herein written is truth; and when he is gathered to his fathers, shall weep for the want of him.”

 

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Chapter 1

 

EARLY TRACES OF BAPTISTS IN BRITAIN

        “THE true origin of Anabaptists,” says Mosheim, “is hid in the remote depths of antiquity.” But there is no reason to doubt that as early as the Third Century Baptists already existed in Britain. At that period “no persons were admitted to baptism by the churches generally” – still to quote Mosheim – “but such as had been previously instructed in the principal points of Christianity, and had also given satisfactory proofs of pious dispositions and upright intentions.” Coupling with this testimony the statement of Tertullian, the celebrated African writer, that in 200 “those parts of Britain into which the Roman arms never penetrated have yielded subjection to Christ,” we are warranted in saying that the early British Christians were men holding the distinctive principles of Baptists.         We have no further trace of Baptists in these islands until the Fifth Century, although there existed, during the interval, as we learn from various sources, a numerous, well-ordered, and flourishing Christian community. In the year 410, the Britons were not only harassed and oppresaed by the Saxons, but were distracted by religious controversies. Pelagius, who had once been a monk at Bangor, in North Wales, succeeded in spreading the poison of his opinions among his fellow-


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countrymen. Among these opinions was the belief in the lawfulness and. necessity of infant-baptism. Two zealous bishops from the Continent laboured to check the progress of Pelagius’ opinions, and many wanderers were reclaimed and baptized in the river Allen, near Chester.         The third trace of Baptists in Britain is found in the time of Ethelbert. Again the Principality claims the honour of having sheltered and preserved, if it did not originate, some of the earliest Baptist confessors in this country; but the claim rests upon an obscure passage in the Chronicle of the Venerable Bede, and upon a version of Bede’s words found in Fabyan’s New Chronicles of England and France, a book published in the time of Henry the Seventh, and which had the honour of being burnt in the following reign by order of Cardinal Wolsey. We give the story in which the passage occurs, and for two reasons: first, it reveals the Scriptural character of the Christianity of Britain before the time of Romish corruptions; and secondly, it shows with what sturdy independence these early Christians rejected the arrogant pretensions of Rome.         But to the story of

Austin and the Monks of Bangor.

        Austin, or Augustine, the abbot of a monastery founded. in Rome by Gregory the Great (although the pope’s title to the term is very questionable), was sent into England in 600 to convert the Saxons. The Abbot proceeded with becoming caution at the outset, lived in a humble and self-denying fashion, and revealed no part of his future policy. His success far exceeded his expectations. Camden tells us that multitudes confessed their belief in his doctrines, and, going into the water, were dipped in the nme of the Trinity. So far there was a concession to what was known to have been the practice of the early British Churches. Gregory now sends Austin further help, chiefly monks, with one Mellitus as their abbot. They bring with them presents for King Ethelbert, an arch-


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bishop’s pall for Austin, some copies of portions of the Scriptures, certain Romish devotional books, relics to be used in the consecration of new churches, and Gregory’s very trenchant replies to Austin’s puerile questions. With more liberality, or with more policy than Austin, Gregory, among other things, suggests that in settling the order of the new church which had been founded in England, Austin should not exclusively follow the example of Rome, but should select. whatever was good, no matter where he might find it – a sentiment deserving of special notice as coming from the mouth of a Roman bishop.         Austin now makes Canterbury the seat of the first English archbishopric; becomes very zealous, with his new monkish staff of supporters, in winning over the Saxons; sprinkles the heathen temples with holy water, at least such temples as he could obtain; sanctifies them, after the Romish fashion, by making them the shrines of certain relics – bones and rags of Romish saints; converts the said heathen temples into churches; establishes festivals in honour of the saints whose relics are henceforth preserved in them, taking care, as Gregory also advised him, that the times and the ceremonies of these new festivals should be made as palatable as possible to the half-heathenish Saxons, so that they might be the more easily persuaded to substitute the new rites for the old.         Austin’s ambition increases with his success. This “pretended apostle and sanctified ruffian,” as Jortin styles him, with something of passionate abuse, lusts after the sole and undivided ecclesiastical sway over the whole island. But how was he to secure the realisation of his dreams? A large and flourishing body of British Christians were now living in Wales, whither they had sought refuge from the cruelties of the Saxons. Undisturbed in their liberties and. their worship in the fastnesses of Wales, they had waxed stronger and stronger. At Caerleon, in the south, and at Bangor-is-y-coed, in the north, large and flourishing monasteries, or, more properly speaking, missionary stations, were established. Bangor


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alone could number, in association with it, over two thousand “brethren.” These societies had little in common with Romish monasteriee, either of that age or of the following. The grenter part of “the brethren” were married laymen, who followed their worldly calling, and those among them who showed aptitude for study and missionary work were permitted to give themselves to the reading of the Scriptures and holy services. All were maintained out of a common fund, and yet a large surplus was distributed in the shape of food and clothing to the neighbouring poor.         Austin’s problem was this: how best to obtain ecclesiastical authority over these primitive British Christians? Ethelbert suggeated and arranged a conference with some of their leading men. The conference was accordingly held in Worcestershire, near what was still called, in the days of Bede, “Austin’s Oak.” The British clergy of the province adjoining were invited, and Deynoch, the distinguished. abbot of Bangor, a man in great repute for his piety and learning, came with them. Austin opened the conference by stating his desire that, as good Christian men, the people in Wales should. submit themselves to the Pope of Rome, as the Father of fathers, and to himself as his duly accredited representative. Deynoch’s reply is every way remarkable: “We are ready to listen to the Church of God, to the Pope of Rome, and to every pious Christian; so that we may show to each, according to his station, perfect love, and uphold him by word and deed. We know not that any other obedience can be required of us towards him whom you call the pope, the Father of fathers. But this obedience we are constantly prepared to render to him, and to every other Christian.”         Nothing came of this conference, so far as Austin was concerned. The Welsh asked that, previous to deciding what further reply to give, a larger number of their own party might be present. A second conference was, therefore, determined upon; but before attending it, the Welsh consulted a pious


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hermit, who was held by them in the greatest veneration. “May we obey this Austin?” asked the simple-minded Welsh. “Yes,” answered the hermit, “if he be a man of God.” “But how are we to know that?” The hermit answered, “If he be meek and lowly in spirit, after the pattern of our Lord, he will himself, being a disciple of Cbrist, bear the Master’s yoke, and, put no heavier burden upon you. But if he be violent, and of overbearing spirit, it is plain that he is not born of God; and you will do well not to heed his words.” Still the enquirers were not satisfied. Like so many others, they wanted some outward and visible sign by which to judge of Austin’s character; and again they pressed the hermit to help them. “By what token, or sign, shall we know that he is a meek and holy man?” The hermit, evidently with a shrewd guess at the sort of man they had to deal with in Austin, responded.: “Permit Auatin and his attendants to enter first the place of meeting. If, on your entrance, he should at once rise to receive you, he is a servant of Christ. But if he should still remain sitting, notwithstanding the size and character of your company, you cannot so account him.” Of course Austin neither answered to the hermit’s description of a disciple of Christ, nor showed the hermit’s sign of courtesy and humility. He sat stiffly up in his chair of state when the Welsh entered, and at once proceeded to the business of the conferenee. But the Welsh were in no humour to enter upon any agreement, or even quietly to discuss its terms. The hermit had rightly divined the character of Austin, and the Welsh did not conceal their uneasiness in the prelate’s presence. Austin first tries what can be done by concession. “We know, at Rome,” said he, “that many of your customs are contrary to ours; but if you will only consent to these three things, we will say nothing about the rest: (1) Alter your time of observing Easter; (2) Administer baptism according to the custom of the Roman Church; (3) And join with me in preaching to the Saxons.” Still the Welsh hung back, little loth, by putting their necks under a foreign yoke, to lose their


