committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

CHAPTER XII.

Biographical Notices Concluded—Thomas Grantham—Hanserd Knollys—Benjamin Keach—William Kiffin—Anecdotes

I have given some account of the principal ministers of our denomination in England who died before the glorious Revolution. The names of several others, who survived that event, will be recorded here, because their labors as public men must be chiefly referred to the period now under review.

THOMAS GRANTHAM was for many years the principal minister among the General Baptists. He was baptized at Boston, Lincolnshire, in the year 1652, and almost immediately afterwards commenced his ministerial labours. In 1656 he became pastor of a church at North Elm Chapel. The petition presented to Charles II. in the early part of his reign, said to be “approved by more than 20,000,” was written by him. He was several times imprisoned, and otherwise annoyed, for his principles and practices as a Baptist. So highly esteemed was he by his brethren, that in 1666 he was removed from the pastoral office and appointed “messenger,” in which capacity he laboured many years, founding churches in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Warwickshire, and other counties, and exercising a general superintendence over the interests of the denomination. He finally settled at Norwich, where he died, January 17, 1692.

Mr. Grantham wrote some useful works, chiefly in explanation or defense of Baptist sentiments. The largest Was a folio volume, entitled “Christianismus Primitives.”1

HANSERD KNOLLYS was a native of Chalkwell, in Lincolnshire. While pursuing his studies at the University of Cambridge, he experienced a change of heart, having become acquainted with “several gracious Christians, then called Puritans,” whose conversation was blessed to him. In 1629 he was ordained by the Bishop of Peterborough. At Humberstone, where he lived several years, he was accustomed to preach three and even four times on the Lord’s-day, besides sermons on saints’ days and at funerals. But scruples and doubts agitated his mind. At length he reached the conviction that his position in the Church of England was not in accordance with the New Testament, and he renounced his ordination, resolving not to preach any more till he had “received a clear call and commission from Christ to preach the Gospel.”

During his silence he underwent much mental distress, which was removed by the instrumentality of Mr. Wheel?wright, one of the Puritan ministers. He then recom?menced preaching. “I began to preach the doctrine of free grace, according to the tenor of the new and everlasting Covenant, for three or four years together, whereby very many sinners were converted, and many believers were established in the faith.”

The persecution was so fierce that he joined the emi?grants who were at that time flocking to New England, and arrived at Boston in the spring of 1638. He was not allowed to remain there, the ministers having unaccount?ably judged him to be an Antinomian, and desired the magistrates to send him away. But he found a home at Dover, on the Piscataqua, where he preached with much acceptance upwards of three years. Cotton Mather, having referred to “ministers from other parts of the world,” who had arrived in New England, says:—“Of these there were some godly Anabaptists, as namely, Mr. Hanserd Knollys (whom one of his adversaries called Absurd Knowless), of Dover, and Mr. Miles of Swansley. Both of these have a respectful character in the churches of this wilderness.”2 It is observable that Mr. Knollys’ arrival was in the spring of 1638. Roger Williams’ baptism did not take place till the winter of that year.

Mr. Knollys returned to England about the close of 1641. He settled in London, where he gained his livelihood by teaching a school. His next employment was that of chaplain in the Parliamentary army. When he left the army he established himself again in London as a schoolmaster, and preached in the churches as he found opportunity. His labours were very acceptable to the people, but were so disapproved of by the Assembly of Divines, because he preached against national churches, that he withdrew from connection with them, and opened a meeting-house in Great St. Helen-street, where he commonly had a congregation of a thousand hearers. A Baptist church was formed there, over which he was ordained pastor in 1645. He held that office till his death, in 1691, though he was often prevented, by the operation of unjust laws, from fulfilling its duties. On several occasions he found it necessary to retire into the country for a while, and during the hottest period of the persecution he left England, and lived two or three years in Germany and Holland. He had his share also of “bonds and imprisonments.” But God graciously sustained him. His religious enjoyments abounded, and his labours were eminently successful.

