a history of the english baptists
A.D. 1653 - 1660
The government was now altered, and, instead of being in the parliament, was vested in a single person. This was the general, Oliver Cromwell, whose title was to be His Highness, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of the dominions thereunto belonging.
The Baptists in the army seem to have been apprehensive that he entertained designs against them, as appears from the following letter, which we insert, not because we approve of its spirit, but because it may cast some light upon the history of the times. It was probably written by some of his officers, who were envious at his exaltation, and offended that he had deserted his republican sentiments. It is entitled, A short discovery of his Highness the Lord Protector’s intentions touching the Anabaptists in the army, and all such as are against his reforming things in the church; which was first communicated by a Scotch lord who is called Twidle; but is now come to the ear of the Anabaptists: upon which there are propounded thirty five queries for his highness to answer to his conscience. By a well wisher to the Anabaptists’ prosperity, and all the rest of the separatists in England.
"TO HIS HIGHNESS THE LORD PROTECTOR,
"There is some intelligence abroad, which I desire to communicate in a private way, lest I become a prey to the malice or envy of the roaring lion. But to the matter intended, and that is this:—It seems your highness being discoursing with a Scotch lord, who is called the lord Twidle, you were pleased to say that there was something amiss in the church and state, which you would reform as soon as may be. Of those that were amiss in the state, some were done and the rest were doing; and as for those things that were amiss in the church, you hoped to rectify them by degrees, as convenient opportunity presented itself; but before you could do this work, the Anabaptists must be taken out of the army; and this you could not do with sharp corrosive medicines, but it must be done by degrees. From which there are two things observable, 1. The work. 2. The way you intend to do this work.
"First, to the work; and that is church-work. It seems you intend to follow the steps of them that are gone before, which could not be content to meddle with state affairs, and to make laws and statutes, and impose them upon the people as rules of divine worship. And this is the work you intend to be at, under pretence of correcting error, and so to destroy truth.
"But who could have thought, when you made your last speech to Parliament, when your tongue was so sweetly tipt for the liberty of conscience, reproving the parliament for having a finger on their brother’s conscience; who could have imagined that then heard you that you would have been so soon at the same trade, unless he had supposed a fountain could have sent forth sweet water and bitter? But,
"Secondly, the way you intend to take to bring about this design, is two-fold. 1. To purge the army of the Anabaptists. 2. To do it by degrees. But, Oliver, is this thy design? And is this the way to be rid of the Anabaptists? And is this the reason, because they hinder the things amiss in the church? I confess they have been enemies to the Presbyterian church government; and so were you at Dunbar in Scotland; or at least you seemed to be so by your words and actions; for you spake as pure independency as any of us all then; and made this an argument why we should fight stoutly; because we had the prayers of the Independents and baptized churches. So highly did you seem to love the Anabaptists then, that you did not only invite them into the army, but entertain them in your family; but it seems the case is altered. But, I pray do not deceive yourself, nor let the priests deceive you; for the Anabaptists are men that will not be shuffled out of their birth-rights, as free born people of England. And have they not filled your towns, your cities, your provinces, your islands, your castles, your navies, your tents, your armies, (except that which went to the West Indies, which prospers so well) your court?—your very council is not free; only we have left your temples for yourself to worship in. So that I believe it will be an hard thing to root them out; although you tell the Scottish lord you will do it by degrees, as he reports.
"May it please you highness seriously to consider what hath been said, and answer these ensuing queries to your own conscience:
"1. Whether you highness had come to the height of honour and greatness you are now come to, if the Anabaptists, so called, had been so much your enemies as they were your friends?
"2. Whether the Anabaptists were ever unfaithful, either to the commonwealth in general, or to your highness in particular? And if not, then what is the reason of your intended dismission?
"3. Whether the Anabaptists be not as honest now as in the year 1650 and 51, and 52, &c.? And if so, why not as useful now as then?
"4. Whether the Anabaptists are not to be commended for their integrity, which had rather keep faith and a good conscience, although it may lose them their employments, than to keep their employments with the loss of both?
"5. Whether the Anabaptists may not as justly endeavour to eat out the bowels of your government, as your highness may endeavour to eat them out of their employments?
"6. Whether the Anabaptists did not come more justly into their employments in the army, than your highness came into the seat of government?
"7. Whether, if the Anabaptists had the power in their hands, and were as able to cast you out, as you were them, and they did intend it to you as you do to them; whether, I say, your highness would not call them all knaves?
"8. Whether this be fair dealing in the sight of God and men, to pretend a great deal of love to the Anabaptists, as to Major Pack and Mr. Kiffin, and a hundred more that I could name, when at the same time you intend evil against them?
"9. Whether the Anabaptist will not be in a better condition in the day of Christ that keeps his covenant with God and men, than your highness will be if you break with both?
"10. Whether an hundred of the old Anabaptists, such as marched under your command in 48, 49, 50, &c. be not as good as two hundred of your new courtiers, if you were in such a condition as you were at Dunbar in Scotland?
"11. Whether the cause of the army’s defeat in Hispaniola was because there were so many Anabaptists in it? And if so, if that be the only reason why they are so much out of date?
"12. Whether your highness hath not changed your former intention, to have an equal respect to the godly, though different in judgment? And if so, whether it be not from the better to the worse?
"13. Whether your highness’s conscience was not more at peace, and your mind more set upon things above, when you loved the Anabaptists, than it is now, when you hate their principles, or their service, or both?
"14. Whether your highness’s court is not a greater charge to this nation than the Anabaptists in the army? And if so, whether this be the ease which you promised the people?
"15. Whether there be any disproportion betwixt the state of things now, and the state of things in the days of old? And if there be, shew us where it lieth, how, and when?
"16. Whether the monies laid out in the making of the new rivers and ponds at Hampton court, might not have been better bestowed in paying the public faith, or the Anabaptists’ arrears before their dismissal?
"17. Whether it is not convenient for the Anabaptists to provide for their own safety, seeing from you they can expect none?
"18. Whether it will be any more treason to fight for our liberties and civil properties in these days, if they be denied us, than it was to fight for them in the days of the king?
"19. Whether the instrument of government be as the laws of the Medes and Persians that alter not? If so, how is it that Mr. John Biddle is now a prisoner?
"20. Whether your highness may not as well violate the while instrument of government as the 37th and 38th articles? If so, what security have the people for their liberty?
"21. Whether our liberty doth not wholly depend upon your will, and the will of a future protector, seeing the instrument of government is so little useful. If so, whether our condition be not as bad as ever?
"22. Whether your may not as justly suffer all to be put in prison that differ from the church of England, as to suffer Mr. Biddle to be imprisoned?
"23. Whether it will not be more abominable to the Anabaptists, or Independents, or Mr. Biddle, or any other professing faith in God by Jesus Christ, and are not disturbers of the civil peace, nor turn their liberty into licentiousness, to suffer for their consciences under your government, that promised liberty to such, than it was to have suffered under the king, that promised them none?
"24. Whether your highness will not appear to be a dreadful apostate and fearful dissembler, if you suffer persecution to fall upon the Anabaptists, or Independents, or them of Mr. Biddle’s judgment, seeing you promised equal liberty to all?
"25. Whether this will not prove your highness’s ruin, if you join with such a wicked principle to persecute for conscience, or to turn men out of the army for being Anabaptists, or for any such thing as differs from the church of England, seeing God hath confounded all such as have done so?
"26. Whether the old parliament was not turned out for leaving undone that which they ought to have done? And if so, whether those things have been done since?
"27. Whether the little parliament was not turned out for doing that which the other left undone; or taking away of tithes and other grievances? And if so, then
"28. Whether you did not intend your own ends more than you did the nation’s good, in breaking the first parliament, and calling the second, and dissolving them again?
"29. Whether the instrument of government was not preparing eight or nine days before the breaking up of the little parliament? And if so, whether you did not intend their dissolving?
"30. Whether you did not tell a shameful untruth to the last parliament, saying, that you did not know of their dissolving, that is to say the little parliament, till they came to deliver up their power to you?
"31. Whether your highness did not put a slur upon the Lord Lambert, when he should have gone lord-deputy to Ireland, in telling the parliament it savoured too much of a monarchy; and so sent Fleetwood with a lower title?
"32. Whether your highness do not intend to put another slur upon the Lord Lambert, in sending for the lord-deputy to come into England, to make him generalissimo of the armies in England, Scotland, and Ireland?
"33. Whether it is not convenient for the Lord Lambert to consider of those actions, and to have an eye to your proceedings, lest by degrees you eat him out of all, as you intend to do the Anabaptists?
