A History of the Baptists
ORIGIN OF THE PARTICULAR BAPTIST CHURCHES
THUS far only the history of the General Baptist churches of England has been considered. This body constituted by far the larger portion of the Baptists of that country, and their history runs on in an uninterrupted stream from generation to generation. On the subject of the administrator of baptism Baptists held, as has been seen, that they hid the power to originate baptism, but that it took at least two persons to begirt the act; and that these two could institute the rite. This was the method of Smyth and was the general theory held by them. To understand this history this position must be kept sharply in mind. They were mildly Arminian in their views, and forcefully impressed free will.
It is now time to consider the history of another body of Baptists, who if not so numerous were at least highly influential. They were called Particular Baptists, since they held to Calvinistic views. Two views of the administrator of baptism prevailed among them. The first and oldest was that every Christian man could, without himself having been baptized, immerse a candidate upon a profession of faith. Later there were those who held that an administrator should have a succession from a previously baptized administrator. At times these views came into conflict and caused much troublesome discussion. The Particular Baptists had a wholly different origin from the General Baptists.
It must not be thought that either of
these parties were new. Crosby says:
It may be proper to observe here, that there have been two parties of the English Baptists ever since the beginning of the reformation; those that have followed the Calvinistical scheme or doctrines, and from the principal points therein, personal election, and have been termed Particular Baptists: And those that have professed the Arminian or remonstrant tenets; and have also from the chief of those doctrines, universal redemption, been called General Baptists (Crosby, I. 173).
There were likewise many Baptists in England who did not choose to assume either name, because they receive what they think to be truth, without regarding with what human schemes it agrees or disagrees" (Crosby, 1. 174).
But some of the Particular Baptist churches originated in the Independent church of Henry Jacob. There is no proof that all of the seven Particular Baptist churches of London originated in this manner. "The Seven Churches of London, however," says Cutting, "are not to be supposed as comprising the whole of the Particular Baptist denomination at that time. There were certainly several churches besides these, and their increase at a period immediately succeeding was very rapid."
Dr. Underhill, after years of
investigation, very ably discusses the entire problem. He says:
It has been seen that their (the Baptist) idea, the true archetypal idea, of the church, was the grand cause of the separation of the Baptists, as individuals and communities, from all the various forms of ecclesiastical arrangement adopted by the reformers and their successors. There could be no harmony between the parties; they were antagonistic from the first. Hence the Baptists cannot be regarded as owing their origin to a secession from the Protestant Churches; they occupied an independent and original position, one which unquestionably involved suffering and loss from its unworldliness, and manifested contrariety to the political tendencies and alliances of the reform movement (Underhill, The Records of the Church of Christ meeting in Broadmead, Bristol, 1640-1687).
The first company went out from Jacob about the year 1688. A want of recognition of this origin, and just discrimination between these bodies, has caused much confusion and led to many erroneous conclusions. Crosby indeed states this fact, that he nowhere gives a separate history of the two bodies, and this is the chief fault of his invaluable history. In this he has unfortunately been followed by some other historians. The General and Particular Baptists were not only distinct in origin and in history, but were often in debate one with the other. Very many of the misunderstandings of Baptist history, in the reign of Charles I, have their basis in the confounding of the history of these distinct and separate Baptist bodies.
The first statement that Crosby makes
concerning the origination of the Particular Baptist church under the ministry of John
Spilsbury is misleading, since it apparently ascribes to all Baptists, only what actually
took place in the one congregation of Henry Jacob. The mistake of Crosby consists in
making a general statement of a specific instance. He says:
In the year 1683, the Baptists, who had hitherto been intermixed among the Protestant Dissenters, without distinction, and so consequently shared with the Puritans in all the Persecutions of those times, began now to separate themselves, and form distinct societies of those of their own persuasion (Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, I. 147).
Lewis, a Church of England man, reviewed
on its appearance Crosby's History. After quoting the above statement he says:
Here seems to me to be two nistakes-1-That the Anabaptists till 1633 were intermixed among Protestant Dissenters, viz., The Puritans, Brownists, Barrowists and Independents. Since they all disclaimed them. 2. That the English Anabaptists began in 1633 to separate themselves. The writer of this ignorant and partial history owns, etc. etc. (Rawlinson MSS., C 409)
In his contentions Lewis was right and
Crosby was wrong. Crosby continues:
Concerning the first of which I find the following account collected from a manuscript of Mr. William Kiffin.
"There was a congregation of Protestant Dissenters of the Independent persuasion in London, gathered in the year 1616, whereof Mr. Henry Jacob was the first pastor; and after him succeeded Mr. John Lathrop, who was their minister at this time. In this society several persons, finding that the congregation kept nor to their first principles of separation, and being also convinced that baptism was not to be administered to infants, but such only as professed faith in Christ, desired that they might he dismissed from that communion, and allowed to form a distinct congregation, in such order as was agreeable to their own sentiments.
"The church considered that they were now grown very numerous and so more than could in these times of persecution conveniently meet together, and believing also that these persons acted from a principle of conscience, and not obstinacy, agreed to allow them the liberty they desired, and that they should be constituted a distinct church; which was performed the 12th of Sep. 1633. And as they believed that baptism was not rightly administered to infants, so they looked upon the baptism they had received in that age as invalid; whereupon most or all of them received a new baptism. Their minister was Mr. John Spilsbury. What number there were is uncertain, because in the mentioning of the names of about twenty men and women, it is added, with divers others.
"In the year 1635, Mr. William Kiffin, Mr. Thomas Wilson, and others being of the same judgment, were upon their request, dismissed to the said Mr. Spilsbury's congregation.
"In the year 1639, another
congregation of Baptists was formed, whose place of meeting was in Crutched Fryars: the
chief promoters of which were Mr. Green, Mr. Paul Hobson, and Captain Spencer"
Upon the organization of Spilsbury's
church the question of a lawful administrator of baptism came up. There were Baptists
among these Dissenters already and it did not follow that they had received their baptism
from Pedobaptist sources. But a line of action must be established. Two possible sources
were open to them. Crosby says:
The former of these was to send over to the foreign Anabaptists, who descended from the ancient Waldenses in France or Germany, that so one or more received baptism from them, might become proper administrators of it to others. Some thought this the best way and acted accordingly.
After giving a quotation from Hutchinson,
This agrees with an account given of the matter in an ancient manuscript, said to be written by Mr. William Kiffin, who lived in those times, and was a leader among those of that persuasion.
This relates, that several sober and pious persons belonging to the congregations of the dissenters about London were that believers were the only proper subjects of baptism, and that it ought to be administered by immersion, or dipping the whole body into the water, in resemblance of burial and resurrection, according to 2 Colos. ii. 12. and Rom.. vi. 4. That they often met together to pray and confer about the matter, and consult what methods they should take to enjoy this ordinance in the primitive purity. That they could not he satisfied about any administrator in England, to begin this practice; because though some in this nation rejected the baptism of infants, yet they had not as they knew of, revived the ancient custom of immersion: But hearing that some in the Netherlands practiced it, they agreed to send over one Richard Blount, who understood the Dutch language: That he went accordingly, carrying letters of recommendation with him, and was kindly received both by the church there, and Mr. John Batte their teacher: That upon his return, he baptized Mr. Samuel Blacklock. a minister, and these two baptized the rest of the company, whose names are in the manuscript, to the number of fifty-three.
So that those who followed this scheme did not derive their baptism from the aforesaid Mr. Smith, or his congregation at Amsterdam, it being an ancient congregation of foreign Baptists in the Low Countries to whom they sent.
But the greatest number of English
Baptists, and the more judicious looked upon all of this as needless trouble, and what
proceeded from the old Popish doctrine of right to administer sacraments by an
uninterrupted succession, which neither the Church of Rome, nor the Church of England,
much less the modern dissenters, could prove to be with them. They affirmed (Persecution
for religion judged and condemned, 41) therefore, and practiced accordingly, that after a
general corruption of baptism, any unbaptized person might warrantably baptize, and so
begin a reformation (Crosby, I. 100-103).