“My wilderness, sea, city, sad prison mercies,” he observes, “afforded me very many and strong consolations. The spiritual sights of the glory of God, the divine sweetness of the spiritual and providential presence of my Lord Jesus Christ, And the joys and comforts of the holy and eternal Spirit, communicated to my soul, together with suitable and seasonable Scriptures of truth, have so often and so powerfully revived, refreshed, and strengthened my heart in the days of my pilgrimage, trials, and sufferings, that the sense,—yea the life and sweetness thereof,—abides still upon my heart, and hath engaged my soul to live by faith, to walk humbly, and to desire and endeavour to excel in holiness to God’s glory and the example of others. Though, I confess, many of the Lord’s ministers and some of the Lord’s people have excelled and outshined me, with whom God hath not been at so much cost, nor pains, as He hath been at with me. I am a very unprofitable servant, but yet by grace I am what I am.”

Mr. Knollys gives the following account of his recovery from a dangerous illness. We shall copy it without comment:—

“Two learned, well-practiced, and judicious doctors of physic had daily visited me, and consulted several days together, and I was fully persuaded that they did what they possibly could to effect a cure, and knew also that God did not succeed their honest and faithful endeavors with His blessing. Although God had given a signal and singular testimony of His special blessing by each of them unto other of their patients, at least sixteen, at the same time, I resolved to take no more physic, but would apply to that holy ordinance of God, appointed by Jesus Christ, the great Physician of value, in James 5:14, 15:—‘Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him:’—and I sent for Mr. Kiffin and Mr. Vavasor Powell, who prayed over me, and anointed me with oil in the name of the Lord. The Lord did hear prayer, and heal me; for there were many godly ministers and gracious saints that prayed day and night for me (with submission to the will of God), that the Lord would spare my life, and make me more serviceable to His Church, and to His saints, whose prayers God heard; and as an answer to their prayers I was perfectly healed, but remained weak long after.”

As the poverty of the church prevented them from pro?viding adequately for his support, Mr. Knollys continued in his employment as a schoolmaster almost to the close of life. His efforts were so successful that he realized consi?derable property. Reviewing his history some time after his wife’s death (which took place in 1671), he says:—“To my eldest son I had given sixty pounds per annum during life, which he enjoyed about twenty-one years ere he died. To my next son that lived to be married I gave the full value of two hundred and fifty pounds in money, house, school, and household goods, and left him fifty scholars in the school-house. To my only daughter then living I gave upon her marriage, above three hundred pounds in money, annuity, plate, linen, and household stuffs, and left her husband fifty scholars in the said school-house, in partnership with my said son. To my youngest son that lived to be married I gave more than three hundred pounds sterling; besides, it cost me sixty pounds in his apprenticeship, and forty pounds afterwards. Thus my Heavenly Father made up my former losses with His future blessings, even in outward substance, besides a good increase of grace and experience, in the space of the forty years that I and my dear faithful wife lived together. We removed several times, with our whole family; whereof, once from Lincolnshire to London, and from London to New England; once from England into Wales, twice from London into Lincolnshire; once from London to Holland, and from thence into Germany, and thence to Rotterdam, and thence to London again. In which removings I gained great experiences of God’s faithfulness, goodness and truth, in His great and precious promises; and I have gained some experience of my own heart’s deceitfulness and the power of my own corruptions, and the reigning power of Christ, and His captivating and subduing my sins—making conquests of the devil, world, and sin, and then giving me the victory, and canting me to triumph, and to bless His holy name . . . I would not want those experiences and teachings that my soul hath enjoyed for all that I ever suffered.”

Among the works published by Mr. Knollys was a Grammar of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. It was written in Latin.3

Mr. Knollys died September 19th, 1691. He was in the ninety-third year of his age. The “Hanserd Knollys Society,” founded in the year 1845, for the republication of the works of early Baptist authors, was named after him.

Knollys, Keach, and Kiffin might be called “the first three” among the Baptist ministers of those days. Their talents and characters gave them influence, which appears to have been wisely exerted for the benefit of the denomination. They were honored while living, and their “memory is blessed.”

BENJAMIN KEACH’S sufferings have been detailed in a former section. He was twenty-four years of age when he endured the pillory. Born in 1640, he was converted in his fifteenth year, and commenced preaching, at the invitation of the Church, three years afterwards, though he did not undertake a pastoral charge till 1668, when he was chosen pastor of a church in Southwark. He remained there till his death.