"34. Whether the excessive pride of your family do not call for a speedy judgment from heaven, seeing pride never goeth without a fall?
"35. Whether the six coach-horses did not give your highness a fair warning of some worse thing to follow, if you repent not, seeing God often forewarns before he strikes home?—
"My humble request is, that you will seriously consider of these few lines, although you may dislike the way by which they are communicated, yet let the matter sink deep into your heart; for these things should have met you in another manner, had not your highness cast off all such friendly communication by word of mouth, and the persons too, if they did but tell you plainly their minds. And take heed of casting away old friends for new acquaintance, as Rehoboam did, who forsook the counsel of his good old friends, and consulted with his young courtiers; which caused the ten tribes to revolt from him. [1 Kings 12:8] And it is a deadly sign of a speedy ruin, when a prince or a state casts off the interests of the people of God; as you may see how Joash forsook the people and the house of God, and then his house fell before a few of the Assyrians, and at last his own servants conspired against him, and slew him.
"And therefore, O Cromwell! leave off thy wicked design of casting off the interest of the people of God; and ‘let my counsel be acceptable to thee; and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thy iniquity by shewing mercy to the poor, and it may be a lengthening out of thy tranquility.’ For ‘it is not strength united with policy, but righteousness accompanied with strength, that must keep alive you interest with God and the people. And when both these die, that is to say righteousness and sincerity, then adieu to thy greatness here, and thy eternal happiness hereafter.
"From him who wishes your happiness so long as you do well.
"Printed for the information of all such as prize the liberty of their consciences, for which so blood has been spilt." [Crosby, vol. iii. p. 231-242.]
The change of government, however, appears to have been, generally speaking, favourable to religious liberty. In the instrument of government we find the following liberal sentiments.
"That the Christian religion contained in the scriptures be held forth and recommended as the public profession of these nations, and that, as soon as may be, a provision less subject to contention, and more certain than the present, be made for the maintenance of ministers, and that till such provision be made, the present maintenance continue.
"That none be compelled to conform to the public religion by penalties or otherwise; but that endeavours be used to win them by sound doctrine, and the example of a good conversation.
"That such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, though differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship, and discipline, publicly held forth, shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in the profession of their faith and exercise of their religion, so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others, and to the actual disturbance of the public peace on their parts; provided this liberty be not extended to popery or prelacy, or to such as, under a profession of Christ, hold forth and practise licentiousness.
"That all laws, statutes, ordinances, and clauses in any law, statute, or ordinance, to the contrary of the aforesaid liberty, shall be esteemed null and void." [Neal, vol. iv. p. 74.]
It is evident from these principles, which may be considered as the basis of the protector’s government, so far as respects ecclesiastical affairs, that it was his wish to make all the religious parties easy. "He indulged the army (says Neal) in their enthusiastic raptures, and sometimes joined in their prayers and sermons. He countenanced the Presbyterians, by assuring them that he would maintain the public ministry, and given them all due encouragement. He supported the Independents, by making them his chaplains, by preferring them to considerable livings in the church and universities, and by joining them in one commission with the Presbyterians, as Triers of all who desired to be admitted to benefices.—But he absolutely forbid the clergy of every denomination to deal in politics, as not belonging to their profession; and when he perceived that the managing Presbyterians took too much upon them, he always found means to mortify them, and would sometimes glory that he had curbed that insolent sect which would suffer none but itself."
Amongst the names of the "Triers" we find three of the Baptist denomination. These were Mr. John Tombes, B.D. Mr. Henry Jessey, and Mr. Daniel Dyke. [Ibid. vol. iv. p. 103.] This nomination was doubtless designed to bring all parties into the parish churches. In a letter to the States General, preserved in Thurloe’s state papers, it is said, "It is also firmly agreed that the bishops and the Anabaptists shall be admitted into it, as well as the Independents and Presbyterians; yet with this proviso, that they shall not dispute one another’s principia, but labour to agree in union; and it is believed that the effects thereof will be seen in a short time." [Neal, vol. ii. p. 67.] These principles were acted on respecting the Baptists, as the commissioners agreed to receive them as brethren, and resolved that if any of them applied to them for probation, and appeared in other respects duly qualified, they should not be rejected for holding this opinion.
Though it is probable that some of the Baptist ministers were brought into the proposed establishment, yet many of them disliked these proceedings, and protested against them in a work published in 1654, entitled, A declaration of several of the churches of Christ, and godly people in and about the city of London, concerning the kingly interest of Christ, and the present sufferings of his cause and saints in England. They say—"And the Lord General Cromwell in his letter to the Kirk Assembly from Dunbar saith, ‘It is worth considering how those ministers take into their hands the instruments of a foolish shepherd, that meddle with worldly politics, or earthly powers, to set up what they call the kingdom of Christ; which indeed is neither it, nor, if it were, would such means be found effectual to that end; and neglect, and not trust to the word of God, and the sword of the Spirit.’" [Declar. p. 6.]
This declaration was agreed on by a large assembly, and signed by a great many names, both in London and the country. Of these last they say, that the hundreds out of Kent, and all in the country, were omitted, and that only a hundred and fifty were selected out of the original copy, and published in the name of the rest. Ten of these are said to be "of the church that walks with Mr. Feak, now close prisoner for this cause of Christ at Windsor Castle; seven in the name of the church that walks with Doctor Chamberlain; twenty-five in the name of the whole body that walks with Mr. Rogers, now prisoner for this cause at Lambeth; thirteen, of the church that walks with Mr. Raworth; fourteen, with Mr. Knollys; nine, of the church that walks with Mr. Simpson; twelve of the church that walks with Mr. Jessey; twenty-two, of the church that walks with Mr. Barebone; eighteen, of the church that walks with Lieu. Col. Fenson; and thirteen, of the church that walks with Justice Highland. [Ibid. p. 21]—Ordered by the Assembly the 30th day of the sixth month, (August) 1654."
These churches were composed of those persons who were generally called fifth-monarchy men. They are represented by Neal as "high enthusiasts, who were in expectation of King Jesus, and of a glorious thousand years reign with Christ upon earth." [Thurloe’s state papers, vol. i. p. 621.] Bishop Burnet says, "They were for pulling down churches, for discharging tithes, and leaving religion free (as they called it), without either encouragement or restraint. Most of them were for destroying the clergy, and for breaking every thing that looked like a national establishment."
We ought not fully to rely upon this representation, but should consider that it is made by a bishop of the church of England. By leaving religion free, we ought perhaps to understand nothing more than what all consistent dissenters plead for, namely, that there should be no imposition in religion, that every one should be left to liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment; and that Jesus Christ is the only head of his church. And by destroying the clergy, and breaking up every thing that looked like a national establishment, it is not necessary that external violence to be employed against them should be understood; but only that if these sentiments universally prevailed, the clergy of the church of England would have no hearers, and national establishments would fall for want of support.
It is certain, however, that they objected very much to the governments being settled in a single person: they were of the commonwealth party, and were some of the protector’s determined enemies, when they found that, after all the opposition which had been made to monarchy, they were again called upon to acknowledge it, though under a different name.
The chief of these amongst the Baptist ministers were Feak, Simpson, Rogers, and Vavasor Powell. By some intercepted letters in Thurloe’s state papers, it appears that they were very violent in their opposition. "The Anabaptists (it is said in one of them) are highly enraged against the protector, insomuch that Vavasor Powell and Feak on Sunday last in Christ-church publicly called him the dissemblingest perjured villain in the world; and desired that if any of his friends were there, they would go and tell him what they said; and withal, that his reign was but short, and that he should be served worse than that great tyrant, the last lord protector was, he being altogether as bad, if not worse, than he." In another it is said—"I know not whether you have formerly heard of the Monday’s lecture at Blackfriar’s, where three or four of the Anabaptistical men preach constantly with very great bitterness against the present government, but especially against his excellency, calling him the man of sin, the old dragon, and many other scripture ill-names. The chief of them is one Feak, a bold and crafty orator, and of high reputation among them."
The Protector thought it necessary, in order to support his authority, to order these malcontents to be taken into custody. Mr. Powell and Mr. Feak were apprehended December 21, 1653. The writer adds, "I am just now assured, and from one that you may believe, that Harrison, Vavasor Powell, and Mr. Feak have been all this day before his Highness and the council, and that Powell and Feak are this evening sent to prison, and Harrison hath his commission taken from him." [State Papers, vol. i. p. 641.] This was Major General Harrison, who appears to have been at the head of those Baptists who were for a commonwealth, and who disapproved of the parish churches. Mr. Baxter says, "Cromwell connived at his old friend Harrison while he made himself the head of the Anabaptists and fanatics here, till he saw that it would be an acceptable thing to suppress him; and then he doth it easily in a trice, and maketh him contemptible, who but yesterday thought himself not much below him." [Baxter’s Life, p. 74.]