John Spilsbury did not believe he was
under obligation to send anywhere for baptism; but that he had a right to baptize like
John the Baptist did. He had nothing to do with this Blount scheme. He says:
And because some make it such an error, and so, far from any rule or example, for a man to baptize others who is himself unbaptized, and so think thereby to shut up the ordinance of God in such a strait, that none can come by it but through the authority of the Popedom of Rome; let the reader consider who baptized John the Baptist before he baptized others, and if no man did, then whether he did not baptize others, he himself being unbaptized. We are taught by this what to do upon like occasions.
Further, I fear men put more than is of
right due it, and so prefer it above the church, and all other ordinances besides; for
they can assume and erect a church, take in and cast out members, elect and ordain
officers, and administer the Supper; and all a-new, without any looking after succession,
and further than the Scriptures: But as for baptism, they must have that successively from
the Apostles, though it come through the hands of Pope Joan. What is the cause of this,
that men do all from the Word but only baptism? (Spilsbury, Treatise on Baptism, 63, 65,
"Nor is it probable," says Crosby, "that this man should go over sea to find an administrator of baptism, or receive it at the hands of one who baptized himself?" (Crosby, I. 104). The position was defended with ingenuity by the Particular Baptists. John Tombes was one of the most learned men of his times; an unwearied opponent of infant baptism; and frequent1y in public debates with Baxter and others. He defended this position (Tombes Apology for two Treatise, 10), and such was likewise the view of Henry Laurence, Esq. (Laurence, Treatise on Baptism, 407).
The position was finally assumed by the
Particular Baptists as the correct one. Says Crosby:
It was a point much disputed for some years. The Baptists were not a little uneasy at first about it; and the Paedobaptists thought to render all of the baptisms among them invalid, for want of a proper administrator to begin their practice : But by the excellent reasoning of these and other learned men, we see their beginning was well defended, upon the same principles on which all other Protestants built their Reformation (Crosby, I. 106).
The position of the Particular Baptists
meant that for an administrator of baptism they did not go beyond the authority of the New
Testament. They declared that it was not necessary to prove a succession of Baptist
churches. This body of Baptists have, however, been singularly clear in affirming the long
continued existence of the Baptists of England, and elsewhere. They even claim, if it were
at all necessary to prove it, that they have a succession more ancient and purer, if
humbler than that of the Roman Catholic Church. The witnesses on this point are numerous
and weighty. William Kiffin, A. D., 1645, wrote:
It is well known to many, and especially to ourselves, that our congregations as they now are, were erected and framed according. to the rule of Christ before we heard of any Reformation, even at the time when Episcopacy was at the height of its vanishing glory.
This was after the Confession of Faith of 1643 was written and published. Kiffin affirmed that their churches as they are now erected and framed preceded the Reformation of the Episcopacy. Mr. Joseph Richart, who says he wrote the queries to which Kiffin replied, affirmed that he understood the Episcopal and not the Presbyterian Reformation. "You allege," he says, "your practice, that your congregations were erected and framed in the time of Episcopacy, and before you heard of any Reformation" (Richart, A Looking Glass for Anabaptists, 6, 7. London. 1645).
Here were Baptist churches, according to
Kiffin, before the times of Henry VIII, and this fact was well known to the Baptists.
Further on Kiffin makes the claim that the Baptists outdated the Presbyterians. He says,
And for the second part of your query. That we disturb the great work of Reformation now in hand; I know not what you mean by this charge, unless it be to discover your prejudice against us in Reforming ourselves before you, for as yet we have not in our understanding, neither can we conceive any thing of that we shall see reformed by you according to truth, but that through mercy we enjoy the practice of the same already; 'tis strange this should be a disturbance to the ingenious faithful reformer; It should be (one would think) a furtherance ratter than a disturbance, and whereas you tell us of the work of Reformation now in hand, no reasonable men will force us to desist from the practice of that which we are persuaded is according to Truth, and wait for that which we know not what it will be; and in the meantime practice that which you yourselves say must be reformed (Kiffin, 12-14).
The year 1650 marked the appearance of a
distinguished book by Daniel King (A Way to Zion, sought out and found, for Believers to
walk in; or, a Treatise, consisting of three parts). In the first part it is proved:
1. That God hath had a people on earth, ever since the coming of Christ in the flesh, throughout the darkest days of Popery, which he hath owned as saints, and as his people.
Here is a distinct claim that the
Baptists have existed since the days of Christ. King further says:
2. That the saints have power to re-assume and to take up as their right, any ordinance of Christ, which they have been deprived of by the violence and tyranny of the Man of Sin.
This was the ordinary position of the
Particular Baptists. In the third part King says:
Proveth that outward ordinances, and among the rest the ordinance of baptism is to continue in the church, and this Truth cleared up from intricate turnings and windings, clouds and mists that make the way doubtful and dark.
Four of the most prominent Baptists of
those times, Thomas Patience, John Spilsbury, William Kiffin and John Pearson wrote an
introduction for the book. These men declare that the assertion that "there are no
churches in the world" and "no true ministers" has 'been of singular use in
the hands of the Devil." These old Baptists carefully guarded every historical
statement. A part of the introduction is as follows:
The devil hath mustered all of his forces of late, to blind and pester the minds of good people, to keep them from the clear knowledge and practice of the way of God, either; in possessing people still with old corrupt principles; or if they have been taken off them, then to persuade them, that there are no true churches in the world, and that persons cannot come to the practice of ordinances, there being no true ministry In the world; and others they run in another desperate extreme, holding Christ to be a shadow, and all his Gospel and Ordinance like himself fleshy and carnal. This generation of people have been of singular use in the hand of the Devil to advance his kingdom, and to make war against the kingdom of our Lord Jesus. Now none have been more painful than there have been of late, to poison the city, the country, the army, as far as they could. Inasmuch as it lay upon some of our spirits as a duty, to put our weak ability for the discovering of these gross errors and mistakes; but it hath pleased God to stir up the spirit of our Brother, Daniel King, whom we judge a faithful and painful minister of Jesus Christ, to take this work in hand before us; and we judge he hath been much assisted of God in the work in which he hath been very painful. We shall not need to say much of the Treatise; only in brief: It is his method to follow the Apostles' rule to prove everything by the existence of Scripture-light, expounding Scripture by Scripture, and God hath helped him in this discourse, in proving the truth of churches, against all such as that have gone under the name of Seekers, and hath very well, and with great evidence of Scripture-light answered to all, or most of their objections of weight, as also those above, or beyond ordinances.
This is the endorsement of five of the leading Baptists in the world in their day, "that God hath a people on earth, ever since the coming of Christ in the flesh" They further believed that these people were the Baptists.
Henry D'Anvers was a man of great
celebrity among the Baptists. He was born about the year 1608. He was a colonel in the
Parliamentary army and governor of Strafford. While governor he embraced Baptist
principles and was baptized probably by Henry Haggar. He wrote a book on baptism, in which
he greatly stirred up the Pedobaptists. It is a vigorous defense of believers' baptism by
dipping. He traces the history of the Baptists century by century back to the apostles.
After referring to the existence of Baptists in England for long periods, he says:
In the 16th year of King James, 1618, That excellent Dutch Piece, called A very plain and well-grounded Treatise concerning Baptism, that with so much authority both from Scripture and Antiquity, proves the baptizing of Believers, and disproves that of Infants, was printed in English.
Since when (especially in the last 30 or
40 years) many have been the Conferences that have past, and many the Treatises that have
been written Pro and Con upon that subject, and many have been the
Sufferings both in old and new England, that people of that persuasion have under gone,
whereby much Light hath broken forth therein, that not only very many Learned men have
been convinced thereof, but very many Congregations of Baptists have been, and are daily
gathered in that good old way of the Lord, that hath so long lain under so much obliquy
and reproach, and been buried under so much Antichristian rubbish in these Nations
(D'Anvers, A Treatise of Baptism, 308. London, 1674, second edition).
He further says
By all which you see by plentiful Evidence, that Christ hath not been without his Witnesses in every Age, not only to defend and assert the true, but to impugn, and to reject (yea, even to Death itself) the false Baptism. Insomuch that we are not left without good Testimony of a Series of Succession, that by God's providence hath been kept afoot, of this great Ordinance of Believers-Baptism ever since the first times (Ibid., 821, 822).