An occurrence during his journey to London illustrates the state of society and the deficiency of the police arrangements at that time. Mr. Keach, his wife, and three children were traveling to London by the stage-coach. On their way they were attacked by a band of highwaymen, who robbed the passengers of all their money and valuables, leaving Mr. Keach, who had just sold his effects for the purpose of settling in London, and had the proceeds of the sale in his pocket, in a state of utter destitution. But friends relieved his immediate necessities, and assisted him in bringing an action against the county for the amount of his loss, in which he succeeded. Such a procedure would be accounted strange in these days.

Mr. Keach’s labours were much blessed. For four years the church over which he presided met in private houses, often changing the place of assembly to avoid the pursuit of informers. In 1672, when Charles II. issued a “Declaration of Indulgence,” a meeting-house was erected for the church. It was enlarged several times, as the congregation increased, and at length was capable of accommodating nearly a thousand persons.

Preaching was not the whole of his work. Mr. Keach was a voluminous writer. Some of his works were “polemical,” some “practical,” some “poetical.” The “polemical” treated of various subjects, then warmly discussed—including the laying on of hands, the lawfulness of singing in public worship, the authority of the Christian Sabbath, and baptism. On the last-mentioned theme he wrote frequently, and with great earnestness. The “practical” portion of his works comprised, besides minor productions, his Tropologia; or, Key to Open Scripture Metaphors; his Gospel Mysteries Unveiled; or, an Exposition of all the Parables; and his Travels of True Godliness, and Travels of Ungodliness. The first two were bulky books, which were rather distinguished for ingenuity than for just criticism. They have been reprinted several times, but, however valuable in a devotional or experimental point of view, cannot be recommended as models of sound exegesis. The two others are somewhat in Bunyan’s style. They are still prized by serious readers. The most important of his “Poetical” compositions was, Zion in Distress; or, the Groans of the Protestant Church, first published in 1666. This was written, as he says in the Preface, because “he perceived Popery was ready to bud, and would, if God prevented not, spring up afresh in the land.” After the Revolution, his prolific pen produced another poem, entitled, Distressed Sion Relieved; or, the Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness. He also published a collection, entitled, Spiritual Melody, containing nearly three hundred hymns.

Mr. Keach’s constitution was weak, and his illnesses were frequent. In 1689 his life was despaired of; his physicians had exhausted their skill; and his relatives took leave of him, expecting his departure to be near at hand, when, as Crosby relates, “the Reverend Mr. Hanserd Knollys, seeing his friend and brother near to all appear?ance expiring, betook himself to prayer, and, in an earnest and very extraordinary manner, begged that God would spare him and add unto his days the time granted unto His servant Hezekiah. As soon as he ended his prayer, he said, ‘Brother Keach, I shall be in heaven before you,’ and quickly after left him. So remarkable was the answer of God to this good man’s prayer, that I cannot omit it; though it may be discredited by some, there are yet living incontestable evidences of the fact;—for Mr. Keach re?covered of that illness, and lived just fifteen years after?wards; and then it pleased God to visit him with that short sickness which put an end to his life.” He died July 18, 1704, in the sixty-fourth year of his age.

The historian Crosby was a member of the church under Mr. Keach’s pastoral care. His delineation of the cha?racter of his pastor was the result of personal and close observation. It is manifestly a picture from life, and is worthy of preservation.