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dearly-bought independence. Austin now changes his tone, and more than justifies the hermit’s description of one “not born of God.” Cajolery has failed; he will try menace. “Well, well,” said Austin, with ill-concealed anger, “if you will not have my blessing, and be brethren, you shall have my curse, and the Saxon’s sword.” Whereupon the council abruptly broke up, the monks returned to their quiet homes, and Austin comes back to the Saxons to foment further ill-will between them and the Welsh. There is little doubt that, indirectly, Austin is responsible for the cold-blooded massacre by Ethelfrid. of upwards of a thousand unarmed monks of Bangor, although, when the dastardly deed was done, the ambitious and revengeful Austin was slumbering in his grave.         Let us now turn, for a moment, to the passage in Bede’s Chronicle, on account of which the claim already mentioned is set up by the Welsh. It runs as follows: “Ut ministerium baptisandi, quo Deo renascimur, juxta sanctae Romanae Apostolicae eccleaiae, compleatis.” (“That you shall duly administer the rite of baptism, by which we are born again unto God, after the manner of the holy Roman Apostolic Church.”) From these words it is evident that there was a marked difference between the mode of administering baptism in use among the Welsh, and that generally adopted by the Roman Church; but what precisely that difference was it is by no means easy to discover. Lingard, the Roman Catholic historian, gives an explanation which Hook, in his Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, contends that he has no actual warrant for making. Lingard says the difference lay in the necessity for confirmation after baptism. Baxter and others contend that it refers to the use in baptism of white garments, milk, and honey. But most Baptists argue that the difference was, not at all as to the mode of baptism, but as to the subjects who should submit to that ordinance. It is, unquestionably, true, as Gregory the Great tells us, that he himself, and others in Italy, administered. baptism by trine immeraion (“nos tertio mergi-


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mus”), but they also administered it to infants. Whether, however, this last was an actual point in dispute between Austin and the monks of Bangor, we cannot learn from the words of Bede. Dr. Evens and others with him, regard the collateral evidence on the question. as distinctly pointing to this issue.         Perhaps the mode of baptism would. have been the only question raised by the words of Bede, if D’Anvers had not pointed out that, in the translation of Bede’s account given by Fabyan, the second condition of agreement laid down by Austin to the Welsh was this: “That ye given Christendom to children.” D’Anvers therefore concluded that Austin wished to force infant baptism upon the Welsh, and this was evidently Fabyan’s opinion. Many writers since the clays of D’Anvers have followed in his wake; but, in our judgment, none have succeeded in making more than probable the early Baptist reputation of the Welsh people at the time of the brave old Deynoch and. the imperious and bigoted Austin.         The fourth trace we have in English history of the opposition of the people to infant baptism, is in

The Law of Ina.

        Towards the close of the Seventh Century, Ina, a Saxon prince, endeavoured to settle the baptism question in a very summary manner. He enacted a law by which all infants, within thirty days of their birth, should. be baptized. For any violation Of this enactment the penalties were unusually severe. A fine of £80 in our money was imposed upon the parents who did not comply; and in the event of the child dying unbaptized, their whole personal estate was forfeited. People who had thus to be compelled to have their infants baptized were no great sticklers for its observance.         The three following centuries were religiously as dreary in England as in other countries. They have been rightly called “the dark ages.” During this period of gloom, Europe had still its own witnesses to the truth. Passing under different


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names – Paulicians, Vaudois or Waldenses, Albigenses, Berengarians, Arnoldists – these godly men kept alive some glimmer of light amidst all this darkness. There were many among them who were opponents of infant baptism. About the Eleventh Century they rapidly multiplied on the Continent, and in the following century came over to England in great numbers. We discover them by

Lanfranc’s Opposition to the English W’aldenses.

        The simplicity of their lives (so different from the pomp and corruption of the Romish clergy of that period), and the purity of their doctrine, led to the rapid increase of their adherents in all parts of the country. Not only were their sentiments warmly adopted by the humbler classes, but also by many of the nobility and gentry of the chief towns and villages. The priests became alarmed, and preyed on the fears of William the Conqueror. It was presently enacted by that energetic Sovereign “that those who denied the Pope should not trade with his subjects.” Nor was this all. The able and zealous Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, sought to check the progress of their opinions by publisliing a book in opposition to the views held by Berengar and the Waldenses. In this treatise he roundly asserts that these sectaries, “by denying infant-baptism, oppose the general doctrine and universal consent of the Cburch.” It is not on record, so far as we know, that these Waldenses or Berengarians, suffered any direct persecution from William the Conqueror and Lanfranc, although it is hardly probable that the act of William was allowed to remain a dead letter, or that Lanfranc contented. himself with hurling words at their heads, if he had it in his power to use harder weapons.         The sixth trace of Baptists in Englancl is found in

Gerard and his Companions.

        We are entirely indebted for our information about these thirty men and women to the pens of monkish historians. It


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is well to remember this fact, since two important advantages are thereby gained: first, we are better able to test the actual value of their opinions of these so-called heretics; and, secondly, we are forced to the conclusion, since such obviously prejudiced observers could find so little evil in them, that Gerard and his companions were very exemplary Christians.         Their story, as it has come down to us, is sadly too brief. In substance it is this. Henry the Second, King of England, showed, according to Roger de Hovendon, remarkable leniency to the Waldenses of Aquitaine, Poitou, Gascoigne, and Normandy. The Dutch and Flemish, on the other hand, treated them with the utmost rigour, and burnt many at the stake. Owing to some sudden outburst of persecution in Holland, a number of Waldenses, or as some think them, disciples of Arnold of Brescia, fled to England, hoping thereby to obtain a secure asylum from their cruel persecutors. In this, they were grievously disappoiuted. Henry was at this period in open rupture with Thomas à Beckett, but was still anxious to stand well with the Pope and the ecclesiastics generally. The poor fugitives, in avoiding Scylla, had fallen into Charybdis. They were presently made the convenient pretext for illustratiag the soundness of the King’s faith, and his devotion in all matters of doctrine to the “holy Roman Apostolic Church.”         No very flattering picture of Gerard and his companions is given by the monks. “They were a company of ignorant rustics;” which means, that they were persons in very humble life. “Their understandings were very gross and unimproved;” although the very reverse seems to be nearer the truth, judging from their general behaviour. “Their obstinacy and self-opinion were such, that the convincing of them by argument, and the retrieving them of their mistake, was next to an impossibility.” In other words, they held firmly the opinions they had already received.


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        But what were their opinions? Strange to say, these “ignorant rustics” did not believe in the Romish doctrine of purgatory. They rejected prayers for the dead. They regarded the invocation of saints as useless. On some points they helrl orthodox views; but when they came to be examined. on the seven sacraments of the Church, to the horror and confusion of their priestly questioners, they were grievously unsound. Marriage, said these men, was no sacrament. The sacrifice of the mass was an abomination. But worse still remained behind; they rejected the baptism of infants! What further proof was needed of their “gross and unimproved understandings?”         “On their first landing in England,” so the rnonks assure us, “they concealed. their heterodoxy, and pretended other business.” But there is no proof from any quarter that they were other than quiet and inoffensive foreigners, who went on with such work as they could obtain. The singularity of their religious opinions, however (for Rome was now in the ascendant), soon became known. The King, prompted by the clergy, whom he was anxious to conciliate, orders their arrest and imprisonment. After some time had elapsed, they are all brought before a synod of priests at Oxford. Gerard was their chief spokesman. “Tbe rest,” say the monks, “were altogether unlettered, and perfect boors in knowledge ancl conversation. Their language was high Dutch.” We may perhaps discover in this last circumatance the one secret of their contempt for Gerard’s companions. He alone of the whole party was able to converse freely in English.         Gerard was asked, “What were the opinions of himself and his friends?” To which he promptly replied, “We are Christians, and the doctrines of the Apostles are our only rule of faith.” This was esteemed but a lame and insuffcient answer by the Romish priests; and again they return to the charge. It then came out, one by one, that they held the opinions already stated. “While they were sufficiently


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orthodox,” say the monks, “about fhe Trinity and the Incarnation, on many other material points they were dangerously mistaken.” The priests, seeing the respect paid by Gerard and his friends to the Scriptures, sought to convince them by ingeniously suggested texts, or “old odd ends stolen out of Holy Writ;” but they remained unshaken in their opinions. They were reasoned with. They were admonished. They were threatened. All was in vain. Again and again they were reminded by their priestly judges that “they would be punished for their incorrigibleness;” and at last, say the monks, “they were so unhappy as to misapply that text of our Saviour’s to their own case, ‘Blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'”         The end was now near. To prevent the spread of “the contagion of their opinions,” the priests pronounced them incorrigible heretics, and delivered them over to the secular magistrate. Instigated by the prieats, the King ordered them to be branded in the forehead with a red-hot iron; to be whipped through the streets of Oxford; and, after their clothes were cut short at their girdles, to be turned into the open fields, although it was the depth of winter. The inhumanity of this treatment was heightened by the fact that all persons, under the heaviest penalties, were forbidden to offer them any relief. Gerard and his friends were nothing daunted by this severity, but went forth through the city streets, singing as they went, “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you.” There could be, however, but one end to their story. The whole company of men and women, with their faithful leader and guide, perished with cold and hunger.         It came out on their trial that only one convert had been won to their faith, a poor woman of humble life. No time was lost by the priests in hunting her out. She was put to the torture; her strength failed her; and, in the anguish of her body, ahe hastily recanted.