The Confession of Faith of several
Congregations of Christ in the county of Somerset, and some churches in the counties near
adjacent, A. D., 1656, has always been an important document. On this subject it is very
clear. The Confession says:
Article XXIX. That the Lord Christ Jesus being the foundation and cornerstone of the gospel church whereon his apostles built. Eph. ii. 20. Heb. ii. 3. He gave them power and abilities to propagate, to plant, to rule and order. Matt. xxviii. 19 Luke x. 16. For the benefit of that his body, by which ministry he did shew forth the exceeding riches of his grace, by his kindness towards it in the ages to come, Eph. ii. 7, which is according to his promise.
Article XXX. That the foundation and ministration aforesaid, is a sure guide, rule and direction, in the darkest time of the anti-christian apostasy, or spiritual Babylonish captivity, to direct, inform, and restore us in our just freedom and liberty, to the right worship and order belonging to the church of Jesus Christ. 1. Tim. iii. 14, 15, 2. Tim. iii. 15, 16, 17. John xvii. 20. Isa. lix 21. Rev. ii. 24. Isa. xl 21. Rev. ii. 5.1 Cor. xlv: 37. &C (Crosby, I 52, 58).
Another mighty Baptist of this century
was Thomas Grantham. He says:
From all which testimonies (and many more
that might be brought) it is evident, beyond all doubt, (our opposers being judges) that
whether we respect the signification of the word baptize, that many of the learned have
much abused in this age, in telling them the Anabaptists (i. e. the Baptized Churches) are
of late edition, a new sect, etc. when from their own writings, the clean contrary is so
evident (Grantham, Chrlstianiamus Primiutivus, 92, 98. London, 1678).
Joseph Hooke, who styled himself "a
servant of Christ and a lover of all men," was a noted Baptist of this century.
He wrote with great fulness on the continuation of the Baptists through the ages. He says:
The people to whom John Woodward is joined, called Anabaptists are not rightly so called, and are no new sect (Hooke, A Necessary Apology for the Baptized Believer; Title page. London, 1701).
Again he says:
Thus having shewed negatively, when this sect called Anabaptists did not begin; we shall shew in the next place affirmatively when it did begin; for a beginning it had, and it concerns us to enquire for the fountain head of this sect; for if it was sure that it were no older than the Munster fight . . . I would resolve to forsake it, and would persuade others to do so too.
That religion that is not as old as Christ and his Apostles, is too new for me.
But secondly, Affirmatively, we are fully persuaded, and therefore do boldly though humbly, assert, that this sect is the very same sort of people that were first called Christians in Antioch, Acts 11: 26. But sometimes called Nazarenes, Acts 24 :5. And as they are everywhere spoken against now, even as they were in the Primitive Times.
And sometimes anciently they were called
Anabaptists, as they have been of late times, and for the same cause, for when others
innovated in the worship of God, and changed the subject in baptism, they kept on their
way, and men grew angry, and for mending an error, they called them Anabaptists, and so
they came by this name, which is very ancient
Many more such statements occur in the
book, but the following must end his testimony:
But we think it sufficient, that we can prove all we teach by the infallible Records of God's Word, and if all histories and monuments of antiquity had been overlaid, or burnt, as many have been, so that we had never been able to shew from any book but the Bible, that there were ever any of our persuasion in the world, till within a few years, yet we should think that book enough to prove the antiquity of our persuasion, that we are not a new sect, seeing that we can make it appear by that one hook, that our persuasion is as old as Christ and the Apostles. And on the contrary, if we could show from approved history, that multitudes of all ages and nations since the Apostles' days have been of our persuasion, yet if we could not prove by the word of God, that our persuasion is true, it would signify very little. Therefore in the next place, we shall demonstrate that our doctrine is according to the Holy Scriptures, the Standard of Truth (Hooke, 32).
Samuel Stennett was one of the most
accomplished scholars of his day, and was for forty-seven years pastor of the Little Wild
Street Baptist Church, in London. His father, grand-father and great-grandfather were all
Baptist ministers. His great-grandfather was born before the Civil Wars. He was in
position to judge of the claims of the Baptists to antiquity. On this point he says:
And from these (Piedmont) we have traced
the truth for which we contend, amidst the notable testimonies of renowned martyrs and
confessors in favor of it, seven hundred years before the Reformation, down to the present
times (Stennett, Answer to a Christian Minister's Reasons, 295. London, 1775).
The Baptist Magazine was founded
in London in 1809. The very first number in this magazine, after the introduction, was
"A Miniature History of the Baptists," in which it was claimed that the Baptists
had always practiced, adult baptism by immersion. The Editor further says:
The Baptists have no origin short of the Apostles. They arose in the days of John the Baptist, and increased largely in the days of the Apostles. and have existed, under the severest oppression; with intervals of prosperity, ever since.
Again, in 1817, the same magazine says:
The Baptists in England trace their origin, as a separate denomination, to the period of the Reformation, in the reign or Henry VIII; though there is good evidence that persons of the same sentiments, on the subject of believers' baptism, were found among the Wickliffites and Lollards, who were the Protestant dissenters from the Church of Rome before that period; and also, that all of the British Christians, till the arrival of Austin at the close of the sixth century were ignorant of the practice of infant baptism (Baptist Magazine, IX. 411).
One of the best posted English Baptists
was Thomas Pottenger. Writing in 1845, of English Baptists, he says:
Writers have stated, though erroneously, that the first Baptist church in England was formed at the commencement of the seventeenth century, soon after Charles I. ascended the throne. This is a mistake. It is contrary to facts. History tells another tale. Courts of justice, registers of prisons, annals of martyrdom, lead to a different conclusion. Centuries before this period Baptists lived in various parts of the land, though the ignorance and cruelty of the times did not permit them to enjoy a visible and denominational organization like their successors of the present day. Moreover, there were Baptist societies in the kingdom long before the light of the reformation dawned upon it, and those societies were composed of men and women who regarded immersion on a profession of faith in Christ essential to the due administration of baptism (Pottenger, The Early English Baptists. In The Baptist Magazine, XXXVII. 283. London, 1845).
This is not an antiquated opinion among
the English Baptists, for many of the most intelligent Baptists of that country believe
that the Baptists date back to the Apostles. The Rev. George P. Gould, ex-President of
Regents Park College, edited and published a series of Baptist Manuals, historical and
biographical. In 1895 he published one on Hanserd Knollys, by James Culross, ex-President
of Bristol Baptist College. Afterr stating that Knollys became a sectary in 1631, Culross
Had Baptists thought anything depended on it, they might have traced their pedigree back to New Testament times, and claimed Apostolic succession. The channel of succession was certainly purer, if humbler, than through the apostate church of Rome. But they were content to rest on Scripture alone, and, as they found only believers' baptism there, they adhered to that (Culross, Hanserd Knollys, 39 note).
The story of the sending of Blount to
Holland to obtain immersion is a blind account, and rests solely on the authority of the
so-called Kiffin Manuscript. This is a document which has been shown to be utterly
worthless (Christian, Baptist History Vindicated. Louisville, 1899). The Kiffin Manuscript
has generally been discredited by Baptist authors. Crosby can only affirm that it
"was said to be written by William Kiffin" (Crosby, History of the English
Baptists, I. 101). Evans says: "This statement is vague. We have no date and cannot
tell whether the facts refer to the Separatists under Mr. Spilsbury or to others"
(Evans, Early English Baptists, II. 78). Cathcart says this transaction may have happened,
but "we would not bear heavily on the testimony adduced by these good men"
(Cathcart, Baptist Encyclopedia, I.521).
A feeble but strained attempt has been made to show that none of the English Baptists practiced immersion prior to 1641, from the document mentioned by Crosby in 1738, of which he remarks it was "said to be written by William Kiffin." Although the Manuscript is signed by fifty-three persons, it is evident that its authorship was only guessed at from the beginning, It may or may not have been written by Kiffin (Armitage, History of the Baptists, 440) -
Dr. Henry S. Burrage, who gave much time
and attention to this subject, after a somewhat lengthy discussion of the Jersey Church
Records and the Gould Kiffin Manuscript, is constrained to say:
It will be noticed in our reference above to the Jessey Church Records, we say "if they are authentic." We have not forgotten the Crowle and Epworth records. These made their appearance about the same time as the Jessey Church Records, and it is now known that they are clumsy forgeries. The Jessey Church Records may be genuine, but their genuineness has not yet been established (Zion's Advocate, September, 1896).