“To collect every particular transaction of this worthy minister’s life cannot be expected at such a distance of time; nay, even to collect all that was excellent and amiable in him is too great a task to be now undertaken. I shall only observe that he was a person of great integrity of soul; a Nathanael indeed; his conversation not frothy and vain, but serious, without being morose or sullen. He began to be religious early, and continued faithful to the last. He was not shocked by the fury of his persecutors, though he suffered so much from them for the cause of Christ. Preaching the Gospel was the pleasure of his soul, and his heart was so engaged in the work of the ministry, that from the time of his first appearing in public to the end of his days his life was one continued scene of labour and toil. His great study and constant preaching exhausted his animal spirits and enfeebled his strength, yet to the last he discovered a becoming zeal against the errors of the day. His soul was too great to recede from any truth that he owned, either from the powers or flatteries of the most eminent. He discharged the duties of his pastoral office with unwearied diligence, by preaching in season and out of season, visiting those under his charge, encouraging the serious, defending the great truths of the Gospel, and set?ting them in the clearest light. How low would he stoop for the sake of peace! And how would he bear the infirmities of his weak brethren! that such as would not be wrought upon by the strength of reason might be melted by his condescension and good nature. He was prudent as well as peaceable; would forgive and forget injuries, being charitable as well as cautious. He was not addicted to utter hard censures of such as differed from him in lesser matters, but had a love for all saints, and constantly exer?cised himself in this, to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man. He showed an unwearied endeavor to recover the decayed power of religion, for he lived what he preached, and it pleased God so to succeed his endeavors that I doubt not but some yet living may call him their father whom he hath begotten through the Gospel. He affected no unusual tones nor indecent ges?tures in his preaching. His style was strong and mascu?line. He generally used notes, especially in the latter part of his life; and if his sermons had not the embellishments of language which some boast of, they had this peculiar advantage, to be full of solid divinity, which is a much better character for pulpit discourses than to say they are full of pompous eloquence and flights of wit. It was none of the least of his excellent qualifications for the ministerial work, that he I knew how to behave himself in the house of God, in regard to the exercise of that discipline which is so necessary to a Christian society. With patience and meekness, with gravity and prudence, with impartiality and faithfulness, did he demean himself in his congregation; and with prudence in conduct did he manage all their affairs upon all occasions.”4

WILLIAM KIFFIN is the last we shall name of the Baptist worthies of this period. His is a truly honorable name. He was one of the merchant-princes of London, and had won his wealth by honest industry. He sought also to win souls with wisdom and earnestness, answerable to the greatness of the undertaking. Like Mordecai of old he was “accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed” (Esther 10:3).

William Kiffin was a native of London. He was born in the year 1616. When he was nine years of age, he lost both his parents by the Plague, which at that time raged violently in London, and was himself “left with six plague sores” upon him, so that “nothing but death was looked for” by his friends. It pleased God to restore him and to bless him with long life. His conversion took place in early youth. The instructive and powerful ministry of those times was the means of implanting conviction in his soul, and ultimately of establishing him in the faith. An extract from his autobiography may be here cited:—

“At the end of the year 1632, it pleased God to bring Mr. John Goodman to London. I attended upon his ministry and found it very profitable. Delivering his judg?ment about the way of God’s dealings in the conversion of sinners, he showed that the terrors of the law were not of necessity to be preached to prepare the soul for Christ, because in the nature and tendency of them they drove the soul further off from Christ; answering very many objec?tions and Scriptures produced by other ministers to prove the contrary. This was of great use to me, so far as to satisfy me that God hath not tied Himself to any such way of converting a sinner, but according to His good pleasure took several ways of bringing a soul to Jesus Christ. I had for some time seen the want of Christ, and believed that it was by Him only I must expect pardon; and had also seen the worth and excellencies that were in Him above all other objects; so that I now felt my soul to rest upon and to trust in Him.”5

Again: “About this time [1634] I became acquainted with several young men that diligently attended the means, to whom it had pleased God to make known much of Himself and His grace. These, being apprentices as well as I, had no opportunities of converse but on the Lord’s-days. It being our constant practice to attend the morning lecture, which began at six o’clock, both at Cornhill and Christ Church, we appointed to meet together an hour before, to spend it in prayer and communicating what experiences we had received from the Lord to each other; or else to repeat some sermon we had previously heard. After a little time, we also read some portion of Scripture, and spake from it according as it pleased God to enable us. In these exercises I found very great advantage, and by degrees did arrive to some small measure of knowledge, finding the study of the Scriptures very pleasant and delightful to me; which I attended to as it pleased God to give me opportunities.”6