This discontent spread itself to Ireland. In Thurloe’s State Papers it is said—"Upon the first hearing of this, many of the Anabaptists here were much troubled, principally because of the title Lord Protector, as they think this applicable to God alone." In a letter from Henry Cromwell to Secretary Thurloe, dated March 8, 1653, it is said—"All are quiet here, except a few inconsiderable persons of the Anabaptist’s judgment, who also are quiet, though not very well contented; but I believe they will receive much satisfaction from a letter very lately come to their hands from Mr. Kiffin and Mr. Spilsbury, in which they have dealt very homely and plainly with those of that judgment here." [State Papers, vol. ii. p. 149.]
It is likely that those who were dissatisfied with this change in the government were persons in the army.—But of the Baptists in general at that period in Ireland a very honourable character is given in the following letter, dated April 5, 1654, addressed to Secretary Thurloe, which says, "As to the grand affairs in Ireland, especially as it relates to the Anabaptist party, I am confident they are much misconceived in England. Truly I am apt to believe that upon the change of affairs, here was discontent, but very little animosity. Upon the sabbath a congregation may be discovered of which Mr. Patient is pastor." In another, speaking of Mr. Blackwood, it is said—"This man is now fixed with the congregation at Dublin, and Mr. Patient appointed an evangelist, to preach up and down the country." [vol. iii. p. 90.]
Having mentioned the Baptists in Ireland, whose ministers in general had gone from England, we are happy that we are able to introduce some letters which were sent from them in this year, and but a few months after the Protector was proclaimed, which fully develop their characters and principles. In these Mr. Blackwood and Mr. Patient, the excellency of whose characters are well known, appear to be principal persons. With the time of their leaving England for Ireland we are unacquainted; but it is probable by the number of churches at this period in that land of superstition, that they had been settled there for several years.
In order to introduce this, so as to preserve the chain of our history, we must make a digression, and glance at the origin of those churches in Wales with whom they held correspondence.
In 1649, about four years before this time, two persons, Mr. John Miles and Mr. Thomas Proud, who had been brought to the knowledge of the truth in the principality, came to London, that they might obtain clearer views of the doctrines and discipline of the church of Christ. When arrived at London, they attended with a Baptist church meeting at Glazier’s-hall, in Broadstreet, and from thence called the church at the Glass-house.
The elders were Mr. William Consett, and Mr. William Draper. It is very remarkable, and deserves particular notice, that this church immediately before their coming had observed a day of fasting and prayer, to implore "the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth labourers into his harvest;" especially into the dark parts of the land. When these strangers made known their design, they were well received, and continued with them a fortnight, during which it is supposed they were baptized. Returning into their own country, they were made instrumental in gathering a church about Ilston, which it is probable was the first church that admitted none but baptized believers to fellowship; the churches founded prior to this by Messrs. Cradock, Jones, and Powell, being on the plan of mixed communion.
Though we have no intention to give the history of the Welsh Baptists, yet it is necessary to introduce some letters which were sent from the church at the glass-house to the churches at and about Ilston, to throw light on our English history. For these letters we are indebted to the valuable manuscripts of Mr. Joshua Thomas, and published by him in the Welsh language. The first of these was written in 1650, and is as follows:—
"Beloved in the Lord in Christ our Head,
"We salute you, praying daily for you, that God would be pleased to make known his grace to you, so that you may be made able to walk before him in holiness, and without blame all your days. We assure you it is no small joy to us to hear of the goodness of God to you-ward, that now the scriptures again are made good, namely, to those who sit in darkness God hath wonderfully appeared; even to you whose habitations were in dark corners of the earth. The Lord grant that we may acknowledge his goodness in answering prayers, for we dare boldly affirm it to be so, for we have poured out our souls to God, that he would enlighten the dark corners of the land, and that to those who sit in darkness God would arise, and God hath arisen indeed.—We cannot but say that God sent over brother Miles to us; we having prayed that God would give to us some who might give themselves to the work of the Lord in those places where he had work to do; and we cannot but acknowledge it before the Lord, and pray that it may be more than ordinary provocation to us to call upon our own hearts, and upon each other’s hearts, to call upon that God who hath stiled himself a God hearing prayer. And now, brethren, we pray and exhort you to walk worthy of the mercies of God, who hath appeared to you; and that you exhort one another daily to walk with God with an upright heart, keeping close to him in all your ways, and to go forward, pressing hard after the mark for the prize of the high calling which is in Christ Jesus. The Lord grant that you may be strengthened against the wiles of that evil and subtle enemy of our salvation, knowing that he and his servants turn themselves into glorious shapes, and make great pretences, speaking swelling words of vanity, endeavouring to beguile souls: but blessed be God, we hope you are not ignorant of his devices.—Time would fail us to tell you how many ways many have been ensnared and fallen; yet praised be his name, many have escaped his snares, even as a bird from the hand of the cunning fowler. So committing you to God and the word of his grace, we take leave, subscribing ourselves,
"Your brethren in the faith
There is mention made of another letter from the church at the glass-house to the church at Llanharan, dated the 12th of the eleventh month, 1650. This was signed by William Consett, Sam. Larke, Peter Scutts, Robert Bowes, Robert Doyley, Edward Roberts, T. Harrison, Richard Bartlett, Henry Grigg, Edward Grenn, John Bradg, and Edward Bruit.
Another letter was addressed to the church at the Hay, and signed by several of the above, and by Richard Graves, William Comby, Thomas Carter, Robert Stayner, Peter Row, R. Cherry, Ralph Manwaring, William Haines, and Nathan Allen.
They also sent a letter to the church at Carmarthan, and another about this time to that at Ilston. In this last they made many enquiries after their order and discipline, saying, "We would know of any whether those who have not been by water baptized into Christ have put on Christ in the account of the scripture. 1. Whether baptism by water be not an ordinance of Christ, expressly commanded by him to be practised by saints in the day of the gospel?—2. Whether it be not the duty of every believer to be obedient to every command of Christ in his word?—3. Whether it be not sinful and disorderly for any who profess themselves disciples of Christ to live in the neglect of a plain and positive command?—4. Whether the scripture commands not a withdrawing from every brother that walketh disorderly?—5. Whether Christ be not as faithful in his house as Moses was? and whether Christ’s commands under the gospel be not to be observed with as much care?"
In 1651 the Baptist churches in Wales sent letters by their messenger Mr. John Miles, to the Baptist church in London meeting at Glazier’s-hall. In those letters the churches gave a good account of their comfortable state, being in peace, harmony, many added, &c. The church in London in reply sent them an affectionate letter, advising and confirming them in the truth.
"In this letter I find (says Mr. Thomas) the following paragraph:
"Regarding the distance of your habitations, we advise—If you experience that God hath endowed you with gifts whereby ye may edify one another, and keep up proper order and ministry in the church of Christ; then we judge you may separate into more distinct congregations, provided it be done with mutual consent; and if there be among you those who may, in some measure, take the oversight of you in the Lord. But if not, we believe it will be more for the honour of Christ for you to continue together, and meet every first day, as many as conveniently can, and once in the week to pray and prophecy, (prophesying, says Mr. T. they then called an exhortation or expounding) and when they can for all to meet together to break bread, though that may not be every first day, for undoubtedly God will have mercy and not sacrifice."
This letter was signed by William Consett, William Combey, William Chassey, Samuel Tull, Edward Green, Joseph Stafford, Robert Cherry, Thomas Carter, John Mildmay, &c. [History of the Baptist Association by Joshua Thomas, p. 8.]
It appears that on some occasion both Mr. Draper and Mr. Consett, the pastors of the church at Glazier’s-hall, went to Ireland, and also two other persons mentioned in these letters, Mr. Peter Row and Mr. Edward Roberts.—From this circumstance we account for the intimacy that subsisted between the several churches of England, Ireland, and Wales, mentioned in the correspondence to which we have alluded, and which we now present to our readers.
In 1653, an epistle was sent from Dublin by a member of that church named VERNON, to the churches of London under the care of Messrs. Kiffin, Spilsbury, and others.—The following is a copy:
The Churches of Christ in Ireland, united together, reside in the several places following:—
1. DUBLIN—With whom are the brethren, Patient, Law, Vernon, Roberts, Smith, and several others, who walk comfortably together, through grace.