Pedobaptist writers have rejected the
Kiffin Manuscript, and pronounced its testimony untrustworthy. John Lewis, in his reply to
Crosby, ridicules the Kiffin Manuscript. After quoting the story of Blount and Blacklock,
taken from Crosby, he says:
This is a very blind account I can't find the least mention made anywhere else of these three names Batte, Blount and Blacklock, nor is it said in what town, city or parish of the Netherlands those Anabaptists lived who practiced this manner of baptizing by dipping or plunging the whole body under water (Rawlinson MSS. C 409. Bodleian Library).
Lewis, in referring to this "ancient
Manuscript," mentioned by Crosby, says: "How ignorant" (ibid.). Elsewhere
But it is pretty odd, that nobody should know in what place this ancient congregation (a congregation much about the same antiquity with the ancient manuscript) was, and that John Batte, their teacher, should never be heard of before or since (Rawlinson MSS).
Others say it (baptism) was first brought here by one Richard Blount, but who and what he was I don't knew.
But we have no authority for this account but a manuscript said to have been written by William Kiffin,
The document was so untrustworthy that
Dr. Dexter, though it was in line with his contention, rejected it. He says:
On the other hand, had not Kiffin-as it
is supposed-made the statement, it would be suspicious for its vagueness, and for the fact
that none of the historians, not even Wilson, Calamy, Brook, or Neal, know anything about
Blount, or Blacklock, beyond what is here stated (Dexter; True Story of John Smyth, 54).
This manuscript, in which almost every statement in it can be shown to be false, which is rejected by the most of Baptists, and by controversial Pedobaptist writers, is the only authority to prove this story of Blount going to Holland, and that the Baptists were in the practice of sprinkling. Not one contemporary author mentions the journey of Blount, or the names of Blount or Blacklock. There is no proof that either man ever lived. Edwards does indeed mention a Blount who was a Baptist, but his given name is not mentioned and no circumstance connects him with Holland. The Blount mentioned by Edwards was a General and not a Particular Baptist. and could not have been connected with this enterprise.
The first reference that has been found
to the Baptists sending to Holland for baptism is in an account by Hutchinson, who wrote
in 1676, and he declares the point of the trouble will not immersion, but a proper
administrator. He says:
When the professors of these nations had been a long time wearied with the yoke of superstition, ceremonies, traditions of men, and corrupt mixtures in the worship and service of God, it pleased the Lord to break these yokes, and by a very strong impulse of his Spirit upon the hearts of his people, to convince them of the necessity of Reformation. Divers pious, and very gracious people, having often sought the Lord by fasting and prayer, that he would show them the pattern of his house, the goings-out and the comings-in thereof, etc. Resolved (by the grace of God), not to receive or to practice any piece of positive worship which had not precept or example from the word of God. Infant baptism coming of course under consideration, after long search and many debates, it was found to have no footing in the Scriptures (the only rule and standard to try doctrines by) ; but on the contrary a mere innovation, yea, the profanation of an ordinance of God. And though it was proposed to be laid aside, yet what fears, tremblings, and temptations did attend them, lest they should be mistaken, considering how many learned and godly men were of an opposite persuasion. How gladly would they have had the rest of their brethren gone along with them. But when there was no hope, they concluded that a Christian's faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; and that every one must give an account of himself to God; and so resolved to practice according to their light. The great objection was, the want of an administrator; which, as I have heard was removed by sending certain messengers to Holland, whence they were supplied (Hutchinson, A Treatise Concerning the Covenant and Baptism Dialoguewise. Epistle to the Reader. London, 1676).
Hutchinson knows nothing of Blout, Blacklock or Batte. The people he mentions were all Pedobaptists, who had just been converted to Baptist views. This is hearsay testimony years after without any details. The first man mentioned, who was sent to Holland to get immersion, was John Spilsbury, but Crosby says this was not true. The date of the going of Blount to Holland is as mythical as the person of Blount A Baptist writer who published a history of the Baptists, supplementary to Neal's History of the Puritans, says that Blount went to Holland in 1608. Barclay says he went in 1638. Other writers have been impressed with the date of 1640. One writer mentions three dates, 1640, 1641 and 1644. The Kiffin Manuscript mentions both 1640 and 1644. One date is just as good as another, for there is no authority to substantiate any of them. Not one prominent Baptist received his baptism from this source. William Kiffin, John Spilsbury, Samuel Richardson and Paul Hobson did not.
We are confronted with the Amazing
proposition that there were two Kiffin Manuscripts, differing from one another in most
important respects. The one by Crosby has already been referred to; the other is known as
the Gould edition. In the year 1860, Rev. George Gould had a lawsuit in regard to certain
chapel property. After the suit was over Mr. Gould presented his side of the question to
the public in a volume entitled: Open Communion and the Baptists of Norwich. He also left
a volume of manuscripts. Through the kindness of Rev. George P. Gould, ex-President of
Regents Park College, an opportunity was granted the author to examine these papers. There
were some thirty documents, with other miscellaneous papers, copied into a large book,
under the general title: Notices of the Early Baptists. These papers were copied into this
book about the year 1860. It has recently been announced that these papers have been
found; but what became of the originals is a mystery. Information was sought in vain. The
Kiffin Manuscript as copied in this book differs in a radical manner from the quotations
made by Crosby from the so-called Kiffin Manuscript. The Gould Kiffin Manuscript has been
shown in almost every detail to be contrary to well authenticated records, such for
example, as sworn depositions in the courts of the land. Some who were described as men
were women, some who were pronounced alive were dead, soom who were declared to be in
prison were free, etc, etc. Records in the book profess to be the minutes of the church of
which Henry Jacob was pastor, and yet not one date or fact connected with his life is
correctly given. Take a single incident from the minutes:
About eight years H. Jacob was Pastor of ye said Church & when upon his importunity to go to Virginia, to which he had been engaged before by their consent, he was remitted from the said office, 1624, & dismissed ye congregation to go thither, where in after years, he ended his dayes. In the time of his Service much trouble attended that State and People within and without
This is the so-called minute of the
church, and yet every statement is contrary to the facts in the case. Mr. Jacob did not
serve the church eight years, but only six years; he did not go to Virginia in 1624, but
in 1622; and he did not die in Virginia, but he returned to England in 1624, and died
there in April or May of that year, and was buried from St. Andrew Hubbard's Parish,
Borough of Canterbury. All of this is found in the last will and testament of Henry Jacob,
which may he consulted at Somerset House, London. The will was probated by his wife, Sarah
From the Gould Kiffin Manuscript, of
1860, the following is taken:
1640.3rd. Mo: The Church became two by mutuall consent half being with Mr. P. Barebone, & ye other halfe with Mr. H. Jessey. Mr. Richard Blunt with him being convinced of Baptism yt ought to be by dipping in ye body into ye water, resembling Burial and rising again. 2 Col. 2: 12, Rom. 6.4 had sober conference about in ye Church, & then with some of the forenamed who also were so convinced; and after prayer & conference about their so enjoying it, none having then so practiced it in England to professed Believers & having heard that some in ye Netherlands had so practiced they agreed and sent over Mr. Richard Blunt (who understood Dutch) with letters of Commendation, and who was kindly received then; and returned with letters from them Jo: Batte & Teacher there and from that Church to suoh as sent him.
They proceed therein, viz. Those persons that were persuaded Baptism should be by dipping ye body had met in two Companies, and did intend so to meet after this, all those agreed to proceed alike togeather And then manifesting not any formal words (A Covenant) Wch word was scrupled by some of them, but by mutual desires each Testified:
Those two Companies did set apart one to Baptize the rest; so it was solemnly performed by them.