The young man became an independent inquirer, prepared to follow the leadings of truth, regardless of consequences. Observing that some excellent ministers had gone into voluntary banishment rather than conform to the Church of England, he was induced to examine the points in dispute between that Church and her opponents, and this issued in his joining the Nonconformists. He had been five years a member of the Independent church, then under the care of Mr. Lathorp, when, with many others, he with?drew, and joined the Baptist church, the first in England of the Particular Baptist order, of which Mr. Spilsbury was the pastor. Two years after that, in 1640, a difference of opinion respecting the propriety of allowing ministers who had not been immersed to preach to them (in which Mr. Kiffin took the negative side), occasioned a separation. Mr. Kiffin and those who agreed with him seceded, and formed another church, which met in Devonshire Square. He was chosen pastor, and held that office till his death, in 1701,—one of the longest pastorates on record.

Mr. Kiffin was extensively engaged in mercantile pur?suits, trading chiefly with Holland, and acquired large pro?perty. His standing in society, and his well-known inte?grity of character, gave him influence, and he often exerted it for the protection and relief of sufferers. It was much in his favour, too, in those changeful and stormy times, that he stood aloof from all political agitation. He never troubled himself with party disputes, nor interfered in the intrigues and cabals of politicians. He was a good citizen of the Commonwealth; he submitted to the Protectorate; he honored the King. His policy was, and so he advised his brethren, to yield obedience to the existing government, in things civil, whatever might be the form of that govern?ment. Hence he was held in high esteem by all parties, and great deference was shown him.

Charles II. was always in want of money, and cared not by what means it was obtained. It is said that on one occasion he sent for Mr. Kiffin, and asked the loan of forty thousand pounds. The Baptist merchant replied that he had not then so large a sum at his command, but that, if his Majesty would accept ten thousand pounds as a gift, he was heartily welcome. The King took the money, and Kiffin, as he was accustomed to say, saved thirty thousand pounds by his liberality; for Charles would have forgotten to pay the debt.

Several attempts were made to involve the good man in trouble. He was summoned before the Lord Mayor, during the Protectorate, for preaching against infant baptism, but the prosecution was not pressed: had it been, Cromwell would probably have quashed it. On some occasions, after the Restoration, he endured brief imprisonments, pending investigation. At one time, he was charged with uttering treasonable words in a sermon; at another, by means of a forged letter, with being privy to an insurrectionary design; at another, with having hired two men to kill the King. But his innocence was so clearly apparent that he escaped. Doubtless it was by “the good hand of God” upon him. “My Lord Arlington hath told me,” he observes, “that though, in every list of disaffected persons brought him, who ought to be secured, my name was always amongst them, yet the King would never believe anything against me; my Lord Chancellor also (the Earl of Clarendon) being very much my friend.”7

In 1679, when the Conventicle Act was renewed in a severer form, an attempt was made to bring Mr. Kiffin under its lash. “It pleased the Lord,” he says, “that the laws now began to be put in execution against Dissenters; and, as I was taken at a meeting, I was prosecuted, for the purpose of recovering from me forty pounds. This sum I deposited in the hands of the officer; but finding some errors in the proceedings, I overthrew the informers on the trial. Though the trial cost me thirty pounds, it had this advantage—that many poor men who were prosecuted upon a similar charge were by this means relieved, the informers being afraid to proceed against them.”8

Four years after, they tried again, but with no better success. “It pleased the Lord, presently after the death of my wife, that I was again prosecuted by the informers for three hundred pounds, the penalties of fifteen meetings. They had managed this matter so secretly, as to get the record in court for the money; but, finding there were some errors also in that record, they moved the court, judge Jenner being on the bench, to amend the record. Some of my friends who were in court, moved that I might be heard before the order was made. In this way I came to the knowledge of the prosecution, and having employed able counsel, they pleaded that the record could not be mended; and, after several hearings before the court, the informers let the suit fall.”9

Had there been more Kiffins in England at that time, the informers’ trade would have been less gainful. Persecutors reveled in ill-gotten riches. They will at length appear before a “judgment seat” where there will be found no “errors in the record.”