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Baptist opinions were held by many of

The Lollards.

        It should be remembered that the Paulicians, the Waldenses, the Picards, and the Paterines, were all sometimes designated by this general name. Whatever the origin of the name itself, it has never been questioned that great numbers of the Lollards held Baptist sentiments. It is stated by some early historians that about thirty years after the cruel treatment of Gerard and his companions, Henry the Second so far changed his poliey as to permit a company of Waldenses to settle peacefully in Kent, as tenants of the Manor of Darenth, and that in the reign of Edward the Third, colonies of Lollards came into the county of Norfolk. Mosheim affirms that Peter Lollard himself visited this country in the early part of the fourteenth century, and contemporary historians speak of the wide prevalence of Lollard’s opinions in England, even before the time of John Wyeliffe. There is little doubt that they prepared the way for the general diffusion of that great Reformer’s opinions. What

Wycliffe’s Opinions on Baptism

were, it is now needful very briefly to state. Taking some passages by themselves, it would not be difficult to claim Wycliffe as a holder, in part, of Baptist opinions. “How necessary the sacrament of Baptism is to the believer,” says Wycliffe, “may be seen by the words of Christ to Nicodemus, ‘Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ And such, accordingly, is the authority from Scripture on which believers are customarily baptized.” Again, ” Chrism and other such ceremonies are not to be used in baptism.” Still further, “Baptism doth not confer, but only signify, grace which was given before.” Another passage declares, “that those are fools and presumptuous which affirm such infants not to be saved which die without baptism, and that all sins were abolished in baptism.” But on this last point Wycliffe contra-


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dicts himself, since, in another place, when speaking abont a child dying unbaptized, he says, “I hold my peace as one dumb,… because it doth not seem to me clear whether such an infant would be saved or lost.”         His bitter opponent, Walsingham, speaks in no choice language about his opinions. “That most damnable heretic, John Wycliffe,” says Walsingham, “re-assumed the cursed opinions of Berengar, which was, as you have heard, to deny infant baptism and transubstantiation.” Walden, who wrote bitterly against the Reformer, terms him “one of the seven heads that, rose up out of the bottomless pit, for denying infant baptism, that heresy of the Lollards, of whom he is so great a ringleader.” But whatever his enemies’ opinions of him, these are his own words in his Triologrues: “On account of the words of the last chapter in Matthew, our church introduces believers who answer for the infant which has not yet arrived at years of discretion.” In another place he thus writes: “Nor is it of moment whether the baptized be immersed once, or thrice, or whether the water be poured upon his head. But the ceremony must be performed according to the usage of the place, and is as legitimate one way as another. For it is certain, that bodily baptism or washing is of little avail, unless there goes with it the washing of the mind by the Holy Ghost from original or actual sin; for herein is a fundamental article of belief, that whenever a man is duly baptized, baptism destroys whatever sin was found in the man.” There is still a third opinion expressed about children dying unbaptized. “I think it probable that Christ might, without any such washing, spiritually baptize, and by consequence save infants.”         Again, on the validity of baptism, he writes: “When an infidel baptizes a child, not supposing that baptism to be of any avail for his salvation, we are not to regard such a baptism as serviceable to the baptized. Yet we believe that where any old woman or despised person duly baptizes with water, God completes the baptism of the Spirit along with the words of the sacrament.”


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        It will be seen, from these various quotations, that Wycliffe’s mind was not entirely free from Popish errors on the subjeet of baptism; but the half-truths he uttered set other men thinking; and, by the aid of the New Testament, which Wycliffe put into their hands, many of his followers openly avowed distinct Baptist opinions. Especially was this the case with

The Bible-men.

        East Anglia, Middlesex, Kent, Hereford, and. the Midland Counties, were the chief centres of their influence. Like Berengar, they refused to take their children to the church to be baptized. At Amersham, in Buckinghamshire, where they were numerous during the later half of the Fourteenth Century, they were commonly known by the people as Just-fast-men, and Known-men, on account of their fidelity to each other during the fierce persecutions they had to suffer. “The heretics and Lollards of Wycliffe’s opinions were at first permittod to preach abroad boldly, to gather conventicles unto them, to keep schools in men’s houses, to write books, to complete treatises, and write ballads; to teach privately in angles and corners, as in woods, pastures, meadows, groves, and caves in the ground.;” the monks attributing their eloquence and ready skill as disputants to the direct help of the devil. The whole country was leavened with Wycliffe’s opinions, and the opinions of the Bible-men; and the storm of clerical rage that presently burst over them, while it “rooted out” some of these “evil weeds and offendicles, planted by the new and damnable Lollardie,” as the persecuting priests were pleased to call them, still left many disciples untouched by its fury.

The Chesterton Separatists.

        It is now our unpleasant duty to mar a very agreeable picture, painted by Robert Robinson, and quoted by nearly every Baptist historian since his day. In a “Brief Dissertation on the Ministry of the Divine Word by Public Preaching,” pre-


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fixed to the second volume of his translation of Claude’s Essay on the Composition of a Sermon, Mr. Robinson writes: –         “I have seen enough to convince me that the present English Dissenters, contending for the sufficiency of the Scriptures, and for primitive Christian liberty to judge of its meaning, may be traced back, in authentic manuscripts, to the Nonconformists, to the Puritans, to the Lollards, to the Vallenses (Waldenses), to the Albigenses, and, I suspect, through the Paulicians, and others, to the Apostles. These churches had sometimes a clandestine existence; and at other times a visible, I wish I could say a legal one: but, at all times, they held more truth and less error than the prevailing factions that persecuted them. One branch uniformly denied the baptiam of infants; all allowed Christian liberty; and all were enemies to the established hierarchy reigning over the consciences of their brethren.” So far Robinson is correct. But when he proceeds to write about certain men, since known as the Chesterton Separatists, he generalises too hastily. His words are: –” I have now before me a manuscript Register of Gray, Bishop of Ely, which proves, that in the year 1457, there was a congregation of this sort in this village, Chesterton, where I live, who privately assembled for Divine worship, and had preachers of their own, who taught them the very doctrine which now we preach. Six of them were accused of heresy before the tyrant of the district, and condemned to abjure heresy, and to do penance, half naked, with a faggot at their backs, and a taper in their hands, in the public market-places of Ely and Cambridge, and in the churchyard of Great Swaffham. It was a pity the poor fools were forced to objure the twelfth article of their accusation, in which they were said to have affirmed, that ‘all priests and people in orders were incarnate devils!‘… The thirteenth article objected against the above-mentioned Chesterton culprits, by the bishop, in his Consistory at Downton, is this: – ‘Also, you affirm, that every man may be called a church of God, so that if any one of you should be summoned before