Mr. Blunt baptized Mr. Blacklock yt was a
teacher amongst them and Mr. Blunt being baptized, he and Mr. Blacklock baptized ye rest
of their friends that were so minded, and many being added to them, they increased much.
Upon these eleven words "none having then so practiced it in England to professed Believers" treatises have been written to prove that the English Baptists did not practice immersion before 1641. If his document were genuine it would prove no such fact. All that could be claimed for it is, that so far as the writer knows, there had been no practice of believers' immersion previous to that date. The document does not say they received baptism in Holland from Batte, but that they received letters and Blunt baptized Blacklock and Blacklock baptized Blunt and they baptized the rest. All this took place in England and not in Holland.
In 1850 Charles H. Spurgeon did not know that any one in England practiced immersion. It was a surprise and joy to him to find that there were in England, those whose existence he had not anticipated, who observed the New Testament teaching in regard to baptism. He proceeded to become one of than, and soon filled the world with his fame (Spurgeon, Sermon on God's Pupil. Ps., 71:17). Because a certain man, who was not a Baptist, did not know of the practice of believers' immersion in 1640, no more proves that such a baptism was not practiced than the want of knowledge in 1850, on Spurgeon's part proved that no believers then immersed in England. Besides they had facilities of information in 1850 far beyond what they had in 1640. But Crosby leaves out these words altogether. If these words were in the Kiffin Manuscript then he deliberately falsified the record to suit his purpose and left out the most important words in the manuscript. He did this with the full knowledge of the fact that he had loaned this manuscript to Mr. Neal, who in several instances quoted from it, and could easily have exposed Crosby. Crosby stands above reproach in candor and honesty.
Whoever compiled the Gould manuscripts, repeatedly, in the thirty documents, recorded these eleven words in connection with documents which do not naturally mention baptism in any form. It was a pet phrase of the compiler of the Gould Kiffin Manuscript. how did these words get into the Gould Kiffin Manuscript?
No.18 of the Gould collection is an
example of how the compiler made use of these words. Effort has been made to prove that
the Gould collection was made by Edward Bampfield, but this is a failure since this number
was written after Bampfleld was dead, and his autobiography is mentioned. He died in 1683.
This collector believed that the Baptists obtained immersion from somewhere, so he puts it
in all of the documents. Therefore we read in No. 18:
An account of ye methods taken by ye Baptists to obtain a proper administrator of Baptism by Imersion, when that practice had long been disused, yt then was no one who had been so baptized to be found.
The same statement is found in document No.4. How did these statements get into the Gould Kiffin Manuscript? They are not in Crosby's edition. They are in a number of the documents in the Gould collection. There is not a single instance known in this period, where a Baptist church practiced sprinkling, or where any Baptist church changed its practice.
Fortunately it is not necessary to turn
to a confused and misleading manuscript for an account of the organization of the
Particular Baptist Churches. Hanserd Knollys was one of the principal actors of those
times, and he gives an account of their organization. He rejected infant baptism in 1631
(John Lewis, Appendix to the History of the Anabaptists. Rawlinson MSS. CCCCIX, 62), and
probably became a Baptist in the same year (Kiffin, Life and Death of Hanserd Knollys, 47.
London, 1812). He tells in simple language (A Moderate Answer unto Dr. Baswick's Book.
London, 1645), the story of the planting of these churches in the days of persecution
before 1641. He relates:
I shall now take the liberty to declare, what I know by mine own experience to be the practice of some Churches of God in this City. That so far both the Dr. and the Reader may judge how near the saints who walk in the fellowship of the Gospell, do come to their practice, to those Apostolicall rules and practice propounded by the Dr. as God's method in gathering churches, and admitting Members. I say that I know by mine own experience (having walked with them), that they were thus gathered; viz. Some godly and learned men of approved gifts and abilities for the Ministry, being driven out of the Coutries where they lived by the persecution of the Prelates, came to sojourn in this great City, and preached the word of God both publicly and from house to house, and daily in the Temple, and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ; and some of them having dwelt in their own hired houses, and received all that came unto them, preached the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. And when many sinners were converted by the preaching of the Gospel, some of them believers consorted with them, and of professors a great many, and of the chief women not a few. And the condition which those Preachers, both publicly and privately propounded to the people, unto whom they preached, upon which they were to be admitted into the Church was by Faith, Repentance, and Baptism, and none other. And whosoever (poor as well as rich, bond as well as free, servants as well as Masters), did make a profession of their Faith in Jesus Christ, and would be baptized with water, in the Name of the Father, Sonne. and Holy Spirit, were admitted Members of the Church: but such as did not believe, and would not be baptized, they would not admit into Church communion. This hath been the practice of some Churches of God in this City, without urging or making any particular covenant with Members upon admittance, which I desire may be examined by the Scripture cited in the Margent, and when compared with the Doctor's three conclusions from the same Scriptures, whereby it may appear to the judicious Reader, how near the Churches some of them come to the practice of the Apostles rules, and practice of the primitive churches, both in gathering and admitting members.
This is a rational, genuine, straightforward account of the organization of the Particular Baptist churches.
The Independent church, of which Henry
Jacob was the first pastor and of which Mr. Lathrop was the second, was often troubled on
the subject of immersion. In 1638, during the pastorate of Mr. Lathrop, there was a
division in the church on the subject of dipping, and a Baptist church was organized under
the pastorate of John Spilsbury. This church of Spilsbury's practiced dipping. Spilsbury
immersed Sam Eaton between the dates of April 14, 1634, and May 5, 1636. Eaton also became
a preacher and immersed others. This information was given by John Taylor, who put in
rhyme as follows:
Also one Spilsbury rose up of late,
(Who doth or did dwell over Alderagate)
He rebaptiz'd in Anabaptist fashion
One Eaton (of the new found separation)
A zealous button maker, grave and wise,
And gave him orders others to baptize:
He was so apt to learn that in one day,
He'd Do't as well as Spilsbury weigh'd Hay.
This true Hay-lay man to the Bank side came
And there likewise baptized an impure dame.
This book was written, in 1638 (Tayic; A
Swarme of Sectaries, and Schismatiques). It is interesting to note Spilsbury's idea of
immersion. He says:
As is recorded by the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures of God; even so it is the judgment of the most and best learned in the land, so far as I have seen, or can see by any of their writings. As in all of the common dictionaries, which with one joint consent affirm, that the word baptize or baptizo, being the original word, signifies to dip, wash, to plunge one into the water though some please to mock and deride, by calling it a new fangled way, and what they please. Indeed it is a new found way, in opposition to an old grown error; and so it is a new thing to such, as the Apostles doctrine was to the Athenians (Spilsbury, A Treatise concerning the Lawful Subject of Baptism. London, 1653).
In regard to the enemies calling baptism
"a new fangled way," Spilsbury remarks: "Yet truth was before error."
He evidently thought immersion was the old way. The Lathrop church had continual trouble
on dipping. A book called "To Zion's Virgins," was written by an ancient member
of the congregation. An edition was printed in 1644, but it had been in use for several
years and was in fact a Catechism. The date can be approximated. It was written after
September 18, 1634, for it declared that Mr. Lathrop was now pastor in America. It was
before 1637 when Mr. Jessey was called as pastor, for the church was engaged in prayer for
a pastor. The date was then. between 1634 and 1637. The church at that date had already
experienced disturbances on the subject of believers' immersion. The writer exhorts the
members that they avoid "that that makes divison and continues:
I desire to manifest in defense of the Baptisme and forme we have received, not being easily moved, but as Christ will more manifest himself, which I cannot conceive to bee in the dipping of the head, the creature going in and out of the wateer, the forme of baptism doth more or lesse hold forth Christ. And it is a sad thing that the citizens of Zion, should have their children born foreigners and not to be baptized, &c.
Then sayes such as be Called Anabaptists, &c. This answer is given in part: Wherefore let such as deny infants baptisme, as goe into the water and dip down the head and come out to show death and buriall, take heede they take not the name of the Lord in vaine, more especially such as have received baptisme in their infancy,
This ancient member of the Independent church testifies directly to the immersion of believers, and the date was before 1637.