2. WATERFORD—With whom are the brethren, Wade, Row, Boulton, Cawdron, Longdon, with several others: most of them being resident there, we trust, are in a thriving condition in their spiritual state.
3. CLONMELL—With whom are the brethren Charles and Draper, and sometimes Hutchinson and Bullock to assist them. Some other brethren are scattered in several other places in those parts, who are recommended to the care of our friends at Clonmell, who are nearest to them.
4. KILKENNY— They have the brethren, Blackwood, Caxe, Axtell, Gough, with several others, who we hope also are in a growing condition, and walk orderly.
5. CORK—With whom are the brethren Lamb, Coleman, and several others, who walk orderly together, though in a place of much opposition by such as slight the ways of the Lord; with whom also are in communion some friends at Brand Kingsale, and other parts of the country.
6. LIMERICK—With whom are brethren, Knight, Uzell, Skinner, and some others, who we fear are in a decaying condition, for want of able brethren to strengthen them; brother Knight having been weak, so not able to be much with them.
7. GALLOWAY—Have the brethren, Clarke, Davis, &c. who, we understand, do walk orderly, but have few able among them to edify the body.
8. WEXFORD—And a people lately gathered by brother Blackwood, with whom are the brethren Tomlins, Hussey, Neale, Biggs, &c. who have not much help among them selves, but are sometimes visited by Waterford friends.
9. In the North, near CARRICK FERGUS, are several lately received by brother Reade, who were baptized here by brother Patient, who, we understand, are valuable, but want some able brethren to establish them.
10. KERRY—Where are some friends received lately by brother Dix, Velson, and Browne: and brother Chawbers speaks to them. Of these we have not much experience; but have lately heard by brother Chawbers, that they walk orderly.—We know not of any particular friends scattered abroad in the country, but who are committed to the place of some friends near them, who, we hope, as they are able, will discharge their duty towards them.
N.B. Friends deceased, &c. at the several places and churches before mentioned follow:—At Waterford, sister Watson, sister Mary Row; at Kilkenny, sister Deare; at Clonmell, brother Brooks; at or near Limerick, brother Brooks, brother Cooper, and brother Rush; several cast out for sin. At Clonmell, brother Dix, Clayton, Price, Thornhill, and Francis; at Kilkenny, brother Fogg, one at Galloway; and some at Liberick, a particular account of whom we have not at present. Sister Sarah Barret, at Dublin, some time servant to brother Patient, is now coming for England. Brother Vernon can particularly inform you of her.
COPY OF A LETTER SENT FROM THE CHURCHES IN IRELAND TO THE BRETHREN IN ENGLAND.
We cannot, without much shame, speak of our long silence to you; nor without much grief think of yours to us, which we earnestly desire may be mutually laid to heart by us all, to prevent the like occasion of complaint for the future. Surely it is a needful wholesome word, to exhort one another daily. Heb. 3:13. Had it been more in our hearts, it would have been more in our mouths, in the several opportunities we have had of corresponding together upon more common, but less profitable affairs. Oh! how many packets have passed filled with worldly matters, since we have heard one word form you, or you from us, of the condition, increase, growth or decrease of God’s Israel, who were some years since brought low through oppressions, afflictions, and sorrow! His hand has been still stretched forth to set his poor despised ones on high: Yea, God hath done great things for us, for which we ought greatly to rejoice; but how little have we wisely considered of his doings! for which we have meet cause to mourn, but have not observed nor feelingly laid them to heart. How many have been broken, who have been gathered together against Zion, and fallen for her sake! Surely, were we not hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, our hearts would be more awakened, and all that is within us, to bless his holy name, who hath so blasted the wisdom and power of men, when it hath been opposite to the work which our God is carrying on in the earth; which, as we have clearly seen, we have soon forgotten, through the carnality which we have suffered too much to prevail in our mortal bodies.
Precious friends! let us, in this our day, search and examine our hearts, by the light of the word and spirit of our God; and surely we shall find, that the posture of those poor virgins in Matt. 25 hath been too much ours: For while our bridegroom tarrieth, do we not all slumber and sleep? so that little difference is discerned between the foolish and the wise. Alas! Alas! what means the dull, cold, estranged frame of heart we bear each to the other, as before mentioned? And is it not the like to our God? Doth it not appear by our little zeal for him, and less delight in his ways, with constant complainings, and little sense of our victory? Our leanness, our dryness, our barrenness are now instead of the songs of Sion. Doth not the Lord call aloud to professors, Prepare! Be awake to meet your God, O Israel! Yea, doth he not pronounce woes against them that are at ease in Sion? Doubtless, expecting, that while these turnings, overturnings and changes are in the earth, we should stand upon our watch-tower, enter into our chambers, and be a holy, praying, humble, and praising people: For, surely, now, if ever, we are especially called upon to put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand in this evil day, and having done all to stand. We therefore desire to revive your memory and our own with those known and approved scriptures, Eph. 6:10-17. Beloved brethren and sisters! we, even with tears, beg for you and for ourselves, that all and each of us may in truth of heart be retiredly exercised in recounting and calling to mind what the Lord hath done for our souls and for our bodies, for his people in general, and what he is doing, and what great and precious things he tells us are in his heart, and which he is resolved speedily to accomplish; wherein, and in expectation of which, he calls upon us thus, Isaiah 65:18. Bye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.—We recommend unto you the preceding and following verses.
Dearly beloved brethren! The Lord engaged our hearts with the rest of the churches of Christ in the faith and order of the gospel in this kingdom, jointly, as one person, to wait upon him by fasting, humiliation, prayer, and supplication, with a sense of our great shortness of, and unsuitableness to what is in the inclosed particulars expressed; which we also tenderly offer, and, as our resolutions, direct and recommend unto you, our fellow-members and followers of the Lamb, oru Lord Jesus Christ; being hopefully assured this will be a means of our recovery from a slippery and slothful condition, which hath brought us too much to realize the character in Proverbs 24:30, &c.
Precious friends! The Lord hath given us comfortable hope, that in the prosecution hereof, he will, through his mighty working by his blessed Spirit, prepare us for every condition; yea, if he should bring upon us such a trial as hath not yet been seen in our days; or should this be the dawning of his blessed day, so much promised, yet too little hoped for: however he will hasten it in his time, Isaiah 60:22—We, for our conveniency, have agreed to keep the first Wednesday in every month, from six to six, which, with other breathing of our hearts, we have committed to the care and trust of our beloved and faithful brother John Vernon, the bearer hereof, who, through the Lord’s blessing, will be suddenly with you, and will also acquaint you with our state and condition. He is in full communion with us. His conversation hath been in zeal and faithfulness; the Lord having put it into the hearts of all his congregations in Ireland to have a more revived correspondence with each other by letters and loving epistles, in which practice we found great advantage, not only by weakening Satan’s suggestions and jealousies, but it hath brought a closer union and knitting of heart; and, which is not an inferior consideration, we have hereby been enabled feelingly and knowingly to present each others wants and conditions before Our God. In the same manner, we shall better enabled to answer our duty towards you, and you towards us, and so bear each others burdens, and fulfil the law of Christ in our very near relation.
We hereby earnestly request the same brotherly correspondence with you and from you; and by your means, with all the rest of the churches of Christ, in ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, and WALES; whom we trust you will provoke to the same things, which we hope may be mutually obtained once in three months. You may remember our earnest request to you some time since, which request was made once and again, to have a perfect account of the churches of Christ owned in communion with you, in the places before mentioned. Had that desire been answered, it might have prevented our long sad silence, and the danger of receiving or refusing such as ought, or ought not to enjoy communion. WE offer one request more unto you, if it hath not been lately practised; which is, that you would send two or more faithful brethren, well acquainted with the discipline and order of the Lord’s house; and that may be able to speak seasonable words, suiting the necessities of his people; to visit, comfort, and confirm all the flock of Our Lord Jesus, that are, or have given up their names to be, under his rule and government, in ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, and WALES. And for the small handful in this nation owned by the Lord, we trust it shall be our care more naturally to look after and watch over them than heretofore; and the rather, because we have observed Satan our subtle enemy, (whose time we believe is short) by his depths and wiles, taking opportunity, by the peace and rest lent us by our God, ready to slay us, by casting us into carnal security, ever lulling our hearts to sleep, even in this hour, wherein, as before noted, we are especially called upon to be a praying watchful people, for surely the Lord is now at hand; therefore let us leave the beggarly pursuit of the things of this world, and let our moderation be known unto all men. Let our requests be made to our God for Sion, for each soul therein, for all the particulars herein mentioned, for the peace and tranquility of the nation wherein we live, Jeremiah 29:7, and for the rulers and magistrates the Lord hath set over us, particularly for those with you. We should pray earnestly that judgments may be averted, privileges prized, as well as continued; and that we may understand and attend to the voice of God in his providence, particularly in his sore snatching and removing from us, not only useful members in Sion, but even our eyes, our hands, and our hearts; the never-to-be-forgotten young Draper, dear Consett, precious Pocke, useful Saffery, and that in the midst of their days, and the beginning of wondrous works. Oh, dear friends, were they too holy, too heavenly for our society! or did we abuse the mercy; some doting upon them, while others slighted, yea hardly took notice that there were prophets among them; or may we not all conclude that our indifferency, worldly-mindedness, and heart-hypocrisy, are so great, and have so highly provoked our God, that he is coming forth against us in displeasure with visitations and scourges, and therefore hath called home his chosen ones, that they may not see the evil that is coming upon us, nor stand in the gap?