A portion of Mr. Kiffin’s domestic history is thus narrated:—

“It pleased God to take out of the world to Himself my eldest son, which was no small affliction to me and my dear wife. His obedience to his parents and forwardness in the ways of God were so conspicuous as made him very amiable in the eyes of all who knew him. The grief I felt for his loss did greatly press me down, with more than ordinary sorrow; but in the midst of my great distress, it pleased the Lord to support me by that blessed word being brought powerfully to my mind (Matthew 20:25), ‘Is thine eye evil, because I am good? Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own?’ These words did quiet my heart, so that I felt a perfect submission to His sovereign will, being well satisfied that it was for the great advantage of my dear son, and a voice to me to be more humble, and watchful over my own ways.

“My next son being but of a weak constitution, and desirous of traveling, I sent him with the captain of a ship, an acquaintance, who was bound to Aleppo. Fearing that in his voyage and travels he was in danger of being corrupted by those of the Popish religion, I sent a young man, a minister, with him, to defend him from anything of that kind. But I was greatly prevented, for this minister left him and the ship at Leghorn, and went to Rome; by which means I was, to my sorrow, disappointed. On my son’s return home, when at Venice, he met with a popish priest, and being forward to discourse with him about religion, the priest, to show his revenge, destroyed him by poison. As to the minister’s name, I forbear to mention it, he being yet alive. ‘I pray God that this sin may not be laid to his charge.’”10

Here is a fine trait of the good old Protestantism. William Kiffin would not have acted like some of the moderns, who send their children to Roman Catholic schools. So solicitous was he for his son’s preservation from the insidious error, that he was content to incur a double expense on his tour rather than risk his spiritual safety. All Honor to him; and honored let him be, too, for his forbearance. The name of the minister who se unaccountably deserted his charge will never be known on earth. Kiffin would not expose him to obloquy, though he richly deserved it. Kiffin was a disciple of the “meek and lowly” One.

About three years after the last-mentioned affliction, the good man lost his wife, who died October 2nd, 1682. He records the event in his usual strain. “It pleased the Lord,” he says, “to take to Himself my dear and faithful wife, with whom I had lived nearly forty-four years, whose tenderness to me and faithfulness to God were such as cannot, by me, be expressed, as she constantly sympathized with me in all my afflictions. I can truly say, I never heard her utter the least discontent under all the various providences that attended either me or her; she eyed the hand of God in all our sorrows, so as constantly to encourage me in the ways of God: her death was the greatest sorrow to me that ever I met with in the world.”11

We have given a full account in a previous section of the affliction that befell Mr. Kiffin in the death of his grandsons, the Hewlings. That wound was never healed; it smarted till his dying day.

In 1687, James II. published a “Declaration of liberty of conscience,” assuming for that purpose a power to dispense with the laws of the land by an exercise of the royal prerogative. Some of the Dissenters, and among them a few Baptists, were so delighted at the prospect of freedom and equality, that they gratefully accepted the proffered boon, and presented addresses to the King on the occasion, expressing in strong terms their sense of obligation to him. But Mr. Kiffin and the majority of his brethren were not to be beguiled. They saw that the measure was wholly unconstitutional, since laws can neither be made, repealed, nor suspended, but by the united legislature; and they were convinced that James’s real design was to bestow political power on the Roman Catholics, and ultimately to make Popery rampant. They abstained, therefore, from any demonstration, and awaited the issue of events.

When the King deprived the City of London of its charter, and displaced its magistrates, Mr. Kiffin was appointed one of the new aldermen. His account of the transaction is as follows:—

“A little time after, a great temptation attended me, which was, a commission from the King to be one of the aldermen of the City of London. I used all the means I could to be excused by some lords near the King; and also by Sir Nicholas Butler, and Mr. Penn, but all in vain. They said that they knew I had an interest that would serve the King; and although they knew my sufferings had been very great, by the cutting off my two grandsons, and losing their estates, yet it should be made up to me, both as to their estates, and also in what honour and advantage I could reasonably desire for myself.”