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his ecclesiastical judge, and should happen to be asked this question, Do you believe in the Church? he may fairly answer, that he does; meaning that he believes in the Church, because he believes the Church is in every man, who is a temple of God.’ Now is not this alarming, that every good man was bound to follow his own judgment in religious matters, and not to be set down by a domineering faction, calling themselves the church? Is a man strong for being called a Samson, or wise for naming himself Solomon? Does it not mean that every man had as much right of judging in himself solely as the whole community had collectively? We go further, and prove that these six men, although all in one community, did not all hold the same articles; some agreed to one, and some to another. But they all, the Register says, affirmed the thirteenth. Does not this prove that their ecclesiastical economy allowed a Christian liberty, and that they held a mixed communion?”         A recent examination of Gray’s Register (still preserved in the University Library of Cambridge,. and known as the Baker Manuscripts) shows that Robinson consulted the Register hurriedly, and was thus led into several errors. He is right in saying that one of the men who were examined by Bishop Gray, “the tyrant of the district,”* confessed that he had taught and affimed certain false articles and opinions, and also that he had been present when such articles and opinions were taught, learned, and affirmed by others.” In other words, that he and others belonged to a body of men who, if not a church, according to the Prayer-book definition of a church – (“a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that are of necessity

*Gray was not destitute of humanity, at least, to those of his own faith. Even in his old age, John Capgrave, the chronicler and monk of King’s Lynn, “Remembers with what pious attention Gray showed his affection towards him when a wretched pilgrim, and lying ill at Rome.”


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requisite to the same “) – had yet meetings of their own for Divine worship, and teachers among them, judging from the terms of Bishop Gray’s indictment, able to express themselves with distinctness and force. But Robinson is wrong in saying that they were six men, and that their meeting was held in Chesterton. The Register mentions but three men, and only one of them lived in the village where Robinson resided at the time of writing his often-quoted words. The names of these men were – John Baile, of Chesterton; Robert Sparke, of Reche, in the parish of Swaffham; and John Crud, alias Crowd, of Cambridge.         In addition to the opinions quoted by Robinson, which these men were charged with holding, we may now add some others, especialIy as they reveal still further the character of their belief. They are charged with asserting “that fasting is not binding on labourers and married people, but only on clericos et religriosos – the priests and monks.” They affirmed, “that there was no benefit in burial in consecrated ground, and that the money spent thereby would be better applied to the poor than given to gratify the avarice of the priests.” They represented transubstantiation as a vain oblation. They declared, “that it was better to confess to a man cut off from the fellowship of the faithful (the Romish Church), than to a priest.” They taught, “that as God was the searcher of hearts, mental prayer in the fields was as profitable as oral prayer in a church.” They held, concerning marriage, “that the priest’s presence was merely required at its celebration for the sake of gain.” “Extreme unction,” they confessed, “did no good to the soul, and only defiled the body.”         Baptists have too readily claimed these men as holding their opinions, since, according to the third count in the indictment, all that they affirmed on this subject was, “that children neither have need of baptism, nor ought they to be baptized, since the baptism of their parenta was sufficient.” It was, however, by no means uncommon foz the Romish clergy in


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those days thus to describe the Baptist opinions held by many of the Lollards. Fox, the Martyrologist, himself no great admirer of Baptists, quoting a similar accusation against the Norwich Lollards some years before the date at which Sparke and his friends were examined by Bishop Gray, suggests, “that the thing is so contrary to the manifest word, that it is not to be thought any to be so ignorant of the Gospel that they ever would or did affirm the same.” Whether, therefore, these men were Baptists still remains doubtful; but that they were unable to bear the strain put upon them by Bishop Gray is too patent from the Bishop’s Register. Robert Sparke was first examined, and endeavoured to defend his opinions; was reasoned with, and. recanted. He was nevertheless excommunicated; but on subsequent evidence of repentance, and swearing obedience, he was forgiven, the following penance being imposed: – “That on the eve of Pentecost next you shall walk about the market-place of Ely, when most people were there, wearing only your shirt and breeches (solis comitia et braccis indutus), bearing a faggot upon your back, humbly carrying a wax taper in your hand, and declaring publicly the reasons for your penance.” On the eve of Trinity next he was to do the same in the Cambridge market. Also, on the next Sunday, after the feast of Corpus Christi, and on the Sunday following that, he was to do penance in like manner in the parish church of Swaffham. Sparke was compelled to swear “that from that hour he would neither hold nor propagate any opinion against orthodoxy; nor in any way favour such, nor yet go to conventicalae illicitae, unlawful conventicles;” a clear proof that such Conventicles did actually at that time exist; but not that one existed at Chesterton, where Robinson was living at the time he quotes “Gray’s Register.” The sentences on Crowd and Baile were similar, save that the places of church penance were Cambridge and Chesterton.*

* From the Paston Letters, a few quotations illustrating the national and social history of England at this time (1457) may be given. One, William


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        Before leaving the Baker Manuscripts, in which the above facts are recorded, it may not be uninteresting to give another quotation referring to events which happened about twenty-six years (1481) before the date of Bishop Gray’s eznmination of Sparke and his friends. It appears, from this entry, that a proclamation had been issued by Henry the Sixth, “against certain heretics and Lollards.” They are charged with holding “errors tending to the subversion of religion and government, and with circulating false and seditious tracts (billae falsae et seditiones).” Whoever had such, “shall immediately tear them into small fragments, or burn them;” and “any one failing in this is to be held answerable as the author, until he find the author.” Proclamation is furtlier to be made, “that any one informing against, another who has written, or stuck up, or in any way communicated such a tract, shall, on conviction, receive a sure reward of twenty pounds (about £180 in our money), and half the property of the person convicted.” Power was also given to arrest or imprison persons

Conyn, a wealthy merchant of Bristol, and the mayor of that year, showed his patriotism by offering to build, at his own cost, “a stately vessel, only for the warre;” and, owing to the fear of a French invasion, “the lords appointed to keep the sea were making hem redye yn all haste;” not a whit too soon, as events afterwards proved. All this time, the common every-day life of the people went on as usual; and very curious are the revelations found of it in this collection of Letters. For instance, one lays bare the anxiety of a good mother about her son, who was at school in London. Judging from the mother’s letter, Clement Paston had a better wardrobe than wit. Although carefully describing the “five gowns,” and their colours and respective ages his mother shows that her chief trouble is about Clement’s dulness,– a dulness that prompts her to think that he rnust be “trewly belassched” (whipped) unless he mends, telling the London friend to whom she writes, that that was how his former master at Cambridge treated him, “and the best he ever had,” says the reflecting mother. But thinking of the disgrace of failure in the new school, she adds, with more energy than tenderness, “I had lever (rather) he were fairly buried than lost for default.” During the same year, “thieves and malefactors had justice done upon them daily, for which the people were glad.” Moreover, perhaps in prospect of war, “the soldiers were more temperate than they were.”