And now, dear brethren, beloved of the Lord, let there never be any more occasion so much as to name this sad subject of silence amongst us; but rather let us be constant provokers of each other to every good word and work, by epistles, by our holy, humble, persevering, Christian conversation; following that precious and ever to be remembered example, our Lord Jesus Christ, and seeing that nothing can separate, neither height nor depth, between us and the everlasting love of our heavenly Father, in his dear Son, and those inestimable mansions prepared for us, where we for ever shall behold the glorious face of our God, and jointly sing the everlasting song of Moses and the Lamb: Oh, then let neither sea nor land, things present nor things to come, separate us from a Christian correspondence, whereby we may knowingly mourn with those that mourn, and rejoice with those that rejoice—that we may sympathizingly, in faith, offer supplications and praises, answerable to the dealings of our God with any of his members.—Finally, brethren, farewell! b
perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, &c. and the God of peace shall be with you.
Your poor brethren, yet fellow-heirs of the consolation ready to be revealed at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The names of the brethren who subscribed this Letter:—
From the Church of Christ at Waterford, being now assembled upon the ground within mentioned, 1st day of the 4th month, [June] 1653.
The churches of Christ in Ireland, walking in the faith and order of the gospel, do agree together, through divine assistance, to set apart the first fourth day, called Wednesday, in every month, solemnly to seek the face of our God; and by fasting and prayer humbly to mourn before him for the things following; which is also recommended to our dear friends in England, and scattered brethren in several places, who have obtained like precious faith with us.
1. Our little knowledge of, and less trusting in the name of our God in Christ, so as to set him for ever before our eyes, that we may glorify him both in our bodies and souls, which are his, 1 Cor. 6:20; Heb. 5:12.
2. Our little sincere love to the Lord and his people, and our little knowledge of the office and proper place of each member, as God hath set him in the body of Christ; to the end that every particular member may be now effectually improved, for the mutual edification of the whole, 1 Cor. 12:19,20,21, &c. Eph. 4:16.
3. Our little serious searching into the word of God, and not substantially acquainting ourselves with the foundation truths revealed therein, 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:2; Rom. 1:16,17.
4. Our little faith in the great and precious promises of the Lord, which are to be fulfilled in the last days, Luke 18:8; 2 Pet. 1:4.
5. Our little pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: and our inordinate affections after earthly things, Luke 10:40,41; Phil. 3:14; Col. 3:1,2.
6. Our little praying and praising frame of heart; in particular, for faithful labourers in the Lord’s vineyard: and for all whom he hath put in authority over us, under whom we have had much opportunity to practise the truth we profess, Mat. 9:37,38; John 15:4; Psalm 22:3; 1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2:14; Isaiah 9:7.
7. Our little concern for the sufferings of the people of God, Luke 18:7; Rev. 17:6.
8. Our great aptness to forget the things God hath done for us, and to abuse the many precious mercies God hath multiplied upon us.
9. Our little laying to heart the great breaches the Lord hath made among us, by removing many righteous ones from us.
10. Our want of spiritual wisdom to reprove sin plainly in all without respect of persons, and to exhort faithfully, so as to stop the mouths of gainsayers, and give no just offence to any.
11. Our little mourning for sin, both in ourselves and in others, Ezek. 9:4; Hos. 4:12.
12. Our great ignorance of the deceitfulness of our own hearts, Jeremiah 17:9,10.
These things, among many others, ought to be sufficient grounds of our lying low before the Lord, that he may lift us up in due time, and supply all our wants according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus, James 4:3,9,10; Phil. 4:19. [Thomas’s Hist. of Welch Association.]
This letter produced such an effect on some of the churches in London, that they immediately took it into consideration: and from a conviction of its importance, after keeping a day of fasting and prayer, agreed to adopt its suggestions, and to enclose it with a letter to the churches in Wales, which was as follows:—
"Dearly beloved Brethren!
"While we were slumbering and sleeping, like these wise virgins mentioned by our Saviour in Matt. 25, regardless of the obligations and engagements to the Lord, which, by so many eminent and signal discoveries of love and works of wonder, wrought for us in these last days, he hath laid upon us; it hath pleased the Keeper of Israel, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, to raise up a quickening spirit in the hearts of our brethren of Ireland, provoking them to call upon us to awake to righteousness, to remember our first love, to rend our hearts and not our garments, and to turn to the Lord with out whole hearts; that doing our first work, we may receive an answer of peace from the God of Peace; and healing of all our wounds from him, whose property is to heal backslidings, and to love freely; and that the weak among us may be strong as David, and David as an angel of God. We have sent you enclosed a copy of what we received from them, which we pray the Lord to sanctify unto you, as in some measure he hath done to us; that it may serve through the operation of the Spirit, as Nathan’s parable to David, and as the cock-crowing to Peter, to bring to your remembrance all that deadness, unfruitfulness, want of love, and unsuitableness of spirit, which have too much prevailed in you and upon you, to the grieving of the Spirit of God, to the hardening of such as know not the Lord, and the wounding of each others hearts in these times of gospel peace and liberty. We desire you to communicate the same to all our brethren near you; and with all convenient speed, not only to certify us what effect the subject therein contained hath wrought upon your hearts, but also to send us a particular account of their and your state and condition, relating to your communion with each other, as grounded upon your fellowship with the Father and the Son, in the faith of the gospel of Christ. In order thereto, we entreat your care and pains in visiting the several weak and scattered brethren in your parts, that from a thorough knowledge of, and acquaintance with their present standing, we may receive information from you; and our brethren in Ireland, according to their desire, from us; what churches and societies we may groundedly communicate with, according to the rule of Christ. We shall not offer arguments to persuade you to compliance with our brethren’s desire and ours; their arguments carry so much evidence and demonstration of truth, necessity and suitableness to the Gospel rule, in the very first view of them. We have already kept a day of holy fasting and prayer, upon the grounds therein expressed; and trust we shall never lay down our spiritual weapons, till satan, the world, and the lusts of our flesh, be made our footstool; which the Lord hasten, for Christ’s sake! to whose fatherly care and tuition we commend you, and subscribe ourselves,
"Your affectionate brethren in the faith and fellowship of the gospel,
William Kiffin, Edward Harrison, Thomas White, Joseph Sansom, Thomas Cooper, Henry Hills, John Perry, Richard Tredwell, Robert Bowes."
"Our great design in this letter is to obtain a full account of all the churches in England, Scotland, and Wales; therefore we desire you will inform us not only concerning your own state, but the state of any churches that are in your country, or near adjacent; that if it be possible we may have the full knowledge of all those that are one with us in the sound principles of truth: and to yourselves, or any other church of Christ, we shall be ready to give the like account, if desired, of ourselves, or the churches near us.
"From the several Churches of Christ in London, the 24th day of the 5th Month, 1653. Peter Scutt, or Scott." [Hist. of Welch Association.]
Mr. Scott, the writer of this letter, it will be seen by turning to page 237, as well as Robert Bowes were members of the church at the Glass House. It is probable they succeeded Messrs. Consett and Draper who appear to have laboured and died in Ireland. The manner in which they speak of these persons proves that they had been eminently useful, and that they were taken away in early life: and subsequent events fully justified their conclusion that the Lord had taken away these righteous men from the evil to come.
We know nothing further of the state of the churches in Ireland, till the year 1656, when a letter was sent by them to the churches at Ilston and Llantrisaint in Glamorgaushire; which we insert to preserve the thread of our history.
Dublin 12th, 4th Month, 1656.