Spilsbury immersed Eaton; and Eaton immersed others. Moreover Eaten had been a member of Lathrop's church, and so Spilsbury did not recognize the baptism administered by Lathrop. The date of the baptism of Lathrop can be approximately fixed by the records of the High Court of Commission. Eaton died in prison August 25, 1639 (Calendar of State Papers, CCCCXXVII. 107). He was in jail from May 5, 1636, continuously to his death, therefore he was immersed before 1636; and he was likewise a preacher and practiced immersion before that date, The Court Records show that April 29, 1632, he was a member of Lathrop's church. He continued in jail until April 24, 1684, when he was released from prison under the same bond that Lathrop was (Ibid., CCLXI. 182). After that date and before May 5, 1636, he joined the Baptist church and was dipped by Spilsbury. At a later date he was again cast into prison (Ibid., CCCXXIV. 18), and while in prison he attacked the baptism of the Churchmen (Ibid., CCCCVL 64). He died on Sunday, August 25, 1689 (ibid., C(YCCXXXWL 107), and not less than two hundred persons accompanied the corpse to the grave.
There was another secession from the Jacob church in 1638, when William Kiffin and five others united with the church of Spilsbury. (Ivimey, The Life of William Kiffin, 16, London 1883).
Of this event Goadby says:
Five years after the above date (i.e. 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 endebted for the account of the origin of the first Calvinistic Baptist church of England, thus speaks of the reasons which led him to join Mr. Spilsbury-- I used all of my endeavors, by converse with men as were able, also by diligently searching the Scriptures, with earnest desire 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 flock, namely, that order laid down by Christ and his Apostles, and practiced 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, and breaking of bread and prayers (Goadby ByePaths in Baptist History 851).
Spilsbury was in the practice of
immersion; but Kiffin was more strict in his views than was his pastor. Spilsbury
permitted pulpit affiliation; Kiffin would have none of it. He believed that only an
immersed man should occupy a Baptist pulpit. Crosby gives this account of Kiffin:
He was first of an Independent congregation, and called to the ministry among them; was one of them who were concerned in the conferences held in the congregation of Mr. Henry Jessey: by which Mr. Jessey and a greater part of the congregation became proselytes to the opinions of the Baptists. He joined himself to the congregation of Mr. John Spilsbury, but a difference arising about permitting persons to preach amongst them that had not been baptized by immersion, they parted by consent (Crosby, History of the English Baptists, III. 3, 4).
Kiffin, in the year 1639, or 1640, withdrew from the church of Spilsbury and organized the Devonshire Baptist Church, of London, on a strict immersion line. This honored church has continued to this day.
After the organization of the church under Spilsbury, the subject of dipping still troubled the Independent church of Lathrop. He removed to America in 1634 with a part of his church, which brought on a great debate on baptism in this country.
We are not yet done with this church of Jacob's for one of its most distinguished pastors, Rev. Henry Jessey, became a Baptist. He was one of the most noted men of his times. He was born September 3, 1601, entered Cambridge University in 1622, and became a minister in 1626, and became pastor of the Jacob church in 1637. The frequent debates on baptism soon unsettled his mind. In 1642 be freely declared to the church his convictions on the subject of dipping, and proposed that those baptized in the church thereafter he baptized by that form. In 1644 he held frequent debates on the subject of infant baptism, and in June, 1645, he was baptized by Hanserd Knollys.
This Independent church, organized by Jacob, had a most wonderful record for making Baptists, and encouraging the practice of dipping. There were repeated secessions from it on that account. Out of it came a number of the great leaders of the Particular Baptists, all of whom were in the practice of dipping. Henry Jessey received his baptism from Hanserd Knollys, who had been a Baptist since 1631. Eaton was immersed by John Spilsbury, and Eaton in turn dipped others. William Kiffin was the strictest of them all and would not permit those who had not been immersed to preach in Baptist pulpits. Even those who emigrated to America precipitated a great debate on the subject of dipping.
There was another Independent church which at least had two distinguished pastors who were Baptists. It was organized by Mr. Hubbard, about the year 1621. He was a Pedobaptist minister, but the immediate successors in the pastorate were Baptists. The church worshipped at Deadman's Place, and contained many Baptists in its membership. It is probable that by 1640 a majority of its members were Baptists and had been immersed. They were arrested in January, 1640, and brought before the House of Lords. So greatly did Baptist sentiment prevail among them that they were called Anabaptists (Journal of the House of Lords, IV. 133). There were more than sixty-six of them. The House of Lords, on the 16th of January, reprimanded them. This action on the part of the House of Lords directed much sympathy to the church.
Some of the persons before the House of Lords on this occasion signed the great Confession of Faith of 1643. Just when John Canne became minister is not known certainly, but he resigned and went to Holland in 1633. He was in Amsterdam in 1634, at which time he wrote his celebrated book: "The Necessity of Separation," which had a wide circulation with important results. At that time he was an Anabaptist (Brereton, Travels, 65). Stovell makes it perfectly plain that while pastor of the Hubbard church he was a Baptist. He was still, in 1638, in Amsterdam and heavily fined for his activities (Evans, Early English Baptists, II. 108). He probably returned in that year to London, where he labored with success. He went, in 1640, larger liberty being granted of preaching, to Bristol, where he preached in public places, at other times in the open air, and founded a church. Being a Baptist, he was described as a "baptized man," meaning an immersed man. Already, in 164o a Baptist was known as an immersed man.
The Broadmead Records give an account of
his arrival and work in that city. The Records say:
At this juncture of time (1640) the providence of God brought to this city one Mr. Canne, a baptized man; and it was this Mr. Canne that made notes and references upon the Bible. He was a man very eminent in his day of godliness, and for reformation in religion, having great understanding in the way of the Lord (Broadmead Records. 18, 19).
Mr. Canne attempted to preach in a suburb
of the city and a wealthy woman placed some obstructions in his way. The Broadmead Records
The obstruction was by a very godly great woman, that dwelt In that place who was somewhat severe in the profession of what she knew, hearing that he was a baptized man, by them called Anabaptists, which was to some sufficient cause of prejudice, because the truth of believers' baptism had been for a long time buried, yea, for a long time by popish inventions, and their sprinkling brought in room thereof. And (this prejudice existed) by reason (that) persons in the practice of that truth by baptism were by some rendered very obnoxious; because, about one hundred years before, some beyond sea, in Germany, that held that truth of believers' baptism, did, as some say, some very singular actions; of whom we can have no true account what they were but by their enemies; for none but such in any history have made any relation or narrative of them (ibid., 19, 20).
Canne, in 1640, was a baptized man, such a man was called an Anabaptist, and there is no record that any time since his conversion he had changed his mind on the subject of baptism.
The third pastor of the Hubbard church was Samuel Howe, a Baptist He died about 1640, while pastor of the church. He had been pastor about seven years. He was much lamented. He was persecuted, denied Christian burial, and was finally interred at Agnes-la-cleer. He wrote a famous book, called Howe's Sufficiency of the Spirit's Teaching. His contemporaries bore high praise to his ability and zeal for his work. It was Samuel Howe who greatly impressed Roger Williams; and it was probably from Howe that Williams learned some of his lessons of soul liberty and dipping in. baptism (Howe, Sermon, xii. xiii).
It has been shown that Taylor aid
Spilsbury practiced dipping. He bears the same testimony to Howe. Taylor says the Baptists
of England date back to the "reign of Henry 8," and affirms that "in these,
our days, the said Anabaptisticall sect is exceeding rife, for they do swarm here and
there without fear of either God or man, law or order" (Taylor, A Cluster of
Coxcombes. London, 1642). Here follows the relation of the preaching cobler, Sam Howe:
This reverend translating brother (Howe)
Puts both his hands unto the spiritual-plow,
And the nag's head, near the Coleman-Street,
A most pure crew of Brethren there did meet,
Where their devotions were so strong and ample,
To turn a sinful Tavern to a Temple,
They banished Bacchus then, and some small space
The drawers and the Bar-boy had some grace
(Taylor, A Swarme of Sectaries, 8).
Taylor makes Howe a Baptist and a dipper.