BYE-PATHS IN BAPTIST HISTORY                                                                        Page 20

in any way circulating such billae. The Proclamation is addressed by the King to the Sheriff of London, and a similar brief was sent to all the sheriffs of England. The inference, therefore, is plain: at that time numerous books, advocating the opinions of the Lollards, were in general circulation throughout all parts of the country; and, as many of the Lollards held and advocated Baptist opinions, the seed of future harvests was thus being widely scattered.

~~~~~

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 Posted by at 10:29 am

Declaration of Indulgence 1672

 

The Declaration of Indulgence granted by Parliament in 1672 allowed for the licensing of nonconformist ministers and meeting houses.   The records provide an insight into the widespread support across Northamptonshire at this time.  The records have been published in two booklets in 1875 an 1912.   Extracts from both are reproduced below, together with a summary of the records themselves.

Nonconformity in Northamptonshire 1672

Written specially for the Northampton Mercury, Saturday, Feb. 6, 1875 From the original documents in the Record Office, with notes.

by John B. Marsh

Though not generally known, it is a fact that in the Public Record Office, London, there exists a complete list of the founders of Nonconformity in England and Wales. Among many thousands of big brown paper bundles, containing memoranda relating to the domestic History of England during hundreds of past years, is one filled with scraps of paper on which names only are written. There are nearly 8,400 in all; and they are the names of those who in 1672 were licensed to preach, or licensed to have preaching in their houses. This was ten years after the Act of St. Bartholomew was put in force, by which several thousands of godly ministers were ejected from their Church livings, and. formed the first body of Nonconformist ministers. For ten years, notwithstanding the moat fearful persecutions, the ejected maintained their independence. Now the time had come for a respite, and the process by which it was effected created the list still preserved. Charles II, instigated by some of his advisers — Parliament not sitting at the time — constituted the Nonconformists a power in the State, by conferring upon them civil rights and religious liberty. This was effected by issuing what was called a Declaration of Indulgence; all the penal laws in operation against them were suspended, and they were directed to apply forthwith for licenses to secure themselves from the troubles they had endured in the past. Applications were sent to Whitehall, that old palace of the King’s, which was the scene of most of his revels, and of which a fragment only, now remains. Here in a leathern sack, hidden away in some cellar, the precious list of names survived the disasters which befell the palace by fire and water; and after the lapse of nearly two centuries have been brought to light once more. This list has never yet been published, either as a whole or in part. Such a task was surrounded with many difficulties: the names were without order and difficult to read. To be of use it was necessary, first, to copy the whole; then arrange them in the order of counties; afterwards to place the names in alphabetical order; and, finally, selecting such as were ejected in 1662, to write a few lines of biography for each. — The following are the names relating to Northamptonshire. It will be noticed that many of the places are spelt in a strange way. They are exact copies of the originals, and it was not desirable, therefore, to introduce the modern spelling. The abbreviations used are as follow: — O.H., own house; P., Presbyterian; C., Congregational; B., Baptist; A., Anabaptist; I., Independent.

A close examination of the list will reveal many interesting facts. For instance, Thomas Came preached the Baptist faith in one village and Presbyterian principles in another. Lady Pickering also allowed a Presbyterian to preach in her house one day and a Congregational preacher on another.

The fate of the Indulgence was soon sealed. As soon as Parliament met in 1673, it was withdrawn, on the ground that the King had no right to suspend penal statutes in matters ecclesiastical.

Northants Nonconformity 250 Years Ago

by F. Ives Cater, 1912

In Northamptonshire (including Market Harborough and Bowden) 44 ministers were licensed (21 Presbyterian, 19 Congregational, and 4 Baptist), and 74 meeting places (38 Presbyterian, 34 Congregational, and 2 Baptist).

By far the larger part of the Northamptonshire licences were applied for and received by Nathaniel Ponder on behalf of the various persons and places concerned, Probably he was connected with the Rothwell Congregational Church, for John Ponder was one of the first elders there, and Susannah Ponder’s house in Rothwell was licensed. John Browning, the second minister of that church, and the one licensed in 1672, married Susannah Ponder as his second wife. The licences for Northampton, Wellingborough, Kettering and all the middle part of the county, were obtained through Nathaniel Ponder. Those of Daventry were applied for by Robert Steele. Some for the north of the county came through Thomas Taylor.

We now proceed to give a complete list of all ministers and places licensed in Northamptonshire. The letters “C” and “P” placed after the names indicate “Congregational” and “Presbyterian” respectively. Of the forty-five men ejected from Northamptonshire pulpits in 1662, twenty two remained in the county, and were licensed in 1672. It is worthy of notice, however, that with the exception of Maidwell of Kettering, Resbury of Oundle, and Courtman of Thorpe Malsor (a family chaplain), all of them had removed from the town or village where they originally ministered — an indication, forcible enough, of the effect of the Five Mile Act. (Floyd of Woodford removed to Ipswich, and then returned).

The Indulgence was cancelled, under pressure of Parliament, in 1673, and the licences were recalled in 1675, but the results for nonconformity were permanent. Sir John Reresby, writing at the time, describes it as ” the greatest blow that ever was given, since the King’s restoration to the Church of England; all sectaries by this means repairing publicly to their meetings and conventicles, insomuch that all the laws and care of their execution against these separatists afterwards could never bring them back to due conformity.” The two or three years’ breathing space it secured enabled nonconformists to organize themselves, and to recover the position lost during the period of rigid repression. More persecution was to follow before legal toleration was granted them, but henceforth they were too strong for repressive measures to be successful in putting them down,. In the episcopal return for 1675 it is asserted that “many left the Church upon the Indulgence, who before did frequent it.” That is to say, many who from fear of persecution, had adopted occasional conformity now took courage to worship with their brethren. A large number of nonconformist churches existing to-day date their formation and continuous life from the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672.

In Northamptonshire the following churches can claim a consecutive existence from 1662 to the present day, viz., Rothwell (1655), Kettering, Market Harborough, Northampton (Doddridge), Oundle, Weedon, Wellingborough; and possibly Daventry and Kilsby. Ashley, Geddington, and Yardley Hastings date from 1672.

 ParishPreacher or Meeting HouseDenominationNotes
1GREAT ADDINGTONHouse of Samuel WhitbyeP
2ADSTONEROBERT ALLEN (ejected from Norton)P
House of Edward Hardy, Esq.P
3ASHBY ST LEGERSWILLIAM BUTLER (ejected from Hazlebeach)P
House of William ButlerP
4GREAT BOWDENNICHOLAS KESTIN (ejected from Gumley, Leicestershire)P
House of Nicholas KestinP
House of John HeathC
5LITTLE BOWDENHouse of James TaylorP
6BRAFIELD ON THE GREENCHRISTOPHER STANLEYC
House of Christopher StanleyC
7BRIGSTOCKHouse of Edward BrookesC
8CRANFORDNATHANIEL WHITING (ejected from Aldwinckle)C
House of Nathaniel WhitingC
9CRANSLEYHENRY WILLES (ejected from Loddington)P
House of Henry WillesP
10DAVENTRYÿJAMES CAVE (ejected from Crossthwaite)P
DANIEL WILLIAMS, D.D. (silenced in 1662, and here received a "general" licence)P
House of James CaveP
House of Widow ManleyP
House of John HawtynP
House of Allen LinzeyP
11DENTONGEORGE BIDBANCKE, M.A. (ejected from Scotto, Norfolk)-C
12DOGSTHORPEHouse of Walter SlyeP
13DUNCOTRALPH PUNNE, at the house of John OvertonC
(See Green?s Norton)
14EYEJOHN SARJANTBaptist
EDWARD PAYTONAnabaptist
House of William HoltAnabaptist
House of Baxter SlyesP
15GEDDINGTONVINCENT ALSOP (ejected from Wilby)CVincent Alsop, M.A.,was ejected] from the Rectory of Wilby. He was imprisoned for six months at Northampton for praylng with a sick person. This was the only occasion he was imprisoned. Many informations were afterwards sworn against this, but they failed in their object through Ignorance of Mr. Alsop?s Christian name. He died in 1703.
House of Vincent AlsopC