“But I thank the Lord those proffers were no snare to me, being fully possessed in my judgment that the design was the total ruin of the Protestant religion, which, I hope I can say, was and is dearer to me than my life. I re?mained without accepting the office, from the time I received the summons to take it, about six weeks, until the Lord Mayor, Sir John Peake, in court said, I ought to be sent to Newgate; and in a few days after, I understood it was intended to put me into the Crown Office, and to pro?ceed with all severity against me. Which, when I heard, I went to the ablest counsel for advice (one that is now a chief judge in the nation), and stating my case to him, he told me my danger was every way great; for if I accepted to be an alderman, I ran the hazard of five hundred pounds [that being the penalty for taking office without first re?ceiving the Lord’s Supper according to the forms of the Church of England]; and if I did not accept, as the judges then were, I might be fined by them, ten, or twenty, or thirty thousand pounds, even what they pleased. So that I thought it better for me to run the lesser hazard of five hundred pounds, which was certain, than be exposed to such fines as might be the ruin of myself and family. Yet did I forbear taking the place of alderman for some time, when the aldermen then sitting agreed to invite the King to dinner on the Lord Mayor’s Day, and laid down fifty pounds each alderman to defray the charge; which made some of them the more earnest for my holding, and they Were pleased to tell me I did forbear [in order] to excuse my fifty pounds. But to prevent any such charge against me, I desired a friend to acquaint my Lord Mayor and the court, that I should deposit my fifty pounds with them, yet delaying accepting the office—which I accordingly sent them. When the Lord Mayor’s Day came, and the dinner prepared for the King, I the next day understood that there were invited to the feast the Pope’s nuncio, and several other priests, that dined with them, which, had I known they had been invited, I should hardly have parted with my fifty pounds towards that feast; but the next court-day I came to the court and took upon me the office of alderman. In the commission I was also a justice of the Peace and one of the lieutenancy; but I never meddled with either of those places, neither in any act of power in that court, touching causes between man and man, but only such things as concerned the welfare of the city, and the good of the orphans, whose distressed condition called for help, although we were able to do little towards it . . . Having been in that office about nine months, I was discharged from it, to my very great satisfaction . . . My reason for giving this brief account of these things is, that you all may see how good the Lord hath been to prevent those designs, then in hand, to destroy both our religion and our liberties, and I heartily desire that both myself and all others concerned may acknowledge the great goodness of God therein, that He may have the glory of all our delivering mercies.”

Thus wrote the Christian patriot. We see here the meek dignity of religion.

Mr. Kiffin died December 29, 1701, in the eighty-sixth year of his age.

He was generally regarded as the chief man in the denomination. That is, his excellent character, and the position which he occupied, gave him influence among his brethren, and rendered his advice and co-operation desirable. His name is connected with all the public proceedings of the body for half a century. If the Court wished to conciliate the Baptists, application was made to Kiffin. If country churches required aid or counsel, they seemed naturally to ask his interference, and fully confided in his discretion and integrity, knowing that he would honestly endeavour to do right.

He was an eminently good man. We cannot but admire the quiet composure and filial submission of soul with which he recorded even the most painful events of his life. “It pleased the Lord”—such was the habitual expression of his views and feelings. Whether the reference was to mercy or to judgment—to manifestations of blessing—to persecuting malice—to domestic sorrow—to storms and perils—or to joyful deliverance—still, the language was the same—“It pleased the Lord.” Thus he possessed his soul in patience, and “endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”

We might tell of other excellent men whom God raised up in the “Troublous Period,” and by whom the churches were edified. There were John Gosnold, Joseph Wright, George Hammond, Samuel Taverner, Henry Forty, Benjamin Coxe, Nehemiah Coxe, D.D., William Collins, Hercules Collins, and many more. But “time would fail.” We must bring this period to a close.

Our historians have preserved some interesting anecdotes, illustrative of the times. We will transcribe a few.

George Hammond was the pastor of a church at Canterbury, and preached frequently in the neighboring villages. He was once overtaken by a storm, and took shelter under a tree. While there, another person joined him, who in the course of conversation said that he was an informer, and that he had heard there was to be a conventicle in the neighborhood, at which he meant to be present. “I am a man-taker also,” said Mr. Hammond. “Are you so?” replied the informer; “then we will go together.” They reached the house, and sat some time among the people. “Here are the people,” said Mr. Hammond, “but where is the minister? Unless there is a minister we cannot make a conventicle of it, and therefore either you or I must preach.” The informer declined of course, and Mr. Ham?mond preached, much to the man’s astonishment. The sermon was blessed to him, and he became a Christian.