He represents him in the title page standing in a tub filled with water as a pulpit. and
marks the picture "Sam How." This was in 1638. The above book of Taylor's was
answered by Henry Walker. Of the tub in which Howe was standing, Walker says:
Of the picture in the title of his book. I did first conceive that fellow in the tub to be John Taylor the Poet, having stayed so long with the Bishop of Canterbury, until at last he saw one vessel of sack drawn dry, and then break out the head of the tub tumble in and fallen asleep was almost stilled in the lees; crying to Sam the vinter's boy in the Tower. to help him; crying Sam Howe come and help me out, and all the people flocked about him. See how he stands like a drowned mouse (Henry Walker, An Answer to a foolish Pamphlet entitled a Swarme of Sectaries end Schismaticks, 3, 4. London, 1641).
Taylor thereupon reads a lecture and pronounces Walker also an Anabaptist. He likewise represents Walker as standing in a tub and makes him an Anabaptist dipper (Taylor, A seasonable Lecture).
Thus were John Canne and Samuel Howe, the pastors of this Independent church, both practicing dipping. Both of these were Baptists. Two other parties connected with this church, Thomas Gunn and John Webb, were Baptists, who signed the Confession of Faith of 1643. Thus can the opinions of the most of the Baptists be accounted for.
There is yet another Baptist who signed
the Confession of Faith of 1643, for whose practice we can give an account His name was
Paul Hobson. Of him Ivimey says:
He is, mentioned among the rejected ministers, Dr. Calamy supposed he was chaplain of Eaton College, and that he had a place of command in the army; but observes, that if he had conformed afterwards it would have made some atonement, as was the case in other instances. In addition to these circumstances, we find that he was engaged as early as 1639, as one of the chief promoters of founding a Baptist church in London, He was one of the pastors who signed the Confession of Faith of the seven churches in London in 1644 (Ivimey, History of the English Baptists, I.88).
The above statements in regard to Paul Hobson are confirmed by Edwards (Edwards, Gangrena, I. 33), who was a contemporary. Edwards wrote in 1645, and he says that Hobson had been a tailor, but was now in the army. He had been a great while a Baptist preacher. An Anabaptist in the mouth of Edwards was always one who immersed.
Thomas Kilcop was another of the Baptists
who signed the Confession of Faith of 1643. He had long been a Baptist minister. when
Praise God Barbon. in 1641, attacked the Baptists he was answered by Edward Barber for the
General Baptists; and by Thomas Kilcop for the Particular Baptists. This Barbon had been a
member of the church of Jacob, and had become pastor of an Independent organization of his
own. He was a rabid Pedobaptist, and is variously described as a leather seller and a
politician. He became a distinguished member of the Long Parliament and his Parliament was
called the Praise God Barbon Parliament, He was born, probably, in 1596, and died in 1679.
Like many of the members of Jacob's church, he became a Baptist The date we do not know,
but in the "Declaration" of the Baptists, issued in 1654, twenty-two names
signified to it as "of that church which walks with Mr. Barbon" (National
Dictionary, III. 151). The book of Kilcop appeared early in 1641. On the subject of
immersion, he said:
By baptism is meant the baptism of water, John 8: 22, 28. Baptism is a Greek word, and most properly signifies dipping In English, and therefore the parties baptized are said to be baptized not at but in Jordan, Mark 1: 5, 9, 10, and In Aenon, John 3: 23. Acts 8: 88, 89. Math. 3: 16. Then note that the baptizing of dipping belongs to Christ's disciples, and none else (Kilcop, A Short Treatise of Baptisme. London, 1641).
There is no intimation that he ever recognized any other form of baptism save immersion. on the subject of succession he held the views of the other Particular Baptists of his times.
Those who have read the literature of the seventeenth century cannot fail to have been impressed with its harsh controversial tone. This is true on well nigh all subjects. The remark especially applies to those who wrote on the form and subjects of baptism. The harshest of the opponents of the Baptists were the Presbyterians. They had separated more widely from the New Testament practice, and they felt called upon to justify the acts of the Westminster Assembly; and their radical changes in the fundamental law of England in enacting affusion. Naturally their most determined opponents were the Baptists. What the Presbyterians lacked in argument they made up in assertion. They never tired. of calling the Baptist practice of dipping "new fangled, a novelty of recent occurrence, and soured leaven." An illustration could be secured from almost any year of the century. For example, Richard Burthogge, A. D., 1684, says of the Baptists: "Your opinion is but a novelty" (Burthogge, An Argument for Infant Baptism, 122). Richard Baxter, A. D. 1670, says: "These and many more absurdities follow upon this new conceit" (Baxter, The Cure of Church Divisions, 49).
The word "new," however, in the
mouth of writers of the period was a relative term and meant from one to sixteen
hundred years. In the main they meant to deny the affirmation of the Baptists that
immersion was "the good old way" and had the mark of "antiquity upon
it" (Watts, A Scribe, Pharisee and Hypocrite, iv. London, 1657). Samuel Richardson is
a good witness. He answered Daniel Featley, in the year 1645, who had affirmed that the
Baptists were new. Richardson says:
The Papists pretend antiquity, and brag
of their universality against the truth. We know error is ancient; and spreading: but
truth was before error, and baptizing by dipping was before baptizing by sprinkling; he
may name to us as many as he pleaseth, but he must tell us where it is written in
the Scripture, as we may read it, before we shall believe them (Richardson, Some Brief
William Allen, another Baptist, writing in 1655, says to call it "new baptism," as the enemies call it, is to "miscall it, being indeed the old way of baptizing" (William Allen, An Answer to J.G., his XL Queries, 72).
Thomas Collier, a famous Baptist, A. D.,
1651, affirms that dipping was the old practice. He says:
Sir, you are maliciously mistaken, and the ignorance is in yourself in calling them Anabaptists, for the practicing baptism, according to the Scripture, that grieve you it seems; but you have learnt a new way, both for matter and manner, babies instead of believers; for manner, sprinkling at the holy font, instead of baptizing in a river: you are loth to go in with your long gowns, you have found a better way than ever was prescribed or practiced; who now sir are the ignoramuses (Collier, Pulpit Guard Routed, 89).
Hanserd Knollys, in answer to John
Saltmarsh, a Quaker, who affirmed that immersion was new (Saltmarsh, The Smoke in the
Temple, 16. London, 1646), declares that immersion is not new. He says:
Paul's doctrine was called new, although he preached Jesus and the resurrection Acts 17: 19. Also when our Saviour preached with authority, and confirmed his doctrine with miracles, they questioned among themselves saying, What new thing is this? What new doctrine is this? (Knollys, The Shining of a Flaming Fire in Zion, or a Clear Answer to 13 exceptions, against the ground of the New Baptism; so-called in Mr. Saltmarsh'. Book, 1. London, 1646).
John Tombes answered the charge of Mr.
Marshall, that he was "itching after new opinions." Of this, Mr. Tombes says:
As for Master Marshall's reasons. they are not convincing to me, nor is the holding of rebaptization such a new opinion as he would make it (Tombes, An Apology or Plea for the two Treatises, 58. London, 1646).
The announcement from a Baptist that
immersion was the good old way, and as ancient as the times of the Apostles, brought a
violent outbreak from Jeffrey Watts. He says:
Only, I wonder at the iron brow, and brazen face of novel impudence, and new light, that whereas it is every seventh day at least, in its chimney house conventicles, prating against the old, laudable, and ancient practices of this our, and other Reformed Churches, it dares to pretend to antiquity (so contradicting itself) and glory of it in this point of their immerging and dipping, (calling it the old way), who scorn it, and scoff at the same, and all old light, in their other tenets and opinions (Watts, A Scribe, Pharisee and Hypocrite, v)
The Baptists claimed to have "the
good old way" when they practiced immersion; Watts calls it "a new way"
since he affirmed that immersion was not taught in the New Testament. He mentioned two
things the Baptists did which he pronounced new. The first was that in 1642 or 1648, they
immersed nude women in the rivers. "I hope," said he, "you see, that your
dipping of women in their clothes, is a new business in the church" (Ibid., 19). He
takes up much time in elucidating the old slander. The second thing he affirms about
dipping is that it is not found in the Scriptures. He said that it had been of long
continuance in England and gives many examples, and then he affirms that it is new among
Baptists, since they had practiced it only since 1524. He says:
And thus (as I said) in your purest and perfected Western churches, for these five or sir hundred years last past (I think, I am rather within, than without my compass) there have been none dipped or immerged, no not in the old, once good way of the former times, publicly, authoritatively nay scarce presumptuously; until those Africans (I will not say monsters) new men; for (Africa semper aliquid aportat nove) who were your progenitors and predecessors, the first dippers and immergers in the West (the very place where they are you arose), is another argument to prove their and your business of dipping, a novelty, a new thing, as coming from Africa originally. I say until those Africans new men, those Egyptian frogs, that love to be paddling and dipping in rivers and ponds, began to spread themselves and slip up and down to bring forth rivers and ponds (as the rivers and ponds brought forth them) or rather to bring their perverts to ponds and rivers to be baptized. The which bold and presumptuous attempt, against the constant and uniform custom of the Western Church, began in the year 1524, and so is not above an hundred and two and thirty years since, which is time enough, and little enough to make it novelty in comparison of antiquity (Watts, A scribe, 63).