Application was also made for a licence for "the schoole house," but this was not granted
16GREEN?S NORTONHouse of Ralph Punne (see Duncot)C
House of Rebecca MulsoeC
17HIGHAM FERRERSTWYFORD WORTHINGTON, at his own houseP
18ISLIPJOHN SEATON (ejected from Twywell)PJohn Seaton was ejected from the Rectory of Tywell, and afterwards he established a school at Islip.
A "general" licence.
19ISHAMÿJOHN BAYNARD (ejected from Burton Latimer)C
House of Robert GrayC
20KETTERINGJOHN MAIDWELL (ejected from Kettering)CJohn Maydwell, MA., was ejected from the Rectory of Kettering. Sir Thomas and Lady Alston were amongst his best friends. He was once imprisoned for Nonconformity, and on several occasions escaped arrest by adopting a disguise. In 1692 he died, aged 83.
THOMAS PERKINS (ejected from Burley, Rutland)P
House of John MaidwellPMaidwell was first licensed to preach in Widow Cooper?s house, and afterwards applied for a licence for his own house In the actual licence it is incorrectly endorsed "Presbyterian"
House of Widow CooperC
21KILSBYSTEPHEN FOWLER (ejected from Crick)P
House of Stephen FowlerP
22KINGS CLIFFEHouse of Thomas BroomeC
23MARKET HARBOROUGHÿMATTHEW CLARKE (ejected from Narborough)P"It is desired by Matthew Clarke of the Presbyterian Persuasion, living at Market Harborough in Leicestershire, that he may be Licensed to preach in any Licensed Place"
House of William HartshorneC
House of Robert BasseP
House of Thomas MoreP
In the Episcopal Returns for 1669 we have an earlier glimpse of nonconformity in Market Harborough It is reported that there are about 100 Presbyterians "of the middle sort" (ie station in life) and the "Heads or Teachers" are returned as "Mr Matthew Clarke Chaplaine formerly to Colonell Hacker, Thomas Lang dale, Mr Browning an ejected minister, and Mr Shuttlewood"
The return for Great Bowden reads: "About 200 Presbyterians" " of the better sort," Teachers "Matthew Clarke and Mr Shuttlewood, one Mr Southall an ejected minister, Mr Kestyn ejected out of the vicaridge of Gumley, Mr Langdale formerly Curate of Bowden Magna, Mr Wilson ejected out of the vicaridge of Foxton" This valuable information deepens our regret that the returns for Northamptonshire have not been found.
24MEARS ASHBYTHOMAS ANDREWS (ejected from Wellingborough)PThomas Andrews was ejected from the vlcarage of Welllngborough. He afterwards frequently preached at Lady Tyrrel?s.
House of Thomas AndrewsP
House of William GarrettP
25NASSINGTONWILLIAM OLIVER (ejected from Glap. thorne)PWilliam Oliver was ejected from a church at Glaptborn. For several years he acted as chaplain to Lady Norcliff. He died in 1686, aged 72.
House of William OliverP
House of John OliverP
26NEWTONHouse of John MansellC
House of Robert MaunsellP
27NORTHAMPTONRICHARD HOOKE (ejected from Creaton)PRichard Hooke was ejected from the Rectory of Creaton, and afterwards established a school.
JOHN HARDING (?ejected from Melksham, Wilts)P
House of Richard HookeP
House of John HardingP
House of John ClarkP
House of Valentine ChadockP
House of Robert MasteyC
House of Samuel WolfordC
28GREAT OAKLEY" MR. FRANCIS DANDY In ye mansion house of Mrs. Margaret Brooke ."P
29OUNDLERICHARD ROSBURY (ejected from Oundle)CRichard Rosbury resigned the Vicarage of Oundle six weeks before Bartholemew day arrived. He subsequently practised physic, and preached as opportunity served.
ROBERT WILD (ejected from Aynho)PRobert Wilde, D.D., was ejected from the Rectory of Ayno. He is said to have been a very worthy, as well as a very serious-minded, man. There were two candidates for-the Rectory, Dr. Wilde and someone else, and each preached a sermon to the parishioners before a choice was made. After his appointment, the Dr. was asked whether he had been chosen. He replied, "We have divided it; I have got the Aye,? and my opponent the No.?" He died in 1679. aged 70.
House of Richard ResburyC
House of Robert WildP
House of Thomas FownesP
House of Mary BritonP
30PETERBOROUGHCHRISTOPHER BELLAnabaptist
House of Isaac SpenceAnabaptist
House of William ShippsP
House of Barnaby KnowlesP
House of John BladwickP
31POLEBROOK" MATTHEW ORLEBAR to be a Pr. Teacher in his house in Polebrook."P
32RINGSTEADJOHN WILLESC
House of John MortonC
33ROTHWELLÿTHOMAS BROWNING (ejected from Desborough)CThomas Browning was ejected from the vicarage of Desborough, and was imprisoned for preaching, in Northampton Gaol. He died in 1685.
House of Thomas BrowningC
House of Susannah PonderC
Application was also made for "Mr Thomas Browning in a place called ye Nunery in Rothwell " result not stated
34RUSHDEN (?Rushden or Rushton)House of Mr. WolestonC
35SIBBERTOFTÿTHOMAS CARNEBaptist
House of Samuel SturgessP
36SIJLGRAVEHouse of Thomas HaycockP
37THORPE MALSORJOHN COURTMAN (ejected from Thorpe Malsor)CJohn Courtman, B.D., was ejected from the Rectory of Thorp Medsworth. He afterwards preached in the house of the patron of the living, and practised physic with great success.
House of John MansellC
38TITCHMARSHHENRY SEARLE (ejected from Cranford)C
NATHANIEL WHITING (ejected from Aldwinckle)CNathan Whiting, MA., was ejected from the Rectory of Aldwinckle. The Earl of Peterborough offered him his choice of three livings if he would conform, but he courteously refused.
Whiting was licensed for Titchmarsh in addition to Cranford because Henry Searle died about April, 1672
In" ye mansion house of ye Lady Pickering"C
George Fowler in "ye house and barn of James Cole".C
39TOWCESTERHouse of Charles GoreC
40TWYWELLROBERT EKINS (ejected from Trinity College, Cambridge)C
House of Mrs. Elizabeth MulsoeC
42WAPPENHAMROBERT ROGERS, at his own houseP
42WARMINGTONJOHN ROWLETT (ejected from Sudborough)PJohn Rowlett was ejected from the Rectory of Sudborough, but continued preaching until his death.
"Ye mansion house of Mrs. Anne Elmes "P
43WEEDONJOHN WORTHP
House of John BillingP
44WELFORDHouse of Henry SteeleP
45WELLINGBOROUGHÿMR. STRICKLAND NEGUS (ejected from Irchester)C
House of Richard BarnesC
"A Large Roome Adjoining to and belonging to ye house of Richard Atkins ".C
Application was also made for "Mr Vincent Alsop in a certaine room over ye schoole in Wellingborough " but this was not granted; Mr Alsop received one for Geddington, and could use it in Wellingborough
46WILBARSTONHouse of Thomas AldwinckleC
47WOLLASTONTHOMAS BRETT in "John Morice his barn ".C
THOMAS EDMONDS in John Brook?s house-C.C
48WOODFORDWILLIAM FLOYD (ejected from Woodford)CWilliam Floyd was ejected from a living at Woodford. lie practised physic, and was commonly called Dr. Floyd.
House of William WellsC
49YARDLEY HASTINGSHouse of John NealC

© Graham Ward 2012

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Ministers and Clergy in 1841

 

Source: Census 1841.  Dissenting Ministers and Clergy in Northampton from data supplied by Alan Clark.  Note, these are not all Nonconformist ministers.

Place  Name AgeOccupationBorn in countyBorn in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign Parts
ALBION PLACENORTHAMPTONWILLIAMGRAY60BAPTIST MINISTERN
CATHOLIC BISHOPS HOUSENORTHAMPTONALPHOUSE?ARRANGER35CATHOLIC PRIESTNF
VICARAGEDALLINGTONDALLINGTON PARISHDAVIDFENN35CLERGYMANN
SAINT EDMUNDS ENDNORTHAMPTONSAMUELHORNBUCKLE65CLERGYMANN
SHEEP STREETNORTHAMPTONWILLIAMSCOTT25CLERGYMANN
VICARAGEDALLINGTONDALLINGTON PARISH????TROTMAN40CLERGYMANN
MAREFAIRNORTHAMPTONWILLIAMWALES35CLERGYMANN
MAREFAIRNORTHAMPTONCHARLESWEST40CLERGYMANN
LOWER ENDKINGSTHORPE PARISHROBERTWOODWARD35CLERGYMANN
ROYAL TERRACENORTHAMPTONJOHNTHORNTON30CURATE OF ALL SAINTSN
KING STREETNORTHAMPTONWILLIAMJARROM25DISSENTING ? (MINISTER ?)N
HORSEMARKETNORTHAMPTONGEORGEARNSBY40DISSENTING MINISTERY
BACK LANEKINGSTHORPE PARISHGEORGEASHMEAD35DISSENTING MINISTERN
ST MARYS STREETNORTHAMPTONJOHNBENNETT35DISSENTING MINISTERN
BRIDGE STREETNORTHAMPTONWILLIAMJONES20DISSENTING MINISTERN
VICTORIA TERRACENORTHAMPTONRICHARDTUNLEY25DISSENTING MINISTERN
WOOD STREETNORTHAMPTONTHOMASMILNES30MINISTERN
WATERLOONORTHAMPTONEDMUNDPRUST30MINISTER OF THE GOSPELN
TODDS LANENORTHAMPTONWILLIAMHALES40WESLEYAN MINISTERN
BRIDGE STREETNORTHAMPTONJOHNJULIAN25WESLEYAN MINISTERN
BRIDGE STREETNORTHAMPTONROBERTLEWIS21WESLEYAN MINISTERN
MAREFAIRNORTHAMPTONGEORGEROWE50WESLEYAN MINISTERN
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Anne Dutton (1692 – 1765)

 

‘The celebrated Mrs Anne Dutton’

by Michael Haykin, from Evangelical Times, April 2001, reproduced by permission of the author and the Evangelical Times

While there were a number of first-class poetesses in the 18th century, female theological writers from that era are a distinct rarity. This makes the literary legacy of the Calvinistic Baptist, Anne Dutton (1692-1765), extremely significant.

Anne Dutton, née Williams, was born in Northampton to godly Congregationalist parents. In her late teens she began attending an open-membership Baptist church in the town, pastored at the time by John Moore (d.1726).

There, in her words, she found ‘fat, green pastures, for Mr. Moore was a great doctrinal preacher’. As she went on to explain: ‘the special advantage I received under his ministry was the establishment of my judgement in the doctrines of the gospel’. It was in this congregation that she was baptised as a believer.