"We wish you a more deep rooting and establishing in the faith, that no storms of persecution on the one hand, nor error nor heresy on the other hand, may shake your faith. We thankfully acknowledge the good hand of God towards you in the multiplication of your number: the Lord multiply also your graces, that your faith may grow exceedingly; and the charity of every one of you all towards one another may abound. Ye are now in prosperous times; it will be your wisdom to prepare for a storm; for brethren, whenever did you know the people of God long without persecution? Yea, and that from the powers of the world. Mariners in a calm strengthen their tacklings against a storm comes. Besides ministerial teaching, we would commend unto you the use of good books; and take advice of some godly preacher, what are fit to buy: especially read the scriptures and study them: if ye also study your own hearts ye shall do well. Be careful to preserve entire unity, not only in keeping your communion together, but also in keeping your hearts together; sweetened in affection one to another without grudgings and murmurings. Let those who are rich among you strive to be large hearted to the poor among you; and so much the more because of the present distress, and because of the great hatred of the world, which saints of our judgment endure. Be very wary against scandals; because where the gospel comes in power, the devil is wont to rage, by scandals to swallow up, if it were possible, the church of God. We shall desire you to follow after enlargement of heart, both in contributions towards the poor and other church uses, and in the maintenance of them who dispense the word unto you, that such dispensers may give themselves wholly to the work, remembering that he who soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; in which duty some of us have observed, on your side the water, sundry persons, yea, we fear churches have come short. We desire you to press on for an established ministry and eldership in your churches; and therefore herein be careful to buy the truth and sell it not. Take heed of the sin of earthly-mindness, which sometimes lies hid under a large profession. Be careful of you or weak members, lest wolves in sheep’s clothing, through pretended sanctity and seeming mortification get in among them. Labour to keep up in one another’s heart an honourable esteem of the holy word of God, in opposition to the present delusions of the times. Engage not yourselves in heartless and speculative disputes; but rather be much in practical and edifying truths; knowing that the principles which naturally conduce to salvation are but few. Be careful that upon pretence of church-meetings you neglect not closet prayer, in which be careful to mourn under straits and rejoice in enlargements. Labour after a just, blameless, and shining life, that the world by your harmless and holy lives, may be instructed. Treasure up a large assurance against an evil day to come. Take heed of hardness of heart, and declining affections towards the Lord. Let your consciences witness your blameless conversation, for time past since your effectual calling; and your holy purpose for God in future.
"We remain your affectionate brethren in the gospel of Christ,
Thomas Patient, Christ. Blackwood, Edmund Roberts, Richard Lawem, Thomas Seward, Henry Jones, P. Cudmore, William Hopkins, Arnold Thomas."
We have no account of the churches in Ireland after this period, excepting that in the year 1659. Mr. Blackwood was still with the church at Dublin, at which time he published his Expositions and Sermons on the ten first chapters of Matthew. It is probable that the Restoration of Charles II. the next year caused such a revolution in the Kingdom of Ireland, that he and his brethren were obliged to return home; as we find several of their names signed to the declaration of the Baptists against Venner’s rebellion. We think it proper not to pass this part of our history without making the following remarks.
Dissenters were at this time very much divided in sentiment about the government of the church and of the state.
All of them disapproved of Episcopacy; but the greater part, namely the Presbyterians, who were now the established sect, were not only advocates for the necessity of a religious establishment, but, although they had themselves been persecuted by the Episcopalians, were unfriendly to the toleration of the Independents and the Baptists.
The two last mentioned sects were advocates for congregational, congregated, or gathered churches, in contradistinction to parochial churches. Their churches were distinct from, and independent of, one another, and admitted of no other external interference than that of friendly advice. The pastors of a few of these, however, did not stand so far aloof from the national establishment as could have been wished. There were some of both denominations who were amongst the Triers, or licensers of preachers in the establishment; and there were more, who, although they had distinct congregations of their own, not only preached in the parish churches, but also condescended to accept of the parochial tithes. But the great majority had no more support from government than the dissenters of the present day.
With regard to civil government, the congregational churches were divided into two classes.—The one left the consideration and regulation of it to the constituted authorities, and esteemed it their duty to be subject to the powers that were, whether the supreme authority was in the King, the Parliament, or the Protector. Contented with enjoying liberty of conscience in religious matters, and fearing God and the king, they meddled not with those who were given to change. They were not persecuted during the Protectorate of Cromwell, it being a principle of his government that no person should be persecuted for his religious sentiments. See An Olive Leaf: or some Peaceable Considerations, &c. for Mr. Rogers, Mr. Powel, and the rest of the good people of Christ Church, by William Erbery, January 9, 1653. Wherein are asked the following questions: "Is it according to the order of the gospel, for ministers of Christ to meddle with civil government, seeing his kingdom is not of this world? John 18:36; Luke 22:25.—Did ever the ministers of the gospel speak against principalities and powers, though as bad as Nero? Rom. 13:1,2, &c.; 1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 3:1,2; 1 Pet. 2:13,14.—Doth civil government concern the glory of the gospel? Is monarchy in a king any more against the reign of Christ, than aristocracy in a parliament? Is not the state of Holland, and commonwealth of Venice, as much for Antichrist as the king of France or Spain? Isaiah 19:11,13." The other class maintained that the reign of Antichrist was approaching to a close; that the time was at hand spoken of by Daniel, when the saints should take the kingdom and possess it; that Christ was about to reign on the earth in the midst of his people for a thousand years; and that he by his power would shortly make the wicked as ashes under the feet of the righteous. Hence Harrison, Powel, Feak, Simpson, Rogers, and others, were greatly displeased when Cromwell usurped the supreme power. So great was the discontent which they manifested, that, fearing insurrections in the city, he committed them to prison. To this they cheerfully submitted, calling it persecution for conscience sake, whilst those of the former class pitied their ill-directed zeal and were of opinion that they were buffeted for their faults.
We learn from this correspondence that the ministers that presided over these churches in England, Ireland, and Wales, and the people that composed them, were all of them opposed to those Baptists that intermeddled with the civil affairs of the country. While those who confounded the church and the world together were in constant perplexity and alarm, they seem to have enjoyed peace themselves, and to have endeavoured to promote peace amongst their brethren, who had not learned to be in subjection to the supreme power, by whatever name it was called.
Those who were called fifth-monarchy men ought to be distinguished into different classes. Venner and his associates were certainly mad enthusiasts, and thought that the kingdom of Christ was to be established by the sword. But none who know the characters of such men as Mr. Jessey and Mr. Knollys will suppose that they would go to the same lengths, although they lived at a period in which the nature of Christ’s kingdom was far from being clearly understood. Without, however, attempting farther to vindicate them, we will give the sentiments of those who were called fifth-monarchy men in their own words, as contained in the declaration before mentioned.—"We find much misunderstanding among some, (they say,) and misrepresentation among most, of the fifth-monarchy, or kingdom of Christ in the nations, which the holy scriptures of the old and new testament do clearly and plentifully declare, with a positive period to the worldly heathenish laws, ordinances, and constitutions of men, as they are now executed in the nations of the world: and whereas it is also upon the hearts of many of the choice servants of God, that in this present age the Lord Jehovah is setting up the fifth kingdom, (Dan. 2:44; 7:22, 26, 27,) which shall not be left to other people, but shall break in pieces all the other kingdoms, and remain for ever and ever; and that whereas at this time the fourth monarchy is partly broken in these nations, it is that Christ may be the only Potentate, the King of Kings, and of all nations. Mic. 4:7; Zech. 9:9,10; Col. 1:16; 1 Tim. 6:15; Heb. 2:8; Rev. 11:15,17; Rev. 14; Rev. 19. Now finding this the present truth so much opposed by the national rulers and their clergy, yea, and by some godly people and church members accounted orthodox, who cannot endure the day of the Lord’s coming; we therefore are resolved, according to the presence and assistance of the Lord with us, to entertain a serious consideration and debate for the benefit of all others, touching the premises; viz. of the laws, subjects, extent, rise, time, palce, offices and officers of the fifth-monarchy or kingdom, whereby the world must be governed according to the word of God, without the mixture, as now is, of men’s laws and inventions, whether in respect of magistracy or ministry, church or civil affairs. Which debate we intend to hold in this city of London; and we desire our beloved brethren who are one with us in the present truth and sufferings, whether in church or out, in city or country, who are enlightened, to take special notice of it for this end, that they may enjoy the like freedom with us in those meetings and debates, as often as they please to come. And if the Lord give us the liberty, we do propose to proceed with the debate of it from this day onward, until we have taken a full narrative thereof, so far as it shall appear to us out of the scriptures fit to publish to the view of all men, that our principles on that point of the fifth-monarchy may be fully known." [Declaration, &c. pp. 16,17.]