In the early part of his ministry Nehemiah Coxe lived at Cranfield, in Bedfordshire. He was committed to prison for preaching the Gospel. When brought to his trial, he pleaded in Greek, and on examination answered in Hebrew. The judge called for the indictment, and found him de?scribed as “Nehemiah Coxe, Cordwainer,” at which he expressed his astonishment, no doubt thinking it exceed?ingly strange that a shoemaker should be a learned man. Mr. Coxe insisted on his right to plead in what language he chose, and, as none of the lawyers could speak Greek or Hebrew, the case was necessarily dismissed. “Well,” said the judge to the learned counsel before him, “the cord?wainer has wound you all up, gentlemen.”

Jeremiah Ives, who was thirty years pastor of a church in the Old Jewry, London, was celebrated for his tact and power as a disputant. Charles II. heard of him, and invited him to Court to hold a discussion with a Roman Catholic priest, who was told that his opponent was a clergy?man of the Church of England. Mr. Ives was persuaded to assume that character by appearing in clerical attire. In the course of the dispute he argued, that notwith?standing the authorities which might be adduced in favor of Romish opinions and practices, and the plausibilities which might be urged in their defense, they could not be sustained, because they were entirely unknown in the Apostolic age. That argument, the priest replied, would be of equal force against infant baptism, which was also unknown in the Apostolic age. Mr. Ives admitted it, intimating that he rejected infant baptism on the same ground; whereupon the priest abruptly closed the discussion, saying that he had been cheated: he had supposed that he was disputing with a Church of England clergyman, whereas they had brought him “an Anabaptist preacher.” The King and his courtiers were highly amused.

In those days, preachers were often obliged to disguise themselves, that they might not be recognized by the informers. “It is said that Bunyan, to avoid discovery, went from a friend’s house disguised as a carter, with his white frock, wide-awake cap, and whip in his hand, to attend a private meeting in a sheltered field or barn.” Andrew Gifford, of Bristol, adopted similar expedients, at one time appearing as an officer, at another as a gentleman. “Did you not meet me last night,” he said one day to a friend, “going through Lawford’s Gate? Why did you not speak to me?” “I did not see you, sir.” “Did you not meet a tinker?” “Yes, sir.” “That was me,” said Mr. Gifford.

An old memoir of Bunyan contains the following:—“Being to preach in a church in a country village (before the restoration of King Charles) in Cambridgeshire, and the people being gathered together in the churchyard, a Cam?bridge scholar, and none of the soberest of them neither, enquired what the meaning of that concourse of people was, it being upon the week-day; and being told that one Bun?yan, a tinker, was to preach there, he gave a boy two pence to hold his horse, saying he was resolved to hear the tinker prate, and so went into the church to hear him. But God met with him there by His ministry, so that he came out much changed, and would by his good will hear none but the tinker for a long time after, he himself becoming a very eminent preacher in that county afterwards.”

“It happened,” says Crosby, “that the magistrates of Sevenoaks sent some officers to the congregation meeting at Brabourn, who took all the men from thence and carried them to the town, where by an order they were kept prisoners all night. On the morrow, when the justices met together, the prisoners were had before them and examined, and after some little discourse with them were dismissed. They all with one heart, full of wonder and joy, returned to the place from whence they were taken, to return thanks to God for this so unexpected a deliverance. When they came to the place, to their great surprise and inexpressible joy, they found the women, there, who had not departed from the house, but had sent that evening, the night, and morning, in prayer to God on their behalf.”

  1  Tayler’s History of the General Baptists, i. pp. 308-316.

  2  Magnalia, book iii. p. 243 (Ed. 1855).

  3  Ivimey, ii. pp. 347-359

  4  Ivimey, ii. pp. 360-368.

  5  Ivimey’s Life of Kiffin, p. 9.

  6  Ibid, p. 13.

  7  Life, p. 46.

  8  Ibid, p. 58.

  9  Life, p. 59.

10  Life, p. 56.

11  Life, p. 58.

 
 
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