Influenced by Hyper-Calvinists?

When she was twenty-two she married a Mr Cattell (his first name does not appear to be known) and moved to London. While there, she worshipped with the Calvinistic Baptist church that met at premises on Wood Street, Cripplegate. Founded by Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691), this work had known some rough times in the days immediately before Anne came to the church.

David Crosley (1669-1744), pastor of the work from 1705 to 1709, had been disfellowshipped for drunkenness, unchaste conduct, and lying to the church about these matters when accused.

Crosley had been a powerful evangelist in the Pennines with his cousin, William Mitchel (d.1705), whose life and ministry we will look at next month. Many years later, he would again know some usefulness in the Lord’s work. But in the 1710s, he had lost all credibility. The sorrow and sense of betrayal and consternation in the church must have run deep.

It was not until 1714 that the church succeeded in finding a new pastor. John Skepp (d.1721), a member of the Cambridge Congregationalist Church of Joseph Hussey (1659-1726), was called that year to be the pastor.

Now Hussey is often seen as the father of Hyper-Calvinism. In his book God’s Operations of Grace but no Offers of Grace (1707), he asserted that offering Christ indiscriminately to sinners is something that smacks of ‘creature-co-operation and creature-concurrence’ in the work of salvation.

Skepp himself published but one book, and that posthumously. In his Divine Energy: or The Efficacious Operations of the Spirit of God upon the Soul of Man (1722) he appears to have followed Hussey’s approach to evangelism.

Appreciating Whitefield

It is sometimes argued that Anne Dutton’s exposure to Hyper-Calvinism at a young age shaped her thinking for the rest of her life. If so, it is curious to find her rejoicing in the ministry of preachers like George Whitefield (1714-1770) in later years. If Anne did have Hyper-Calvinist leanings, they were not such as to prevent her from appreciating deeply what God was doing through men like Whitefield.

Skepp was an impressive preacher. The overall trend in the church during his ministry was one of growth. There were 179 members when he came as pastor in 1714. When he died in 1721, church membership had grown to 212. And Anne delighted in his ‘quickness of thought, aptness of expression, suitable affection, and a most agreeable delivery’.

Great Gransden

About 1720 Anne’s life underwent a deep trial as her husband of only five or six years died. Returning to her family in Northampton, she was not long single. Her second marriage in the early 1720s was to Benjamin Dutton (1691-1747), a clothier who had studied for vocational ministry in various places, among them Glasgow University.

Ministry took the couple to such towns as Whittlesey and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, before leading them finally in 1731 to Great Gransden, Huntingdonshire.

Under Dutton’s preaching the church flourished. On any given Sunday the congregation numbered between 250 and 350, of whom roughly 50 were members. This growth led to the building of a new meeting-house, which can still be seen in the village.

Benjamin perished at sea, however, in 1747. He had gone to America to help raise funds to pay off the debt incurred in the building of the meeting-house. The ship on which he was returning foundered not far from the British coast.

Primitive piety

Widowed for the second time, Anne was to live another eighteen years. During that time ‘the fame of her primitive piety’ became known in Evangelical circles on both sides of the Atlantic. The words cited are those of Baptist historian Joseph Ivimey (1773-1834) and referred to her New Testament-like spirituality.

She had been writing for a number of years before Benjamin’s demise. After his death a steady stream of tracts and treatises, collections of selected correspondence, and poems poured from her pen.

Among her numerous correspondents were Howel Harris (1714-1773), Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791), William Seward (1711-1740), George Whitefield, and Philip Doddridge (1702-1751).

Harris was convinced that the Lord had entrusted her ‘with a Talent of writing for him’. When Seward, an early Methodist preacher who was killed by a mob in Wales, read a letter from her in May 1739, he found it ‘full of such comforts and direct answers to what I had been writing that it filled my eyes with tears of joy’.

And Whitefield, who helped promote and publish Anne’s writings, said after meeting her that ‘her conversation is as weighty as her letters’.

Women writers

But she wrestled with whether it was biblical for her to be an authoress. In a tract entitled A Letter to Such of the Servants of Christ, who May have any Scruple about the Lawfulness of PRINTING any Thing written by a Woman (1743), she maintained that she wrote not for fame, but for ‘only the glory of God, and the good of souls’.

To those who might accuse her of violating 1 Timothy 2:12, she answered that her books were not intended to be read in a public setting of worship, which the text was designed to address.

Rather, the instruction that her books gave was private, for they were read by believers in ‘their own private houses’. She asked those who opposed women writers to ‘Imagine then…when my books come to your house, that I am come to give you a visit’ and the opportunity to ‘patiently attend’ to her ‘infant lispings’.

What if some other women authors had used the press for ‘trifles’? Well, she answered, ‘Shall none of that sex be suffer’d to appear on Christ’s side, to tell of the wonders of his love, to seek the good of souls, and the advancement of the Redeemer’s interest?’

She was not slow to critique theological positions she felt erroneous. For instance, she was a critic of John Wesley and his brand of Evangelical Arminianism, though her criticism was never abusive. In addition to a number of letters to Wesley, she wrote a booklet entitled Letters to the Reverend Mr. John Wesley against Perfection as Not Attainable in this Life (1743).

The Lord’s Supper

One of her best pieces is a devotional study of the Lord’s Table, Thoughts on the Lord’s Supper, Relating to the Nature, Subjects, and right Partaking of this Solemn Ordinance, which was published anonymously in 1748.

It clearly reveals Calvinistic Baptist piety at its best. ‘Not a dram of new covenant-favour’, she writes, ‘was to flow to the heirs of promise, but thro’ the death of Jesus’. This Christ-centredness and cross-centredness permeates the entire treatise.

To give but one further example: ‘O what a wondrous draught’, she declares near the beginning of the book, ‘what a life-giving draught, in his own most precious blood, doth God our Saviour, the Lord our lover, give to dying sinners, to his beloved ones in this glorious ordinance’.

For Anne and, one suspects, many of her fellow Baptist Dissenters, the Lord’s Supper was a ‘Royal banquet which infinite love hath prepared’. In fact, so high is her view of the Supper that she considers it ‘the nearest approach to his glorious Self, that we can make in an ordinance-way on the earth, on this side [of] the presence of his glory in heaven’.

This language may sound extravagant to some, but it reveals, I believe, something of the spiritual intensity that was available to Dissenting congregations in the mid-eighteenth century.

In fact, one of the few negative effects of the Evangelical Revival may well be the way in which this spirituality was diluted in the rush to make churches primarily centres for evangelism.

A personal word

Though most of Anne’s works survive now in only a few copies, they are well worth the effort of finding and reading. This writer can testify to the rich time he spent one October morning last year on a train trip from Bedford to Gatwick Airport, reading some of Anne’s letters.

I had been given a copy of Anne’s Selections from Letters on Spiritual Subjects (compiled and published in 1884) by Mr Nigel Pibworth of Biggleswade, and despite the press of the commuters that morning, I was gripped by the spirituality of her prose. Hopefully this brief introduction to her life will prompt a renewed appreciation of her legacy and spirituality.

The author would like to thank Mr Pibworth for the gift of a number of other sources that also helped immensely in the writing of this article.

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State of the Baptist churches in Northamptonshire in 1814

 

by Andrew Fuller, from his Works, volume 3, page 481 – 483

This article also appears in the Baptist Magazine June 1813 page 228 – 233, preceded by the following list of churches.

The following is according to the best of my knowledge a correct list of the Baptist churches in Northamptonshire, with the names of their pastors at the present time.

Barton, Earls
Braunston S Norman
Braybrook
Buckby, Long W Steans
Bugbrook J Wheeler
Burton Latimer J Presland
Clipstone
Gretton
Guilsborough J Edmonds
Hackleton
Irthlingborough W Hall
Kettering A Fuller
Kislingbury S Adams
Middleton Cheney R Davis
Moulton T Berridge
Northampton T Blundell