It is highly probable that this design was prevented by the vigilance of the government. The protector found these persons, with the republicans in the state, who were generally deists, the most difficult to manage of any. The religious commonwealth-men he endeavoured to gain by kindness. He told them that "he had no manner of inclination to assume the government, but had rather been contented with a shepherd’s staff, were it not absolutely necessary to keep the nation from falling to pieces, and becoming a prey to the common enemy. That he merely stepped in between the living and the dead, as he expressed it, and this only till God should direct them on what bottom to settle, when he would surrender his dignity with a joy equal to the sorrow with which he had taken it up." With the chiefs of this party he affected to converse upon terms of great familiarity, shutting the door, and making them sit down covered in his presence to let them see how little he valued those distances he was bound to observe for form’s sake with others. He talked with them in their own language, and the conversation generally ended with a long prayer.
Notwithstanding all this familiarity, they were so opposed to the government’s being in a single person, as in their opinion contrary to the kingly interest of Christ, that instead of being allured to acknowledge it, they say, "Our bowels are so moved at these things that we cannot refrain from bewailing our condition, after so vast a stream and treasure of our blood, tears, prayers, lives, and spoils of our dearest relations. O, did we ever think to see so many hopeful instruments in the army, churches, and elsewhere, to be so fully gorged with the flesh of kings, captains, and nobles; with their lands, manors, estates, parks, and palaces, so as to sit at ease and comply with antichrist, the world, worldly church, and clergy!" [Declaration, &c. p. 4.]
When the protector found they could not be gained by favour, he was determined to crush them; and therefore, as we have heard, several of the ministers were imprisoned, and Major General Harrison was deprived of his commission. For several years the republicans attempted a revolution in the government; and at length, failing in their design, they agreed in 1658 to the number of three hundred to attempt it by force; and having killed the protector, to proclaim King Jesus. But Secretary Thurloe, who spared no cost to gain intelligence, had a spy among them who discovered their intentions, and seized their arms and ammunition in Shoreditch with their standard exhibiting a lion conchant, alluding to the lion of the tribe of Judah, with this motto, Who will rouse him up? The chief of the conspirators, as Venner, Grey, Hopkins, &c. were imprisoned in the gatehouse till the protector’s death, with their accomplices, Major General Harrison, Colonel Rich, Colonel Danvers, and others.
The protector appears to have formed more correct sentiments on the subject of religion in reference to the state than most of the ministers, whether Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, or the fifth-monarchy men, who were principally, though not exclusively, Baptists. These all, in different ways confounded the church and the state together, and did not keep the civil and religious privileges of men upon a separate basis. Hence many of them who "meddled with those that were given to change," were swallowed up in the vortex of worldly politics; and, as Cromwell used to tell them, suffered not for conscience sake, but for being busy bodies in other men’s matters, and for not minding their own business.
It is presumed that the protector never permitted any to be oppressed for religious principles, except in the case of John Biddle, the Socinian, and which it is generally thought he endeavoured to prevent. When Mr. Kiffin was brought before the lord-major at Guildhall, July 12, 1655, and charged with having violated the laws by preaching that the baptism of infants was unlawful, the lord-mayor, being occupied about other matters, deferred the execution of the penalty required by that act till the Monday following.—From the manner in which Mr. Kiffin was treated by the mayor, it is probable that he never heard any more of the prosecution; and there is no doubt but this arose more from the friendship of Cromwell, than the good will or liberality of the governing Presbyterians.
We have said that there were several eminent Baptist ministers among the Teiers who were appointed by the protector, instead of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, for removing those from the parish churches who were ignorant and scandalous. "They had power (says Mr. Baxter,) to try all that came for institution or induction, and without their approbation none were admitted. They themselves examined all that were able to come up to London: but if they were unable or of doubtful qualifications, they referred them to some ministers in the county where they lived, and approved them if they approved them. And with all their faults, thus much must be said of these Triers, that they did a great deal of good to the church, and saved many a congregation from ignorant, ungodly, drunken teachers. That sort of ministers who either preached against a holy life, or preached as men that never were acquainted with it; all those who used the ministry only as a common trade to live by, and were never likely to convert a soul,, they usually rejected; and in their stead admitted of any that were able, serious preachers, and lived a godly life, of what opinion soever they were that was tolerable." [Baxter’s Life, p. 72.]
It was doubtless at this time that some of the Baptists accepted of livings in the national establishment, though it is presumed the far greater part of them viewed this as a dereliction of principle in Dissenters, and more especially in Baptists.
Of those who thus conformed were those who accepted the appointment of Teiers. Mr. Tombes, B.D. had the living of Leominster in the county of Herefore; Mr. Daniel Dyke, M.A. of Great Hadham in Hertfordshire; and Mr. Henry Jessey, of St. George’s, Southwark. There must have been some difficulties arising from the Independent, and still more from Baptist ministers becoming rectors of parishes; but their churches were not composed indiscriminately of their parishioners, neither were they confined to persons resident in their respective parishes.
Edwards, in his Antapologia, charges them with the last of these things as an inconsistency, and says, "Your congregations, as in London, where the meeting-place is, and the ministers reside, are made up of members, as of some living in London, so of some in Surrey, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Essex, where they have fixum domicilium, being twenty miles asunder; and many members meeting but once in a month, where neither ministers can oversee them, nor members watch over one another, not knowing what the conversation of each other is, which are yet brought as the main grounds of your church-fellowship; which non-residence of the members from each other, and of the officers from so many of the members, whether it overthrow not, and be not point-black against many of your principles on the church-way, I leave to yourselves to judge." [p. 96.]
Mr. Jessey appears to have continued as pastor of his church, notwithstanding his being rector of St. George’s.—He was ordained over Mr. Lathorpe’s church in 1637; and in this vineyard, it is said, he continued a faithful and laborious minister till his death. Crosby says, "He divided his labours in the ministry according to the extensiveness of his principles. Every Lord’s day in the afternoon he was among his own people; in the morning he usually preached at St. George’s church, Southwark, being one of the fixed ministers of that parish."
It is probable that Mr. Jessey’s people either attended St. George’s church in the morning, or else obtained a supply, as it does not appear that Mr. Jessey had any assistant. It is likely that his church of Dissenters was attended to in the same manner as before, and that as rector he did not do much besides preaching in his parish. As he was "one" of the settled ministers, perhaps there was another, either of the Presbyterian or Independent congregation, settled with him, who baptized the children, &c.; and as Mr. Jessey always admitted of mixed communion in his church, he would find no difficulty in administering the Lord’s supper, as it is presumed the canons of the church were now no longer binding, and ministers would be at liberty to admit those only to the table of whose piety they were well satisfied.
Respecting Mr. Tombes, we are told by Mr. Crosby, that the people at Bewdley having invited him to become their minister, "he began here to preach and dispute publicly against infant baptism; and seeing no prospect of any reformation of the church in this point, he then gathered a separate church of those of his own persuasion, continuing at the same time minister of the parish." This is asserted by Crosby on the declaration of Fisher, in his Baby baptism no baptism; where, in the place referred to, he says, "I find all the people in Bewdley were church-members with Mr. Baxter at Kidderminster." Hence it is inferred, that Mr. Tombes would not administer the Lord’s supper to any who had not been baptized. Mr. Baxter says that this church never increased to more than twenty persons. Crosby acknowledges "this society of Baptists was never very numerous, but consisted of those who were of good esteem for their piety and solid judgment; and that three eminent ministers were trained up in it: Mr. Richard Adams, Mr. John Eccles, and one Captain Boylston. The church continued till the restoration.
The Baptists who were in opposition to Cromwell must have been very uncomfortable during the remainder of his government, as he never suffered them to act to the full extent of their principles. But those who acted peaceably, and who were denominated the sober party, were much esteemed, and universally protected.
"At length (says Calamy) Cromwell, who had escaped the attempts of many who sought to dispatch him, could not escape the stroke of God, but died suddenly of a fever, September 3, 1658. In giving his character, he adds
"Never man was more highly extolled, or more basely reported of and vilified than this man, according as men’s interested led their judgments. The soldiers and sectaries highly magnified him, till he began to seek the crown, and the establishment of his family; and then there were so many that would behalf kings themselves, that a king seemed intolerable to them. The royalists abhorred him as a most perfidious hypocrite; and the Presbyterians thought him little better in his management of public affairs. Upon the whole, Mr. Baxter has left this as his judgment concerning him:—‘That he began low, and rose higher in his resolutions as his condition rose; and the promises he made in his lower condition he used as the interest of his higher following condition required; and kept as much honesty and godliness in the main as his cause and interest would allow him, and there they left him. His name stands as a monument of pillar to posterity, to tell them the instability of man in strong temptations, if God leave him to himself; what pride can do to make men selfish, and corrupt the heart with ill designs; what selfishness and ill designs can do to bribe the conscience, corrupt the judgment, make men justify the greatest errors and sins, and set themselves against the clearest truth or duty; what bloodshed, and great enormities of life, an erring deluded judgment may draw men to do and patronize; and that when God hath dreadful judgments to execute, an erroneous sectary, or a proud self seeker, is oftener his instrument than a humble innocent saint.’" [Baxter’s Life, p. 71.]