According to Watt, the Baptists of
England had been in the practice of immersion one hundred and thirty-two years. John
Goodwin took precisely the same view. He called the immersions of the Baptists new. He
said it had only been in existence among Baptists since the time of Nicholas Storch. His
That that was a case of necessity, wherein Nicholas Storch (with his three comrades) in Germany about the year 1521, or whoever he was that first, himself being in his own judgment and conscience unbaptized, presumed to baptize others after that exotique mode in this nation (Goodwin, Water Dipping no Firm Footing for Church Communion, 40. London, l653).
The Particular Baptists, in 1643,
prepared a Confession of Faith, which was published the following year. The XL Article of
the Confession of Faith of those churches which "are commonly (though falsely)
called Anabaptists" is as follows:
That the way and manner of dispensing this ordinance Is dipping or plunging the body under water; it being a sign, must answer the thing signified, which is, that interest the Saints have in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ: and that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and rises again, so certainly shall the bodies of the saints be risen by the power of Christ in the day of the resurrection, to reigne with Christ.
There is a note appended, as follows:
The word baptizo signifies to dip or
plunge yet so as convenient garments be both upon the administrator and subject, with all
Perhaps in a Confession of Faith, it would be impossible to state the practice of the Baptists more plainly. It has been asserted that this Confession of 1643, was the declaration of their change of doctrine on the subject; and that this Confession of Faith was the first Baptist document which affirmed immersion. As a matter of fact, according to all psychological principles and all history, this Particular Baptist Confession, of 1643, was simply the expression of the doctrines this body of Baptists had held all of the time.
If one will read the Confession he will
find that not only did the Baptists not change their doctrines, but they further declared
that they had long groaned under persecution; and that only from the meeting of the Long
Parliament, in 1640, had they had any redress. All of this and more is stated in Article
L, which is as follows;
And if God should provide such a mercy for us, as to incline the magistrates hearts so far as to tender our consciences, as that we might be protected by them from wrong injury, oppression and molestation, which long we have formerly groaned under by the tyranny and oppression of the Prelatical Hierarchy, which God through his mercy hath made this present King and Parliament wonderfully honorable, as an instrument in his hand, to threw down and we thereby have had more breathing time, we shall, we hope. look at it as a mercy beyond our expectation and conceive ourselves further engaged for ever to bless God for it.
They looked into the future as they had a
retrospect of the past. The persecutions of the past, they say in Article LI, inspired
them with the courage for the future. They expressed themselves as willing to give up all
and that they did not count their lives dear that they might finish their course with joy.
They had endured persecution in the past, they were willing to suffer affliction in the
future. The God of our fathers had been true to us in the past he will not forsake us now.
This is a heroic statement.
It is impossible to conceive that men of
a mould like this would change their minds on a fundamental doctrine over night. Professor
J. B. Thomas, late Professor of Church History, in Newton Theological Institution,
concisely states the argument, when he says:
Let it be noted that the first edition of "the Confession of the Seven Churches" was issued in 1643, affirming immersion to be the only true baptism. Now Baillie, a jealous and sagacious contemporary witness, affirms that this Confession expressed the already matured faith of forty-six churches "as I take it, in and about London." Featley an important figure in this discussion, reckoned them, as I remember, at fifty-.two, and Neal distinctly affirms that there were at the date, "54 congregations of English Baptists in England who confined Baptism to dipping," their illiterate preachers going about the country, and "making proselytes of all who would submit to their immersion." We are required then to believe, either that one congregation of "immersers" organized in 1641, there had grown this great company in two years, or that in the same time fifty or more existing Baptist congregations had simultaneously repudiated a custom to which they were traditionally attached and which was in universal use, in behalf of another custom which nobody among them had ever practiced or even heard of: they without any newly assigned or intelligent motive, suddenly ceased wholly to do what they had always and uniformly been accustomed to, and began exclusively to do what they had never done at all. So toppling a hypothesis surely needs massive support.
I am not persuaded that this support has
been furnished. I recognize no important evidence that was not apparently accessible to
Crosby in his day, and see no satisfactory reason for abandoning his opinion that
immersion in England long preceded the date named by Neal, and now (that is in 1643)
reaffirmed (Western Recorder, December 17, 1896).
The Confession of Faith was equally clear
on the proper administrator of baptism. The view of Spilsbury prevailed. He held that if
baptism was lost, any disciple could begin it again, and quoted John the Baptist in proof
of his position. They declared it was not necessary to send anywhere for an administrator.
Article XLI is as follows:
The person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scriptures hold forth to be a disciple, or a person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them who were considered disciples, being men able to preach the Gospel.
The Baptists of 1643 did not have an "agent extraordinarily sent" to Holland to obtain baptism. They believed in and practiced no such thing.
The Confession of Faith was made by the
representatives of seven churches and was signed by the following persons:
William Kiffin, Thomas Patience, John Spilsbury, George Tipping, Samuel Richardson, Thomas Skippard, Thomas Munday, Thomas Gunn, John Mabhatt, John Webb, Thomas Kilcop, Paul Hobson, Thomas Goare, Joseph Phelpes and Edward Heath.
The Confession of Faith was clear and
orthodox enough to allay suspicion, and ought to have saved the Baptists from further
annoyance and persecution, The impartial Masson says of it:
In spite of much persecution continued even after the Long Parliament met, the Baptists of these congregations propagated their opinions with such zeal that by 1644 the sect had obtained considerably larger dimensions. In that year they counted seven leading congregations in London, and forty seven in the rest of England, besides which they had many adherents in the army. Although all sorts of impieties were attributed to them on hearsay, they differed in reality from the Independents mainly on the subject of baptism. They objected to the baptism of infants, and they thought immersion or dipping under water the proper mode of baptism; except in these points and what they might involve they were substantially at one with the Congregationalists. This they made clear by the publication, in 1644, of a Confession of their Faith in 52 Articles, a document which, by its orthodoxy in all essential matters shamed the more candid of their opponents (Masson, The Life of John Milton, II. 585).
Their adversaries took no such view of the Confession of Faith. They could not be satisfied or induced to give the Baptists credit for common honesty. It was greeted by an outburst of passion from the Pedobaptist world.
Dr. Featley, who wrote with no small
If we give credit to this Confession, and the preface thereof, those who among us are branded with that title, are neither heretics nor schismatics, but tender hearted Christians, upon whom, through false suggestions, the hand of authority fell heavily whilst the hierarchy stood; for they neither teach free will, nor falling from grace, with the Arminians; nor deny original sin, with the Pelagians, nor disclaim magistracy, with the Jesuites; nor maintain plurality of wives, with the Polygamists: nor community of goods, with the Apostles; nor going naked, with the Adamites; much less ever the mortality of the soul, with Epicures and Psychopannychists (Featley, Dippers Dipt, 177).
Nevertheless, the Confession of Faith exerted a powerful and favorable influence for the Baptists. It was orthodox, evangelical and free from objectionable errors. "The Baptists never did anything that more effectually cleared them from the charge of being dangerous heretics, than did this" (Crosby, I., 170).
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