Ringstead R Grindon
Road W Heighton
Rushden W Peacock
Thrapstone W Ragsdell
Towcester J Barker
Walgrave A Payne
Weston by Weedon R Clark

 

Besides these there are three or four small societies, but which, either on account of their principles, or conduct, are not generally acknowledged, or at least have not fallen under the observation of the writer.

I. Out of the twenty-three churches in this county, nineteen are in villages, and four in market towns. Eleven are in connexion with the Northamptonshire and Leicestershire association; the other twelve are in no association. The average number of members in each church is about seventy, and of hearers about three hundred.

2. There are no two of them which meet for worship in the same village or town in consequence of any division among themselves. Such things may be borne with in some instances rather than worse but they are not among the things which are lovely and of good report Such things have existed among these churches, but they exist no longer.

3. There are only three which meet for worship in towns where there are Independent congregations, or any other preaching which is ordinarily considered as evangelical; and those are places so populous as to furnish no just ground of complaint on the score of opposition. If our object therefore had been to increase our number from other evangelical connexions, rather than by conversions from the world, we have acted very unwisely in fixing on the places where we should take our stand. It is acknowledged that many members of paedobaptist churches have joined us in consequence of their being convinced of believers’ baptism being the only baptism taught sad exemplified in the Scriptures; and that many of our members owe their first religious impressions to the labours of a Hervey, a Maddox, and other evangelical clergymen, whose names are dear to them and to us all. But the number of persons of both these descriptions fall short of that of persons who have been in the habit of attending our worship, or have come over to us from the ranks of the irreligious.

4. Of those who are not in the association, three or four are what are called high Calvinists, holding the doctrines of election and predestination This is far from being the case in the present day

ECCLESIASTICAL POLITY

in such a way as to exclude exhortations and invitations to the ungodly to believe in Christ for salvation. The rest, whether in or out of the association, consider these doctrines as consistent with exhortations and invitations, as the means by which the predestined ends are accomplished. There are individuals of a different mind in the other churches; for we distinguish between high Calvinists and Antinomians: with the former we do not refuse communion, but with the latter we do.

5. The greater part of these churches are not of very long standing. In 1689, when a meeting of the elders and messengers of more than one hundred Baptist churches was held in London, there were no messengers from this county. It does not follow that there were no Baptist churches in the county, but they certainly were very few and small. Half the present number at least have been raised within the last fifty years, and many of those which were raised before, have much more than doubled their number since that period. The average clear increase of those churches in the county which are in the association during the above period is about seventy-five; and probably the clear increase of the churches not associated would be much the same. Several of those which are now flourishing churches were formerly small societies; some of them branches of other churches, supplied principally by gifted brethren not wholly devoted to the ministry, but labouring with their hands for their own maintenance, and that of their families.

6. If such has been the progress of things during the last fifty years, what may we not hope for in fifty years to come? Were the number of these churches even to continue stationary during that period — and were nothing reckoned on but a diligent perseverance, in the stated means of grace, only including occasional labours in adjacent villages, reckoning three generations to a century — a testimony will have been borne in each of them to a thousand, and in all of them to three-and-twenty thousand souls. And if on an average they may be supposed to contain fifty truly Christian people — for though we admit none but those who profess and appear to he such, yet it cannot be expected that all are what they profess to be — each church will have reared seventy-five, and altogether seventeen hundred and twenty-five plants for the heavenly paradise.

But surely we need not calculate on their remaining stationary. If genuine Christianity does but live among them, it will both “grow and multiply.” If it multiply only in the same proportion as it has done in the last half century, in respect to the number of churches, and of members in each church, it will increase considerably more than fourfold; and if from each of these churches should proceed only three or four faithful and useful ministers of the gospel—if especially there should arise among them only now and then “a fruitful bough”—say a Thomas, a Carey, a Marshman, a Ward, a Chamberlain, or a Chater—” whose branches run over the wall” of Christendom itself; who can calculate the fruits? From a part of these churches, connected in association with others in the adjacent counties, within the last twenty years, has “sounded forth the word of the Lord,” into the very heart of heathen and Mahomedan Asia; and as the times foretold in prophecy, when “a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation,” appear to be fast approaching, it behoves us not only to “attempt” but also to “expect great things.”

Our chief concern should be that we may not disqualify ourselves for possessing these lively hopes by a relinquishment of the doctrine, the worship, the discipline, the spirit, or the practice of vital Christianity. That God’s “way may be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations,” our prayer should be, “God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause thy face to shine upon us.” We cannot impart that which we do not possess.

DECLINE OF THE DISSENTING INTEREST

I have seen, in those churches with which I have been most intimately connected, many things which have endeared them to me. Particularly, a lively interest in evangelical, faithful, practical, and pungent preaching; an attention to things more than to words; a taste for the affectionate more than for the curious; a disposition to read and think rather than dispute; a spirit to promote the kingdom of Christ; in fine, a modesty, gentleness, and kindness of behaviour. I have been thirty years pastor of one of them; and if there has ever been an instance of unkind or unchristian behaviour towards me, I have forgotten it.

These things I have seen in some of our churches, and would fain consider them as the general feature. But truth obliges me to add, I have also seen things of another description. I have seen discipline neglected, apparently lest it should injure the subscription; and if exercised, it has seemed to be more from regard to reputation in the eyes of men than from the fear of God. I have seen an evil in the choice of ministers; too much attention has been paid to the superficial qualification of a ready, off-hand address, calculated to fill the place, and too little to those solid qualities that constitute the man of God, and the serious, faithful, and affectionate pastor. I have also seen, or thought I have seen, in the choice of deacons, more regard paid to opulence than to those qualifications required by the New Testament. I have seen too much of a worldly spirit, and a conformity to the maxims by which worldly men are wont to regulate their conduct.

I do not know that such things are more prevalent in these than in other churches; but, wherever they, prevail, they will be a worm at the root of the gourd. It becomes us as ministers to inquire whether a large portion of these evils may not originate amongst us. If we were more spiritual, evangelical, and zealous in the work of God, things would be different with the people. We are apt to think, that if we have but made up our minds on the leading points of controversy afloat in the world, and taken the side of truth, we are safe; but it is not so. If we walk not with God, we shall almost be certain in some way to get aside from the gospel, and then the work of God will not prosper in our hands. Ingenious discourses may be delivered, and nothing advanced inconsistent with the gospel, while yet the gospel itself is not preached.

We may preach about Christ himself, and yet not “preach Christ.” We may pride ourselves in our orthodoxy, and yet be far from the doctrine of the New Testament; may hold with exhortations and invitations to the unconverted, and yet not “persuade men ;” may plead for sound doctrine, and yet overlook the things that “become sound doctrine.” Finally, we may advocate the cause of holiness, while we ourselves are unholy.

 

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