While it is readily acknowledged that Mr. Baxter had many opportunities of knowing the protector’s read character, and though his integrity in giving it is not in the least suspected, yet it should be considered that as a Presbyterian he was likely to be prejudiced against him. We therefore think it right to give the opinion of Dr. Owen also; who knew him probably better than even Mr. Baxter; and who gave his opinion of him after Cromwell had attained the summit of his ambition, and had practised all those arts of hypocrisy with which his memory has been loaded. The following is extracted from Dr. Owen’s excellent work dedicated to the protector, entitled, The doctrine of the saint’s perseverance, printed at Oxford in the year 1654:
"In the midst of all the changes and mutations which the infinitely wise providence of God doth daily effect in the greater and lesser things of this world: as to the communications of his love in Jesus Christ, and the merciful gracious distributions of the unsearchable riches of his graced, and the hid treasures thereof purchased by his blood! he knows no repentance: of both these you have had full experience. And though your concernment with the former, hath been as eminent as that of any person whatever in these latter ages of the world, yet your interest in and acquaintance with the latter is of incomparable more importance in itself, so answerably of more value and esteem unto you. A sense of the excellency and sweetness of unchangable love, emptying itself in the golden oil of distinguishing spiritual mercies, is one letter of that new name which none can read but he that hath it. The series and chains of eminent providences, whereby you have been carried on, and protected in all the hazardous work of your generation, which God hath called you to is evident to all. Of your preservation by the power of God through faith, in a course of gospel obedience, upon the account of the immutability of the love, and the infallibility of the promises of God, which are yea and amen in Jesus Christ, your own soul is only possessed of the experience. That I have taken upon me to present my weak endeavour to your highness is so far forth from my persuasion of your interest in the truth contended for, (and than which you have none so excellent and worthy) that without it, no consideration whatever, either of that dignity and power whereunto of God you are called, nor of your particular regard to that society of men whereof I am an unworthy member, nor any other personal respect whatever, could have prevailed with or emboldened me thereunto.—Sancta sanctis."
In summing up his character, Neal says, "Upon the whole, it is not to be wondered at that the character of this GREAT MAN has been transmitted down to posterity with some disadvantage, by the several factions of royalists, presbyterians, and republicans, because each were disappointed, and enraged, to see the supreme power wrested from them; but his management is a convincing proof of his great abilities. He was at the helm in the most stormy and tempestuous season that England ever saw; but by his consumate wisdom and valour he disconverted the measures and designs of his enemies, and preserved both himself and the commonwealth from shipwreck. I shall only observe further, with Rapin, that the confusion which prevailed in England after the death of Cromwell, clearly evidenced the necessity of this usurpation, at least till the constitution could be restored."
Richard Cromwell, who succeeded his father, was not able to rule the different sects, and it appears that the religious people of the fifth-monarchy principles were very troublesome to him. Calamy says, "The fifth-monarchy men, under Sir Henry Vane, raised a clamorous party against him from amongst the city sectaries. Rogers and Feak, and such like fire-brands, blowed the coals, but the assembly at Wallingford-house did the main business. They set up a few among themselves under the name of a council of state, wherein Fleetwood was uppermost, and Lambert next to him."
"But these officers (says Neal) had lost their credit; their measures were disconcerted and broken; one party was for a treaty, and another for the sword, but it was too late; their old veteran regiments were dislodged from the city, and Monk in possession. In this confusion, their General Fleetwood, who had brought them into this distress, retired, and left a body without a head, after which they became insignificant, and in a few months quite contemptible. Here ended the power of the army, and of the Independents."
As our work is designed to be rather a history of religion than of politics, we conclude this chapter by shewing what was the influence of those strict religious principles which were acted upon at this time on the morals and happiness of the people; and on the general prosperity of the nation.—We shall do this by copying the judicious reflections of Neal on the times before and after the restoration.
"And here was an end (says he) of those unhappy times which our historians have loaded with all the infamy and reproach that the wit of man could invent. The Puritan ministers have been represented as ignorant mechanics, canting preachers, enemies to learning, and no better than public robbers. The universities were said to be reduced to a mere Munster, and that, if the Goths and Vandals, and even the Turks, had over-run the nation, they could not have done more to introduce barbarism and disloyal ignorance; and yet in these times, and by the men that then filled the university chairs, were educated the most learned divines and eloquent preachers of the last age, as the Stillingfleets, Tillotsons, Bulls, Barrows, Whitbys, and others, who retained a high veneration for their learned tutors, after they were ejected and laid aside. The religious part of the common people have been stigmatized with the character of hypocrites; their looks, their dress and behaviour, have been painted in the most frightful colours; and yet one may venture to challenge those writers to produce any period of time since the reformation, wherein there was less open profaneness and impiety, and more of the spirit and appearance of religion. Perhaps there was a little too much rigour and preciseness in indifferent matters, which might be thought running into a contrary extreme. But the lusts of men were laid under a very great restraint; and though the legal constitution was unhappily broken to pieces, and men were governed by false politics, yet better laws were never made against vice, and those laws never better put into execution. The dress, the language, and conversation of people was sober and virtuous, and their manner of house-keeping remarkably frugal. There was hardly a single bankruptcy to be heard of in a year, and in such a case the bankrupt had a mark of infamy upon him that he could never wipe off. The vices of drunkenness, fornication, profane swearing, and every kind of debauchery were banished and out of fashion. The clergy of these times were laborious to excess in preaching and praying, in catechizing youth, and visiting their parishes.—The magistrates did their duty in suppressing all kind of games, stage plays, and abuses in public-houses. There was not a play acted in any part of England for almost twenty years. The Lord’s day was observed with unusual strictness; and there were a set of as learned and pious youths in the university as had been known. So that if such a reformation of manners had been obtained under a legal administration, they would have deserved the character of the best of times.
"But when the legal restoration was restored, there came in with it a torrent of all kinds of debauchery and wickedness. The times that followed the Restoration were the reverse of those that went before; for the laws which had been made against vice for the last twenty years being declared null, and the magistrates changed, men set no bounds to their appetites. A proclamation indeed was published against those loose and riotous cavaliers, whose loyalty consisted in drinking healths, and railing at those who would not revel with them; but in reality the king was at the head of these disorders, who was devoted to his pleasures; having given himself up to an avowed course of lewdness; his bishops and doctors said, that he usually came from his mistresses’ lodgings to church, even on sacrament days.—There were two play-houses erected in the neighbourhood of the court. Women actresses were introduced upon the English stage, which had not been known till that time; the most lewd and obscene plays were acted; and the more obscene, the better did they please the king, who graced the acting every new play with his presence. Nothing was to be seen at court but feasting, hard drinking, revelling, and amorous intrigues, which produced the most enormous vices. From the court the contagion spread like wild-fire among the common people, insomuch that men threw off every profession of virtue and piety, under colour of drinking the king’s health; all kinds of old cavalier rioting and debauchery revived; the appearances of religion which remained with some furnished matter of ridicule to the profane mockers of real piety. Some who had been concerned in the former transactions thought they could not redeem their credit better than by laughing at all religion, and telling or making stories to expose their former piety, and make them appear ridiculous.
"To appear serious, or make conscience of one’s words and actions, was the way to be avoided as a schismatic, a fanatic, or a sectarian; though if there was any real religion during the course of this reign, it was chiefly among those people. They who did not applaud the new ceremonies were marked out for Presbyterians, and every Presbyterian was a rebel. The old clergy, who had been sequestered for scandal, having taken possession of their livings, were intoxicated with their new felicity, and threw off all the restraints they were under before. Every week (says Mr. Baxter) produced reports of one or other clergyman who was taken up by the watch drunk at night, and mobbed in the streets. Some were taken with lewd women; and one was reported drunk in the pulpit. Such was the general dissolution of manners which attended the tide of joy that overflowed the nation upon his majesty’s restoration!" [Neal, vol. iv. p. 271-274.]
Who can help exclaiming on surveying this picture, RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION; BUT SIN IS THE REPROACH OF ANY PEOPLE.
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